2014-08-08 / Letters

Column is a trip back in time for reader

To the editor:

Our compliments to Craig Skelton for his fine “A Fond Remembrance of Fred H. Hale Sr.” (July 18, 2014). My wife Laura and I bought Fred’s house that was described in the article and moved in the same day of the first Beach to Beacon road race in 1998.

For the previous five years we had been living one street over on Mayberry Street in a house that my grandmother, Irma Ellis, bought in 1943. She went into a nursing home in 1992 and the home was unoccupied (she lived for another 10 years and died at age 101). When we moved to Maine we lived in that house and then bought Fred’s on Mount Vernon Street. She and Fred had thus been neighbors for about half a century.

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey we ventured back to my father’s hometown of South Portland every August for two weeks of visiting my grandmother and going to the various beaches. We met Fred and saw him on occasion over the years. Every year for decades, Fred, the renowned bee keeper, gave Irma some of his homemade honey. Whenever they spoke to or of each other it was always in the vernacular of their younger days: “Mr. Hale” and “Mrs. Ellis.”

We Jerseyites always considered this honey-making Mainer to be fascinating. Little did I suspect I would end up owning and living in Fred Hale’s house some day.

When we moved into his house, Fred finally went into a nursing home himself (he was a few months shy of 108 years old at the time). We had a fair amount of construction done on the house and although it was not drastic, we did alter it a bit. Fred and his son Red came by one day shortly after we purchased.

He was quite interested in the construction work, how the kitchen was being changed and how things would look when completed. Red, on the other hand, did not care to enter as he wished to remember the home as it was when he grew up in it. Fred still had an open and inquisitive mind.

The story of the roof shoveling is legendary. That is not the whole story though.

Fred’s neighbor, Gil Ellis, who was well into his 90s at the time, saw 103-yearold Fred shoveling the snow off the roof of the front porch (they lived long in this neighborhood – we are hoping some of it rubs off on us).

Fred had climbed out the second floor window to get out there. Gil actually called the police and rescue when he saw what he believed to be Fred falling off. By the time the authorities arrived they found Fred shoveling the front walkway. He was rather miffed anyone would think he fell off – he told them with all the snow that had fallen that winter it was an easy jump into the snow bank.

He was quite a person and it has been an honor to live in his house.

Bud Ellis
South Portland

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