Arlene Rowe Hill was 78 years old when interviewed by Jan Hill in 1995.
“Be the Best of Whatever You Are”
Family of Origin and Earliest Memories
My parents were descended from early ancestors settling Maine and they were very hard working people who loved the land. and worked on the land and had great fortitude, like their ancestors. Probably the greatest inheritance I got from them was responsibility to be honest and sincere and to work hard.
I think the earliest memory I have was my father moving his home that he had purchased about a mile and a half across woods and forests to a foundation on a big track of land that his grandfather or his father had given to him. When this house was being moved all the community helped with the moving. There were sixteen horses and twenty‑two oxen or vice versa and all the men came and worked that day and helped with the moving and then all the women worked to get a meal together in the camp across the road and they served them their hot meal at noon. I was somewhere in the midst because I remember all about it. My father had bought the house on Flaggy Meadow Rd. because Faulkenberg had owned it for his hired help and he decided he was going to just give up and go somewhere else to live and so he wanted the house sold and my father bought it and moved it to the present location. I think I was probably … I think it was in 1924, so I probably was six years old. It was special to see all these people gathered together to help and course, they didn’t charge anything. It was a community venture.
I remember, too, an incident where my mother took us to school in the wintertime in a sleigh. Coming down a hill, something frightened our horse, named Major, and Major bolted into the ditch and upset the sleigh. We all landed in the snow bank, but my mother got the horse and sleigh back onto the road and away we went home. Probably that never happened to anybody else in this day and age, anyway.
One time when we were sliding, we heard the dog bark and we found that the dog had been caught in the neighbors trap and the poor dog had his foot just about half chewed off from being in the trap for a day. Course, we ran back home and told my Dad about it and he went and got the dog out of the trap and he told the neighbor that he’d either have to tend his traps oftener or he’d report him to the officials, that it was not humane for a dog to have to stay in a trap for a whole 24 hours.
Cultural Settings and Traditions
My ancestors six generations back came from England and settled in Baldwin, Maine. They were the first settlers in Baldwin, Maine. They were very rough, hearty people evidently because Lazarus Rowe lived to be 104 and so did his wife and they were married for 86 years and they’re in the Guinness Book of Records. I don’t see in those times how they ever could lead that kind of a long, long life.
As far as cultural values go, I think that we learned to be very responsible, to be honest, to have integrity, to live up to our commitments, to be hard working, to love nature and love the land, love our family, love our relatives, love the community.
Our folks went to church when we lived in West Gorham, but once we moved to Fast Gorham, they didn’t attend church very often because it was too far‑‑it was three miles‑‑at that time it seemed too far, so I guess I must have got something from my West Gorham church going because it carried out in my later life.
I think that religion was very important to my father because he valued the Masonic order so much and he loved to go to the Masonic meetings and he had such love for the Masons. My father was quite religious that way. I don’t know … my mother lost a son when he was only two years old and I imagine she prayed about it a lot because she couldn’t get to a counselor to get help, but we didn’t say grace when we set down at the table.
Religion was important to me. I used to read the Bible, even if I didn’t go to church and I learned a lot of psalms that I still know from memory. I guess that when you live on the land you see God through nature and love of nature and I think we were very blessed that way‑‑of having the freedom of living in the country on a big farm and having the freedom to roam wherever we wanted to go.
And then, when I was young, on Thanksgiving … we always went to my Aunt Vesta’s for Thanksgiving … and we went in a pung. Now, a pung is a little bit larger than a sleigh and flatter and we would bundle up with blankets and go about 10 or 12 miles in packed down snow made by a snow roller, and we’d spend probably two or three hours at my aunt’s and then we’d ride home that night, so it was quite an adventure and I always remember it.
Speaking of the snow‑roller‑‑when I was young, I always loved to see the road snow roller go by and pack the snow down so horses could haul the sleighs and pungs on the top of the snow.
Animals were a big part of growing up for me on the farm and I’ve always had that love of animals ever since. I think that on the farm the animals were a blessing for us, that we had the enjoyment of playing with the dog and cats and then my mother bought my sister and I two lambs when we were about eight and nine years old and we fed them on a bottle, so they were pets. We’d sneak the lambs up into our bedroom whenever my mother wasn’t looking. Then, the next year, my brother got a ram and we were in business. We had a sheep farm after that. We always loved the animals and looked after them.
