LIFES P A N I N T E R V I E W
Prof. Robert Atkinson
WITH MR. KENNETH CAIN
Marie L. Borgese .June 1989
I was born in June 1905 on a farm. I don’t remember. It was a Saturday night. I know I was born on a farm. It wasn’t our farm. It was on an estate. My father managed it. I don’t know how long I lived there, but probably I might have been two or three years old when we moved to a place of our own. I don’t remember the place when I lived there, but I remember it after I got grown up. I got a good picture of it somewhere of the place I was born. My Dad farmed and had cattle. Mother was a housewife. I vaguely remember‑‑‑they didn’t used to have any refrigeration in those days…. She used to bake…. The old timers had one day when they baked all their pies and breads…. She put them in the cellarway where it was cool and there were shelves in it…. She used to put her pies in there. Occasionally whe’d find a pie with the inside gone out of it. It seemed there was a retarded man that boarded with a neighbor of ours; he used to come over and sneak into the cellar and eat the pies with his hands and fill up on them and go. It was a long time before they discovered what was happening to the pies. My mother was a great hand at feeding people. Anytime anybody coming along, if she thought they was hungry she’d have them in the house with the coffee pot going on the stove. So she had given him a piece of pie once in a while. He used to come over and do small chores around the place and help my Dad. So he knew where the pies were.
The farm where we lived was in the town of Chelsea, Maine which isn’t far from here (Pittston); the house we moved into was a small place and not much land. My Dad didn’t farm there, but there used to be a narrow‑gauge railroad that ran from Randolph to Togus to the Veterans Home; it’s now a Veterans Home…. It used to be the Old Soldier’s Home….and my Dad worked on the railroad for years. He did a little hit of everything. He used to fire and he was a conductor and a breakman and finally…. years later on he was made a foreman in charge of the road bed. And so, I grew up near the railroad and within sound of the locomotives and whistles and so forth and from the time I was big enough to know what a crank was and any kind of piece of machinery I wanted to …. My mother saved a teaspoon that I’d put in the meat grinder one time and it demolished the spoon but she saved it. It’s still in the family somewhere now, but I was always fooling with an old bicycle, an old baby carriage or something…machinery… That’s all I had on my mind for years….all the time I was growing up.
Mother insisted that I go to high school and it was four miles from home into Gardiner. I went four years and graduated and walked four miles every morning to do it. At the time I thought it was a hardship, but I’m awful glad that I did it; that I stayed with it you know. I was raised in a family… Well my Dad was a lumberjack, worked in the woods…. My grandfather….both my mother’s father and my Dad’s father….had….my father was born on Prince Edward Island, off Canada, and came over here. I can remember when my grandfather moved over here from Canada, and he worked in the woods. I had heard so many tales about the big woods and the lumberjacks and the river drivers and the white water men and so forth, that I was intrigued with these stories and they’d gather at the house sometimes and us kids were supposed to be in bed, but we had a register in the kitchen. They’d send us to bed but we’d go up and lie on the floor on the pillow and listen to conversations in the kitchen. And my Dad played the violin. Now he wasn’t a musician. He was a fiddler. He didn’t know one note from another. He’d play all the old jigs and reels and Irish and Scotch tunes and French tunes, and so I wanted to spend some time in the big woods, because the old time logging was going out fast. So when I got out of high school I worked a couple of summers on the railroad for my Dad…three summers….and then I said I want to go in the woods for a year, because….One time I felt so I’d like to write, and I said I couldn’t write about these things from just hear‑say, and I wanted to go and see it done, and I did. But I never wrote. I took notes, but I never could settle down to write; I didn’t have the ability to do it. So I worked in the big woods for a year. Then I came out and I still had this mechanical thing, and I’d worked around the little railroad enough so I was interested in…., most everything was steam then. They had gasoline engines. Some of the farmers was saving their wood, but the railroads, steam rollers, shovels and everything was steam. I went up to the State Highway and got a job with the Transportation Department and went on the shovel for a year. Then they started to build the cement plant over in Rockland; the big cement plant and I went over there and got a job. I stayed over there until the thing was finished. Then there was another big job in Vermont, the 15 mile Fall Dam. I wen~ up there and it wasn’t long ’til I was pushing a small crew, and I was only 20, 21 years old. When I was 23 years old I was a night superintendent with about 200 men workingt under me. It was all on account of machinery. I didn’t have a formal education, but I studied everything I could get on it and I worked with so many good men with a lot of experience and I listened to them. It went on for a number of years. I went from one construction job to another, and got married when I was 24. I’d known my wife for about five years before we were married and I saw her about six times in the five years. I was busy you know, and moving on construction work.
