Doris Robinson Conners was 82 years old when interviewed by Sheila Gallagher in 1991.
FOOTSTEPS ONE TO EIGHTY-TWO
The Town of Gorham into which Doris Elizabeth Robinson was born on October 30, 1909 was made up of many villages. Communication was limited but the people were bound closely together due to their pride, their interests, and their needs.
This town had many open fields and spacious lawns inviting children to play. Tall, graceful elm trees spread their branches and offered shade and beauty, but these trees are now but a precious memory as a disease struck all of the elms by the 1940s.
From 1909 to the early 1920s our town could be described as a young Methodist minister did when he asked his mother to come to live with him.
His words were: “Mother, if you come to Gorham and do not like it, you would not like heaven.”
The Town Report of 1909 stated that we had three automobiles and 103 carriages. It also noted that 92 tramps had been provided with lodging. Many times I can remember seeing my mother open the door to a poorly clad tramp and give him a hot biscuit with something hearty for a filling.
In that same year, forty babies were born in Gorham, 17 of which were girls and I, Doris E., was one of them. However, it was twenty years later that I, as a teacher, was required to present a birth certificate and had to get my brother George to appear before Lawyer Small and swear that I was his sister and my name was Doris Elizabeth Robinson.
In my childhood days, there were no airplanes flying overhead and no 10-wheelers pounding the roads and pouring out fumes. The Atlantic Ocean was only ten miles away and its fresh breezes cleared our air each day.
To be sure, the luxuries of today were lacking as there were no TVs, no radios and no crossword puzzles to entertain us. On the other hand, income taxes were unheard of. Lamps and lantern lighted our way and they were needed as the “three-holers” were always at the very back of the house or in some cases beyond the house. The ice which kept our food cold was cut at Alden’s Pond. Chunks the right size for our icebox were delivered to our house by the iceman. While he was placing the ice into the box, I, with my friends, was outside by the cart picking up the pieces he had dropped on the ground. Into our mouths the ice went, dirt and all. If there were germs, they didn’t bother us.
Our homes were heated by coal and/or wood stoves–one in the kitchen for both heating and cooking and another, the Parlor Stove, heating the front room. Registers in the ceiling above these stoves allowed heat to go upstairs. All of our water had to be heated in kettles and baths were taken on Saturdays in a large washtub placed in the kitchen. Beds were warmed on extremely cold nights with soapstones well wrapped. Before going to bed, we backed up to the Parlor Stove to get a warm blush of heat and then scrambled to get under the covers before the heat was lost.
Chain stores and supermarkets had not yet appeared. Only a small grocery store with its owner and the clerk filling the orders. You did not wait on yourself. Orders telephoned in were delivered to your home. Doors were never locked day or night. Even the dogs and cats had an opening covered with a “flap” so they were free to come and go. All of the meat came from Kimball’s Market and fresh fish was brought to you directly from the Portland wharves. We had fish twice a week–Tuesdays and Fridays. Fish was not my favorite food at that time but I ate it because my mother said I would not have brains if I didn’t. Gullible? Yes, I always believed my mother.
In the summer we had fruit peddlers, but in the winter we ate apples from our trees; they were stored in barrels and placed in the cellar. A man came to pick up rags and as he reached the porch he called, “Rags, Rags, Rags.
Get out the rags.” He frightened me because my mother threatened to give us to the ragman if we didn’t behave.
Milk was delivered very early in the morning and placed on the porch. The containers were glass bottles which had to be washed and returned the next day. On Sunday mornings, I took one quart of milk up the hill to the Russell’s door and received one penny which went directly into my piggybank.
In comparison with today, we had very little but I could not imagine having any more. I never thought of us as rich or poor as we always had enough. I never thought about what I didn’t have and I am still that way today.
