Larry M. Casey Life Story Interview
At the time of my birth World War II had just ended; the small ethnic mill town of Rumford. Maine was integrating. Traditional Irish, French, Italian, and Polish families; English and Protestant families were marrying each other for the first time.
I was basically a first generation half-breed. I was half Irish and half French and a new entity in this town. Being a new entity, I was faced with front line integration. I was on the cutting edge of different cultures that were very different from each other learning to cope with each other and with the change in the town.
My father was a dyed-in-the-wool Irishman and the Irish side came from Prince Edward Island, Canada. My mother was French and they came from Quebec. Those are two of the biggest ethnic groups here in town. More traditionally though are the large number of people here in town from Prince Edward Island-even including Frenchmen who were not from Quebec. In growing up on the cutting edge, I learned to grow up and had to choose my identity-even though I was half French and half Irish. I definitely learned to deal with the fact I am a “P.I.”-the local term for a social, ethnic group–sort of a close knit fraternity who considered themselves from “P.I.” Although it is P.E.I., the local term is “P.I.” and that is my identity.
In growing up at a very early age, it seemed to me that French people were people in every country that just talked funny and no one else really understood them or related to them very well or liked them very well and just left them in secluded little pockets of their country. It was like a term. It seemed to me(through the eyes and ears of a six or seven year old) that they were people who didn’t fit in.
My father was dyed-in-the-wool Irish and the Irish and French were traditional enemies, definite enemies. They worked in the same jobs -low paying, blue collar jobs, and they fought like hell–for status, money and all those kind of things. The Irish side of my family despised the French. My father was an outcast for doing that (marrying a Frenchwoman). My mother was told by her French mother, my Meme that the Irish were set in their ways And they are. It was definitely being on the cutting edge–there were things to overcome. There was a great amount of tension and it was kind of like both families were learning to deal with this. My uncles moved my mother out of my father’s house into a different apartment because the whole blocks (three unit apartments) were Caseys. And these Frenchmen moved her out: she was having trouble (in her marriage), and to be supportive of her moved her into another apartment. This showed that they really kept to themselves (the French). The Irish always despised the French–they looked funny, they talked funny, you can’t understand what they’re saying. There was always a lot of tension here.
There were two churches side by side in this town: one French, one Irish. The Irish was the English speaking church, and the Polish, which was a big part of this community. The Italians also went to the Irish church. The French church was the bigger of the two. In size and in population and it was totally French speaking. So, my mother, marrying an Irishman, went to the Irish church. I was kind of brought up Irish. We didn’t speak French in our home. It was frowned upon. To this day, I don’t tell people that I’m half French unless I really have
I never knew my French grandfather: he died when he was forty-four, leaving nine kids behind. He was(reported to be) very French: he almost died because some English speaking people on the job with him told him that Exlax was a kind of chocolate bar, and he ate two. My French grandmother was a saintly lady. Even my Irish father, who was a tyrant, liked her. She was just the nicest person you would ever want to meet. She played a kind of matriarchal role. My Irish grandmother hated her. My Irish grandfather for six years wore a wide brimmed hat, went to church every Sunday, was very macho and square in appearance. His jaw was square: was very much an Irishman: very tough and had a reputation. What is a man–a man is a reputation, and his reputation was tough–just one tough nut. He worked construction, when he wasn’t working construction, he kept up- he worked. He was a workaholic no doubt-it seems to run in the family. He also was kind of saintly. He would jokingly call my grandmother the Irish Witch. She was very superstitious and also had some Scotch blood in her somewhere. She was very egocentric, very narrow, had some unredeeming qualities. She envied my French grandmother for being so saintly.
By the way, at a very early age, when my father was having trouble making ends meet, I was sent to live with my Irish grandmother: was brought up with her narrow ways, her Irish ways and traditions. My Irish grandfather had died. So I was sent to help her out, and again it just distanced my from the French side. One common trend, one common thread for everybody, though has been Catholicism, Eventually, the Irish and French churches merged, and we all, during my lifetime, became “Catholic”. And now, the thread that is there is Catholicism, Irish, French, whatever it is the “P,I.’s” are there,. We still draw support.
There is still a camaraderie there–the walls are not what they used to be.