My sister and I were close. We never fought like lots of kids. She loved inside things‑like she liked to read and do things inside. I was more active outdoors. I liked outside activities, but we still got along well. Being the middle one, I kind of carried the load of doing a lot of the work, like raking hay when the hay needed to be raked and driving the horse raking and turning the grindstone for my father to sharpen the scythe for mowing. I hated that job because it was very strenuous work and my arm got tired. My sister … I guess she did manage to take the horse down from the barn to the well to get water. She did little things, but my sister was thinner and my mother felt because she was thin she wasn’t healthy, so she got out of doing a lot things, harder kinds of work than I used to do. But, I think later in life, that helped me to develop into a stronger, more responsible person. We worked a lot, too. We use to pick field strawberries and raspberries and blueberries. My mother used to can them.
My older brother died when he was only two years old, so as a result of this, my younger brother was a very spoiled, selfish person because my mother idolized him … because she naturally would where she lost her oldest son … and he was the only boy, and so my sister and I used to defend ourselves against him, I guess. He had a bicycle and we could use the bicycle if we went and got the cows at night. That was his job to go down the road about a quarter of a mile and get the cows, let them out of the pasture and bring them home and we got to use his bicycle if we would go get the cows. We never really got along with my brother and he used to call us “those dam girls” (Laugh) … and my mother let him get away with it. Once, he called my mother a “bitch” and my father was going to deal with the situation and backed him up into the corner, but my mother came between them and after that, my father never disciplined my brother. He always had his own way and still does. Otherwize, he’s a good person.
I think that we were well taken care of. We had healthy, wonderful food. My mother was a good cook and we had real good balanced meals, so we were brought up as healthy children and my mother was a wonderful seamstress and if we couldn’t afford something, she’d make it and she could just pick a picture out of the catalog and you’d tell her you’d like that for a dress and she’d make it. I feel that there was great love for us, but that my mother didn’t dare show love for her children after losing her son at two years old. She never wanted to get hurt that much ever again and so there was this feeling that she loved us dearly, but she didn’t dare love us … so I guess that I’d say probably that I had a good life, but that I didn’t get the attention that a lot of kids my age got at that time. There was no “hugs and kisses”. My sister, when she had appendicitis at about eighteen years of age … my mother kissed her (chuckle) when she went to go in the operating room and my sister was sure she was going to die because she got kissed! I had appendicitis two years before that and I don’t remember anything about whether she kissed me or not, so evidently it didn’t matter whether she did or not.
I think I had a basically happy childhood. We got together a lot with our cousins in Hollis and we worked hard. It doesn’t seem so we had a childhood of a lot of entertainment or playing, but it was probably good for us. We did get together with the cousins and go on picnics on Sunday and then once every summer we’d go up to Deer Pond and camp out for a week. We’d be with our cousins and we’d swim, swim, swim and have picnics. I don’t know how my mother and her sister stood it to sleep all week in a tent on the ground, but evidently it showed that they had enough concern and love for us that they were willing to do this.
Today, you wouldn’t dare let children do what we did. We’d go off in the woods and go down by the brook and play and go to the river and swim. We’d slide a mile down the big hill down to the meadow in the winter time and at that time there was a crust so that you could slide. Today, we don’t have any crust, but back there then there was a big crust, so we could slide. We’d skate and ski down on the meadow. In the summertime … I was much more athletic than my sister … so I used to love to play outdoors, play baseball, play down on a pond that we had below the house. We bad a float that we used to sit on and catch frogs … and … I don’t know… we made our own good times then. Nobody directed our activities. We made our own good times … when we weren’t working.
We didn’t have any big family quarrels or anything. I never heard my mother and father bickering or saying mean things about each other or anything. There was always … I guess I’d have to say … pleasantness in the home.
As I grew up, I think that we had an advantage because at that time there wasn’t any electricity … no power lines … and so my father had a generator which generated electricity into 32 volt batteries. He had to go down in the basement and start up the generator every other night. He would run the generator for about two or three hours to charge the batteries and these batteries gave us electricity. It was called 32 volt electricity. It was DC instead of AC, like we have today, and this pumped the water. It gave us electricity for ironing. We had a DC flat iron and we had a toilet and a lavatory. We didn’t have any bath tub at that time. But, everybody else along the road had nothing like this. They just had outhouses, so we were a little bit ahead of the game, so to speak.
My favorite teacher was a third and fourth grade teacher that I had, Miss Pike. She was a very loving, kind teacher and she was always trying to do interesting things for us. She had this contest and she would get the children to name a doll. The child who chose the name the teachers liked the best could go with Miss Pike to a restaurant and they’d eat their meal and then she’d take them to pick out a doll and then we sewed for the doll … and of course I loved anything arty or crafty. I got to sew for a doll in the third grade. It was a third grade project and so I worked hard to take little teeny, tiny stitches and I made some wonderful doll clothes, but I didn’t win the doll that year and then the next year, my sister got to be in the third grade and so I made the clothes for her doll and she won the doll that year, so (chuckle)… we shared the doll. It was really half my doll because I had won it for her. And Miss Pike taught us poem study and many, many poems that she taught us I still remember the first or second lines to. I wish I could find all the poems that she taught us and make a little booklet of it, but I can’t. She taught us poems like:
The little snow people are scurrying around
from the clouds in the sky overhead
They’re working as hard as ever they can
Putting the world to bed.
