life in the Kearsarge area

what's happening in the Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee area of NH

Archive for Sutton

More summer in NH


Still doodling around town with my camera/phone. Here’s a big ole tree in Sutton Mills.

Here’s a view of Sutton Mills. Just beyond the trees there’s an old dam that used to power the mills. I scared away a big heron (it scared me, too, so no photo this time).IMG_7359

FullSizeRenderThe dock photo is of Pleasant Lake from Elkins, NH. And the kayaking photo was taken on Lake Sunapee from the state park beach.IMG_7328






Make sure you get outside and enjoy all that summer has to offer!

Summer in NH


Here I am, walking lakeside in North Sutton. Cell phone in hand, I snap a few photos of Kezar Lake, the dam and Wadleigh State Park.

It’s what I do most summers. I have time after dropping the kids off at their respective camps. I don’t particularly want to haul my laptop with me, so I take photos for Facebook, Pinterest and my enjoyment. I’ll include a few here to get you in the summer mood.



The (relative) quiet of Cascade Marsh


IMG_2150         It’s quiet at Cascade Marsh in Sutton, NH. I’d say, “almost too quiet” – but the mosquitoes are keeping a steady buzz in my ears. Even the annoyance of flying bloodsuckers cannot deter my joy of finding this peaceful spot in Sutton, NH. You can drive your car to a tiny parking area in the woods, then canoe, fish, hike in the area surrounding the marsh (some is conservation land, some is not). There wasn’t much information on the web about this marsh, but I did learn that it was one of the best places in the state to see a pied-billed grebe, a small brown bird that is part submarine. (They are expert divers.) I did not see one, but you might! Just be sure to bring some bug spray.



The Dog House


“Two specials and a super, please!”

Say this phrase to anyone who has longtime ties to Wright’s Beach on Blaisdell Lake in South Sutton and they will know exactly what you are talking about. This would have been a typical order placed at the window of The Dog House, the beloved little hot dog stand that plied its trade for almost 40 years along the lake’s western shore.

In the years between the two World Wars, South Sutton attracted quite a little colony of show biz people. The town’s rural charm, beckoning woods and clear cool lakes provided a welcome respite from the bustle of the city and life on the road.

Pat Rooney (1909-1979) was a dancer who had followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather onto the stages of Broadway. He was just one of the many well-known entertainers to make the trip north to visit fellow vaudevillian Buster West at his farm in South Sutton for a bit of rest and relaxation. The visit would change Pat’s life forever when he met a local girl, Estelle Wright. They married in 1942 and he would call South Sutton his home for the rest of his life.

In 1947, Pat — with the Lowe brothers, Don and Tom — opened The Dog House for its first summer of business. It adjoined the Wright family compound of businesses owned and operated by Estelle’s father, Sutton native Chet Wright. In its heyday, the compound included a thriving general store, privately owned Wright’s Beach and bath houses, their home, and a tiny museum housing Chet’s collection of vaudeville memorabilia. In 1948, Pat and Estelle took full ownership of The Dog House.

Blaisdell Lake was a happening place back then, and The Dog House was at the hub of it all. The little hot dog stand — with the big red dachshund painted on its front — opened the first of May for trout season and closed on Columbus Day (although it was only open on weekends before Memorial Day and after Labor Day). The order window, flanked on either side with hand painted menus, opened at 11 a.m. and would try to close by 9 p.m. – or when they could clear everyone out ! The two most popular items on the menu were Specials and Supers; the Special was a hot dog with cheese, bacon and sauce, while the Super was a hamburger with cheese, bacon, onion and sauce. The “sauce” was Pat and Estelle’s own delicious (but closely guarded) secret recipe. Absolutely everything was made fresh.       DSCN9918

You could enjoy your food at one of the umbrella covered tables outside or in the tiny dining room where the windowsills were lined with porcelain dog statues and the walls were covered with signed photos of movie stars that Pat had known and worked with during his career, including Bob Hope, Red Skelton and Mickey Rooney. Pat also honored his regulars with their own coffee mugs on which he would paint their name in bright red letters and these hung proudly in the kitchen and dining room.