I think the Church helped the town become a mixed cultural community. One thing we had, on both sides of the rope, each side had embraced Catholicism. When the two churches merged into one, it had a French pastor, a French curator, and an Irish curator. It showed through symbolism–the Church told the community, to integrate into one community, one church, one form of Catholicism. There wasn’t room for two. The masses were split-half were in English, half were in French; eventually there was one French mass, and then none. The church now is still there: I see it every day on my way to work. It comes out of the mist–it’s Gothic style–it looks kind of like a castle in the mist. It is a focal point of the town.
The building is the (former) French church-the Irish church was sold. Catholic entrepreneurs bought the Irish church and formed it into a business. A part of the old Irish parish is on a marker-listing for all eternity, the Irish side–the story of the Irish church from its beginnings. Now there’s just a parking lot, but there’s a stone in the parking lot that lists the buildings, the story, the pastors. On the other side of the street, the French parsonage or rectory remains intact. The Irish Parish had about six buildings total, and they’re all gone, the buildings are on four corners; on the third corner, the
French convent is still there and vacant, but St. John’s/St. A’s school, the old St. John’s school (French) is alive and well. So the St. John’s buildings have predominated all three of them.
When you talk about the whole history of Rumford, there was anywhere from 20-25 buildings in both parishes. All that is left is the church, the school, the rectory, and a vacant convent which came from the French side.
I remember being singled out and ridiculed from both sides (in elementary school). It seemed that there was no benefit from being French-Irish. But there was double jeopardy for it. (I was) too blue collar, too big, not anything special.
I went to a public school due to financial reasons. Even so, it was a strong Catholic school. One can get a feel for where the strength of a town is by where the numbers of the kids are by the basketball teams. It is a very basketball-loving town. The best basketball team in the elementary grades when I was growing up was from the Irish church and school. The second best was the French church; the third best were from downtown: both Inner city type schools and the next was another Inner city type school: which were 90% of the little brothers from those Catholic schools–they called them the Castoffs. They were a little too rough, a little too tough, a little too little brother-ish to be kept in a private school. The other public schools were predominately Catholic too but most of them were psuedo-Catholic or luke-warm Catholics–people who didn’t go to church anymore, divorced-type Catholics. They were Catholic and everything, but they didn’t go to Catholic school(although many of them did). You could be “public”(school) and still be a good Catholic. A lot of the people you associated with were lukewarm Catholics.
The superintendent of schools was an Irish Catholic. Most of the Principals were Irish Catholics. These people seemed to be from away: although they were Irish Catholics, they didn’t get along with the local Irish Catholics. They were people from away: they weren’t “P.I.’s”. They weren’t back-door Irish Catholics, I think they definitely tried to Anglicize the town and the community — de-Frenchify. Being French wasn’t cool (in the early ‘60’s). I think in school that was an attitude given by the administration: I would say that even in the schools. A lot of English speaking students would make fun of you if you talked French. Even though in high school it became kind of acceptable. The Rumford way of speaking is very nasal and sort of gruff, and rough and tough. Sort of like the Irish and French attitudes.
My family’s cultural traditions centered around Mass; every Sunday we’d come home, take the bird out of the oven, soak it in gravy and have dinner. Food was traditional–cooked rabbit, all that unusual French food, one type of food that became common that my mother made was called “Toutia”–anglicized Touque-meat pie. It was a pot pie made with ground pork and beef and mashed potatoes, throw the grease in there and onions and close–that’s it. That was very traditional. And it was eaten on holidays and almost always after Midnight Mass. Other traditions were based on Catholic rites: first communion, confirmation, marriage, even banns of marriage. My French uncles came to me when my banns of marriage were published in the bulletin of the church and said. “Oh my God, you’re marrying somebody–who is this?” Traditions centered on the church. Death, wakes, Irish wakes, were described by my wife as being like a big party here as opposed to the French wakes, which were even more ritualistic, religious and somber. The Irish wakes were a big party. It’s mostly because your Irish people who were blue collar were generally spread out, and my father described a wake as a chance to see people that you hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s very emotional, very partyish: that’s what they would want-the Irish are a very partying type people. They would want to have a party for their going away.
