This is Brenda Ashley, and I am currently enrolled in Life Span Development II with instructor Robert Atkinson. The following is a life story interview of Margaret Thomas of Sterling, Massachusetts. Today’s date is Saturday, March 20, 1993, and I have explained the purpose of the interview to Mrs. Thomas.
Were you ever told anything unusual about your birth that you can remember?
No, except that I was born on the homestead of Denman Thompson who was a playwright, a very famous man. That was in West Swanzey, New Hampshire. I was the second of five children.
We moved to Keene during the first few years of my life, and that was in the days when they had a lot of tramps. And a tramp came to the door, and my father had instructed my mother that she could feed them but they had to stay outside the house. Well, he insisted on coming in and my brother, who was probably three, no, probably four‑‑and I was two, my mother was holding my baby sister in her arms‑‑he tried to push the door open and we‑‑the three of us pushed. I don’t know why my mother didn’t put my sister down, but we pushed and we caught his fingers in the door, but he went off cussing. That was the only tramp that we ever had any difficulty with.
I know I liked water because in those days, we didn’t have all the hot water we have today, and you had to set the tubs out the night before to warm up the water to do the washing. I was forever playing with that water and many a time I fell into the tub, which wasn’t very convenient.
I never saw my grandfather until he was 84 years old, and he came to visit me at Fitchburg State College because he was living in Norway. I never saw either of my grandmothers. I had always seen pictures of my grandfather, and I expected to see a six foot fellow and he was very short, very small. Evidently he was very clever in math, because he used to take books home from the different people and banks and do their books at night at home because he was so clever with figures. But he had 12 children so he had to work pretty hard.
The best thing was my father did so many things with us. He took us fishing and made different things for us. We could invite children up. We had a pond, and we always had the use of a horse, and often we had the use of the hired man and, like, I could take my class on a snow ride in the sleigh with the horses. He was always doing things for us.
My mother was pretty busy because we always had one or two hired men, and then there were five of us children and a lot of work on our farm to do. She was always very busy. She did a lot of knitting and a lot of embroidery, but she never sewed. My father and I had to do all the sewing for the whole family. She couldn’t sew at all.
Well, I think I inherited a love of skiing and outdoors and fishing from my father, and we learned to be thrifty from my mother. We were the first ones in Alstead, New Hampshire, to have a car, so we all loved automobiles.
My father died when I was 12 and my brother was 14 and my youngest brother was five, and so we were a very close family. My older brother and I tried to give my younger brother everything my father had given us and do things with him that he did for us. I think it made us a very, very close family.
Oh, the trips we would take with the horse, and my father would pack up everything and take us to Wayland Lake for the day. Then we went to the church in Lunenburg Center, and every Sunday the minister would pick some family that had to go and help these old ladies that needed help, and we would go down there after dinner. And we all went with him and held do the work that she needed done, and we had a chance to visit while he was doing that. But we had to go to church every Sunday, and then my folks would go home, and then we’d stay for Sunday school and we’d have to walk home.
In Lunenburg there was a town pound which kept out stray animals. At the top of the town pound was a picket fence to keep the animals from jumping over, I suppose. My brother’s delight was to see if he could walk all the way around and then jump off and, of course, I couldn’t let him outdo me. I was trying to follow in his footsteps and held just jump off. When I jumped off, my skirt caught on one of those pegs and I hung in the air. He had to pull and tug and, of course, I had to tear the dress. It was a new dress and it was corduroy and it didn’t rip very easily, but I had one awful time to get off that picket fence.
I had to do everything my brother did like, playing ball. You couldn’t throw the ball except the way the boys throw it. You had to throw it over, and not under, to play with them, but you had to play like a boy. You couldn’t play like a girl so‑‑otherwise they wouldn’t let me play ball with them.
Growing up on a farm there were always chores to do. The minute you got home from school you had to, first of all, change your clothes and get into the grubbies. Then you had the wood to carry in and the animals to feed, the hay to throw down, and any other errands that my mother needed done.
We probably didn’t get home until four because we were‑‑ first part of living in Lunenburg we lived nearer school. It was a rural school. When we got into the seventh grade and had to go to town, and it was over two miles to town and you had to walk. There was no bus service so you had to start early, and you didn’t get back until about four. Then you had your chores to do and then your homework. But I can remember going to school in the rural school in North Lunenburg, and we had one teacher. We had six grades, and she wasn’t very good in math, so she would give me the book to take home. She says, “Go home and get your father to show you how to do these problems. Have him write them out,” and most every night I had to bring homework home for my father to do in math. And we thought nothing of it that she didn’t know how. Nobody ever thought it was odd that she didn’t do them, but he was always there to help her. Sometimes I could bring her home and have supper with us, and she could do the things first hand. Yes, do the teacher’s homework at night, but we loved the teacher.