I always liked the woods and the wild animals and I liked people. We had blacksmiths in the family, blacksmiths in the family that wintered at Valley Forge with George Washington, and shod horses. My Dad was a pretty good blacksmith, and I had two uncles that were blacksmiths. Of course, I had a little bit of that in my blood and we always had a shop. So, I used to work there. I shod horses and fixed farm machinery and all kinds of things. It was interesting. My mother wasn’t very happy with it. She thought I ought to be a minister or school teacher or something, ha, ha, ha. But I didn’t. So after we were married I still stayed with the heavy construction and traveled all over the United States and Canada and Mexico. Securs so the longer you stay with heavy construction the more you get ahead, because if you do a good job, the work will go ahead of you. I never used to go begging. I usually didn’t finish one job before I’d have a telegram or something for another job. I did that until 1941. We bought a farm over in Wiscasset, Maine. We had two small children and I wanted them to qrow uP on a farm. My wife did too. One was Peter, the other Shirley. Our first one was a boy. He died when he was one week old. I stayed with her. Then the war broke out and I went to work at Bath Iron Works, and operated cranes in there for five years. Then, I went back on construction again, and oh, I was captain of the guard company down there for five years, National Guard. We moved from Bath over to Wiscasset and I couldn’t get back and forth so the Adjutant General asked me if I’d help organize a company in Wiscasset, so I said yes. So we did. When it got organized, they gave me a captain’s commission. I held it for five years.
Then I went out to California for a trip. My wife took the children out to Mesa, Arizona. Her mother was living out in Mesa, Arizona. I went out when I got free. We had a sawmill in the family. I’d forgotten about that. We had the sawmill and it fell to me to operate it. I operated it for five or six years and did all right. So I wanted a vacation. So I went out to Mesa. My girl, Shirley, had gone to boarding school, and in boarding school she had made a lot of friends.
One of these girls she was very fond of lived in California. So, when we got to Arizona, Shirley insisted we go to California. So we did. We hung arourid doing nothing for a while. The girls got together and went beaching every day. So I told my wife, “I just can’t stay out here and vegetate”. So I went to Douglas Aircraft on a Friday or Saturday, and Monday morning I went to work, and I stayed with them for 10 years. In the meantime we still had the farm back home, but I didn”t have any animals on it, and while I was with Douglas, I was in plant engineering, and I didn’t have anything to do much with airplanes. But, Douglas built a fair missile, and thev were qoinq to install…. I think it was 60 of them….my memory is getting a hit wobbly.-but anyway they approached me and wanted to know if I would go over to England with a crew in the plant engineering branch. I wanted to so I did. I wanted to get to Ireland because the Cains originally came from Ireland, and I had Scotch blood too; a little bit mixed in. So we went to England, and I was over there a year and then my wife came over. We stayed another year, then we came back together. We came home, and my mother was living with my sister in Wiscasset. It’s just my sister and I. I didn’t have any brothers; had one that died when he was just a baby. So Mother wanted to go up home to the old place in Chelsea and wanted me. So we went up there and we spent a lot of time fixing up the old house and mother came up and stayed there ’till she died. She was 87, I think. So I still kept fooling around with machinery, and I had an offer. A sattelite corporation built a plant in Wiscasset and they wanted a plant foreman and somebody recommended me, so I went down there for a couple of years. They moved out of state and I didn’t want to go with them. I was still fooling around with heavy equipment machinery and I had had a steam engineer’s license from the State of Maine…. I still have it after all these years…., so I begin to get calls. The old fashioned type machinery was going out of style and all the new stuff was coming in, and the engineers were all college graduates. There was very few of the old timers that had worked on the old fashioned machinery. Even today they call me from Augusta, once in a while, and I got Peter, my son, interested and he does some now~
So we fixed up mother’s old place and made it into a boarding home for Veterans, where it’s right near the Veteran’s Home, and my wife ran it for twenty years…very successfully. Then it got so it got to be too much. When you got to hire enough help to do all the work you didn’t have enough left, you know what I mean. When we did it, it was ours. So Shirley had got married….and a boy from California, and Peter got married. So we turned the boarding home over to Shirley and she ran it for several years. About a year ago she sold it. We still had the farm down to Wiscasset. So we gave Shirley the farm. She had three boys and three girls. Her oldest boy died when he was seven with lymphoma cancer, and that broke up the whole family. It was an awful time. He lived with us most of the time. She still has the farm down there.
