DORIS BACHELLER: MY LIFE STORY
As Told To Rebecca Marlow
Doris Elizabeth Varnam Bacheller is a very proud and very private seventy nine year old woman who lives alone on the family farm in Limington, Maine. She is the eldest of the six children of George and Julia Smith Varnam. Four of her five siblings, Elsie, Leonard, Thellie, and Bud, are still alive today. Her sister, Esther, passed away about seven years ago.
Doris was a home economics teacher at Thornton Academy in Saco for thirty seven years and taught for three years prior to that at the Burns School in Saco. She and her husband, Chet Bacheller, operated a poultry farm in Limington for many, many years. Chet died in 1977. They had no children of their own.
Since her retirement from teaching in 1974, Doris has been an active member of her community. She has served on the boards of the local library, the local clinic and the locemeterytary association to name a few.
In the last four years, Doris has had recurring problems with cancer. She has been undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments for over a year. Recently, she was hospitalized again for an obstruction and has begun more intensive chemotherapy treatments.
Doris lives alone in the 1820 farmhouse with her two cats. She has until this year maintained the grounds and buildings with minimal assistance. Every year she has planted a large flower garden beside the chicken house and has plans to do so again this year in spite of her illness.
I have known Doris (Aunt Dot, to me) all of my life. Her brother, Leonard is my father. Until her first cancer surgery four years ago, I would have said her appearance had not changed at all. She still wears her hair the same way she did forty years ago and she hadn’t seemed to age. Unfortunately, the treatment for her cancer has taken its toll on her physically.
I was born in Greenville, Maine on April 12, l911. I don’t know how long we lived there, but I don’t think it was very long. Then we moved to Billerica, Mass. just before World War I. After that we moved to Franklin, Mass. and lived in my grandmother’s house and then we moved to West Upton, Mass. and then to Hopedale, Mass. All of this happened in the space of about six or seven years. My mother was one of those people who always thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. No matter where she was, there was always another place she wanted to go. That was the reason we hopped and hopped and hopped. And I guess when we got down here we were so poor, we couldn’t hop out, so we had to stay. She went back to Massachusetts several times to work after we came here, but I guess she never succeeded in getting us all together so she could got back to stay.
Elsie was born in Greenville, so me must have been there three years at least. Esther was born in Franklin, and Len in Hopedale. Thellie and Bud were born here in Limington.
I remember Franklin vaguely. I remember turning on my first electric light there. I had this favorite little doll and she waporcelainin and I carried her everywhere. I was so excited when my father held me up to turn on the light that I raised both of my arms and dropped my doll on the floor and broke her. I was heartbroken. That was the beginning of electricity. It was just beginning to get into houses and it was just a long wire, covered of course, with light bulb on the end of it. That’s all.
The other thing I remember is the child’s chair in the living room. My father took me to a store one afternoon and I loved the little chair and I sat in it and I rocked and rocked and rocked. And when it came time to go home, I didn’t want to go. I screamed and I cried and my father finally pried me out of the chair and took me home. When I got home I cried and cried and around seven or eight o’clock, he couldn’t stand it anymore. My father took his dollar and a half , out of a ten dollar check probably, and went down and bought the little chair for me. He had to get the owner to go down and open the store and sell him the chair.
West Upton I remember as a very lovely old house with a brook going down through it. We had two geese named Josephine and Napoleon and one year at Thanksgiving my mother cooked one of them and none of us would eat dinner. Thanksgiving was kind of slim that year.
The other thing that I remember is that the house was surrounded by roses and a trumpet vine went up over the roof and looked in my window. I loved that house for that reason. And the school was right across the street so I could run back and forth all the time.
Then we moved to Hopedale and I loved it there. The schools were so good and I loved going to school. Those years were very pleasant ones.
Then we moved to Limington. Uncle Fremont was right out of the war and was one of those men who had been right in the trenches. Every time he heard a noise he’d scramble for cover. The doctor told him that he have to find a place that was quiet for a while. And, not knowing anything about the country, he came out and convinced my mother and father that they’d make a lot more money living on a farm where they could grow their own vegetables and have a cow and everything than they could out there where my father had a pretty good job. So mother decided we’d move and we come down here in September and Father didn’t come down until the following November. He’d missed his family and Thellie was born that January and Fremont and Mae’s baby was born in April and died. Neither my uncle nor my father had a job all winter and coming in the fall, we had no food supply from the previous year. It was really a catastrophe. But we survived and the next year it was a little better because we had a garden and all.
Dad got a job somewhere either on the road or at the pulp mill where he worked for a long time. We went to school up here at the little corner school and I hated it with a passion. There was no competition and only one boy in my fifth grade and he didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. Every time the class was over, the teacher would tell me to help Alton with his arithmetic. So I taught Alton and then I used to take a bunch of little kids up in the back of the room and teach them to read and the alphabet. I know she did it to keep me out of her hair because I must have been an awful pest to her. I hated every minute of it. There was a big stove in the middle of the room, outhouses, and in order to have something hot at noontime, we each contributed a penny I think. We had a cup of hot chocolate to go with our dinners which incidentally, were frozen if they were left in the coatroom. And a frozen sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate was what we had for lunch. I think I was there for two years and I did grades five, six, seven, and eight in that time. Then I went to the Academy and I was scared stiff because everyone was there before I was. They had a ninth grade which they took out so I skipped from eighth to tenth grade. I was younger than most of the others but I got through,thanks to a few good teachers.
I knew there was a Depression but the people I knew around here all had the same amount of things that I did except the Blakes. They were probably the only ones who made me realize we were poor. I don’t think they intended to. They were very good. They shared and did things like that but, they shared in a patronizing fashion and I didn’t like that. And now as I live around them, I realize I have more than they do because not one of them has had a happy life. There’s been tragedy in all of their lives.
So, as far as the Depression is concerned, I had aunts who sent me clothing that was too old for me but I didn’t know the difference. And if I did, I liked being grown up and wearing their clothes. And Mother sewed like she did everything else. It could be the last day of school and we’d want new dresses to wear to school and Mother would sit up all night long In the morning when we’d come down there would be two new dresses for us to wear to school. She never sewed with a pattern.
I remember my grandmother being a nagger. She nagged all the time and now I feel a little bit like her. She used to come down and she had all sorts of little sayings. If something needed to go upstairs, you didn’t go up with it. You put it on the stairs and when you went up~you took it with you. “Make your head save your heels”. Or another time we’d sit together night after night tacking quilts and she’d say “never let a day go by that you don’t do something that doesn’t have to be done over tomorrow. And when we washed dishes we had to rinse them, then we washed them and then we put scalding how water over them so they’d be “sweet and Clean”. Those are the things I remember. She came to stay with us often. We were glad to see her come but happier to see her go. After she’d been there three weeks we had all the little sayings down and we’d been told everything and made to do things that Mother never made us do. I think Gram was more organized than Mother was.