I think we had a lot of fun and, we adored my father. Every night that he wasn’t too busy we’d, all five of us, two on his knees, two on the arms of the chair and one down at his feet and he would tell us stories. Some of them were true, some of them he would make up. We loved to do that, so any night he was free we had that story hour, which was fun.
I can’t remember a radio. We had a telephone. I can remember that. We lived where the whole neighborhood was very close.
I enjoyed skiing, skating, sliding, and my father made our skis. He cut them out, and I had the most beautiful pair of skis with a viking ship carved on the toe. He would cut them out of maple and then put them in the hot water and sort of boil them, and then put a bender. Somewhere he had a frame that he used to bend the fronts up so I had nice curved fronts. We all, as soon as you could walk, we had to learn to ski. And as soon as you could walk, you had to learn to swim. Those were his two rules. So we were all good swimmers and good skiers.
Well, I started first grade in East Westminster, New Hampshire, which is outside Keene. They didn’t have kindergarten, but when you went to first grade you only went till noon. Because we lived two miles from the school, I couldn’t go home until my brother could go, so I had to stay in school all day. So I went to the first grade in the morning and second grade in the afternoon. The next year, we moved to Alstead, New Hampshire, and when I got up there, instead of putting me in second grade, they put me in third grade because I had had all the second grade work in there. So I went to Alstead to school. Then we moved from there to Bellows Falls and, there again, we had to walk a long ways to the school. From Bellow Falls we moved to Lunenburg. My father had had a lot of trouble. He was a sea captain, and he had a lot of trouble with his stomach because in those days the food was all salted and no fresh vegetables or anything. I imagine today they would say he had ulcers. He could work indoors. He was a draftsman in Keene. He couldn’t work indoors very long. The doctor told him he had to get out on a farm, so that is why we finally moved to Lunenburg to be on this farm so that he could be outdoors. Then in Lunenburg, I went to that rural school and then I went to the Center School, and I was there until I was in the first year in high school. Then I went to Marlborough, New Hampshire, to go to high school. In the meantime, my father died. And my aunt in Marlborough wasn’t very well and so I went up and helped her, and that way I could earn my way through high school. So I went to a good many schools. It never seemed to be any, you know, detriment because you could always catch up. When I got through high school in Marlborough I went back to Lunenburg to live with my mother, and I went to Fitchburg State. Then after Fitchburg State‑‑I graduated from there‑‑I got a job teaching.
I went back to school at Worcester State to get my degree and I continued for 35 years, one course every semester. Not always things that I needed, things that I wanted. But it took me 35 years.
I tried to live up to the things my father told us we ought to do. He had instilled in us we had to go to college, and he had instilled when we were young. We were paid to do any work on the farm, and we’d get 25 cents an hour leading the horse. We’d get four cents a basket picking fruit. We got the same as any hired man had if we did what he did. The money was to be banked for education but you never had an allowance. You had to earn it.
I don’t know as we had too many difficulties. The fact that my father was gone, it was kind of rough because in those days it was a disgrace to go on welfare, and we all had to pitch in. My brother and I went to work quite young and, of course, the other three were too small to work. We tried very hard to let them have every advantage we had had. We had so many good friends that helped us along the way that I don’t think we had too many difficulties. I was 12 and my brother was 14 when my father passed away. We had been used to working and doing things. It wasn’t any hardship for us to work a little harder.
When my father died the bottom dropped out of everything. The only thing is we were old enough, and he had instilled in us values that he thought we ought to have. We did have a wonderful, wonderful time with him growing up.
I went to so many schools. I would think the rural school teacher that used to visit so often was my favorite. I liked her. In high school, we had a very small class in Marlborough, and when you have a small class in a small school you don’t get a large selection of classes like, in Latin. You get first
year Latin but could get either Ovid or Virgil or Cicero, any order. You never knew which one you would get. I went from Marlborough to Wakefield one year to school. In order to fit me in down there, I had English with one class and mathematics with a second class. And Latin, I was in with the fourth year class with Virgil because I had had one year. The way they had started at Marlborough, it was pretty hard to go‑‑so I really lost a lot of credit going to Massachusetts. New Hampshire is much stricter because some of the credits from Massachusetts wouldn’t count. Phys. ed. wouldn’t. Mechanical drawing wouldn’t and all those things. I had to go five years because of changing and going to three high schools. In New Hampshire‑‑I wanted to graduate from New Hampshire. Now, last year I went up to a reunion which was a good many‑‑oh, it was over 50 years and there weren’t very many left in our class. We had a grand time. We were a very close class, too.