And it was poems like that had a lot meaning that she chose, like she chose another poem about the proverbs:
My grandmother lives in Drury Lane
A life that is free from trouble or pain
She says there’s no need of an empty shelf
For the Lord helps him who helps himself.
And it goes on and names a lot more proverbs and … I don’t know … she had a way of just being so kind and considerate and loving that I guess she influenced my life and sort of influenced me to want to be a teacher later in life.
I had a wonderful elementary school background because we went to the training school connected with the Normal School and we had student teachers, so in every grade we had two student teachers … and that was all through to the ninth grade and so I had a wonderful elementary school background. By the way, I skipped the eighth grade. At the end of the year, four girls did better on the tests than the eighth graders, so we went from the seventh grade to the ninth grade. I was one of the four girls.
When I got to Gorham High School, things were different. We had an old, old building and an old, old, old, old principal and … (chuckle) and the rest of the teachers weren’t that great, so I don’t have fond memories of high school. For sports, we had just basketball and most of the basketball stress was put on the boys’ games. The girls weren’t given much credit for games and they had their games just in the afternoon. I did play basketball. I liked that, but that was about all I got out high school as far as sports were concerned and I was very glad to graduate from high school in 1935 and get that behind me. I wasn’t very happy about high school. I had two wonderful girl friends that I still have connections with today. I was valedictorian of my class in high school and I really think that that was a great accomplishment. I guess that I have to say that, being the middle child, it was expected of me. I didn’t get too much praise for being valedictorian, so it didn’t mean that much when you don’t get all kinds of praises.
I would like to read the poem that I recited as part of my valedictorian speech. My classmates picked a vocation that they would like to follow, then I had to sum it up with avocations in general” and at the end of my graduation speech I recited a poem about “Be the Best, Whatever You Are”. The poem is:
If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,
be a scrub in the valley,
But be the best little scrub by the side of the rill.
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a bush, be a bit of the grass
And some highway happier make.
If you can’t be a muskie, then just be a bass,
but be the liveliest bass in the lake.
We can’t all be captains,
we’ve got to be crew.
There’s something for all us here.
There’s big work to do,
and there’s lesser to do
And the task you must do is the near.
If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail.
If you can’t be the sun, be a star.
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail
Be the best of whatever you are.
I think that maybe I’d like to have that the name of our interview… “Be the Best of Whatever You Are”
Well, at the time I got out of high school, we had the depression and everybody had very little money, so parents sent their kids handy and we had the Normal School … at that time it was Normal School … and so, of course I applied there and got accepted and I went three years to Gorham Normal School and I liked that much better than high school. The teachers were better and it was good. After Normal School, I got the job teaching in a rural school. Only about two‑thirds of our class got jobs and … huh, no one would consider teaching today for what I was paid. I taught the first year for $540 … 36 weeks!
The next year, I got a $50 raise and the next year I got a $50 raise. I went away waiting on tables in the summer time and I’d bring back more money than I earned all year teaching school. So, you’d have to be dedicated to teaching or you would have stayed with waitress work, so I really feel that I was called to help out … to teach in those early years of my life, or I wouldn’t have gone back. I would have done something else. I would have stayed and waited on tables.
I graduated from Gorham Normal School in 1938 and in ‘39 they changed it to Gorham Teacher’s College and instigated a fourth year. Some of my class stayed for their fourth year and got their degree, but I wanted to go out teaching and get my mother’s fulfillment filled and get married (laugh).
Love and Work
I don’t remember my first date, but I remember that Norman’s folks always … every
year raised corn and had a corn husking bee just about where we’re sitting here in what was a shed at that time … it was right here … it was built onto the house … and they raised the corn in order to have fun and have a husking. They had a supper where anybody who wanted to eat could go in the house and eat. There were all kinds of tables set up and then, while we were husking corn … they raised white ears and red cars and if anybody found a red ear you could go kiss somebody and that was what made it fun husking. I know Norman had his eye on me and so he invited my family to come to the husking. It was a community endeavor really. All the different families from around were invited and they came and husked the corn and then after the corn husking, they cleaned all the floor and then they had a dance. They played music and had square dancing. It was fun, fun. That led to kind of a community dance that we use to go to. The folks would take their children and we went to Groveville and to Highland Grove and the parents all danced together and the teenagers all danced together and I think these are my fondest memories of having a good time way back when I first was a teenager and I just wish these good times still could be carried on today that parents could take their kids and they all dance together and have fun as a whole group. I think that you’d find a lot more closeness of community life and family life if this could happen today. So, Norman used to go to Groveville and my folks would go there and we’d meet and we danced all evening and they’d have intermission. Norman and I went out for intermission for a hot dog and then we’d take a ride in his folks’ car and that intermission didn’t last very long. It was supposed to be a half an hour, but a half hour was about five minutes it went so fast! You were expected to be back in that hall ready for that first dance after intermission. My parents watched to see that I was back in time for that first dance, which was a “Grand March .