As I entered adolescence, the changing Catholicism was always there. You couldn’t think about girls, you couldn’t talk to girls. If you thought about girls that was one sin, if you talked to them that was another sin. If you went out on a date with them that was another sin. So you had nine sins before you even kissed them. Catholicism really screwed you up as far as the opposite sex goes. So the change in the church was good there-that was Vatican II. Other changes were in the population of the town–there were always 10,000 people. The mill changed, the major change was that the mill was always like a Big Brother–anything you needed, it was there. The mill changed its attitude–it went from a small mill to a fly by night operation for two years. They just wanted to make money, and they didn’t know how to run it. A lot of people died in there-there were three or four deaths in two years because they didn’t understand safety programs. Those years were very, very tense years for Rumford. After that, the mill set the tone for the town, and it changed by going into a big corporation. The big corporation didn’t always take the locals in: the good little buddies -just because of their name. Therefore a lot of people moved away. There was a watering down of the ethnic population here and the ethnic values and everything ethnic. They were bringing in a lot of people from the outside. The trend does seem to be Anglo-Saxon Protestant. That’s been a big change here.
One sees this ethnicity breaking down all the time. You keep getting further and further away from it. First I was kind of an outcast being Irish Catholic. Then I could identify with other people at the high school that were Irish–but they were half Italian or half French also, or maybe some English or Scotch. So as I went on being half French and half Irish, we tended to be more cool. As I look now I have a stronger tie to my ethnic background than new generations do. So it seems like as far as ethnicity goes, I’m deeper in tradition, and I feel better about it. In age, I feel better about my ethnic background, therefore myself.
Being brought up Irish in an Irish household, with an Irish attitude and an authoritarian father, you wanted to be Irish: you wanted to be stubborn, you wanted your own ways. As a teenager, I knew all the answers. My father knew all the answers, too. Therefore, we were at odds. Going in the service was a chance to try myself out, and break out of the shell a little bit and find out who I was. I went away, came back, went through four years of college, went away to Eastern Maine which is traditionally anti-Catholic. The whole style in Eastern Maine is downeastern and Protestant, and a different lifestyle. And I came back to this: came back to the thing I identify with. When you’re eighteen you think your father a fool; at twenty-one you’re surprised at how much the old man has learned. In three years I am very much a tough, fighting Irishman. I’ve fought all my life–I lock horns, lock on, try to straighten things out, I do best here where there are other people who understand me.
As far as recreation goes, there was sports from the Irish side. I was supposed to be a big, tough football player. My father- was 6’6″, 350 lbs. and I didn’t quite measure up to that. I wasn’t small by any means, but I wasn’t huge like that–I was kind of middle of the road, I wasn’t a small Frenchman like my mother, but I wasn’t a big Irishman. My uncles, being French, related more to the woods and outdoor sports. So I was always running that battle between football and hunting outdoors in the fall. Hunting won out, although I still root for Mountain Valley football, and relate best to the football players in my classes at school. I’m very much an outdoorsman. That was how I unwound. That is probably the biggest French part of me; getting out in the woods, overextending for a day, and coming back–being wiped out and going to bed. That’s the best form of recreation for me. Hunting in the French community goes way back. Good touque pie should have a little bit of venison. So I guess recreation (for me) is kind of a blend of both ethnic groups too. I am very much a blend stubborn, hard-working. I work hard and play hard; recreate very hard. Hunting is done from dawn to dusk; with very little to eat and no one to talk to, but good, cold fresh Maine air in your face.
