Carl Manter was 83 years old when interviewed by John Giguere in 1992.


My name is Carl Manter and I was born in Farmington, Maine. From here, I grew up about six miles from where I live today. There was a two-story brick house there, right across the way from that mini-mall, the big house on the hill. The building has been torn down now. I was born there in 1909. My father and mother lived there quite a few years. My father lived there quite a few years. He also lived in California for a long time. But, he died in 1925 and that left my mother and older brother and me there. And, at that time, we didn’t realize what my father’s life was. He had had so many women that he had had so many troubles with that he had deeded away part of his place to his half-brother; half to his son, uncles and aunts and so forth, you know. So, all he had was a life lease of it. So, we had to move. He died in ’25 and we had to move that same Fall. So, we moved up this way about half a mile. And, in those days, of course, you had automobiles, but, not as plentiful as we have now. We had an old truck around, but, we had to move with a horse and cart. We were homesick. We were real homesick, you know. But, we moved over there. My brother worked for a cabinet maker down this way farther. And, I worked in the woods some, and, on the farm and so forth. But, there was hard times ahead. I wasn’t smart enough to earn a living on the farm, at least I didn’t think I was. So, I went to work in the Fall of 1928 for a power company. I started working in Farmington Falls, and covered New Sharon also, serving small companies that the big one had taken over and so forth. I stayed at the farm one winter. They were building a road down New Sharon way at that time. There wasn’t much work in the Spring. That Fall and one winter, we were cutting trees and so forth for the power lines we were building. So, I got laid off, and, that was almost around the Depression days, you see. So, my brother and I had moved again by that time, to Farmington Falls. And, in Farmington Falls, there was an old power house and grist mill and so forth. And, my mother and I rented this apartment above the grist mill upstairs for five dollars a month, which was cheap at that time, you know. My brother went to work in the woods again. He came home on weekends. In the Spring, the boss of the light company came to see me and asked if I wanted to work for the summer. I said that that sounds good. I thought that I might stay a couple weeks or so. I didn’t like it too well. I didn’t like the sound of electricity.

And, I knew what electricity was and what it caused at that time. So, I wanted to stay away from it. But, anyway, I got to climbing poles; they were 25 footers in those days. I thought that was fun. So, I started, and, you know, I stayed with that company twelve years. Well, at that time, the company in Farmington, Maine Consolidated, was acquiring more property. Farmington Falls had acquired Chesterville and all this area. So, I went to work for Maine Consolidated for less money than I had been making here, but, it paid off later. And, I knew that when I first went there, that I wouldn’t stay for more than a week anyway because the foreman was kind of a rough old devil. He and I didn’t get along. But, you know, I stayed there 26 years. And, I got to be foreman on the crew for more than 20 years. And, I didn’t want that job anyway and said that I would take it for a little while. The little while turned out to be 20 years. Then, Central Maine came in, and I went to work for them as district foreman. I was used to working outdoors, building sub- stations and pole lines and everything. They put me in an office after doing all this hard work outside. So, I put on a lot of weight, and, that’s the time I had a heart attack. In 1974, 1 retired anyway. Then, the nitroglycerin wasn’t doing any good, so, I had to have this by-pass. And, my wife and I had this place. I owned this 14 acres way back in 1945. 1 bought it from a lady whose husband had died for 40 dollars. Taxes were 5 dollars. And, my wife always said that she was going to build a house here, but, I knew she never would but, by gosh, during this time, you couldn’t buy any house you wanted to. So, she said, why don’t we put a house down here, so we did. It turned out alright. You don’t feel much’wind here, but, you couldn’t get a place where there is anymore snow than right here; a pile of snow. I like it here alright, but, I know that I can’t take it. it needs somebody here to keep house for me. At least, I have my nephew and wife come in once a week to clean up a little. I do some of the washing. The time is coming where I’m not going to be able to do. I had a housemaid, but, she and I didn’t get along, so I let her go. I can see why it’s pretty hard for a woman to come in here and take all this from an old man. It’s hard for a woman to come in and take care of an old man, I would think. I’ve had chances to get housekeepers, but, after reading the hand-writing on the wall, I stay clear. I know it isn’t right, but, some of them would rather have the place, and for me to get out. Well, that will never happen, you know. That’s why I’m still living alone.