The Robinsons–George W., better known as Papa by me and Pa by my three brothers, was a stonecutter and marble dealer and his wife, Grace L. was a devoted housewife and a mother with the patience of Job. They lived in a comfortable Cape Cod style house located across from the Normal School on
High Street. Without moving one inch, this house is now on College Avenue. Dr. Francis Bailey, President of Gorham State Teachers College, in the 1940s requested the town to change the street name to College Avenue so that speakers coming to the college could find the school. The town finally gave in and the change was made. However, it took years before the mail came with the correct address.
There were three boys in the Robinson family when I arrived–the oldest, 14; the second, 12; and the third, 10. The day I was born, according to Mrs. Russell, the boys could not get up the hill fast enough to tell her that they had a baby sister. We have always been a very close family.
My father’s parents died when he was a little boy so we did not have paternal grandparents. My mother’s father, a Civil War Veteran, died before I was born and her mother, Sarah Jane Manchester, vowed she would not go until her baby granddaughter said her first word and took her first step. My first word was “pretty” which I said as I walked around her bed, covered with a lovely quilt. Without a doubt my mother said “pretty” every time my little hand touched a patchwork squares. It makes me feel very sad to think I cannot remember my grandmother. The boys loved their grandparents and, as small boys, rode their bicycles thirteen miles to the farm to visit during their vacations. My grandmother had been a school teacher and always loved to have her house filled with company. I can certainly relate to that. Everybody who knew her said I was her carbon copy.
Even though I did not have grandparents to enjoy, I was compensated by having wonderful High Street neighbors. Next door was Aunt Nellie, almost a second mother to me; then, Grammie Fogg and Grammie Ridlon; across the street, Grammie Jewell. None were related to me but dearer folks could not be found. Their children were grown and away from home so they treated me as though I belonged to them.
In spite of the long hours of hard work required of my mother and father, they always found time to enjoy us and all the things in which we were interested. My friends were always welcome to come to my house. Papa and Mama were not the type to show affection, but we were always sure of their love
for us. There was never a doubt of that even when Mama used a little switch around our ankles and father had to speak to us sternly. Looking back, I can sympathize with him coming home tired from his work and hearing mother say, “George, your child has been bad today and you must do something about it.” Always when we were naughty, she said to us: “Just wait until your father
gets home.” It goes without saying that she had spoiled our fun for that day. Much later in life when I had the care of my niece, I heard the same story from my mother. Tired after a day of teaching, I was never receptive to having to punish a child when I had not seen the act. This period of my life was without a doubt the most stressful I went through. It was then that I realized what migraine headaches were like.
My brothers never lacked for support and encouragement from their father.
He believed that boys should have chores to do each day but he also left them time for play. He was right there watching all of their baseball games, horseshoe and tennis matches, and their swimming events. The same interest was shown in me as I grew up. Each of us, in turn, were taken to the great Barnum and Bailey Circus. held each year in Portland. I lived that circus for a long time after, playing the part of many of the performers. Special interest was taken in the Polar Bear sitting on a cake of ice and the next time we went to the farm, I headed for the ice house to see how long I could sit on ice.
My mother was very fond of music and an excellent pianist. She always sang as she worked around the house and on Sunday evenings you could find her at the piano playing hymns. My father and I always joined her in singing.
My mother made all of my clothes while I was in grammar school and taught me to sew. Much of my leisure time then and now involves handwork. My father insisted on buying my clothes when I reached high school and he always claimed he could select better looking clothes than I did when I was teaching. He was always very proud when we looked well dressed.
My mother tried to teach me to knit but she did it altogether too fast for me to follow – she could make a pair of mittens in one short evening. I’m lucky if I do one. She could crochet beautifully too. My Grammies came in handy at this time and taught me to do many things; so now I am able to knit, crochet, tat, quilt, hook rugs, and sew. There are so many things to do in life that I cannot understand anyone being bored.
I have had many playmates over the years and enjoyed them all, but I also enjoyed being by myself. Never lacking in imagination, I could entertain myself. Like most young girls of my day, I loved playing with dolls and my teddy bear and pretending that I was a school teacher. You can see that my desire to be a teacher started very early in life. My second choice for a career would have been interior decorating.