Mother loved to read and I remember coming home from school and finding my mother in the rocking chair, rocking back and forth, with either Bud or Thelma laying up over her shoulder, and the kitchen sink would be full of dirty dishes, and Mother would tell us to be quiet. She’d had an awful time getting the baby to sleep. All the time she was rocking, the baby’s head was bobbing up and down and Mother was having a wonderful time reading her book. We had very fussy babies and yet, when Stevie was here and Mother left, we made a real good baby out of him. He was a little brat before she left. I don’t remember my grandfather at all. I saw him only two or three times. Once he came here when I was quite small and I think I saw him once when I went to Greenville with Mother, but I don’t remember him very well. My grandmother came from Franklin and I’ve always wondered how she came to meet my grandfather in Greenville. I’ve asked Uncle Freemont and the only explanation I can come up with is that she went up to work in the sporting camps and he was a guide. I do know that she influenced him to go back to Massachusetts with her and they lived in Worcester for a while because that’s where my mother was born. Then they moved back to Greenville.
My father’s family was from Princeton, Maine. His parents died when he was quite young and I have a feeling he went to Greenville to work in the veneer mill and mother met him up there. That’s as near as I can come. When you’re young you don’t ask these questions and then~when it’s too late, you wish you had. I have a picture of my mother and father holding me when I was about three months old on the front porch of this rickety old house. My mother was twenty one when she got married and my father was in his mid=thirties. I think he was fourteen years older than she was.
When we moved here, mother went back to Massachusetts to work and Dad worked shifts. And the week he worked days, I had to do something to take care of Thellie, so I took her to school with me. While I was up front reciting, she’d stretch out across the bench and go to sleep. And when Father went to work at four o’clock, he would leave her at the Blake’s and I would pick her up when I came home from school~which was half past three or four o’clock. And I took care of her overnight. He’d be back at midnight and he’d take care of her in the daytime. And when he worked midnights, he’d be home at eight in the morning and I’d leave Thellie at the Blake’s and he’d pick her up at eight. Really the one week that he worked days was the time I had to take care of her and I took her to school. And, some days she would go to school with Len at the little school up here. Today, the Department of Human Services would be in and say we were all neglected. Actually we were all well cared for, probably better than many kids today. I loved Thellie to death. She was like my own child.
I decided long before I got through high school that I wanted to go on to college. When I was in high school, we had one teacher and she organized a 4 H group. Because there were no activities for young people out here, I joined that. I was quite fortunate. I got quite a few prizes in that and one included a trip to Bangor to the state convention. It was really fate because I didn’t have the money to go on the train. And, since I couldn’t go, I had the chance to babysit for this teacher. On the way to her house, we got stuck in this snowdrift and couldn’t make it to the house. Mr. Perkins up here in the village stopped and, he was always interested in young people, asked me why I wasn’t going to Orono. So, I told him I didn’t have the money and he reached into his pocket and handed me $10 and said,”You go home and you get packed to go to Orono.” I was so enthused with the set up and everything, and~of course, it was a recruitment sort of thing, too. But I was just so thrilled and I went to that convention for a couple of years and decided that was what I wanted to do. Well, there was no money to go, so I got a job. The first year I stayed home because that was the year Bud was born. I stayed home to help my mother. And the next year I got a job sort of babysitting, and general housework and everything in Scarborough. And, fortunately, both of them had graduated from the university and when I said I was interested in the university they kept reminding me and encouraging me. After a year of taking care of kids, I knew darned well that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I got my application in and went to the university. It took me two years between high school and there to get there. But those people were quite an influence and I had always wanted to teach. My mother used to say that the back porch in our little place in Hopedale, the minute school was closed in the summertime, was full of kids I’d recruited from the neighborhood to play school. I used to take the chairs out and line them up on the back porch and teach. The porch was always covered with little kids and chairs. So, it was something I’d always wanted to do. I didn’t have any desire to do anything else. And then of course, when I got through at Maine, I was offered two of the three openings in the state, the two that were in teaching. The one thing I really wanted to do was extension work~but I guess the Lord interfered because I didn’t get the job. And, I decided to take the job down here in Saco. That winter I had to have my appendix out and on the salaries you were getting in extension, you had to buy a car and be on the road all of the time. Since I didn’t drive and then had to have my appendix out, that would have been a total loss. But being in Saco and teaching junior high wasn’t too much. I got along very nicely on my salary of $900 and was able to pay my hospital bill. That was in 1934. Out of my $900 I paid my room, my meals, my hospital bill and part of my college loan. I think of it now because I remember my entire hospital bill being 1799. That included nine days in the hospital, surgery, anesthesia, and everything. Last winter when I was in the hospital, my bill for my room alone for one day was more than that. I think I paid $9 a day for my room in 1934 and that was quite a chunk out of my salary.
I had a superintendent that first year of teaching and he and I didn’t see eye to eye. I can’t tell you what ailed him, but everything had to be law and order. One day I had a kid in class who didn’t have any money to buy cloth for a project and the teacher in the next room to me came in. We both had study hours, and unfortunately I was sitting on the corner of the table instead of sitting stately in the chair like I was supposed to, and we were discussing how much each of us could afford to put into this kid’s project so she could have something to work with. He opened the door and saw me sitting like that, talking to her, and the next thing we knew a note came through the building that study hours were for preparation of work, not socializing. Every teacher in the building got it and wanted to know who got caught. Of course it was me, and after that I couldn’t do anything right in his eyes.
So after the third year, when I asked him for a raise and he assured me that I would not be getting any raises, I decided I’d better get out. I discovered that they had an opening at Thornton Academy and I decided to interview for that. In spite of his poor recommendation and everything, I got the job. Afterwards I asked Mr. Sanderson, our principal at Thornton, how he ever happened to hire me with the recommendation I got and he told me, “I’ll tell you one thing. You couldn’t get along with Mr. Hall and I couldn’t get along with Mr. Hall, so I thought maybe we’d get along together just fine.” I thought that was really cute and actually, I suppose if I hadn’t gone with him, I would have quit teaching. So I began teaching home ec.,Mr. Sanderson was new, young and energetic. He was cooperative, he let you use your own imagination and anything you wanted to do. If you succeeded, fine. If it was a failure, well, at least you tried. I was there a long time 37 years¬ and I couldn’t have been happier anywhere. When I went there, for example, I had nine students, six boys and three girls. That was all the registration and little by little they came in. I can’t remember what happened, but it grew and grew and grew until one year I had 185 students and the cafeteria and study hall¬
And then, from Augusta they came down and said they wouldn’t approve the department if I didn’t have help and that’s when Eleanor Watson came with me. Eleanor and I always had classes much too big, usually about twenty five students which is a lot for a home ec. class. The labs were set up for about sixteen. And that’s the way the enrollment went, up and up, and up. The kids didn’t have too much and they were very eager to learn and it was a joy until probably the last three years I taught. Then the drugs came in and kids didn’t have much ambition or they weren’t interested in clothing construction because all they wore were patched jeans. They weren’t too interested in foods because all they ate were junk foods anyway. The last year I taught was 1974. I have a thing about even numbers, so when I’d taught forty years I decided to quit.
