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Reprinted from the Weirs Times, by Mary E. Hover Contributing Writer

So sang we all sincerely, the theme song of the "Allen 'A' Resort," Wolfeboro, New Hampshire - a summer vacation getaway which in the 1950's still nestled on the shoulders of Highway 109, with shady lanes leading through the woods to the shores of Lake Wentworth.

Which brings me first to this piece of advice, freely given... never ever throw away photographs of memories. In a fit of pique one day, I trashed all the photos I collected during my two working summers at the Allen 'A' - pictures of my co-workers (the waiters, waitresses, chefs, dishwashers, stable help and cabin maids); our stage shows; the theater; all the candid pictures of the guests and activities, taken by the resident photographer. I am now kicking myself around the proverbial block.

"Activities" - what mental images that word conjures up! If you have seen the movie "Dirty Dancing" starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, you'll understand what summer resort life was like for the work crew (with a few exceptions)! Since nobody else seems to have written about the Allen 'A' Resort - at least, not where I could find it - I thought I'd better do it, before the memories slip away. The only echoes of those summer days and nights are in my mind, and down the lanes in the woods by the lake, where I explored
nostalgically a few years ago.

We were traveling through the area and decided to visit my old stamping ground (to show my husband where some of my misspent youth had taken place). Wandering about, down what I knew as "Rancho Lane," I opened the door of an old shed. There was the steam calliope with "Allen 'A' Resort" painted gaudily - but now faded - on each side. Dear old white-haired "Harry" used to play the calliope down at the beach for the Wednesday steak fry, and for many other local festive occasions. I know nothing about who owns the land there now - there is an Allen 'A' Resort Motel - but I hope that calliope is now restored and treasured - not shoved away in an old shed!

I wandered over to the theater and chatted with a man who was working outdoors nearby. He told me the theater, with the scenic murals still on the front wall, was going to be used as a boat museum - a bit different from the way I remembered it!

Let me tell how I came to be working the summers of 1957 and 1958 at the Allen 'A' Resort. Simple. I applied and was accepted. The pay wasn't great - about $11/week - but if you played your cards right, the tips were what counted. I kept mine in a coffee mug on my dresser and often counted my loot lovingly, telling my tired feet that it was well worth the effort. The waiters made much better tips than the waitresses did, because people often brought their single, very available daughters to the resort and the waiters really played up to them (before and after meals)! Nobody ever brought their single available sons, so we girls just had to depend on doing a good job of taking care of the guests assigned to us (they usually stayed two weeks, sometimes only one week). Mr. Albee always announced to the guests that the help depended on tips to help them through college. I recall an elderly man who was assigned to me for meals - he was staying two weeks. I made sure he was well fed three times/day & that he knew what was going on every day on the resort's schedule...and at the end of the two weeks, what tip did I get? Nothing! (OK, Frank, we remember your last name too...!)

I had a sort of handicap - depending on how you look at things - and I looked at them from a normal 19-yr-old girl's point of view... My mother was also working at the resort, doing flower arrangements and other odd jobs such as putting away the costumes after our shows. These costumes had to be taken from the theater dressing rooms to be hung up in the storeroom over at the Social Hall. Mum and I occupied a trailer down "Rancho Lane" whereas the other girls & boys lived in cabins "Rancho #1," "Rancho #2," etc. The cabins had bunk beds, and just the bare necessities.

"Rancho Lane" meandered along behind the stables wherein were housed two beautiful Belgian carthorses named Mike & Bridget; they pulled the wagon for the weekly hayride. There were several other horses stabled there for trail rides. (How I wish I had never thrown those photographs away... would anyone else like to kick me?)

The highway went right through the middle of the Allen 'A'. If you were coming from Wolfeboro, the Lodge (office, kitchens, dining hall & verandah), and some employee & guest cabins perched on the treed slope to your left. Just past that was "The Chatterbox" soda fountain/souvenirs. On your right were guest cabins, then the quonsethut- shaped theater with murals of rural New Hampshire painted on the outside front walls.