I married Norman … my first kiss, my first date, my first … ha, ha … everything. I never seemed to ever want anybody but Norman. Well, I think that for loads of people, it wouldn’t have lasted because when I was in college, Norman went to Detroit and all we could do was see each other about once a year and write letters and I’m sure if it had been anybody else, they would have separated, but we waited for each other. I just thought Norman was such a gentleman, had such respect for women, had such … I guess … such caring way back when I first met him, compared to other men … that that was why I fell in love with him.
We have one boy … that was a big disappointment in our life … we wanted four and we just got one. I’m proud of Brent. I think that he’s a wonderful son. He never caused us any trouble growing up and he had good principles and he kind of followed in our footsteps, I guess as far as being responsible. He says he isn’t hard working. I think we were hard working people, but maybe we spoiled him so he didn’t have to work as hard. I think everybody wants for their children more than what they had, so I’m sure that I spoiled him more than Norman. We always expected Brent to go to college. We talked about saving for his college education right from the time he was bom, so he never knew anything else but that we expected him to go on to school, which he did. He went to Cornell and graduated and now he has a wife and two boys, that are just following in his footsteps and doing great in school.
I think my mother was pushing me … she probably wanted me to go far, far in the teaching field, but my hopes and dreams were more to get married and have a simple family life with four or five children … that was really more what I wanted out of life than a teaching career.
I taught three years, from 1938 to ’41 and that was when World War I was on and I got married in’41 and then Norman had to go in the service in’42 and at that time they wouldn’t hire married teachers in Maine … because of the depression, they wanted just the people that were single to get the jobs, so I couldn’t get a job in Maine, so I went to Massachusetts and applied for a j ob and I got a job teaching in Rowley at the Central School and I taught a year and a half. I went working in the summer time in the G.E. plant inspecting gyroscopes and I was again earning more money at the end of the summer doing that work than I would have if I had gone back teaching, so I guess I wasn’t as loyal then or something. I did not go back to teaching. I stayed with the G.E. plant and worked inspecting gyroscopes for another year and a half and that was when Norman was in the service. I guess those years I’d like to forget because they were very stressful and worrisome and you didn’t know from one day to the next what was going to happen to your husband. I was just living in an apartment in the city of Lynn and I wasn’t happy … I was very lonely and didn’t like it at all. I would like to forget about that period in my life.
I didn’t teach after I was in Rowley until Brent was twelve years old (196 1) and then I went back to teacher’s college and I got my bachelor of science in education and then I taught in Westbrook for eighteen years after that and I taught all different levels then. I taught first grade for three or four years and then I got a job teaching as a head teacher… fourth and fifth and sixth grade. My superintendent felt that I had done so well by his daughter in the first grade that he wanted me to be head teacher in the four overflow rooms that we had at the senior high elementary. So, I was head teacher there for a year, and then my father got sick, so I stayed home a year and a half to see my Dad through When I went back to Westbrook, I could have been principal at the Canal School. They sort of had it planned that I was going to be the principal, but I decided that with the family and with the farm and with everything going on, that I didn’t really want that anyway. I guess simple things in life have meant more to me than prestige, always. So I taught at the Canal for four or five years.
Then, I took a job as a speech and hearing therapist and, when I did that, I went to the University of Maine and Baxter State School for the Deaf and I got my degree … my masters in. speech and hearing therapy. I did that for five years, but then Bob Height, who was a special eds teacher, came on the scene and he insisted that none of the kindergarten, first, or second graders be taught speech and I couldn’t agree with him because I felt the children had to know how to say their words before they could learn their sounds and that was the basis of teaching reading, so I quit speech and hearing and went back in the classroom to finish out teaching.
