Special to The Windham Eagle
I first met Steve Quimby in 1958, when my family moved from New Hampshire to the Goold House in Windham, two houses away from the Quimby residence. Steve was my classmate, and we became friends right away. We were both members of a club called the Tree Scouts. The only other members were Steve's older brother Jimmy and their cousin Dennis Hawkes.
|Steve Quimby gathers with the rest of the Tree Scouts in|
Windham in 1962. From left are Steve Quimby, Peter Millard
(honorary member), Dennis Hawkes, Jim Quimby and Max
Millard. SUBMITTED PHOTO
We built a cabin on the Hawkes’ land at the edge of the woods. We cut down the logs and hatcheted the ends to make them fit together, using as our model a picture of Abe Lincoln's log cabin. We got a wooden platform for the floor and smeared creosote on the walls to protect the logs against rotting. We spent many nights sleeping there.
Unfortunately, there were a few insects trapped inside the logs which made a shrill pitched whistle all through the night. Apart from that, it was a great getaway for us. It gave us a place to smoke, swear and look at dirty magazines.
In the summertime, the Tree Scouts would often sleep out under the stars in our sleeping bags. We would sneak into the Hawkes's garden and raid it of strawberries peas, corn and anything else that was ripe. Each boy would go after a different item'. Then we'd build a fire and roast corn on it, keeping the husk intact to seal in the moisture. Seldom have I tasted corn that was so delicious.
Every fall, the Hawkes and Quimbys grew more tomatoes than they could sell at the stand. At the end of the season, Florence Hawkes didn’t can them fast enough to keep up, and many tomatoes would rot on the vines. So, the Tree Scouts would go have a tomato fight. Tomatoes would soon be splattered all over our clothing, so that we resembled bloody actors from a third-rate horror movie. It was fun to dodge flying tomatoes by hiding in the bushes or making alliances to gang up on others.
Rainy afternoons were never dull for the Tree Scouts. We'd go to a house where our parents weren't home, dial a number at random, and start using vulgar language. Sometimes the victim would stay on the line and swear back at us, but usually they'd hang up. Other times we'd look in the phone book for a family whose last name was Lord. Then we'd call and ask, "Is this the Lord's residence?" If they said yes, we'd say, "Then let us pray."
One of the favorite tricks I did with Steve was pulling a handbag. We'd place an old empty handbag in the middle of Windham Center Road with a fishing line attached to it, then hide in the bushes next to the road. When a car would stop to check to see if there was any money inside, we'd pull the bag quickly, then run away laughing. The driver would shake his fist at us.
Back in junior high, Steve and I both started smoking cigarettes, although we later gave up the habit. Both Steve's mother Barbara and my father Ben were smokers, and we'd take turns stealing cigarettes from them, then share them. Steve would take one or two at a time from his mother's purse. My dad always kept several packs on a bookshelf in the kitchen. I'd push one of the packs behind the books, and if he didn't notice it within a week or two, I'd take the whole pack.
We would sometimes go out at night and smoke in Dick Hawkes' strawberry house. But the best place for smoking was Alley Hawkes' barn because you could stack up the bales of hay like building blocks and construct a house big enough for two of us to fit in. We'd sit there at night with a flashlight and smoke. Of all the places in town, that was probably the most dangerous to do that. But we were careful, and never had an accident.
One night the four Tree Scouts decided to climb the high school water tower. It was located beside the old high school. To climb the tower, it was necessary to scale a 10-foot latticed wire fence, which had holes just big enough to hold the toes of our shoes. On top was a metal bar topped with two strands of barbed wire. You had to do some very tricky balancing to make it over that wire without getting your pant leg entangled and falling. But barbed wire was nothing to farm boys.
Steve graduated from Windham High School in 1967, and not long after that he got a job at Serta Mattress. One of his workmates there called himself Lindbergh, claiming he was the kidnapped Lindbergh baby. He got mad if people said they didn't believe him.
One day, when Lindbergh didn't think he was being observed, he picked up Steve's lunch box, removed the handle, and put it on his own lunchbox. But Steve saw this happening. When Lindbergh wasn't looking, Steve threw his lunchbox in the river.
As it was sinking, Steve called him over and said, "Hey Lindbergh, what's that out in the river?" Lindbergh said he didn't know. Steve said, "It looks like a lunchbox. Hey, maybe it's your lunchbox." Lindbergh said that it couldn't be, because that one had a handle. Steve answered, "It is too your lunchbox, and I threw it there because you took my handle."
I could tell more stories about Steve, but what I remember most about him is his good nature and his sense of humor. I hardly ever saw him without a smile on his face.
After I moved to California in 1980, I lost contact with Steve for many years, but I kept in touch with our classmate Lloyd Bennett and Steve's cousin Jim Hawkes. When I flew into the Portland Jetport for a visit to Maine in 2016, Jim and Lloyd met me at the exit. They were accompanied by a tall, large man who looked vaguely familiar. It was Steve! We had a great reunion, and the four of us went out to dinner that night, and later met twice more, for a pizza night at Lloyd's and at Jim's neighborhood party.
That was the last time I saw Steve but hearing of his passing jogged my memory about what a good friend he was. I wish I could have been there for his memorial service. I've remembered him for 64 years and I'm sure I will never forget him. <