2009-08-27 / News

My Turn

A house full of memories
By Sunny Hocutt

My husband, Lee, and I first heard of Jamestown when we saw a newspaper ad offering lots for sale in 1961. We loved this beautiful island immediately. We bought a west-facing lot on Mizzen Avenue with a water view and a glorious sunset.

We started clearing it that summer.

But Brooke Harding, a Connecticut friend who knew Jamestown well, suggested that we look at available houses on the island. In the spring of 1962, we visited many. We found the perfect house for our family of four girls and one boy – a three-story Victorian house at 37 Green Lane owned by Alton Head. Each sibling had a spacious room to enjoy. We spent many summers there and enjoyed southwest breezes, intermittent fog and friendly neighbors – the Zweir family on the left and the Hull family on the right.

Fortunately, some furniture was included in the sale because Lee was a minister and our furniture was in our Redding, Conn. parsonage. We quickly discovered Mr. Pemantell’s thrift shop on North Main Road, and were frequent buyers. We filled our empty rooms with furniture from his shop.

Memories of summers spent here on the island abound.

Melinda, who was 9, said: “The best thing my parents ever did was buy a house on Green Lane. We waited on the huge front porch playing board games, until dad and mom walked down the street to tell us that the house was ours. We had many wonderful summers together on the island. It represented freedom to grow and learn each year.

“Each memory is fond and engraved on my soul forever. Jamestown had some ferocious thunderstorms. Mom would gather us in the front room and we looked out at the storm. We’d sit and learn not to be afraid, and we rated the storms. They were fantastic. Mom was wonderful about teaching us in a fun way.

“We’d go to Mackerel Cove each afternoon to swim, walk to the sandbar at low tide and dig in the sand. After the beach, we’d race up the back stairs to get to the bath first. I was fast, so I usually made it there first.

“We would hang our bird ‘Tweedy’ on a hook on the front porch ceiling. What a great spot. He had a ‘bird’s eye’ view of all the comings and goings. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring him in one evening and there was a huge thunderstorm that night. The next day we realized our fatal mistake. Tweedy fell off his perch; we buried him under the back porch in a shoebox. We felt sad, said a prayer, and went to the beach.

“Those memories are an integral part of my soul. The island is my backbone and has formed many characteristics that make me, me. I’m forever grateful for the experiences I had, which I carry wherever I go.”

Ellen was 6 and she mentioned recently that she learned to swim at Mackerel Cove. The lifeguards gave all the kids lessons. She also remembers buying penny candy at the Pinto Brothers’ store on Narragansett Avenue. One of the perks of Green Lane was that we could walk anywhere in town. An avid reader, she’d walk to the library – then housed where the Jamestown Historical Society museum building is now located. She enjoyed reading on a couch on the front porch. She still misses the house and joined me recently when Lynn and Robb Roach graciously invited us to visit and see all the changes made over the years.

When we moved in, Lee carried me over the threshold because it was the first home we owned. Lee was a loving husband.

Called the Head house by many Jamestowners, we thought of it as the Green Lane house or the Jamestown house. Even now, old timers know it as the Head house. Every afternoon, we’d drive to Mackerel Cove for an afternoon of sunshine and swimming. We piled in the car after our infant daughter, Elizabeth, woke up from her nap, and we had fun at the beach.

I talked with JoAnn and Alton (Bud) Head III recently. Bud never lived on Green Lane. His parents, Caroline and Alton, lived on Howland Avenue, where their children grew up. Bud did say that he went to the Green Lane house to celebrate his grandparents’ diamond wedding anniversary. Alton and Sarah Head lived there 75 years. A little research showed that this elegant Victorian was built in the 1890s by two sons for their mother, Harriet W. Anthony. Her name is memorialized on a stained glass window in the Central Baptist Church.

Elizabeth, too, shared her memories of the house with me. She grew up here and ended with this: “Jamestown is a wonderful island, and I’m glad to say that I have lived here full-time since 1992.”

When Lee and I knew we’d have to downsize, we built a house on the Mizzen Avenue lot we bought in 1961. We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary there last January.

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