LIFE STORY OF ELAINE
Interviewed May 1990
Elaine is a sixty eight year old woman, currently living in a small apartment in Milford, Maine. She is the sole guardian of her ninety eight year old father. She is a very small woman, weighing in at barely eighty three pounds. Her health appears to be good for her age. Elaine was born, raised and lived all her life in the same family house. She recently has moved out of her home and into a small four room apartment in a neighboring village. She was raised in a family in which both her parents worked outside the home, this was unusual for that time in society. She has one sister who is three years younger than herself. With the help of her husband , Elaine raised two children, a boy and a girl. Both of her children now live away from the hometown and this seems to bother her quite a bit. She has two granddaughters who also live away from her. She expresses a concern for not being able to see them as frequently as she would like. Her husband died at a young age very suddenly leaving her “all alone” as she says.
I’m Elaine. I was born in a little town about a mile from Old Town, called Great Works. My birthday is June 13, 1921. I was born at home. At that time, you didn’t go to the hospital to have your children. My mother had me in the living room of our home.
I remember of her telling me, as I grew older, of one night the nurse was talking with her and showing her how a baby laid in fetal position. She moved me around to show her. Later on in the evening, the nurse noticed that I had spit up quite a little bit of blood. They immediately notified the doctor. He came down. They weren’t sure if by doing all the turning if it hadn’t caused that [the bleeding~. He just said to keep me quiet, not move me much for twenty four hours. ~But, apparently it didn’t do any damage.
I can remember when I was four years old, I had a bad cold and wasn’t able to go out for a few days. My grandmother lived across the driveway from us and my mother promised me that by the weekend, if my cold was better, she would take me over there. Sunday morning my mother went to church and Dad stayed with me. We had a stove in our living room and he was going to build a fire in there. So, he told me to stay in the kitchen where it was nice and warm until he got through in the living room. While he was in there, it was in the wintertime, and while he was in there I decided that I would take one of my little play dishes and go out on the porch and get some snow. I did. I came in and I played with the snow in the sink, and I never told them. So, after we had lunch my mother noticed that I didn’t act as active and peppie as I had. She asked me if I was feeling better and I said “No”, that I didn’t feel very good, that my head hurt. I ended up having pneumonia. I was sick for ten days. When I was feeling better, one day we were talking about things and I told her that I had gone out that day and got some snow, that’s what had made me sick again.
I was four when I started in the kindergarten. They didn’t have pre school then and you didn’t have to be five years old to start school. The reason that she sent me to school then was that my cousin was going and she thought that she could watch me going across the street and around the playground while I was there. We had a very good time. The kindergarten was like, on the idea of a pre school. We used to have a sandbox in there that we could play in and that was one of my interesting things.
I remember one time when I was in the first grade, we had like craft things to do. We had these little scissors. Two or three of us decided to do a little barbering. I came home and my mother asked me how my day at school was and I said “good”. She said “Did anything exciting happen?” I said “Well, some of the kids cut their hair.” She said “Did you?” I said “Oh, no I didn’t.” She could tell because my bangs were all like junks taken out of them.
Another time I remember, I probably was still in the first grade, I would say. I fell asleep in school. I don’t know why, maybe I wasn’t feeling good, I don’t know but anyway I fell asleep. The teacher woke me up and she called me down to her desk and asked me why and I didn’t want to really say, I guess and then after awhile I said “Well, my mother kept me up too late last night. We went over to my grandmother’s and she kept me there too late.” I didn’t like to go to bed at night, anyway. I hated to go to sleep. When I got older I used to, sometimes, tell my mother “I can’t get my breath when I go to bed.” She’d YoulYou can’t get your breath?” I’d say “No, I have to make my breath myself.” She’d say “Well, who makes it other times for you?” I think I probably used all kinds oexcusesuses so I wouldn’t have to go to bed.
I had a cat. It was a gold colored cat. I had it from a kitten. Someone gave it to my father for me and it was quite a pet. It followed me everywhere. One time it took sick and they, my dad, had to have it put away. They didn’t want to tell me, that they had to do that because I was so easily upset anyway. They told me that it must have run away. There was a town about two miles from where we lived and there was a park. In this park there was a small cannon. Every time I would go by there I would tell them that Jack must have come up here and gotten hit by that cannon.
Another thing I remember of when I was real young is visiting our neighbors. We had these neighbors that lived quite close to us, just over on the other street. We were very friendly with them. I used to go over every Saturday to visit. They had little, at that time they called them celloid but I would say it was something like plastic now, these little ducks. I thought it was my job to go over there every week and wash those ducks. I guess it was an excuse to play in the water in the bathtub . But, that was one thing I thought I had to do.
