Part II: Elaine Duffett’s Life Story
My parents were both born in Bath, Maine. When my father was a young man, he had evidently been going with my mother, but his family all went West and he went with them. He ended up out in Washington state where he had an uncle who owned a ranch. He went to work on the ranch with his uncle. He stayed out there for a while with his two brothers, but he was drawn back to Maine, I guess, to marry my mother. They were married and settled in Portland. He was a traveling salesman with Bailey Automotive Company, and my mother was a homemaker. They had four children, all girls. My father probably kept trying for a boy, but he never got it.
I was the youngest. I inherited my looks from my father’s side of the family as did two of my sisters. Therefore all of us looked alike, except for Roberta, she got her looks from my mother’s side. I can’t remember anything but having a good time with my sisters. I think they doted on me. They were five or six years older than I was, so they kind of looked out for me. They were my big sisters.
My parents were very normal people. I never saw them fight or anything. They seemed to be a happy couple. As children, we’d go on camping trips. We loved that. We just had a happy childhood as far as I can remember.
My mother was a very good sewer. She made all my clothes, out of nothing, all pretty little things. I guess she did for my older sisters, too, but I wasn’t aware of that. My father liked hunting, and he’d kill a deer once in a great while. He enjoyed sports and did a lot of canoeing.
We had a home right on the banks of the Stroudwater River so we owned our own canoe. In those days, there was a canoe house down over the banking where the river flowed. It was a popular thing to do in those days. People owned their own canoes and kept them there, or people came out from the city and to rent a canoe. They would paddle up the river with their lunches and stop here or there wherever they found a good spot to have their picnics.
We were a close‑knit family, and we did a lot with our uncles and cousins who all lived in Bath. We traveled back and forth spending every Sunday with them. I went to church in the morning, to Sunday school. My parents weren’t much for going to church, but we children all went to Sunday School and took part in everything there. We went to Bath in the afternoon and we spent time with our relatives. We’d either go over there, or they’d come over here, or we’d meet halfway and have a picnic someplace. We’d have wonderful times doing that. We just seemed to enjoy doing things together as a family.
My father was gone a lot. He would be gone a couple of weeks at a time, traveling throughout Maine. We children, of course, were always tickled to death to see him. He’d usually bring us some little thing that he’d pick up where he went. He didn’t go up into Northern Maine; he traveled about halfway up the state and back. Once in a while he would take us on some of his trips and we’d get to stay in a hotel with him. In those days, it really was something to stay in a hotel. We’d got quite friendly with one hotel owner and very friendly with his family. Occasionally, they’d even come down and visit us.
He’d also travel south in Maine, to Ogunquit and York Harbor. We’d go down there on many day trips. On occasion, I’d get to go down there and take one of my friends with me. We’d fool around while he was doing his business. He had to visit all the garages and take their orders. We just had a heck of a time.
I can’t remember if there was ever anything between my parents. My mother never seemed to be upset about my father’s traveling. Of course, she had four children to look after which kept her busy, so she didn’t have much time to be lonesome. We lived in a big house. It must have been quite a house to take care of, with four kids. I imagine the time flew by for her while he was gone.
We were taught to mind. When we were told not to do something, we didn’t do it. We respected them. They weren’t all that strict, but they let us know what was right and what was wrong. It stayed with us all through our lifetime, trying to do what’s right. They were awfully good to us, that’s all I can say.
My religious side came from my father, and has stuck by me all my life. He wasn’t an avid church goer, but he certainly believed and had great faith. He did all through his life. When I got older and was married, he would come to church with us Sundays. He believed that if you had that, you could be happy with what you had and not desire a lot of material things.
I was born in Stroudwater in 1918, the year armistice was signed. My father apparently didn’t have to go into the service. There was the Depression in the late 20’s, but as a child I never felt it. People speak of the Great Depression and how awful it was, but I don’t remember a thing about it. It never seemed that we were poor or without stuff. We had the basic stuff to get along, so we never felt any poverty at all. It must have been a struggle for my folks, taking care of the children and the house, but we kept at it. It never really entered our lives at all.
In those days, I guess just about everybody was born at home, and so it was with me. It was a cold and stormy night in January. A snowy and stormy night, as my mother told me. When she realized the time was near, the doctor in Portland, I think his name was Doctor Henderson, came out came out and spent the night at my folks home, so he’d be there in case I came along. I was born during that night or early the next morning. My mother named me after the doctor’s wife, Lola.
My memories don’t start until I was three or four. A lot of people didn’t have cars, but my father had a car because he traveled. When there was snow on the ground, they didn’t plow like they do nowadays; they just rolled the streets with big rollers and packed the snow down. So in the wintertime, we had a bakery man who came around daily on a pung. They called it a pung, a big long sled with sides and runners on it.
We also had a meat man who came around with a pung. We especially loved to see the meat man come. We children would run out to see him and he always gave us a hot dog to eat! Then he’d let the children ride on the runners of his pung. We’d get a ride up to what is now the jet port, as far at that and back, while he was calling on customers. Of course I was just a little thing, I was probably about six then. We didn’t go fast because he stopped at every house, and we would eat our free raw hotdog as we rode along.
Although in those days it was just one little hangar, the airport was quite an attraction in the neighborhood. Everyone’d go up there to see the planes come in. Dr. Strange, the doctor that lived up where the airport is now, started and opened it. We used to be thrilled to go up there and watch the little things go up, and all they had for coming in and landing was a windsock hanging up. They didn’t fly around in the dark then.
We had moved from the house that was on Congress Street where I was born, down to our house on Garrison Street which was the one that looked down on the river. I can remember lying in bed at night in the summertime and I’d hear the canoes going up in the dark on the river. They were the lovers going up the river. They’d bring their portable Victrolas with them in the canoe and we’d hear the music playing! I used to lie there in bed, listening to that, thinking how romantic it was, knowing that the lovers were going up the river.
We had a hill near us that we used to ski, roll or slide down in winter time. The family would go out and do it with us. One memory stuck in my mind so vividly that I’ll always remember it. I had to walk to school, the Willard School, on the corner of Congress and Westbrook Street just before you cross the lower bridge. It was a one room school, grades one through six there with the same teacher who taught all six grades. Every morning, I would go down to the end of my street, Stroudwater, and meet my girl friend and we’d walk to school together. One day I went down to her house, and my gosh, she’d left without me! Well, I just didn’t know what to do! I couldn’t walk all the way to school alone, I thought, so I went back home. I told my mother that Jenny had gone and I didn’t know what to do, whether to go on without her or not. My mother said, “Well, you’ve got to go to school. So, you go back.” So I went down and I started to school, all by myself. I felt so alone. I knew I was going to be late, and I didn’t want the embarrassment of walking in all alone because I was very conscientious about school. I had almost gotten to the school when I met an old man walking. He said to me, “What are you doing little girl? You’re late for school.” And that did it. I turned right around and I went back home!! I didn’t dare tell my mother I was back home. I went up on the front porch and got way over in the corner. I thought, “I’ll stay here till school is out.” I just didn’t dare to tell my mother I hadn’t gone. So I sat over in the corner and before long the cat came up to me. So I was sifting there holding the cat, and foolishly I started humming to it. Well, of course my mother heard the humming going on outside. She came out to see what was going on, and there I was, holding the cat and humming way over in the corner of the porch. She wasn’t going to let me get away with that, and she said, “You’ve got to go to school anyway!”
