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!


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.