This is an interview that I conducted with my grandmother, Celina Mary Gallant Jacques over two sessions in March 2000. Grammie is 86 years old and of French-Canadian decent. Her parents were immigrants from Canada. She had seven siblings and later 13 children. She is 4’8″ and about 100 pounds with short, straight white hair. She wears a hearing aid and reading glasses. Her back has a hunch to it from the ravages of osteoporosis. At this stage in her life she has many medical problems, but tries not to let them get the best of her. She lives in the same home where she raised her children. She is widowed and has a son that lives with her, but they do their own thing. She grew up poor and worked hard her entire life. This is her life story in her own words.
My father’s grandmother, my father’s mother lived in Chisholm and I was three years old, and she had died. The only thing I remember on that is that Kate Herbert had given me a bath and dressed me up and put me over the casket so I could see my grandmother. And that’s all I remember from her. They came from Canada. My, my father came from St. Charles, Monkcton and my mother came from New Brunswick in Monckton. Monckton, New Brunswick.
Well, roughly, my mother, my mother was 21 when she got married. She probably was around 25 and there was 6 years difference between my mother and father. And my father’s mother came to live with my mother and father in Chisholm and she probably stayed here only 2 or 3 years and went back to Monckton. And that’s,¼I didn’t know her that well. After they got here, after they moved in Chisholm, my father worked in the woods. And I remember that. I was, I was young. My mother was taking care of the woodsmen that worked there. That was in Madrid. And my mother was a cook for whatever men was working in the woods. And my father’s brother, my uncle Fidel and his wife, he was working in the woods too and they were living in their own… In those days the buildings weren’t that big. The one we were in was, they had a great big-like dining room for the menfolks that ate and then we lived in a different section. There was my mother, my father, my oldest sister Annie, and my brother. We called him Pat, his name was Isadore and I was next and I had a brother Pete that was just a baby.
My oldest sister was born in Canada and the rest of us¼ was one of them was born in Canton, the rest of us was born in Jay. And they had 8 children. Both very hard-working parents. My father’s name was Felix Gallant. My mother’s name was Josephine Casey. When I was born, I really don’t know (if anything special was going on). Well, we learned from my mother and father to be honest, and not to expect to get paid for whatever we did for our neighbors. To be honest and to make sure to pay our bills. And when I got married, my mother told me she had 8 children and she never had anyone to come in and baby-sit. She always stayed home. So she said, you want to get married, she said you stay home and you take care of your children. And she said your husband comes first, your children next, and you’re the last. That was the way she was brought up and that was the way she brought me up. And she brought me up to know how to clean. No, it was a normal birth. I look more like my mother.
Well, like everybody else I guess they thought if they moved here, they would have a better, a better life. Because in Canada I don’t really know what he did. I guess the jobs weren’t too good at that time. Because my father would be 107 years old now, if he’d be alive. So they must have moved here so that they’d be, they’d have a better life. I guess it took a while before he got in the mill in Chisholm because he worked in the woods a lot. Then, then he worked in the woods but then we stayed in Chisholm.
We moved quite a bit, different houses. And I remember every one of them. No, (he didn’t retire), he died at 64 years old. My mother was always a housewife.
No, in those days they didn’t do that (special holiday traditions), not in Chisholm anyway. They do that in Lewiston, but in Chisholm they never¼ Well with eight children, I guess she was too busy taking care of the children that¼. We really, we were really poor. I mean we had good meals and we had a clean house, we were dressed accordingly, but we didn’t really have¼ They gave us what they could afford and that was it. Cause in those days the wages weren’t that great and bringing up eight children in those days was, was hard. Well, we didn’t have any relatives around here. They were mostly all in Canada.
No, we learned to speak English when I started going to school. Well, they both learned English after they moved here, only my mother didn’t want to. She could defend herself if she wanted to in English, but she didn’t really speak English the way we do it. Which is too bad with us, our children don’t know the French. Some of them a little bit: Pauline, Patty, and Norman. When we moved here, 60 years ago, my children didn’t know a word of English, it was French, but we moved into an English speaking community and we were French. We were Catholics and to be neighbors we started speaking English. And that’s too bad because that’s how come my children don’t speak the French. But all my sisters and my two brothers, we all spoke French. We still do, but we mix it.
The religion, yes. My mother and father were very religious and they taught us to be. Well, in those days they could hit you on the bottom if you didn’t do what you were suppose to do. And today they can’t do that. Enough (was how often she was disciplined). Yes, I guess I was, active. Oh, I skipped school a couple of times, got caught at it. 6th grade (was where her schooling stopped). Well, in those days you could go out and work. All I did was house cleaning for different people, baby-sitting, bringing baskets in the mill for different people to help out. Well, the only one in the family of eight, there’s only one that graduated. Most of them went up to the 8th grade. One of them, I think, started high school, but he decided to go to work.
No, no (her parents were never naturalized citizens). So my mother never took any charity from anybody. She was afraid they’d be sent back to Canada, so she never ¼ They went through a strike, which was hard. Oh yes (her sister born in Canada was naturalized).
Yes, I had 2 or 3 of them (teachers) that were real nice. Not too many (subjects), I guess. No. They didn’t have any (school clubs). Well, we didn’t do much of anything (for fun). Well, we were in school. We had to walk maybe a mile to go to school. We’d come home at noon then walk back to school, then walk back at night coming home after school. And I don’t remember, I don’t think they had the games like they have today.
At home? Well, we had to do the dishes, and then we helped with making the beds, helping to sweep. We never did laundry cause she wouldn’t let us. My mother wouldn’t let us do laundry. She was too fussy.
