Jennie Edna Wood Bryant
Interviewed May, 1993
I was born in Buckfield, Maine on January 6, 1895, on a farm, and the daughter of John Edwin Wood and Florence Gammon. I don’t think she had any middle name. Then in October 1896 [her brother, Clarence, was born]. As far as I can remember, see, my mother died, but I can’t tell the date, but it was in February 1897. I wasn’t quite three years old. My brother was nine months old, My father’s [birthday] was either the 18th or 19th, she lived over her birthday and died on his, They were both born in February,
My mother died then, and. he was left with us, with two babies you might as well say. We lived with my grandfather, John Y. Wood. That’s funny. We children never had any grandmothers on either side. They were all gone, and no great‑grandmothers, or a mother. We never saw them. There wasn’t a day going by when I was growing up that I didn’t wish I had a mother, cause the other children had a mother. I never remember my mother. I never remember her. The men brought up the children.
But after she was taken sick, her father‑ wouldn’t let her stay there. He had her go over to Grampa’s [so he could take care of her]. You see, she went into quick T.B. She didn’t live very long after my brother was born, and then I took it,
I had to go up to the sanitorium in Hebron when I was, was I nine years old? It was after Aunt Mary had gone to Harrison. I was there for nine months after my mother died. I think I was nine years old. I was there for nine months, and then I was cured. I went the day that Myron [actually Lawrence Witham, the oldest brother] was born, and you see, it has never come back on me. He was born in the night, and I went in the next morning to the sanitorium, and I went in to see him and say good‑by to Aunt Mary. My lands, I have been just as well, and after that I have always had my lungs tested and checked, and they were alright, but x‑rays showed the scars. It showed they are not active, never came back on me. I had two healthy children, and you see how many years I lived, That was when I was nine.
Then, Aunt Mary, she was 12 years older than I. Aunt Mary seemed more like a sister, and she looked out for us too. We used to go to a country school, and we had to walk. They sent me to school when I was four years old. I suppose that helped take care of me days. We had to walk to school. It must have been a mile or more. We carried our dinner in those tin pails. I remember. We used to go with Aunt Mary, because she was in school then.
In the winter, we used to have a wool dress. They used to call them tiers [the material that went over the wool dress], They used to make ‘em out of percale cotton, and they had sleeves in them, long sleeves, and they buttoned in the back, down probably three or four buttons, over that wool dress. We had changes for that, but the wool dress, we had to wear all winter, We had long johns, and then we had the wool dress, they used to call them tiers. I would say today, they would call them aprons [the tiers], They did not tie in the back, they was loose. We was dressed warm, and we had long wool stockings over the long johns. You see, we had to walk to school, so we was dressed warm. A long coat that came down below our knees,
I can’t remember how she looked or anything, but there wasn’t a day that I wished I had a mother. The other ones had mothers and sewed and made pretty dresses and everything. I used to say to my father, “Pearl had a new dress today at school.” He said, “Don’t you feel bad, you’ll be old enough soon to make your dresses.” I did, just as soon as I had somebody to show me. Oh my gosh, I think it was after I got married that I began to sew.
I couldn’t go to even high school. If I went to high school, I had to go out to Buckfield and live, because I couldn’t go back and forth. I had my father. We had him to take care of, and we [Edna and her brother] had to be there nights, to put him to bed. It used to take both of us, one on each side to lift him up from the chair to the bed.
We had a housekeeper to keep house and take care of us. Then after my mother died, my father had to go to the hospital and have his leg amputated. It was the bone. He hurt his leg, and it turned, I suppose, T.B. of the bone, and when they operated, they found that the bone was all honeycombed, and he had just a little left of his leg. After that, he never was able to do much work, and he become an invalid. Clarence, my brother, and I had to wait on him and take care of him.
My father had a hired man to take his place on the farm, after his leg was amputated, He had an artificial leg, but he could never walk good with it. He never could learn to walk with
it very well. Of course it was an old fashion one. We lost our father when I was 15, and Clarence was two years younger. It seems like it was in October, 1911, on Myron’s [Witham] birthday. Myron was a year old when he died [Edna’s father], that day. He had rheumatism. My father was the first loss [for me]. We had to wait on him, and as we got older, we had to lift him, They didn’t have any wheelchairs then. I used to have to wash his face and hands, and comb his hair. I used to have to stand on the kitchen chair. After Aunt Mary moved to Harrison, then I had to help with the work, because I didn’t have to do much work, only wait upon my father and things like that, because there was Aunt Mary and the housekeeper. When they moved to Harrison, we had to have a housekeeper and a hired man. I can’t remember if we had to have two or not, because my father wasn’t able to do any work and grampa wasn’t. After they moved back [my grandparents, Lester and Mary Witham], they just had one hired man to take my father’s place, because your [grand] father run the farm.
