Random Thoughts

Squam Lake, NH

... well-worth the guided tour

by Ann Robbins Talbot

We met in 1951, two high school juniors representing our towns at Girls' State at
Bridgewater State. We both fell in love with the campus, applied, were accepted
and became college roommates. Fast forward sixty-plus years. We spent time on
the shores of Newfound Lake every year, just keeping one another company amid
lots of laughs.

One day we went on a boat tour of Squam Lake. Now, I had been a nanny at
Winnepesaukee for two years and had seen Squam many times. But this was before
it was the Golden Pond of the Henry Fonda/Katharine Hepburn movie. This summer
Squam Lake came alive for me.

We took off from the dock at downtown Holderness. Fonda was not much of a
boatsman. He had taken his boat from the dock next to ours not noticing that the
pier angled out to meet an adjoining boathouse. Full throttle he went gunning
the ancient Chris Craft into the lake, missing the dock by three inches. The
director yelled, “Cut and print. I can’t go through that again.”

We came upon the site of the scene where Norman and his grandson crash on a rock
while searching for the fish named Walter. They filmed the wonderful Chris Craft
smashing onto the rock.  But it just bounced off. Again. Bounced off again. And
again. But every time the boat won. So they rigged the boat with explosives,
determined to have it crash. The moment came. The explosives went off slightly
before the crash. If you rent the movie and stop the frame, you will see the
boat explode – and then hit the rock.

The lovely old cottage cannot be seen from the lake side any longer – quite
overgrown. The film company had added a second floor and a gazebo, but had
promised to return it to its original condition. The owner loved it so much that
he kept the renovations, so Norman and Ethel’s cottage does still exist.

An interesting island is the Chicoroua Chapel. The perimeter is surrounded by
small boat piers jutting out into the lake because the entire island is a
church, accessible only by boat. The belfry is on the ground and a large shed
houses a pump organ. Services are held on Sundays in July and August.  Weddings
may be booked a year in advance. Of course the couple must have a plan-B in case
of bad weather. One couple got drenched when an unexpected shower came up. After
the vows, the bride said – what the heck. She dove into the lake, gown and all,
followed by the wedding party. They were wet anyway. One bridal couple exchanged
their shoes for water skis and sped away.

A feature of the tour I liked was a case full of binoculars with which to
observe the loons and eagles nesting here. Herons were encouraged at one time,
but decided not to stay. We saw boathouses that cannot, by law, be renovated,
old hotels, ancient family Bible camps still visited for weekly vacations. We
saw where ice was harvested and the ice houses, insulated with sawdust. These
huge blocks kept the food and drink cool for the following summer season. But
big, elaborate cottages are not visible keeping the lake in nearly-pristine

And that is just ninety minutes of “Annie and Barb’s Annual Visit in New

September 7, 2012

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