I met Chet at the university when we were in school. We got married in 1940. We always thought we should have $1000 in the bank at least before we got married, but things didn’t go right. I earned $900, and he earned about $1400 and I had to have my appendix out that first year and pay off my college debts, and he had to have his appendix out and pay off his college debts, too. We never did get the $1000. We just decided to get married before old age caught up with us. Chet taught school at Greely Institute for one year and then he went with Swift and he went to Michigan for two or three years. That was about the time of WWII and then he came back and he worked for a company… I can’t remember the name of the company , but it was a grain company here in Maine. I was located in Rhode Island. When the war broke out, it was a case of, well, how do I say it. If you went in the service you were supposed to be guaranteed your job back. And if you had no dependents, your chances of being drafted were very good. SO when they began letting people go at the plant where Chet worked as a sales rep, they let the sinyle fellows go first. Those men had no dependents and the plant wouldn’t have to give them their jobs back. So Chet was out. So, about that time, we had put some hens in here to give the folks an income and he had nothing to do, so we came here and we put in a lot more hens and we. I don’t know how to say it… we, almost got trapped. We had so much money involved here that we couldn’t pull out and by this time the folks had become older and they were really getting dependent, as far as we were concerned. And if we thought of moving out, we knew they couldn’t handle what we would leave for them, so little by little b~ little we kept adding. Then one year Chet taught with me at Thornton. Durinwarthe wa~ years they were drafting teachers like crazy, and anyone on a farm was pretty much stuck there. My brother Leonard was down here on the dairy farm and he couldn’t go back to college. He was supposed to be there producing food and the only way he could get out of that was to join the service. He wanted to get that behind him so he could go on with his life and not be stuck down there. That was pretty much the way it was here. We managed with Dad’s help and Bud’s help to keep this going. Your father was here too and Chet taught math that year at Thornton.. Then one other year he taught down at W. Buxton, a half day or something like that. So he had teaching in three different places. Then we built.
The back of this place which is so beautiful now was just hayfields right up to the back door. We bought a henhouse up here at the next place and had it moved down here. We had quite a few hens there. The next thing we had to ~ was ~he shed which was dropping in. Then we had to do something about the water so we built the pump house. Then we built the brooder house which is now my garage and we raised baby chicks. Next we built half of the big hen house and had a hatchery out there. Later we built another section of it and as we got more money we built another section. And just before we built that last section, we built the big barn because we needed space. Len and Bud had cows out in the old barn and they were using that money for school so we couldn’t really get. rid of that. So we built a new barn and moved their cows out there and converted the old barn for chickens. Then of course they went off to college and the cows went and we had a beautiful barn sitting there with nothing in it. But that was the way this thing grew and when it grew to that extent you stayed.
Chet was working in Rhode Island in the grain company when we got married. Teachers of course weren’t supposed to be married. When I applied for my first job I was asked three questions. Do you smoke? Can you maintain discipline? Are you going to get married? I had my little old fraternity pin on so I pulled the coat up a little tighter around my neck and said the right answers. I got the job at Burns school in Saco. Then I went on to the Academy and brought my department up from ten students or so to over one hundred and everything was going nicely and the cafeteria was running smoothly and everything was great. The rumor got out that I was going to get married. I don’t know who started it. So the trustees had a meeting and I was called in afterwards. They said that if I wanted to get married and stay on in my job, I could. The only thing would be that if there was a chance that they had to lay off anybody, it would be the married person, not the single one. But I was the only one in my department anyway, so I didn’t have to worry. Unfortunately, when I got permission to get married, there were three others who got married too. And when it came to someone in the English Department, my friend Vena was the married one, so she was dropped. That was how it happened then and that went out of style because most teachers now are married. Apparently some of the trustees had heard the rumor and decided to act on it before it became a forced issue.
I lived through a church wedding with my sister, Elsie, with a long white gown, church and everything else and then I lived through my sister, Ethel’s wedding which was a home wedding. Her wedding dress didn’t come and I happened to have a white velvet dress which she wore as a wedding dress. The hubbub was just too much. So Chet and I decided to just go down to Maryland on the train and get married there by a minister. Then we came home and told the folks. I found a letter from my sister, Thellie, the other day It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. She wrote me about…well you’d have to read it to believe it. It was about running away like a couple of kids and getting married at our ages and so forth. She said she had been the one who had wanted to do that and now it had been spoiled for her. It’s in the pile of stuff with my will, my marriage license and everything. It was so cute I’d just kept it and happened to read it the other day. We just went down to Maryland, no fuss, no fanfare. I guess we had Saturday down there. Chet went down earlier and got the license and made all the arrangements and everything. I remember going out to eat afterwards which was rather amusing because we ordered smothered ribs and, honestly, it was the biggest pile of bones I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve never ordered ribs of any kind since. And then I ordered watermelon because I was very fond of that and I think I must have gotten a quarter of a watermelon. It was the biggest piece I ever saw. That’s the only meal I can ever remember eating I guess but it was such a funny one. We came back on the train. That was probably the last train ride I ever had. Chet stayed in Massachusetts and I stayed with him a few days and then I came home because I had to go back to work again. We lived apart a year or so before we moved in here. He took care of things here and I lived in Saco during the week and came home on weekends. He used to take me to Saco on Sunday nights and pick me up again on Friday evenings. I never learned to drive until he became very ill and couldn’t drive.
