The Fun Next Door

Published in 1939 by Houghton Mifflin Company

When the equipment rolled into town the other day and stopped at the house next door, I couldn’t help wishing that the Oysterville School was still up and running.  The activity that the huge machinery promised would have been the best recess entertainment ever, and the view from the playground across the street would have been just about perfect.

As it is, there has been no regular school in session here since 1957.  That’s when our School District No. 1 consolidated with Ocean Park, Long Beach, and Ilwaco to become part of the Ocean Beach School District.  Gradually, the student population dwindled until there were no longer school-aged children in the village.  But… if there were, they’d love the activity at the Hampson House next door!

Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne

The hub-bub immediately reminded me of a story I used to read to my son Charlie and, also, to the primary-aged children I taught – Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.by Virginia Lee Burton.  Mike bragged that his steam shovel, his beloved Mary Anne, could dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week.  They get one last chance to prove it by digging a cellar for the new town hall.

They begin at sunrise, and first to come to watch is a little boy.  Work continues as the sun makes its inexorable way across the sky and the crowd gathers.  Gradually, the whole town is watching as Mary Anne and Mike complete the job just as the sun is setting.  Unhappily, though, Mike has not left a way for Mary Anne to exit the new basement.  It is the little boy who suggests the happily-ever-after solution to the problem.

Well… we don’t have a little boy in town to watch and we don’t have a crowd of villagers, either.  I think there could have been a dozen of us in town yesterday – all busy with our own lives and some of us not even clear about the reason for the activity.  “A new septic system?” one neighbor asked.  “No, I think it’s for the foundation of a new addition,” someone else said.  As for us, we are content to take a “time will tell” attitude.

2 Responses to “The Fun Next Door”

  1. Bill says:

    And what was the little boy’s happily ever after solution, pray tell?

  2. sydney says:

    Protocol is that I should now say, “Read the book and find out” (lol) but because it’s you, Bill, I’ll tell you: Mary Anne stayed in the basement and was turned into the heating source for the new town hall and Mike Mulligan was hired as the janitor for the building — a happy-ever-after ending for sure.

Leave a Reply