Yeah, my first date was probably about 14 with somebody that we went to school with. We didn’t do much of anything but walk around town, that’s all. I met him (Grampie) walking down the street one way and I was walking the other way. He stopped and said “hi” and I was with a friend, a girlfriend. He was home on vacation, well vacation cause he was living in New York at the time. He was born and brought up in Lewiston then they moved in Livermore Falls, then from Livermore Falls they moved in, we use to call it, it was Chisholm, now they call it Jay. Well, he went to New York and then he came back from New York, we met up again and there was a crowd of us going out together. We’d go to dances. By that time I was 16. We’d go roller-skating, we’d go to dances, but he never danced. He did the Charleston alone, but he never waltzed or fox-trot or¼ So we’d go a bunch of us together. We had good times.
Well, from 16 to 17 (they dated). I got married at 17. Not too, too long. We had the first one (baby) in the same year we got married, our oldest one. He was working. We had an apple shop in those days, and a bean shop and a corn shop all in one building and he was working there. I was working in the apple shop when that was in season and then when I wasn’t doing that, I was house cleaning for people. After I got married I stopped working. Well, I did work after I was married maybe two seasons at the apple shop and that was it.
Yup, living in Chisholm. Oh on Church Street. Well, we’ve been here 60 years and it will be 69 years, it would have been 69 years in January that we were married. When we moved here, I had six and after we moved here I had seven more. So I had 13 in all. One (miscarriage). I had 11 at home, and one in a nursing home, and my last one I had in the hospital. It was a c-section. I had, yup, your mother was born in the nursing home in town.
Oh, I really don’t know, I guess we just got together and we loved one another. Well, we were together for 59 years before he died. Oh, the best part is that we really had a big family, which it was very hard, but when you’re young and in those days its different than today. We didn’t have much money but the neighborhood that we lived in, we were all about the same. We wore second-hand clothes, and we wore patched clothes, but we always had food to eat, and with all my children, they always got along very good. Today they’re all married and have their own families and they’re still enjoying one another and when they get together, they all have a good time. And the bad part is, is when you have sickness and a lot of worry.
Well, I’ve had four really (sad times), well five losing my husband too. We lost our oldest son in the service. That was really a, it was rough time. Then we lost a boy at 3 ½ years old with a ruptured appendix. That was very hard to take. And then we lost a daughter at 17 ½ years old with a heart condition. Died in her sleep. And we lost a son in an automobile accident. And then my husband died, so that was five real tragedies, but with the help of God you learn to¼ When you have a family you can’t sit down and pity yourself. You have to get up and do whatever you have to do. And I’ve always had faith in God and he’s helped me to pull though. Well, when we lived in the farm I couldn’t go to church every week because I didn’t always have the way to get there. But I tried to get the children to go.
Well, they didn’t really know me and where I was Catholic, whatever they had, they had. Well, in those days, well they still have it today but, they have Stanley parties and I went to every one of them that I was invited to. Of course, having children and the neighbors having children, my house was always open to all the children. Each one of my children had a friend or two and I went too all the parties I was invited to. If they got married or if somebody died, I was always there. And they accepted me and every one of my neighbors were very nice neighbors. But when you first move in on a farm when you’ve lived in town with a big family and I was pregnant when we moved her besides that, it was kind of hard. But after they, I knew them and they knew me, I’ve never had any problems with any of them. We’ve always gotten along real good. I lost one of my best friends that lived across from me. I still have a couple of friends that live here, that were here. And now its new because there’s a lot of people that’s moved in, the older people like me there, they are disappearing. Cause now I’m 86 and a lot of them were older than I was when I moved here so… Mrs. Randall, yes. And Mary Moulton was one of my good friends. She lived in Fayette but she moved away. We are still good friends because she is still living.
Well, my parents really (influenced her). Skipping school, I guess (got her in the biggest trouble). No we had, it was an old house and eventually well, there was no electricity when we moved here. So eventually we put the electricity in then we room by room eventually we fixed it. It still isn’t 100 percent but for me, I’m satisfied the way it is. No. When we moved here we had a pantry with a pump. Well, we did have, when we first moved here, we had one light in the kitchen and one receptacle until we were able to wire the rest of the house. It took time and money and we didn’t have the money. Well, after we were married, he finally got a job in the mill. He worked on #10 machine. He worked there until he retired. That was in, no, that was in town, Chisholm.
Oh, we had three cows, we had chickens, we had pigs. I made my own butter, I made my own bread, I weeded the garden, I canned a lot, I even helped to hay. Plus doing the housework, all the other household chores. We had a couple of turkeys one time, we had a couple of ducks, but the main thing was chickens and pigs and cows. Well, we did have a dog and a cat.
No, I never tried (to get her driver’s license). My mistake was, I use to drive a Model “T” around the farm, but I never knew how to back up. And then when the children started getting old enough, and I had so many, that I always thought I had a driver besides my husband. And then I didn’t realize some days they would all be out of the house and by the time that happened, I wasn’t interested in learning how to drive so¼ Otherwise than driving a Model “T” around here, I never drove, never got my license. Yup, yup (the Model “T” was their first car). One time my husband was getting hay on some one else’s property, which in those days people did that. And they were with the tractor and the load of hay, and the tractor didn’t have any lights on it, so he had me drive the Model “T” in front of them, for them to have the lights. Well I didn’t think of that. I was in the driveway waiting for them. So I’m telling you, when he got in the driveway he wasn’t too happy that I was in front of him giving the light, but I wasn’t there. He made it without anything happening. So from then on they didn’t depend on me for lights. It was probably just about¼ I don’t even know if it was a mile from here.
Well, over here we had a school on the Haines Corner, umm, Campground Road. Well, the school is still there. Well, I mean there is no school, but the building is still there and they made it into a home. And to start in with, my oldest son started school in the Catholic school, St. Rose. Which they don’t have a Catholic school anymore. And Pauline, my oldest daughter had started, but she was only, not old enough, so they wouldn’t let her stay in school. So when we moved here, they all went to school on the Campground Road. Then, one while some of them went to Stricklands School, depending on the age. Not the age, but the grade. I think I have two daughters that went there. And then when they got to be the age to go to high school, by that time we had buses, they went to school on the bus in Livermore Falls, cause we live in East Livermore. And the only one that didn’t go to school over here is my youngest one, Felix. He’s the one that started to go to school in town. By that time they had voted to shut the school down. And we went to the town meeting to try to keep it open, but we lost out so he was the first one to start on the bus at the Primary. And all the living ones graduated from high school. Two (went to college). Uncle Norman and Felix. Roger went in the service. No (Grampie was never in the service).