Pat and Estelle ran The Dog House every summer until Pat’s passing in 1979. Estelle ran it with the help of her devoted employees for a few more summers, closing the order window for good in 1984. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 90.

Today The Dog House returns every other summer for one weekend. Huge tents are set up on Wright’s Beach and the original grill once again sizzles with hot dogs. Sponsored by the Blaisdell Lake Protective Association (BLPA), the “kitchen” is staffed by former employees and their families who still prepare the food to Pat’s exacting standards. BLPA members help out with everything else. And what about that secret sauce? Estelle left the recipe to only a select few … you might say it’s still a “super special” secret, even after all these years!


5,000 casseroles

The recipe on deck is macaroni and beef pronto. “It’s an ancient Mueller’s recipe,” says Janet Paulsen of Wilmot. And although four ladies are cooking up enough food to feed 100 or more people, they are not intimidated by the task at hand. The group — members of the Kearsarge Community Presbyterian Church in New London — has been preparing meals for the “Feed the Freezer” project since January 2009.

“It started with the kitchen,” says Dave Barden, mission committee chair. Indeed, the church has an amazing professional kitchen; it was added as part of a 2004 renovation. The original thought was to use the underused location as a soup kitchen, but “after a few meetings it was decided that the most practical way to provide food to needy individuals and families was to distribute frozen casseroles through the Newport Food Pantry.”

Church members donate $10 each month to purchase ingredients, and many items — such as about-to-expire meat and vegetables — are donated by Hannaford in New London. Small groups of willing cooks meet every other week to create meals out of whatever donated food they have. Extra-large cans of chili, provided by the food pantry, are used as the base of a casserole. Super-sized boxes of elbow macaroni find their way into the pronto casserole or a macaroni and cheese recipe. “We like to keep things simple, and vary the recipe according to what we have for ingredients,” says Paulsen.

The group estimates they’ll make 45 casseroles today. Since each casserole serves two (three, if there’s a small child in the home), that’s 90 to 135 people that won’t go hungry.

About 60 church members — from middle school students to 80-year-old retirees — volunteer in the kitchen. “If I’m short a cook, all I have to do is ask,” says Paulsen, one of two head cooks, “and I get twice as many people as I need.”

The volunteer operation takes their work seriously — everyone wears hair nets, aprons and gloves, and the kitchen is inspected by the state of New Hampshire. They also have an assembly line production: One volunteer is writing casserole ingredients, under the date, on the cardboard tops of the aluminum containers provided by the Newport Food Kitchen. Another ladles noodles into each container, another sprinkles cheddar cheese on top, and two more add the tops and turn down the edges to seal the casseroles. Soon 29 containers are ready to go into the professional freezer. The frozen casseroles will be picked up the next day and delivered to the Newport Food Pantry, where families eagerly await a home-cooked meal.

“They do cartwheels over them. People are asking for them, and ask if they can come back when we have them,” says Rich Chappell, coordinator of the Newport Food Pantry. “There’s a good variety, they are good quality — it’s been a blessing.” The two-serving casserole is perfect for seniors, and bigger families take home two containers.

After two hours, the ladies are halfway through — another pot of sauce and another pot of boiling noodles are waiting. They make 26 more casseroles. “It’s heartwarming to feel like we’ve done something,” says Dot Wicksman of Sutton. “I’m grateful that I have enough food, and I’m glad that someone else can get food if they need it.”

In October 2014, the Feed the Freezer project reached a milestone: 5,000 casseroles. If you’re interested in helping, the group is at the Kearsarge Community Presbyterian Church on 82 King Hill Road in New London. Donations can be sent to Kearsarge Community Presbyterian Church, Feed the Freezer, 82 King Hill Road, New London NH 03257.


25 Things to Do this Spring

An oldie but goodie updated for 2015: 25 things to do this spring.