In September of 1914, the day I thought would never come had finally arrived. It was my first day of school and I was very excited. In order to start school a child had to be five years old, but my birthday did not come until October 30 so, I was still four years old. My parents felt that I was ready for school and should be sent. My mother promised that if I would go to school alone that first morning she would go on the eight o’clock trolley to Westbrook and buy me a teddy bear. I was a very happy child in my own little world, but a very shy and frightened child in strange surroundings. With the thought of this teddy bear and going to school, I forgot my shyness and ran up the hill to Corthell Hall where our classes were held. I was very brave until I saw that terribly big outside door, the knob of which I could not reach. No one was around to help me so I had to wait in hopes someone would come soon. I was frightened that I would be late to school and be scolded by a teacher. Finally, someone came and I was able to get in. But, that was not the only obstacle I faced. My mother had always spent a great deal of time reading to me and she taught me to read my grandmother’s primer with all of those pictures at the top of each page. My father also got in on the act and taught me to count and with the aid of big cards, he had made and printed, he taught me to, as he called it, “take away.” I was able to add simple examples; to write figures; my age; my name; and the name of my street before I started school.
My parents were delighted with what they had accomplished but my teacher was not at all pleased. She visited my father and told him I had learned more than she planned to teach that year; so I should be placed in the second grade. My father refused to let me do this as he felt I should take each grade as it came along and remain with children my age. He also felt there were plenty of things other than what was in the textbook that I could learn. The teacher was very displeased and showed it by making me, for the first time in my life, feel “unwanted.” I was heartbroken.
I was not happy in school until I reached the third grade where I found the most wonderful teacher, so warm and understanding. I shall never forget her as long as I live or her name–Miss Holbrook. I learned so much that year and loved every minute of it. The next year I moved into the 4th grade room, and once again the teacher called my father and asked to have me take 4th and 5th grades together. This was at the end of the first quarter. Again, my father refused, but this time the teacher accepted it and everything went along smoothly.
In 1923 at the age of thirteen I entered high school. By this time I had gained height and lost my chubbiness so I was in good shape to enjoy all that was ahead. My high school days were wonderful. I was very active in extra-curricular activities. Our Principal told us we were one of his favorite classes and to make it more interesting there was plenty of competition. I took part in all of the musical performances both in school and in town. I also enjoyed dramatics, debating, prize speaking, and the one sport offered girls–basketball.
Most of our games were played in the afternoon in the Town Hall which is now the Art Gallery for the University. Transportation to games was always a big problem, but I can remember two games played out of town. One was at Sanford where we had to go by train, stay overnight in private homes and back by train. Two of us stayed at the Goodall’s home (one of the owners of the Mill) and our host arranged a dance to take place after the game. It was a great evening. The game at Buxton High was also great fun. It had snowed all day before we left, but Ben Davis, one of our classmates, had a long pung drawn by a pair of horses and he offered to get us to that game. It was a beautiful evening and a most enjoyable sleigh ride. After the game, we stayed at his home overnight. With the team, substitutes, and coach, his parents had to find room for ten people, but they loved doing it. The food they served us was all homemade and it disappeared rapidly. The next morning we were all out on the hills along with his neighbors, sliding and tobogganing. At noon, we were ready for a sleigh ride back home. Those are trips you can’t forget.
As a member of the Methodist Church, I taught Sunday School classes for years, led the young people’s Epworth League, and sang in the choir. Dr. Russell, Principal of the Normal School, always believed that college students should take part in church activities so we always had a good representation of young people joining us every Sunday. Boys were part of the college at that time and they took part. Socially, this was a great time in my life.
In June, 1927, 1 graduated from high school with high honors. Our graduation was held in the Congregational Church and all of the girls in my class wore white dresses made from one pattern. That was a feat in itself when you can get eighteen girls to agree on something that important to them. We carried one dozen red roses. The reception was to take place in the Parish House that evening but we had a severe thundershower and lost all of the electrical power in town.