I taught at Elmwood School, which was a rural school, from 1938‑1941 and we didn’t have hardly anything to work with … a stove that we had to tend all day and no running water and just chemical toilets. But, it was a real family situation, wherein probably brothers and sisters were in different grades and it was a great relationship of teacher, children, and parents. Three of my students‑‑Philip Washburn, Roy Hicks, and Audrey Huff have seen me in later years and have told me that I was the best teacher they ever had and I feel real elated about this because they went on to the school in Gorham, which was a training school where they had a teacher in every room and student teachers, and I think they had everything to work with, compared to what I had, so I think that I must have been very dedicated and I did work hard. In order for these people to have felt that way about me, there must have been a bond there that we established. I know there was with me, so there probably was with students, too. I know, Miss Pool, when I taught reading in the first grade, said that I had an intuitive ability to teach reading that was beyond most teachers, that I just seemed to be able to understand how to teach reading and what the children needed..
My first years of teaching … I loved because the children loved to learn and the parents wanted their children to learn, but the last of teaching the attitude changed completely. The parents seemed to not want their children to be disciplined. The principals couldn’t care less whether the children were disciplined. If you disciplined the children, you’d be more apt to be called on the carpet than the children, so the last of my teaching wasn’t enjoyable and I felt that there was lack of trust in anyone because it seemed to be the philosophy was to have rapport with the principal, have rapport with the teachers, have rapport with the superintendent and have rapport with the parents, but it didn’t matter whether the children learned or didn’t. There was no accountability and that was when education changed and if you were a dedicated teacher, you could see the change and it made you very unhappy. This was about 1965. From then on education changed, and I don’t think it was for the better. I don’t know what’s happening since ’78 because I retired in’78, after 25 years.
Historical Events and Periods
We didn’t have good libraries when I was young.. As a community activity when I was a child … they had a book club supper every year, wherein all the parents came and enjoyed an oyster stew supper, and then they … well, I guess the men were involved, too … men and women decided what they wanted for a book or told the type of book they wanted and then chose two or three representatives to go into Portland to Loring, Short and Harrnon’s Book Store and pick out new books. They gave them money for the books and then the people decided which books they wanted to go from one family to the next and they’d write their names on the outside cover of the book (they’d cover them with brown paper). So, you’d have your name at the top and you’d pass it along to the next person and the next person, and then eventually your book would get back home. I know, as kids, we loved that time when they had the book club suppers. Ruthie Hill, now my sister‑in‑law, was involved with me and we girls would go up in the upstairs bedroom and try on all the old ladies’ hats and coats and strut around and say, “I’m Ula Martin!” and (ha, ha) we had so much fun pretending that we were some of the women. I guess we thought those women were about seventy years old. Course, we were only eight or ten years old, or maybe younger. We should have been reprimanded for it, I guess, but we had fun. So, that community venture, plus the moving, plus the com husking and all this kind of, I think, made me interested in working for community.
Contributions to the Community
After Brent was born, I joined the Saco Valley Civic Association and we had about ten different projects that we were responsible for doing. One was a nursery school. Another was a youth center. We had adult ed. I worked for two years with Fran Eastman running the nursery school and we didn’t have hardly anything to work with, but we had six or eight of the children reading little paper back books by the time the school year ended and then I instigated or helped with adult ed and we used to just charge probably fifty cents a week to get it started. I’d go in Portland and get somebody to teach dancing or anything that we needed. We’d travel to get the people transported that would teach the class and then, of course, the high school took that over, which was great. You know, if you can get something started, then have somebody else take it over, that’s good.
Then we worked on making quilts for about fifteen years and we’d make quilt tops and put a backing on it with mountain mist in between and then we quilted it. It took probably about four months to quilt and we did about 15 of those quilts over the years and we’d raffle off .. sell chances on the quilt and make about a thousand dollars on each quilt, and then we gave that money for scholarship for a student going on to college from Bonney Eagle High School.
I worked hard in politics … the Buxton Republican Town Committee … and tried to get good leadership in our community, town, and also in the state to help to get the best possible leaders that we could get, hopefully.
I belong to the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Colonists. This took me quite a while to prove my background in order that I could join. You have to prove every single ancestor’s date of birth and marriage and death, so it’s an endeavor to find out all this information so that you can be accepted and have the credentials.
Then I belonged to … well, I guess mostly other than what I’ve mentioned, is church work. I belonged to Buxton Center Baptist Church for twenty‑five years and I worked as Bible School teacher and Superintendent and then Bible School in the summer time. I worked to be able to get the church redone, to have new carpeting on the floor upstairs and new pews and downstairs kitchen, the walls painted and papered, and so forth. I was on the Diaconate at Buxton Center Church, too.
Since then, I’ve joined the Tory Hill Congregation Church and at present, I’m on the Diaconate at the Tory Hill Church. I really enjoy community work and reaching out to help others. I spend quite a bit of time now with church work and reaching out to help others. Just last week, I made a casserole for someone who had death in the family. I help out by cooking. Like this week, I’ll be making a casserole and a dessert and send cards to the sick and shut‑ins. I also belong to the Women’s Fellowship, which has many endeavors.