We had a row of lilac bushes along the driveway, beautiful lilacs. So she picked me a beautiful bouquet of lilacs to take to the teacher. She thought that would ease it for me. So I thought, “That’s a good idea!” “The teacher will be glad to see me if I had this pretty bouquet.” I trotted off to school feeling very important then. I had something to take to the teacher. I made it that time. The teacher was glad to see me, but wondered why I was so late! I’ve never forgotten that, trying to get to school and that old man. I’d have made it if he hadn’t said that to me!
There was another thing I remember doing when I lived there as a child. There was a lovely big house across the street. It had a white picket fence in front of it, and inside the picket fence, there were little white flowers, a mass of lily of the valley, growing there. We thought they were the most beautiful things and they always smelled so good. We’d go over there and reach in through the fence and pick a few lilies of the valley to take home. They never said anything to us when we used to visit. My mother had a friend who lived in the Tate house. It wasn’t called the Tate house then, it was owned by private people and I can remember going there with my mother to visit. In the back yard, down by the river bank, they had gooseberry bushes and I used to pick gooseberries over there. I can’t for the life of me remember what we ever did with them, but I can remember picking gooseberries. I can’t remember what my mother did with them, but we used to think that was fun.
I remember another thing I did that was great. In those days there was a theater in Portland. The Jefferson Theater was on the Oak and Free Street and people would come there to put on plays. My father wasn’t home, I guess he was away, and my mother and sisters took me to see Uncle Wiggly. We had to go in on a trolley car from Stroudwater. I don’t remember who was in Uncle Wiggly, but I remember it was the best thing to take a trolley way into town and see a play.
We moved away when I was in the first grade into the Rosemont area in Portland to a grand old house. I don’t know why we moved. I guess my father thought it was nearer to all the schools. We could go from kindergarten right through two years of college right on that same street, Stevens Avenue. I didn’t go to kindergarten or first grade there, but I did the rest of it, right on up through Westbrook Junior College.
There were two schools nearby. There was Longfellow school, an old wooden building on the corner and then down about 200 feet away from it, where the present Longfellow School is now, was Leeland School. I don’t remember too much about Longfellow School, except at Christmas time, out in the lobby they had a big Christmas tree. We’d bring presents, as I remember, to put around it to give to needy children. We’d sing Christmas songs, and I loved that … Rudolph the Red‑nosed Reindeer, Silent Night, and all those nice carols. That was a beautiful time to go there and I had some close friends there as well.
I went to Longfellow School for the fifth and sixth grades, in fact, that’s where I first met Eileen. We had Eileen, Barbara, George and I, the four of us all lived close together. So we formed our own little club… JFF we called it, Just For Fun. We played beside Eileen’s house and at the end of her street there was a hill. We slid down it in the winter and rolled down it in the summer. We took our sandwiches up there and ate up there in the summertime. Our mothers would pack us a lunch and we’d go up there and eat it. We’d think we were in Heaven. Eileen’s house had a screened in porch and we’d spend many a summer afternoon playing games on that porch, Parcheesi and different things. We had a lot of fun, all of us together. To our little club we added Joy who lived in a house on Woodford’s Street. It was a big house, so we made ourselves a little clubhouse down in her basement in what used to be a coal bin. It was sooty and dirty as could be. Her folks said we could have that place for our clubhouse so we went down and washed the soot all out, cleaned it, fixed it up good and decorated it. It was our clubroom.
We were pretty careful about our membership. We only let one other girl into our midst, Julie, and that made five of us. I don’t blame anybody for not joining our group, because we put them through an initiation to see if they could get in. I remember one thing we did. We took some water and soaked a red cloth in it so the red kept coming out of it. We made Julie drink it telling her it was punch. We could have poisoned her! It didn’t taste very good, but we made her drink that. I guess we had her blindfolded too, so she wouldn’t see it. I can’t remember what else we did. I don’t think she stayed with us for long although we stayed friends. I don’t think she really took our club too seriously.
I think that was a thing kids did in those days. Just for fun, like I said. We just decorated our club, it was just something to do. You realize, in those days, we made our own fun. There wasn’t television and movies and the mail. Children just made up their own fun. We made up things to do and we had just a wonderful time.
When I was in Longfellow, I was embarrassed to death once. There were two separate play grounds, one for the girls and one for the boys. The boys stayed in their part and the girls stayed in their part for recess. One day we were all out at recess and some of the girls came running to me and they said, “Elaine! Elaine!” “There are two boys over there fighting about you!” I ran over to the fence, looked over, and sure enough, there were two of my old boyfriends, not old because one I was going with, quite steady, fighting over me. The one boy thought that I belonged to him first. I was embarrassed to death! I ran from the fence over to the far side of the school and hid. I didn’t want anybody to know that I had anything to do with it!
That first boy was one that I had liked way back when I lived in Stroudwater, in first grade or so. Eddie lived across the street from me and I played with him. We liked each other, like kids that age would. But when I went up to Longfellow school I met another cute kid and “fell in love” with him and he with me. Charlie used to come down to my house after school and we used to sit on the front steps and talked about the other kids. He was the cutest kid in the whole school. Well, lo and behold, the kid that I’d left over at Stroudwater moved over our way and started going to the Longfellow school that caused a little friction between the two of them. Neither of them won! I don’t remember what happened to Charlie, whether he went through high school with me or not. But Eddie didn’t, his family moved back to Westbrook.
In Lincoln Junior High, I changed classes going up and down stairs. I don’t remember very much, nothing very outstanding. I can remember playing the Statue of Liberty in a play. There was one thing I remember there. It was kind of a hard one. There were two Elaines. They’d call out a student’s name and the teacher called out Elaine. Well, neither one of us thought it was them, we both thought it was the other Elaine, so neither one of us stood up to answer. Finally the teacher called my whole name, so I stood up. She bawled me out for not standing up in the first place, and I said, “Well, we didn’t know which Elaine you wanted.” She was mad as anything because I hadn’t stood up. It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t the other Elaine’s fault. The teacher reported me to the principal for disobedience which was the farthest thing from my mind in school because I just minded everything they told me to do, and it made me feel terrible. The principal called up my father and had us come up to his house and talk about it. It was terrible, because I wasn’t guilty! I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was the teacher’s fault. We tried to tell the principal that, and I guess he finally believed that the teacher just hadn’t made it plain which Elaine she wanted.
In the early years, I always loved music. If I had wanted to do anything, it was something in the music field. I didn’t know what at that point because I didn’t play an instrument. I got into music when I finally got into high school. I was a Freshman in high school when I started taking lessons. I took lessons on the saxophone and I played in my school band for three years. At that time, we had a big band at Deering, and we took first honors all over the place traveling around to the band competitions. We marched at all the games doing formations and everything. We played at all the games, football and basketball games.
We had a good teacher, but I also took music lessons for quite a few years. I don’t think we had band practice every day, it was probably more like three days a week. Of course, we had outside drilling practice when the weather was good. It was really a great band. We bought our own uniforms. Our principal didn’t think that the girls ought to wear pants for their uniform so we had to wear skirts. The girls wore white skirts and the boys wore white slacks and we all had purple jackets. We girls petitioned and petitioned him. We kept after him to let us wear white slacks like the boys did, but he wouldn’t give in. The next principal let us wear white slacks. And of course, we got better uniforms as the years went on, purple ones, fancy ones when we went to Newport, Rhode Island for the New England competition. These competitions included many, many bands and we played as one massive band out on the field. A great big band, led by Goldman, he was a famous band master and big band orchestra conductor.