My mother’s mother died when I was about six years old and my grandfather on her side I didn’t know at all, he died before my mother was married. I can’t remember too many things about my grandmother. One thing I do remember is that she used to wear high shoes that had to be laced. Sometimes, I would come in from playing and one of them would be untied. She’d say “Would you fix, lace my shoe for me?” Kid fashion I wouldn’t want to stop long enough and lace her shoe. I always felt she didn’t like me because I wouldn’t stop and lace her shoes.
My grandparents on my dad’s side lived about three miles from us. We used to go there quite often. I used to like to go down on Sundays. We would go quite often on a Sunday and we’d stay for dinner. One of the things I like real well was, she usedfixo fi~ in the fall, dill pickles. That’s one of the things I remember about liking to go down there. Another is, she would always make a special kind of french fried potatoes for us.
My aunt gave piano lessons. She was a piano teacher. I wanted to take piano lesson so they decided that I could do that. My mother used to take me down to the train station in Great Works and put me on the train on Saturday noon and my aunt would meet me in Orono. I would have my lesson and stay for the afternoon then she would take me down to the train. It got so that the conductor would look for me every Saturday. On the way back he would say “Well, what did you do today?~ I would say “Well, after my piano lesson, we played Old Maids.” “Well, who was the old maid, [he would say.] Of course, I wasn’t going to admit that I didn’t always win so I’d always say my aunt was the old maid.
I finally decided I didn’t want to waste my time taking piano lesson anymore. I didn’t want to continue because I wanted to play popular music and my aunt wanted me to play classical. I wouldn’t practice. My mother said If your not going to put the time into this and practice you might as well stop taking the lessons. I thought that was a good idea. I’m sorry in later life that I hadn’t continued on because I would like to have been able to play the piano now.
Both of my parents had good dispositions and were easy to get along with. They always seemed quite happy. We had a good home life. We always did things together as a family. My mother was quite easy tempered. She was kind of excitable but easy to get along with. My dad was quiet. My mother made most of the decisions when we were growing up. I would ask her if I could do such and such a thing and she would say “Go ask your father.” I would go ask Dad and he would say “Whatever your mother says is all right with me.” Finally she was the one who would make the decision. If there was something he particularly didn’t think I should do, he would say “No!~ I remember one time I wanted to go skating. My mother was Post mistress in a branch of the Old Town post office and Dad was assistant Post master. During the day he had heard some of the boys talking about going to this particular place skating. Some friends of mine had asked me to go. When I asked my mother said “Ask you father.” I asked Dad and he said “No, I don’t want you to go down there skating tonight.” I wasn’t very happy with this decision. In fact, I think it kind of surprised me that he had said no. I tried, a little bit, to talk him into letting me go but he still said “No!” I was kind of angry about that. ThnexteY~t day, aschoolGl, the girls I was going skating with told me they didn’t stay because of what was going on there. I was telling my mother and father at the table when we were eating. I said to Dad “I’ve got to admit, I guess, you werright.ll He said “Well sometimes I know a little bit more that you think I do.~
I can remember on incident when I was in the lower grades at school. I decided, myself, that I would like to have a party. I didn’t say anything to my mother. That day when I went to school, I asked five or six of my friends over. I told them it was my birthday and that I was going to have a birthday party after school. I invited them all down. I was home for about a half an hour and the girls came all dressed up. They all had envelopes. My mother said “What’s all this?” , and they said “We’re here for Elaine’s birthday party.” My mother said “It’s not her birthday.” “Well, she told us at school she was having a birthday party!” My moYousaid l’You keep your envelopes and bring them home back with you because it’s not her birthday but you can stay and have a party if you want to.” I don’t know why I said that because I always had birthday parties on my birthday, I guess I just decided I wanted another one.
They, my mother and father, always did things for us. We were a very close family. We went on picnics, on Sundays we always went out for the day. We always celebrated birthdays and Christmas. We always had a good Christmas. I had a good home life.
I think my parents were always kind and tried to impress on me to be kind to people, to help people, to be thoughtful.
I have one sister. She is younger that me. We got along very well as children. We had our spats the same as all brother and sisters do.
I was a happy child. wasaS always a nervous type person. I might have inherited some of that from my mother. She was kind of a nervous person and I have alwaybeenen all of my life. I worry a lot. As I’ve gotten older my family has always said to me “You cross bridges before you come to them, just don’t worry until it happens.” I worry about things a lot of the time that end up that I don’t need to worry about them at all.Butut, I guess that’s just my make up.