There are so many things that have gone on in my life remember that they used to take pictures some. In those days, there wasn’t much going on, really. There was stuff going on, but, what people did was every Sunday the neighbors would come over and we would dress up and spend the day where they would chat back and forth and see who could talk the fastest, but, very little was going on.

I’m the youngest of two children. My father had another son by his first wife. As far as my grandparents are concerned, I remember that my granddad got hurt and died around when he was 56. My grandmother, the story goes, that as soon as he died, my grandmother stayed with her daughter in Farmington. And, she went to bed, and I remember at what time my brother and I saw her when we used to go in there and go to school. She was in bed. You know, that woman went to bed and stayed in that bed for six years. And, apparently, they always said that she wasn’t very sick. She finally died right there. And she never took too much care. And, she was 80 when she died, I guess. This was my Dad’.s mother.

My mother, I don’t know much about her folks. She had three brothers. I knew where they were buried and so forth. She never gave us much history of them. I never met my grandfolks on my Mom’s side. Times were pretty hard in those days. We were in a Depression. It wasn’t the same kind as what this depression is.

I don’t remember anything great about my grandfolks on my Dad’s side. Nobody ever talked about them much. I guess they had their family troubles some.

I think that my parents were poor, farming people. My father was full of a lot of it. If he could get somebody’s goat, he would do it. He always had a lot of fun. My mother, you know, well, they had dances going on at different halls and so forth. She used to so to dances a lot. My father wouldn’t go. He didn’t know how to dance. She used to go over with the horse and wagon.

I can remember some good of being with Mom and Dad was going to the Farmington fair. Maybe, now and then, we would take in a circus. We couldn’t go to far away unless we took the train.

I guess I inherited the notion of hard work from my mother and father. I know I worked hard, and, I know that they did too.

My brother was a jolly person. He enjoyed life. We worked on the farm together. He stayed on the farm and raised corn and other things. I knew that I couldn’t make there, but he did. He had 200 acres of farmland.

I remember so many childhood memories, but I can’t think of any right. We used to go the neighbors and had a lot of fun. My folks used to send a note with us to make sure that they would send us home on time. We were wild sometimes. The old swimming hole down by the river there, that was a lot of fun. That’s what we used to do during the summer, including some fishing.

I don’t remember too much when I was very young. But, we used to play croquet or baseball. I would describe myself growing up as a child as being miserable. They said I was a brat. I guess that I was. We used to slide in the winter and bicycle in the summer. I think that I had a fairly happy childhood.

During my early school years, I remember that if I didn’t stay in line, I would have to stay after school. or, if that didn’t work, the teacher would take a ruler and hit me across the hands. If that didn’t work, then there was a strap. That would straighten us out. We used to get into trouble quite a lot. if we passed an old abandoned building, we’d break the windows out of it. or, one time it was too cold in the school house, so we went out and got some birch bark and started a fire with it right around one of the desks. Right on the school house floor. We weren’t much ethic children back then.

Some of my dreams as a child was wanting to grow up, that’s all. We thought life as a orown-up would be a bowlful of roses. I couldn’t wait until I would be 21. Then, I could be my own boss.

I was pretty small when I went to school. I was very small and weighed 68 pounds. I didn’t like being small.

The saddest time of my life was when my father died. My happiest times would be going to fairs and circuses.

I had some favorite teachers. But some weren’t so good. They tried to tell me what was supposed to be good in life.

Those were the days when the freshmen would be hazed by the sophmores. I remember when I was downtown where they caught up with me and dunked me in the water tank where they used to water the horses. I didn’t like that too well. When the time came, I got even with everyone of them. They didn’t bother after that. It was a senior, believe it or not, who told me just how to do it and get even. He asked me if I needed any help to holler. They locked a kid in a tomb there one time. They took him down the river bank and had him run through a line naked and they would take their belts and strap him. This pretty near killed him, you know.


I liked being a teenager because that’s when I could chase the women. That was a lot of fun I thought.

I didn’t have any serious friends while I was growing up. I felt some pressure growing up, nothing serious. There was some pressure with some of the kids I went to school with.

I was a wrestler and a boxer in high school. All amateur stuff. I was a quiet guy growing up. My half-brother helped me in growing up quite a bit.

Some of my dreams in becoming an adult was to make some money. I needed to think about working hard in order to make money. I got into working with the power company because it was a steady job. I liked the outdoors and working outside. I was still living at home. I didn’t get married until I was 24.