At that time, I was going with a fellow who had a car. The school had taken us down to Newport in a couple of buses and we stayed in a hotel down there. The next morning, somebody came to my room and said, “Elaine! Come to the window and look out front and see who’s down there.” I went and looked out the window down to the street, and there was my boyfriend, Malcolm and another fellow. They had ridden down by themselves in Malcolm’s car to see us, all the way down to Newport RI, and they wanted us to ride back to Portland with them! We wanted to ride back with them so badly and not on the bus! We pleaded and pleaded and cried and cried, but the woman who was our chaperone, our gym teacher, wouldn’t let us do it. She said, “No, you’re our responsibility. Your parents expect you to come with us and you can’t go against that.” It just broke our hearts. I must have been sixteen, seventeen. They had to ride back home all by themselves in their car, but that made us feel very special. Think of it, our boyfriends followed us all the way down there!
The band had a lot of good times as a group. We went on outings and we did a lot of traveling. In the summertime we had a lot of picnics together, all of us. We’d go out to Blackstrap Road and have a day. We’d spent so much time together as a band, we found that we were doing things more together. We also got friendly with kids in the Portland High School band. We had joint concerts with them and so we got to know them.
Quite a few our band members and I also played in the Falmouth town band. We would go out to Falmouth every Sunday afternoon and play with the Falmouth Town band. I don’t remember how we got involved with it. We must have known somebody who was in it, one of the fellows and he told us to come out because they’d welcome us. So some of the Portland High band members, some of the band members from South Portland, and some of us from the Deering band, all got intertwined with all the other bands from the other areas. Of course, there were a lot of the Falmouth High band members, too. We’d go out every Sunday afternoon and practice. My father would drive me out and we’d practice in a room over the firehouse which isn’t there anymore. There were ages six to sixty in the band! I wouldn’t say six, but you know, probably Junior High School age up to old fellows. While we were playing, in the back of the room you’d smell the coffee perking and we’d have goodies, everybody’d bring something to eat for afterwards. We played some summer concerts on the greens in the different towns. We got to know a lot of the kids from the other bands and I went with a fellow from the Falmouth band.
I don’t recall feeling pressures as a teenager, not like they have today. We didn’t have the drugs, and there was very little liquor involved. There were, of course, probably an instance here or there, but it was not prevalent. You weren’t aware of it, so we didn’t have those pressures on us. We didn’t have the sexual thing pressuring on us either. That wasn’t the biggest thing in our life. We didn’t think about that at all. It wasn’t talked about, and you didn’t see it on television, the movies and books like nowadays.
When we had a boyfriend, we’d just hang around and talk or go to a movie. There was a movie house up in Deering Center and another one down at Woodford’s Corner, and we’d go there in the afternoons to the matinees. They always had a serial that would be continued to the next Saturday. You always had to go the next Saturday to see the thriller. They’d always leave you in the lurch, somebody hanging from a cliff or something. You’d have to go the next Saturday to see how that came out. We did just normal things which to kids today would seem pretty boring, but to us it was exciting.
I met Malcolm, probably when I was a Junior. He was five years older than I was.
He was already out of High School, and he was a great musician. He was a beautiful piano player and he loved music. He had started an orchestra, so he wanted a girl saxophone section, so I played in his band with two other girls. We played at dances, Sunday school dances and at some office parties in town, Christmas parties or something that had dancing. We also played at some country dances. We even got paid! We didn’t make a lot of money, but we got paid. It was quite a thrill to play at your own school dance and see all the kids watching you play. We had a good orchestra. We were called The Blue Knights.
Malcolm and I got interested in each other then. We enjoyed the music so much together. He and I were always listening to good records at his house or my house. We listened to all the big bands then. It was the Big Band Era. We spent a lot of time buying records and listening to them, going over and over them. We just ate them up.
Every Saturday night, we’d go out to the Old Orchard pier to a dance hall out on the pier. All the big bands came there. I’ve got a little autograph book full of autographs I collected from these guys, Benny Goodman and all the others. We didn’t go out to dance so much as to stand right in front of the orchestra and watch them. Back then, the pier was a lot longer than it is now, so it was a lot of fun to go out there. They had a lovely dance hall way out at the end of it. If you didn’t want to dance, they had a movie out on the deck, outdoors. That was a fun thing to do on a Saturday night, go out and hear all those bands.
We wore pleated skirts and socks, low socks, called bobby socks. They called them butterfly skirts, I think, because the pleats were all around. Then in High School, it became popular for the girls to wear slacks, although we couldn’t wear them to school.
I had some teachers that stood out in my mind. I loved my French teacher. I loved school, I really did. I made the honor roll every time. I was taken in to the National Honor Society through a formal ceremony. We took school very seriously. Of course, we had rules and regulations in school that they don’t have now. There wasn’t much smoking anyway, but there was no smoking on the school grounds. You didn’t loiter in the halls and you didn’t talk in class. You just behaved yourself, I guess is the only way to put it. If you didn’t play by the rules you went to the principal’s office and get detention.
I took the usual classes, like Math and English. I used to love to write. I wrote a lot of poems, mostly with a humorous twist to them. I loved French and I used to tease my French teacher. I had a seat by the window, and I’d tease her. She’d be talking to us and I’d be looking out the window, like I wasn’t paying attention to her. She’d call on me thinking I wouldn’t know the answer. I always knew the answer and I’d get up and say what it was. She always kept after me about looking out the window, but I just did it to tease her. I always knew what she was talking about, and she’d get so exasperated with me. We were on good terms.
We had one boy in our class who went on to be a film director out in Hollywood, but he was a sketch! He was in my homeroom and he would always acted up. He used to drive the poor teacher crazy. He wasn’t mean acting, he was just always acting up or doing something silly instead of being quiet like he was supposed to. One day, he got her so upset and so mad, that she went and stood in the wastebasket! It was the funniest thing. She was just so mad she didn’t know what to do, so she got into the wastebasket and stood there. We kids just roared! She was close to tears. She was a little odd, anyway I also remember another time when she chased him around the room. His name was Billy Brown and he just loved to egg her on and get her going.
My senior year, I worked on our yearbook and I played field hockey. I didn’t take school that seriously, so I never ran for office. Activities like that didn’t interest me. I played in a saxophone sextet and we played for assemblies and things like that. I think there were three girls and three boys. It’s hard to remember all the things you did so long ago.
I was averagely popular. I didn’t push my way into things… I was quiet. I was in the girl reserves. The purpose was to develop and discover the best qualities in the individual. We went to a state conference in Augusta and saw the Blaine mansion. We also went to a conference in Massachusetts. As girl reserves we distributed Thanksgiving baskets and did other volunteer things.
I wasn’t too active in my church then. I dropped out of it for a while until I met my future husband. I was in Honor Society, band, glee club, the French club, and was the secretary of music. My teen years seemed steady to me. I don’t recall having any problems at all. I took things as they came, go with the flow. I didn’t stir up problems.
I didn’t really have too many plans. I figured I was going to get married, but not right away. I went with Malcolm for five years and then he went away to college, medical school. He wasn’t going to college when I met him. He had been working, trying to earn money to go to college. So when he finally figured he had enough to start out, he left for medical school.
All of my friends were going to Westbrook College, Eileen, Joy and Barbara. My folks couldn’t really afford to send me away to college, and going there I could walk. I studied music theory, English and writing. I got a job during that first summer and decided to stay at the position rather than return to college.
I had taken shorthand in high school and I so liked doing it in my job, I didn’t want to leave. I would take a bus to work every day. We didn’t have all the computers and things to work with so we did everything ourselves. You had to do a lot of thinking. The Savings and Loan was a bank, so we had to be very careful, always keeping the books straight. Every six months or so the auditors would come around and audit. I made great friends through that job and I stayed there for about eight years. Malcolm and I hadn’t really talked about marriage; it was just one of those things that you thought would just be. But then I met Arthur and that changed things.
