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Michael Kline: 0:00:00.0 I'm Michael Kline, and we're here today in the Board of Trustees meeting room at the Concord Free Public Library. It's May 12 in the afternoon. It's cloudy and cool outside. And maybe we'll get some rain. Who knows?
Carrie Kline: Maybe.
Michael Kline: Would you please start? Introduce yourself. Say my name is.
Martha Rohan: My name is Martha Rohan.
Michael Kline: And your date of birth please?
Martha Rohan: It's 1-20-60.
Michael Kline: And tell me about your people and where you were raised to start.
Martha Rohan: I was born and raised in the town of Concord. I went to all the schools here. My parents own the South Bridge Boat House in Concord, which is a service for canoe rentals and sales. I grew up working there along with many other of my friends and siblings. A great place to grow up in an atmosphere in an old antique boat house that was just full of laughter and fun and meeting lots of different types of people. And then growing up on the river as well, as you would go to work all day. And then in the evening we'd all just jump in boats and paddle down river or take a boat ride up river, go up, swim at Fairhaven Bay and just pretty much enjoy the nature and what was offered to us at that young age.
Michael Kline: And the river is?
Martha Rohan: The river there is three rivers, the Concord, Sudbury, and Assabet River here in Concord, Mass. I now have started my own business doing something on the river as well for the last twenty years. I do offer lunch and dinner cruises along the river with a guided tour just to reflect about my years of growing up on the river and Thoreaus and Emersons and all the other authors and people that lived in the town of Concord. It's a great way to experience another part of Concord, Massachusetts.
Michael Kline: Tell me about the—what did you say you do with regard to these authors?
Martha Rohan: I just give a history of where they either wrote along the river or how they used the river and just how they felt and reflection—I'm so bad at this—the views and different things of how they got their writings through the river by just looking at it and seeing the nature, and where Thoreau used to have his boat house and Daniel Chester French and Emerson and Hawthorne and all of them. Where they lived. And it looks a lot different now than it did back in their day as there were no trees and everything. It was just clear cut. They used it for farming in order to live, where now we have trees and preservations for the wildlife so that it's continued to be able to be used by the people of this century as well.
Michael Kline: 0:03:24.7 So this is a relatively new business for you?
Martha Rohan: Well, my business is new, but my parents have been running the Boat House since 1949. And my father would do boat repairs and sell boats. And then they also rent canoes and kayaks now. Back in the '50s and '60s and '70s, they had over a hundred canoes that they would rent. And they'd all be out by either local people or people from all over the world that would come and visit just to explore the river as it does flow under the Old North Bridge where the Revolutionary War was. So it offers a lot to families and people visiting and just a local flair. And my mother still goes to the Boat House. She doesn't necessarily get behind the counter and do all the work, but she still enjoys everybody that still comes to her business that she's had all these years and enjoys seeing the people who have come back with their children now. And she raised four children down there. We all worked there as well as a lot of other local Concordians have grown up here. A lot of—some of the people are retired that they had working where she is now retiring; she has been retired for many years. So it goes back a long way.
Michael Kline: Let's turn to you. Let's turn to you for a minute. Can we turn to you? So would you introduce yourself? Say my name is.
Shirley Rohan: My name is Shirley Rohan.
Michael Kline: And your date of birth please.
Carrie Kline: What year were you born?
Martha Rohan: She's eighty-nine years old.
Michael Kline: Eighty-nine years old.
Shirley Rohan: I forgot.
Martha Rohan: The year you were born. She has to recall.
Shirley Rohan: Nineteen—
Michael Kline: Well, that's all right.
Martha Rohan: So the math would be two-thousand and—no—
Shirley Rohan: 0:05:24.3 Nineteen.
Martha Rohan: Nineteen twelve? No—
Shirley Rohan: I'm eighty-nine.
Martha Rohan: Fifteen, 2015—
Michael Kline: Eighty-nine is—
Martha Rohan: It's 1912.
Carrie Kline: When's your birthday?
Shirley Rohan: November 1.
Martha Rohan: November first.
Shirley Rohan: Right.
Michael Kline: Of 1926?
Shirley Rohan: Yeah, that sounds about right. And I was brought up in Acton, which is the next town, which was very small. And then I married my husband who was brought up in Concord. And I had been in Concord for nineteen years.
Martha Rohan: Since 1950.
Shirley Rohan: Yeah. So we did a lot of canoeing ourselves, but the children did as they got older. But we had—I forgot my book. We had every country you could imagine. And it's very interesting, you know? I don't know how to speak it. Most of them don't speak English. And they try to put their name down in that book, but very interesting. You met so many people. One little boy said, "I was five-year-old, and you're still here?" And I said yup. And we do have a lot like she said they'll wake up with their families and come up. It's interesting.
Michael Kline: So you were from Acton?
Shirley Rohan: Acton, right.
Michael Kline: How did you manage to meet a man from Concord?
Shirley Rohan: Well, Anderson's Market down here in the center of town. I worked in there all in high school. And my husband was delivering carts at that time. He worked at Anderson's Market, I mean with the store in Anderson's Market. So I knew him in Concord.
Carrie Kline: 0:07:47.3 What kind of a place was that?
Shirley Rohan: Acton?
Carrie Kline: The market.
Shirley Rohan: Mostly it—all kinds of things. A little store there a long time ago. And everybody would meet around down Acton for the drugstore across the way at the time. And so we had one drugstore here. Very friendly people down there. Yeah.
Michael Kline: So your husband was, before you were married—
Shirley Rohan: Right.
Michael Kline: He was also working at the store?
Shirley Rohan: Yes. Yes.
Michael Kline: Did he have the boathouse then?
Martha Rohan: No.
Shirley Rohan: No.
Martha Rohan: He bought the—my father's dad was in the war. And he passed away. So from whatever money he got from my grandfather, he gave to my dad. And my father bought the Boat House after he got back from the war. He was in the Coast Guard. And with the money that he got from his dad's will, he bought the Boat House. And that was in 1949. My parents, she was talking about Anderson's Market. It's a little market here in Concord, Mass. And across the street was the drug store where everyone would go to the soda fountain and get together back in the day. And that's how they met.
My dad used to drive the groceries around to the local towns for the market. And then my dad bought the Boat House in '49, and my parents were married in 1950. So my mom's pretty much been there since day one. They lived at the Boat House when they first got married in the little cottage. There's two buildings, one on the river, which was the Boat House for the woods school—boys school of Concord that was on Woods street—which was founded by Henry David Thoreau. And that was the little boat house that they just stored little boats in. And through the years, they added on to it and then it became a business. But they lived in the little cottage, which was a two room cottage, when they had their oldest child. And then they had another, my other brother. And they lived there for two years while at the Boat House working.
Michael Kline: So there were three of you?
Martha Rohan: No, there's four children. And then—
Michael Kline: Who? Give me their names so I can use them.