As I went through Basic Training (in the Air Force), I went through with eleven people from Maine. Oddly enough, even though they were from mixed communities, French was there. French was spoken in Basic Training. They were all white during Basic Training. Eventually, those people disappeared: and for four more years. I very rarely saw anybody. One of the very best friends I ever had was a French person from Louisiana. Others of the closest friends were Irish. Even there (in the Air Force), I could relate better to people from my ethnic background than to people who weren’t. You always hear that–that there are bad Irish people out there, and there are bad French people out there. Yet, some of the better friends I’ve made, I can relate to their ethnic backgrounds. I was and Irishman for two years in the country of England. That was an experience! Even though I was Irish-American, and I was a Yank, the English were hung up on it. They couldn’t relate to it. It was like they could relate to a person with an English name, but someone with an Irish name they couldn’t. They considered Irishmen lower class citizens, told Irish jokes, and did everything they could to rattle my cage. One English person’s description of cole slaw was that it was thick (meaning the cabbage wasn’t cut very thin), and it had too much sugar–it was thick and nasty, like an Irishman. It was always an edge. But I was an American and they considered me an American first. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. It’s always something I’ve felt hard to concede–am I Irish, am I American–what do I concede too? It very much made me come to grips with who I am. The more I was ridiculed, the more I was teased, the more I was proud of who I was. So again, as I distanced myself from my roots, I became closer to them, became more fond of them, related better to them. And they became somehow to me, and it seemed to other people, more acceptable.
I did miss American culture, having a Big Mac. You couldn’t get a
French Fry, you had to eat Fish and Chips. A chip is not a French fry. It’s not stiff; it’s greasy and soft. You can’t get a Big Mac; you can’t get an Italian sandwich, which is about as Rumford a food as you can get, it’s not English, not Irish, not French–it’s a Rumford food. That was not available. Pizza was available, but not any good quality. Eating a pizza pie in Cambridge, England–it was like a tomato sauce on bread–there was no cheese. It was made by an Italian pizzeria–these people were Italians, so the food was different. I remember eating steak in the English countryside – it tasted like fish. The English food is very bland.
English people were very different. They were much smaller, and had different values than Americans. They were very poor. They don’t have the dollar–the spending capacity–of Americans. So, I missed that. And, you kind of despised the hatred. It was good for about two months–because for two months you were walking around, looking at landscapes that had thousand-year-old landmarks and that was kind of neat. But, you get used to them and you longed for the old familiarities of home.
English girls were very small, very squeakish, they had a squeaky nature to them, and they were very much an illusion to me as an American. They were not available. I was in a rural area, and even when you went to London, they weren’t available. Usually, you found yourself, when you go to a discothèque, you’d find yourself mixing with other foreign tourists—Portuguese, French, Asians–but the English wouldn’t come near you. You had a different haircut, you had different clothes, you wore jeans; they wore immaculate suits, you dressed differently. And it was always said during World War II that Americans and English girls mixed very well. When I was there, the American serviceman wasn’t in style–they were not kosher. Of course it wasn’t ethnic there–it was all Americans. What was in style seemed to be black Americans.
I was in England for two years, and had some good friends over there. A good friend over there was a guy by the name of Callahan. Cavanaugh, Then I was in Alaska for a stint. I met a guy by the name of Casey, who also had the same job as me–it was kind of a shocking experience. The Alaskans had a lot of Eskimos and Indians there. They seemed ethnically a prey species–very vulnerable (the Indians). I was in Texas for a while, and I was in Denver for a while; and it just seemed like every now and then you’d meet people from the same background as you, and I could relate better to them–I don’t know why.
The next step in my life(after the service) was college. I was a cook in the service. Although my scores were good enough to be anything I chose to be a cook. I knew everything: I was stubborn, I had that Irish streak in me and I thought I could soar as a cook. Soar up through and beat everybody because I had better ability. That’s not the way it worked. After that, I wanted to make up for lost time and try my ability out, so I went to college after being out of school for four years. My grades were real good. One of the things I first had trouble with was chemistry, so my Irish showed through there and I eventually became a chemist. After four years of college, I spent five years as an Analytic Chemist at a Paper mill. After that, I became a teacher. I had to start at the very bottom–teaching in a very rural, science capacity, middle-school type level, sixth grade to eighth grades which most teachers consider the pits. I moved away after three years to a chemistry position. So, now I teach chemistry.
