Neither Blackwoods nor Seawall campgrounds had showers. Toilets and cold water sinks, yes, but no showers. This resulted one summer in free tent sites because Congress, in its infinite wisdom, had decided that showerless national park campgrounds should be free. The previous year the price of a tent site had gone up from 50 cents to 75 cents a night. We had reason to love our government in those bygone years! Prices now are $20 a night.
Because there were no showers in the campgrounds we were introduced to the miracle of the coin-operated showers at the nearby camping and general store. These showers were fun in the early days because there were only two of them, the third stall being taken up by a toilet. A later store owner, a rabid Red Sox fan, removed the toilet and installed a third shower. This had both the drawback and advantage of accelerating the whole shower process, by reducing the amount of time for socializing in the dressing rooms and by getting people out of there faster when they had other things to do. I always enjoyed meeting people from distant places and chatting up strangers in the nude. It reminded me somewhat of my days in the military, although the younger men, who had never been soldiers, were somewhat more self-conscious about being naked among other men.
It was even possible to involve the women in the conversations. The women had their own dressing room on the other side of a wooden partition which didn’t quite reach the ceiling. The shower itself was a somewhat hurried process. You slipped a quarter into a slider, much like it was done at the Laundromat, and this purchased you three minutes of hot water, but some of that time was wasted trying to adjust the water temperature. If you were a hardy soul, you could risk rinsing off with cold water, but I was a wimp. I developed real skill at taking these three-minute showers, and to this day, I don’t think a shower at home takes me longer than that.
Another treat of those early days at Seawall was Annabelle’s, just outside of the campground. Its real name was Seawall Restaurant, but Annabelle’s was its owner, and the place really went by her name. It was a rowdy place, frequented by lobster fishermen, who lived a rather rugged life and who, when they relaxed, with the help of alcohol, got somewhat rambunctuous. The police had tried to shut the place down. The mayor of Southwest Harbor had driven up in his beautiful, pink Cadillac and tried to urge more restraint and better behavior, but his beautiful, pink Cadillac wound up in the middle of a gun battle, and its beautiful, pink body was shot full of holes. That didn’t happen while we were there. We just heard about it later.
On Saturday evenings, Annabelle’s had a sing along. The long tables were arranged in rows, facing a diminutive platform on which performed a small group of local musicians. The place was usually packed with men and women of all ages, the room heavy with cigarette smoke. Everyone seemed to know the songs the musicians played, and they all joined in and sang along with the performers while downing beer in tall glasses. A good time was certainly had by all, but Annabelle and her restaurant are gone now, replaced by an artists’ cooperative and a soup kitchen. It could be progress, but progress may not be all it’s cracked up to be.