Arthur and I had a mutual friend, a boy. He went to Portland High School and started going with one of my girl friends. First, he had started going with Eileen, but when that didn’t work out, he started going with Joy. Rand was a writer, writing for the Portland papers. I’d always heard about Rand, but I had never met the guy. Well, it turned out that Joy was my best friend and Rand was Arthur’s best friend, but the two of us had never come across each other. Eventually, Joy went out to California after she got through Westbrook to finish her other two years of college at Stanford University. Rand couldn’t stand it so he packed up and went to California to be near Joy. Rand was great at taking pictures, movie pictures. In high school, we made many, many mountain climbing trips and Rand would always lead them. He’d have the agenda all made up; what time we’d leave, what time we’d reach the base of the mountain, even what time we’d eat. He was that kind of a guy He’d have it all planned out. We went on umpteen million mountain climbing trips with Rand as leader. When we were on the mountain, he’d stage a movie or something. We’d act out a movie and do it for his camera.
When he went west, he took a lot of pictures on the way and sent the film back to his
folks. He said to them, “Show this to Archie‑‑he called him Archie‑‑ and Elaine. Get them over to your house on the same night. Kill two birds with one stone and show them the pictures.” That was our first date! When the doorbell rang on that particular night, I opened the door and there stood Arthur, what a handsome devil. And he said, “You must be Elaine.” I said, ” Yes, and you must be Arthur” to which he said yes. He had a little roadster with the bucket seats and so we road over to the Sanford’s to see the pictures of Rand and Joy. Mrs. Sanford said that the next morning bright and early, Arthur was out at the house again, and he said, “Oh! She’s wonderful!” He was bubbling all over. He was quite taken with me that first night and I was quite taken with him. As you can well imagine, that started it and we just plunged right in. This was in the spring.
Of course, the minute I met him and went out with him, I knew that he was the one. It was unmistakable. There was just no getting around it, even though Malcolm was there. What I think had happened with Malcolm was that we had become a habit with each other. You can fall into that as a habit. You get comfortable with each other. We both enjoyed music tremendously, seeing the bands, listening to music and all that, and it got to be just more habit. He had some quirks about him that I didn’t like. He was moody and when he came I never knew whether he was going to be up or down which was something I didn’t like, but I still was very fond of the fellow.
When Arthur came along, he was just all smiles, all the time. There was nothing up or down about him and when he came over I always knew how he was going to be. That was just it. I knew immediately that this was the person that I was going to spend my life with. How was I going to tell Malcolm who would be coming home soon for the summer vacation? I hated to have to tell him, he was a nice chap, a handsome fellow and so very talented. So the first summer I didn’t tell him. I didn’t say a thing. I just couldn’t and Arthur understood. When Malcolm went away in the fall, Arthur and I started up again. When the next summer came around, I knew I was going to have to tell Malcolm that it wasn’t going to work out for us. I had to break the news to him. It almost broke my heart! I didn’t want to hurt him.
That was me, I never wanted to hurt anybody I never wanted to say anything that would hurt them. I’d bend over backwards before I hurt anybody’s feelings, but I had to do it. I told him about Arthur and I and he didn’t understand how that could happen. He left and went out to see my friends, Rand and Joy, to find out what had happened and understand what he’d done. They said he cried. That happens. I knew in my heart, for my own happiness it had to be so. I didn’t see him for a long time after that, a long time. He went back to medical school and then graduated. I knew where he was all the time, because his mother used to live right around the corner and she used to come over to see me. She couldn’t understand what had happened either, because she thought I was great. But I knew that Malcolm had a lot of years to go to work at being a doctor. It was going to take a lot of time and a lot of money. I explained that I didn’t want to drag him back, so finally she accepted it. It was a long time before I saw him again. So when he finally came home and he called me on the phone and came over. He said, “I’ve been down to see your mother and she kissed me.” I turned my face when he tried to kiss me, and then I didn’t see him again for a long time.
So Arthur, that was just a beautiful part of my life. He was working at a finance company selling insurance around the state. We had a great time. We went on picnics together. He made a box to keep in the back of his car in which we kept paper plates, knives, forks, napkins and a tablecloth. We had everything for an instant picnic, anytime we decided to go out and have one. If we decided we wanted a picnic on a certain day, then I’d go to the store and get some hamburger and some rolls. We also had a grill that we kept in the back of his car. We’d just set out for anyplace and then we’d stop and have a picnic. We’d even do it in the wintertime. We had a lot of fun. We’d sit up on the Promenade every Sunday afternoon and listen to that old
program, “The Shadow”. We also listened to “One Man’s Family”. It was a great serial on the radio and we’d sit there and listen. We’d often just go to Amato’s and get an Italian sandwich, for a quarter! And then we’d go up to the Promenade, have a sandwich and listen to programs. We also went skating or we’d snowshoe down from the main road to the camp out to the caps. We courted for five years so we really knew each other, no rush.
One day, we were walking over across the hills, over to the right of the camp, beyond the house out on the point, where there was nothing was but fields. We’d gone over to pick strawberries, and Arthur said something like, “How about getting married?” I said, “That’s fine, that’s fine! I’m ready!” We didn’t do anything about it then, I guess, because the war was coming up, but it was understood that we’d get married.
He went into the service in ‘forty three. I remember when he decided to enlist. We were sitting in my folk’s living room on a Sunday afternoon. We’d had dinner and we were listening to the radio, and all of a sudden the news came on the radio. We just couldn’t believe it (Pearl Harbor). We knew then we were in for it. All the young man started going right down to the recruiting places and enlisting. Arthur and I talked about how we wouldn’t get married right away. We’d wait and see what happened with him because he knew right then and there that he would enlist. He enlisted in the Coast Guard, because he’d been brought up near a Coast Guard station, a lobster shack in those days, and they had patrolled across the back of our lot there, across the hills, and back again. He was quite taken up with that service because he’d been brought up with them. So he enlisted with them, and then he waited. Because we decided that we’d wait to be married until after the war, I worried that he wouldn’t come home.
When they did call him, we all went down to Boston on a weekend to see him depart. He went through basic training, and then he had to pick which area he wanted to specialize in. He thought he’d like to go to meteorology school, to be a weather man so they sent him to Meteorology school in New Jersey. While he was there they called him in and told him that they were sending him to Officers Training school, the once in New London, Connecticut. He didn’t know whether he wanted to be an officer or not, but he went anyway, those were the orders. He went to school there for four months. I’d go to see him on the weekends and sometimes his mother went with me. It was very stiff training. He trained on one of the tall ships.
When he graduated from the Academy, he came home for leave, and we got married. We got married before the war was over so that I could go with him. We had a wedding in the church. It wasn’t too elaborate because we didn’t have time to plan it. We only had maybe a couple of weeks leave before he had to report for active duty. It wasn’t a big flashy wedding, but it was a nice one. I didn’t have time to send out invitations, but I called people. We went to Boston for the honeymoon. That’s all we could get gas for! Gas was rationed and you couldn’t get enough to go any place with it. We even had to borrow some ration tickets from friends to get to Boston and back in our car. We stayed just a few days at the Hotel Bradford.
I couldn’t believe my luck to be with such a great guy. We just drove all around Boston. Of course, it was in the winter. We went to the theater, dined out and went dancing. The hotel had a nice penthouse with a dance hall on top of it so we spent a lot of time up there. That was our honeymoon.