The car sat out here in the back yard because he couldn’t drive and I didn’t know how. I swore everytime I walked by it it would flap its fenders and say “you can’t drive me, can you?” So I had a couple of permits, but never did follow up on them. I didn’t really care about driving until I got really desparate. When I first started to stay home during the week it was because mother was here and she couldn’t see and then we had Chet’s mother and she had Ahlzheimer’s and so I stayed home. Chet used to drive me to Gorham and I met one of the other teachers there and went through to Saco with him. At night he’d bring me back to Gorham and Chet would pick me up. That was fine as long as Chet could drive that short distance. But when he couldn’t even make that, one year I pracically hitchhiked! I got up here in the morning and fed mother so she wouldn’t have an insulin reaction and then a man who worked in Gorham picked me up at quarter past six in the morning and took me to Gorham. I waited in a little restaurant there until about quarter past seven. Ralph came then and picked me up and I went to school. And at night, we’d leave school about four and I’d get into Gorham and sit in a booth at the drug store because the restaurant was closed and correct papers until this man came along about five and picked me up. Then I came home and got supper. It was a terribly long day. I’d be in bed by eight o’clock. I had been teaching for at least twenty years at this time. When I started back to school in the fall, there was a drivers ed mall right across the hall from me and I guess he could see how desperate things were getting. He told me to send and get my permit and he’d teach me to drive. And when my permit came in, we made arrangements. Of course all my students said to me not to let him teach me because he was really rough. But after school I drove with Paul for one hour every night. When he started coaching, he picked me up at quarter of eight when I came in and we’d drive for a half an hour. I had an awfully nice little senior girl who came in and babysat my homeroom for me. I did that until Christmas time when he told me to get my appointment for my driver’s test. I was petrified! So I came home at Christmas time and didn’t do much driving because there was no one to drive with me. I used to drive the car out to the mailbox, back it up, turn around and park it. Then I’d drive back out to the mailbox and do this over and over again. I took the driver’s test on the very last day of December. It was four degrees below zero and I was never so scared in my life. Paul met me at ten o’clock in the morning and we drove all over the driver’s trail and then at about noontime we had lunch and went over to tak,e the test. It was kind of funny because when the fellow came out to the car and got in, he stumbled over the dual pedals and wanted to know how come I had a vehicle equipped like that. He asked me if I needed to adjust anything and I said no. We took off down the street and when I went to make a right hand turn, my door flipped open. I had to stop the car to shut the door. Then we made the circle. I had to park the car over by City Theater in Biddeford and the snowbanks were three feet high. I was supposed to parrallel park and you know how it slants there. Well, I hacked the car up and of course I hit the snowbank. He was very good and told me to go back and try again. I got right up behing this car and the woman dashed out, got in her car and ran off and all I had to do was straighten my wheels and go in where she came out. So I got my license on the first try and I drove to Gorham and met Ralph for the rest of the winter. Then when the travelling got better, I went on my own to Saco. The first winter I drove I got into an accident. I was coming home one night and it was raining in Saco and it was freezing when I got out about eight miles. I came up over this hill where the freezing zone started and I began to switch. I got it all straightened up and thought I was all set when, Bingo, I hit a telephone pole. I wasn’t hurt but I did an awful lot of damage to the car. Somebody came along and loaded all of my groceries into his car and got me to a place where I could call the police. They got a wrecker and hauled it off and we had it fixed and I drove the rest of the winter. It was an experience! I really don’t enjoy driving. I used to say to Thellie that I prayed to learn to drive well enough so that I could get back and rorth to work. And she used to tell me that it was a shame I didn’t pray for a little more! I can get around and do the things I need to do, but as far as heading off for Massachusetts or someplace like that, I wouldn’t do it. I was over fifty before I learned to drive and even then it was much different than it is driving now. I don’t mind going to Biddeford because that where I learned to drive and it’s familiar territory, but as far as starting off with a map and trying to follow things, I would never get there.
My father died first in October of 196l and my mother died in l965. I had Chet’s mother here until l969. She came after Dad died. We got word that she was not good. We hadn’t known it because everytime we went to see her she seemed perfectly normal. Evidently she was doing peculiar things, so the neighbors called us. We went up and brought her baclc here. Then I had Mother and Chet’s mother here together and unfortunately, they didn’t get along well. Mother was, I imagine, very frustrated because she couldn’t see too well and she loved to do things and always wanted to be going places. Chet’s mother waspust the opposite. She was contented with anything and she had no desire to do anything except to be waited on. I used to try to get her to do things like knit for a clearinghouse or something like that and she’d tell me that she’d done all the knitting in her lifetime that she wanted to do. She would sit and rock. She rocked so much that she wore a hole right through the linoleum. They were like a couple of children. I’d come home and get dinner for them and sit them down at the table with Chet and me. Mother would talk about al1 the things she wanted to do and Chet’s mother would ask her what more she wanted than to be warm)fed)and have clean clothing. Mother would explode and get up and leave the table and go upstairs, They didn’t get along at all. I discovered Mother had a program she liked to watch,or rather listen to~and sometimes I think she got in a little spat with Chet’s mother so she could go up and watch her program. I couldn’t always get dinner ready on time, so after I made that discovery, I put dinner on a tray and took it up to her. I told her that I knew she liked to watch her program and thought I’d serve her dinner upstairs. That took care of some of it. They were exact opposites and at times it was enough to drive you out of your mind. Chet died in 1976. He’s been gone thirteen years this Christmas. We never had children. It was just something that happened. I don’t know if you could ever have brought up children here with all the people we had, and, actually, in order to keep the place going and take care of the folks;I had to work. And I don’t know if I could ever have had children and farmed them out to a babysitter. And if they’d ever been here and Mother or Chet mother had had to help take care of them, I’d hate to think what they would have been like. It would have been a catastrophe. And sometimes you feel like you’ve missed something, hut I’ve been blessed with a lot of neices and nephews. And I feel very close to most of them. I had a lot of students I feel as close to as I would have a child of my own. I hear from them all the time. I had letters last week from two in California. They will be coming next summer they said. So in that repect,I had many children and maybe I did more good with many children than I would have with one or two. Being the eldest child didn’t affect my childbearing. I don’t think I ever felt responsible for my brothers and sisters. I loved them and loved taking care of them. It wasn’t that.. It was just one of those freaks of nature. You learr. to accept things and I know now there are many couples who go through all sorts of things to have children. But time went on and on and on and then it was too late. After all I wasn’t too young when I got married. I was twenty eight or twenty nine when I got married so that didn’t give me too many years anyway. Chet was a little bit younger than I was. The last fifteen years that Chet was alive he was not well. He had… I don’t know how to explain it… I know more about it now than I did then, but it had the symptoms of a heart attack. He got to a stage where he was alright as long as he was here. He vever went anywhere. He used to love to go places. We went everywhere. We spent time in Nova Scotia we went to Canada, and everywhereand we had a wonderful time. Thanls God we did. And then he reached the stage where he couldn’t. I think it was the stress here with mother and Dad for one thing. It’s very difficult to live with a person who’s very disatisfied, and unhappy and Mother was.He would come down with these things and had these terrible pains. I think they know more about i~ now. I thinlc they call it an anxiety attack. I really think that’s what he had. He would try to drive~ and I used to play triclcs on him to get him to try. I remember one time telling him that if he could just back the car up in the driveway I could get out easier in the morningbecause the other driveway was so rutty and full of mud. I saw him try it. He went down and started to back in. All of the sudden he drove the car up to the mailbox and left. When he came inside, he couldn’t breathe and had terrific chest pains and was as white as a ghost. Perspiration was just running right off him. To me that was just the sign of a heart condition It would attacls at funny times. We had company from his mother’s side for Thanksgivillg one year. Everything was fine and just as nice as could be with no friction or anything. We sat down and he started to carve the turkey and he said, “I just can’t do it~Dot.” and got up and went into the livingroom with this chest pain again. It came at very unexpected times.for no reason at all For fifteen years we never went anywhere tog~ther because he could not leave the farm. The only time I remember going anywhere was going across the street to dinner one day. I didn’t think he was going to be able to stay there either. The young girl over there~who he was very fond ofjwanted to know if we’d come over for dinner. Her husband had been killed in the service and his body had been flown back here to be buried. Chet and I took care of her little girl and another child during the funeral. I had cooked dinner, turkey and rolls and things, and took them over. That night Darlene called and wanted to know if we wouldn’t come over and have supper with them. He was alright but I could see that he was fighting it all the time he was terrible. It was difficult for me because any place I went I had to go alone. When I retired, he wasn’t there and they had a big dinner for me. And, well, there were so many things that would have been fun.