1931 (they were married). Oh yes it (The Depression) affected. Well, it was hard to get a job and we lived with my in-laws at the beginning of our marriage and it was hard on them too. But everybody pulled in to help one another so eventually everything turned out ok. Very depressed (to hear about Pearl Harbor) and very sorry for all the sons of all the mothers that were gone. Prayed for all of them the best that we could. No, the one we lost in Korea was Ronald. We lost Ronald in Korea. He was only 19 years old. He went in September, no, he went in July, and September 1st he was dead. He was a medic, he was only 19 years old. And to be able to go into the service they stuffed him with bananas the night before. So he could pass the weight. And the ones that helped him, you know, to eat the bananas to pass with them, cause they were going in the service too. Well, after he passed away, well, he got killed really, they felt bad because they thought it was their fault that he had died because they had made him eat all those bananas to gain the weight. But I never held anybody responsible for that cause they were all in about the same age, they all went to school together, they thought they were doing a, you know, good thing.
Oh, as they got older they went and picked beans, and then my next door neighbor, Mrs. Randall, had the job of the cemetery up here, mowing and ¼ So Bernard would work for 25 cents an hour to weed and do whatever she wanted him to do. She really liked him because he was a good worker. And Pauline, my oldest, worked as a waitress part-time, because she was still going to school. And Roland worked part-time, we had First National in those days. And the others were only, well like Patty, worked in the shoe shop, but only after she graduated high school. Not all of them (in the house at the same time) because I had some that passed away in between. On the whole I had them, yup.
What did I do (when they landed on the moon)? Yeah, I remember them landing on the moon, but that is about it. My memory isn’t too good. Democrat. I felt real bad for him (Kennedy) and for his family.
Did I have what? No (no big dreams for the future). Just went to work, took days one day at a time. Oh yes (she had a happy childhood). Even though we didn’t have a, well we made our own fun. In the winter time, we’d take a piece of wood and we’d take a piece off the barrel, and put it, nail it to the wood and put another piece of the barrel on top to hang on to. And where we lived with my mother and father, there was a little slope going down to the¼ Well, the house that my parents lived in was almost across from where the mill is. And that’s what we had for sliding, no sleds, no skis, no¼ But we made our own fun. April Fools Day we use to take all the, all the papers off the cans of fish and if we’d see somebody go by, we’d stick it on them as they went by. But there was no big deal. We use to have a good time doing that. We skipped rope. We didn’t really do much of anything in those days. There wasn’t that much activities anywhere. When I got older, they started going roller-skating and dances but, when you’re younger you kind of¼ We didn’t play games like they play today. We had a radio. Took a while before they got the radio cause there was things that were more important to get then¼ That was with my mother and father. We use to play with marbles. Even though suppose to be a boy’s game, the girls were as much involved as the boys.
The most important thing that my children have given me is their love. And they are always there when I need them. Yeah (she feels that she has inner strength). When something happens bad, I always turn to God. And ask him to give me the strength to pull through whatever going on. He helped me in many ways.
I don’t even know what that means (values she would want to compromise). Told you I wasn’t too bright. That I believe in? Well, I believe in being honest and I don’t believe in cheating anyone. I believe in being good to your neighbors and your families, your relatives.
That’s a hard one to answer. There’s so many (joys) that it’s hard to think. I’m trying to think. I don’t want to offend anybody. Well, one of my joys is to have all the family get together and really enjoy being together. One of my joys is being with my sisters, which is all I have left now, my sisters.
Oh yes, we all make mistakes. Well, when I was young I really didn’t do that bad, but maybe I should have tried better at school and maybe graduate at least from grammar. But I didn’t even do that. Well, my grades weren’t too bad.
Well, I wish them (grandchildren) all the best of everything. That they have a nice life, if they decide to get married, have a family, and if they want to stay single. I want all my grandchildren to have a nice life. (Wants grandchildren to learn) to be honest and to be good to your neighbors and to your relatives.
No, I didn’t want more (children) that’s for sure. No, I had 13, I’m not sorry. I really, we were brought up with my mother and father, really poor and we brought up our family poor and I’m not any richer today. But we did the best we could and after 13, I don’t think I would have wanted more, but I don’t regret the ones had I had. Or the ones I have. We did the best we could, my husband and I, with them. We didn’t have much but I made one thing sure, that every one of them graduated from high school. The only ones that didn’t graduate the ones that died before and one of them didn’t because he got married instead of graduating. Roland. And Jeannine died and she was a junior so¼.
Well I had, I had Dr. Eastman for a doctor. I had a Dr. Croteau that lived, when we lived in Chisholm, that lived a door up above us and he brought 11 children at home. And then he was sick, so when Celina was born he couldn’t come, so that’s how come I went to Dr. Eastman. He had, Dr. Eastman was new in town because he had been in the service and he got out of the service and all that. So, he had this Mrs. Stirling that had opened a nursing home that wasn’t too many rooms in there and I had, that was my first one I had in a nursing home, and when Felix, I was pregnant with Felix, my youngest one of all, he was turn the wrong way. And the only way that he could be, at six months pregnant, Dr. Eastman said he still had time to turn around and if he didn’t turn around. Well, we didn’t know if it was a he or a she¼(tape ran out).