Mother and Dad owned a lot of land. They had two big farms; one of them didn’t have any buildings on it. So Mother , she was a very smart person about taking care of herself. She didn’t want any of us to do a thing for her. My sister and I just signed off, and signed the land over and everything, and she disposed of quite a bit of it for house lots and so forth. It kept a little money coming in even after she was eighty years old. She deeded me a piece of property and my sister a piece of property. I still live at the piece she deeded to me. We live in a trailer and got another trailer we rent out. We’ve been fortunate. We had a place in Florida for a while, but I don’t like Florida. I get homesick for Maine. We went to Florida on several different winters, and went out to Arizona for a couple of winters, but I don’t know. My mother always used to say I had itchy feet, but I’m ready to sit still now. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to do anything. You know the sad part of it is, I’m 84 years old. All my old school chums are gone. All my old friends are gone, all the old neighbors are gone.
Yes, I have my wife. We just celebrated our Sixtieth anniversary and my birthday, cause I was married on my birthday. I got accused of causing the first depression. We were married the 24th of June 1929, and the depression
hit that Fall. The banks all folded up and I got blamed for it. I still can’t get machinery out….my family all want me to sit on a porch in a wheelchair and twiddle my thumbs. I can’t do it. But, I’m not able to do very much either. I’ve seen too many of my friends retire and die. I’ve outlived my time too, but I can’t just sit and vegetate.
Well, in 1905 when I was born and Central Maine Railroad was building, what they called the Somerset Branch. It ran from Oakland to Bingham and from Bingham up over the mountain all the way to Rockwood on Moosehead Lake. The line was built for the purpose of hauling logs and pulp and other forest products. At Dead Water, which was just a little wide place in the woods, they were building a Y which was a place for turning an engine on to make it go the other way. Instead of a Turn‑table, they put in a Y. My grandfather…my mother’s father….was a great horseman. He always kept work horses, and sometimes he’d have three teams of horses; in the winter when there wasn’t much to do on the farm, he would take the teams in the woods. So, they were going into Deadwater, and my Dad and Mother, my Dad was going to work in there. So, we got up to Bingham and of course I don’t remember….I was only three months old….When they built the railroad over Gulf Stream they built what they called Gulf Stream tressle. It was 125 feet high, and I can’t remember the length, but it was propably a half mile long, or something. It was a tremendous gorge in there, and they just built this railroad over the toP of it. And when they got up to Bingham there was no transportation. So, some of the work crew had a hand car, and my mother and I….She had me in a basket or box or something….We went from Bingham to Deadwater up the mountain on a hand car with four men pumping the thing, and across the Gulf Stream tressel. It’s gone now. But I’ve been over it on the train, and I’ve come over it on a car. After they quit running trains up there, they made kind of a bridge out of it. It used to scare me, and to think of it I went over it when I was just three months old.
My mother was a pioneer type of woman. My grandmother on my mother’s side born out West in Canada in a little town called Mathilda out on the prairee, way back in the early 1800’s. And then, when she got about 18 years old, whe just packed up and went to California. The gold rush was on and she met my grandfather out there, and they were married in San Francisco. I forgot the date, but anyway, my mother was the oldest one in the family. They had four girls. Mother was born in 1880 in a little place called Brandy City high in the Sierra Nevada Mountain. She was raised in the wild and she was a typical pioneer type poerson. She could go out in the woods and build a fire, cook dlnner, milk a cow, do anything. So I remember my great grandfather died and left some property to my grandfather and they came back. They had three girls then. I remember mother telling about coming East. They came back by train. She said the dining cars put all the garbage in some container and then when they’d stop at the station they picked up clean ones and set these off. She said she can remember, she was about 12 years old, the Indians gathered around and empty the garbage on the platforms to get food. She used to think that was an awful, awful thing.
When I was very small we were at the farm with grandfather and grandmother. There was no radios or televisions, but there was a telephone. But they didn’t have one at the farm. The nearest one was about a half a mile away. One night when my aunt was washing dishes at the sink….they had an apple orchard in back of the house….she kept seeing something flashing out there. So she toll my Dad there is somebody out there. My grandfather and my Dad went out there. They saw a man leaning up against a tree, watching the house and he had handcuffs on. It was those nickel handcuffs they saw flashing. So they walked up to him, and he said he was hungry and wanted something to eat. So, they took him in the house. He acted funny. They couldn’t make out if he was an escaped criminal or insane. But anyway, he wanted them to hacksaw the handcuffs off. Grandfather said he didn’t have a hacksaw but they got one over to the other farm and he took off on foot across the field to the telephone. So he called the sheriff in Augusta. The sheriff said yes, we lost a man. He jumped off the train down around Gardiner. Well, his clothes wasn’t wet so he didn’t swim the river. He must have come across the bridge, and he was two miles from the bridge. The sheriff said if you bring him in we’ll give you a $50.00 reward. So they came home and got a clothes line. They tied him all up. Grandfather had a wild driving horse, it had been an ex‑race horse. They put him in the buggy. Dad sat on one side; grandfather on the other. They started for Augusta with him. When they went out of the driveway, somehow he wasn’t tied up solid enough so he grabbed my grandfather by the throat, and he and my grandfather rolled out of the buggy and the horse ran away. My grandfather got the horse back. That time they wound him the whole length with the clothes line and put him under the seat in the wagon and they took him up to Augusta and turned him over to the sheriff, and they never to this day got a nickel for doing it. There was always something going on.
