The History of Big Alum Lake

Chapter 13

LIFE ON THE ISLAND

by Kay Woodford

Life on the island began for my family on September 10, 1920 when Annvilla Sears obtained it through a quitclaim deed from Nathan M. Southwick.. At the time, my father Ken was about three-years-old.
There was a small building on the island when it was purchased. Apparently, my grandparents enlarged it sometime in the 1930's. I remember hearing stories about my grandfather and father building the stone fireplace in the middle of the island and hand digging the well. They also made some steps immediately in front of the cottage out of large flat stones. There was also access on the north side by log steps.

I guess my experiences started in the mid-40's when I was born. It was a place we went almost every weekend, traveling from Springfield by Route 20. When we got to Brimfield we would go on to Sturbridge to get a block of ice and maybe make a stop at the IGA in Brimfield. Once we were at the lake we parked on a right-of-way next to the last cottage before the point. We had an old blue and white row boat with a small putt-putt motor and we would load everything and everyone including Blackie our black Angora cat and the ice into the boat and go to the island for the weekend.

As a young child growing up I remember a building with red vertical siding and white trim. The cottage basically had two rooms - a bedroom with two beds and a larger living area separated with a partial wall from the kitchen. The living area was where we ate and lived when it rained; it also had a Murphy bed and a window seat. We even had an old Victorian Victrola. The kitchen had a kerosene stove and an icebox.

I can still hear the rain on the lake and on the roof of the cottage.   At night I would lie in bed and listen to the water lapping against the shore and watch lighting strike across the water .

Most of our time was spent outside. There were a couple of big rocks near the water that we used to sit on; Grandpa and Dad eventually built a dock out front. There were wild blueberry bushes along the front. We used to pick them and Grandma would make fresh blueberry pies. The lake is really rocky and the point was a great place to hunt under rocks for crawfish. Fresh trout caught and grilled over an open fire was a treat. The area to the northwest was shallow and more sandy than the rest of the lake.

My dad had a white Old Towne canoe that sat on brackets in the front yard when we were there and was stored inside when we weren't.  I can remember skating while my father ice-fished.

In 1947-48 my father bought a couple of back lots on the western shore behind the Dawes' and Loomis' properties; he purchased a Quonset hut and erected it. The fireplace was constructed with cobblestones from the main streets in Springfield. He had an artesian well drilled and it was great, cold water. When my father remarried in 1954 and as my grandparents aged, most of our time was spent making the hut more livable.

The hurricane in 1955 was an exciting experience for an 11-year-old. Glendale Road was closed due to flooding and my father had to leave the car and walk in. Lights were out and we were using kerosene lanterns. There are two adjacent cottages further down the road that were owned by the owner of a nursing home in the Springfield area; he hired a sea plane to get to his family.
I used to enjoy walking up the mountain that overlooks the lake.

It was sometime after I went off to college that I stopped going to the lake and it was somewhere around this time that I guess the island was no longer used. My grandparents were elderly, living between Florida and Northampton, and no longer invested in the island.

The last time I stayed at the lake, in the hut, was in the mid-to-late 70's with my children. It was sometime after my father retired to New Hampshire that he sold his property. The owner has since built a "house" around the hut.

Introduction, Chapters:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16