Let’s see, what else do I do? I belong to Saco Valley Civic Association still and we meet once a month and we then do things in between. We don’t make quilts anymore because we girls got burn out, but we raise money other ways. I make crafts for a flee market that we have once a year and probably that takes me about a month to do whatever I’m going to do for donation for crafts. I make crafts for church. I still work for the Republican Town Committee we have bake sales and I go to meetings. Tonight, I’m going to a Lincoln Day Dinner … in Ogunquit.
Retiring from work was … grief and a relief. I think that by the time I put in 25 years and because the school system wasn’t really reaching up to my expectations of what it should have been and you didn’t get rewards … you didn’t feel that the children were learning like they should, and you didn’t get the rewards from your principal, your superintendent and the parents like previously. When I first started out, I didn’t get any pay, but I got lots of pay in praise and rewards. Well, at the end of my teaching, I wasn’t getting that so, I feel it was time for me to leave because I, along with the school system having a bad attitude, I guess I was developing one, too and if that’s what’s happening, then it’s time for you to leave, too … so, I guess that I was ready to get through by the time twenty‑five years was up.
I think we were enjoying life retired and able to just be content with a simple life, until my husband got sick and then … then, things were different and I had to concentrate on getting good meals and helping him and seeing him through. Since he has died, I feel alone and at times very lonesome, but then, at other times I feel like I’ve been freed up to do more what I really want to do and I feel that I need to go on with my life to accomplish the things that I guess you should accomplish as you get late in life. I don’t want to be one that just, if I’ve got the health, to sit around and do nothing. I like to be accomplishing something.
When we had our own home here in Buxton Center, we always had Airdale dogs and we had sheep and a cat or two all the time. And now that I’m older and alone I have a dog that I got after my husband died. His name is Bonzer and Bonzer means “terrific”‘ in Australian lingo and he’s a very loyal, lovable dog and I really enjoy him a lot. Course, he’s a lot of comfort to me, but he’s also a lot of work. I have to tend him, and let him out and take him for a walk. Probably some of these things I don’t like to do when its icy are good for me because it gives me exercise and he makes sure that I have to get out every day to tend him. My cat … I named him Bing … because he’s such a beautiful singer, after Bing Crosby. He’s a beautiful black Persian. By the way, Bonser is an Australian Shepard. I have a black cat, a brown dog, and I’m white, so we’re not racist in this household! I didn’t mean to have Bonser, but I went for a ride with a girl friend and we went to Carver, Massachusetts. She was going to get a dog for a neighbor who has a horse farm and I went for the ride with her. When we got up there, these dogs were just running around as puppies. They were about 10 weeks old and, of course, I fell in love with all of them and she said that her nephew was going to have the dog that I have now, Bonzer, and he was going to have to keep him hitched out all the time, day and night and I said, “We used to raise Airdales and I wouldn’t sell a dog to anybody that would just keep him hitched out all the time, day and night.” I said to the lady, “How about selling the dog to me?” and she said, “Well, I’ll have to go talk with my nephew on the telephone.” So, she came back and said that she couldn’t get him on the telephone, but she said to her husband, “Well, what do you think?” And he said, “I think a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” So, she sold the dog to me. That was three years ago and Bonzer has a home in Buxton Center, Maine instead of in Massachusetts. I think he’s a happy dog. He’s been to dog obedience and he’s a good dog and everybody loves him and I love him.
With Bing, he was in a cage in a pet store in at the Mall and I saw him one week and I fell for him and the next week he was still in the cage and I said. ” That cat’s been in that cage long enough!” so I bought Bing and brought him home, and he’s been in Buxton Center ever since and he’s a real lovely black Persian cat. They give me a lot of love and I give them a lot of love.
I help with my family whenever they’re in need … to reach out and help Matthew and Adam to entertain them in the summer, or go up to camp, if I need to be up there so that they can be there.
I have three “girls” that come to quilt every Wednesday and we spend the day quilting and gossiping and gabbing and (chuckle) have fun. We meet at ten. We have coffee and then we quilt from about quarter of eleven to twelve‑thirty. Then we eat lunch and then we quilt until about four o’clock. So, it’s a fun day and I look forward to it. It was a blessing to me when my husband first died because it broke up the week and gave me something to look forward to for the girls to be here.
The best part of being retired is not being tired. (Laugh) I think, you know, the freedom to not have to … you know … get up and go to work and have the pressure of the work load on your shoulders. You’re really much more relaxed and freed up. The worst part of being retired is not being as closely related with people any more … being more alone.