My mother was a Collins and the Collinses….some of them were famous sea‑going people. Capt. Jason Collins was a captain with the Kennebec Steamer Company. Another branch of the family came over on the MayFlower….George Warren and his wife and two children and three servants. They settled at Plymouth in Massachusetts. Dr. Warren, at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill, became famous. He was right on the battlefield treating soldiers with bullets flying everywhere. The Warren branch I connected with directly were artisans in metal and blacksmithing. At the time of the Revolution Warren and his tow boys went into Washington’s Army. The girls stayed home and the women sewed the clothing for the soldiers. They had to smuggle them out of Boston because the British were holding the town.
The youngest son was only 16 and stayed home, but he was a pretty good blacksmith. There was a story about him when old General Howe was in Boston and the British officers were having trouble getting somebody to shoe their horses, somebody told them about the blacksmith shop. They went down there and got the boy. He didn’t want to shoe their horses, but they was so short of money, they wasn’t living very high. The officers offered to pay him so he kept a bunch of British officers’ horses shod, but some of the natives resented it. They called him a Tory. But he wasn’t. He was a full‑blooded American. Feelings were a little strong and he didn’t like it so he went to Canada and he went out to Prince Edward Island and built him a blacksmith shop and a tavern, half way across the Island Travelers put up at his tavern overnight and he shod the horses and fixed their waqons. There was a family of Irish come over from Ireland. Their name was Muffleson and they had nine girls, no boys. They were linen makers. He married one of those Muffleson girls. The Cains were from Wexford County in Ireland. Three brothers came and landed up in Prince Edward. There is still a place named Cain’s Landing and a River Cain. One of the Cain boys married a Warren girl. That was my father’s great grandmother.
I think my grandfather Cain had a great influence on me. When he was a boy he learned what they call the WhiteSmith trade. He made butter churns; perkins to put butter in to preserve it and all kinds of soft wooden household things. He was an expert, and he had a nice little shop. Everything was done by hand. I used to go there and just sit and watch him. Whatever he was doing, he’d spend time to tell me and show me how it was done. Then he’d want me to do it too. I always had a feeling….he was a mild kind of man….They had a big family tho’ ‑‑eleven children. He was a great influence on me. My grandfather Collins I never felt close to. He was always good to me tho’,
Now my grandmother Collins was a different breed of cat. I never went over there, but she had a job for me. I remember we were over there and all the men were out in the woods hunting deer. My aunt saw a deer in the apple orchard, so my mother went and shot it and hung it up in the barn. The men came home pooped out and tired and mad. They didn’t get a deer. Nobody said a word. After supper they went out to do chores in the barn. They came rushing in wanting to know where the deer came from.
There was always something. I’ll tell you another one. The Collins farm sat up on a hill, and you could just go across the fields and stone walls to neighbors. And then when the snow was frozen, the women would take their knitting and two or three would get together to knit and talk. Grandfather’s sister took her knitting in her apron. About 10 o”clock on a bright moon‑lit night. All of a sudden somebody says isn’t it time for auntie to get back, and they heard a racket on the porch and the door flew open and she came right in on her face. ~hen she got her breath she said a bobcat’s been chasing me all across the field. Grandfather said, “could you see what it was?” “I heard its toe nails in the crust and I looked around and it was jumping in the snow behind me”, she said. I didn’t think I was going to make it. So they started out. They were all excited, and here was the yarn leading out the door. She’d dropped that ball of yarn out of her apron and the needles were sticking in it and she was towing that and it was jumping on the ground. They went down the field a little ways and found the ball of yarn and brought it back and said, “auntie, here’s your wild cat. She never lived that one down.