He was good [Grandfather Wood]. He was just like a father. He had a housekeeper, and of course as Mary grew up, she helped too. I never had to. A lot of my time was spent looking after my father and brother. They [John Y. Wood’s mother’s family] were a Young. His mother was a Young and married a Wood. I know he had a brother, Vernon. He was killed in the service, in the war. That was the Civil War, because Grandpa was in the Civil War. I know his mother’s parents were Young, They lived up to North Turner.
Oh, my brother and I played. I can’t remember [what we played with]. We had sleds in the winter. Out in front of the house there was a field, and there was a little, you couldn’t call it a hill, I don’t know what they called it then, but we used to slide down that. In back of us there was a big frog pond. The frogs would sing in the spring. That would freeze in the winter, and we used to have that for skating. Of course we had skates for Christmas.
Christmas, we didn’t. We never had a Christmas tree on the farm. All the trees, we never had a Christmas tree. We hung our stockings. We used to have nuts and candy and orange, and we would have one thing. There may have been a sled. The rest would be things like that. They did not have toys then, the way they do now.
One farm across from us, you know on Mud Street, they called it Mud Street because in the spring, oh, the road was terrible. When the frost come out you couldn’t drive over it. The road had settled right down and made holes, you know.
We never wore shoes in the summer. We went bare footed. Oh, my legs and feet used to ache, you know, without any shoes. The first day we went bare footed, oh dear, didn’t it hurt, the pebbles. Then your feet got toughened in, We didn’t have any shoes ‘til we went to school. That’s the way it was.
My brother and I played hide and seek at school. He had a bicycle. I never had a bicycle. My father wouldn’t get me one, because he was afraid I would fall off and get hurt. Laugh. If I knew what I know now, I could have rode his.
I looked after my brother. I worried over him and took care of him just like a mother. All as we had was each other to play with. I can’t remember of us ever fighting! I can’t remember,
Then they didn’t go anywhere. They used to have Decoration Day, and my grandfather used to take my brother and I. We would march with the school in North Turner to the cemetery, and have a dinner at the Grand Army Hall. That was the years event.
Memorial, we used to go with him to the cemetery in North Turner for flags. He always took my brother and I with him. Then they went to church in the afternoon. We looked forward to that from one year to the next, us kids, Then they had a dinner, the G.A.R. It was the same as the Legion, and they had an auxiliary. They had women that worked and put on suppers. They used to put on dinners for Memorial Day. I don’t know anything about the G.A.R. This connects with that [Civil War].
We had two neighbors [on the farm], but the rest were too far to walk. Down to Buckfield, you see, church was out to Buckfield, out to the village. We didn’t have a chance to go to church or Sunday school. In Dixfield, we went to the Church on the Hill. [Every Sunday] the whole family [went to church]. My daughter sung in the choir, Before she went into high school, they took young people in. She liked Sunday School.
We had cats and dogs on the farm. A dog and a walla of cats. We had barn cats that lived in the barn nights, to keep the mice out of the barn. The housekeeper wasn’t good to us, to me. She didn’t like girls, and I used to follow my grandfather all around. All day long, right to his heels, and even in the evening to the barn.
I’d get so sleepy, and one night I got, I crawled into where they fed the calves. I went in there and went to sleep. They went to the house and said, “Where’s Edna’?” Nobody knew. They hadn’t seen me. They went back and found me asleep in the calves trough. They found me asleep. If she was cooking and made cookies, she wouldn’t give us any. She wouldn’t give us a cookie. Probably I shouldn’t mention it [the housekeeper’s name], because she has relatives in North Turner. I think her name was Millie.
We lived with Grampa Wood, because he and my father ran the farm together. They had a lot of help, you know, hired men, and they farmed in a big schedule. They raised apples. They had fields of orchards and orchards. There are a few left when you see it. In the spring when they was in blossom, oh, they was a beautiful sight. They used to come up from Lewiston to see it, to go through the orchards when they were in bloom. They raised apples, different kinds of apples, and in the winter, they sorted them over and shipped them in wooden barrels. Some of them went to England and different places.