It would be just adjusting to different high schools, I think, would be the hardest thing. At sixteen I was supporting myself and trying to save money to go to college, buying my own clothes. My uncle and aunt were wonderful to me, very good, generous.
I think the worst memory during my school years, with my father dying and not long after he died, we moved to another house, and the house burned down and we lost everything in it. That was the year before I went to New Hampshire to school. The thing, when my father died, they had come to school to bring my brother home, but they didn’t take me home. When I got home I thought that was awful to have to come home and find out. Then when the house burned, again they came to school to get my brother. Well, I walked out the back door and took my bicycle and ran home just to see the last of the house. So really, that is the only time I ever skipped school. I figured if they came to get my brother, where the first time he had come to get him my father had died. Then when they came to get him the second time, I figured it had to be worse that that, so I just grabbed my bicycle and went home. That was.. (scary).. to lose everything that was in it. Oh, I don’t think anybody had insurance. My father had no life insurance. No, you didn’t figure on insurances in those days. You figured on getting by and having the necessary things.
I loved basketball as a teenager and, of course, the same as in Marlborough, in Lunenburg you had to walk two miles to school. It was all downhill going but all uphill going home. We got out at, I think it was around, between one and two o’clock. I would go home, have lunch, and do up any dishes or anything that was left. And then I would run back down and practice basketball and then run back up the hill again and help with supper and do up the dishes and then do my homework. But I never wanted to miss anything in basketball. We had some lovely trips in basketball. In Marlborough you didn’t have school buses to take you places so we went by train, and some of the games that we had, I know it was either in Milford or Peterborough, you would go by train. Then each player on the opponent’s (team) would have to take home either one or two players, and then you would come home the next morning on the first train back. One girl took two of us home and all three of us slept the night in one bed. We woke in the morning, and the girl that had invited us to stay there came down with scarlet fever, so the other two of us were quarantined for two weeks. Neither one of us got it, but we were quarantined so you couldn’t go anyplace for two weeks, which is quite different from what they do today. Today they give you a shot and you go back to school in four days. It was fun going on a train.
In Lunenburg, growing up there, I belonged to the Sunday school and Girl Scouts and any sports, baseball and basketball. There were three of us Margarets, three Margarets. We were the closest friends and all three of us went through Sunday school,, Girl Scouts and basketball together until we got through. Then one girl‑‑I went to Marlborough to high school so I didn’t see them in high school. But when I came back to college, we were back again playing on the same teams. And we were still friends, and I am the last of the three Margarets. The other two have gone. We were friends right up to the end. And all three were the same name.
I was very sports minded, very happy. I tried to make the best of everything. I had a lot of good friends that helped me. I had to do the sewing for the whole family. Nobody else in the family could sew. My sister couldn’t and my mother couldn’t. All the mending and all the sewing‑‑I don’t know, I just liked sewing machines and I am still collecting sewing machines. Seven (sewing machines now).
It started in with my father. My mother had a very dear friend who used to take me to Winnepesaukee with her ever since I was nine years old. She would bring me up here to play with her daughter, and she would bring my brother up to play with her son. From the time I was nine until this friend died, she would always take me up to New Hampshire with her when she came up for the summer. I think she instilled a love of fishing and boats and the lake.
I don’t know as I had any real set dreams as I entered adulthood. I think I wanted to be self‑sufficient. I wanted to finish school. I got a job teaching. I had hoped to go to Alaska, and I signed up when I graduated from college. I graduated during the depression of ’28, and it was very hard to get a job. Only the upper quarter of our class were even interviewed. I had sent in forms to teach in Alaska, and I had a position up there and I was all set to go when they‑‑they had forgotten to ask me my age and you had to be 21 to go. I had to give up going to Alaska. I also had a position down in one of the hills of Kentucky, and I also had an offer in Sterling. I ended up taking the one in Sterling, and I was never sorry that I did take it. I finally got to Alaska a year or two after I retired. My husband and I, that was the first thing on the list to go to Alaska. And we went for ten weeks, and that is how I met Brenda Ashley. They took care of our property in Alton while we went to Alaska.
What led you to become a teacher? Did you always know that you wanted to teach?