Was I anxious to be (a grandparent), yup, when I found out that my oldest daughter was going to have a baby, it was really happy. Oh I enjoy it, it think its nice. More children, well today they don’t, they don’t have as many children as years ago. I have 34 grandchildren and we were up to almost 40 in the great-grandchildren and three great-great¼ Four now? Four great-great-grandchildren.
Yes, I had 13. I have a sister that had eight (children). She lost one that were twins. And my other two sisters had six and my brother had, his wife had four, three girls and one boy. Uncle Pete, no.
Well, I guess my biggest challenge in my life has been bringing up a family and trying to make ends meet and teach them right from wrong.
I don’t think so. We’ve had some good times and we’ve had some bad times, but I wouldn’t change my life. I’d probably go to, one thing I probably would go to school and graduate from high school, but too late for that.
Well (she hopes never to forget) the memories of my mother and father and the way we were brought up and my aunts and uncles that I know and some of my cousins. Plus, the memories of all the families, their weddings, and anniversaries. The memory of all of my own children. They are all married and have families of their own. So when I’m alone I sit down and I reminisce in my mind of all the things, you know, that went by.
Oh yes. We had a Jacques family reunion the first time they’ve ever had one. In August last year and it was real nice to see all the nieces and nephews and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Well, I don’t see that many grandchildren, and my own children they visit, but the grandchildren, they’ve all got lives of their own.
Well, I have a lot of things wrong with me but I’m still taking it one day at a time. I get a lot of nice compliments when I do go out, cause they think that because I have all these things wrong with me I should stay home and moan, but I don’t. If I have a chance to go out, I do. One thing I’ve never done is sit down and pity myself or get depressed. Well, I really don’t think too much about the future cause there’s nothing I can do about it anyway, so I take it one day at a time. No, I think that what I have experienced up until now I am satisfied with that. Well, I’d like to have them (people) say that I was a nice person. I don’t think that I’ve ever done anything to ever hurt anyone, on purpose. But some will say that I was ok and some will say that I wasn’t so¼ When I’m gone I won’t know the difference anyway.
Only that generation of today is different from my generation so it wouldn’t do any good for me to tell them what I think because, to them I am old-fashioned. Well, your life is been good because you’ve been to college and you’re still going to school to better yourself.
A what? No! I had one marriage, one husband, and that’s enough. For one thing, I’m too old and I’ve got too many things wrong with me. I don’t think anybody’d want me anyway. No. When my husband died, one of my brothers wanted me to sell the house and move in town. I’ve been here so long I’d be afraid to go in town. Furthermore, if I move in town and sell my house and then I’d pay rent, in no time at all I wouldn’t have any money. At least over here I can pay my taxes and my insurances and I’ve been here for so long that I can stay here alone and I’m not afraid. I know the neighborhood and I feel safe here. So I’m staying here.
Oh yes, I have a friend that we go out almost every Saturday, and if there is something special going on, between my daughters, they’ll take me out. Once a month, my sisters, my daughters, and one granddaughter, sometimes two, we go out once a month and have a meal at a restaurant and we go to one of the houses for cake and ice cream and we have a nice afternoon and that’s really a lot of fun. Sometimes were 20, sometimes, the last time there were only eight of us that could make it but we still enjoy it.
Well, when I was raising the children I didn’t do much going out. I didn’t drive. That was my fault nobody else’s, so I stayed home, but I never minded being home. I’ve never been what you call depressed or lonesome or figured that I was loosing out on something. I’ve only really been going out, well, I started going out before my husband passed away, on Saturdays with two of my friends. If there is anything special going on, I get there.
What we just talked about? Ok. What do you want me to tell him? Oh, my father died with acute gall bladder and my mother died of old age. Well, she had things wrong with her, but I think they just put it down as old. Didn’t specify anything, she never went to the hospital. She was 91 when she died. No, she had gone to the doctor’s. She had a hernia. Course Dr. Fureka is Catholic too and he wanted to put her in the hospital, so she went home and she prayed. She didn’t want to go to the hospital, cause my father died in the hospital and because he died in the hospital, to her if you go there, your going to die, so she made my brother promise never to put her in a hospital. So anyway, she went to Dr. Fureka and he said well you should go to the hospital and, you know, be operated on. Well, she said, I’ll go home and think it over. So when she went back, she said I’m not going to the, broken English, I’m not going to the hospital she said, I just sent $5 for a mass and I’ll be ok. So he, where he was Catholic, he didn’t say anymore. At her age anyway, she was too old. No, cause my brother came and asked me if, well, she was sick at home. She started being sick in September and she died in December, so she wasn’t sick that long. I mean, in between she was not feeling that good, but not sick to be in bed and she didn’t believe in going to the doctor’s too often either and she said that if things happened that she would have to go the hospital that he would bring her. Well, course we said of course even though she doesn’t want you to, if you have to, you have to, you know. But he didn’t have to, she died at home. My sister Josephine lived next door so she took care of her. Oh, she had a rough life my mother. But she’s like me, she took it one day at a time.
Oh well, when we were little we didn’t get anything for Christmas. My father, well my father, well my mother or my father, they would buy different kinds of candy and we’d all stand around their table like this in the dining room and we’d all stand around it. And my father would empty one bag of candy one by one, and including my mother’s share, until all the bags were empty and that was our Christmas. And we only had a, we had, well we all had god-mothers and god-fathers but the didn’t give us anything in those days. But I have a brother, who is dead now, that had a god-mother that for Christmas sent her brother over with a little motorcycle with a little man on it and you’d wind it up and put it on the table and it would roll around the table without falling and we all enjoyed it, cause it was the only thing in the house. But it didn’t bother us because we never, the first Christmas tree we had, I was 12 years old and I use to bring baskets to the mill and baby-sit and do house keeping for my next door neighbors, and my sister was working in the mill she wanted me to keep my money and give it to here. And that’s how come we had our first Christmas tree. That’s the only Christmas tree I remember we had. But in those days it didn’t bother us I guess. Oh yes, after we got married we always had a tree. We probably didn’t have too many gifts around it, but we always had a tree. I mean, they gave us what they could afford to give us. And maybe in Canada they don’t do what they do in the United States at the time, well now things are different everywhere.