I had applied and been accepted at Gorham Normal School, but my heart was not in it for I wanted to be a high school business teacher. My oldest brother sensed that I was not too happy and discussed it with me. Then he went to my father and told him what I really wanted to do. My hesitation in doing this was because I did not want my father to spend his hard-earned money for my education. However, it all turned out well as my father felt I should do what I really wanted to do. So, in the fall, I attended the Maine School of Commerce and enrolled in their Normal Training Course.
By 1929, 1 felt well prepared to go out to teach. About a month before I was to graduate, the chairman of the School Board in Gorham asked me if I would consider teaching in Gorham High School. The teacher I had had was leaving to pursue studies in the musical field. She was very happy to find out that I was asked to apply for her position. I was very proud that they considered me for this position, but I thought I should branch out and get a job away from home. Due to the many people who urged me to stay and the other members of the school board who felt I should try it for a few years at least, I finally reconsidered. They were to pay me $1,000 for the year. As I had been out for only two years, the seniors that I had were freshmen when I was at Gorham High as a student. It was difficult to get some of them to address me as Miss Robinson instead of calling me Doris.
That was the school ruling. It was a hard year because although the school had taught me to teach, they had not taught me much about discipline. I was very fortunate that my Principal helped out there. The faculty I admired, but they were all well over 30 and I, as a teenager did not have much in common with them. I at nineteen considered a person over 30 was “old.”
So, I spent most of my time with the senior girls and many of these same people are still my best friends. Many of the students in my senior class were my age and two were older. I was the youngest instructor ever hired at that school. I taught there seventeen years and was very happy.
In the summer before I started my first year of teaching, the Mayor of Tarrytown, New York hired me to be his secretary at his summer camps in South Naples. I stayed there just two weeks when he hired another girl to take my place as he wanted me to go back to Tarrytown and join his staff. In both places I experienced homesickness. It was awful; I just couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. This was my first time away from my parents and home. I stayed in Tarrytown until Labor Day arriving home just in time for some sleep and then up the next morning for my first day of teaching. Before Dr. Lehman became Mayor, he had been an English Professor at Columbia Univ. and that summer, for me, was an excellent learning experience. He was deeply involved with investment firms and with the stock market so I learned all about investing even though I had no money. My job was to set up agendas for all his meetings and type up reports on business transacted. I also had a great many evenings when I had to take notes on meetings.
It was all very interesting but hard work and long hours. As an extra bonus for the work I was doing, he hired a pro to teach me to play golf and gave me one day off each week so that I could get in extra practice. He hoped that I might continue on in Tarrytown instead of teaching, but I wouldn’t listen to that. I did use many of my summers working in Portland offices in hopes that I could get a better idea of what was expected of my students and be able to make contacts for them. After a while I gave that up because the work I was required to do was far beyond anything a beginner would ever do. My employer for six summers was the Chairman of the Board of Directors in Maine General Hospital (now Maine Med); Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Maine Savings Bank; and the owner and President of the Portland Stove Foundry. I was his secretary and my work was quite involved. I also worked in the Accounting Dept. one summer and followed that by taking my CPA exams. Passing these, I had another avenue I could pursue if I ever tired of teaching.
The story of my life would never be complete without weaving into it the part Campfire and its leader, Charlotte Millett, played. So, I am going back to high school years when this organization meant the most to me. The first group of girls from Gorham joining this in 1915 was known as the Originals. Under their sponsorship a younger group called the Bluebirds was formed and this was the group I joined while in grammar school. When I reached high school, I became a Campfire girl. I am taking this time to tell about Campfire and its leader because of the tremendous influence it had on my life and the lives of many others.
Charlotte Millett lived and loved Campfire for 58 years and devoted all of her spare hours to “her girls.” In 1925 our group was awarded the Harriman Medallion for our accomplishments. This was a great honor for our leader and for us. We not only did local work but were involved internationally. We helped earn money to support a French orphan who had been adopted in World War 1. My oldest brother served in this war so all my learning had extra meaning to me. Years later, we purchased two dolls; named them Mary and Martha Gorham and dressed them in costumes like those we wore in our ceremonials. These dolls were sent along with those of other areas to Japan as a friendship gift. During World War II they were ordered destroyed. A few dolls were hidden and saved, but we never knew the fate of our gift.