It would have been fun to go out once in a while. I always had to have people come here. And, usually, if I had people here he was alright. As long as he was here in familiar surroundings he was in control. He didn’t feel good because this thing used to hit him at night, too. I’ve seen him sit on the edge of the bed for half an hour at a time and along with that was this awful gas pressure. I would rub his back to see if I could get the gas to move. Of course the next morning he’d ~e exhausted rrom not sleeping. They know a little bit more about it now. Tt is a strange thing and you wonder what triggers it. Apparently it stikes quickly. I always felt it was the stress here at the time. Dad wasn’t well and was in and out of the hospital several times and then we had Chet’s mother onrour hands,too. Between the three of them and the farm, it was almost too much to handle. And yet, after we got through with the hen and got the kids off our minds and I retired, I looked out one day and saw him going up the road with that big old truck we had. I thought “Oh my God!” He came in lokking jubulent and told me how he’d driven the truck up the road about a mile and back without any trouble at all. He thought he’d be able to drive again. That was not long hefore he died. I think that there was not the stress that there had been.
You remember when we used to come up to N.H. to see you there. He wouldn’t go after you moved to Maine. We had gone a lot of places, but after that it was very difficult. One thing I will say is that he never wanted me not to go just because he couldn’t. You see I went on those two fantastic trips with the General Mills awards because I had tllose two girls who were state winners. I went to Washington for a week with one and two years later I had another on who won and I went to Milwaukee and to Washington with both. He never said I don’t want you to go or anything. We hired someone to come in and stay with his mother when I went the last time. At night, almost every night, he would call and I think he was lonesome. He wanted someone to talk to. And he was always delighted when Cindy and Stevie used to come to spend the summer, well not summer, but a couple of weeks with us. Now that I think back over it I’m sure it was an anxiety attack.
I really always had quite a houseful all my life. One of the reasons why perhaps I didn’t miss having children was because there was always someone here. And Kathy, Heidi and Debbie came several years to visit. One time I had Heidi, Debbie and a friend here. Another time Heidi came alone and stayed with me. Debbie called me the other day and talked for three quarters of an hour which amused me because when Debbie was little she would have been quite an activist. She came down one year when they were wearing the suede jackets with all the fringes and such and she looked real cute in the morning. We were going to take them down to Gorham to visit a little friend they had down there and when she came down to go… why, you should have seen her. She had that jacket with all that fringe and shorts. She looked like the devil. I told her that it was alright. We would take her down and drop her off, but if she ran into us at the store, not the recognize us because we wouldn’t recognize her! So the next year Heidi came alone and Debbie told her mother that she wouldn’t come down because she and Aunt Dot didn’t see eye to eye.
Kathy went with us once to take Cindy and Stevie home to Massachusetts and I remember when she went out she had some great big earrings on that were mine. She wore those when we went out to eat and you could see people looking at her. She looked so cute. It was old stuff to Cindy and Stevie to be riding back so they just sort of curled up and slept, but Kathy sat in the back seat and her eyes were as big as half dollars. All the lights fascinated her. It was after dark when we got there and we stayed overnight and brought her back the next day. It was funny. She was here one summer when I had Cindy and Mary Patrick, too, and three is never a good number. I remember they would say to her,”You can’t do that, Kathy, because your a little girl and we’re in first grade.” Kathy had been down and helped me plant some flowers and the children were admiring them and Kathy said, ” I planted those for Aunt Dot.” She was so proud that she had something she could do that they couldn’t. It was really quite funny.
Well, I’ve gotten a great deal of pleasure from the children and I love seeing them when they come for family reunions.
Ed said that he might be over next summer. I’m so glad that he liked the desk. It was in perfect condition. You have a funny feeling when you part with something like that. All oF the sudden you realize that your days of accumulating are over now and you feel like a part of your life is gone with it. But it’s kind of nice to know it’s gone where it will he appreciated. A man wanted the desk I gave Ed and offered me $1500 for it and that was before I’d had it refinished. I preferred that it stay in the family if anyone wanted it.
I remember going to an FHA convention and speaking and one of the things the girls asked was if I thought teenagers now were worse than when I was a teenager. And it sort of amused me because I can think oF a lot of teenagers in my era who weren’t any better than the ones nowadays. And when I stop and think how many opportunities they have to get in trouble now that we didn’t have… Really, being a teenager around here was very easy. The field down here was open and they used
to have a baseball diamond down there. The boys used to go down there and play baseball and we used to go down and watch. You had no car to go anywhere so you had to walk if you went. And there was a little dance hall down here that we went to and there were ages five to seventy five there. All the parents went too,so you didn’t get into much trouble there,because if you did and your mother wasn’t there, somebody else’s mother took care of you. And the school activites were so few and far between, and well chaperoned. When I think of kids now and the way they can get in a car and the money they have and the distance they can go… They have too many opportunities for trouble. And there are more of them too. When I went to high school up here there were approximately thiry five kids in the building and eleven were in my grade. At Bonny Eagle down here now they have l400 1500 I think.
One of the reasons I went to college was peer pressure. When I was going to school at Limington Academy there were about seven of us girls and the girl next door here, from the Blake dynasty,was really very talented in music. There was another girl from the village who was also ta1ented and the two of them always had plenty of money and plenty of clothes and they were both going to the Conservatory of Music, and I got awfully sick of hearing about it. We must have determined to show them that we could do it, too.