  1. Enjoy Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon at the Center at Eastman in Grantham
  2. Set the clocks back an hour, and check the batteries in your fire detectors as well
  3. Learn to square dance with the Bradford Country Squares on Thursday night
  4. Put on a green shirt and head over to Salt hill Pub in Newport for a celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day
  5. If you can still feel the cold of winter in your bones, try a hot stone massage at a local spa
  6. Warm days and cold nights bring the sweet delight of maple syrup. Go to and find the sugar shack nearest you
  7. Need some gardening tips? The Fells in Newbury offers horticultural classes in March
  8. Now that the Easter chocolate is gone, maybe it’s time to join a gym or check out sporting opportunities at the local rec department
  9. Earth Day provides the perfect opportunity to pick up the trash along the sides of our country roads
  10. When will the ice on the lake melt? Take a guess in one of the area’s ice-out contests
  11. It’s Cinco de Mayo! Head over to Revolution Cantina in Claremont and raise a taco in salute
  12. Welcome spring in Warner at the Annual Spring Arts Festival in mid-May
  13. Show Mom how much she really means to you
  14. Get out the bug spray and hit the greens at the Black Fly Open, sponsored by the Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce
  15. Change the snow tires on your car. Vacuum out all the sand and salt, and take a spin through a car wash, too
  16. Bring your children (or grandchildren) to a town-sponsored Easter egg hunt
  17. Find your sandals at the back of the closet and schedule a pedicure
  18. Help a local snowmobile club maintain the trails used by skiers, hikers, horseback riders and ATV enthusiasts
  19. Check the propane tank on the grill. You don’t want the first outdoor steak of the season well done on one side and raw on the other
  20. Grab your friends and attend the first annual Zing into Spring! event in New London in on March 31
  21. Donate all the books you read this winter to your local library. They can add the books to their collection or sell them at used book sales
  22. Now that the roads are clear, go for a drive. Tour a town in the Kearsarge area to see what’s new
  23. Listen to beautiful music by the Kearsarge Chorale in early May
  24. Be creative with marshmallow peeps at the annual Library Arts Center contest
  25. Sign up for a moonlight ski (or snowshoe) with one of the area’s rec departments

Fun with history

Winter Kearsarge Magazine is going to press. It will be off my desk today, and printed next week. We haven’t run a funny history article since 2008…do you remember? It was based on the old Spy magazine “year in review.” The authors would take a funny item from the news, and make it even funnier with a title. So KM tried it with history items, true or tall tales. Here are a few oldies from 2008, and look for some new goodies in 2014.

Too cold to cry

Early log cabins near what is now the Newbury/Sutton line were very cold in winter. An open fireplace against one outside wall sucked all the heat from the far side of the room right up the chimney. Cold air was drawn in from outside through log walls. In 1780, William Gunnison and his reluctant wife moved into their cabin from the milder climate in Kittery, Maine. It was so cold the first night that Mrs. Gunnison’s hair froze to her pillow. We can understand why she might have shed a tear or two, but chances are she didn’t try again till spring.

Sorry to go on — I just really liked the hat

The Merrimack Journal in December 1874 records the following notice. “One of the most base and disgraceful acts ever committed in this orderly and decorous village was transacted at the [recent] Concert. Some vile person, unworthy of the name man or boy, had the impertinence, audacity and unqualified meanness to trample, spit tobacco juice upon and entirely annihilate Rev. Mr. Moody’s hat. Such conduct is not tolerated in this community, and the miscreant is sure to have the condemnation and reproach of the good people heaped upon him as soon as his name is found out, which if he has any shame could surely be done by the tingling of the cheek and his calling loudly for the rocks and mountains to fall upon him and hide him from the face of an indignant people.”

Better than a fat pig over a low pole

Hobos of the old days were not just men seeking a free ride. They were expected to perform for their supper and a spot in your barn — either with labor or with any skill they might possess. A free spirit named Jaquish is a good example. He came to Andover once a year, most often with a pig and a heifer in tow. His menu of services and their cost was as follows:

  1. Jumping heifer over a pole: 5¢
  2. Jumping pig over a lower pole: 2¢
  3. Praying for you or a loved one: 5¢
  4. Preaching: 15¢

Jaquish, apparently, was a worthwhile preacher. That is to say, his preaching had worth relative to that of a pig jumping over a low pole. The townspeople got used to — and even looked forward to — Jaquish’s arrival. He ambled through town in springtime for 20 years until 1845, when he didn’t.