As a Readfield native, Dale Potter-Clark grew up watching busloads of summer campers ride through the area headed to the various lakes. Her mother, Readfield historian Evelyn Potter, watched a similar scene as campers arrived via rail at the Readfield Depot.

Now Potter-Clark, 68, of Vassalboro, knows who founded those camps and what the campers and resort-goers did on their visits and has shared it with the world in “The Founders and Evolution of Summer Resorts and Kids’ Camps on Four Lakes in Central Maine.”

She and co-author Charles L. Day Jr. chronicle the history of growth and development of the camps and resorts along the northern end of Maranacook and on Echo, Lovejoy and Torsey lakes.

Day and Donald W. Beattie had authored “Maranacook’s Southern Lakeside Resorts,” a slim volume published in 2013 describing the history and current condition of those premises. That is available today through the Winthrop Historical Society.

The newer volume is much more extensive at 350-plus pages with 22 pages of endnotes and with post cards and photos from private collections.

“We thought there might be 20 camps, and we ended up with 40 hotels and housekeeping cottages and kids’ camps and then tourist homes included as well,” she said, defining “tourist homes” as similar to bed and breakfast places today.

The book evolved to include more than geography, land ownership records and postcard views.

“I realized it wasn’t just about the evolution of the establishments. I was writing about the founders,” she said. “There are some amazing stories about the founders.”

For instance, she cited Dr. Emma Green, one of the early osteopathic physicians who trained in Philadelphia and who opened Camp Abenaki for children on Lovejoy in 1919. It became Camp Merrywold in 1927, and today it is operated as Camp Kirkwold, a Girl Scout camp.

Most of the camp founders, however, were men.

“We uncovered some pretty interesting stories in writing this book,” Potter-Clark said. “We ended up talking to people all over the country and even some people in Europe as well that I tracked down. They provided some photos from their personal collections. Some of them didn’t know their relatives had even run a camp.”

Camp Vega in Mount Vernon was founded in 1936 as Camp Vega Sr. There was a Camp Vega Jr. for younger girls founded in 1940 in West Mount Vernon. Today, it operates as Camp Laurel.

So far, Potter-Clark said she’s already sold 120 copies of the book and has several book-signings lined up.

“It’s a labor of love, absolutely it is,” she said.

With the advent of World War I, fewer people came to spend summers at camps and resorts in central Maine.

The young men and fathers went off to war and the women worked at home.

Then the camps and resorts had a small resurgence until the Depression.

“Then World War II hit and that finished off the ones that were left,” Potter-Clark said.

Today, only a few remain.

“The ones that have survived have done quite well,” she said. “They’re quite affluent.”

Potter-Clark is a retired pediatric nurse, having spent the last 17 years of her career as bereavement coordinator and executive director of Hospice Volunteers of Waterville. She also worked one summer as the Camp Laurel nurse.

“I’ve always loved local history,” Potter-Clark said. “I’ve researched my own genealogy in Readfield since I was in my 20s. When my grandmother was on her deathbed in 1987, she talked to each of us, asking, ‘What do you want to do for the rest of your life? And I’ll help from the other side.'”

Potter-Clark knew what she wanted to do: “I’d like to write a history of Readfield.”

She’s working now on a book about the 150 or so pre-1900s houses of Readfield.

Potter-Clark also has done a series of Readfield history walks.

She herself ran Camp Ray of Hope in Winthrop, a statewide camp for grieving families.

“I started that because I lost my husband and son in 1988,” she said. “That’s why I went to hospice.”

Day, of Connecticut, retired in 1995 as assistant director of state parks in Connecticut and spent summers in Maine. He has been on the board of the Winthrop Historical Society and a member of the Readfield Historical Society.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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