He went down to Charleston first, without me, to get a place to live. He stationed on a cutter there running the coast and watching for anybody trying to come into the harbor. While he was out to sea, I got bursitis in my shoulder so I didn’t get down there until April. I took the train down. That was an awful, long train ride down there. They used steam engines then, and it was hot when we got down south. They had to keep the windows open, so the steam came pouring through the train, and the soot fell on everything in the car. It was awful, but I only slept one night on the train.
There were a lot a lot of service men on the train, and seated next to me was an enlisted service man. I forgot where he was headed for, but he was so nice to me. When night time came and there wasn’t anyplace to lie down, he said, “You can lay your head on my shoulder.” So I just laid it over and I slept. The next day, when noontime came around, they served all of the service men first. They got priority and everybody else had to wait. So he said, “I’ll tell them you’re my wife!” He even tried to get me on the train before the general public. He didn’t know I was married to an officer because he was talking about officers and things. I never said a word. I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. When we pulled into Charleston station, Arthur was waiting for me and I waved to him. That’s when my soldier friend said, “That’s your husband?” I said, “Yes!” And he said, “He’s an officer!” I think he was embarrassed.
In Charleston we lived in a house on the base and made a lot of nice friends there. I made friends with some of the other wives that were on Arthur’s ship and we’d get together and go shopping downtown. That was a lovely city.
After I was with him a couple of months we got transferred to Norfolk, Virginia. I didn’t see much of him there. We had to take rooms in private homes. It was a good thing that they had the Traveler’s Aid Society because during the war it was in great demand. Wherever we went, we’d just get off the train and they would have a booth or office right there in the station. You’d just go to them and say, ” Could you get us a room?” and in no time at all you’d get a room somewhere. A lot of people opened their homes during that war to take in service people so we never had any problem.
We took up with a family who had two rooms to let out. There was another Navy
couple already staying there. They had one room and Arthur and I had the other with a door between the two rooms. The men weren’t there much, so it was just Cecilia and me. To pass the time, I took a job there in a gift shop. It was nearby so I could walk right from the home.
The Packard family had six or seven children so it was like we were in the circus! The kids were just fascinated with me and my New England accent. We ate with the family. They took you in just like you were one of the family. It was quite an experience. The children’s ages went from seven for the youngest one up to twenty or something. One of the daughters, Julia who was probably in high school, would take us out to Virginia Beach. Every day she’d go out, and the next day I’d see a different colored bathing suit hanging on the line to dry. Finally one day I said, “How many bathing suits do you have? Everyday there’s a different color.” She said, “It’s the same one!” She’d come back and dye it in another color! She was a character. Theresa, the little one, was also a character. They’d get me eating with them around the table and they’d say, “Elaine, say, ‘I left my car at the bar’.” And I’d say, “I left my cah in the bah.” It sounded so ridiculous to them that they’d all erupt into laughter. Then they’d say, “Elaine, say this or Elaine say that.” They got a big kick out of my accent.
They had an aunt they took care of who lived in the house, too. She never came out of the room because she was bed‑ridden, and a little mental, I guess. They’d have to take turns taking the meals up to her and the children hated to do it, because she always lit into them about something. So one day they cornered me and said, “Elaine, will take Aunt… (I can’t remember her name)… her meal up to her?” I said, “Oh dear, I don’t think I’d better.” They said, “Please, take it up to her! She won’t know the difference.” And I said, “Well, she probably will. She’ll wonder who in the world I am.” They said, ‘No she won’t know the difference.” So I said okay and took the meal up to her. When I went in and spoke to her she never knew the difference!
They were a little strange where religion was concerned. Anytime there was a thunderstorm, they all got up and lit candies to save them from the storm. I didn’t go to church while I was there. Arthur and I had been going to church. After I met Arthur, we had started going to church regularly, but in the strange town, I didn’t know where to go to and I didn’t know if I wanted to go alone. So I didn’t go. One day the kids said, “Elaine, what’s going to happen to you if you don’t go to church every Sunday?” I said, “Nothing’s going to happen to me.” Then they said, “Aren’t you afraid not to go to church every Sunday?” And I said, “No, I’m not afraid. Nothing’s going to happen to me!” They thought surely I was headed for you know where because of that!
We stayed there for a couple of months and then we got orders to go to Pittsburgh. We got a room with Fred Waring’s grandmother and stayed at her house. He was a great musician who had a chorus and a great orchestra in those days. She had a lovely home and as a widow she let out a couple of rooms to service people. We got a room with her on Anderson Avenue with another service couple. She counseled us about not using too much toilet paper. She’d had a problem with somebody else who’d stayed there and had plugged it up. She didn’t want that to happen again so she always said, “Don’t use too much toilet paper!” and we said we wouldn’t. So the day finally came when we ran out of toilet paper. None of us wanted to go down and ask her for more, the four of us drew straws to see who would get the job. Of course, I got it! I said, “All right, I’ll try.” They all stood upstairs at the top of the stairs listening to see what would happen to me when I went down to talk to Grandma Waring. I told her we needed some more toilet paper. And she said, “You aren’t using too much are you?” And I said, “No, only what’s necessary.” So she said, “You be careful!” And she reluctantly gave me a new roll of toilet paper.
From there Dot and I went on to New Orleans where the guy’s ship was going to come in. The ship was going down the Mississippi River by way of the Ohio River. We, girls, didn’t know where we’d be staying, so we told the guys that whoever got into New Orleans first would go to the Travelers Aid and tell the others where they would be. As we traveled down to New Orleans, we saw that our bus was following the same route as the ship. Figuring that we had plenty of time, because the ship wasn’t going very fast, we stayed over night in Columbus, Ohio. As usual, we went to the Traveler’s Aid and they got us a room in a nice hotel. We started out again the next morning on another bus. We could see the river going down and once, somewhere in Kentucky, we got a glimpse of the ship.
As we got into the next town, we decided that we’d get off the bus and go down to the river and watch the ship come by We thought that maybe we could get the attention of somebody on the ship who could then bring the guys up. We were desperate then because we knew they were going overseas soon. We knew our days were numbered and it was an awful sinking feeling. We got off the bus just as we saw the ship going out of sight. We had told the bus driver we’re going to get off and get the next Greyhound bus that came through. As we watched our ship go out of sight we though we might still have time to get the bus that we had just gotten off of. So we dashed back up to the station and sure enough, it was still there.
When we got to Louisville we said, “Well, we’ll stop and see the ship go by here.” So we got a room and then went down to the river. Now in this day and age, you wouldn’t dare go down at night, two young girls running around the city. We went out onto the bridge at the end of the city. It wasn’t the best section, but we went down on that bridge all by ourselves and waited for that ship. We waited and waited and waited until dark. Then we walked back to the hotel disappointed.
In New Orleans we stayed with another family. We knew the time was getting closer and they’d be shipping out. So sure enough, one night we heard that the boys were shipping out that night. We wanted to see them one last time, so we had to get downtown. This was around midnight so we got up, got out, walked down the main street where the busses go by and we waited. We waited and we waited for a bus to take us into town, two young girls standing out there at midnight. The stop was near the zoo, and while we were standing there, the lions started roaring. We were scared to death. One started and then they all started in. You never heard such a racket in your life. We thought, “Oh my gosh, what if they’re loose?” But we continued to wait. Finally, we saw a cab coming down the street, so we got out and hailed that cab.