I would hope to pass on to my grandchildren the love of this place here, I think … the love of country and home, if I could … love of the land, love of myself, and the love that Norman had for this place, the love of learning to be the best that you ever can be, just to love life, I guess. I have two grandchildren, two boys‑‑no girls. I wanted girls, granddaughters. I would love to have sewed for them, made beautiful clothes.
Inner Living and Spiritual Awareness
I think that spirituality is very important in my life now. I think that I love life enough that I want eternal life. Love of God is very important to me … you know … love God and love Jesus and to want to follow God’s will. I guess what I think spiritually is love God, love yourself, love others and love nature. Ifs very important to me and I think that when I was baptized I was close to God then, to accept Jesus as my savior. I think as you get older in life, and you’re nearer to the end of your life, you put much more value on the spiritual aspect of your life and you realize that you’re not going to live forever and I think that then you realize the importance of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior and to hope that you will have eternal life … and that someday you will be able to see your loved ones again in whatever life is, told according to the Bible.
I believe in the truths of the Bible. I think that if you have ever had the death of a close one that I don’t know how you live through it without the strength that the Bible gives you and God’s help. I love that poem, “Foot Prints on the Sands of Time”, because if you ever have a death of a loved one, you really realize how important that poem is, how much it means. When my mother died, I guess I wasn’t as close to her as I could have been because she was sort of a … domineering mother, I felt. Even so, I never got over her death for about two years … and so time is a great healer and you do get over it in time. Time helps, no matter what.
I try to live what I believe. I try to have my life portray what I believe … to be a kind, caring, loving person and to really realize that I need to go on in order to help my family, to help Brent and Jan and the boys, and hopefully, when I go, they will feel that I was a caring, loving person … that, I did what I believed … tried to have my work show forth what I really believed.
I sure do think that I have inner strength. I feel that you grow every day to even have more inner strength to love God, to love mankind. To love nature out there gives you great contentment too … to walk down the Mark Road with the dog or to be outside with nature. I sit on the steps many a night … while somebody else is having to go out and have a great time, but I can sit out there on the steps and be content. I think in order to have contentment later in life and not have to be stramming all the time and to be having a good time and go, go, go, you … you need this inner strength and it gives you peace and contentment and I really couldn’t get along without it. I think it comes from my love of God and it just gives me inner peace.
The single experience that gave me the greatest joy was when Brent was born in 1949. 1 wanted children so badly. I wanted children for probably six years, so of course that was my greatest joy that I ever could experience. I have enjoyed my two grandsons from birth to their teenage years, too. When they were little, I enjoyed teaching them. Now, I encourage them to keep on learning. And I don’t want to forget to mention how blessed I am to have my family‑‑my son, my daughter‑in‑law and my grandsons, Matthew and Adam. They all are so good to me, such a comfort and I love them dearly.
Other gifts that are important to me are my eyesight, my little bit of hearing I’ve got left, good health, ability to work with my hands, to do crafts, to sew and knit and do quilting. I guess those are what I’d have to name. I’d hate to lose my eyesight. I think that’s the greatest gift I’ve got, my eyesight and … actually, my life … my life is my gift.
Major Life Influences
Probably, the most crucial decision I have made was when I got married. I sent my mother to bed when I got married. Well, she didn’t want me to get married, I guess, so when I told her I was married, she went to bed for the day … so, it must have been kind of crucial! (Laugh)…
The most important turning point was when I found I couldn’t have any more children, or didn’t have … didn’t get pregnant. That, to me, was … very “eat your heart out”. I think I was so disappointed, very disappointed. I really felt that Norman and I would have been awfully good with a big family and we could have … we were both good workers and we just longed to have four children. I think it was just as much of a disappointment to Norman as it was to me. It was kind of like, I guess, my mother … I think our life would have been so much different if my mother hadn’t lost Erlon because she could never accept it and as a result she became a workaholic. Well, I think my life could have been so different and Norman’s life, if we could of had what we wanted, and I don’t know how … probably Brent would say it affected him because it must of had its effect.
The happiest time in my life, I guess, was after we retired in’78, going across country. We didn’t have any planned way. We just took our time and stopped whenever we felt like it and spent time seeing whatever we wanted to see going across to the west coast and then coming back. Then from ’78 until about ’88, Norman and I were together all the time and that was really the happiest. We didn’t have to bare the burden of jobs and work and we were able to see you folks (Brent and Jan) more often, the grandchildren. I think that … I can’t complain on my life … I think it was happy.
The least enjoyable time in my life was when Norman was drinking. I was pretty upset most of the time … worried… if I ever saw him drinking.