The Collinses came down from Massachusetts and settled what I now called Collins hills over west of Gardiner. One of them settled down in Alna by Head Tide and another one settled out in Chelsea by Birmingham Road. They were three brothers. I remember my great grandmother and grandpa Collins’ mother….She was an invalid for the latter part of her life….something with her legs….she was bed ridden, she had her bedroom off the dining room. She spent her time mending clothes and socks. Everybody in the family brought her their memding. She was expert at it too. One of my grandfather’s sisters married a Trask. He worked for the Kennebec Journal for years….The Kennebec Journal is an old, old paper you know. They had a boy, he was going to college, and he wore a pair of blue trousers grammy had fixed and patched many times. Finally he scraped enough money together to buy him a new pair. The first time he wore them to a tea party….They used to have tea parties in those days….He tore a little rip in them. So he took them in to grammy to fix. He threw the old ones on the bed too, he said grammy you can cut the old blue surge pants up and patch the little tear. So she did. When he went to get them she had cut up the new ones and patched the old ones. Every once in a while I remember soMe such foolish thing.
When I was a kid flying was in its infancy. Automobiles had been on the road for a few years. The first cars, I remember, were like a horse‑drawn buggy with a motor in it. They called them horseless carriages. The cars made after I was born were mostly steam engines. But what intrigued me was aroplanes, and I said some day I’m going to fly and I did. But I never wanted to make a living at it. I like to fly and I had a couple of small planes of my own. I just like to fly for the pleasure of it. I still would fly, but they probably wouldn’t give me a license. Any kind of adventure, and the kind of books I read were Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Tom Swift and his gliders. I learned to fly and flew a lot until the war broke out. They came and said I”d have to store it in a bonded hanger or take it apart. I used to read about scuba diving and when I came back from England, I hadn’t had a vacation for a long time, and I came back to California, so I went to diving school for no good reason. Everybody said, “what in the devil you want to do that for?”, but I wanted to do it.
Another time Peter and I went prospecting. They said, “you never find anything”. I knew a dozen places where I could pan a little gold, but it was exciting. My grandfather did it when he went to California. No good reason, but if you want to do it, you do it. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska but I don’t feel as strongly as I used to. I think they spoiled Alaska. When I was reading Tom Swift and the glider, I must have been 12 or 14 years old and I said “I’m going to build a glider”. You can imagine what my mother said. But my Dad….we always had a shop to work in….my Dad would turn right to and help me. He and I never had a word. Mother said, ” What in world would you want to waste your time doing that for?” Dad wouldn’t say that. He’d pitch right in and help me. So I built a glider. We didn’t have any room to make it go….down a hill, or anything. Where we lived was a barren knoll where the wind blew hard up there. Dad was working; mother was away somewhere and she says if I catch you in that thing, I’m going to burn it. This day the wind blew terribly and we had a great long rope in the barn. I thought if I put that rope on the glider and tie it like a kite, see. So, I fastened the rope to a tree and went way down and got the glider out and fastened the rope to it. I got in it and I had trouble….finally a big puff of wind got it and away I went up above the tops of the trees. Of course,it was still fastened to the rope, but the controls didn’t work good and it went bottom side up and I came down in an apple tree. As luck would have it, a neighbor came by in his Model T‑Ford. Of course mother heard about it.
I used to work a lot in the shop. My dad was a good workman in wood or metal, and I had two uncles, uncles that were expert blacksmiths. Then down the road a mile was an old fellow ran the best blacksmith I ever saw. He was a croutchy old man. I’d get down there and spend a whole day at a time. He’d talk to me and show me what he was doing. Most kids would just irritate him. I’m getting that way now….kids kind of bother me….but I don’t want to be that way.
No, I don’t have any regrets. If I made up my mind to do something, I’d do it. If you want to do something bad enough you can do it. You can make it possible yourself or somebody can. I was intrigued when I was small with the little narrow‑gauge locomotive. Later on I ran one. I ran a lot of different kinds of engines on the construction jobs. Those are happy memories. I was doing something I like to do. When I drove out to Mesa, Arizona, I looked around for somebody to come with me. All those young fellows standing around and they’d go “boy, oh boy, wouldn’t I like to come with you.” But none did. If I made up my mind to go, I’d go. You can make things happen.
My mother used to say “I wish you’d meet a good girl and marry her”. I was too wrapped up in steam engines and locomotives and things like that. Life is funny; hands you a whack once in a while but then it’ll do something nice for you too.
My wife, she’s 80 years old. We’ve had a good life. We’ve had a wonderful life together. We’ve had our trials and troubles and raised a family. Nobody gets by free of charge. It’s been 60 years of not too many downs, but mostly ups and I can’t look back and see anything that I regret. I came home from the night shift at Douglas Aircraft at two in the morning, and said, “we’re going to England”. She jumps out of bed and grabs a suitcase and says “when are we leaving?”. Dotty was always ready to go.
The secret to a happy life is a sense of humor. You’ve got to make a funny situation out of something that could be serious. Don’t let it weigh you down. I know there’ve been times when I laughed when I should have cried. Your thought and your feelings you can transpose on somebody else and it’s not right.