He said he had a passenger, but he said he’d take us if we didn’t mind which we didn’t. We just had to get downtown. So we got into this taxicab and there in the back of it was a man with live chicken in a bag! The funny things we went through that night! We let him get out first, thank goodness, and then we got downtown. We could only get to the gates of the shipyard where we said our tearful goodbyes. The taxi driver brought us back. We sat in the back seat crying our eyes out. And the taxi driver was so nice. When we got to where he picked us up the taxi man said, “Do you want to go out to your homes? I’ll take you out there for nothing.” We said we’d didn’t want to go back there we’d rather stay downtown. Boy, were we crying. The tears were running down our faces. So we decided to stay downtown and roam around to get it off our minds. And he said, “Well, when you want to go home, you come here and wait for me and I’ll come around and I’ll take you out there for nothing. It won’t cost you anything, I’ll just take you home.” He was so nice. That was it. You just went back home to your own home and you waited for letters to come. So I came back and stayed with my folks and Dot went back to New York.
I went back to work at my old job and then I went to work for another savings and loan, too. That’s when I also worked for the Air Force as a volunteer thing. They called it a Filter Center and it was located in the Chapman Building, right at Monument Square. They’d taken over some offices on the second floor. They had a big lay out of a map which we sat at. At other spotting stations, there were other volunteers watching and listening for airplanes flying over. They would call in to us, and we’d have to find it on the map and plot the positions. We’d follow the routes of all these planes, where they were headed for so the army could check on them and find out if they were friend or foe. At the same time, the Coast Guard was watching the coast for submarines or ships landing in coves or trying to sneak into the harbors.
I had worked before Arthur went into the war. He had worked at a spotting station. I also belonged to a sorority that set up a booth in the theatre lobby for war bonds. Every week we honored a local boy. We’d go out on the stage and tell about the boy. I remember going out on that stage and speaking to a full theater. I had them all crying. It was a hard time. It was a good war, it you want to call it that. It wasn’t a Vietnam type of war. I mean, we knew what we were in there fighting for. We had been attacked at Pearl Harbor, and Hitler was on the other side of us. Everybody knew that we had to get into it. We couldn’t let Pearl Harbor go by, all the damage they did and the loss of our lives. So it was a feeling we were all in it together. It was a good feeling. It brought people together and we were all working for that cause. There were no if, ands or buts. It was a necessary thing to do, no question about it. Everybody worked together. It was a good effort. Everybody was very patriotic.
We heard it all, what was going on with the Japanese suicide pilots. Arthur’s ship had shot one down and he saw the flag raising at Iwo Jima. Then we dropped the bomb. Of course, we didn’t know about it. They didn’t talk about it, that they were going to do it, so we didn’t really realize it was going to happen. We all thought it was called for, to stop the war. Threat was the only thing that was going to stop it. Otherwise, it would have gone on and on, and we would have lost thousands of our boys. They had to do something drastic to stop it, didn’t they? Arthur said, when they walked into Hiroshima and looked at the damage that was done, even the Japanese who had survived it welcomed the Americans. The Japanese people were just as polite and nice as they could be. It was the only thing to bring the war to an end that was all. Honest to God, it would have been a terrible massacre.
Of course, the war was over in Europe before it was in Japan. I happened to be in New York City, for VE‑day Beverly and I had gone down to see Art Forestall, because he was going to be coming in to New York. We stayed at the hotel there and the next morning we were right on the fringe of Times Square, in a restaurant eating breakfast when all of a sudden, it just burst. There were people running from every direction! All over the place. Somebody from the restaurant said, “The war’s over! The war’s over!” And everybody just jumped up and ran out. We ran out and were right in the middle of it, right in Times Square. You never saw such rejoicing in your life! All the service men who were there were hugging their girls and kissing them. There was hugging and kissing going on all over. It just went wild! And we happened to be there.
I was feeling happy and sad at the same time. In Europe the war was over, but my husband was still over fighting that terrible thing in the Pacific. I was hoping it would be over for them soon, too. Then August it ended. Arthur came home on Christmas night. I knew he was on his way, because they had landed in San Francisco, and he called me and said he was coming. So on Christmas night, I was at my house and I think Mrs. Duffett was there, too, spending Christmas day with my family when he called up at some place along the way and said he’d be coming into Boston Station at Midnight on Christmas night. I took the first train I could get to Boston. At South Station at midnight I was all by myself waiting for that train to come in. When I got there I first went to the Bradford Hotel and got a room for us, then raced to South Station and waited for the midnight train. I was watching for the bright lights to come down the track, and pretty soon, there it came. As I walked down the track, he stepped off the car and I just couldn’t believe it. He hugged me and kissed me. I was relieved that he was whole, all in one piece with no injuries.
Before he got his discharge papers, he had wanted to stay in the Navy, but they wouldn’t accept him because he had a heart murmur. So he went back to his old job. We lived with his mother for a few months until we could find a place. While we were looking, another service couple that we knew said that they had a house and wanted us to come and stay with them. We lived with them until we found a house to buy up on Veranda Street.
Arthur didn’t want to get a rent because he didn’t want to waste money on a rent. He said, “I’m going to buy something and get equity.” It wasn’t an unusual thing to do then. The house was a three‑family. It was actually a two‑family, but someone had put in a small apartment in the attic, a nice cozy apartment. So we bought it paying only eight thousand dollars. Just imagine! But to us that was a lot of money. We had Joyce and Neale while we lived there but it began to get kind of small for us so we decided to look for a bigger house where we could be all by ourselves.
One day Arthur came home and he said, “I found it! I found it! Over on Glenwood Avenue!” He had liked the house because it had a barn. Dad liked to tinker. He had a jeep and plows and he just wanted all that space. He thought it was ideal to have a barn. So we looked at it and bought it for twelve thousand, five hundred dollars. We lived here while the kids were growing up, six or eight years.
I worked till I got pregnant and then I stopped in 1950. It was six years before we had Neale. We had wanted to get settled and we wanted to have a house. When we finally had a home all set I quit and became a homemaker and a mother, to stay home with the kids. When the kids got into Longfellow School I did some part time work while they were in school. I worked down at the Portland Lumber, Art Forestall’s company But I was always home when the kids got home.
Getting pregnant was the most exciting thing! The most exciting thing! Especially that first one. They’re all exciting, but the first one, you just can’t believe that you did it. When I told Arthur that I was pregnant you can imagine what his reaction was! He was just elated. He wanted kids, so he wasn’t a bit surprised.
I never had to ask him to help with caring for the children. When Neale came, he’d get up in the night and feed him. He’d say, “No I’ll feed him this time”, and he’d got up and feed him or change him. I mean, he just was a wife’s dream I guess, was the only way to put it.
Neale was a big baby, 9 pounds and some ounces. He was right on time. Who but Neale would be? He was due on the 24th of January and I think he came on the 25th. Our wedding anniversary, you see, was the 24th so the night before Arthur took me out to supper to Valle’s down to Woodford’s corner. They were known for their steaks, so he took me down and we had a big steak dinner. I didn’t know then if I’d get through it. I knew something was near and Neale was due on the 25th. Before I had a chance to go to bed that night, I knew something was happening. I would usually get to bed around midnight, but I knew something was wrong. My water broke and I said, “This is it.” We rushed right into the hospital and he was born the next morning. No problem. I felt great. Those were the days they kept you in the hospital for ten days afterwards, and you had a chance to rest up, to get back on your feet again before they sent you home to all those chores. I can’t imagine anybody going home the next day and starting right in on that schedule and the chores. You’re so weak and tired. And he was so big. I remember the nurse bringing him down to me at feeding time saying to him, “You should be carrying me!” He was a handsome little tyke.
