Back in 1972, my sibs and I, with the possible exception of my older sister, S, listened to an AM Radio Station called WJTO, 730 AM. JTO was really the first station I listened to faithfully — throughout the summer here on the Maine Coast, anyway. At the time, JTO was straight Top 40 — including America’s Top 40, with Casey Casem. We spent the summers at Grampy’s cottage on the New Meadows River, and I remember bringing the radio down on the float while we were fishing. I loved the top 40; it ran for a couple of hours on Saturday morning. I was sure never to miss the top ten; and most of the time I listened to the whole thing.
Most of the music we listened to on WJTO was straight pop music: Brandy by Looking Glass; American Pie by Don McLean; Maggie May by Rod Stewart; Just My Imagination by The Temptations; Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress by The Hollies; Let’s Stay Together by Al Green; and Indian Reservation by The Raiders. And that is only a small sample of the hundreds of truly good rock and pop hits of the early 70s. People my age were very lucky.
I list these songs because, this morning, a very young kid asked me if we had any good music when I was his age.
In 1973, we drove up again, and once again stayed in my Grampy’s cottage in Phippsburg. We were on the New Meadows river, that river I love so much. That water was so damned cold, but we swam, we water-skied, we fished and went clamming, and we banged around in a boat, down the river at a place called the Basin. This was a different summer altogether. I was not as afraid as before to let S. know that I was smoking, (although three years after this, she would show me how to hold a cigarette so I wouldn’t look like I was stifling a cough.)
There were very few teenage boys down there while we were there — three in the last cabin on the road, one in the cottage next-door, who was solely interested in S., as she was in him. A man I have met since I came back to town was about ten when I was thirteen, and we of course excluded him from our circle — “too immature.” He now owns most of the road, including the cottage that was ours.
When we were in the cottage, it had one bedroom — for the grown-ups, of course; the loft over the kitchen and bedroom, which looked out over the living room. I think Dad put in the bunkhouse under the porch in ’72 — 8 cots with sleeping bags. The floor of the porch above always had a gazillion spiders below — running around and catching bugs, and nesting on our ceiling. We had a couple of couches in the living room, and a couple of chaise lounges on the porch, where two lucky, lucky people got to sleep.
As cold as the river was, and it was cold, (we were up from the coast a couple of miles, and this was a tidal river,) we swam almost every year, until 1975 or so. As frozen as we’d all feel when we got out of the water, that cold salt river surrendered some amazing fish — tons of sweet-tasting flounder, which we kids caught and cleaned, and my mother cooked for supper. Something special about salt-water fish when they’re fresh. Every year, the striped bass and the bluefish chased the mackerel up-river — we caught a few mackerel, but they were too oily to eat. One time I saw the kid next door catch a bluefish. They still run now, on that river, and the one that runs through town, but a fisherman must buy a license, a new requirement for salt-water fishing.
In May of 1974, we moved up here, from Tampa. We still used the cottage — in fact, as I got into my late teens, I attended some great parties there — mostly my own family. But nothing was ever the same as those summers we lived down there; I would sacrifice an awful lot to live on the New Meadows River again.
Even with a lot of family drama and weird dynamics, those summer were a blast, and I’ll never forget them. Goodbye, Meadowbrook. We loved you.
My all time favorite song from back then: Maggie May by Rod Stewart.