1 married Helen. She was trained as a nurse. I didn’t know her that well. She was a good looking woman. She had a loud mouth. She helped me a lot in life. She helped me take care of the bills. She was always cheerful. Usually, we would hop in the automobile and go somewhere. We would go on picnic, or go blueberryin!g. She enjoyed every minute of life.

Being a part of community is important to me.   We used to get together with the people who worked for the power company. Today, I know my neighbors, but it’s different today. People don’t come over like they used to.

I guess what’s stressful is not being able to earn a good living anymore. As far as turning points in my life, they were all the same, I guess.

I never had any children. If I had had children and grandchildren, I don’t know what I would have said to them.

We used to go to a lot of Christmas dinners. We used to make sleds or skis for other kids.

Well, I think I’ve gotten the gift of health all these years. I’ve had a by-pass operation at age 70.

1 was 16 when my father died. We missed him quite a lot. It was a necessity to go to work because of his death.

I had a lot of special people in my life. I can’t recall anyone right now. I shook hands with General Pershing. That was a special occasion.

The general public shaped my life. I was around them a lot. If I was out late working at night, I had many friends who said they would be there if I needed them. Many of them are gone now. I had a lot of friends. I had some enemies too.

After we got automobiles in Farmington Falls, I think that mechanics were important people in my life.

I’ve made many mistakes in my life. I’ve let some people down in my life. I had a dangerous job. I was responsible for the crew. And, sometimes someone would get hurt and it would be my fault. Sometimes it would be their own fault. it don’t take much for any of us to break a rule. But, sometimes, it’s been done.

One of the happiest times in my life was when I retired. I was homesick the first 3 weeks, but after that it was o.k. One of the least enjoyable things in my life was getting up in the middle of the night and going to work.

I learned a lot growing up on the farm. I didn’t have too many hobbies. I was pretty much of a loner. My whole life was tied up in the power companies.

I was brought to go to the Baptist church in a horse and wagon. But, I don’t go to church anymore even though I think that I’m a Baptist. I’ve given them a few hundred dollars in the past. I believe that someone ought to have some type of religion. There’s a lot of things I don’t believe in like keeping stores open on Sunday. I think that Sunday is the Lord’s day. I had to work on Sundays but you should be able to do the work in six”days.

My wife’s name was Helen. I never knew her until she was 24 years old, and, come to find out, her mother and step- father lived right next to me. So, I began to visit her, and, she finally went to a harvest supper with me the following year and we began to get acquainted. We got married nine or ten months after that. She taught me a lot. She was a pretty good woman. Helen was a pretty loud mouth. She would say pretty much what she thought. She was a good looking woman, too. And, she took care of herself. I never thought that I’d get married until I was 45 or 50 years old. Then, Helen came along. She helped me a lot in life. She was always good money wise. She got so she could drive a car when they became more plentiful. I worked hard enough so that she didn’t have to work. She would enjoy being around the house during the day, and, working in the garden. She was a hard worker. Helen helped me out financially in the relationship. She was always cheerful, that’s one thing. I might be a little grumpy, but she was always cheerful.

Usually, Helen would use our leisure time by working around the place, or getting in the automobile and going somewhere, to a picnic or something. Going berrying, picking blueberries. Yeah, she enjoyed every minute of life.

Now that she’s gone, being a part of the community is still important to me’. I like to get together with different people who used to belong to Central Maine Power. We have meetings and get together with the old folks. I miss those meetings now because I can’t go anymore because I’m not able to. Today, I know my neighbors, but, they don’t neighbor the way they used to. I have good neighbors. People looking in on me. But, it’s not the way it used to be with neighbors. That’s changed a lot.

What’s stressful for me today is that I’m not earning a good living like I used to. My turning points in my life were that they lead from one to another, and, they were all about the same.

Helen and I didn’t have any kids. If I had had kids and grandchildren, I don’t think I’d know what to say to them today. I can’t say what kind of values I would have wanted them to have.

Helen and I used to do a lot of Christmas giving when we could like making sleds or skis and so forth and giving them to my brother’s children. He had four children and they were good boys. We didn’t have much money but we’d make something for the family.

I think, on the whole, that life has treated me well all these years. I’ve been pretty healthy. I have had too much trouble. I’ve had some. I’ve been injured sometimes. I’ve had a by-pass operation, Plus a hernia operation after I was 70 years old.