Cause they both came from kind of hard families. My father was the oldest in his family, so he kind of took over, you know, helping, cause I think after they got married they moved in with his parents. And my mother was doing all the work, the cooking and everything and when my mother’s died, my mother’s father died when they were quite young, so their mother brought them up. So they had it rough. When my mother was old enough, when worked in the hotel in Monckton, New Brunswick, who was a cook and in those days they cooked with the real butter. And she was a good cook. So after she got married she cooked even after she moved to Maine, she always cooked with butter, nothing else. But she helped my father to bring up his family, well, they were kind of old enough, but they were living there so she kind of took care of all of them. Then they moved here. After they moved here I don’t know when, one uncle, there was two uncles that moved here but I don’t know when they moved here cause I was too young to really remember that.
But I guess in Canada they use to scare the kids and they probably didn’t understand that you don’t scare children. When we lived in Madrid, my father worked in the woods. I guess we were kind of active, my older sister, my brother, and I and my younger brother, don’t think he was able to do too much cause he was younger than I was, three years younger than me. We must have done something she didn’t like cause she told us that if we didn’t behave, cause the devil was going to come. Well, she had a, and we didn’t know that, we didn’t find that out until I was pretty old when I heard my father tell one of my uncles that use to come and visit, cause he worked on construction all over. So when ever he would come to visit they would reminisce. They didn’t know that I was around listening. And anyway, my father was telling my uncle about the time when my mother had made arrangements with one of my aunts, which they lived in where we did, in the same house we did, to come and scare us so my aunt dressed up so bad that when she knocked at the door, we didn’t even see her it scared my mother so much, she shut the door so we didn’t see here. But we didn’t know what was going on anyway. But I found out that they were scaring us, I figure whenever I wouldn’t be afraid, so I never let anyone scare my children when they were¼ Cause Halloween one year, my sisters came and they were still young and Pauline was afraid anyway. She was upstairs in bed covered and they wanted to go up and I said no. I said nobody is scaring any children in this house. But I don’t think my parents really did it the wrong way, cause now I can imagine now that I’m married and had a lot of kids and going through all that, when my father was working in the woods and she was all alone to bring us up, it must it must have been hard for her too. Day in and day out, you know. But that ‘s life.
No, we didn’t (dress up for Halloween). We didn’t go out trick or treating either. No, they only started, my children only started trick or treating after we moved here anyway. They were too little to begin with, but when they got older. And with the neighbors, they’d get a bunch of kids together and go around the block. No, they had eight children, my father worked in the mill, but the wages weren’t that good in those years and of course the food wasn’t expensive either, but just the same bringing up eight children, it was rough. But they did the best they could. I never begrudged and when I got married, I never did to my children to my children what I didn’t have when I was brought up, because I didn’t have I didn’t think that my children should this that or the other. I brought my children up with whatever we had, cause we didn’t have that much to start in with either. Cause a lot of people they, well I have a sister that because she, by the time my father died, my mother still had two at home. And, cause they probably had it as bad as we did, the older ones, because in those days the Social Security wasn’t very much. My mother use to take in laundry to be able to make ends meet. And when she got married, what she didn’t get when she was a child, she over-did with her kids, but I didn’t do that. I thought my parents had done the best they could and I feel I did the best I could with my children. And to this day there isn’t one of them that begrudged the way they were brought up. They said we was in the neighborhood and we were all poor together and all the kids enjoyed one another. This house here was always full of kids, cause each one had a friend or two. I’d set the table for my family and always had one or two extras. That was the days you took one day at a time. You didn’t sit down and complain. Lots of people ask me how do you do it, well I said, when I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning I don’t sit down and pity myself, I start doing my house¼ Breakfast for one thing, then I get them ready for school or whatever. But we were very fortunate just the same.
Whatever we had we were, then my oldest brother went to work and he helped. And my oldest sister, who worked in the mill, she helped. That was still rough. Now, all of my mother’s side of the family, there is two of them we don’t know whether they’re alive or not because after she moved to Maine, there’s one of them, one brother his name was Fred, that came to live with us for a while. And he left and he never got in touch with her again. And she thought he lived in California and she had a friend that came to visit her often, a lady friend, and her son lived in California. So my mother said to her, have your son look for my brother. So this lady that my mother was asking her that said, do you realize, Mrs. Gallant, she said California isn’t Chisholm, she said, I don’t think he could find him. And then another one, well that one there, she never heard from him so I don’t know, but the rest of them that we knew about they’re all gone. Her last sister died last year and on my father’s side they’re all gone. And a lot of the cousins we don’t know anyway cause some of them stayed in Canada. And we have some cousins that live in Lewiston, but my sisters know them well, but I don’t cause I don’t you know get¼ One of them I know because when my father was in the hospital, my mother stayed with them. So we got to know her, and there’s another one, but the other one, I don’t know her at all. They, they had it rough.
They lived in Canton when they first moved here, then from Canton, the first house they moved into, I don’t know for sure. They must have moved on Dubord Street, because that is where I was born. Cause my oldest, my oldest brother was born in Canton and I’m after him, three years difference. The rest of them, well, some were born in the house on Main Street but I remember four houses that we lived in to. And then they bought that house on Main Street and we stayed there. And we had an aunt on my mother’s side of the family that lived in Bristol, Connecticut and they owned a cabin and a diner, I imagine. And when they would close in November, they would come to visit my mother before they would move, or go back to wherever their home was, cause they would close the place up. And they’d always come up with a turkey and they’d have Thanksgiving with us. They never had any children.
