Labor Day has always been a seasonal turning point on the calendar.

Days are shorter, nights are cooler, and many families are making the annual back-to-school adjustments. Plans for a weeklong vacation trip don’t fit in for most folks, but there’s one late-summer pastime that has endured for many generations.

A drive around the lake.

Such a simple inspiration, but it continues to bring delight to Twin Cities residents. Usually that means a trip around Lake Auburn, but Taylor Pond, Sabattus Pond, Tripp Lake or Sabbathday Lake are just as likely to be the popular route.

These days transportation might be the family car, bicycle or motorcycle. In years past, the vehicle would have been horse and carriage. The Lewiston Evening Journal once ran a regular column called “Just Talks — On Common Themes.” It was always signed A.G.S. for Arthur G. Staples, the paper’s longtime editor-in-chief, who wrote with exceptional style and grace.

Here’s how A.G.S. recalled a trip around the lake.

“This was a wonderful place to take your girl for a buggy-ride. Via the West Auburn Heights, so beautiful in vista and prospect, there is a perfect broad route around the lake,” A.G.S. wrote.

“It used to take half a day with the girl and the Goddard buggy, and a contented horse. It was called 18 miles from Auburn post-office around the lake and back to the post-office. One did not average much more than four or five miles an hour, and with delays for viewing the scenery and getting a drink of water at the spring and, perchance a bit of delay where the lake made the most of its music, it meant an afternoon of time.

“Alas! How the automobile has ruined such romance. Now, all too many circuit the lake on these perfect roads in half an hour and lose the most of God’s bounty,” he wrote.

Before the automobile, and for city-bound folks without a horse and carriage, there was another option. The electric railway to Lake Grove at East Auburn was perfect transportation. Before the “electrics,” the trip to the lake was by horse-drawn trolley, and from Lake Grove it was possible to take a steamboat ride to North Auburn or to the Mineral Spring Hotel.

In the late 1890s, if you wanted a trolley ride that made the complete Auburn circuit to Taylor Pond and on through West Auburn, North Auburn and around the lake to East Auburn, you could hop on a car of the newly expanded system of the Lewiston and Auburn electric street railway.

No, wait. That ambitious project never came to fruition, despite some strong public support.

The Lewiston Saturday Journal of March 4, 1898, gave details of the proposal. Running the electrics all the way to Turner had already been proposed, so a loop around the lakes was a popular idea. Major points on the circuit would have been the Lake Auburn Fish Hatchery, “now a state hatchery and visited every year by thousands;” Townsend Brook (North Auburn) “where the salmon and trout congregate at spawning time; Harlow’s Point and steamboat landing; Taylor Pond and Taylor Brook with its “water power privileges;” and much-needed trolley access for Minot Avenue.

If the track to North Auburn were to come about, the plan suggested “in accordance with the honorable custom of the past ages that Phin Clough, the North Auburn whip, be made the general passenger and freight agent at North Auburn village. Thus would the good old custom of making depot masters out of stage drivers be honored.”

However, it was argued that track construction on many of the grades on the route would be too expensive. And some of the routes under consideration would have left out areas such as Stevens Mills or the upper end of Minot Avenue. So, consensus was never reached, and the plan hit a dead end.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]


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