Thursday, December 27, 2012

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Wednesday, July 12

Today I'm posting scans of my father's journal from July 12, 1961.

To enlarge each image below for a better reading experience, right click and select Open Link in new window. In the new window, click the image to make larger or smaller.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Tuesday, July 11

The next in my ongoing project to post my father's journals from the early sixties. Today I'm posting scans of his pages from July 11, 1961.

To enlarge each image below for a better reading experience, right click and select Open Link in new window. In the new window, click the image to make larger or smaller. 


Friday, December 7, 2012

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Monday, June 19th, 1961

Entry two in my father's Cape Cod diary:

Yesterday was both my birthday and Father’s Day. Moo packed us a lunch or rather dinner and we drove to Nickerson State Park in Brewster where we swam and sunbathed and ate on the shore of Flax Pond. The park is an extensive wooded area, pine and oak, with two large ponds, the biggest is Cliff Pond, which must be a couple of miles long. 

It is hard to believe this spot is only three miles from our house. The setting looks more like New Hampshire than the Cape, except that there is almost always a gull swooping down over the lake to remind you that the ocean and the bay are mere minutes away. I should imagine that during stormy weather many sea birds seek out these fresh water ponds as shelter from the driving seas and winds. 

On all sides of the lake there are camping areas where many people had already pitched their tents and trailers (if that’s what you do with trailers), and the smell of the wood fires is one of the pleasantest of things about the park. I still have to see about getting reservations for the Lull’s to camp there when they stop by in July. I’m sure that the park is one of the most popular in New England, situated as it is so close to the high-cost summer resort area, of which we are undeniably a part. 

The weekend was clear and sunny, as it is today, and it has been getting increasingly hotter with each passing day. But the wind is always blowing from the south and west, which helps to keep the air continually refreshed. The average velocity of the winds on the Cape is fourteen miles an hour, making this one of the windiest spots in the country. Edwin Way Teale writes on the Cape’s wind at some length in his North with the Spring. He cites the wind forests along headlands where oaks and pines are stunted to knee-high growth even though they may be twenty years of age. He calls them Lilliput woods.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The House on Rock Harbor Road – June 1961 – February 1963

In which Wendell Everett Smith (my father) chronicles a year and a half of Cape Cod living, from in June of 61 through Feb of 63. Included are stories of moving to the Cape with his wife, Muriel, and his girls, buying a cottage colony, raising three daughters, dealing with house guests, all types of weather, painting and setting up a gallery, writing a novel, buying and selling used books, and reading. He turned 38 just after starting this journal.

He wrote the journal longhand and on the typewriter. For the typewritten pages, I’ll scan them and post them as is, graphic images which you can click on to see a larger view. I will transcribe his handwritten pages. 

Every few days or weeks I will post another entry. I may modify the real names he uses to protect the guilty and innocent alike. Let it be known that I was not even a glint in my parents' eye during this time.

June 14…Thursday

A short time ago I started a diary. Like most diaries it was neglected, this one for the reason that I left my job as a editor with the Forest Service, we packed to move, fixed up the house to rent, moved, bought a house, and now two weeks later we just about settled. Of course, it will be many weeks, months even, before we can say we are truly settled. But the house comes close to being 160 years old and although it was “settled” here that long ago, the property has reached its second stage of pioneering and we are in this later era. 

For example, this morning a shelf had to be removed to make room for…but that makes a whole story in itself and is one of the many rather unpleasant things that have taken place in the past three weeks. Nothing serious, actually the move was completed in good health and according to schedule, but the details will not be filled in here.

Our new home is on Rock Harbor Road which borders on a salt marsh between Rock Harbor and the Eastham Rotary (I almost put Traffic Circle), Orleans, Massachusetts. As to general area, we are on the bay side at the crook of the elbow of Cape Cod. So there it is. The principal reason for this record. I am a writer. I have just taken up residence on the Cape so I must write a book about it. Well, I guess if Scott Corbett did it I can too. We Chose Cape Cod is Scott’s first year’s log, and I must say that his book had some little part in our coming to the Cape.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

About Wendell

My father passed away a year ago today. At his funeral I got up to speak. I had prepared some notes about him, but wasn't sure what I should read. I read a bit from my notes, but also from one of his journals from the era when my family first moved to Cape Cod.

I recently ran across the notes I had written about him and thought it made sense to post them here, today:

On my last drive down to the Cape while my father was still alive I thought about asking him what his secret was. How did he survive so long? Was there something I should know? It wasn’t an idle thought, like asking what he wants for lunch. It became imperative that I ask him right then. But my next thought was, If I did ask him this question, he would probably not answer me seriously. Wendell was a jokester, he could always find the humor in any situation. 

Dad was consistent. Every year for Christmas I could expect him to give me a book on writing. A used book of course. I don’t think Wendell bought a new book, ever, unless he had a gift certificate to a book store. I never thought about this but now it makes sense: buying a new book would admit that people actually wanted a new book over a used book. Why buy a book new when you could always wait until it was available used? Growing up during the Great Depression, my parents both learned to be thrifty. Maybe that’s why they went into the business of selling old, used, recycled items. 

Muriel and Wendell

Wendell was always hard to pin down. Who was this man? He was many things besides father and husband and brother and uncle and son. He was in the US Army Air Corp as a glider pilot in WWII. He was a painter and illustrator: when I was away at college he would send me cartoon panels depicting family tableaus that evoked a Doonesbury cartoon. He published cartoons in the New Yorker and wrote for Classics Illustrated. He, along with my mother, spent a summer’s worth of a honeymoon atop a California mountain as fire scouts. He was a nature lover, fashioning himself a modern-day Thoreau, moving with his family to a Cape Cod outpost in the early ‘60s—something not a lot of families were doing at the time.
Unreliable Narrator and Wendell
Wendell was a man of many talents. He was a humorist, publishing short pieces in the tone of Mark Twain or James Thurber. He wrote two novels. He kept journals throughout his life and published poetry. He had a mail-order business selling rare books and ephemera. He collected stamps. He was an itinerant home owner, and a snow bird who flew south to Florida during many a winter. 

He worked in the PR department of Madison Square Garden. He was a technical writer for a while. He taught English at Sea Pines private school for girls in Brewster, in the days before it was became an inn, and was the location of my parents' 50th anniversary party. He was an Ivy League grad, earning his bachelors in English at Cornell. I recently came across a certificate he was awarded after he completed a nature photography class.

He coined jargon for certain things. For example,
  • Tenderheart: a gentle dog that let my dad pet him. Also, braveheart.
  • Bunker. A child under the age of about five or six, usually a rambunctious boy.
  • Gummer. An older person. Although he stopped using this term when he was about 75.
  • Weakies. An exclamation, something he said when he stood up and his back was stiff or when you tweaked his knee.
  • Weirdoes. Bad drivers about whom he was always telling us kids to watch out for on the road.
  • Cussies. Customers.
I never did ask him his secret to life. But I imagine his answer would have been something like, “I watched the weirdoes on the road.”
Wendell at Mayo Duck Farm, Cape Cod, circa mid-60s