We still had a lot of fun. One time I had this, well she’s dead now, a girlfriend that lived across the street from where I lived. My mother had a, well, we called it a fur coat but really it was a seal coat, and her name was Rena and she wanted me to borrow the coat. The way my mother’s house was made, there was a back door and a front door and as you opened the front door you could climb the stairs. So I went up and got the coat and we went to the dance. Which it wasn’t a very nice thing to do. And I never told my kids I did that, cause you don’t tell your kids the bad things you do. But Rena told her daughters because she thought it was a big deal, so when they came, somebody had died in town and they come for that, of course that was the first thing they said. So, of course my children are older anyway, so they found out about that. Then we realize what if that coat had been stolen, but it was too last to worry about it. Now we are too old anyway. No, that wasn’t a very nice thing to do. I think if my mother would have known that she would probably would have killed me. Rena thought it was a big, big deal. Her, she didn’t mind telling, cause I’m the one that took the coat and she’s the one that wore it. Now she’s gone. Mostly all the friends I had that we went out together with are all gone. Oh, we all had a good time together though. And the places we use to go then are no more. There use to be a Jack-o-Lantern up in Farmington, oh maybe West Farmington. I don’t think the building is there anymore. Then they had a Town Hall, I think they called it in Wilton, as you come in to Wilton on the left, and that’s gone. Something else is there. But that was a long time ago. Cause I would have been married 69 years, so that was when I was single.
No, no (they didn’t give their parents gifts). They didn’t have, well in school that I remember, we didn’t make things in school like later on as children started making things in school bringing it home. There was some families that lived different than we did. They probably had more money than my father had and, you know, they did things different. Cause I know my friend Rena, that lived across the street, her father was a contractor and of course when you have daddy and he was making money. They weren’t extravagant, but they had more than we did, but that didn’t make any difference to us, you know. As we got older, like Rena and I, we exchanged gifts at Christmas, but that was about it.
And for Grampie Jacques’ side of the family, once I got married into the family, his mother depended on me for everything. We lived with them a while and I took over housecleaning cause she was always sickly. And then we were the first ones to move here and we moved here in September and in November, one of their sons moved up above here in November. And the following March, one of my brothers-in-law bought a farm, oh maybe a mile from here, and moved his mother and father in there and called it their home, but he’s the one that really owned it. Then she called me if she needed me to go up there and take care of her or if there was washing floors or washing windows or whatever. And when she was real sick, dying, she was sitting in a chair she couldn’t stay in the bed. And they called me up and wanted me to go¼ Your grandfather was working, was working in the mill and Uncle Bill was working the same shift and so I went. I don’t remember if it was before supper or after supper but, anyway I went over and stayed with her, and she had a sister with her. And she was sitting in that chair, so she said go lay down, so I went and laid down on the bed. In the other room, I could see her on the chair so I keep getting up and seeing how she was. So when I got up, she was still alive and her sister said take her teeth out of her mouth. So, you know she won’t swallow them, choke, or whatever. Well, I was kind of spleeny cause I was pregnant for your mother at the time. And I took her teeth out and maybe five to ten minutes later she passed away. About six ‘clock in the morning, so I had called to tell your grandfather and Uncle Bill that their mother had passed away. She said, put her teeth back in her mouth, well, I said, you put them in. I took them out but I’m going to put them back in. I’m laughing now but I wasn’t laughing that day. So then her daughter was living in New York, so I called and they came. But once I was in the family, it was me writing letters for her or then when I couldn’t do it Pauline would go and wash floors or whatever.
Then after she died, Bernard went to stay with his grandfather for a while, cause they still had animals, not that many but. And then they brought Grampie Jacques to, would be your great-grandfather for you, to New York with them, then they came, came back and moved on his farm and went into the egg business. Then after the egg business then opened up a cleaning business. That would be my sister-in-law and her husband. So on Grampie Jacques’ side of the family everybody is gone. We had a family reunion last August. That was the first one we ever had in the Jacques family, so some of the nieces and nephews had their daughters and sons that we hadn’t seen, so it was a nice affair.
We still had a happy life. When I was living with my mother and father and after I got married. It was rough at time but I always asked God to give me the strength to pull through to take care of the rest of the family when anything happened. That’s why I’m still here, half here I guess. Something else you want to know?
Yeah, she was in the hospital when we had the fire here. They don’t know for sure what happened. They think that somebody might have gone by a salesman, probably threw his cigarette out, but they don’t know for sure. We had a cow that was in the field in front to the house tied up. The flames were all around. Of course your grandfather was working and the kids were in school and finally, I don’t remember if it was my oldest son or if it was my husband, anyway, they brought the cow out of there and brought it out back here. And the people across the street were hosing the house down because the fire was heading for them. It was an old wooden house like mine is. And the fire, ball of fire went right over the house, went in to the campgrounds. And all the buildings in the campground were all wood, so that all burned. And then it crossed the brook and there was a house across the brook, and that burned and it went up further, but that was the only house on that side that burned. And that was something. Mr. Randall, next door had all his furniture in the truck outside of his door. I don’t know what good it did, but we took our furniture and put it on the end of the garden and we went up to my mother’s. We didn’t stay here, I mean I was here, here but some of the youngest kids were in town. And a lot of people came around, you know, trying to help, but it had to burn itself. It was scary. That was in ’48, I think, the fire, cause your mother was born ’47. That’s when she was in the hospital. And when of the younger ones came in and they said, cause we had a drawer of all her baby clothes, make sure you save the baby clothes for her when she comes home. Oh since I’m here, I’ve seen quite a few fires. One year, one of my sisters was here, Aunt Marie and we had a pantry in those days and she looked out, well there was a sink in there. I don’t remember which one she had, one of the younger ones and there was a camp-like building across the street that was burning. The woman’s husband was the mailman and she had gone out to get the mail and it was winter-time, and she had some clothes next to the stove. Course the clothes caught fire. In no time at all that building was gone. And then across the street was a big building and that was a wooden building and they had something at school and one of my neighbors had given me a ride cause some of her kids and my kids were in whatever they called it that they had. When we rolled in the driveway, well before she, she drove in the driveway to leave me out, there was a man coming across the field hollering “there’s a fire”. So I came in the house and called the fire department and then I went out to see. Well the fire was on the back side and cause I was going around saying Jesus Mary and Joseph. And Felix, my youngest said what is she going around the house doing that for. I said, well I’m praying. I said even though it was a brand new house, that’s all they had to live in, I felt bad. Because I looked and Val Nichols was coming out of the, the door with another man and they were coming out with TV and the flames were right behind them. Then a few years later another old building which was nice one, Mary Moulton’s mother and father’s house, well they had sold it cause they had moved away. And they were working in the garage with cars and it was a windy, windy day and something exploded and that house burned. So I don’t care for fires.
