From 1958 through the mid 1960’s I continued to vacation in Rangeley with my aunt and uncle. I had taken to the lake in a big way, and we used to rent a Rangeley Boat from the Swains for the time we were there.  I thought nothing of rowing the few miles into town from Greenvale Cove.  One day in the summer of 1960, while rowing along the shore, I saw a girl standing on a rock outcropping at the edge of the water. She was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, with the sun shimmering over her long blond hair, and I rowed over to say hello.  We became pals, boating and swimming and hiking together.  It morphed into a classic, and totally innocent, summer romance that made the Rangeley experience even more wonderful. Time seemed to slow down, and the days were endless. We both simply enjoyed our time together, knowing that we would soon go our separate ways. The whole thing reminds me of Frank Sinatra’s classic, “It Was A Very Good Year.”  In retrospect, I look back and have to give myself credit for somehow sensing at that time just how meaningful were those days. We never had any arguments, and we never broke up, but just headed back to our faraway lives. They say that youth is wasted on the young, but it really wasn’t, in this instance.

’63 or ’64 was probably the last year I stayed at Sam-O-Set with Aunt Bertha and Uncle Saul. Their old buddy, Johnny, passed away a bit later, and they sort of lost interest in staying in Rangeley without him. They turned to more all-inclusive resorts further south, I suppose having had enough of the housekeeping cottage chores. In later years, I took them on a couple of vacations in Kennebunkport, but they never returned to Rangeley.  In the late 1980’s they still lived in the big house in Milton, with my parents.  My grandmother was gone, and my other aunt and uncle had moved to Florida. Saul was ailing, but he was as mentally sharp as ever. One day, as I was visiting, Bertha said that Saul wanted to see me. This was unusual, because I saw him frequently.  I went into his room, and he just wanted to chat- about our summers in Rangeley, and all sorts of things.  When I went to go, he smiled and took my hand, thanking me for coming.  I thought this was strange; I was oblivious, I didn’t understand. He died peacefully the next day. Bertha died a few years later. Their wedding picture hangs on my office wall, and I miss them to this day.

*                                  *                                      *

After high school, I also drifted away from Rangeley. Oh, I went up there a few times, even staying at Sam-O-Set once, and the Rangeley Inn, but it wasn’t the same.  I tried college, but really had no idea what I wanted to do, so I left and worked as a carpenter for a few years. I was making good money, yet eventually felt a need to go back to college and get an education. When I applied to Boston University, the Dean of Admissions looked at my unimpressive record and said, “Mr. Geller, we haven’t exactly been sitting around waiting for you to apply!”   She allowed me to enter their night school on a trial basis. After proving myself there, I was accepted as a full time student for the fall semester of 1966.  By this time, I knew that my career would be in construction and real estate, and I continued to work as a finish carpenter and stair builder throughout my time at BU.  I was doing something that would be impossible to do today:  working my way through college, with no loans or parental assistance.  Tuition was about $3,500 per year, not BU’s current annual price tag of about $65K!   With no strings attached, I was free to study whatever I pleased, and I did just that, graduating in 1969 with a degree in Latin and classical literature. A totally reasonable basis for a career as a real estate developer.

BU in the late 60’s was a hotbed of leftism, as were most urban universities, as they are today. We used to call it “the little red schoolhouse on the Charles!”   On the first day of a philosophy course, the professor announced to the class, “I want you to know that I’m the most right wing professor in this department, and I’m a socialist!”   That aside, the education I received there was life changing. It opened my eyes to literature, poetry, and without a doubt the most significant of all- history. I’m sure I could have facilitated my career by studying business administration or engineering (as my parents desired), but it was a great thing to be studying subjects that I enjoyed for their own sake, with no agenda.  An English professor in a summer session urged his students to make a trip to the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, CT.  A few of us drove down to see Julius Caesar, the title role being played by a world renowned Shakespearean actor, and staged by the famous Broadway producer, Joe Papp. It couldn’t get any better, and sparked in me a lifelong love of the theater.  As fully expected, after graduating, I went right back into construction.

By 1971, things were going well, and I was drawn to look into buying some property in Rangeley.  Prices were very low, with beautiful lake lots for sale everywhere. I made an appointment with Harold McQuade, who owned the Koob and McQuade Agency in Oquossoc with Bob Koob. He showed me a number of raw lots, mostly developed by the S.C. Noyes Co, and a few resales. He eventually took me to see a partially finished one room cabin at Stephens Road on Mooselookmeguntic.  It wasn’t much of a cabin, but the land and the view were spectacular, with 200 feet of frontage.   It faced due west across the widest part of that huge lake, providing mesmerizing sunsets.  I wound up buying it for $15,000, and obtained a $12,000 mortgage from Maine National Bank. I was 26 years old.  A year or so later, I bought an adjoining 100 foot lot from Shelton Noyes.  I felt strongly that acquiring well located good land was much more important than the condition of any existing building;  one could always build a house, but as Mark Twain famously said about land, “They ain’t making it any more!”  Years later, it dawned on me that Maine National couldn’t have cared less about the value of that hut; they were loaning on the land.

I set right about finishing the cabin, getting a roof on it, along with other such luxuries.  A friend and I would go up on the weekends, camping out on the cabin floor, with the occasional deer mouse attempting to share our sleeping bags.  With the addition of a wood stove and that accursed outhouse, we were  all set.  The next year CMP graced me with electric lines to the cabin.  The Ritz-Carleton it wasn’t, but oh, that view!  Thus began a period of building relationships with many Rangeley folks; neighbors, tradesmen, business people, and drinking buddies. Sadly, many of them are no longer with us, but the times we shared were memorable, and often hilarious. Some are still around, and I hope to coax them into sharing their experiences in interviews for this column.

*                                               *                                         *

It was a rare privilege to read Becky Clough’s heartfelt account in the last issue of the Highlander on taking her first deer. This is what hunting should be all about, but too often is not. While we read about the halfwits who jack deer, or shot loons, or kill way beyond the limit just for the sake of killing, we rarely hear a story like hers.  She intuitively understands that God’s creatures were not put here for the mere amusement of humans, but deserve to be respected. It was brave of her to share her emotions in print, and I salute her!

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.