They had two pair of oxen that they used, and a pair of horses, and they used to have a driving horse, you know. These work horses were so big! They did all the farming with the
tools, with the oxen. The oxen would haul all the hay in those hay racks. They used to have a big body on two wheels. They used to gather the apples that they picked ‘em in bushel baskets, put ‘em in bushel baskets, and the oxen would pull that down to the house, and they would put the apples in the cellar. We had a great big cellar. It went the bigness of the house. That cellar was just as warm down there, they never froze. [There were] all different kinds, cooking apples and eating apples, all sorted out in these deep bins. You went down there and these bins would be just full of apples. Well, I think there was a man out to Buckfield that used to buy the apples, You pack them into barrels and seal them up to the top. They used to have to nail boards with pickets up to the top. The apples were hard in the winter when they packed them and shipped them.
In the fall they picked them before the frost came. They picked the apples, then they would pack the apples and sent them. It was cold in the fall, and it was cold when they shipped them. They used to pack them right in our kitchen, because it was warm in there. There used to be help from Lewiston come up at apple picking time. They used to go around picking apples in the fall. Some local, but mostly French. They had to [live at the farm] and get their meals [with us] because they lived out to Lewiston. I can’t remember if they drove back and forth. There was no automobiles then. They would have to drive with a horse and wagon, so it seems to me that they did stay there. Aunt Mary and a hired woman, and they used to have a man from North Turner. He used to cook. He’d come up and stay through apple picking and do the cooking, He did the cooking, got the meals and everything.
We had a lot of help, and my brother and I had to pick berries, every afternoon, for supper. Oh, didn’t we hate it! When it was blackberry time, we used to go down back in that pasture, they kept their oxen in there summers. Oh, wasn’t the blackberries thick in there. We had to go down and pick blackberries, but we didn’t have to pick blueberries, because there wasn’t none around. We used to have to go out and pick field strawberries, and then, my grandfather, oh he had a beautiful strawberry bed, we used to have to go out and pick them. Them though, they was so big, we didn’t mind though, but oh dear, those field strawberries. I was a little bit afraid to go out into that pasture where they were. No, it wasn’t that [the oxen], it was the wild animals that I expected to see. No, [I didn’t see any], but I was just that age when I was frightened. We probably started in when we were seven.
My grandfather Gammon I didn’t see to much of. In those days, we lived so far apart, it was too far to walk, and we had to go by horse and wagon. He lived in Buckfield. We lived in Buckfield too, but it was the end. You know where Bear Pond. You’ve been down there anyway. Well, the farm was in Buckfield, right on the edge of Buckfield, and John DeCoster, I think he was in Hartford. Anyways, the next house was in Hartford, and the schoolhouse was in Hartford, down near where Aunt Mable lived. Our pasture was in Hartford. He bought an old farm, my grandfather did. At the Whiting School, my grandfather Wood was born in a house in the woods by the school. There was just two houses over there. He lived there and took care of the old people, until he moved to Buckfield. Then he bought the farm in Buckfield, because he had boys to help. My father was born over there. I don’t know if Mary was born on the farm or not. There was my father and three brothers, course they were all small. They bought this farm because they were all old enough to help on the farm.
I used to go over there when I was little [grandfather Gammons]. He had a big family of boys and girls too, and I used to go over there and visit, but I can’t seem to remember, When my mother stayed there, the boys was all small and the two oldest ones, they were married. She had to stay home, because she wasn’t married, and she kept house for them and took care of all those boys. Aunt Lyda was a baby, and took care of her. She was three years old. I was born to that house. That was in Buckfield. Clarence [her brother] was born there. She was taken sick. That’s when we lost her.
Grampa Gammon, my mother’s father, he used to keep a lot of bees and have all kinds of honey. He used to love to fox hunt. He kept dogs, fox dogs. You could hear the dogs barking in the woods, getting the foxes. He sold the hides.
There is a big family of them. Every one of Grampa’s children except one was married and they had big families. I’d like to know just how many there was, My mother’s family, on my mother’s side from Lewiston, Uncle Forest, he was never married.
In those days, they had that washboard, and you had to put the water into tubs and then scrub ‘em and empty the water with pails and fill them up again with water to rinse them. They had ringers, you know, turn the crank, that would put them through that, that would dry ‘em and they had to hang ‘em. The women had it awful hard.