Joyce came along a year and a half later. I wanted them close. I thought it was nice
to bring them up close together so they’d have each other to play with and enjoy each other, for company So I said to my doctor, “Well anything that you can give me to help me get another one right away?” He gave me a pill and I guess it did the trick, because I got pregnant. Neale was so excited about getting a brother or a sister. Even though he was a year and a half, he knew he was going to get something. Of course, Joyce came and then he knew that he had a sister. When I came in with her and laid her on the couch, Neale went up to her to give her a ball. He looked at her, grinned and said, “There she is!” He was so cute! He was so good to her.
Wayne came along nine years later. I didn’t decide to have him, really, but Arthur said he did. Because we had started our family late, I thought that having the two had better be it. I really wasn’t counting on having another one. So Wayne came along, I really wasn’t planning on it, at that late date. Everyone thought it was great, especially Arthur who always said that I was going to have a third one. He figured he had missed a lot by being the only child and so he wanted three and he got them. I mean, I wasn’t that careful. I mean, if it happened, it happened, but I wasn’t planning on it. I was tickled to death when Wayne came along. The other kids thought it was great. They loved him and so were all a help, especially Joyce.
Beverly and Art didn’t have any children, so my children were her children. Bev and Art helped me a lot with Wayne and with Neale and Joyce when they came along. They would take them places and doted on them. When Joyce was only a year old and Neale was two and a half, I became sick with hepatitis and I couldn’t take care of them. It lasted for several months. So the kids stayed with Bev and Art. To this day, I am grateful to them because I had two babies to take care of and couldn’t do it in my weakened condition. First the doctors told me I had the flu, but then I started turning yellow. I said, “This isn’t the flu.” Everything was yellow, my eyes, and my skin. That really drains you.
We had the camp, so we were over there every summer. My sister, Roberta, would come up every summer, so the kids got together with their cousins every year. All summer long, we would stay at camp. When Neale got into Junior High, we started out lobstering. During the summer Neale and Joyce often went on the State of Maine training ship, at the Maine Maritime Academy. They took a trip every year. The ship would stop in Portland and take on some visitors so Arthur and Bev’s Arthur would go on that cruise with them.
We took several trips over the years. On one we took a trip down to North Carolina to see Roberta and her family. Somewhere in there, we took Arthur’s mother to see her brother who she hadn’t seen in umpteen years. He wasn’t well so we made that trip to Toronto. We also took another trip up to Buffalo where Arthur had an aunt.
Our kids didn’t seem to have any problems growing up, They just weren’t interested in doing any bad things. I guess they got it from us. Arthur was such a good sort, always thinking of others in a quiet way. In our home we never had liquor and didn’t smoke. Basically, we lived a quiet life at home so they grew up quiet. Of course, drugs weren’t in the picture then. They wouldn’t dream of doing things at school that were naughty or would get them detention.
We were very involved in school activities. We would help put on school festivities every year. We worked on the circus acts there, pony rides and train rides, all kinds of rides for the children. Some circus people would bring them to town every year. We were also involved in their later school years. We went to all the teacher’s conferences and belonged to the Deering High band parents’ organization. We were very active in that, raising money for their trips and were often chaperones. We went to Martha’s Vineyard with them. When they played in Expo ’67 in Montreal we were chaperones for that trip. They played twice at the fair. They also played at the Shrine Hospital for children. We were active parents and did things with them.
They loved the camp because they could run around. They just always look forward to going out there. They’d think of things to do and when Wayne came along he joined them. They loved camp. They hated to come in when school was starting up. We’d stay out there until the night before school opened. We never came in to get them ready for school or anything. They didn’t get all new clothes to go to school. There was no need to tramp through the stores to get new clothes. They had plenty of clothes at home. They didn’t need new ones to start in so we’d stay out there until the night before and they’d go to school the next morning. We’d stay there till the last bell.
All of the teachers thought our children were great kids. They’d tell me how Neale would look after Joyce at Longfellow school. He was always concerned for her. He’d wait for her to come out of her class and then he’d walk home from school with her. They thought it was pretty nice for a brother and sister to be so close. When Neale, Joyce and then Wayne graduated from Deering High School, we got a lovely letter from the principal saying how sorry they were to see the last Duffett leaving their school, because they’d been a joy to have in school. They’d all been an example for other kids and they would be missed. Imagine a principal writing a letter like that? So that told us, I guess, that we did something right. We never worried about our kids because they never gave us any cause to worry. They just knew the right thing to do, and wouldn’t do the wrong thing. I mean, they just never gave us any trouble at all. They were just great kids.
When Arthur got to be city clerk here in Portland, he used to have weddings here at the house. People would come here to get married. I remember the first time that happened after he was appointed city clerk, Neale and Joyce were small, five and six. We sent them upstairs to be quiet during the ceremony, to be quiet and out of the way. As they were going I said, “Now you go up and be quiet because Daddy’s going to marry somebody.” Neale stopped halfway up the stairs and called down, “But Mommy, Daddy’s all ready married!” And I said, “Well, he’s not marrying somebody, he’s just doing the marriage for somebody” He thought I meant that his dad was going to be married to someone else.
We were active in the church. We went to church every Sunday. I was a church clerk, something like the secretary. Arthur was the chairman of the board and Joyce taught Sunday School. We played the bells twice on Sunday mornings, before and after the service.
After they were grown I missed my children terribly, but I accepted it of course, as the natural order of things. I didn’t lose any sleep over it, but it was quite a change.
Dad and I were close so we did things together. He never came into the house without that smile of his so anything that I got down in the dumps about wouldn’t last for long.
It was hard for a while, but we didn’t dwell on it. You get over it. We’re still close. And I realized that they were all going to be around where I could see them. I knew where they were. It’s not easy, but everybody goes through it, so you accept it.
I can’t ever say that I’ve felt that I was retired from working even though I’m seventy‑ four. I know I’m an old woman to the young people, but I don’t feel like an old woman. I think anybody could let themselves feel that way. But as they say, you’re only as old as you feel, so I try to not look upon it as being old. I feel probably sixty. I really don’t feel like I’m old. I see other people, and some friends of mine who are my age look old to me! I don’t know why. I think when people get older they have a tendency to let down and don’t try to look attractive any more. They just let themselves go, but it isn’t necessary. I don’t think of myself as old.
It’s great being a grandmother! When my grandchildren come in it brightens up my day. They come in and come to hug me and kiss me. They help me stay young. Of course, they can’t spend a lot of time here because they’re an hour away so it isn’t like I see them every day. I might see them once every two weeks, or something like that. I talk to them on the phone. Little Matthew comes and spends the night with me once in a while. Because he doesn’t have to go to school on Fridays, Joyce will bring him over on Thursday night or his Dad will bring him over on Thursday afternoon. He likes to come and visit me because we play games, all kinds of games. He can win over me every time. He’s such a smart little thing. We play crazy eights and some other card games. He also likes to do puzzles and I have a lot of board games that he likes to play. One involves a lot of math and he likes that because he’s good at math. When he’s here, I just have to forget everything else, just sit down on the floor and play games with him. He gets a big kick out of it.
Kristen is getting older now. She’s thirteen so it’s all together different. I used to enjoy so much reading to them when they were little, but they can read themselves now, so I don’t have to do that. I have a good relationship with Kristen. She’s into horses, of course, so I share that with her. The other night, before Thanksgiving, I was talking with her mother on the telephone when Kristen came on and wanted to tell me how to cook the turkey! She had just seen how to cook a turkey on a television show. She likes cooking and things and when she comes over, she goes through my magazines and looks at all the recipes. She’s getting to be a young lady. Often, I tell them I’d like to put a brick on their heads and keep them small a little longer.