The rest of us had no money. I was thinking about it a little while ago. There was one girl whose mother had died quite a long time before she went to high school and whose father was really a mental case. She went to school and trained to be a nurse. Another girl who was pregnant her senior year, had her baby and came back and graduated, which took courage in the ’20s, went to Gorham and taught. Another girl who was living with her aunt here in town because her mother had died and was really treated like a servant girl, went to Gorham and taught for many, many years. And there was one other who went to Gorham and taught. The two who were going to the Conservatory were married six months after graduation and never went anywhere. I was determined that I was going to show them up. Maybe that was selfish, but I determined I was going to do something to offset their Conservatory of Music. So many different things push us on the shcool, don’t they. When I was in school it seemed so very important to me that I wanted every one of the rest of my brothers and sisters to go. Elsie was not so inclined. She started in her nurses training and she quit and got married. I don’t thinlc Esther had any desire to go on to school and she got married and she never worked outside of the home. And Len was the next one along in line and by that time I was teaching and I could give him a little, but it was so little I don’t know how he ever, ever got through school. And Thellie, she went to business school and Bud, of course could go through college easily because I helped him, Len helped him and mother was working and she helped him. So he didn’t have the struggle the rest of us did. Bud didn’t go into the service until after he got out of college. He was younger and he was in the Korean War so he didn’t have any GI benefits. But I remember Len had to struggle just about like I did to get through.
Chet used to work on Plurem testing and worked nights and lived in the frat house as Len did. I think Chet was a little influence of Bud and Len because they both went to Maine and they both belonged to the same fraternity that Chet did. They were both in agriculture. Sometimes if you’ve got an example to follow that helps. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you’ve got a little push.
Elsie and I, probably because we were too near together and so completely different, didn’t get along. Even as adults. It seemed, I don’t know why, that one of the things that always bothered me more than anything else was that Elsie’s idea of a successful marriage was a child every now and then. And I was told many times that I was very selfish because I’d had no children. I got that quite often and I probably told her in no uncertain terms that it was none of her business. But that didn’t help|the situation any. It was a hurt for me and I thought it should have been dropped, but anyway, that was that.
And as far as Elsie was concerned, no matter what I did for the folks, it wasn’t right. It seemed like she could come up here and stir up trouble with mother and then I got the other end of it after Elsie would go home. That was Elsie. We were always in combat. We get along fine now. She lives in Washington and she writes me quite frequently. She is mixed up with her Jehovah’s Witnesses and I think maybe she was the middle child. I can remember her saying to me, “You got all the brains and Esther got all the beauty”. Esther was very pretty when she was young before she got so heavy. She was beautiful. And there seemed to be that jealousy there. One thing that gave Elsie great satisfaction was that she got married before either oF us did. That was an achievement and she had the first grandchild and that was an achievement. She felt she had sort of made up for what she lacked otherwise. I was looking at a picture of her the other day when she was about seven and she was really a cute little thing. She had big eyes and reddish blonde sort of curly hair and she was really cute. But, oh God, she could make life miserable for you.
Esther was always very quiet. I never thought of her as being awfully happy. I clon’t remember her ever beiny, you know, real smiley and real happy. Maybe she was in the years that I was gone from home, but she was so quiet that I never felt I really knew her.
I went away to work when I was seventeen and she was twelve. And then I went to college and she got married and I got married and I worked. I felt I got to know Esther better arter Chet died because there was a couple up here in the north part of town when we first moved here and they had lost a child. They wanted to adopt Esther, knowing how destitute we were. And she used to spend a lot of time up there with them. When he died a few years ago, Esther came down for the funeral and she decided she’d stay the weekend with me and we had a wonderful time. I took her a lot of places she hadn’t been for years and years. We were here alone and we had a chance to talk and I think for the first time I really knew her. Now that was about ten years ago. After that I picked her up in Lewiston and we went to MOosehead for the weekend too. And in those times I got to know her quite well. She was very calm and very sweet, but I still don’t remember her ever being smiley and gay, or truly relaxed and happy. She always seemed a little bit uptight and tense.
And of course, Leonard. He was just such a nice brother. I don’t think we ever had any arguments. I remember one time disciplining him and I always felt so badly afterwards that I had done it. I don’t remember what he had done or what he and Thellie did actually, but I was the authority so I told them. It was the 4th
of July and they were going to have fireworks down next door and of course he wanted to go so badly. I told them they couldn’t go hecause they’d misbehaved. Deep down I was going to let them go at the last minute. But,oh, how they suffered, thinking I was going to make them stay home. About the time the first firecracker went off~I let them go down. He probably doesn’t remember it but afterward I felt so guilty about doing it to them. We never had any problems and I remember coming home from school and he was working at the dairy during the war. We had hens and we didn’t have any egg room at the time and the eggs were all packed in that back room. Mother was in the hospital for some ailment, and I was coming home on Friday night and this place was the wildest place you’ve ever seen. There were eggs everywhere. There were milk pans and milk pails everywhere. They had taken the milk down to the dairy and of course Len was
getting up at 4:00a.m. to go to the milk room and getting back late at night. Dad was here alone and I remember Chet and me sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor packing eggs all evening. The next day it seemed to me that I spent the whole day cleaning up milk pails. That was part of growing up. Thellie and I have always been very close. She’s almost seemed like a daughter to me. You see,
Thellie is quite a bit younger than I am. Eleanor Blake down here had a little sister about the same age as Thellie)and Eleanor and I took care of those ~.wo kids. We wheeled them all around. Our mothers let us really be in charge. We brou~ht them up, we ~ed them and everything else. I felt quite close to her. Then the winter my mother went back to Massachusetts to worklThellie was my charge.
And of course, there’s Bud. It’s been quite different with him because he was born in January and I think it was the next year in August that I went to Scarborough to stay. And when I went to school, you didn’t come home every weekend like kids do today. I came home at Christmas and in June. In June I might stay home a week and then I’d take off to the islands to get some money to go back the next year. So, I’ve never really known him like I’ve known the others.
So, that’s it with my family. I feel fortunate in some respects, though, because there has never been any real friction between us. At least not that I’m aware of and I don’t remember any jealousy or anything. And I think in most instances there has been an effort to help each other when we’ve been in trouble. I don’t know what I would have done this past year if I hadn’t had all the help from my family. I lcnow so many families that don’t ever qet toqether for reunions or holidays. That’s one of the things I hope doesn’t happen when I’m gone. And I hope there won’t be any arguments about the things I have and who gets what and where they go. I’ve catalogued a lot but there’s a lot here that I couldn’t begin to catalogue it all.
Chet has been gone thiteen years this Christmas. It’s funny because you know I’d think I’d never get through five years and now I look back and I think, God, it’s been thirteen years. Of course one thing that has helped me is that during those years that Chet wasn’t feeling well, I became quite independent. I had learned to handle money and I had learned to take care of myself and I had learned about the buildings and all the things that had to be done. I knew about insurances and all of that and it made it easier for me. It was the being alone that was tough. Thank God I like to do things and I can truthfully say that I never get bored and I never get lonesome anymore. I don’t think I have a chance to get lonesome anyway because the telephone rings constantly and there’s always somebody here. But then I have done a lot of things in the community too, and that keeps me from getting really down.