They didn’t have electricity then. They used lanterns in the barn for milking. They had kerosene lamps in the house. When I got old enough, it was my job to wash the lantern globes. Every day they had to be washed and kept clean, so they could see good, You had to look out or they would smoke, if you got the wicks turned up to high, it would smoke the glass. I washed them every forenoon.
They cut the wood in the winter, to be outdoor to dry through the winter, and work it up in the spring. They would get it in the fall for the winter wood. We burnt wood for heat in the kitchen stove. It kept the house warmer than today. It would be no fun. They’d have to get up in the mornings and build the fires. They would all go out at night, and in the morning it would be so cold. They’d start those fires a going, and you know it’s no time and that house was warm. They used to put a big chunk in the Round Oak stove in the dining room, and that would keep all night. In the morning there would be coals. That would take a big chunk of wood.
The irons were so heavy. They had to heat them from the stove. From the top of the stove, when they did their ironing. All the clothes had to be ironed in those days. Now you don’t hardly ever have to iron. They had those heavy irons, and they heat them on the top of the stove. My soul, they were so heavy you could hardly move them.
We had a neighbor. She used to have a lot of influence on me. Her name was Atkinson, our neighbor down below. She used to talk to me, just the same as my mother. She was just like a mother. They thought a lot of me. I used to go down there afternoons, once in a while, and wash her dishes. Oh, she used to let her dishes go. Oh, I loved to wash her dishes! I’d go down and wash her dishes, and she had a lot too, I’d wash ‘em all up, and I’d go home and tell my father. He says, “Yes, you go down there and wash dishes, but you don’t wash any at home.” She loved to see me come. I kind of clung to her for a woman, because she talked to me like a mother, Just things that a mother‑ and daughter would talk.
They had a big dairy. They kept a lot of cows. They were milking 20 cows, morning and night, and selling the milk to the factory to make into butter. I don’t know if they sold the milk in them days or not, I can’t remember. I do remember that much. I can remember this when I was three or four years old.
In the winter they cut ice and packed it in sawdust. They had a house for it, to put into these tanks, to keep the cans of milk in it, kept ice in that. They put ice in when it melted and they had to let the water out of the tank. There was a place to let it out, and then they put in more ice. They had enough ice to keep all summer. Of course we didn’t have any refrigerators, not any then. After we were married, we didn’t have a refrigerator. We had an ice box.
We had the first phonograph, when the phonographs came out. It was an Edison. My father was the first one that had one, and the neighbors used to come and listen to it. I had to put the records on. They would go and waltz through with the records. We didn’t have too many. For refreshments, I’d go down and get a dish of apples, and we’d all eat an apple.
We lived good. We had plenty of food. You see, they raised all their potatoes and all their vegetables. They would raise a calf and a little pig. They would raise them up. They would sell, and they would keep one for themselves for winter, and the same for the beef. You see, during the winter, we had that full hog for meat and beef, We had steaks and all kinds of things to eat on. They used to make their home made sausage from the pork. They used to have a barrel with coals in it, and they would put ‘em into those barrels. They smoked ‘em. They smoked the hams. You had your pork chops and everything and roasts, and the same for the beef. They didn’t have any ‘frigerator, but we had the house. I don’t know what you call ‘em, but it is a little room with windows in it and all fixed, where we used to keep the meat. They’d freeze in November, when they were slaughtered. When we wanted them, they’d have it all cut up and packaged, just the
same as they do now, and marked. They’d go and take it and unthaw it. It kept frozen all winter. That was just for winter. We had to use it. So, you see, in the winter, we didn’t have to mind just our groceries. They would buy a barrel of flour in the winter, for winter. Grampa used to raise onions and everything you could think of. They raised popcorn, and they husked it and hung it up, and when anybody wanted any popcorn, they would take it off the ear. They used to shell it when we wanted any. They would take down an ear or two, or the amount they wanted, and they would put it into the popper. The popper was wire, and we used to pop it on top of the cook stove. You would have to shake it back and forth.
