My Favorite "House for Sale" Story
Welcome to the February 2012 edition of Jud’s New England Journal, the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine,
published since 1935 in Dublin, N.H.
My Favorite “House for Sale” Story
Hard to pick one. But if I had to, this is probably it…
Published some thirty years ago, it was an old-fashioned lakefront sporting camp in Kokad-jo (short for Kokadjoweemqwasebemsis), about 20 miles northeast of Greenville, Maine, which, of course, is northwest of Bangor. (You know, we do a “House for Sale” story in every issues of Yankee — have for over sixty years.) Anyway, this place had nine acres, 2,000 feet of shore frontage, eight fully-equipped sporting camps plus a well-stocked country store with a nice owners’ apartment, lovely mountain views, fabulous fishing and, well, it was a golden opportunity for someone who liked that sort of wilderness thing — and all for only $150,000, quite a lot back then but still a bargain.
For several years after, readers wrote us asking, “whatever happened to that sporting camp property in Maine?”
All we could reply was that a fellow from New York eventually bought it but here’s the whole story…
According to the original owners, the Yankee story resulted in 93 inquiries from 26 states, including New England, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Indiana and Wyoming. Occupation of callers included doctors, attorneys, writers, stockbrokers, school teachers, a policeman, a pilot, a machinist, a chemist and a number of businessmen. Oh, and a policewoman, too.
The first person to inquire about it was obviously inebriated. He said how interested he was and how he loved the place. Ten minutes later he called back to ask why someone had called him because “he wasn’t at all interested in real estate.”
The author of “The Shadow” — remember that? — the late Walter Gibson, called. He was 83 at that time, still writing, and looking for a wilderness retreat. He’d actually visited the place, he said, back in 1912 and liked it.
A man afflicted with a severe stutter telephoned to make an appointment to see the property. The camp owners were away for a few days and, since their answering machine recorded messages for only a half minute, he’d had to telephone more that a half dozen times to complete his message. And he utilized the entire tape.
Seven California callers were, they said, looking to “go east” and quite a few wanted to move to Kokad-jo because they were “burnt out” and, they said, “sick of the rat race.”
And so on.
The man who actually bought the property was from Cold Springs, New York. He’d seen it the year before when he and his son bicycled through the area. He said at the time he’d remarked how wonderful it would be to live there. So when he saw the property featured in Yankee, he felt fate was on his side. He immediately called to make the offer that was accepted and said he’d be at Kokad-jo three days later to wrap it up.
The day before he left for Maine, he walked into the Con Edison plant in which he’d worked for over twenty-five years and quit. Just up and quit.
He later told us in a letter that after signing the papers up at Kokad-jo the very next day, he and his son embraced and actually danced for about ten minutes. He said it was the best he’d felt in his entire life.
“Free,” he said he kept repeating. “Free at last.”
* * *
So what has happened since? Probably a lot but I’m reluctant to inquire. I like the ending as is.