Martha Rohan: I have a brother. Christine is the oldest, Neil, then David, and then Martha, myself. So then they moved. And they continued running the boathouse, but the little cottage became too small. Which is kind of ironic because their little cottage is where my kitchen is now from my boat cruises and where I store everything that I need for my business, which was my dad's workshop when he used to repair engines and boats and things. It's—their living room was a tiny bedroom. But they lived there for—I think Neil was four, so five years.
Michael Kline: 0:11:06.2 Pretty cozy place.
Martha Rohan: Yeah.
Shirley Rohan: Very small.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, it's—the Boat House is kind of an icon in a sense. It's more—it's over a hundred years old, the building itself. And it's just got a lot of character to it. It's been through many floods.
Michael Kline: It was operating in the early 1900s then? Since the early 1900s?
Martha Rohan: Well, yeah, it was a private boat house for a boy's school. So it was like a high school owning a boat house on the river where they would store their boats.
Michael Kline: Which school was that?
Martha Rohan: That was the Concord Boys School, which was founded back in the 1900s. And it was a school that was up a street behind the Boat House. It was a long meadow that they had to walk through to get to the Boat House. And then it was sold—I don't actually know what year it turned into a business. I believe, I think, it was in the '20s, it turned—someone bought the Boat House and then they turned it into a commercial business. And then the cottage was built.
There were two previous owners to my parents. Elsie Kennedy, who was a very well known Concordian as well, she owned the Paint Pot. It was a painting store and different things in Concord. Elsie's Pond is in West Concord. It was an old Concordian family as well. Previous to that, she had owned it three years previous to my parents. And then previous to that, don't quote me on this, but it belonged to someone that lived in Littleton, Mass. And I think he was a sheriff of—department of the sheriff department. But I could find that out and let you know that detail. But my parents have had it—
Michael Kline: They were the third owners?
Martha Rohan: They were the third owners. And it's been the same since '49, still in the family. My parents were like one of the largest Old Town and Grumman [canoe] dealers in all of New England. My dad would go pick up boats, truck loads, like eighty canoes on a trailer at times and ten or more on top of the truck all the way to New York and all the rides we took to Maine—Old Town, Maine—to pick up boats. It was—yeah—it was always an adventure.
Michael Kline: Your mom said she—?
Martha Rohan: She drove too. I would drive—they called her the blond lady truck driver.
Shirley Rohan: 0:13:34.5 Yeah.
Martha Rohan: Driving to New York.
Michael Kline: You drove to New York to pick up those?
Shirley Rohan: Oh yeah.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, she drove.
Shirley Rohan: My friend from high school, the two of us would go. And they look at us, and they said, "Are you driving this boat?" "Yes, we are." "Oh, all right." They laughed at the two old ladies driving.
Michael Kline: But you did what you had to do though?
Shirley Rohan: We had to do it. Right.
Martha Rohan: But they were in their seventies doing that, driving the truck. They weren't young. She was still driving to Old Town, Maine, when she was seventy years old with a trailer behind her with the truck. Not like eighty canoes at this point, maybe twenty. Small trailer, but—I would go with her all the time—because I was the youngest—to New York. And I learned all about cows all the way, all the way, out to New York and back. One time the trailer tipped over and that was another adventure. We sat in the rest stop forever. I was probably like seven years old. I remember that distinctly.
But we had all these canoes—not to turn the subject around—but as far as the river is concerned, back in the '50s and '60s there were all these events that would happen on the river like the Carnival of Boats on the river, the Icebreaker Race on the river. And my parents were always the ones that would donate canoes and anything they possibly needed for all these parades and all these different events that would go along on the river.
Michael Kline: So there were parades in the water?
Martha Rohan: Parades in the water. There were like theme parades. And they all had to be man-powered. So nothing could be motorized. So they would make floats out of canoes. And there were nursery rhymes one year. There were themes. So I was Jack and Jill, Hansel and Gretel, all of these characters of parades going down the river. And it was all lanterns on the canoes and all the floats, themselves. And then people would line the banking and watch these night parades go up and down the river. They don't have these things any more, but these were things that we did back in the '50s and '60s and '70s. The Icebreaker Race was a canoe race that started—
Shirley Rohan: Icebreaker Race.
Martha Rohan: —on Sudbury Road and ended up at the North Bridge. And it was in November, so you can imagine how cold it was. And people would just be shirtless and in canoes and floats and inner tubes and whatever just to paddle down the river. Yeah, it was just a lot of different things that have happened. The Stories of the River is just another whole book I believe.
Michael Kline: 0:16:33.2 So why would that have come to an end do you suppose?
Martha Rohan: Liability. No one wanted to take on the responsibility of the insurance and people getting sued and the liability costs of it all and have their name out there.
Michael Kline: Were there some suits that cost?
Martha Rohan: No, never any suits, but when people where like—everyone just gave it up because no one wanted to be the one in charge of being the one liable for anything because of the way that society has changed, I believe myself, in suing people and trying—because there was never that issue or anything for years and years. And now there's not as many activities like that.
Shirley Rohan: We had two floods, right?
Martha Rohan: Oh no, many more than that.
Carrie Kline: What's that?
Shirley Rohan: Floods. Floods.
Martha Rohan: Where the boat houses flooded.
Shirley Rohan: Off—in the river or inside the buildings. We had a lot of floods, a mess.
Michael Kline: That hurt the activities too?
Shirley Rohan: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Martha Rohan: Well, they were mostly spring floods. Nothing really in the summer. It always happened in the spring.
Shirley Rohan: This time of year.
Martha Rohan: Yeah. I don't know how many floods I've lived through, but it's been so that there's like four feet of water into the buildings. At that point, you just throw everything in the boats and let it float around. And then the water goes out with all the animals that have lived in the Boat House. And they just all go out again. Then they come back in again five or six years later. I thought there would be a horrible flood this year because of all the snow we had, but it just melted perfectly where back in two thousand—and I think it was ten—we had a really bad flood where the water was all the way up to the street. So there was water up to like this height inside the buildings. Everything was up to the roofs. The bridges—I could paddle a boat over the bridge, not under the bridge. And that—I actually took a boat, my own little boat, up river. And on my way up river, I could get underneath one of the bridges by lying on the floor. But coming back, the water was rising so fast because it was cresting—you know, it takes three days—that I was coming over the bridges on the way back because I couldn't get under them, it was rising so fast. So the water on the river is another whole issue of things that happen to people that live along these rivers and the Boat House. And then it's still standing. It's amazing that the building is still standing.
Michael Kline: 0:19:09.0 So did you say a while ago that your father had had experience in the Coast Guard during the war?
Martha Rohan: Yeah, he was in the Coast Guard.
Shirley Rohan: He was.
Martha Rohan: Yes.
Michael Kline: Do you suppose that's what caused him to be interested in—I mean, who would buy a boat house?
Martha Rohan: In boating?
Shirley Rohan: Well, the people who were very good friends of his kind of talked him into it when he first started. Yeah, the next door neighbors.
Martha Rohan: Next to grandma?
Shirley Rohan: No, they lived—what were their names? Do you remember them?
Martha Rohan: No.
Shirley Rohan: They had the Paint Pot.