No, I wanted to be a nurse, and you couldn’t get in until you were 18. And I was quite a ways from 18, so I went to Fitchburg State thinking I might possibly, when I got through there, go in as a nurse if I didn’t get a job teaching. But being a nurse was my first‑‑but my sister managed to get in because she was 18 when she graduated from high school.
I was sixteen when I graduated from high school. I went five years to high school. I skipped two grades, which is a foolish thing to do. You miss something. I had had trouble with reading because of my eyes. I had had trouble with my eyes since I was a youngster and which bothered me to do a lot of reading. That was the only handicap I really had.
My brother and I started taking on adult responsibilities when my father died because he made all the decisions. My mother was kind of lost so we had to help her. I think we were adults when we were kids. We had a lot of things to help her with. Then I had leisure time, I enjoyed crafts and skiing, skating, snowmobiling, fishing, hunting and having a garden. I might say mowing the lawn, too.
I think everybody needs to be part of a community. You owe it to the community and the community needs you. I think you have to be able to keep up with what’s going on. I belong to the West Sterling Community Club, which takes care of the all the neighborhood in case of sickness, or illness, or
transportation. I am a life member of the Grange. I belong to the Sterling Women’s Club. I belong to the Homemaker’s Club. I belong to the Auxiliary Women’s‑‑you have to be a college graduate to belong to it. I belong to the AARP group. I belong to the Bancroft Group from Worcester, and they take a lot of trips and do a lot of things. I belong to the Senior Citizens. I think that is about it. It takes almost every day in the week.
You have more responsibilities as an adult, and you have a lot of planning to do. Anil you have to make sure that your finances are right and that you are able to take care of what you want.
My husband had a very dear friend. He went to work at Miller’s Falls Tool Company. And he lived with this Scottish family while he was up there and their daughter’s husband was one of his best friends. Well, this friend of his had two children, a boy who was nine and a girl‑‑I think she was probably four. He died, the father of these children died. His best friend, Lawrence, died. Well, that kind of left us in a queer position because we were such good friends. His wife wanted us to take over the responsibility of caring for the children if anything happened to her. So we went up and had it legally done that the children would be ours if anything happened to her, but the grandmother wanted to keep the children, which was good. I took the children every vacation, summer vacations and school vacations, so we got to be very close. I am still very close to those two children. Bill lives in Florida and I see him quite often. He and his wife come up here and spend quite a bit of time with us here in New Hampshire and I go down there, I have a place to stay anytime I want to go to Florida. We are still very close. His sister lives in New York and I see her quite often, Sheila.
On one of my trips back from Lunenburg to Sterling, I think it was over Washington’s Birthday, I had to get off the bus in Sterling to the village, and I had to walk over almost three miles to where I boarded. And just as I got off the bus, this car came around the corner, and here was this young man who I had met before. I had his brother and sisters in school. He offered me a ride. It turned out I had many rides with him after that, but I didn’t date him alone because I went with several. I wanted to get my degree at Worcester before I did anything else. We were friends for a good many years. I later became engaged to him, and we were married in 1942. We did a lot of fishing, hunting, and boating. Moosehead Lake was one of our favorite places to go, and we also did a lot of skiing. Later on we did a lot of snowmobiling and kept those up in New Hampshire, and belonged to the Wolfeboro Snowmobile Club, and they had many interesting trips. One of the best trips was a trip to Castle in the Clouds. And then another one was up into the White Mountains, and we had a grand time up there.
We had family reunions for a good many years, and we had them in Sterling at our place after I was married. We had them in Lunenburg with my mother, and often we went down to one of my cousin’s camps. We had them there. Then my uncle, who lived in Marlborough, had a cottage on a lake, and we often went there. Every year, the whole family would meet, and those were my father’s relatives. I didn’t have any of my mother’s relatives near, but we are still very close. At the last one there were almost 100 of us there and most all of us were either first or second cousins. All the uncles and aunts are gone.