What values?….Well, we never had any alcoholism in the Cain’s or Collin’s. I remember when I was quite small, two of my uncles from Massachusetts came. One of them said, “don’t you have something to drink, Jim?” My grandfather Cain got a bottle of whiskey and little whiskey glasses. Then poured them a drink and put the bottle away. They thought he was mean. But he was very generous. My grandmother too. My mother was the same way. If there was anybody sick or ill or out of groceries, whe’d be there. My wife is that way too. She spent her time, her whole life waiting on somebody else.
My Dad’s family was all Irish Catholic, but my mother wasn’t. Some of them are still strong Catholics, but I’m a Mormon. I joined 40 years ago, and I’ve never been sorry. It’s been wonderful. My wife’s been very active in the church. I was active in it when we were in California.
This may not answer your question about achievements and accomplishments, but I am very proud about the men I got to work with. When I went over to Rockland, to the cement plant, I was interviewed by Mr. B. He was an engineer from Buffalo, and he kind’a took me under his wing. I was only 19 years old. He did a lot for me. I learned an awful lot from him. Then when I went up to Vermont the engineer from F.B. Montreal, one of the biggest engineering firms in the world. Ed B. did the same. I think when people see that you want to learn, there is somebody to help and coach and prompt. People will pick you up and push you ahead if they think you can amount to something. I owe a lot of my success to other men who helped me.
When I went to England, my immediate boss, Archer said, “I want you to run things outside and I’ll run the operation from inside”. He bragged that he had a good man in the field. That made me feel good. I think everybody is an artist whether you’re a teacher, governor or locomotive engineer. If you take pride in your work and accomplish things you can feel as proud as if you were the governor or president. If you love your work, you don’t have to be a big shot politician. I never stayed on a job 15 minutes where I was unhappy. If you do your work honestly and well, somebody will appreciate it.
I think a lot of that is due to your family life. My wife would never criticize my work. She never found fault with what I did. She knew what I wanted to do, what I was, and what I would continue to do, before we were married. She’s outspoken, no animosity. If she’s angry with me, she gets over it in 15 minutes. We’ve had sickness and sadness, it all blew over and smoothed out, you know. Nowr my mother, if she was mad at my father, she’d go in the bedroom and stay there all day. That bothered me.
My thoughts about dying? Well, death is inevitable; no doubt about that. I think everybody should be Pre~ared. MY Dad iust went to slee~. That’s an easy way….no suffering. The thing about getting old….I still have a lot of ideas….I retired a long time ago but I’ve always kept active. I don’t think they should shut a man off if he’s able and willing to work. A lot of corporations get rid of their older and good employees. A lot of people just live a short time after they retire. If they were on the job and had a purpose for living, they’d live longer and be happier too.
How do I fill my days? Right now I’m rebuilding a building. It’s only 14 x 20 but I’m making a blacksmith shop out of it. I can’t just sit around and read and watch television. I’ve got all the tools, so if the Lord’s willing, before Fall I’ll have my shop set up. I can go out there and build a fire in the stove and sit down and work at a bench and do what I want to do. There are a lot of things I can do. I’ve made a lot of household things and hand tools. I won’t be able to stand at the anvil like I used to, my legs are bothering me. Cartilage is gone in my knees so they are kind’a rubbing together, and I don’t know how to oil ’em up. I got to work with my hands.
I added a sun porch and a living room to our trailer, and I want to do more. The family always says “what are you doing it for? You won’t live long enough to enjoy it.” I don’t care. That’s not the way I feel about it. That little building cost me quite a little, but I’m accomplishing something. I think I am. Maybe the neighbors think I’m crazy.
Do you think accomplishing something is a source of happiness? Oh, yea. That’s what’s kept me going. If I’m not making any headway, I’m unhappy. If I can see that I’m accomplishing something….my wife comes out and says “that’s wonderful,”….seems like a drink of whiskey. Unconsciously, I guess, I rely on her opinion and she’s always been very good. If she thought I was down in the dumps, she’d do something to cheer me up.
No, I’m not afraid of death. I don’t want her to go before me. I think her health is better than mine. I’m a firm believer that there is another life, and I think that if we conduct ourselves the way the Lord wants us to in this life, we’ll enjoy it. I know there is a life here after. I just hope I conducted myself in a manner that pleases somebody up there.
Do you look upon death as a new beginning? Yes, I think it’s going to be great adventure. Yea, I do. I don’t want to get run over with a locomotive or a car or get smashed all to pieces to get there. I think if I have a natural death, it’ll be a great adventure. I believe it firmly.