When I played, as a child, I used to play nurse a lot. I used think that when I grew up I would like to be a nurse. As I got older and into school more I changed my mind on that, I decided I wouldn’t make a very good nurse. Then I kind of leaned toward the business part of the schooling . I thought that I might like to work n an office. When I was in high school I thought I would like to go to beauty culture school when I got through and be a hair dresser. At the time when I graduated from high school, it was after the depression but jobs were not plentiful. In those days you couldn’t get student loans to go on to school like you can today. So, I decided I would try to get a job and maybe at a later date go on to beauty culture school. Once I got working I changed my mind.
I enjoyed going to school, I really did. When I was in junior high school there electricectric cars. You could buy a pass from the Bangor Hydro Electric Company. It was fcentsty ~nt.~ a week for a school pass and you could travel on thelectricectric cars any time you wanted to. Up by the high school there was a siding where the electric cars used to pass. We would get on at noontime and ride up as far as this siding up by the high school and get on there so we could get a seat. When they picked up the high school students there weren’t any seats. We probably would have had time to walk home but we used to do that instead. We used to get a kick out of it. The high school students didn’t like it at all.
I loved to go to the movies. At that time children could get into the moves for ten cents, when you were a certain age, of course, you were supposed to pay an adult price. I was always small and didn’t look my age. I was still going to the movies for ten cents when I was a senior in high school. I remember of going to the movies one time and the lady who sold the tickets said, ~The next time you will have to pay adult price.” I was so upset, I thought I’d never be able to go to the movies again. There was a young fellow who was in my class and he was an usher at the theater. I always felt he was the one that told on me.
I really like movies and I used to go a lot. I would go and see the previews and I’d come home and I’d say to my parents, “Oh boy, there’s a good movie next weekend.” “If I can go to that one next weekend , I won’t want to go for a long time.” Then I’d go the next week and I’d see another preview I had been waiting for for a long time. It was always the same. I really liked movies.
I enjoyed skating. I used to go skating a lot. I had a good friend that I went to school with and my cousin and we used to go skating down to the University of Maine or up to one of the rinks by the high school. Once in awhile, in the daytime, I would go skating with a group of friends on the river, but my parents didn’t like to have me skating on the river so mostly I’d go to the other places.
I like skiing. Of course, you couldn’t go to the mountains like they have today. There was a place that we used to go, it was a pretty good place to ski. We used to do that on Sunday afternoons or if it was good weather over vacations.
We used to like to walk. We would walk from where I lived down to the college and then we used to go down into the town of Orono. There was a restaurant there, Pat’s Pizza. It was a place where all the young people gathered, we used to go there frequently. That’s what I did for entertainment.
I hoped when I got out of school that I would be able to get a job. Jobs were not very plentiful at that time. I was young. I was only sixteen when I graduated from high school. I was small and I didn’t look my age. Every place I went to apply for a job they would ask me ~Are you old enough to work?” Several places I had to bring my diploma to prove that I had graduated from high school. I had a hard time getting a job. I did housework for a short period of time for one of our neighbors. I made up my mind that that wasn~t what I wanted to do for long.
There was a lady that came to our house that sold insurance. She was talking to my dad about taking out more life insurance. She used to say to me “Aren’t you working yet?~ This would make me a little put out because I had tried to get work and couldn’t find any. One day, I was talking to her, she said “I have an idea where you can get a job.” She told me about a photograph shop in Old Town that was looking for someone to work there because their son was going into the navy. She said “I will speak to him and get back to you when you can go and talk to him.” So, she did and I went up and I talked with him. He asked me if I had any idea about developing or printing snapshots and photographs. I didn’t have the slightest idea. He said, “If you are willing to learn, then we are willing to teach you. You can start on Monday morning if you would like.” I started at eight dollars a week pay. They were very nice people to work for. I enjoyed working there. They were very good and had a lot of patience teaching me to print snapshots. They taught me to do the coloring of the portraits. During the war we were very busy because they printed for a lot of places not just the area that we lived in. I enjoyed working there very much. I worked there for seven years. When I got through working there I was making eighteen dollars a week. To me that was a lot of money.
During that time, it was the period that the United States was into the war, there wasn’t a whole lot around for activities although we did live near the Dow Air Force Base in Bangor. By this time there were busses, they had taken the electric cars off. We, a group of girl friends of mine, used to go to Bangor out to dinner and then out bowling. Sometimes we would go to the local dances that they had there in Bangor.