I attended college in a very Anglo-Saxon community–Farmington, Maine. Traditionally, the two communities didn’t mix in a very forceful way, Farmington, and that whole area was kind of a Protestant, textile, college community, whereas Rumford was a mill community. I attended there. One instructor I had seemed to epitomize the Protestant background, and we fought like hell. We didn’t get along at all – at all, as they would say up there. I really got into trouble there by meeting my wife–my future wife, I went out with her for three years before we got married. I always kind of valued my ethnic background in a girl, and she has neither of the two. She has Italian and Germanic backgrounds, both of which are found in Rumford. And, she is Catholic. I remember to this day, the day she told me she was Catholic, a little bell went off inside. There were a lot of other girls around that college–the ratio was 4:1, and I chose her. So, something hit there. Ethnically, it was a mix again–and I met a guy there, we hit it off, and he was Irish-Catholic. He eventually became a principal, and my wife worked for him in Waterville many years later as a teacher. I related to him even though he was cocky and stubborn like I was–that’s always the thing with an Irishman-you can never be too close because you’re always too cocky and on the defensive with each other, although it’s OK to have a beer after. Other people that were friends there were from different communities. I remember I met a very good friend from the St. John Valley-I related to him. Roger Cyr, and I related to him. I didn’t think any less of him for being wicked French–we went to Mass a couple of times. I really wanted to go away to be — I’m a scientist, and like some literature would back up, I’ve always been a scientist. I wanted to pursue that at other colleges. I chose Farmington because it was close to my father, who was very sick at the time. I didn’t know it but he was dying. That’s why I chose that college–to say that my ties to this community were there. I was kind of winging in and out-going home after all my classes–it seemed like I was driving home to go and raise hell at a local bar on Friday nights, and then drive back to eat at the cafeteria and be with my friends on Saturday morning. I always kind of vacillated back, checking in on my father. We were stubborn–we were too much alike. We’d fight a lot–I remember him going into a diabetic shock once and (I was) playing the cool, leadership role, and he respected that. Meeting him from college. College was kind of like a beer party, and to an Irishman that’s good. I’d go from college to my father’s summer camp in the fall, and drink beer. He always had a old refrigerator at camp that was full of cheap beer. We would always seem to talk–we were very close. I became close to my father then–although my mother–I was close to my mother growing up. In my college years, I became closer to my father–I could relate better to him as a young man. My mother took kind of a subordinate role. I related to her less, respected her less, and didn’t ask her opinion anymore, When I had to talk, I talked to my father. I became very much like him. I relate to him, and people just as long ago as six weeks ago mentioned that I look like him. I felt it was the biggest compliment. So, my college days were family tied, and I’d go to church, but I was usually hung over (not usually, but–). I wasn’t as close to the church then, I guess, as I am today. I was trying to be outgoing, and trying to identify who I was. I did some real manly-type things, like get up in the middle of the night and go hunting for two days, and come back with a deer–drag a deer twenty miles with a belt. They were feats-physical feats–like getting stuck in the- mud and pushing myself out, walking for miles–things like that.
I planned to have an outdoor-related career, where I could work outside, and I was hoping that my science background in college would get me a job working for the State, which almost worked. I worked a summer for the department of Marine Resources, spending two summers actually, in seawater up to my bellybutton, digging clams on a clam survey, and things like that–and it almost worked. Then Joe Brennan, another great Irish-Catholic, put a hiring freeze on. And by the way, my father was close friends with him. It almost seemed counter-productive. In this economy, in this era, I’ve heard it said that people change careers very often. So, what came open was a position as a chemist, and I used the minor in chemistry that I had, to apply for that. Also, after Joe put the hiring freeze on, I was experimenting in the schools and knew I liked the schools, and felt I had survival value there as a substitute–not feeling any the worse for it. So, I took this chemistry position after I became certified as a teacher. This was all in the year following my graduation from college. I spent five years as a chemist in a paper mill. A paper mill is a political entity, and I got along with a great Irishman named Freddy Lanigan, there were some others there. But, being it was Eastern Maine, it was not kosher to be Catholic there. I was on the outs, I remember the very first time I met my boss, and he said, “Casey–you must be Irish-Catholic”. I said, “Yes, I am. Are you?” And he said. “Northern Ireland.” I knew I was in for a long tenure there, and after five years I was looking at a move and rather than move out of state, which would take me further away from the outdoors, and certainly my wife conceded that in our college days–she wanted to go to upstate New York, and a friend told her that that would ‘ruin him’–ruin me. I didn’t want to leave. I took a lesser paying job in education-60% less pay. And was working for three or four years–I had to start at the bottom–they wouldn’t take my word for it that I knew anything about chemistry. I had to start at the bottom, and prove myself as a teacher, and that’s where I am today–I’m a chemistry teacher. Less pay, my wife, eight months pregnant with our third child, still has to work so we make a go of this. So, teaching is a good lifestyle, but it’s kind of like a hobby–there’s not a lot of money in it. Our current rage is to deal Amway products–in an attempt to save money. It’s like the stubbornness in me again-in that, as a teacher, I finally came back, after being in Eastern Maine for all those years, came back to a chemistry position–but where was it? It was in the town of Rumford, of all the state that I had at my disposal, I came back here. I’ve been fighting tough ever since-fit right in to the community. As a teacher, you go through a make or break type period. Mine was very traumatic. My boss of two years, who I was very fond of, turned against me and we fought like hell. The community backed me up, he lost his job, I’m back at the high school and he’s gone. I’m very much a fighter–an Irishman, and a fighter in every sense of the word. It seems like that’s good–it’s a winning attitude.