We had hens, and they were mine. They started in with eggs, hatching eggs from the neighbor. The hens sit on them for so many weeks, and then the chickens were hatched. Neven Leslie’s father and mother, they went into the hen business, selling the eggs and hatching the eggs and chickens, hens and everything, so we used to get them out there. My father give me the hens, give me the chickens to raise, and they could have what they wanted to use in the house. They had to feed them, Father. They had what they wanted to use to eat and cook, and then I had some to sell, that was my money, selling the eggs. They came. to the house [to buy the eggs]. When we wanted a chicken, we had it whenever we wanted. I can’t remember [how many chickens I had, but it was] a lot. They had a hen house. I used to have to feed ’em and take care of ‘em. In the summer, they had these little houses, like the dog houses, and a hen had her chickens there through the summer. You see, by fall they was big, they was ready to eat. We used to keep so many in the hen house, they called it, and in the summer she was fastened with a long string or rope so that she couldn’t get away. The chickens stayed with her all summer, and they went into this little house nights or whenever they wanted to. What bothered us the most was the hawks, oh dear, they would come down and sweep a chicken up, and oh, wouldn’t the hen holler, We was bothered by them. I don’t know as they do today,
I think I was seven years old, and the house burnt, the old house. They had built a new building to keep all the tools in during the winter. We lived there through the summer. They went to clearing the lumber off from the farm, and getting it sawed. We lived in this, we called it tool house, while they were building. We had a stave in one corner and a row of beds for the men folks, and on the other side would be a long bench‑like table that they put up. Aunt Mary, my brother and I had to go to the neighbors to sleep nights. Your [grand] mother went up to the DeCoster’s, the next house, and my brother and I went up to the next neighbors, the Atkinson’s, to spend the night. Aunt Mary kept house, and she got the meals and took care of the children. That was before Lester, your [grand] father came there to work. That’s where he met your grandmother. Then they put up the ell first, so we could live in it that winter. Then the next year they built the other part of the house. All we had was the kitchen downstairs, and upstairs there was one bedroom, one or two bedrooms, then the attic. The chimney that went up kept the attic just as warm, and the men folks slept up there. The neighbors gave us furniture to start in with, We had beds given to us that they wasn’t using and everything.
They saved the barn. You see, they couldn’t save the house. They went to try and save the barn, because it was almost full of hay, and no place to put the cattle or anything. So they got right up onto the roof and kept pouring water onto the roof. As the sparks flew onto the roof, see, they poured water right down, and we had maple trees. We set them out all along there, great big maple trees, and those trees is what saved the barn. it killed them. Those that are there now was what they set out. They set out some more.
[After my father died], then I stayed with Aunt Mary for a while, she and Lester. My brother went to my aunts on my mother’s side, and lived with them for a while. When my father died, he [Lester Witham] took over the farm himself, because grampa was old. He wasn’t able to do any work. He kept it, I don’t know how many years, but it was too much. Willard and Lawrence was large enough to help a lot, but it was too much for one man. Then they sold it and came to Dixfield [Mexico].
[After I left the farm], I went to work in East Sumner. There was a woman that had a store. The store was downstairs, and she lived upstairs. She wanted a girl to help with the housework, I told her that I didn’t know how to cook. She said she would do the cooking, and I would do the general housework, wash the dishes and get the meals. She would plan the meals, and I would put the potatoes on and do just as she [wanted]. That was dinner and supper. I went to work for her. She was just like a mother to me. I didn’t know how to cook, and she showed me how to cook while I was there.
There was a lot of young people in East Sumner. That’s where I met Arthur, my husband, He was born in East Sumner. I guess we went together two years. We was married in 1914. I wouldn’t of gotten married so young, I don’t think, if it wasn’t for a home, because I didn’t have any home. Working out, you get kind of sick of it when you don’t have any home or parents. Arthur was a nice fellow! He was steady, and I knew I never could find anyone like him, and so that’s why I got married. I never regretted it. We had a nice life. He was a good man and a good provider. He always let me be the boss. He’d earn the money.
We had four rooms in East Sumner. We didn’t have a bathroom, we had an out house. We had to go outdoor, down some stairs and out around into the barn. Gosh, in the snow and cold, every time we went to the bathroom. That’s how we got along. We didn’t have any bathrooms. We didn’t have any bathroom until we come to Dixfield. Over to West Peru we didn’t have any bathroom, but we just went out into the shed. When we moved to Dixfield, we had a bathroom, and I tell you, it was some fun to us, we enjoyed it. We used to have to take a bath in the wash tub. Of course, we women had those foot baths that we used to take a bath. The men folks used to use those tubs and heat the water on the stove. Heat all the water on the stove. Imagine that! So you can see that I have lived way, way back.
When he come up here [Dixfield], he was foreman. I think then he got $15 something a week. Oh, that was hard work, laying those rails, you know. You had to have them just so, and if you didn’t, you would have a wreck. You know, he said, “There are a lot of lives depending on me.” Everything had to be perfect.