I think that perhaps Chet and I would have been better off when my folks were young, when we first got married, if we had been somewhere else. Mother was not an easy person to live with. She never gave you a moment’s privacy and you really need it. If we sat down in the evening after I’d been gone all day, she was lonesome and down she~d come. And weekends she expected part of my time to be devoted to her. And I think perhaps it would have… I won’t say we didn’t have a good marriage, we did have. But we neededmore time to ourselves before we got all this other responsibilitiy. Mother was never happy. She was always dicontented. Whenever she was here she wanted to be in Massachusetts. She’d be in Massachusetts and tell them how wonderful it was here and that she couldn’t wait to come home. And by the time she’d been here twenty four hours, she wanted to trot off somewhere else. And you know that’s pretty difficult to live with. No matter what you did for her, there was always something more she wanted. She wasn’t happy unless she was going. I think it was pretty typical of her. She’d be up at Moosehead Lake and spend some time, The night she’d gotten the call to go, she’d been really down. She couldn’t do this and she couldn’t do that and when George called and asked if Mother would like to go to Moosehead with him, she said “Yes, oh, yes!” and they went. And she got back from there and she went to visit Len and Louise and
from there she went to Bud’s. And she had made arrangements or was trying to make arrangements to get Bud when she got through at his house to take her to Massachusetts to see Thellie when she died.
Dad was the opposite. He was calm and contented, no matter where he was or what he was doing. All he asked for were a newspaper and a radio and his garden and he was perfectly happy. Len is very much like our father, very,very much. And I think sometimes how quiet he gets when Louise gets going. That’s exactly what our father used to do. Mother could tear around and get all upset about things and he’d just pick up his newspaper and go off and read.
I always wanted to teach, even before I ever went to school. When I was just a little bit of a kid, I always had some other kid I was trying to teach something to. It was just something I wanted to do that’s all. I seemed to pick the teachers in school who weren’t very popular and I admired a Mr. Han very much. He was a strict disciplinarian. I hadn’t seen them for years and years and then one day his wife’s picture was in the paper and I wrote to them. I got a call shortly after asking if I would be home. They came out to see us. That was only a few years before Chet died. They came out and spent the evening and it was wonderful. It turned out that Chet knew
almost as many people as Mr. Han knew. And then his wife died. I went into town a couple of times. I went in once when she was a1ive and I went twice after that and saw him. He died just a couple of years ago. I think they graduated from the University too. He was very outgoing and pushing to get kids out of the slump, you know, to get kids through high school and not just go to work on the farm.. He was a great influence on me.
And then I had another teacher, a Mrs. Chick, who was a fantastic person. She started the 4 H group. In fact, she became one of my best friends after I retired. She used to goc.lot of places with me. And we used to have fun. She’d always say “We’re going to do something crazy, aren’t we?” We went to the airport one morning at six a.m. to see a little girl that I’d had who was flying to Colorado and I wanted to make sure she’d met the rest of the group and was alright. It was raining like mad and I went through a puddle and my car stalled. We finally made it in there just in time. Mrs. Chick had been married to someone with a lot less education than she’d had and he was a miserahle person to live with. I think it was fun for her to go out with me and do some of these things. She didn’t go until after he’d died because he wouldn’t let her. He wanted her right there to wait on him.
Another person who was a great influence on me was Hilda Ives. She was a minister and a remarkable woman. I’m not sure but I ~elieve Rollin Ives is her grandson. She had been widowed very young with four children. She used to be minister up here at our church in the afternoon and at Sebago Lake in the morning. She used to stop in here every Sunday and have dinner with us. Because she was a minister nobody wanted to invite her for dinner, so she came here almost all the time. In fact she was the minister for Mother’s funeral and Chet’s mother’s funeral. She died before Chet did. She was the one who was the minister when Elsie got married and when Esther got married and even when Esther’s daughter Jody got married. Jody said that every year on her anniversary Mrs. Ives used to call her.
Another person who I thought a great deal of as I was growing up was Mrs. Huddleston at the University. Her husband was the head of the Greek department and she was very bright and compassionate. I lived with them during my last two years of college in the big house on the hill. She was a very wonderful person.
The other person I think of as being a great influence on me was MIss Weed, my friend in Orono who died this summer at the age of 106. Actually she died this winter, on Thellie’s Birthday in January.
I went down to see her in June and I knew then that I’d never see her again. She was a tremendous influence on a lot of us a school. She was the Assistant Registrar. She had a memory and she remembered all of our birthdays. She knew our financial situations and she knew when we needed jobs. I used to work with her during registration, too. In fact,my first two plates in my University of Maine dishes were given to us as a wedding present by Miss Weeds.
I have so many things that are important to me. One of them is that little doll that Len and Louise had fixed for me. I remember so distictly getting her when I was about five and she’d been in the attic so many, many years. I’d look at her and think I’d better throw her out. When they took her and had her repaired I was thrilled. I have a lot of dishes and things here that mean an awful lot to me. They were given to me by students. I don’t do it now, but when Chet was alive, we’d have dinner and I always used the good dishes. It was kind of fun to say that this particular class gave me that, or that Janie gave me this, or this came from Diane and to look them over. I walk around the yard and see the tree with the lovely pink blossoms and the willow at the foot of the hill and remember the students and classes that gave them to me. The two french lilacs were given to me by students, too and,when I go out,I remember those kids.
There are a lot of things that mean a lot to me. That painting that Thellie did of the house for Chet and the silver jewelry and pewter dishes that Chet made for me are very special.
I had a hard time that first summer after I retired. I wasn’t really needed here because they’d gotten
along fine for years without me. I wasn’t needed at school anymore. I broken off all ties there. The first part of that summer, the first three to four weeks, I was totally exhausted. I cried at the drop of a hat. I’d be doing things I liked to do and find myself crying for no reason at all. All because I had this lost, lost feeling. One of the things I did was to volunteer to teach food preservation at the hardware store up here. I’m not much on fairs and I even hooked rugs that summer at the fair just because I felt so perfectly useless, absolutely useless. After I got over that and saw all that needed to be done, I got on the ball and never felt that way again.
One thing that disturbs me about the younger generation is the way they spend their money. I know it’s made to spend, but now, having reached the other end of the spectrum, it’s awfully nice to have a little behind you. I go by places now where young couples have beautiful homes, completely furnished all at first, and two cars and children in day care centers. I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if we had a little less material things and could put aside a little for later. I can think of a person now who is earning twice as much as I ever earned and who hasn’t got one red cent in reserve. There’s always another paycheck coming. I think we need to shuffle our values a little bit. I think some of the trouble with marriages today is because everything is all romance. You get a beautiful house, complete~y furnished and wall to wall carpet and everything and everything else. What else is there then? I think the happiest marriages I’ve known are those that didn’t have a darned thing to start with. I remember one couple I used to visit who have a beautiful house now. But they used to have a broked down sofa and one chair to sit on and it was a big event when they would call us up and invite us over to see their new chair or new table or new lamp. There was so much joy in that one thing instead of going in and finding everything all done. Sit down and enjoy what you’ve got before you get so much you can’t enjoy it at all.