Martha Rohan: Oh, Elsie Kennedy.
Shirley Rohan: Elsie Kennedy helped down here. And he kind of worked for them when he was—
Martha Rohan: The Kennedys.
Shirley Rohan: Right. He worked for them. And they just didn't like the business and talked to him to take the business over. So he bought it. At that time though, he didn't have any money. His father—
Martha Rohan: Yeah, he got the money from his father.
Shirley Rohan: Father, his father came and took care of it.
Martha Rohan: 0:20:19.4 I think when they first bought the Boat House—I had seen a sales slip many, many years ago—and I think there was the sail of the Boat House was the two buildings, two row boats, maybe three canoes, one engine, and a can of nails. I remember the can of nails being in there. I don't know why there was a can of nails included in the bill of sale, but it was just quite funny to me. And now it's grown into—put four children through college. The business itself was just grown that my parents made it become and what we're all doing with it now and how we're all trying to keep it within the family. We've had a lot of people come try to buy it, but it would just go big commercial and just trying to maintain it as a family-run business as long as you possibly can because I don't think there's many of those left around here in town. There's a few. But that's how everyone knew each other.
Michael Kline: And you still own the business.
Martha Rohan: Uh-hunh (affirmative). My mother still owns the Boat House.
Carrie Kline: It's how people knew each other you said?
Martha Rohan: Well, yeah. Everyone kind of knew each other and did things for each other. I was always known as, "Oh, you're Rohan, the Boat House." People called me the boat lady, and they called her the canoe lady. When I started the boat cruises, I became the boat lady. My mom was always the canoe lady or just, they associated—we could be places and they'll say, "I know you. You're from the Boat House," just because you have that boat house. You're associated with the Boat House.
Michael Kline: But you and your husband, did you have business training? Did you have business backgrounds?
Shirley Rohan: In the boating business? Absolutely not.
Michael Kline: Or any business?
Martha Rohan: Well, she was a secretary.
Shirley Rohan: As a secretary, right.
Michael Kline: You'd been trained as a secretary?
Shirley Rohan: Yes. Yes.
Michael Kline: And bookkeeper?
Shirley Rohan: Yes.
Michael Kline: Okay.
Shirley Rohan: I went up to New Hampshire to college, and I worked down here for quite a while. I did all book works and all that kind stuff. They—my husband didn't do that, but he worked hard, did a lot of servicing like he said. Motors.
Michael Kline: And his name was—?
Martha Rohan: 0:23:01.5 George.
Shirley Rohan: George.
Martha Rohan: George F. Rohan.
Michael Kline: George F. Rohan.
Shirley Rohan: George Rohan.
Martha Rohan: He was in all the boat shows. They have the big boat shows in Boston. We'd have to drive all the boats in, set up the booth, take it all down, go in there all week. I had birthday parties in there because my birthday fell in that week. And—
Michael Kline: Birthday parties at the boat show?
Martha Rohan: Yeah. My friends would all go in. We'd run around and look in all the boats. That's kind of what we did.
Michael Kline: Where was the boat show?
Martha Rohan: In Boston.
Michael Kline: But where in Boston?
Martha Rohan: Well, it's been different places. It was at the Bayside. It was at the Commonwealth Pier, which is no longer there. That building's gone. It's now a court house. It's been—it's at the World Trade Center now in Boston. It's changed, moved, in the years, but it's all ways been the New England Boat Show. It's been there for hundreds of years. It's kind of like the Miami Boat Show. They have them in every city. But you'd have to bring all the boats in, trailer them in, setup the booths, sell the boats, be there the whole week, take it all down, bring it all back out. This was in the middle of the winter so in the snow driving trailers around and boats in Boston wasn't too easy. So we all had a lot of things.
Shirley Rohan: We all did it for years.
Martha Rohan: It's a lot. It's a lot of physical labor in the boats, in the Boat House and a lot of being polite to people and just people, just the public—I don't want to say deal with the public—but to pretty much associate with the public and try to please everybody. It's not a very easy thing sometimes.
Michael Kline: So you're father would have a special boat that he would want to show at these?
Martha Rohan: No, the boat shows, I mean if you've ever been to a car show dealer. It's—dealers would go in. He was the only dealer that would sell Old Town canoes in the show and Grumman boats in the show. So it was a place that you would go to—it was a show. You must have heard of boat shows and car shows and things like that. It was just another aspect of the business that they had to do on top of selling boats, picking up boats. He did all repair for Mercury Marines. He fixed engines. And he sold big fishing boats, put them together from start to finish like putting the engines on, rigging the boats, selling boats. Just all boats.
Michael Kline: 0:25:44.1 But it wasn't the time of year when they would have events on the water necessarily?
Martha Rohan: No, it was just—it was before the spring. It was inside a big building.
Carrie Kline: You didn't have motorized boats in your outfit?
Martha Rohan: Yeah, we did. My dad did that part. He was one of the longest—he was the oldest Mercury Marine Dealer in the United States when he passed away.
Carrie Kline: Did those go on the local rivers then?
Martha Rohan: Yeah, the little motor boats, but not big motor boats, just little engines.
Shirley Rohan: Very small.
Martha Rohan: When he was there, they used to have boat races up and down the river in the '40s.
Michael Kline: Motorized?
Martha Rohan: Like little Hydrostream boats in the early '40s. They'd race up and down the river and have races and go from here all the way to Billerica. And as kids, we would water ski on the river. We would start at the dock of the Boat House and water ski all the way up to Fairhaven Bay and then come back. The motors aren't what pollute the river by any means. It's all the chemicals and all the industry that's on the river which does things to the river. The motor boats don't do anything to the—nowadays even more so because they're four-stroke engines. They don't pollute the rivers.
Michael Kline: They don't leak any fluid?
Martha Rohan: The motors don't leak anything. Everyone always thought it was the motor boats. The motor boats have nothing to do with it. It's all exhaustion in the air just as your cars are. It's the chemicals from Nyanza that put mercury in the river. And the Reformatory used to dump all their sewage in the river; and all the mills that were up in Maine would pollute the rivers back when they used to have woolen mills up there. But over the years, there was more mercury in the river that people didn't know about back in the '60s and '70s until they found out about these plants and have closed them down. And the wildlife is starting to come back more. I mean, I never saw herons as a child on the river, but there are great blue herons everywhere and egrets and a lot more wildlife. So once the polluters have all stopped, then a lot more comes back.
Michael Kline: Well, I'm glad to hear some good news about pollution for a change.
Shirley Rohan: It has changed.
Martha Rohan: 0:28:04.4 It's still there. It's never going to go away, but—
Michael Kline: Not like it was if the herons are coming back.
Martha Rohan: The herons are there, but I never saw the herons there ever before. And people used to come and eat the fish out of the river. We had these people that would come up from Boston on the weekends every Sunday night and fish for catfish at the railroad trestle bridge across from the Boat House. And they would go home with buckets and buckets of fish. And I'm sure they all ate them, but they would keep coming back all the time. So they weren't passing away or dying by any means.
Michael Kline: They weren't dying instantly then.
