Old Orchard Beach in the early ’60s represents so much in my life.

Noah’s Ark, which the Boston Public Library describes on the Maine Memory Network website as a “kid-friendly, boat-shaped funhouse with hand-carved figures of Noah and his family,” was one of Gail Caiazzo’s favorite Old Orchard attractions in the 1960s. Courtesy of Gail Caiazzo

My family moved to Old Orchard when I was in middle school. Being the new kid in that landmine of teenage hormones was not easy. Fortunately, the other new kid had just emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland. We found each other. Those two nervous girls formed a friendship that is still strong today.

Since our home in Buckfield sat on a very private wooded lot, with no other homes in sight, our first night in Old Orchard Beach as a family was unforgettable. We left the village of Buckfield immediately after my sister Patty’s eighth-grade graduation.

Mom had to accept her new, unwanted role as a single parent. She packed all eight of her children in the car for the journey.

It was early evening when we arrived in Old Orchard. The view from the top of Old Orchard Street was magical. As we drove down the hill toward the amusements, all my siblings were uncharacteristically quiet. Mom slowly made the loop at the bottom of the hill while we all looked out the windows at the Pier, the huge carousel, the Giant Slide and, most of all, Noah’s Ark!

We could not believe our good fortune because we had moved to a carnival.

As Mom drove back up the hill, the smell of Bill’s Pizza filled the car. Suddenly, all the previously sleeping occupants were wide awake, anticipating our arrival at our new home, the Rose Villa House.

At one time the huge house had been an office and passenger station for the old Junction Railroad, originally on the northwest corner of Heath and First streets. It was built in 1881.

After the Junction Railroad was abandoned in 1882, the house was moved to St. John Street.

The building was divided into sections when it became the Rose Villa House. The front section had 10 rooms, which were rented out by the night during the summer. The middle section was our home. The back section was a small apartment, which was rented year-round.

There was no time to be wasted getting settled into this totally new way of life. The rooms had to be aired out in preparation for summer guests. Our mother became a businesswoman, running that place on a shoestring. She particularly enjoyed the guests from Canada.

The amount of laundry required for renting 10 rooms and keeping eight children in clean clothes was astronomical. This was all done with a wringer washing machine, then hung out to dry.  No automatic washer and dryer to be seen for years.

No wonder she was cranky.

The fire of 1969 changed the landscape of downtown. Sadly, the Rose Villa House has been torn down. Bill’s survived, still in the same location. Pier French Fries is no longer on the pier, yet thankfully continue be served in cardboard boxes with vinegar as a topping option.

The beach is still magical, but there will never be another Noah’s Ark.

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