When I got married, I think I was 18. We lived in Sumner. He went to work on the railroad when he was 18. We got a rent in Sumner and went to housekeeping. He had worked a long time on the railroad, and so Dixfield came up for bids. He put in a bid for it and he got it. Then we moved to Dixfield [West Peru]. Arthur was born in West Peru. We lived in West Peru for three years. (This is where I lived when] I lost my brother, and oh dear, that was awful! I felt terrible over that. The First World War, Grampa lived until after we were married and Arthur was born.
Arthur was three years old when we moved to Dixfield. We bought the house on High Street. That’s how we happened to move over to Dixfield. [Arthur], he was six years older than I. I think he was 24 [when we got married].
I tended to the house, and he let me pay all the bills. He said, “I have got enough on my mind with the railroad, you run the house.” I didn’t have much [leisure time] with the children. I sewed, I made all their clothes. I used to make Arthur’s little pants, night shirts, and things like that. I made all of Bema’s clothes until she got into high school. When she got into high school, she didn’t want to wear homemade clothes. She wanted to be like the other girls. Their mothers didn’t sew. I enjoyed so much buying the pretty material to make her dresses with. I made them in the summer for fall, after she started school. Arthur, I used to make his little. Of course he got to big for me to make his pants and things like that. Aunt Mary used to do the same with the boys. She made their clothes. Rompers, they used to have rompers then. You know, they was just like pants, but they had elastic in the leg.
Arthur was three when we moved to Dixfield, but he didn’t go to school until he was five, Then they could go when they were five years old, if they were five in a certain month. He and Bhima both graduated from the old school house. You see, the grades was downstairs, and upstairs was the high school, until they built the new one.
Bhima was born over here [Dixfield]. We moved over in December, and had Christmas over here, 1921. She has been gone a year last April. I lived here in Dixfield 71 years. I was awful homesick, I know that, but I wouldn’t go back to East Sumner.
I used to read to them. They always had their story before they went to bed. They used to say their little prayer every night. They were brought up to. You know, they all go to church, all my family. They are workers in the church. You take Cherly and Tom, they are big workers in the church. There are so many their age, It is just like a family. They do so much with the family, getting together with the family, having suppers and doing things.
Our children went to high school, and then they both went to Bliss Business College. There was Bliss College in Lewiston, and one in Auburn. They went four years to Bliss, and took the business course.
We had a spring [in Dixfield]. Oh, that was beautiful, and it was in a building. You had to reach down with a pail to get the water, but oh it was beautiful water. They said that was as good as Poland Spring, and we could, if we wanted to, sell that water and get money. We couldn’t because it was too much. It was undercover in the building. Those that came up from the city spoke of the water.
They put town water in Buckfield first. They had the Italians from Lewiston come up and put the water in. They came up and laid the pipe. They had running water, but we never had running water in the house. The ones that bought the farm from Lester, they put in a bathroom. They put water into the house, and they put electric lights. We didn’t have any telephone there. If you were sick and had to have the doctor, you had to harness the horse and ride down to Buckfield and get the doctor to come in. We didn’t have any telephone lines in there at all. My father was the one that went ahead and had the telephone put in. We, on the farm, was the first one around there that had a telephone, on the wall, the old fashion one. They all had telephones once the poles were set and the wire. Oh, they thought it was the most wonderful thing. They had it in the barn and everything. My father was the one that had that put in.
He [John Rand] told me he was 80, and I was so surprised. When we moved over there, he was in school. He wasn’t in high school, He used to sleep. Oh, he used to sleep in the mornings, and his mother used to have a terrible time getting him up. He’d lay just as long as he could, and then he would run to school to get there when the bell rung. I can remember that. When I asked him, he was down to the house talking about ages, and John said, “I’m going to be 80.” I think his birthday is in January. He was 80 then, and I was so surprised, because it seems so that he was still young. I bet you he is 85 now. [John and my father, Willard, are about the same age] because they used to run together.
I knew them all then [after Edna moved to Dixfield]. it changes. There wasn’t any houses up on the plains. Where that new development is, was Jack Steele’s land. He lived with Kenneth Frost’s father and mother. He went up on the farm and worked days. He lived with them. He sold all of that land for house lots, in that new development. He owns that land up in the back kingdom. [The streets were named] after the Frost boys. Then up on the plains there wasn’t but one or two houses, and now look at all the nice homes, and the school house. They have three new schools since then. They have the high school, the elementary and then the middle school. Oh, those homes up there are so pretty.