Martha Rohan: But it's just—I don't know, I think the river has changed a lot over the years. I mean it's grown a lot more. There's a lot more water chestnuts and things that are people are polluting the water with now like when they put all the chemicals on their yards on these beautiful mansions. And they all go in the river now. It's creating water chestnuts and milfoil and things that we didn't have back in the '50s and '60s and '70s as well. None of that was there. That all came about in the late '90s because of all the chemicals and things.
Michael Kline: Algae blooms and stuff like that.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, it's called water chestnuts. It's a vine that grows from the bottom of the river and comes up. And it gets—you have to drain the water out in order to get it out. And they have harvesters that harvest it out. It's not the type you eat, but it will engulf a river and enclose it totally so that it no longer can flourish. And it kills all the animals underneath it, or the fish, and any other muskrats because they have these pods on them that look like little spikes on it. So if they go in there, they're all just going to get cut up. But none of this was here. We had duckweed, which was an algae that was good because the fish and the animals ate that and the loosestrife. And there was another strangling weed that was brought in and overtook a lot of the rivers as well.
So I mean there's good and bad in all generations. What was happening back in the '70s is now turning into something else that's going on with people of this generation. It has survived itself, the river, because it flushes itself out because it is one of the fastest moving rivers and it flows north, which is unlike most rivers in the United States. All three flow north. And—I don't know—I went swimming only because I know there's like eels and yucky things there now and the bottom of the river's muddy whereas a child we all swam in it and it didn't matter because we were fearless back then. Now, I'm like eww.
Michael Kline: What about your other siblings? Have they kept up a relationship with the river or the Boat House?
Martha Rohan: 0:31:01.8 My brother, David, works down there. He works for my mother in rentals now. Eventually he will probably take over the business, and I will keep my part doing what I started there because my company was not there when—I developed that. That had nothing to do with the Boat House. I started with a little tiny boat that held eight people. And now I have two boats, one that holds twenty, one that holds twelve. And I would run four times a day, where I was pregnant, single mom, trying to start a business. And it just kind of kept growing and growing. And I bought everything, did everything, generated everything, got all my own customers, and made something of it.
Michael Kline: And you called it—?
Martha Rohan: It's Concord River Cruises and Catering, but I had a restaurant previous to that, which I bought when I was nineteen. I didn't have any cooking ability at all. I went to school for fashion design and then just bought a restaurant and started that. It was Greek, and I'm Norwegian, so I don't know how that happened. But that's another whole life. So yeah, we are quite worker bees I think.
Shirley Rohan: I hope she doesn't go as long as me.
Martha Rohan: Well, no, I hope I do.
Carrie Kline: How's the business going?
Martha Rohan: The boat cruises?
Carrie Kline: Yeah.
Martha Rohan: Good. But I work in the school system too, so I do the food service in the local schools as well. I have to try to fit that in between the catering, the cooking, and the raising of a child who's graduating from college this year, thank God. And yeah.
Shirley Rohan: Kayaks have really changed tremendously. We don't have as many canoes as we used to have years ago.
Michael Kline: More kayaks?
Shirley Rohan: And double kayaks. They all love it. More of them go down the river.
Martha Rohan: Down to the North Bridge.
Shirley Rohan: North Bridge and back. They all want to see the bridge--and back. It's very, very—I had a book I left home with all the different people. I left it at home.
Carrie Kline: Did there used to be kayaks when you started out?
Shirley Rohan: No. No. Mostly all boats.
Carrie Kline: Canoes?
Shirley Rohan: 0:33:42.1 Canoes. Right, right, right. Very few kayaks.
Michael Kline: When did those start increasing? You probably had lots to do with it.
Martha Rohan: About ten, well—let me think.
Shirley Rohan: Ten.
Martha Rohan: Walden Paddler. When was Walden Paddler here? About twenty years ago. Probably twenty years ago.
Carrie Kline: How did they get going? Why were kayaks—?
Shirley Rohan: Well, people started making them.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, no one really made them.
Shirley Rohan: No one made them at that time.
Martha Rohan: They were fiberglass. They didn't have these plastic composite kayaks like they did. We had a couple kayaks, but they were all fiberglass and they were Old Town Kayaks. And they had probably 150 canoes that they would rent, and row boats and the little motor boats. But as kayaks evolved, now they probably have half canoes, half kayaks. I think it's easier for people to kayak because they can kind of go straight and get the feel of it where canoeing it's back and forth, bank to bank. People didn't know how to really paddle. It's easier I think for people to kayak now than it is for them to get in a canoe if you have never ever paddled a canoed before. And I think they are easier to maneuver, easier to move for one person with a kayak to go somewhere. And I think that's probably a good reason for convenience that the kayak got more popular. And now it's the water, the stand up water boards, those stand up boards. But we couldn't really do that on the river because there's so many bridges on the river that were built in the 1800s that are low. I can't run my business certain times of the year because I can't get under the bridges because the water's too high; and you couldn't get under a bridge or you'd hit your head.
Michael Kline: So you have two crafts now. One of them carries twelve passengers and the other twenty?
Martha Rohan: Twenty, yeah. I use the 20 one more because they have their own table so there's four tables that hold four and one holds six. And you have a waitress and a server. Everything's hot, tablecloths, glassware. I give a little history of the river, not a lot, just a little bit if anyone asks.
Michael Kline: Is this particular boat canopied over the thing?
Martha Rohan: There is a canopy, but that depends again on the water height. If I can't get under the bridge with the canopy, then there's no canopy. So usually it's July and August when it's the hottest that I have the canopy on because sometimes going under the bridges, everyone has to put their heads on the table in order to get underneath because the steering wheel—here's the bridge and the steering wheel's like this high. So I drive under like this and everyone has to put their heads on the tables because the bridges were built in the 1800s and there weren't tall people back then. And they didn't think of us coming down the line because back in those days, they had the little row boats. You think about the 1800s where they were lower to the water and didn't have to worry about height of pontoons or anything.
Michael Kline: 0:36:41.1 So who are your clientele in this?
Martha Rohan: It's a variety of tourists, people that are having special occasions on the river, birthdays. I have a lot of senior citizens, which are my favorite. Senior groups from a lot of the retirement homes that come out bussed, twenty at a time. They come out. We get them on with their walkers and bring them out. They have a great time and have a great lunch and socialize. And then head back home, which I'm trying to get a lot more of the seniors because it's so great to bring back that caring to the seniors that seem to be a little less forgotten now in a sense. And like I said, knowledge, just asking them questions about things in their lives. It's just carrying through to the next generation of things that they did as well like what we're doing now.
Michael Kline: So if I were to go on this cruise, what kind of meal could I expect?
Martha Rohan: Oh, lunch it's a standard meal. I serve assorted different types of sandwiches, some type of a nice gourmet salad, fresh fruit, dessert of the day, lemonade and iced tea. And the lunch is an hour and fifteen minute ride. Dinner it's two hours. I serve a hot chicken dish or seafood dish. It comes with three sides. We start with a little cheese and crackers to begin with, dessert, lemonade and iced tea. You can bring your own beer or wine if you like. And that's two hours. I keep it at a minimum because I don't have a restroom on the boat. So it's kind of—because it's just a little river. It's not a big river where I could have a big boat with a restroom and all that. And it's nice to keep it quaint. It's only—the boat's thirty feet long and eight feet wide. It's quaint.
