A Father-Daughter Getaway On Golden Pond

Sarah Banks Hartshorne with her Oscar for "On Golden Pond 2011: The Next Generation"
Sarah Banks Hartshorne with her Oscar for "On Golden Pond 2011: The Next Generation"

I had a really swell time with my daughter Sarah up on Squam Lake last weekend. It was overcast Friday and Saturday, but Sarah got a treatment at the spa and we had a great time at the Squam Lake Natural Science Center and the Sandwich Historical Society and the Sandwich Grange and a bunch of really fun galleries, not to mention the fabulous restaurants, the Corner House in Sandwich and the Squam Lake Inn in Holderness.

We stayed at the Manor on Golden Pond, run by Brian and Mary Ellen Shields, who really made us  feel at home. To tell you the truth, I could have just hung out at the Manor and listened to the jazz piano, but we had a mission to explore the region.

We saw a production of “On Golden Pond” directed by the author Ernest Thompson, who won an academy award for his movie adaptation, which featured Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, all of whom were nominated for Oscars.

At that point Hepburn had two Oscars and Fonda senior had none, having lost out on The Grapes of Wrath in 1940 to his friend Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. Jane Fonda had two, one for Klute and one for Coming Home.

Katharine and Henry won best actor and best actress in 1981, and On Golden Pond was the top grossing film of the year — no special effects, just old fashioned acting. Jane lost to Maureen Stapleton for her performance in Reds.

Hepburn’s comment to Jane was, “You’ll never catch me now!” because now it was four to two, but I think this comment was tinged with love and gratitude. It was Jane’s production company that made the movie possible and gave her dad the chance to win an Oscar. In his biography, Henry Fonda writes, “I’m not a religious man, but I thank God every morning that I lived long enough to play that role.”

We got an insider’s tour of Sandwich with Susan Davies, who runs the Jonathan Beede House — a wonderfully quiet place just a few minutes from town that turns out to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Beede's Falls
Beede's Falls

She took us to Beede’s Falls, which is one of these places where the water has been tumbling over the bedrock for thousands of years creating one perfect swimming hole after another, and the sun came out just in time for  photos.

Then Sunday dawned bright and clear and we went out on the lake with Cindy O’Leary of Experience Squam who gave us a tour of the lake and took us to the famous bungalow where the movie was shot. And when we got there a pair of loons came out and gave us a show, preening and flapping their wings.

This ancient bird with solid bones, unlike the hollow bones of a duck or a goose, is built for diving more than flying and their unearthly call is an integral part of the lakes region and plays a critical role in the play and the movie.

Lake Winnipesauke, the larger lake just south of Squam, is named the “laughter of the gods,” which is what the loons sound like. I think we all know the gods like a good joke.

It was the perfect place for a father-daughter getaway, one that I will never forget.