Mary and Alice Puffer papers  1830-1940
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Biography

Mary and Alice Puffer lived in Brookline, Mass. For several years, their father worked in New York City and typically came home on weekends. During this time, he twice rented the Methodist Parsonage in Oceanic, N.J., as a summer home for his family. After that, the family summered in Maine with their grandparents, who owned a farm in Nobleboro.

Mary Sophia, Alice and another sister, Gertrude (1881-1970), opened up a roadside tearoom along old Route 1 in Nobleboro, Maine, based on the premise that "if each family here should make its own specialty and offer it for sale in our little community, we could all combine to create a successful food business." The "Nobleboro Community Kitchen" operated with great success for three seasons, open between July 1 and Labor Day. The Puffers were assisted by neighbors, who contributed food and raw materials, including milk, chickens, and vegetables. Initially serving in the open air, the sisters soon began to set up tables indoors to meet the demand. The Community Kitchen was so popular that some Sundays they served a hundred dinners between noon and two.

Each season the sisters had to rent and fix up a different house along Route 1. Their second landlord refused to have them back and tried to open a rival tearoom, but "he underestimated the value of artistic appearance and failed to provide the awnings, umbrellas and painted furniture whuch had made his house attractive the year before." That last season, the Puffers had to make do with a house without electricity or running water. They were forced to cook by the light of oil lamps and since the well water did not pass the rigorous state inspection, they had to bring drinking water daily from the next town.

The kitchen was closed when the rerouting of Route. 1 put them on a back road, and "depressions and war followed to discouarge any revival of our experiment." Two of the sisters were school teachers during the rest of the year, though their subsequent history is unknown.