Carrie Kline: And you do it all?
Martha Rohan: Yup, all the food, all the loading, all the waitressing, all the marine repair on my boat. Everything. My dad told me, "If you are going to do this as a business, you need to go to a school and learn how to work on your own motors." So I did. He sent me to outboard school and then I learned from there.
Michael Kline: Where's that?
Martha Rohan: Well, it was in Florida. But that was twenty years, twenty-three years ago, that I had done that.
Michael Kline: Are you a certified mechanic?
Martha Rohan: I'm not anymore because I haven't been back to school to be re certified, but I learned what I needed to do to take care of my own boat. I don't work on other people's boats. But in a pinch, I can get out of a situation if I had to.
Carrie Kline: 0:39:30.4 Did you say in addition to telling them about the greats, you tell them about your life too?
Martha Rohan: No, I don't really tell them about my life. They kind of visualize my life and see what I do working-wise. And my daughter, I'm a single mom, and she had to grow up on the river with me. So she was there two days after she was born in her little car carrier with me that entire time on the boat.
Michael Kline: What year was that?
Martha Rohan: It was 1993. So as these people come on the boat, they would watch her grow and Brianna would waitress at five years old, six years old, and talk to all the people. And so she had a lot of upbringing as well, another generation at the Boat House, learning how to work and understand what life's all about.
Michael Kline: And deal with the public.
Martha Rohan: And deal with the public. And they still ask about her. So it was a good way to raise a child as well, I think, in this day and age.
Shirley Rohan: She is graduating this week.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, she's just graduating college this week, which is a feat.
Carrie Kline: Congratulations.
Martha Rohan: Thanks.
Michael Kline: It's supposed to be the real meaningful Mother's Day for you this one that's past.
Martha Rohan: She was so tied up in her own little world that we just kind of skipped it. We're just going to continue it this weekend when she graduates.
Carrie Kline: Where did she go to school?
Martha Rohan: Endicott up in Beverly, Mass. She went for sports management and event planning because she did a lot of catering with me, too. I do a lot of catering for local funeral homes in the area. So she learned a lot about that type of thing as well.
But, I mean, I learned how to work and have a good work ethic through my parents because I started working when I was five years old filling the Coke machine or whatever it was that I had to do. Pick up cushions at the Boat House. It's just—it's a good way to grow up in a family business and in a local town business because you really learn a lot about people. And you can hopefully pass it on down through the generations. That's what's so nice about this town and the area here.
Carrie Kline: What's that?
Martha Rohan: That people, my friends, parents, had other businesses in town. And they would work there. We had no choice. You had to work. You had to do something. So we would all be at work in the local townie shops or whatever. And now it's—I don't know—kids don't work anymore. I don't—I just don't see that like it used to be at all.
Michael Kline: No.
Martha Rohan: 0:42:29.5 And I work in the school systems seeing the kids. I work in the middle school, and I've been there fifteen years working in the kitchen in the food service. And I've seen a lot of change in that whole, the way that the generations and things are changing.
Shirley Rohan: We've been very fortunate with the boys.
Martha Rohan: We weren't entitled.
Michael Kline: I'm sorry?
Shirley Rohan: Very fortunate to have terrific boys working for the Boat House there.
Martha Rohan: All the dock boys.
Shirley Rohan: All the dock boys that come. "Can I be called dock boy?" "Yes, you can." But they're all nice boys.
Carrie Kline: Well, what does that mean, dock boy?
Shirley Rohan: They work on the dock.
Martha Rohan: Bringing people in and out of the canoes, holding the canoes for people to get in and get out of, telling them where to go on the river.
Shirley Rohan: Helping them in. Helping them out.
Martha Rohan: Picking up canoes.
Shirley Rohan: Help them take their jackets off and put them up. These are friendly boys. We're very, very lucky. We have one boy now; he's been here three years.
Martha Rohan: Yup.
Shirley Rohan: I didn't think he'd go that long.
Martha Rohan: But most of the kids work right through high school and college, a lot of dock boys.
Shirley Rohan: The same ones.
Martha Rohan: The dock boys in high school and college.
Michael Kline: So you raise practically the whole town then haven't you?
Shirley Rohan: 0:43:52.9 Well, some boys. [laughter]
Michael Kline: The boys anyway.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, there were no dock girls allowed.
Shirley Rohan: No, just my children, the dock girls and her daughter for a while.
Carrie Kline: No girls?
Martha Rohan: Girls are not allowed on the docks. She was always afraid they would hurt themselves lifting the canoes because you'd have to lift them out of the water, pull them across the dock, and then stack them.
Shirley Rohan: Right.
Martha Rohan: And then at the end of the night take them out of the water and them move them up on the land and stack them. And it was all day, in and out, in and out, in and out all day. But, I mean, if you learn how to pull one out properly with the right leverage, it was like nothing. And I would be like whipping the canoe. And they'd be like, "How'd you do that?" I'm like, "You need to do this. Then just whip the canoes across the dock." And then you'd have to learn how many people would go in a canoe so it would be safe. "You down here." People that were larger, smaller, just to balance things out. I mean when I first started my business on my boat, it was like everyone wanted to sit in the front. I'm like, "No, no, no. You need to come—" because you have to balance things out and be polite and explain it to them why. Why—because why? Because you'll tip over if you don't. Then they wouldn't believe you. And you'd shove them off, and they'd be right in the water. So sometimes you say, "Okay, have it your way." And they'd flip over. "Okay. We understand why you put us there." "Okay, let's start over." And then they'd be off. And then they come back and think it's all great.
Carrie Kline: Do you have repeat offenders on your tours?
Martha Rohan: No. I went and bought a third pontoon and put it in the middle. So I just have no problem with that. I just say, "Sit wherever you want," because there's more buoyancy to cover them.
Carrie Kline: But do you have repeaters coming on the tours?
Martha Rohan: Oh, that have come back? Oh yeah because when I first started, the boat was only one long table. And people would sit with each other that didn't know each other. It was like a long dining table. And I would have to set the table up while driving down the river all at the same time because I'd have to get on the front and sit. Then the table would go straight in front of them. And I'd have to set the tables up, run back to the steering wheel, set another one up, run back to the steering wheel and then serve the food and everything else. And that was getting a little bit too much because I was on the river doing that four times like all the time. So after a while, I got another boat where there were separate tables sort of like an aisle like if you're on an airplane and you have a table on your right, left. And then—I don't even know where I was going with this, but the people, those people that met at the long table when I first started, became friends. And then they started reunions. And they would come back with that same group of people that they had met the next year. So we were creating new families and friends just because you were at one long table and speaking to each other rather than in your own little world, which was really nice. So yes, repeat offenders. I like that. [laughter]
Shirley Rohan: 0:47:11.5 We had a lot of whole families come back like today the boy that was up there. "Are you still here?" And I said yup. "Oh, okay." I said, "Okay."