I met one of the boys from the air base. We became quite friendly. We used to go to the U.S.O. or when they had times we would go to those. If fact, we became engaged. He was sent to New Foundland. When He came back I went out to Kansas with him to visit and meet his parents. His parents lived on a farm way out in the country. There weren’t any houses around. I was quite surprised at that because I lived in a community that the houses were very close.
When we got there that night it was late when we got off the train, he said “We’ll go to the local dance halbecausese I know some of my cousins will be there. They’11 take us out to the house.” I said “OK.” We went and met several of his cousins. When the dance was over we all piled into the car. I didn’t have the slightest idea where I was going. I thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself in to?” I later met his parents. They were very nice, his mother was especially nice to me. I stayed there and visited for a week.
I was very surprise because they didn’t have running water in the house and of course I was used to that being a give at home. The main roads were cement. In the country, all the side roads were just dirt roads. They would ask me what kind of roads we had and I would say “Hot Top” or ~Tar~ roads they didn’t know what I was talking about. They didn~t have electricity in their house either, they had oil lamps. They thought my accent was strange so the kept me talking because I sounded so much different than they did. It was so much in the country I was not used to that kind of life. He didn’t plan to stay there, he didn’t live there anyway. He had worked in California and that’s what the plans were to go back to California. After we got back home, the more I thought of it the more I thought this isn’t for me, this is not right. California was to far away as far as I was concerned. He went back to Missouri, to a job that he had, we just kind of drifted apart.
I was working at the studio at the time and there was a young fellow that lived in town. When he came home on furlough he used to stop into the studio a lot. He knew my boss real well. We got talking and became friends and then we started dating. At the time he was engaged to a girl from Pennsylvania that he had met when he was in the service. While he was in the service she went into the service. While he was overseas she was transferred overseas, so when he was transferred back to the states she was still over abroad. We, as I said, became friendly and before we really started dating she came back to her home town in Pennsylvania. He went to talk thing out with her. They decided to break up. When he came back then we started dating regularly and eventually became engaged. We were going to be married but hadn’t set a date yet. He had always wanted to work in a jewelry store, he wanted to learn watchmaking. So he applied to the Peter’s School oWatchmakingng in Washington D.C. and was accepted for an eighteen month program. We had to put the wedding on hold until he returned from there. My sister and I went out while he was there just to visit. We spent ten days in D.C. In eighteen months he came back to Old Town.
That summer my sister had planned her wedding. She was to be married in June and I was going to be married in August. In the month of July my mother took sick. She had to go into the hospital. The last of July she died. That was a very traumatic experience for me. It was the first time I had lost anyone that close. I had lost grandparents, I felt bad but to lose my mother was very traumatic to me. I almost decided to put the wedding on hold for awhile but my family talked to me and said she would want you to go on with the plans you had planned. So we did get married in August of 1950.
We had already arranged for an apartment, but with my mother dying I didn’t want to leave my dad alone at the house. We decided to stay at the house and have my dad live with us. He lived with us for several years.
In 1952 my son was born. He has always been a great joy to us. My husband’s family was very close to us and us to them. They spent a lot of time with Larry and us. My dad stayed with me for about two years and then he move in with his sister.
We always went on picnics too, that was one thing both my husband’s family and mine had always done and we continued in the tradition of that.
In 1956 my daughter was born. We were very happy with that. Things went well. I wondered at the time because of the difference in their ages, if Larry might be a little jealous. He had been the center of attention for so long. He was the only grandchild on my husband’s side. He also got a lot of attention from my dad since he no longer lived with us but visited often. He wasn’t though, he was very good with her. I tried to kind of work him into helping me like having him do little things for her or me when I was taking¬ care of her. That made him feel that he was still a part of the action and not being pushed aside for a new baby. They got along very well. They had their squabbles like all children do but on the whole they were good friends.
We had a good family life. We tried to keep it like both my husband and I had grown up with, that type of atmosphere. One of the things , as the children got older, we enjoyed the evening meal a lot. That’s when we were altogether. That’s when we did a lot of talking and communicating. We always tried to make them feel if they had problems, we were the ones to talk them out with and we would do our best to try to help them. That’s the way I was brought up and I know my husband was brought up that way too. I think they felt secure at home. They were included in a lot of things, in fact, everything we did.
We weren’t able financially, take long vacations but wtaked to talce short trips for a few days. They were, the children, grown up and in high school when the still enjoyed going with us.