He, [Arthur], worked 39 years on the railroad. He was taken sick with a heart attack. Then he had to retire. He was 66. He lacked another year, and he would have worked 40 years, Oh, he wanted so bad to say he worked 40 years. It was 39 when he had to retired. He was foreman. When we was married, he only got $10.80 a week, but we only paid $4.00 a month for our rent. Bread was 10 cents a loaf, and I think milk was about that, 10 cents a quart. See what bread is today, over $1 for a big loaf.
When we moved to Dixfield, this was a busy town. I was in Dixfield when Bhima was a baby. Mrs. Stinneford formed a mother’s club, and all of us young ones joined that. Each one took turns being president. She was the head of it all. We used to meet at houses. I can’t remember how often we met. I guess it was just once a month, and we met around at different homes and entertained. We had our officers and began to raise money for different things, We used to go out afternoons in the winter when it was nice, and we would all go together with our children. We had those little sleighs.
After World War One, they started a legion , and then they started an auxiliary. The auxiliary, I joined when it first formed, the second meeting that they had. That was in March, 1923. I kept my dues all paid, every year until now. After you are over 80, you get your dues for nothing. We all took turns being the president. I held every office, except the secretary. I wouldn’t take that. Then I was the president. I am the oldest member. I was going to the meetings until I was over 80, and then I stopped, and I wasn’t active. They used to serve and get up suppers for the Lions Club and things. I always cooked, but after I got over 80 I said I wasn’t going to cook any more.
They had a fire company when we came here, The hose was on an old fashion Creel]. They had the hose house up by the school house. That’s where they kept it. Every time there was a fire, they would all rush the firemen up there and pull that out and wheel it where ever the fire was. My husband used to belong. They had officers, and they met. Then they formed an auxiliary, and the wives joined. We had meetings. When there was a fire, it was our duty to go and serve coffee and donuts. We all was president. I was president of that, then I was treasurer. I stopped going when I was treasurer. I was in everything. We was all young, and we had our children. We had an awful good time. I look back, and I don’t see how we did it, with two children and that big house to take care of.
His brother, after he came back from the service in World War One, for a long while he wasn’t able to work. He was right up to the front, and his nerves was bad. He didn’t have any home, so he came. and stayed with us. He was a mechanic, and he worked in the garage up to Rumford at Israelson’s, but he never was well, and he kept living with us and he paid his board. Well, yon know, that board helped a lot when you was only having $10 and something come in. I think it was $18 or $20, but it helped. We used to put his board away for taxes on the house.
There’s the Odd Fellows, and the Rebeccas went with the Odd Fellows. There was the Masons, and then there is what they called the Eastern Star, That was the lady’s part. He [Arthur] was an Odd Fellow, and that was about all that he could do, with his work and everything. He didn’t go to the service because he was working for the railroad. He didn’t have to go, because he had to keep the railroads going. That was World War One. They had to keep the trains going, and he had to work on the road, railroad. They had to work then, they didn’t have their Saturdays.
We had a camp down to Bear Pond. That’s when the children were small. We used to go down there and live after school closed, until the first of September.
I have taken Arthur’s aunt and uncle from East Sumner in my home up here, and took care of them, until they died. I have taken my uncle and aunt, and taken care of them. She was a widow, and he never was married. He had a little house, camp they called it. He lived there all alone. I took him in until he passed away. So, you see, I have done a lot. I helped bury them. I enjoyed doing it for them, and I pitied them. I’d take ‘em in.
Of course I have lost all my people, and my husband. I got along all these years alone, I took care of the house until I was 80 years old, and then I thought it was too much for me. You know, the shoveling and the care, and I sold it and want down on Weld Street. I lived there for five years, and then they built the senior citizens home. Then I moved in down there. Oh, I liked that so much. I lived there going on 14 years, until I broke my hip, Then they said I couldn’t be alone anymore. It was in August, and here I am in a nursing home. I am getting adjusted. Oh, it was an awful comedown. You see, I lost my daughter. She died in April, and I fell in August. If she had been alive, I wouldn’t have been in here. We’d live together.
Just last summer, there were two apartments available with two bedrooms, We could have had one of those. That would have been perfect, but it wasn’t to be. So, I’m here. They have something here [at the nursing home] every day, except Saturday and Sunday, for us. Wednesday afternoon there is one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon. They call it social hour. They have entertainment. That beautiful organ player form Rumford, Thelwood Haynes, he comes down every Tuesday afternoon and plays for an hour. That’s on Tuesday. Wednesday afternoon is beano. Thursday there are two social hours, and they popcorn and have cocoa or coffee, whatever you want. They pop it right there, and you get it right from the popper. That is twice a week, and they call it the social hour, Then they have church.