Martha Rohan: We've had a lot of Boat House reunions over the years as well.
Shirley Rohan: Yes, we have.
Martha Rohan: Like the twenty-fifth, thirtieth, fiftieth reunion. Oh no, we're not fifty. Oh yeah, over fifty. And we'd have all the dock boys come back. And of course, they're all grown and have grandchildren, and just remember the times of what they did there.
Shirley Rohan: But I thought of this year, but I don't think so. It's a lot of work.
Martha Rohan: Yeah.
Shirley Rohan: It's a lot of work.
Martha Rohan: We've done it enough.
Shirley Rohan: But they do come back like she said. Way back.
Michael Kline: Well, you're quite a fixture in this community by now. I can see that.
Shirley Rohan: No, I just sit down there.
Martha Rohan: She was Honored Citizen in the Town of Concord, which is an honor they give out to people that have given a lot to the community and given of themselves. And that was 2009.
Michael Kline: Congratulation.
Martha Rohan: You were Honored Citizen.
Shirley Rohan: I don't go around doing that.
Michael Kline: You don't wear it on your sleeve?
Martha Rohan: No.
Shirley Rohan: No. No.
Michael Kline: But you were glad to get it I bet.
Shirley Rohan: 0:48:37.7 Very surprised.
Michael Kline: Very surprised.
Martha Rohan: Yeah.
Shirley Rohan: But no, I was very surprised.
Carrie Kline: How did that happen? When?
Shirley Rohan: I think four years ago.
Carrie Kline: What goes into that?
Martha Rohan: Honored Citizen is a—they have it every year for someone in Concord. And you have to write a letter into the celebrations committee, which is a committee in the town that puts on the parades and does all these functions for the town in that sense. And so people have to write in who they think have given of themselves to the town. And they read over these letters of different—people are nominated. Like anyone in Concord writing about someone saying, "I think this person should be Honored Citizen because they've given of themselves." My mom worked at the hospitals as a volunteer. She worked at the town polls, voting polls, as a volunteer. She worked—
Shirley Rohan: For about ten, ten to fifteen years.
Martha Rohan: Long time, not a long time ago, but so they vote on one person and then they give them a plaque in the town hall and a little cane from—I don't know what the cane came from. Some senator back in the 1700s embossed it or something. The cane to the—I don't know what it was.
Michael Kline: So you get to keep the cane for a year?
Martha Rohan: She keeps the cane. Yeah, that one cane for a year. And then they give her a cane. They have a reproduction cane. She's in the parade. They have the April 19 parade. And she does all the things that the Honored Citizen is supposed to do for the year like present themselves at any parade or any function. I just wish that my dad was still alive when that happened because it would have been the both of them because me dad gave an awful lot to the town as well.
Shirley Rohan: A lot.
Martha Rohan: A lot to the town. Always boats to the fire department, the police department. He volunteered himself. He was Kiwanis Club, Elks Club. All kinds of things that he did as well for the town. Like I give free rides to the COA on the boat for the seniors once a month in the summer time.
Shirley Rohan: 0:50:53.8 We used to do this for the kids in the high school.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, when they would have the gym classes.
Shirley Rohan: Gym classes.
Martha Rohan: We have canoeing for gym class, and they would donate the canoes.
Shirley Rohan: It's worth it, you know. A lot of people in town, you know them, and they know you.
Michael Kline: It's good business.
Shirley Rohan: Yeah, it is. A lot of work, but it's a great business. The people are so friendly. And they keep saying like you, the same thing. "You're still here? You're still here?" [laughter]
Carrie Kline: Do you still know the people in town?
Shirley Rohan: The ones that are still alive. There are so many of us going down, but like she said, in the women's club and the small clubs in the town. I see them, but I don't know a lot. But it's a nice town. The people are nice. They're friendly. They've been good to us. But if we're good to them, they're good to us too.
Michael Kline: I love these stories about entrepreneurial families that get their own business going. I just think it's great.
Shirley Rohan: Yeah.
Martha Rohan: We're not making millions by all means.
Michael Kline: That's not what it's about.
Martha Rohan: But we're just trying to keep, I think, what America was built on alive in a sense. You know, trying to keep that whole family values and culture and just before it all gets taken over by the—I don't know—networking era or whatever it is I think. I mean, they don't even have a computer down in the Boat House.
Shirley Rohan: No, we don't.
Martha Rohan: They're not online. They're not anything. It's still all trying to be people, personal, which I think is being lost nowadays. Connection.
Shirley Rohan: Well, we had a call yesterday and today. "How is your computer working?" "We don't have one." "Well, you should have one." I said, "No, we don't have one."
Martha Rohan: 0:53:22.3 Well, they have a website, but it's not like they do e-mails or anything. I mean, I do e-mails, but it's kind of hard to go shopping, cook the food, drive the boat, give the tour, do the dishes, and try to email people all at the same time. Yeah, I have two hands. I can't. If I had to sit and e-mail people back all these questions they have about the littlest things that are meaningless, I wouldn't even be able to be on the river. You can't do everything with just two hands. You know what I mean?
Michael Kline: Do you have an overarching website for the whole operation? Or do you have, each of you, have your own?
Martha Rohan: I have my own. And they have one of their own.
Shirley Rohan: And I did bring my book today.
Martha Rohan: That notorious book.
Michael Kline: So people signing from all over the world?
Shirley Rohan: All over the world.
Martha Rohan: All over the world. It started as a guest book. And she was getting to many people that would sign it locally in the United States that she had to turn it into an international guest book because there were just too many of them.
Shirley Rohan: Right. You have to have everybody here.
Martha Rohan: I have a guest book on my boat, and I only started that because she did it. And I have people write something in it at the end of the year—not the end of the year—the end of the cruise. And then when my daughter was growing up, we would take our tip money and take my mother on a cruise like on a real cruise ship during our Christmas break or whatever break my daughter would have for school. The two of us would bring our guest book. And we would sit on the deck, or wherever we were, and read our guest books, which was kind of strange because here we were on a cruise ship, on someone else's boat, reading about the people that were on our boats and who were enjoying our lives that we brought them happiness too. It's—I know—it's kind of nice.
Shirley Rohan: We had some old—what were some of the very important people we've had?
Martha Rohan: That worked for you?
Shirley Rohan: No, that signed our book.
Martha Rohan: I don't know.
Shirley Rohan: 0:55:30.2 We had some expensive people that—very nice. Oh, thank you. [laughter]
Martha Rohan: My father was kind of such an old Yankee and had—I have to put this in. I probably wasn't. A Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, attended the Concord Academy.
Michael Kline: Oh, I'd forgotten that.