I do think another thing with young people is that every once in a while they need a short vacation from home. So many of us save that for retirememt and there’s no retirement sometimes because that’s a time when other things start to catch up with you. I think rather than have so many material things it would be best to travel a little bit or even see things in their own communities. Do something a little different.
There’s so much out there to see. Get away from the T.V. Do a little volunteer work! You get so much more from volunteer work than you ever give.
I was on the board of the American Red Cross in Saco almost from the time I went there until I was taken sick two years ago. I’ve been on the board of trustees at the Clinic over here since I retired and I’ve been secretary of that. We’ve gone from not having any doctors to having two doctors and a psychiatrist and we’re beginning to think we’re going to need a third doctor.
I’m on the board of trustees for the old Academy which is on the National Landmarks. We have some money and I think we gave fifteen scholarships to Bonney Eagle students last year.
I’m on the library board and, it’s not because I’m on it, but in the last four years we’ve had a board that’s worked together so beautifully. The library is open more hours and we have more people using it. We used to have one to two people come in in an afternoon and it’s not unusual now to have eighteen to twenty. One week we had one hundred and eighty five books go out. So I feel that’s very worthwhile.
I was a Charter Memeber of the Limington Historical Society and I’ve donated the use of one of my buildings. I think that has kept them together more.
I don’t want to forget the Cemetary Association. I’ve been treasurer of that ever since Chet died. When my father was buried up there it looked like a hayfield. I cried when I saw it, it was so bad. But after we took over, Chet was treasurer, we hired someone to mow it, to keep it just like a lawn. And we started cleaning the stones. Some of them were so dirty you couldn’t read the inscriptions. Some of them dated back to the 1700’s. We hired someone to clean the stones for $500 and when that was gone that was it. But he went out and cleaned those stones, and now Chet’s been gone for thirteen years, and last year all the stones in the cemetary had been done. They’re just as white as they can be. The lawn is kept mowed all the time and every year for the last ten years we’ve bought flowers and about a half dozen of us have gone up and planted flowers on all the graves that didn’t have any. We’ve had the fence fixed, too. And it really is, if cemetaries are beautiful, a very beautiful and peaceful place. Very different from the cowpasture it used to be.
I hope before too long I’ll be able to do a scholorship up here at Bonney Eagle in Chet’s name. I was going to do it at the University, but I wasn’t happy with some of the things I saw happeningup there so I decided to do it right here and help out a local ki d.
There are so many local things that you can do. The women’s auxillary over here at the clinic did a lot with scholorships for nurses. I was president of that for five years. But all of us have grown so much older that that’s not very active now. We only meet two or three times a year.
You get to meet so many people from so many different walks of life. The clinic and the library are the things I’m happiest with. The clinic because when Chet died there was no doctor here and it was Christmas Eve when he needed a doctor and I couldn’t get one. Nobody would take a patient on Christmas Eve and by the next day it was too late. So my thought was that we’d look for a doctor and we’ve got two very good ones there now.
You can’t do too much volunteering when you’re working, but rather than retire and go to seed, there’s so much that needs to be done in every community. And now with this cancer… well maybe it’s been a good experience for me in some respects. It’s made me realize that other people have problems. I’ve always been healthy. Sometimes when I’d see people I’d think maybe if they’d get out and have a little more energy, they’d be better off. Particularly people my age, they have a tendancy to say oh, I can’t do this, I’m so tired I have to have a nap in the afternoon. Maybe I’m a little more tolerant and I’m certainly more sympathetic now with all of those people I see at the cancer clinic. I tell myself how fortunate I am, even though this is the second year in my life that I
haven’t been able to do very much. I have a lot more faith in the doctors than I had and somehow I think they’re going to get me through it.
Death doesn’t bother me. I think it’s how you think about your 1ife. I feel I’ve done the best I could. I don’t have any regrets, I haven’t committed any crimes, I’ve tried to help as many people as I could. I was very fortunate to be able to go to college. I was very fortunate to have had a job that I loved in a school that I loved. Chet was an angel to live with, he really was. He was so good to his mother and my mother and they could be pretty difficult. We had a lot of good trips together. Since I’ve retired I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences. I’ve been to Hawaii, to Florida twice and to California. What more could I ask for?
The worst part of thinking about dying was getting my will ready because I want to be fair to everyone. I’ve seen so much squabbling in families after a person has gone. I don’t think that I have anything of any great value here but I would like to have people have my things who really want them. I don’t want any fighting about it and I don’t want someone to say I gave someone else something that they should have had. It’s very difficult to make out a will that’s fair. I think I’ve done the best I can with it and it’s over, thank God.
The next difficult thing to do was make out a Living Will because I don’t want to be kept alive on tubes. When my times comes I want to go. But the one thing I will not do is go down to the funeral home and pick out my casket and pay my bill. I’m going to leave that for my family to do. Whatever they do is O.K. with me. I can’t go down there and sit and say “Now I would like to be buried in this casket and I would like to have this and this and this.” I can’t do it, I just can’t do it! I’m not dead yet! A lot of older people do that and maybe they recognize the fact that they’re going to go very shortly, but I don’t recognize that fact! It may come, but if it does, it’s going to come as a shock to me. I’m not going to sit around and wait for it to happen. I have a lot of things I wasnt to do and sitting around waiting for a funeral is not one o~ them! I did put some things in an envelope here in the safe with my will because I was asked what hymns I wanted sung. I really don’t give a damn! But I did find two, or three that I like particularly well and I put the names in there and I found a poem I liked very much which makes death seem like just a little trip and I put that in there . And I put an obituary in there and that’s as far as I’m going! Thellie and Len and Louise can go through my limited wardrobe and they can pick out what they want. They can have the casket open, they can have the casket closed, they can cremate me, I don’t care. I did think of cremation seriously, but Len is very much against it. And I figured it doesn’t make any difference to me and if it makes it easier for him to take care of everything, it’s O.K. I just figure that I’ve been fortunate to have seventy five good years and maybe it’s my turn to have two or three that aren’t so good. There are still a few awfully good days and I still do the things I enjoy on those days.
Another thing more than anything else, I never understood how good people really were. I’ve had many, many cards from people I never expected to get cards from and there have been many people who have come in and done things for me.
One of my students visited me last summer from California and reminded me of a poem I had given to her when she was having problems. It is a lesson I wish all young people could learn. (Poem attached)
Figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You’ve all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say, “I can.”
Look them over, the wise and great,
They take their food from a common plate
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes,
The world considers them brave and smart,
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if you only will,
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win,
So figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You were born with all that the great have had,
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself, and say: “I can.”