The "GOOD OLD" Days

-- by Betty Burchell

Sycamore Islander, September 2002

When I first came to the Island, as the handyman's girl friend, about 1957, it was populated with many white bunny rabbits hopping all over the place! Someone must have let a pair of rabbits go loose the premises. There hadn't been a caretaker for some time. The lawn was much smaller than today, consisting of a few foot-high stalks, already producing seed. George Hermann lived in one of the three shacks just upstream from the lawn area. He answered the bell, and had an extension of the phone in his house. I think once he answered the bell and people had come over, the people had to take care of further trips.

The author, on Swain's Island.
Bob, who would later become my husband, was hired to do all kinds of things. Most of them had to do with carpentry, painting, etc. I finally decided that I was "freeloading," that this was a pretty nice place and gladly agreed to join the Club. There were vacancies, not a waiting list at the time. There were a lot of disputes as to what Bob should do, and how he should do it.

The advent of Mr. Davis as caretaker was a big deal. I was on the Island that day. He arrived dressed "properly": hat and extra-long, black overcoat, black suitcase in hand. His conversation was a persistent diatribe concerning his living quarters, one room, no plumbing. They were somewhat improved fairly quickly, but the plumbing came later. Meanwhile Mr. Davis took a bath every Friday night in a large tin tub. I heard him tell a member on the phone that Friday was a "bad night" for him. She wanted to have a party that night.

I don't know how the rabbits were escorted away, but I do know how the ragged tall grass became the large area of lawn we now know. Mr. Davis worked tirelessly to achieve this. He had a daily routine for doing it piece by piece. It must be said that he never did carpentry or other handyman jobs. Bob was hired to do them.

Tension over how to do jobs eased a great deal when John Thomson became Captain. 'Tis true that I heard people wishing for the "good old days." I didn't see what was good about them.

Betty Burchell has been a member since 1958. She has wide interests, including Sycamore Island, but takes special delight in local Potomac archeology and history.