Martha Rohan: And my father, he's a Republican. So this is probably where this is going to come from. They came down to the Boat House to rent canoes, her and her brother or somebody else was with her. And there was a long line of people waiting to get canoes to go out and rent canoes because it's a process of filling the form out, going out and picking your boats. And they came right to the front of the line. And they're like, "We are the Kennedys, and we need to get in our boat as soon as possible, like now." And my dad's like, "Now, like the rest of these people? Because the line starts way down there around the corner." And I was like—and he goes, "They are just as important as anybody else is in this world." So that was kind of sort of a funny situation that happened with my dad. But that's just the old Yankee Republican that they were back in the day.
Shirley Rohan: They stayed in.
Martha Rohan: But they stayed in line and they went out.
Shirley Rohan: They went out.
Martha Rohan: So, you know.
Michael Kline: Well, he knew just what to do with people like that.
Martha Rohan: Exactly. He wasn't rude; he was just trying to make a point that there are other people in the world. Which is, I don't know, kind of nice.
Shirley Rohan: We had some children get an education by doing that, the four of them.
Michael Kline: You mean meeting the public and—
Shirley Rohan: Yeah, right. And treating people crule. Most of them are really, really friendly. Well, it's a little different. Something to do with going to a grocery store or something like that.
Martha Rohan: It's an activity.
Shirley Rohan: Activity, right. It get's big and more important for the people.
Carrie Kline: How has the public changed if they have?
Martha Rohan: 0:58:03.2 I think it's they need more instant gratification now than they did back—there's no patience any more with—I don't know. I think they're mostly pretty much all the same. The people that come out because I don't want to say nature—I don't want to like stereotype anyone—but people that are going out canoeing and doing activities that are actually physical and seeing the nature and doing things are like a whole other realm of some people that wouldn't necessarily do that type of activity. So it's kind of remaining the same as far as the people. It's something they're going to enjoy and be happy doing. It's not like they're going to something they have to do on a daily basis like go to the grocery store and it's like I just need to get through this. So typically most people are happy that are coming down to go out or rent or buy a boat or something like that. People have changed because they need it right away with the computer. "I need to look it up. What is it now? I'm too busy to actually speak with you and get the information because—" I think that part of it is different. But I think you can answer more questions and give them a more truthful answer on the phone than you can on the computer, especially if I can't type or spell very well for some reason. Spell check's just not good with me.
Shirley Rohan: Have you been on any of the boats that we're going to pick them up, row boats?
Martha Rohan: Yeah. Yeah.
Shirley Rohan: You were this small.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, I went with you many times to pick up the boats.
Shirley Rohan: It was a lot more fun to do it that way. It was.
Michael Kline: Well, I was trying to imagine if there is anything comparable in eastern Massachusetts to what you guys have got going here for generations. Are there any other small family boat operations in eastern Mass. that you've ever heard of?
Martha Rohan: Here? I'm sure there's no—well, there is actually down in Billerica, Mass., which is on the other end of the Concord river, which is eighteen miles from here. It's Freddy—what's Freddy's last name?
Shirley Rohan: He's still here. I don't know.
Martha Rohan: No, I think he's sick now.
Michael Kline: He's one of the same things?
Martha Rohan: He's one. His mother and father own the marina, Center Harbor Marina down in Billerica. And I used to go down there as a child in my little boat with a gallon of gas, if that, go all the way down there. It's not eighteen miles, probably twelve miles. No, not even that far. I'm two towns—eight miles downriver. It was with a little motor boat. It was like a two horse power on the back, at a young age. Probably wasn't so safe thinking about ten years old. And I would go down to his place and his mother, who was older than my mother, would give me a gallon of gas to go back home with. I'd go visit them. And so his father started it. Freddy owned it. And now his daughter is running it. So yes, there is another family business. They just sell boats and snow mobiles and motor cycles now. They don't do the canoeing and all that. It's a different marina-type business. And they do all service. But, yeah, there's another family that's gone through the generations like this. And it's still the same building. Same space. It hasn't changed at all, their place as well. And I'm sure there are some in New Hampshire like Lake Winnopisaki—I'm sure there is quite a few. There are not maybe as many as there were, but I'm sure there is in other areas. The Cape, I'm sure, has some marinas as well.
Carrie Kline: Well, how is Concord different? Has Concord changed in your lifetime or in your lifetime?
Martha Rohan: How much has Concord changed?
Shirley Rohan: 1:02:29.4 Not a lot.
Martha Rohan: Oh, it's changed since you were a child.
Shirley Rohan: All the people. Oh yes.
Martha Rohan: No, it's changed because you were a child.
Shirley Rohan: I was brought up in Acton.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, but when you worked her in Concord.
Shirley Rohan: It was a lot different, right. There were values, I think, more so than now. But they're still friendly to us. Maybe, we've been down there for so long. We're about the only family that does this in Concord. But more people going. It won't be me.
Martha Rohan: Concord, now when I think—growing up, we were all, as children, we were all allowed on our bicycles, and we had to just get there the best way we could kind of get there. Because I think it was safer back then. I would ride my bike to Lincoln to see a friend of mine that lived on the Lincoln/Waltham line. We would walk everywhere. Our parents didn't drive us everywhere. We didn't have that type of, the kids nowadays; the parents are bringing them everywhere or a nanny or someone. We didn't—our parents were working and doing things. And we had to grow up trying to get places the best way we could. We all had jobs. We all were at the schools and sports. There wasn't so much, I think, extra activities that we had to do that I think the kids and people do nowadays as children of my age growing up. The town itself is—it's all new people that come in and then they come in. The kids go to school and then they leave. Some of the charms of the older homes are being torn down and all these big huge mansions are going up. In that sense it's changing that way, but that's just progression of life. But I think we—definitely it was an easier time back when I was growing up in the '60s, '70s, when I was here from elementary school to high school. I graduated in '78. So it was a lot different than it is now for the kids, just watching my daughter going through school. There wasn't so much keeping up with the Joneses I would say as a quote where now it is that way. It's all material. It's not—no one cared about what had or what you did back in the day. You were you. Now it's just how much you have, I think, with the children and this generation than it was back when I was growing up.
But the town itself, it's just progressed. Stores have changed. Some of the—like the market that my mom worked at—after it was a market, it turned into a real estate building. Now it's a restaurant. I worked there when they kept part of it as a catering company who was the Anderson's Market, the son. He had a catering company after they sold the grocery story market. He had a catering company after they sold the grocery store market because there were a big butcher market and things like that back in the day. It was a market with the fruit. It was the local store market. They didn't have Stop and Shops and these big super markets. They were just little family markets. And their family still owns the business, but their son turned it into a restaurant now, not a market or a catering company or he's not renting it as a real estate.
So my generation is still staying within the town, some of us as well, which is kind of nice. And now their children—I'm not sure if any of their children are going to work there. So it has its good and bad points, change in Concord. Is that the answer you wanted?
Carrie Kline: 1:06:37.5 It sounds real.
Shirley Rohan: It is.
Michael Kline: This has been a wonderful little window into—we've driven past your Boat House hundreds of times I suppose. Never had time to stop. I always wondered about it.
Shirley Rohan: Well, you can stop any time you want.
Michael Kline: Well, thank you. Now maybe we will.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, before you leave. Jump on a boat. Paddle around.
