Growing up we never heard a lot about Uncle Sam but when his name was mentioned my father broke out in a huge grin and my mother, who probably had more insider information about Sam’s colorful history, clearly went on High Alert, being raised up as a proper Franco-American Catholic girl, don’t you know? Regardless of the inherent danger of family skeletons tumbling out of a closet in a large , embarrassing heap, my father, my mother and I went to the Jalbert Camp on Round Pond in the late 50’s.
Getting there was no easy task. From our home on the coast we traveled Northwest to the Jackman – Canadian border crossing. Then north, in Canada, for 100 miles to the St. Pamphile Quebec border checkpoint. Crossing back into Maine we had to drive southeasterly approximately 35 miles down the Blanchette / Maibec Road to the Allagash River pickup point where Uncle Sam and another person would meet us with canoes.
We unloaded our Ford Country Squire Station wagon (we got a new one every year as Dad was a Ford dealer), packed our gear and selves into the canoes and off we headed upstream on the Allagash to Windy Point and camp. The camps were actually owned by Uncle Sam’s brother’s Willard and Bob and his nephew Willard Jr. I don’t believe Uncle Sam had any business interest in them.
As I recall thru the fog of 50 years, the camp had a log cook house/lodge with a large wood fired cook stove , dining table, a hand pump for water, a front porch (no such things as decks back then) overlooking the pond. There was a wooden dock and canoes. For camp quests there were a couple of log cabins with bunk beds, maybe a small table and wood stove. I also seem to remember a “treehouse” for food storage, not sure though. Of course no electricity or inside plumbing or bathroom facilities. One thing that does stand out clearly for me to this day was the wonderful smell of the lodge. Years of frying bacon, camp coffee, pipe and cigarette smoke, the nature of The Allagash itself that permeated everything , and even the logs of the cabin themselves, all combined into a wonderful perfume that imprinted itself into me. Nothing like it….
My mother, who would normally have zero interest in going to any sportsman camp, was there of course to visit with Uncle Sam. And that was part of my old man’s motivation but he was there to fish and I was there to go with him. And fish we did! Twice a day we would strike out in one of the canoes to explore the river, the pond, and the many brooks that laced the area. The trout were wild, frisky and plentiful. My father was absolutely over joyed and I was absolutely content to be with him to witness his prowess with a fly rod.
In the evening, after a marvelous camp supper, we would all gather at the table to describe the days action and where my mother and Uncle Sam would continue to reminisce about the “old days”. Fascinating stories about lumbering (which my Mom’s family was deeply immersed in), our French heritage, and of course the old timers who had passed on. My Dad would sit back , smoking his pipe and sipping on his whiskey, occasionally interjecting but knowing these couple of hours before bedtime were Mom’s. And for me, the best part of it all was that we would wake up to a fabulous breakfast and get to do it all over again.
I think I need to get back up there for one more go ’round with those trout and those memories……
Willard, Sam & Ned Jalbert