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Wentworth Key Unlocks
Reader's Memory

Contributed by Sue Chapman Melanson
South Hiram, ME
melanson@oakhillfarm.com

Wentworth Hotel Key

I am an eBay auction junkie! But I don't collect historic documents like you (see "eBay Warrior" by J. Dennis Robinson), or Bing and Grondel Mother's Day plates, or Howdy Doody lunch boxes. I collect Wentworth-by-the-Sea memorabilia. My emotional attachment to the grand old resort goes back to 1969 when I stood among the ranks of pink uniformed waitresses. That was the year of the big dormitory fire! The Smiths had miraculously created dormitory space for us from old barracks down by the Coast Guard Station, an odd assortment of rented cottages and summer camps and even a converted elementary school. My room for the summer was in Colonial Cottage, a big drafty white house that served as the sometimes Winter Office. My roommate and I shared Room 5.

On eBay I have acquired postcards from every era, commemorative glassware, an ashtray and some old menus. I have also e-mailed other regular bidders to determine their interest in the old gal. This group of face-less cyberspace contacts are Wentworth-By-The-Sea aficionados, ready to commit a couple of bucks to a 1911 postcard or duel to the death over a menu from 1958.

On June 29th, I was making my regular check of what was available, and my eyes fell upon an interesting item: a Wentworth-By-The-Sea key. The description read:

Wentworth Hotel postcard "We have three of these keys so we'll put one on eBay for all you New Castle natives who have moved away and need a touch of home. Key tag says 5 Col. Cottage, over a post office box address in Portsmouth, N.H. I bought these in a lot with other keys that also said the Wentworth by the Sea, and the person who brought them in said they were from the Wentworth. These keys apparently were to the cottages at the Wentworth. Large brass key is 3 1/2 inches long." Victory Antiques of Portsmouth, N.H, offered it.

I was startled by the description. It sounded like the key to my room. I scrolled down to the photograph of the brass skeleton key and found that it was, indeed, MY KEY!!! Just after midnight that first day, I placed my bid and began the long, suspenseful wait until July 9th at 19:14:50 PDT when the auction would be over. I e-mailed the others who were likely to bid against me telling them that this was the Holy Grail for me. I also contacted Barbara Metzler at Victory Antiques and got descriptions of the other two keys. "ryeman" got the key to Room 240. That room would have been to a room on the top floor in the wing that extended off the back of the main building overlooking the clay tennis courts. Upper echelon employees lived in those rooms - perhaps the tennis pro, the social director or Miss Flipper. "vzteacher" got the key to Room 318. That would also have been an employee room and, interestingly enough, was the housekeepers' dorm area in the center tower over the port cochere.

Wentworth Hotel postcard And so I waited and received daily encouragement from the group who was watching the auction with me. The days ticked by! I would look at the key every once in awhile and was relieved that no was bidding against me. Not until July 2nd! Out of nowhere came an unknown bidder known as "zin". "zin" had no prior history of bidding on eBay. Six times "zin" went to bat and bid the key up to $31.50. By the end of the day, with my fingernails bitten to the quick, I was still the high bidder.

And so I waited! I knew "ryeman", "vzteacher", "eemcgowan", "bluepenguin" and "acummings" were not likely to turn on me. But what about "rwent", "mrpenmark", "djurcik01" or "ryeken"? And then there was the shrewd and dreaded "tadgh" lurking just beyond sight. But Lady Luck has been at my side. Despite a torrential downpour that threatened the very electrical life-blood of my computer, the end of the auction has come.

And I have triumphed!!!! The Key is mine once again.

--- Sue Chapman Melanson

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