The professional need, the professional quest was there–it was the job I really wanted. It was like frosting on the cake that it was here. I always wanted to return; to be a success in your own hometown. It’s not as easy as it sounds, as I can testify after fighting the layoff. What made me want to come back was my strong ties here. Who I am depends on this town. I am who I am because of this town. I came from the blue collar side of the tracks here-and crossed them to become a professional–and am very, very good at it–a very good analytical chemist. I remember along the way, as I said before, chemistry was very hard at first because I wasn’t prepared. So, my cross to bear has been to come back, and prepare our future professionals here in Rumford; to teach them chemistry. So that any profession they wanted to go into, which involved chemistry at a college level, they would not be eliminated from, and not be as stressed out as I was. So, for three years I did this, I did it so well, that I was named Maine Science teacher of the Year–the MEA scores went up every year for the three years I was here: I had a group of Juniors that were terrible–they were the pits, as bad as any teacher had every seen. They terrorized teachers and did away with teachers, all the years they had been in school. I took them and helped them become above average in Science. And they knew nothing when I took them. And yet, in all the other disciplines-English, History, Math, they were still below average. And yet, although I found this very professionally rewarding, I was laid off.
The community supported me in that the church–the focal point of my support came through people I knew from church-parents that I knew from church. There were petitions–every day there was letters to the editor in the newspaper, editorials, the local lawyers, the whole town, the board of selectmen stood up during the budget meeting and asked for my reinstatement. It was incredible–the amount of support was incredible, and it never would have happened had I not been a prodigal son.
(The support of the town helped me regain my position) not so much
logistically. The logistics eventually came about due to the support–and I didn’t quit-I hung in there, I fought tough, and I beat the bastards.
I can’t answer that (why I’m bringing my children up in Rumford)—it’s
something you feel in your gut. Students who – grow up here to become professionals, move away. The only real professionals that stay are teachers. So, there’s like a 95% or above chance that, if we have our kids grow up here, and we are entrenched and rooted here in town, that they will leave us. So, it’s a real hard question to answer. As it is, I feel that they will have a very rich and competitive nature up here, and they will be winners wherever they go.
They are members of the Saint John school. As an educator in the Master’s program In Administration, we were taught that you can feel a school as being effective by walking by it. The school up at Saint John is very effective-you can feel it the minute you walk in. So, therefore, that is what they are gaining by being here. They’re experiencing education and religion in a very effective environment. I feel that they will be strengthened in both ways. They will be capable of making it–if not in the educational way, well, I mean, let’s face
it, the way this world is going, they will need both. They will need to be educationally sound and spiritually sound and I think they’re getting it.
I beat the bastards (during the layoff)–my goal is to become an entrusted, town father in this town. One of the supporters was the town manager of Rumford; He has come under some strife. He has 7 or 8 kids-I lost count-I know they fill up two pews in church. I’d like to support him-to return his support. So, I guess my goal for Rumford is to become an old, entrusted, encrusted town father. I’m very tough, and strong, and set in my ways. To me, as I’ve gone through life, I’ve seen people who have power, not to make you think I want power, but people who have any power, or who have any ability to get things done have longevity. So, my goal is to be around, to become relaxed, to get to know more people in this town, to be more supported and more thought of–and kind of till back into the town as much as I can. I’m happy teaching, happy being in the classroom. I’m happy turning young adults into professionals. I really have no plans to go anywhere else–my plans are to be here, to raise my family here, to be happy, and to be a productive member of this community.