Spirituality plays a big part in my life now. I feel closer to God. A lot of that stems from my trip to Jerusalem, seeing all those places and walking where Jesus walked. It just makes it so real to you. It was a wonderful experience. It stirs up your interest and I can’t seem to read enough about it, you just want to delve into it more. I also think that it has changed. It has matured along with me and my understanding of it. I don’t know how to explain it. If I hadn’t had that faith, it would have been a lot harder for me when I lost Arthur. I know that. But I was at peace. It was hard and I tried not to show it outside to other people. When someone you love like that passes, it leaves a big hole. It changes your life, but it’s getting easier all the time.
It’s bad not to reach out on your own. Being involved, getting involved with other people and helping them, that’s what helps you get over a time like that. Volunteering. If I didn’t have the work I do with the Salvation Army, I’d be miserable. You can’t just sit around the house all day moping and saying “poor me, poor me.” You’ve got to get out and make a life of your own.
I don’t know what new experiences there are for me in the future. I’ve been to Jerusalem. That’s about the highest experience I can think of. And of course, I took a trip out to San Diego, California and that was a great experience, too. So now I might get to do a little traveling.
It has been good to keep up my old relationships again with the JFF. When you look back and think how long we’ve been friends, we’ve kind of stuck together and kept in touch, even though we’re in different states. That means a lot. Old friends mean a lot more to you than new friends. I never get past that, I think. Old ones are part of you, like going to California to see Eileen. Now I feel like I’m closer to her and Ralph, because I can picture them, their home and some of their friends that I met and did things with. I can picture them sifting in their living room watching television in the evening, and it’s quite a big difference. If you can picture somebody in their surroundings, it brings them that much nearer.
I get a lot out of my church because I’m a part of that family. Every body’s concerned for everybody. It’s a small church, and I think that’s so much nicer than a bigger one. You kind of get closer to them. It’s like one big happy family. You go in and everybody hugs you and kisses you. One girl named Beverly always kisses me. I call her Kissy‑Kissy. I say, “Here comes Kissy‑Kissy!” Everybody gets so interested and concerned if you’re sick or something. That’s wonderful, that’s a lot of support. And the minister is a good support. He calls from time to time and I enjoy that immensely.
I can’t say that I have had a spiritual experience of any kind, that will only be when I go to Heaven which I hope I will! But I am at peace and that’s helped me, I think, through Arthur’s passing and everything. I felt at peace with myself. That was one of the last things he said to me, when I was with him at the hospital, he said, “I don’t want to be here.” And I said, “Where do you want to be?” And he said, “With the Lord.” I knew that was where he should be and I knew he was at peace. He was ready to go, and that made me feel more at peace, that was really what he wanted. Of course, when he went it was an awful shock. It was an awful loss, but I was at peace because I knew that he was at peace and in a better place. It was hard to see him the way he was. I’ll see him again some day, I’m sure of that.
Some days I think I might have quite a few days ahead. I think here I am, I could have twenty more years ahead of me yet that seems improbable, but I could! I don’t know what more I could do under the circumstances. I’m too old to go out and get a job and I fill up my time with my volunteering at the Salvation Army and church. So I don’t look forward to doing any more than what I’m doing now. I have to admit, I guess I’m too old to start a career. My volunteering is a career. It gives me a lot of satisfaction and I enjoy doing it. We get all together and have fun at the same time.
Growing older you find that you change, but it’s not something that sticks out at you. You grow more tolerant, I think. You gain more understanding, so you don’t think of yourself first as much as you do when you’re young. When Arthur became the city clerk, it kept him very busy. He was out at meetings all the time, counsel meetings and meetings of the clerks association, here and there. It kept him awfully busy and I resented it. I remember resenting it, having him spend so much time away. It was hard, but I gradually came to realize that that’s the way it was. It was his job, so I came to accept it after a while. It didn’t bother me any more. I guess I matured to it.
Little things that bother when you are young don’t bother you as you grown older. They’re just a small part of living, and like they say, “This too shall pass.” And it does. I think things just evolve from one thing to another, nothing stays the same. And as you grown older through the deceased, you get that wisdom to know that things aren’t going to stay the same. There’s no use getting upset by things because “this too shall pass.” And it always does. You come to accept it without any hard feelings. At least, I haven’t. I say, “This is the way it is.” I was just feeling sorry for myself that Arthur wasn’t at home with me late nights. He’d have counsel meetings that would
sometimes keep him out until after midnight or later. You tend to take it personally and feel sorry for yourself. Actually, if I had realized it, he would have much rather have been home with me than out at some meeting. You just mature to it. You forget yourself more and you realize that those little things don’t amount to a hill of beans. Just don’t take life too seriously, I guess.
The only concern you have as you get older is that you don’t get incapacitated or sick and not be able to take care of yourself. That’s about the only worry that I have. I don’t want to be a burden. I just hope and pray that I go before I become one. That’s the biggest concern that I have as I get older.
I am content and have no regrets about my life as it has been. I have a wonderful family and a nice home. Who could ask for anything more? We never were rich, but we had a nice comfortable home. I never wanted anything more. My family even had to sneak in a new refrigerator on me once, because I said the old one was all right. They brought it into the house while I was at camp. I walked in and of course, there was a new refrigerator. I said, “I don’t need that!” They said, “Oh yes you do!” I just never was one who felt that I had to have the latest thing going. I didn’t want the microwave, but Arthur made me get that. I was never on to newfangled things because I believed you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and that’s what it’s amounted to. I don’t cook with a microwave. All I ever do is heat things up in it. Once in a while, I would cook a little chicken in it, but I haven’t been one to use it to bake a meal or anything. I still like my conventional oven.
Basically, I’ve been content with what I’ve had. And I felt like I had everything I needed. Life is what you make it. You can be miserable or you can be happy, it’s your choice. Lead a good clean normal life and you don’t get into trouble.
My greatest accomplishment was having three kids and surviving! That’s about it. I haven’t done any other earth shattering things. I think having them, bringing them up decently, and being there for them at all times, was my accomplishment. It was a full time job until they got of age. I would hope that I’ve made some impact on them.
I guess my husband shaped my life the most. He’s been my constant companion all these years, a loving and cheerful one. I don’t know what my life would have been if I’d married Malcolm. It would be different than what I had. Malcolm was a nice guy, but he just had moods. What we had in common was that we both loved music, and then I went and married a man who didn’t know the first thing about music! That used to get at me a little bit. Arthur didn’t appreciate music at all. He couldn’t hold a tune and he couldn’t sing. It was the ultimate sacrifice. I’ve laughed about that at times. I’d be singing beside him in church and he was never on tune. He’d make up his own tune and his own words! We’d be going along and he’d sing another word in there. I’d have to give him a little nudge and say, “Calm down! Calm down!” He was just trying to be funny. He was always himself and I got so that I acted just like him saying odd things at odd times just to get a laugh like he always did.
I think the meaning of life is to live it so that it is a shining light to other people, showing kindness and living as a role model to other people. To so live your life that you can be a model to those around you by being honest, truthful, and faithful. I’ve tried, but you don’t always succeed. Nobody’s perfect. But I feel I’ve lived a good life, as good as you can. And I believe that you should serve God, follow His commandments. If you can pass that on to your family, that would be your greatest joy in life, because I want to see all of you again, too. He’s promised that I will see you….So live your life so that you can be a light to others, one of the thousand points of light. It is hard, but it’s easy. You get over somehow, if you just don’t take things to heart.