Early Winters at Kehonka

Written by A. Cooper “Bally” Ballentine

In the winter of 1929-30, there was a dirt road, rough, rocky, sandy, hilly all the twelve miles from South Wolfeboro to Alton.  Coasting toboggan was a daring thriller down “Old Perk”, the Wolfeboro hill named after old Perkins whose home was perched there.  This was before a steam shovel had cut the crest f the hill and filled its sagging middle.

The road after a snowstorm was packed down by a huge roller, about eight feet high, and wide enough to make a path for heavy sleds.  The roller was drawn by six or eight horses.  Keeping a horse on track sometimes was hazardous.  Cloud gusts of snow might cause the road to bend while and horse went straight.  Then, oh my!  The horse off the rolled track sand all fours into the soft snow and, thoroughly imbedded, looks wistfully for help.  The horse is blanketed, of course, but what about its chilly belly?

This episode provided of roadside entertainment, attracting viewers of all ages, and plenty of helping hands.  A high tripod must be fetched from somewhere, also a heavy set of blocks and tackle, a strong belly apron to go under the horse, and planks enough for the horse to stand on after it is hoisted up in the air, and finally planks to get it back on the rolled track.  There was no AAA service with winch to call in them thar days.

How near Kehonka Hill is to Wolfeboro in any season of 1987; how far away it was in 1929.

Houses and barns were built at the edge of the road in northern New England before the advent of snowplows.  Snow and mud were something to contend with-for more than half the year.

When the purchase of Kehonka Hill was considered in 1929, the prospect of being marooned by snowstorms for several days gave us plenty of concern.  The “town fathers” (i.e. selectmen) were so eager to get the property back on the tax books that they assured us the town workmen would come to our rescue with the only plow then available within the township.  They came alright, but three or four days after snow fell g northwest wind had whipped it into high drifts.  The plow was as massive as a steam shove tractor with a V-shaped snow pusher common then on the railroad tracks.  With all its power and massiveness, it could not buck its way through the snowdrifts.  Good fashioned manpower eased its way.

The selectmen said the law required that they charge us a plowing service fee which was settled at $5.00 for the winter season.  Small enough and welcome bait for the taxpayer?  By the way, had plowing facility and certainty been available in 1929 as it is today, no doubt our home would have been built on the Kehonka shore.

Speaking of the exigencies of winter, ye old ice box and ice shelf should be taken into account.  The ice house long since was converted to “Where the fun begins”, the already antiquated name for a trip supply room. 

John Strainge was the mastermind engineering the of ice harvesting.  Have you ever tried the ups and downs of sawing through fifteen inches of ice?  Unlikely, yes?  To do this all day calls for physical fitness evolved from strenuous outdoor work.  Then there are ice tongs to pullout the floating cakes, size 15’1 x 2011 x 30″.  A sled carries them to the door of the ice room where layer upon layer, they are packed in sawdust.  One more layer than the estimated need is allowed for melting.  It is a proud moment to celebrate when the ice house is filled!


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