Most people today remember the the property on the corner of Route 244 and Lakeshore Road as belonging to longtime resident, Allen Penfold, before he sold it in 2004 to the Freeman family. But, like many of the houses around the lake, the house has an interesting history.
This house served as an Inn in the 1920s and 1930s. Doris Honing of Middlebrook Road whose parents, Eugene and Doris Brittin bought the Betty-Anne Inn in 1937, has written an account of life at the Inn.
“In the summer, during the 1920s and 1930s, this Inn was a mecca for refreshment-seekers. It was a special treat, on a hot day, to stop by and lick one’s ice cream cone sitting on the bank of the lake in the shade of the big pines, watching the boat scene.
A man named Charles Dudley and his wife Ida from Hanover had bought the land at the end of Lake Fairlee, including a boat house with a cement dock (which still remains). He built the inn and put it in the hands of his two sisters-in-law, Selma E. Divers (Betty) and Anna G. Ockerblad, sisters of his wife Ida.
The Inn had several rooms to rent and provided breakfast and a light lunch. It was essentially a B&B, but because of the several children’s camps around the lake and its good location, it served many purposes. In the evenings it was a prime escape place for the many camp counselors and on Sunday mornings, an important stop on the way back from church. In those days, church was filled with campers. Some walked to church, but most of them paddled across the lake, parking their canoes on the bank near the road.
Sometime in the mid-1930s Miss Betty and Miss Anne retired. The vacuum was soon filled by the opening of Kosy Nook, next to Camp Wyoda, run for many years by the Savigni family. Mr. Savigni was a school principal from West Rutland. His three children grew up summers swimming near the cement dock.
In 1937 the Betty- Anne was put up for sale. My family had been spending their summers at Elmwood Farm, up Middle Brook, since 1926. Hearing about it, my parents, on an impulse, offered to buy it. The country was in the depths of the Great Depression, and her father, an engineer, was out of a job. However, he had received a small legacy and this seemed a fine way to use it. So, on June 22, 1937, they became the owners.
Mom’s imagination went to work. “Let’s run it!” she said, and sprang into action. With Sears & Roebuck catalog in hand, she began ordering bedding, curtain fabric, and paint. In due course she found a summering school teacher, Emma Jane Russ, who loved to bake fudge cake and brownies, contacted the Real Ice Cream Company in Barre, and a farmer named Darling who peddled vegetables. Groceries came from Rollie Hatch’s store in Post Mills, and meat from Sam Paul’s in West Fairlee.
The Betty-Anne was furnished amply and entirely with Mission style furniture. Mom chose paint in rich shades of blue-green, golden yellow, Indian red, Williamsburg blue, soft green. We painted the furniture in each bedroom a different color, including the dark brown iron bedsteads. So we had three green rooms, a blue room and a yellow room. Downstairs the round Mission tables were painted with matching chairs, most of them in the deep blue-green and the Indian red, but also in the soft green. Three tables with chairs were placed on the long veranda facing the lake, one table was in the “shop”, which opened to the road, and the rest were in the large living room. Another table, where we ate our meals, sat on a small covered porch at the back with doors to both the shop and the kitchen. This way we could handily keep an eye out for costumers and take care of them quickly. Here the desserts, too, were a moment away, like yesterday’s fudge cake topped which could be topped with scoops of ice cream!
Since the Betty-Anne had carried a small gift department in the shop, Mom wanted to promote local handicrafts. She found a Mr. Knight who lived in Barre and carved small skunks from wood with skunk fur tails. Then she found a Mrs. Smith in Thetford, who knit Scandinavian type mittens, and a lady from Post Mills, Betty Paine, who made small camper dolls, dressed in the appropriate camp uniform, very popular with the girls. We also sold lovely blackprint cards made by a young lady from Littleton, N.H.
As neither Betty or Anne were part of the picture anymore, we renamed the Inn The Crossroads. We loved running it, in spite of the long hours and tired feet. Dad became an expert cheese sandwich griller, and, most important, he could repair almost anything. My teenage brother Dave, kept ice in the ice chest (there was no refrigerator – the ice was cut from the lake during the winter, covered with sawdust and placed down in the depths of an icehouse out back). Dave also had to bury the garbage in a pit, after which he poured kerosene into the garbage pail and burned it out. Supposedly this method was mandated.
My other brother Steve, still a kid, took care of the trash, and I was both waitress and dishwasher. After a time, we were joined by Uncle Spence, an old family friend who was also out of a job. He intrepidly sliced onions for the raw onion sandwiches which were popular. He was also an excellent short order cook.
My brothers slept in a tent, Dad in the pumphouse, Uncle Spence in the one single bedroom and Mom and I slept over the shop. Three bedrooms with twin beds were left to rent out – one green, one blue and one yellow. The beds were covered with attractive cotton print quilts which matched the colors and added warmth on cool nights.
In those days a room in a so-called “tourist home” cost $1 to $1.50. We charged $1.25 and included breakfast with orange juice, cereal, egg, english muffin or toast, homemade strawberry jan and, of course, coffee.
In the shop, besides sandwiches and ice cream, we sold candy bars and EmmaJane’s brownies, especially good when topped with vanilla ice cream. Instead of sodas, we sold coolers: ginger ale with vanilla ice cream was called a Horse’s Neck; with chocolate ice cream it was a Dark Horse. Root beer and ice cream was a Boston, Sarsaparilla and ice cream a Baltimore. My brother Dave added a Bashful (with orange soda) and a Sourpuss (with lemon).
Emma also made two wonderful sauces for sundaes: fudge and butterscotch. The recipes are still in our file, and we should be glad to share.
The best part of running the Crossroads was the new friends we made. Henry Graves, who taught French in winter and was a counselor at Camp Passumpsic, decided to join our family. One day he was there was a party of horseback riders stopped by for refreshments and he helped pass out the dishes of ice cream. In his enthusiasm a scoop landed in the lap of one of the girls. Henry simply slid it back into the dish and nothing was said. My brother Dave was the one who remembered this.
The main difficulty we faced was caused by inadequate plumbing; only one bathroom. This was somewhat mitigated by washstands and slopjars in the bedrooms, but the single toilet caused some interesting situations. Unfortunately it was on the second floor, just above the kitchen. Inevitably someone would use too much paper and a kitchen flood would ensue. Since the serving table stood exactly below, Dad lost no time in fitting it was casters.
Thinking back, we recall that though the drinking was was hand pumped from a well (presumably State-tested) all the rest of the water, including that used to wash dishes, came from the lake. We were certainly in luck that all went well!
1942 was the last year we operated the Inn. Pearl Harbor did it. Dave enlisted in the Air Force, Dad got a new job and did crucial work which enabled the Nautilus to pass safely beneath the Polar Cap. He invented an improved hoist to deploy the sonar when needed. He spent interesting hours in New London, CT at the submarine base supervising the installation.
The Crossroads became a summer home which we kept until 1951, enjoyed by our whole family and our friends. It never did have more than one bathroom, but so what?
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Advertisement from the 1920s-1930s:
The Betty-Anne on Fairlee Lake
near Post Mills within motoring distance of you.
This is a most delightful drive for a day’s outing.
Light lunches, salads, sandwiches, tea, coffee,
ice cream and cold drinks are served here.
A beautiful grove for your comfort, delightful scenery,
and not too far from home.
Come and see.
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The Lake Fairlee Association thanks El Wilson for collecting several memorable articles about life around Lake Fairlee and turning them over to the West Fairlee Historical Society. Thank you to Jim McDade of the Historical Society for making these accounts available to us. Special thanks to Doris Honing for bringing the Betty-Anne and Crossroads Inn alive again.
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