Then we had one grandson and four granddaughters, Arthur’s [Edna’s son] only child was Gary. My daughter, she had two. Wendy and Cheryl are my granddaughters. Wendy had a girl and a boy, and Cheryl had two girls, and Gary and Marlene Bryant had two daughters, Marlene and Jennifer. My daughter married Roland Cunningham. He is Cheryl and Wendy’s father. Cheryl and Thomas Merrill live in Buxton. Her daughters are Jenny and Allison. Wendy and Robert Story had Ashley and Michael. My grandchildren [are my biggest gifts], because we were so pleased. We enjoyed those so much, and I took a lot of care of them. I babyset down to the house.
My home [is the most important thing to me] and family. I loved my home, and I loved my children. I enjoyed everything. I enjoyed life. I enjoyed the clubs I belonged to and everything. Dixfield was very active. I have got a lot of friends in Dixfield, and around in different places.
Your grandmother or Evelyn [Wood], they got a lot that was sent to her or your grandmother. It told way back where the Woods came from. They came over from England. That would be way back, probably my grandfather’s grandparents. They came over here, and they settled. It was sent to Aunt Mary, and I copied it from her. I don’t know what ever became of your grandmothers. Willard [Witham] has said that he hunted and he can’t find it. Well, Evelyn’s got it. It tells all about the different ones. There is a John Wood in there, and they settled in Bethel. They thought the building was still there. It was an old, old building.
My father, I realized [when he died], but I didn’t realize my mother. Of course, I felt awful bad, because he was a father and a mother to us. My brother took it awful hard. He wasn’t quite twelve yet. We were brought up to say our prayers every night, and they told us they had gone to heaven and someday we would meet. We would all meet in heaven. I believe there is something beyond and we will all know each other.
I think there is a certain time [to die], I think He calls us. He’s been so good to me to let me live all these years. All the serious sickness that I have been through, I have got well. Now, down to Portland, I was on the critical list down there. You see, I come out of it. I always say that it is God that did it. I’m not the oldest [person in town], because I don’t have the cane. I’ve kept house and did all my work, clear up to last August. I had someone come in on Monday and go over those rugs, because those are hard, and do things I couldn’t do, wash floors, bathroom and go over rugs . and I would have her change the bed and do the laundry, then I did the rest. I did my own dusting. I used to wipe up my kitchen floor. [Up until a year ago], I would do my own laundry, because I would wash once a week. I’d wash up all the towels, you know. If I hadn’t of fell, I would be doing it today,
I heard a retired minister in Florida, and he preached a sermon. We used to go to the baptist church. We went to different churches, and we liked that one the best, so we used to go every Sunday. They had services in the evening too on Sunday. This retired minister spoke, and in his sermon he said, “We don’t know, none of us know for sure.” He said, “For sure we don’t know.” He says, “You don’t know and I don’t know, but we will all believe.” I have always remembered that. We’re not sure, but we all believe, and that is what we were brought up to believe.
I think it was God that’s why I am living so long. I think it was Him. I don’t know why, but he has been awful good to me.. I have been awful, awful sick, and had surgery. I was sick nearly all the time the children was growing up, but I pulled through every blooming time. I think it was God that did it. When I broke my hip, I was on the critical list, but you see, I come out of it.
I don’t think I have got any future now. My family is all grown up and doesn’t need me. I don’t really have anything to live for now really, because they are able to take care of themselves. I have seen ’em grow up and married, and had grandchildren and great grandchildren, graduate and through college, I enjoy life today just as much as I ever did. I enjoy everything. I like to go and do things, but of course now I can’t, you know, on account of I can’t walk around without my walker. I think by fall, I may be able to walk around the house with a cane, but I think I will have to use a walker when I go outdoors. I am getting stronger all the time. If I was not having so much trouble with my stomach, I would be perfectly well, and I could go today just the same as I ever did. I always thought that I would, instead of going in a nursing home, that I would have enough so I would keep my home and hire somebody to take care of me. Of course, I broke my hip, and you can’t find anybody, I could of stayed to home if I could found somebody to live and stayed with me, but nights, they didn’t want me to be alone nights.
Well, I think we are pretty near through, I am anxious to go outdoor.