So, the original ones that were here when I moved here were Val Nichols, in this neighborhood here and Erla married a Nichols and the rest of them were all new people. Mrs. Randall was French and when we first, the first day we moved here, I was sitting on the steps cause in those days they were working six hour shifts, so he had gone in to work at one and he was going to come out at six . I don’t remember who brought me were, but I was here with, well I had told you before six kids, but it was seven and I was pregnant for one besides, so I was siting on the steps waiting for him to come home. I was kind of lost cause I was born and brought up in Chisholm and to move on a farm and Mrs. Randall came over with a lamp. We didn’t even have a lamp. And you know said, well I knew who she was, and she knew who I was but we weren’t friends before I moved here. So every time now and then she would say, I’ll never forget the day you moved in, you sitting on the step with all the kids around you, so we’ve been friends from that day on until she passed away. Well, we use to go next to the, she didn’t have the fence in those days. And we’d talk and when you’re French, I don’t know why, you mix your French and English. And sometimes we’d talk French, but we’d put English in, and the grandmother across the street said that we were talking about them, but I don’t even know them so I wasn’t talking about them. And I decided well I better get my kids to learn the English, because when you move in the neighborhood, you don’t want any trouble, you want to be friends with. So that’s why today my kids don’t know French.
One time I have a son Bernard, he was very, very active, still is. And I don’t know what he did to her or what he didn’t do it to her, or what he did outdoors, she called him a, she used a swear word, a lily-pad jumper. He come in the house crying. They use to call her Grammie Nichols. He said Grammie Nichols called me, and he used the swear word she had used, lily-pad jumper. Well, I started to laugh and I said I didn’t know we had such a nice name. Oh, he said, that’s funny? And I said yes, well, that stayed that way. I could have gotten mad. And you know caused trouble, to me I though the, I don’t know what he did, but he must have done something for her to call him that.
So at the beginning it was hard because you know, you’re in where you’ve been born and brought up with the French all the time. Then you move in where they’re all English speaking people and you’re French, and Catholic and in those days there’s suppose to friction between Catholic and the Protestants. And I didn’t, I figured we bought the house, we have to have peace, but whenever they made any, in those days they had a lot of Stanley parties, I went to all. If somebody died, I went, if somebody got married and I was invited, I went. If there was a donation going around, years ago, they don’t do that anymore, but years ago, if anybody in the neighborhood died, they’d go around and collect. All they collected in those days was 25 cents. And got a bouquet of flowers for whoever had died and they kept it up. Until maybe 15 years ago. 15 years ago they stopped. The ones that used to go around weren’t around anymore and the younger ones didn’t bother to. Once in a while, they might put a box in the store, or something around here, but there isn’t really that much around here. But I got along with everybody around here. I never had any problems with any of them. Once in a while, there was a lady there that her grandson lived with her. He was involved with our kids, every now and then she’d come knocking on Mrs. Randall’s door that the kids had done something, then she’d come here, and tell me the same thing and I’d say well were going to punish them. Cause she had, in a way she had no business with the campground and the kids didn’t go in the campground anyway cause in those days they had a fence. I mean they could have gone in over the fence or whatever, but her grandson was involved with ours, but that was ok. So then when I’d see her go over to Irene’s, I knew she would come over here. I guess she was trying to protect the campground.
Well, it was a religious campground when we moved in my goodness, there were cars lined up on all the roads. Course when we moved here the roads were all dirt. Now its changed, the church part is now called Church of Good News. And they, well these people didn’t rebuild, but somebody else rebuilt everything. They built the big church and one day, the principal was Mr. Mann and he happened to be around here with his vehicle and I was coming home from visiting a friend Mary that lived in Fayette, just across the bridge. And he wanted to know who had built the church and I said, the ones that own the land built the church. He wasn’t too happy that they had that big church and they didn’t put money toward the schools. And I said this here is nothing to do with the schools or anything. This is private. It’s got nothing to do with that. And with them, they didn’t have the, I don’t remember now if they had children that boarded there at the time. They had a lot of cabins and the people owned them. They came from Wilton, they came from everywheres. And to them it was a summer home, but they were here all summer, the ones that could. But they only had this campground meetings for a couple weeks in September and these people that are here now, they claim they do things the year round. We were invited over last fall for a, you know everybody that went brought something to eat, pot-luck I guess they call it. And they built a brand new dinning room and the kitchen and they’ve got some offices in there and these people here, they teach, so they, whoever comes for teaching, they have to pay because they board them for a week or two whatever. And then when they’ve gone through that course, they can help someone else to do the same thing. No, in the first campground, people had an old fashion one, my children use to go with some of their children over there to meetings or whatever, you know we got along. But as life goes on it changes.