Hiking and camping were the highlights of our Campfire life. The group I was in climbed Mt. Washington twice–heavy ponchos and all, light sleeping bags belonged to a later generation. Two weeks of camping on some one of the Maine lakes was always looked forward to. The “buddy” system was used and my buddy then is still a very dear buddy to me today. We also had the experience of going from Portland to Boston by boat and then on to South Hanson, Mass. for a week of camping.
Our Campfire group along with the Boy Scouts helped in all civic under- takings. We played a prominent part on Memorial Day decorating War Veterans’ graves in the town cemeteries and we took part in the services. I recited the Gettysburg Address and sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic more times than I care to mention. All of this took the morning hours and at noon we were waiting on table for a Legion and Relief Corps dinner. At two o’clock we appeared once again ready for the big Memorial Day Parade. We were fresh and clean in our white middies, red scarves, and navy blue skirts. What a day we put in.
Annually, in September, the town for more than a century was home to a fair held at the Narragansett fairgrounds. Our Campfire group manned a booth selling the reed baskets and trays that we had made during the year, plus ice cream and candies. This was one way we earned money for activities, but Charlotte was never lacking for ideas. She found enough stables in town so that we could board horses that camps had used during the summer season. Her idea was to teach us responsibility for the care of these horses as well as enjoy them for horseback riding. This was not my best memory as I never planned to have anything but a casual relationship with horses.
My childhood had been traumatized by horses that struggled up Normal Hill hauling very heavy loads of coal. The school and dormitories used tons of coal each year and this hill at that time was a rough, graveled road and very often a poor horse would fall and be dragged until they could put something down to trigger the wheel of the cart. From there on I was definitely opposed to anything that put me within smelling distance of a horse. Because of my fear of horses, my assignment was to clean out stalls while the horses and riders were safely away from the stables.
Each year we celebrated Washington’s Birthday by joining other groups on Alden’s Hill (Gorham’s playground) where we held a Carnival. Alden’s always meant picnics with bonfires in the summer and sports of all kinds in the winter. The holiday started with a dogsled race and then all types of competitive sports followed. Hundreds of people took part and hundreds more were spectators. Sports played a very important part of Charlotte’s life and we were always right there with her, ready to go. She was a strong, forceful leader morally and physically. I am very sure that I am a better person because of her leadership and I feel very fortunate to have grown up when this organization was at its best.
My love for dancing started in the 1920s with the Charleston. From there, we went on to the two-step, fox trot, and jitterbug. In the early 30s, with classes in dancing, I learned to waltz properly as well as enjoy the Grapevine, the Bunny Hop, the Cha Cha, and the Rumba. How very lucky we were to have lived and enjoyed the era of the BIG BANDS with Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, and many others. These were beautiful memories that I would dearly love to live over again.
It was not felt necessary in the early 30s for a teacher to have a degree, but I was anxious to go back to school so I enrolled in a summer course at Bates College in 1933. Clifford Wieden and Hayden Anderson of the College faculty joined me and we rode back and forth to Lewiston every day for six weeks.
The 1930s bring back many memories. Depression hit and took its toll on teachers’ salaries. My salary had just reached $1100.00 when in 1932 it dropped to $900 and no contracts. Pay checks were lower for everyone and hard times lasted for seven years as jobs became more scarce. The great depression, often called the Alphabet Soup years, started with the WPA which spent about 10 billion to keep economy afloat. There was also the TVA, FSA, HOLC, NYA, AAA, and the two CCC’S. These were only a few of the lifesavers. In 1933, three Portland banks closed for good and people lost their money. Westbrook Trust paid the depositors by issuing stocks and this was a great blow to my father who realized very little from it in his lifetime. The banks were closed and the Bank Holiday lasted from March 4, 1933 to December 13 of the same year.
