Memories of Casmars Pond and Jenkins Boatyard

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 2 Commented
Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

from Peter Eakin van der Kieft

I’m not a “Rowayton kid of the past” however my fondest family memories as a kid growing up in Darien were of my uncle Boyce. To this day I’ve never forgotten his subtle influence on me. My greatest joys in visiting Rowayton were spending time w/Boyce’s mother, Mary Adams Eakin, and Uncle Boyce in his boat house.

The walk down the wooded path to his abode overlooking Five Mile was a magical venture back to nature, away from the social air of Darien. Everything he showed me was a step backwards in time, yet, a sensible alternative. The rain barrels along side the boat house, the canoe for exploring the river, the many books stacked in the boat house, perhaps kerosense lamps as I try and recollect. His simplicity in life may well have been from financial inadequacies , however to me, as a youngster it was an alternative life style I welcomed.

I was aware of Boyce’s writing skills and seemed to remember he received recognition for one of Americas up and coming authors by virtue of a short story he wrote. Once in a while I’d see Boyce out of context as a substitute teacher at Darien High School. Not knowing of Boyce’s time in New Mexico, until a number of years ago, I find it ironic that I too spent time in the “Land of Enchantment”.

I think Stella was formerly a Genz and the boat house that she and Boyce lived in was part of the Genz property. As I recall Stella worked at the Rowayton Library. Every year while visiting family in Darien I still visit my parents and Stella’s grave sites at Spring Grove in Darien. The ultimate compliment to a family member, in my mind, is to pass on a family inheritance. The inheritance may be in name only buts it conveys a wealth of fond memories for me. And that’s why my wife Marcy and I have named our so Christopher Boyce van der Kieft.

What a pleasant surprise to read of your fathers friendship with Uncle Boyce. Me thinks not too, that Boyce was not a failure. Lastly, the photos of Five Mile River remind me of my days as a apprentice at Jenkins Boatyard. Sadly I drive thru Rowayton looking for signs of the past, they’re few and far between, as is Darien, and will eventually be so in my hometown of Rockport, Maine.

2 Responses to “Memories of Casmars Pond and Jenkins Boatyard”

  1. William Tickel says:

    Peter,

    I am doing research on all of the short story authors who have been included in the Best Short Stories of the Year and the O. Henry annual anthologies, and your entry above is the only online record with specific years that I can find for Boyce Eakin. The “Best American Short Stories” seies, incidentally, is not at all obscure for lovers of short stories. Except for 1939 and 1940, it has been in continuous publication since 1915, and to be an included author is really an honor. I have read “Praries” and it is really quite good. The biographaphical entry at the back of the 1942 volume mentions that he was then 29 years old, whcih puts his birth year at 1912 or 1913, and your entry above puts his death year at 1957. Can you confirm these dates? If these are correct, then he was only 45 years old at the time of his death; who knows if additional years would have produced the novel he always worked toward? Anyway, thanks for your post above. It has been very helpful!

    Regards,
    William Tickel

  2. Crick says:

    Hey Peter,

    It’s great that you found the article on Casmars Pond. How did you find it? The blog template is defective in that it has no ability to search terms, although I can do this from the Admin side. I took your comment and posted it as an article above the two articles that mention Boyce and an article on moving the Jenkin’s house down the Five Mile River on the front page. I left this email message as a comment under your article. The picture of Boyce with my uncle John was taken on the front steps of our house on Harstrom Place in Rowayton some time between 1943 and 1945.

    My father, Peter Leavitt, died on Dec. 28th. For his last year, dad was in no condition to fill in some gaps about Boyce. For example, how did they become such good friends. Dad said at one point Boyce was “his best friend”. I’m wondering if Boyce went to Blair Academy in NJ. I have type written letters from Boyce and a few from Stella that dad kept in a folder which I only discovered in the last year. They are probably not interesting to read unless you want to know more about my father or Boyce (they are not that flattering toward Boyce). I would be happy to give them to you.

    I believe Stella’s maiden name was Ghann (spelling may not be correct). Boyce’s successful short story was “Prairies” which was published in the New Mexico Quarterly Review in August 1941. It was published in an obscure collection “The Best American Short Stories 1942″, ed. Martha Foley, Houghton Mifflin 1942 It may be had to get, possibly from the New York Library or at the Univ. of New Mexico library.

    One weekend morning when I was in my fathers workshop in the basement in 1957, dad came in to tell me that Boyce had died. I have remembered this because this seemed to have a big impact on my father. After Boyce died from lung cancer (I believe) Stella came to our house on ocassion. I also saw her at the library. Boyce mother sent my father some momentos of Boyce which I haven’t identified. I found Boyce’s obit in the NYTimes but was disappointed when I purchased it. There was little said about Boyce’s life and no mention of Stella. It just mentioned that he was a teacher at Darien High and that he was an aspiring writer.

    Most of what I have written in the last two years was dicovered in records and files that I collected from my parents home while I emptied it. Sadly I wish that I had discovered this history sooner so I could have had the answers to many questions about their old friends and their early life. I am curious about how dad and Boyce met given the 30 or so letters that I have from Boyce.

    Crick Leavitt

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