Some trouble they got in to, I wouldn’t dare to mention. I only found that out when they were all old. I don’t know if it’s right to say it. We had a barn, these kids know cause their the ones who did it. To them it’s a big joke cause they ‘re all here to talk about it, but they only said it when they were, now that they are out of the house and married and got their own families. Well, we, we live on a farm and we had a barn, full of hay, and of course they had tunnels in the hay and they go in the tunnels which mostly all the farms had tunnels and the kids all did that. The only thing is one of them hollered help and the one in the middle, there was three of them in there, the middle one lit a match. And then the one behind the one with the match put it out right off. So nothing happened. Course they never said a word. Well, when, we have a son that lives in Florida and when he comes home, they sit around the table and reminisce the things they did when they were young and that came out. Well I was sick, really, to think the barn would have burned down. My father was still alive he would have said combustion.
And I, well that wasn’t smoking though, but I guess they were hiding to smoke too cause they had a cabin down below the, there’s a brook way down below the land here, the garden, and they had built an old, just a one room thing I guess, and it was in the winter time, and we had gone, Grampie and I had gone to Rumford. His brother’s friend had had a baby and we were god-parents so we had gone up there and when we come home, that old building had burned. Well, we couldn’t figure out how come that building was burning. Well many years find out they were smoking down there. Then later they didn’t smoke. Well, Roger never smoked, Felix never smoked. But they weren’t alone, they had the neighbor’s kids with them. Well, they did a lot of scary things, but you didn’t know that at the time. You thought you were bringing up angels, but we found out different. But they didn’t do anything to be mean to people. Because if anybody needed help, they’d help, without getting paid. Course there came a time that if you work for somebody, you expect to get paid, you know. But I sent your mother and somebody else to go baby-sit without getting paid. They didn’t like me too much at the time for doing that but. Well, Roger was staying, he was talking with your mother, saying about a place where they were smoking or trying to smoke or whatever and the place started to burn but it didn’t really burn. Part of it did, but not all of it. But they all got out of there, so nobody knew what had happened. Now we find out. Too late to do anything about it. They are all married, some of them have got grandchildren. Now they think its funny, but if they’d see their kids do that they’d have 50 kids¼50 kittens. So they wonder why, when we bring up our kids, how we bring them up, its because you don’t want them to do the same things you did. They know that now.
They all helped when it was haying time. Course they had a big, what they call a hay rack. And when they’d get done that, they had a couple places around here were they could go swimming. And they’d pile in all the neighborhood kids whose parents’ gave them permission and your grandfather would drive the tractor with that behind with the kids in it and bring them swimming after they got done, you know. They claim they had a good time even though we didn’t have much. Cause Aunt Pauline’s got a friend that use to live in this neighborhood and she said when they get together they reminisce the things they use to do. Down below the brook there, they’d go in there swimming, not all of them, but¼. Then her friend would stay and one Easter her mother had bought her some brand new shoes. They had gone down there to walk on the rocks and of course they slipped with the brand new shoes. She hated to go home cause her mother would scold her. Because in those days, you know, if you bought a pair of patent leather shoes, that was something. But they have a good time talking about it.
They use to hang May baskets. That isn’t being done anymore. And when we were little they never had May baskets. Life changes. Today with the TV and computers and everything, children are much smarter earlier then¼
Give my kids? Well, my mother couldn’t afford to give gifts. Oh, my children, mostly it was clothes. You know when they were younger. The biggest Christmas we had too, was the year Norman was in the mill and he bought a lot of¼ He still does it now but¼ We weren’t for buying, you know. We gave them what they really needed, but as far as¼. I gave more to, I’ve given more to my grandchildren then I did to my own, but as time goes on you get a little bit more. Cause when my oldest one graduated from high school, all he got was $5 and to him that was a big deal. The way there were brought up, you ask your mother, well, your mother and Felix. I don’t remember what they got, but Aunt Pauline said, Ma when you, cause she was one of the oldest ones too, she said, you gave us what you could give us. She said, don’t deprive the young ones because you couldn’t do for us. So maybe Felix and Celina, your mother, and maybe Ann and Theresa, might have gotten a little bit more than the older ones got, but nobody was, the older ones didn’t begrudge what the little ones got. But I don’t remember, with a lot of things I’ve gone through, a lot of the things I don’t remember. And this week where I haven’t been feeling good any way I think my mind’s going with it.
But with the girls it was different. With the prom, you have to buy them a dress. And the boys, well you give them a suit. And then if the girls got married, well, we paid for the wedding and the boys, well, we gave them money instead. Well, I think I did the best I could do and that all anybody can do.
Spending this time with Grammie was enjoyable to me. I see her every week, but this was the first time in a long time that I spent just chatting over a cup of coffee. Some of these stories I had heard before, but many were brand new to me.
I’m not sure if the way she was raised by her parents was influenced more by being French-Canadian, or just the spirit of the times in rural Maine. I do see a recurrent theme between how Grammie was raised, how she raised her children, and how I was raised. She continues to live one day at a time, treats people honest, tries to help others, and treats her neighbors with respect. Family ties are important to her and the source of her greatest joys and sorrow and so it is for Mom and me.
Times change and I was raised in a more financially stable home. I cannot begin to truly understand how life was for her, but I believe it made her a stronger and better person, able to appreciate the rewards of hard work. She can be proud of the life she has led.
I’m glad we had this assignment, not just for the extra chance to visit with Grammie, but for the insight into myself. I’ve always known that I act a lot like my dad, but in rereading this interview I’ve learned that emotionally I strongly resemble Grammie and my mom. I feel good about that.
As an interesting endnote, after listening to Grammie talk about the fire of 1947 (she was mistaken when she said ’48) and talking with my mother about it, I read the book “Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned” by Joyce Butler. It was about all the fires in Maine the third week in October, 1947 after one of the worst droughts in Maine’s history. It mentioned towns like Waterboro, Biddeford, and Bar Harbor as well as East Livermore. The information for the book was gathered from newspaper accounts and letters from residents of those towns affected. Mrs. Irene Randall, Grammie’s neighbor and best friend had her account included in the book, talking about the campgrounds burning. I found it a very powerful book and was glad to learn more about Grammie’s experiences in it.