How do you feel about your life in general? It’s been active and very, very interesting….to me anyways. I feel if people aren’t interested in what they’re doing….I say this, if a man wants to do what he can do or wants to do….when these people work at these jobs for years and years against their will, it’s hard on their health and hard on their family and everything else. I think whatever you do, wants to be something that you like to do. Cause if you are working at something you don’t like to do, you can’t do a good job you don’t do a good job and you’re not being honest with your employer and you’re not honest with yourself either.
So, you’re saying follow your bliss. There should be love and passion for life and for work? Yes, I’ve always looked forward to new things, and I read about new ideas and projects in books and magazines. Today, I watched something on television news. They showed a flying saucer. They had it in a big hanger with a cord goint to it. The man in it was just floating around with it and lowered it to the floor. He said they’ve spent millions of dollars on it and within two and half years you’ll be able to buy one, and run it just like a car only overhead. Now that interests me. That would intrigue the devil out of me. I have to know all about that thing, see. I imagine he was running it off electricity, it had that cord. Then they showed it outdoors. I think the cord was still on it, but it came floating in over the trees and settled right down just like a bird on a lawn, you know. It was a small machine. It looked like a disc with a cockpit in the middle of it. Rather than read a novel, I’ll read Mechanics magazines and engineering books. I still have them and dig’em out and go through them. People still ask me questions, and I’m still interested. I’m not going to twiddle my thumbs.
Peter’s been working on an antique fire engine over on Vinalhaven Island. He comes in the house ’bout two three times a week with a problem. It tickles me to death. Augusta for years, have sent inspectors to me because I know some things they don’t teach anymore. That pleases me that I can help them out.
You always enjoy a new challenge and solving problems? Yea, I like problems and finding solutions. I did a lot of that in engineering.
What part did religion and spirituality play in your life? How important was it?
From the time I was big enough to remember anything, my sister and I, Mom and Dad and everyone around us, was an influence because they taught us what appeared to be right and what appeared to be wrong. Although my grandparents were strong Catholics, they never once ever tried to influence us on the Catholic side. I can’t remember when it dawned on me that all these churches; the Baptist, the Methodist, Episcopalian, they all believed in the same god and Jesus was the Savior, but they never could agree on anything. I never could understand it, and I still don’t now. Religion, I suppose unconsciously, it played a part. We were always taught not to make fun of any religion, because they might be good, honest sincere people. We were brought up in that atmosphere. Us kids never had one bit of conflict or argument. So many families fight over religion. We never had that. I never was too interested in the church until I got interested a little bit in the Mormon church. I found a lot of things in the Mormon church that I believed in. The whole church is built around the home and family and children. The family, to me the family, is the principle of life. Mother, father and children, earning an honest living, and being happy, you can’t ask for more than that. To see your c~ildren grow up and marry and be prosperous too….We’ve been extremely fortunate. Do you think the sanctity of life rests in the family? You don’t have to study the scriptures very long ….it’s the family life and riches don’t necessarily make the best families. Sometimes money is a curse. When you help somebody, somebody will help you; that’s my philosophy. I feel that way, my wife feels that way too. The only thing we disagree on is my tools. They are precious to me, not because they’re valuable, but I made my living with them! They let me do what I wanted to do, and I’m going to use them until I get ready to go.
I interviewed Mr. Kenneth Cain, who is the father of Peter Cain, a friend of ours, on Friday afternoon of June 30, 1989. Mr. Cain is 84 years old and appears healthy and well. He is tall, about 6’1 or 6’2, with excellent posture and built. He has handsome features and a beautiful complexion, which he credits to the estrogen he’s been taking for the last few years for his prostate cancer. He has the look of a happy, contented man who know who he is. He acknowledges matter‑Of‑factly without complaint, that his knees give him problems, and he walks with a cane. He has a very positive outlook on life. It was apparent that ‘he enjoyed reminiscing. He smiled and chuckled often. He has a great sense of humor, a sonorous baritine voice and a talent for telling stories. He is a delightful gentleman, who knows how to endear himself to others. He personifies self‑confidence and independence. At the same time he is imbued with humility and a concern for the welfare of others.
The overriding theme in Mr. Cain’s life review is do what you love to do ‑ follow your bliss’ To this day he exudes an enthusiasm for life, a passion for work and a love of people, especially of his family and ancestors. He has a purpose for living and plans to have one until “he is ready to go.” As he said, he plans to use his tools until he goes. Mr. Cain, I think, believes in the axiom “to rest is to rust.”