I experienced the first death in my family when my father died. I was sixteen. I was real young. I missed him quite a lot. But, it made it hard because it was time for me to go to work because it was a necessity to do so. Me and my brother together became the breadwinners of the family.

Some of the values that I learned from my parents was to be honest and never steal. They always preached that.

There have been so many special people in my life. I can’t remember them right now. One person that impressed me was when I shook hands with General John J. Pershing. My wife, Helen was an important part of my life.

The people who have influenced me the most, I would say, was the general public that I was around with a lot. When I was working out there late at night, these people would say to me that if you need to something to eat or need to come in and warm and take a rest, that you can come knocking at our door and you’re welcome to come in. That would impress me a lot. I had a lot of friends. And, it helped me. Some of those folks are gone now, but some are still around. Many of them I had supper with when it was cold and wet. They would do anything for me. That was the general public too.

Some of my heroes was General John J. Pershing. I shook hands with him when I was a kid. In Farmington Falls, the blacksmith was an important fellow in my life during those days.

Some important decisions that I had to make was when I working with the power company. Some might have been good. And, some might have been bad but I had to make them. That was part of my job to do. Some decisions I didn’t want to make.

I’ve made many mistakes in my life. Some people got killed out there on the job, you know. Like electrocuted, or falling from a pole and so forth. That stuck with me for years. It was more about them making a mistake and it stayed with me. I was responsible for the crew. And, sometimes it was my fault. And, sometimes it wasn’t my fault. Every accident couldn’t be prevented. But, I felt responsible a lot of the time. I learned about safety rules. Taking time to think about what we were doing. It didn’t take much for us to break a rule.

I had a lot of happy times as an adult. I had a lot of sad ones too. I guess when I retired was one of the happiest ones.

Some of the accomplishments I had was working hard. I didn’t have too many hobbies. I was pretty much a loner. I was proud of my work. My whole life was around power companies. i

I was brought up to go to church to the Baptist church in the horse and wagon. I still give them some money. But money’s tight today. I don’t believe I’d call myself a religious person. There’s a lot of things I don’t believe in either.

Some of my imaginations today would be to see us get out of this recession. I think that helping others is a strength of mine, a feeling and caring for others. I help people today by going out to my neighbors who have some electrical trouble and helping them out. I usually help them without charge. I don’t want to make any money off of them. As long as I can keep going, I don’t want to make anymore money.

I hope that I have control in my life today. I pretty much do what I want to do with my life. I don’t know what my life’s gonna be like too much now. I think that my life is going to be kinda hard. I don’t know which way I’ll be going. I wish I knew, but … I think that it’s gonna be difficult for me the next few years. I can’t help it. I never gave it much thought before, but as I grow older, life can’t have too much in store for me because it’s bound to be worse before it’s better. I just don’t know how far ahead I can look. I look ahead one day at a time. I don’t know whether I’m gonna get up the next morning or not. I suppose that I will. That’s about all I know as long as I feel well. Time’s getting short.

I think that the world’s gonna be worse off before it gets better. That’s my belief.

The only thing I think about in my life now is that most things are uncertain for me. I’ll tell ya. When you get older, you have a different outlook on life. I didn’t realize it, but you do. I do an awful lot of thinking, which I shouldn’t do. But, that’s part of life. I think that this winter has been pretty hard. I haven’t worked that much.

Usually, during the winters, I’ve done more. You don’t think about yourself. Because by being in this house, the first thing you know, you’re going to be talking to yourself.

That’s not good. And, that’s one reason why I want to keep active. It makes my mind better.

I hope I never forget my childhood. As far as giving advice to the younger generation, I would have so much that I’d probably be better off not saying it. I could say a lot of things but I guess I’d better not. To keep busy is the only thing that I could say. Try to find something to do constructive. That’s what a lot of young people need.

I don’t know how to answer the part about what purpose my life has had. I really wouldn’t have a name to title my life story. I guess I’d call it Carl Manter’s story today. I think us sitting down has been a good thing. It’s been alright. I hope I’ve given you some good answers. I’ve done my best anyway. There’s probably so much stuff that I’ve left out that’s important over the years that I don’t remember or know about today. That’s the way it is with me. I might think of something we talked about the day after tomorrow.


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