I remember one incident when they were little, my daughter was about five years old. We were going to take them to Santa’s Village. That evening we stopped at a motel. I used to joke with her , when she was little, when I would get her ready for bed and tuck her in. I’d give her a kiss and say “Night, Night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bug bit.” It was always just a joke. This night at the motel we got ready for her to go to bed, and she didn’t want to go to bed. We talked and talked to her and finally it came out that she didn’t want to get into a strange bed because she was afraid that there might be bed bugs in there. They only way we could make her go to bed was to let her wear her house coat and her slippers in bed so if there were any bed bugs they couldn’t bit her.
We had good times they were short trips but we enjoyed them and had some very good times out of them.
My son had decided that he wanted to go to medical school. So, he stayed at home and attended the University of Maine at Orono for his pre med. My daughter was in high school. She wanted to do something in the medical field but she hadn’t decided what just yet. When she graduated she decided that she wanted to do x ray. She attended E.M.V.T.I. and the Eastern Maine Medical Center for the x ray program.
My son graduated from the University of Maine. He was going to spend his next year in Connecticut. That was a traumatic experience for me because it was the first time either one of them had ever left home. I thought to myself, Connecticut is at the end of the earth. I’ll only see him a couple of times a year. I was very upset. But, he had to do it, he had to break away and that was his first time away also. That year worked out fine, he got home a lot of times, a lot of weekends and I was very happy for that.
My daughter graduated from Eastern Maine Medical Center and Eastern Maine Vocational Technical Institute. Then , I had the experience of her leaving home also. She went to Machias to work as an x ray tech. I thought one week was so long, she used to come home every weekend. She stayed there from July to October, then she announced to us that she was going to Washington D.C. for a radiation therapy program. That was terrible news to me. I was happy that she wanted to go on with her education and I knew that she was bettering herself and was going to go into something she really liked but that didn’t make the long distance any shorter. The thought of her going that far away really bothered me. Since she had never liked school, for her to be going to more schooling was hard for me to believe. All the time she was in high school she was going to quit, she wasn’t going to bother to finish. When she decided to go to x ray school and then on to therapy school it was hard to believe. It was hard to accept that they were both grown up and out on their own. By this time my son was at Tuft’s Medical School in Boston. We were proud of them to think they wanted to better themselves and get more education and get into something that they liked.But, itt was hard letting go. That’s the way life is though, you have to go on with it no matter what.
She, my daughter, came home two or three times during the year that she was there. She was to finish her course on November the eleventh. November the tenth, my husband went off to work in the morning as usual, at around 10:30 in the morning they contacted me. The lady that worked in the office of the school where he was, came down and told me that they had had to take him to the hospital and that she was going to take me down. They thought he had had a heart attack. She took me down to the hospital and when I was able to talk to the doctor he confirmed that it was indeed a heart attack and it had done a lot of damage. It was a touch and go situation. The longer he could stay without having another one was to his advantage. I told him that my children were both away and he said to be on the safe side you should call them, then you folks can decided whether they should come home or not. So, I called my son and I called my daughter and they both came home that night. It was fortunate that they both were able to talk with him. On the eleventh he passed away. That was the hardest thing, I think, I had to accept. It was such a shock. As far as I knew, he was in good health and within a short period of time he was gone. I had a very hard time to accept that, with the children having to go back and all. Celia was going back to a job in the Portland area and Larry was having to go back to Boston to finish his training in medicine. At that time I had my father back living with me but I still had a hard time adjusting to being alone. I felt I was alone. I was glad Dad was with me because he was company for me and everything but my children weren’t around and I had lost my husband.
My dad has stayed with me. He is now ninety eight year old and I am taking care of him.
This past summer we decided to sell the house that we lived in. That was another bad experience for me. That was the house I was born in, I grew up there, and I had lived my entire life in that home. All of my memories of my childhood, my marriage and my children were all in that house. But, we decided that selling it was the best thing to do. In July we sold the big house and move into a smaller apartment.
My son has married. He practiced medicine for two years in the state of Maine, and then they decided to move back to Ohio. He had married a girl from Ohio. I have two little granddaughters who are my pride and joys. I wish they were a little closer so I could spend a little more time with them and spoil them.
My daughter is still in Portland. I am very fortunate to have her that close because she come up here real often and I am able to go visit her. We enjoy having her come. She is very good to me.
I hope I will never forget all the good Christmas holidays we enjoyed together. A lot of the time I spent with my in laws. I always enjoyed being with them, they were very good to me. There are many thing in my married life that I would not want to forget. Many thing that happened with my children now that I hope I will never forget.
I have had a cousin that has been very close to me all my life. She has been very helpful to me and we have had many good times together. There are many thing with her I would not want to forget.
I have had a very good life. I had a very good childhood. My mother and father were very good parents. I feel that they taught me well and I have tried to pass it on to my children.