In September of 1938, we experienced the first hurricane that I can remember plunging our town into darkness and tearing out telephone and power lines.
On November 23, 1939, Charles Conners, the fellow I was to marry was shot in a hunting accident. He was shot by a man who had been drinking, heard a twig snap and fired without seeing the target. The shot collapsed the right lung and lodged in the region of his heart. He was hospitalized until March when we brought him home in the ambulance. The first of the next month my father was taken seriously ill and only lived until the 15th of April. This was the first time I had faced death and I found it one of the saddest days in my life. I can never express my gratefulness for having such a wonderful father.
Soon after my father’s death, Charlie’s doctor called me in to his office to explain to me that open heart surgery needed to be done in order to save Charlie’s life. The shot had to be removed as soon as possible and he left it up to me to tell him and convince him to act right away. This I did; and in spite of his mother’s opposition drove him to Palmer Memorial Hospital for the operation.
In 1942 we moved into the war years and Charlie received greetings from Uncle Sam. The doctors told me not to worry as he was in no condition to be accepted. Their statement may have been true, but in August of that year he was accepted in the Air Corps.
Prior to 1942, I had taken courses in First Aid and during the War years I was a part of the Ambulance Corps headed by our local doctors. Drills and blackouts were held each week. Everyone in Gorham had to use blackout curtains in their homes or in lieu of that plan a specific place in the house or basement where the whole family could go when the sirens sounded.
During the war years we learned what rationing was about. We had to learn to shop within the limit of our stamps. At one time all pleasure driving was prohibited as gasoline was scarce.
Knitting for the soldiers, rolling bandages, and first aid courses were all a part of the times. Corresponding with soldiers was also a “must” every day. Many of my boys who had been former students were now serving so they, along with Charlie, kept me writing way into the night.
In 1946 I left Gorham High to go to Cape Elizabeth High School where I stayed seven years. The first week there has been a vivid memory, for some of the girls came rushing in to my room to ask when we were going to start Riding Instruction. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Horses again? They thought I was their new Riding Instructor, but thank goodness the Principal told them they were mistaken. It did give me a few anxious moments.
While at the Cape I started an organized cheerleading team – three boys and five girls. They proved to be the “best” and were asked to perform at Tournament games. Two years later the girls wanted a bowling team and asked if I would be their coach. I asked the Principal if he would relieve me from cheerleading so that I could handle bowling. He did not want to do that because he was afraid they would lose money on the basketball games. The cheerleaders attracted crowds. With the parent’s help, we finally convinced the Principal that I was needed for bowling. I loved bowling as I had competed with my brothers for years. We had to take a bus once a week to get in to Portland and use the Congress Street alleys.
The next year the boys wanted a bowling team, but could not find a male coach, so they asked the Principal if I could coach them. The ruling at that time was that boys must have a male coach. However, the school board, with pressure from the parents, allowed me to take on the boy’s team for one year. It was a busy schedule for me but I loved it as much as the students did. I was teaching five classes a day, had charge of the business end of the Yearbook, and still had two bowling teams.
Before going to Cape Elizabeth I had taken courses that I hoped would allow me to become a member of the Red Cross Motor Corps. I had taken Precision Marching at Fort Williams; Advanced First Aid and Bandaging; Communications, Nutrition, Motor Vehicle Maintenance, Ambulance Operation, and had tests in Truck Driving. The Red Cross then accepted me and I had a uniform to wear. I had to report so many hours each week to the Red Cross Headquarters. In October of 1947 Maine experienced the worst fire disaster in its history. Everything was bone dry due to a drought. The speed with which these fires spread was terrible–nine communities were leveled; four others suffered damage of a severe nature. The Red Cross called all of their help in and I had to have a substitute take over for me in the high school. We worked long hours transporting supplies, mainly medical and answering calls with the ambulances when needed. Our responsibility was in the Waterboro, Brownfield, and Newfield sections. This lasted for one week. I was some glad to get back in the classroom again.
