There is something for almost everyone in this delightful collection of short stories from the pen of Carroll Haskell. The author was born in 1927 on isolated Deer Isle in Penobscot Bay, 12 years before the suspension bridge from the mainland was completed. Until 1939, Deer Isle was truly an island.
The author introduces us to the extensive Haskell family while describing his life on Deer Island. Carroll Haskell, “Cabbage” to most islanders, grew up on Deer Isle listening to the stories his father told about his ancestors, including Caleb Haskell, who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
Haskell writes, “My father was very good at storytelling and before we Deer Islanders had electricity and television, yarns were a way of life.” Over the years, the author began to make notes and collect stories from his family’s past, which he put into the Haskell family newsletter. Now, at the urging of his family, the author has packed over 100 tales into an entertaining book.
“Growing Up” are the operative words in the title. Haskell’s brother-in-law Bill Haviland calls it, “An insider’s account of what island life was like during the difficult years of the Depression and World War II.” The stories are engaging, original and amusing. The book follows a loose chronological thread and flows easily from one yarn to the next.
Haskell describes his childhood years, ranging from accounts of catching frogs and surviving second grade to memories of the Great Depression and bank failures. Other stories recount numerous boyhood hijinks as well as a near- death experience he had while duckshooting with a friend. In a chapter entitled “The Bear and Me” Haskell recalls, “we lived in a time of rural innocence; children were allowed to roam unchallenged by neighbors”.
In 1937 nine-year-old Carroll remembers hearing a “whining noise” and looking up to see a “huge, silver colored zeppelin floating along through the air.” Haskell and his brother jumped up and down and waved to the passengers and some waved back. “Little did we know it was on its way to total destruction in Lakehurst, New Jersey that very evening.”
Haskell had an unusual military career. While still a teenager, he was drafted in 1945 but was sent home after failing the physical. He was drafted again in 1950, “when they were desperate at the start of the Korean War.” Then, in the middle of basic training, he was discharged after a serious asthma attack.
Haskell married his wife Pam in 1957 and spent 34 years working for the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania. As a long-time resident of Philadelphia, I enjoyed his descriptions of familiar places in the northwest section of the city where he lived, and the fact that his wife and brother-in-law, Bill Haviland, graduated from Germantown Friends School where I taught for many years. In fact, Haskell was away from Deer Isle for so long that when he returned one summer an old cousin hollered, “Hey Cabbage, you ain’t a native no more.”
“Growing Up” has been a lifelong experience for Carroll Haskell. At the age of 84 he is a published author and an accomplished artist (he did the painting for the book’s cover). In one of the last chapters, he writes, “I have no expiration date on my neck, not like plastic milk bottles. Therefore I do not know when I must cross the Styx. I’m sure the crossing will be close enough for me to feel the heat!”