The most meaningful relationship we had was when we had Pastor Bob and Arlene Smith as ministerial leaders at Buxton Center Church. The relationship was very meaningful, both to me and to Brent. Pastor Bob was just a terrific leader and minister and his wife was right there with him all the time and ah … they just were … they were an example of true Christianity. They lived what they preached and it had great significance to my life and to what I expected a minister to be like in church work. He was just one minister in twenty thousand. I just thought so much of him and really felt that he was an example of what a minister should be that wanted to preach the word of God.
Then, the minister and his wife that we have at the Tory Hill, Church today are a lot like Pastor Bob and Arlene, but, we sort of were closer to Pastor Bob and Arlene because they were younger. The minister at Tory Hill is a wonderful minister, too.
I guess my biggest accomplishment would be that I had Brent. You see, I don’t feel my accomplishment is out there in the career world. I put my accomplishment as family … something that I do with family. I guess the work that I did teaching … twenty‑ five years of dedicated teaching would be second.
I’d like to know what I know now and relive it. (Laugh) I still … I guess I feel content with what I’ve done with my life but, I wish I could have had a bigger family. I don’t know why … I guess that this desire never goes away if you don’t get it fulfilled, so I feel like my life wasn’t fulfilled that way, but in every other way, I guess, my life was fulfilled as much as I wanted.
I think seeing the Grand Canyon was the most awe inspiring experience I ever had. It made you feel that God was right there … and when I looked at that Grand Canyon and saw the beauty that was in that great formation, it’d just take your breath away almost … such beauty, beauty, beauty of nature. It’s the most wonderful thing that I’ve seen, I think, in all my life, is the Grand Canyon.
Vision of the Future
I guess that what matters to me most now is that I have my health to see me through and that I don’t cause a lot of ruckus in order to get through this life … that I hope that I’ll be able to have my health until maybe I‑ have a heart attack and go. Something like that.
I don’t want to have to be in a nursing home and lay around and be a care to other people. I want to be self‑sufficient and I want to be independent. I’d love to stay here in this home and somehow maintain it until the end.
Everybody wonders what’s ahead. I guess it’s not for us to know. What makes me feel most uneasy is the violence that is out there in the world … the robbing. Just a couple weeks ago, three fellows came in and robbed my girl friend of money in her house … and you hear of all these break‑ins and robberies and you wonder if you’re going to be able to maintain this place without something happening. I worry about that situation, I think. But, seems like the world’s getting worse and worse and worse and it’s a worry.
I don’t know what gives me the most hope. I guess the hope is in the Bible. The Bible says that when things get bad enough, we’ll have God’s war and the wicked will be destroyed and that we’ll have Armageddon, and that then God’s Kingdom will come and rule.
I’d like to tell the younger generation that it’s like Nathan Hale said… “You have but one life to live for your country.” O.K., you have but one life to live as a youth and you can have responsibility for that life. You can plan and live it to the fullest and try to be happy, or you can mess it up and be miserable, like get involved with drugs and so forth. So, there again, comes the part of the poem, “Be the Best of Whatever You Are”.
I guess I’d like to have said about me when I die that I was a good worker and a caring, loving person. I guess I think that I’ve fulfilled what I have expected of myself, except for wanting more children. They say you get out of something just what you’re willing to put in, so I think I’ve put a lot into the life, so I think I have got out of it what I should.
I guess that I’d like to say that my whole life was a result of being brought up in a community that led more of a simple life that cared for others, like the Book Club, where they sent the books around so that they could enjoy reading each other’s books. The moving of my father’s home really showed a caring, loving community that was willing to turn out to help my Dad and the com husking, the dancing … these are all things that .you don’t see today in life that make the world go round and makes it a lot more of a community that cares for each other, which today is lacking. There’s none of that any more. It’s all leaving us and it seems Re if we could get back to a much more simple life, which we had then, everybody would be a lot more content and happier. Today, our world is getting so sophisticated and … you know … the television and all the computer work … it kind of scares me because I don’t want to get into that, I guess. I’m too old to cut the mustard any more. I’m too old to learn all that and I think we’re getting away from the love of working together … when you’re sitting at that computer just ping‑ponging keys … seems like you’re not working together like we used to.
I don’t think, truthfully, that anybody knows what their picture is … what their image is. I don’t think anyone knows themselves as other people know them. There’s a saying says “Don’t say it, do it!” and I think that you need to … you know … act the way you believe … carry on the way you believe. I think that I have kind of stuck to a more simple life, but a good life. I’ve tried to be strong in values and principles and have these count more than being top dog in something that maybe I wasn’t truly interested in. (Doing this life story) kind of makes you realize just what your life has all been about and to kind of.. sum up your life.