When asked to sum up his life in a few words he said it was “active and very, very interesting … to me anyways.” I would add it was “vital involvement.” I think Mr. Cain achieved Policoff’s definition of success by “loving what you do and doing what you love.” He definitely developed the capacity for work and love, and thereby maturity, as Freud would define it. He followed Shakespear’s admonition “to thy own self be true.” Work, achievement and accomplishment were core elements of his life. “If I’m not making any headway,” he said “Im not happy.” He approached his work and theories with what Erikson calls a serious playfulness and a playful seriousness. Mr. Cain repeatedly referred to his interests and lifelong devotion to mechanics as fooling, I was still fooling with mechanical things. He also said he did things for no good reason, as when he learned to dive and to fly. He never allowed his innate curiosity to wane or be quelched. He nurtured it with his “fooling” and exploring. He did not conform to the world, but was transformed by a renewing mind. He sought adventure and loved new challenges, new problems. He found great satisfaction in finding solutions, and he would “fool” with the thing until he did. His formal education ended with high school and much of his learning was experiential, guided by his own curiosity. To this day he reads magazines and journals related to mechanical engineering and he refers back to his engineering books. He took a great deal of pride in his work. “If you take pride in your work and accomplish things, you can feel as proud as if you were the governor or president.” Referring to the many engineering projects and the fine men he was priveleged to work with, he called them “happy memories.”
While much of his identity as a person was derived from his work and profession, Kenneth Cain also has a very strong sense of who he is in the chain of generations. He has done “quite a bit of geneology” and knows the family history of Cains and Collinses, tracing back to the Mayflower. He is the bearer of tradition and is aware of the importance traditional value~play in providing continuity and meaning to life. He has accepted and inc~rporated many of the family values in his own life, especially his work ethic and philosophy. It is also from his parents and grandparents that he acquired his faith, his set of mea~nings and values, and his model for seeing the world. That faith has given him a quiet confidence and joy and meaning in his life. He is content with what is. His faith seems to be profound and stable. Some of the family values included helping others …. “if somebody was out of groceries” His parents were generous, so is his wife. He says his philosophy is “help somebody, and somebody will help you.
His family also engendered in him a strong belief in himself. “You can make things happen.” “If you want something bad enough you can make it possible …. or somebody can make it possible for you. His father taught him to believe in his dreams and in himself. Ken read Tom Swift and wanted to build a glider. “My father turned right to and helped me.” His grandfather Cain was a great influence on him. He would show and explain and then “he’d want me to do it.”
Asked about what part religion played in his life, he said Mom and Dad and all the family around us was an influence. “They taught us what appeared to be right and what appeared to be wrong.” What impressed him (and me) the most was that the Cains and Collinses had different religious affiliations, yet none of them forced or imposed their own beliefs on the children. They were taught to respect the different beliefs of people. Mr. Cain himself found his own belief, different from any of his family, namely the Mormon Church. The Mormon religion appealed to him because “the whole church is built around the home and family and children.” He said “to me the family is the principle of life.” “Mother, father and children, earning an honest living, and being happy, you can’t ask for more than that.” The family’s liberal and tolerant view of religion had an abviously beneficial effect on Kenneth Cain, allowing him to choose his own religion which was life opening and sustaining for him.
Mr. Cain understands the art of being, he seems to have a consciousness of what is important in life and he definitely found rapture in his days. In terms of Erikson’s stages, he seems to have pro gressed through them successfully, acquiring trust and autonomy, developing his identity, career and family. He has nurtured his family and others and has helped his church and community. He appears to have achieved ego integrity very successfully. He has an acceptance of his own life cycle. He has no regrets, he says, he did what he wanted to do. His life still has meaning and purpose. He feels connected to his family, his ancestors and distant times. He has a strong attachment and reliance on his wife, doesn’t want “her to go before me.”
Mr. Cain is not afraid of death, and consilers it a great adventure. “I know there is a life hereafter,” he states with conviction, “I just hope I conducted myself in a manner that pleases somebody up there.” I think Mr. Cain would be considered an ordinary person who lived his life extra‑ordinarily well.
List of Questions Asked
1. Are there any stories about your birth? When and where you were born?
2. Where was the farm that you were born on?
3. What are some of your earliest childhood memories?
4. What was growing up like ‑ do you remember your house and neighborhood
5. Who were your heroes, and who influenced you the most?
6. What were your dreams and ambitions when you were a child?
7. What are your dreams and plans now?
8. What is the secret to a happy life?
9. What role, would you say, religion and spirituality played in your life?
10.Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you had done, or not done?
ll.What values do you think you were taught as a child?
12. What accomplishment and achievements are you most proud of?
13.Do you think about dying, and how do you regard death?
14.If you had to sum up your life in a few word, what would you say?
15. Is there anything else‑that you would like to add ?