Michael Kline: So this has been the fulfillment of a both admiration and curiosity that we've had for your business from a distance. And now we get to hear all the details of how it actually worked. It's wonderful.
Shirley Rohan: Have you been in a—?
Martha Rohan: Canoe or kayak.
Shirley Rohan: —kayaks before?
Michael Kline: You have haven't you?
Carrie Kline: I have a little bit.
Shirley Rohan: You do?
Carrie Kline: Just a little. I love them.
Michael Kline: We have a great big Old Town canoe that will hold 900 pounds. It's supposed to hold 900 pounds. It's sixteen feet long.
Shirley Rohan: Wow.
Martha Rohan: Is it wooden?
Michael Kline: No, it's that—
Martha Rohan: 1:07:39.9 Fiberglass?
Michael Kline: It's not fiberglass.
Martha Rohan: ABS?
Michael Kline: Yeah. My son folded it up over a rock and it just snapped back.
Martha Rohan: Yeah, that's the rotomold. It's the ABS. That first, the very first concept they came out with for plastic canoes. We used to go up to the factory where they made those and see them come right out on the sheets. And then they go into the molds and get formed. Then they come up with the new, what's called the rotomold, which was a little heavier canoe and they didn't fold up. So they put all the plastics into these big molds and they would heat up and just keep rotating and rotating until they formed the canoe. And then they pop them out and then put the gunwales on them and rivet all the gunwales on them and send them down. My dad, they would send them just the base of the canoe and then my dad would have to put all the gunwales on, all the seats in and everything. And that's how they shipped them.
And the kayaks, going back to the kayaks, there was a company in Concord called the Walden Paddlers, which was—I think—one of the first recyclable material kayaks that was produced. I'm guessing to say in the late '80s this company started. I'm guessing. I'm trying to think back how old I am and back to how old I was when we first got them. And that's when my parents really first started getting into the kayaks because they were one of their first distributors for the Walden kayaks because they were built in Concord, in west Concord. And my parent would sell them to all over to other distributors. And then they went out of business—I don't know how many—twenty years later maybe or fifteen years later. And it moved out to Minnesota, the company. Someone came in and bought it. And now it's called something else. But that's—and then they started buying Old Town. Old Town started building kayaks, which are built in Canada. They're not built here in the United States, all the ones that come from Old Town, most of them. And they're shipped down. And then they started getting to more kayaks.
Shirley Rohan: Yes.
Carrie Kline: Have you ever been in a kayak?
Martha Rohan: Yes.
Shirley Rohan: Yes, I have, but not for quite a while. But I have, yes.
Carrie Kline: Which do you prefer?
Shirley Rohan: Kayaks. They're a lot easier to handle, much, much easier and much straighter. But my family will take over since I'm a little aged. [laughter]
Martha Rohan: 1:10:24.1 She called people that came down canoeing bank to bankers. And they'd be like, "What's bank to bank mean?" It was the canoes that people didn't know how to paddle that would go bank to bank and bank to bank down the river.
Shirley Rohan: Bank to bank and bank to bank. [laughter]
Martha Rohan: And I'm like in neutral on my boat all the time because the bank to bank, bank to bankers. And I'll be, "Okay, guys. Got to stop and let the canoe go by." And they go up a little further and be back on the other side. And I'll be like, "Just hold on. Let me pass, then you can go continue your bank to banking."
Carrie Kline: Because they won't go straight?
Shirley Rohan: No.
Martha Rohan: No. And you would think that I'm like that big eighteen-wheeler on 128 or the Mass. highway, and you're this little Fiat would move out of its way. Not so much. It's just—then you put the bridges and the other people and the other boats, and it's just, and the rocks. Why do you got to go there? Bump, bump. That's why. I mean there's just no end to the comedy shows that are actually just on the river itself.
Michael Kline: Waiting to happen.
Shirley Rohan: Yeah, you know.
Martha Rohan: It's like, "Duck." "Where's the ducks?" "No, the bridge. You're going to hit your head if you don't duck." "Oh. Oh." And then they duck their heads and look around. And just, yeah. It's quite funny. And then all the Chinese, once again, Chinese people come out every Sunday at four o'clock sharp. Get in the canoes and the kayaks, not the kayaks, just the row boats. They would take row boats because they didn't know how to paddle. They'd all get in row boats, and they'd hit the bridge. You just hear, "Yack, yack, yack."
Shirley Rohan: You'd have to wait for them to get back.
Martha Rohan: Back and forth, laughing and having a grand old time. But they'd never get anywhere except 500 feet of the dock because they'd just keep hitting the bridge. And they'd all have their cameras going and taking pictures. [laughter]
Shirley Rohan: Oh yeah.
Martha Rohan: And we'd be like going, uh-hunh (affirmative). Throw the rope out. Pull them in. There you go.
Shirley Rohan: And there they go with the camera. Taking pictures.
Martha Rohan: 1:12:33.0 People—this one canoe tipped over. I'm on the boat. And I'm like driving and I'm going. And this guy tips over in a canoe. And these people and this woman in the water. And this guy is flailing. I'm like, "Oh my God. I think he needs help." So I pull over. I have a boat load of people I'm feeding. "Do you need some help?" "Yeah, I think he's drowning." "Okay, let me get right on that." So I jump in the river, pull him out of the river, put him on the back of the boat, give him a bowl of chili or whatever I was serving that day, put a tablecloth around him. I didn't have a blanket. And the girlfriend is like, "He asked me what I wanted to do on our first date, but he didn't tell me he didn't know how to swim." I'm like, "You're kidding?" But I don't know.
Shirley Rohan: It's a job.
Martha Rohan: It's the silly things. It's a job. [laughter] It's a job. It's a job. Yup, it's a job all right.
Shirley Rohan: Come down on a Sunday, and you'll see a lot of laughs if you want. We won't charge you for your canoeing. You can see them all.
Michael Kline: Bank to bank fun.
Martha Rohan: Bank to bank fun.
Shirley Rohan: Bank to bank.
Michael Kline: Well, thank you all very much for coming to do this. This is great. And I'm sure that for generations to come people will hang on these stories you've told us today because it's such a part of the life of the town here.
Shirley Rohan: It is.
Michael Kline: It has been for many years. Thank you again.
Martha Rohan: You're welcome.
Carrie Kline: It's very inspiring.
Martha Rohan: Thank you.
Michael Kline: Anything else you want to add?
Martha Rohan: No, it's just been a pleasure having your parents to have a business in this town that founded our country. And it's just a great place to live and a great place to raise a child and have the business. And it's just something that you can't really explain in any way in less you've kind of lived it.
Shirley Rohan: It's a different way, a different family definitely. And they all enjoy it.
Carrie Kline: You two are so inspiring.
Shirley Rohan: What?
Carrie Kline: You two are so inspiring.
Shirley Rohan: Oh, gosh.
Martha Rohan: I don't know about that. You must have many inspiring people that have come through these doors with all the stories of this town.
1:15:05.9 (end of audio)