During the years I was at Cape Elizabeth, I was working on degree work at Our Lady of Mercy College (now called St. Josephs). I attended classes three evenings a week and on Saturdays.
In the spring of 1953, the Principal and Superintendent at Sanford High convinced me I should leave Cape Elizabeth and teach for them. They succeeded and I drove sixty miles a day for three years. Having received my BS in Education, I traveled Saturdays to Boston University to work on my Masters. In the summer of 1956, I was asked by the Westbrook High Principal to come in for an interview. Having already signed my contract at Sanford, I was not very interested but I did consent to be interviewed. After taking into consideration the difference in mileage I would travel and the figure they finally offered at Westbrook, I did change schools. I received my ED.M. from Boston University in 1957 and the next year started on the Doctoral program.
I taught at Westbrook High School seventeen years. It was there, in 1973 that I received the honor of being named MAINE’S TEACHER OF THE YEAR. I was honored right and left, starting with Governor Curtis’ invitation to Augusta and the Senate and House of Representative members’ invitation to their chambers. After the House of Representatives had honored me, the Speaker called a recess so that they could personally meet me. The Speaker realized after he saw me that he was Chairman of the School Board the year I was hired at Cape Elizabeth. I, also, found many of my former students there as representatives so it was a day I shall always remember. I can’t begin to relate all of the activities that took place, but I am very thankful for everything.
Just prior to my receiving the above honor, I had set up a program in the business department of Westbrook High that took the advanced students away from their textbook learning and taught them on the job. We ran a business that correlated with the work in the offices of S. D. Warren and the 3M worked with us. This training program once submitted to the State was accepted and a grant of $26,000 was given to help us get started. Our set-up became a Model Office for the State and we had teachers from far and near observing the students at work.
By this time, I was completely exhausted and decided it was time, after 44 years of teaching, to retire. Over the years I have been active in all of the Teachers Educational Organizations and in all but the NEA I have served as an officer.
After two years of retirement and rest, I was ready for action again. I joined the Gorham Women Club and a year later served as their President. I, also, was active in the Historical Society of Gorham and the Maine Historical Society. I am a 25-year member of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an educational Sorority, and have served as President as well as other offices.
My mother died in 1951 and my youngest brother in 1965. I have just one brother left and he is 93 years old.
In 1952 I became Mrs. Charles Conners and because I was completely responsible for my niece my husband and I decided to have her and her father join our family at 59 College Avenue. My niece graduated from Gorham High and then trained at the Central Maine General at Lewiston. She became a registered nurse and later married John Gallagher. They had three children and the oldest is the one responsible for my having to look back at the past 82 years.
In 1986 Gorham was to celebrate its 250th birthday and I was asked to serve as Chairman of the Planning Committee. This, I refused but did later agree to serve as a Co-Chairman. This worked out very well and proved that a young person working with an older one can prove to be an advantage. This was an eight-day celebration and it was the most exciting experience I have ever had. Gorham had a celebration it will never forget. The townspeople cooperated 100% and everyone enjoyed it. Gorham’s USM joined in to help in many ways–offering housing for all of the United States Military Band members who participated by leading off the Parade. They also provided facilities for other events, the taping of many of the activities; and were always at hand when needed. A write up of the 250th has been very well handled and completed so that the whole story can be read.
In 1988 my very happy life as Mrs. Charles Conners was coming to a close. We have had a very happy life together as we had so many interests in common. We loved camping, fishing, reading, and time by ourselves when we could just be quiet. But, on May third, the doctors told him he had only 30 days to live. It turned out to be only 20, but we were together every minute of that time.
All I can say now is that I am very thankful there is plenty of work to keep me busy and that I am still able to do it. I have a large place to look after and in the summer I spend 7 1/2 hours each week on the mower and another day clipping and weeding the lawns. It also takes me more hours than I care to use trying to cut down the awful sumac that seeds in from the USM trees, but I guess that is just part of the game of life. I have always lived in the belief that what I am and what I have is given to me from God. And that what I do with what I am and what I have is my gift to God.