“A staycation in Rumford?” some might ask in disbelief. Hardly a destination spot, especially in the summer. Acadia is your typical tourist spot, and Rumford isn’t. There isn’t the beach or the lake to draw me there. But there is the familiarity and comfort I get from visiting. And very few tourists are crowding the streets.

A whiff of the mill smell in Rumford is a walk down memory lane for Vicki Sullivan, who made many family visits there as a child. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

For me, going to Rumford is an overnight I eagerly look forward to, twice a year, in summer and  in fall. I relive childhood memories in view of the mountains and the Androscoggin River. The fall air there is wonderful, despite the smell of the mill.

My father’s beloved hometown, Rumford was a place my family often visited. My mother’s sister Gennie and her family lived there, as did most of my father’s large, noisy, close-knit Italian family, made up of 11 brothers and sisters and grandparents who didn’t speak English.

We four cousins, related on my mother’s side, would play croquet on the lawn of the house on Penobscot Street, and my father and his brothers and nephews would play bocce at Holyoke Avenue.

There were cookouts, featuring my Aunt Gennie’s potato salad, on the Hamanns’ backyard. Our families would take side trips to Worthley Pond and Teena’s for ice cream. We might also have Italian dinners at my grandparents’ house, joined by any aunts and uncles who happened to drop by.

When my Aunt Theresa was the only one left to visit and I was visiting alone, we would sit on her screened-in porch and reminisce. We also made new memories together, having Chinese food at the Far East in Mexico, going to Walmart, and topping it off with an ice cream sundae at McDonald’s back in Rumford. Sometimes she’d suggest riding to Black Mountain and looking around.

When Rumford pulls me back now, I go to visit the town. My aunt has since died, and the family house has been sold, so I stay at a local motel. I sit out on the patio and can imagine my father fishing.

As I catch a whiff of the mill smell, I take a walk down memory lane, which is Congress Street, and then ride by the old family homes. Although I do go to some of the same places my aunt and I frequented, I’ve added new places, too. I take a side trip to Bethel to shop and to look at the old houses. Dinner is at Chamberlain’s in Rumford, where the owners, Jason and Erica, welcome me back fondly. They remember my connection to the town.

After I take my staycation in the summer, I look forward to the next one there in the fall. I always know, in the words of the song my father used to sing, that I’m “gonna take a sentimental journey.”

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