The town in 20 years will be dictated by whatever happens down at Boise Cascade, the paper company. The town really scares me. It started from a town with a large population growth for my whole existence (20-25 years); but for the last 13 years of my life, its gone-it’s decreased–we’ve lost over 10,000 people In this community. Both towns have merged their schools–it used to be a class A school, 750 kids in three grades. Now it’s a class B school, with 600 kids in four grades–two towns. There aren’t as many people here. As an educator, you can’t help but worry about that. So, the future of the town is dependent upon Boise Cascade. These last thirteen years, with the strike going on, all the changes have been directly proportional to Boise. They dictate the change, and they do it in no uncertain terms. They come to the school, they say, “What can we do for you? We want to work for you. We want our future employees to be such and such.” I see us working more and more with Boise to educate young adults, fixing their workforce. Where are we going in twenty years? God only knows.
I really want to provide for my family. I want kids–I have two now, one on the way, and a fourth one would be nice. I’d like to have enough money to buy my kids Chicken McNuggets, and go to the ballgame and buy them hotdogs, and not have to worry about milk money for the next week at school. To have the gas it takes to go to Santa’s Village-to be able to spend a week at Disneyworld-to have enough to give my kids what they need to nurture them and make them into strong people. Childhood is very precious and very short. What I’d like is more money–and like I say, I like teaching, so I hope that I would find a spare job or a second job that is a goldmine. So, for little time and effort I would make lots of money.
Your children are your life. Children are a man’s only hope for eternity. I gave them Irish names, intended to give them Irish names, I guess it’s not so important that they be like me as that they be like themselves. I want them to have everything I have at my disposal at their disposal in order to make it. Right now, I see them as very well adapted young people. The only thing, like I say, I would do differently, is have more money for them. I’ve grown up here in this blue collar, ethnic mill town, and I guess the moral of the story is that blood is thicker than water, I grew up here, I left here, I came back. The prodigal son returns. When the chips were down, a fancy-dan administrator who was the deputy commissioner of Education-Eve Bither’s deputy, who was hired as superintendent, had plans and ‘visions’ as he calls them: which called for eliminating a Chemistry teacher, named Science teacher of the year, and a pretty good Irishman, the town said, “You’re full of shit.11 It’s a blue collar town, but you can’t fool these people, and I guess it’s good to be back here. Blood is thicker than water. The apex of my support came from the church and the Prince Edward Island People, they backed me up, and said, “We’re not going to take anything from that French guy from Lewiston (even though he was a fancy state person). The little guy won and deservingly so. I got almost as much ground in
administration as this guy does, I was an administrator in a company with multi-million dollar paper machines, I have a Master’s In Educational Administration, and I have the heart and soul of this town in me. I know what’s best for the kids here, I was Maine Science teacher of the year, so there’s no way in hell I should have been laid off In place of some people with more seniority. The court case of Paradis vs Madawaska clearly defines reduction-in-Force as something
that has to benefit the school. So, with the support of the town I am back, I won, and I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had a tough Irish authoritarian background.
My hope for the town of Rumford is that the school board gets their act together–they have basically blue collar people who are at the whims and mercy of experts from away-expert meaning somebody who has a briefcase and is from out of town. Whereas they have a good, tough prodigal son sitting here who knows the answers and they don’t want to listen. So, I hope the school board gets their act together. I hope that John Madigan, the town manager, and the board of selectmen patch up their differences. I hope that Boise Cascade continues to produce paper, I hope we grow–well, I don’t hope we grow, and I don’t hope
things change-I don’t mean that things should be the way they were. I hope they stay the way they are, it’s a nice place to live, it’s a nice place to bring up kids. I guess the future – I would like to see the future of Rumford have something for my kids so they could stay here, and I could stay here and we could keep this bloodline going here. That the tough PI’s of Rumford stay here and once again, rule this town–do what is best.