Few movies in recent years have enjoyed the popularity, in Maine and elsewhere, of On Golden Pond, the bittersweet idyll of an aging couple spending a summer at their lakeside cottage. Although the movie was filmed in New Hampshire, the “real” Golden Pond — as every Mainer knows — is one of the Belgrade Lakes. It was at Great Pond that playwright Ernest Thompson, who wrote the original Broadway hit, spent the summers of his youth, and his play is redolent with images unique to this corner of Maine. Photographer Benjamin Magro traveled to the Belgrade Lakes region this summer to see what changes have taken place in the wake of the movie’s success. What he found, happily, was that the Belgrades are as impervious to change as many other parts of the state. Still cruising the fishing holes are a few vintage Chris-Crafts, much like the one Norman and his young companion ran aground in the movie. Sun-dappled docks in quiet coves still beckon summercators looking for a spot to sit and read. Even mailboat man David Webster continues to deliver letters and newspapers by boat, one of the few mailmen in the country to make his rounds by water. Indeed, if playwright Ernest Thompson were to return to his childhood haunt today, he’d find that Golden Pond lives on — in fact, as well as in his play.
Though vintage Chris-Crafts may a less familiar sight today, the spirit of Belgrade’s“Golden Pond” is much as it was 30 years ago, a blissful escape for those who summer there. Dave Webster, the original waterway mailman who inspired Thompson’s work, sold the marina in 1991, but in summer, letters and newspapers still arrive by boat on the placid waters of Great Pond.