Some well-known names in entertainment came to this theater, mostly out of Boston...but the only ones I recall were Teddy English, a comedian, and Eve Walker's (British) solo trapeze act. Teddy English would come out on stage, look around and say, "Oooooo, loooook at all the peeeeeople!!!" and promptly fall over backwards. There was a chimpanzee act I remember mostly because the owner asked if I'd like to go on the road with him while his wife stayed in Florida... and oh yes, the little man who looked and dressed like Charlie Chaplin. He kept walking round and round the stage, getting shorter and shorter, & as one arm got shorter and shorter also, the other arm got longer and longer. Go figure.

On Friday evenings, along with an orchestra from Beverly, Massachusetts, the work crew (led by me)and guests put on a very impressive talent show. The theater was used for movies and dances too - the seats were moveable and were stacked after a show, by the boys in our work crew. There were other orchestras that came to the Allen 'A' to play for dances. Sometimes we'd have a session of "Harry at the Hammond" organ music. If it was a rainy afternoon, there'd be "Bingo in the Social Hall". Sometimes the Social Director and I would give cha-cha lessons to the guests. He (very socially) also wanted to saw me in half (he tried it once, but I got away...!).

Guests sometimes stayed at the big old farmhouse further along the road. It belonged to the owners of the Allen 'A' - Mr. Allen H. Albee & his wife, Lillian. Mr. "Allen 'A'" enjoyed being a showman - either riding his palomino horses in full bejeweled western regalia (his trademark was his big white stetson), driving his white Lincoln convertible, or pretending to be a peanut vendor in the theater. I once asked him what the H. in his name stood for... I think he replied "Hellbird!" but I was never quite sure! The peanut vendor act entailed his carrying round a tray of peanuts, hawking his wares, and eventually whisking off his little cap, replacing it with his white stetson & "being recognized"! Then the social director would pull a loose thread on Mr. Albee's trousers, the seam would come apart, trousers would fall and Mr. A. was left standing in his shorts which were decorated with big red hearts. It was ok the first time you saw it...but every week all summer?!

Past the Social Hall and the Stables was a big open field and a band shell. Our trailer was located to one side of that field, under some pine trees. Outdoor acts performed in the field, such as Sid Alcido and the Royal Family Of the Air...120 ft. up (double trapeze up a pole) with no net. Sid asked me to join their "family" act, to go traveling through Europe, South America, Mexico...he said he'd never lost a student - mother put her foot down on that one. Too bad. I should've gone anyway.

Back to the work crew who were mostly college students...I remember all the names & can see them all quite plainly...Liz L (I won't give her surname but it went so nicely with her first name); My best friend & cohort, Joanie; Sandy, an older girl; Janie from Hingham, Mass.; Jeannie from Wilton, Maine; Darla from Longisland (that's how you say it); Patti (who liked Stan); Pretty curly-haired Lorna; Frankie and his sister Connie; Terry with the dark curls & glasses; Stan from MIT; Richie - tenor solist of Boston University; Eileen whose Mum made tap-dance costumes for me and her daughter to wear for "Me & My Shadow"; Skip (Bob); Duffy the lawyer; Big Bob; Jon the priest; Dick who liked to brush Jeannie's hair; Tall Wes who jitterbugged so well; Little Jimmy; Funny Charlie Brown; Bruce & his ukelele (great on hayrides!) from Marblehead, Mass.; Handsome Norm from Cocoa, Florida; & a short dark-haired girl - I can "see" her clearly but, oh botheration, what was her name?!

For waiting on tables our uniform was black and white, skirts/trousers and blouses/shirts. The boys wore black clip on bow-ties; white aprons & hairnets were a necessity for the girls (there weren't any longhaired boys at that time). Our pedal extremities got very, very tired, so comfy white shoes were a must. We usually had about 20 guests at a time assigned to each of us in the dining hall crew.

The "Cabin Maids" wore comfortable clothes, for cleaning, making beds, etc. The dining hall crew often stayed after clearing tables and setting up for the next meal, to bleach coffee cups, creamers, teapots, wash venetian blinds and all such delightful jobs. Some of the boys were on garbage detail, which needs no explanation.

Look for Part Two Soon!

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