There were five children in my family. My sister trained for a nurse and my next oldest brother worked for the telephone company for over 42 years, and he recently passed away. My sister passed away about ten years ago. She was living in Baltimore at the time. My other brother, Norman, was killed in World War II. He was killed in Italy. My younger brother was five years out in the South Pacific during World War II, and so my younger brother and myself are the only two left of the
five. But the oddest thing is my older brother is Richard, but we never called him Dick. We called him Richard. My father was Dick and my younger was born in Alstead, New Hampshire, at the beginning of World War I. And my mother had a very difficult time with his birth so she named him for the doctor, Max Flynn. He always called himself Dickie, and I suppose my father was Dick and so he was Dickie. He named himself, but somebody told him Max was a German name and, of course, a German at that time was bad. He went into first grade when we moved to Lunenburg and the teacher called him Max. He would write his name when he went to school so he wrote Dickie on every one of his papers. When she called him Max, he wouldn’t answer. Now, he had always been a very obedient youngster and never given anyone any trouble, but he was not going to be called Max. It ended up the end of the year that we had had so much trouble with him in school not being Max that we had his name changed to my father’s name. And, of course, my father was dead at the time, and we were so glad we had changed his name. He was much happier. My older brother always liked it. He would come down and meet some friends and say, “I’m Dick Thompson and this is my brother, Dick.” He loved to be called that because we never called Richard, Dick. He is Dick and here is my younger brother, Dick. He is still Dickie to us. There aren’t many children who can name themselves.
I had a wonderful Sunday school teacher in Lunenburg and she did a lot for me. My Scout leader did. We had a wonderful Girl Scout troop in Lunenburg and, of course, in the beginning, I could say my father was the one who really started the things going. And I would say he was the greatest influence and, oh, I would also say one of the instructors at Worcester State was a very good friend. Often she would stop at my school if she was going out to do a lecture and pick up some of the projects the children were working on. The children loved to see her coming. Could she borrow this and could she borrow that? She loved our school as a stopping place, especially if she was going to have a lecture someplace. She was quite an influence.
I had been teaching in West Boylston quite a few years. And I was offered the assistant principal’s job and then later on was offered the principal’s job. I didn’t mind the assistant principal’s, but I really didn’t want the principal’s job. Well, the superintendent talked me into trying it, and he said that if I didn’t like my job as a principal, I could get it (my old job) back again. In the meantime, a friend of mine had taken my position as head of the math department, and that would mean removing her from that position if I went back. I wouldn’t say I really enjoyed being a principal. I would rather teach, and that was one of the reasons I went 35 years, one course every fall‑‑I felt‑‑to keep up and find out what the other schools were doing and what was new. I really had to go back at least for one course every semester, and I did that practically all the time that I was principal.
I was a principal for 25 years. I taught for 42 years, and then I tried to retire early but ended up retiring at 60.
1 think the trips we took were some of the happiest times.. one of the most happy‑‑as I say, we went to Moosehead every single year and out of 50 years I missed, I think, one year going to Moosehead. And we loved to fish and we liked hunting, and my husband was very active. He was on the police force 52 years. I think he is one of the oldest ones that ever‑‑stayed on the force for the longest. He wasn’t full time, he was part time, but he was on until he was 72 years old which is very unusual. We took a lot of interesting trips. One of the best ones, we went out to the State of Washington. He went out to a firearms school run by the NRA, National Rifle Association, and we had a very nice visit there. We stayed at a Holiday Inn quite near the school. We met many interesting people there and then, when that course was over, we went down to visit a cousin of mine in the Southern part of Washington. The school was right near Seattle. So that was an interesting trip. And the other very interesting trip was the trip to Alaska, ten weeks. We had a grand time. We drove. We took the inland waterway boat going up and we got off at Haynes (?) Junction, I think it was, and then we drove all the way back the Alcan Highway. It is‑‑it was a beautiful trip. We camped part of the way and we stayed in motels. And the interesting part is one of my classmates in Lunenburg, way back when we were in the first year of high, moved to Sterling before I did, and I met his wife and I had his children in school. He and my husband had been friends for years, and we decided we’d go to Alaska together. We had a wonderful time. They had a camper. They slept in the camper and we slept in the tent. We had a wonderful trip.
We built our own house from the cellar up‑‑dug the cellar. We did all the building and it took us quite a while, but I think it was some of the first nails my husband had ever hammered. He built the garage to practice and then built the house, and I loved the house‑‑in Sterling. We came up every weekend. In the 42 years of teaching, I met a good many very close friends, friends that I still have, and a good many of the pupils that I had I still know. One of my pupils is my family doctor, now, and one of my pupils is my lawyer. And one of my pupils is a very close friend nearby, and his wife is always kidding me ‑ I loved him before she did because I had him in school three years. Not three years in one grade, because remember in a rural school I had him in grades four, five and six. We are still very dear friends and he does a great deal for me. My man that takes care of my furnace is a former pupil who is a very close friend, and it just seems so many of these, I have known them for years and we’re still good friends. I would say I have met a good many people.
I think I have inner strength, I don’t know, we were brought up to be religious, to go to Sunday school and go to church, and that would be the one side of it. And the other side, we were brought up on the farm with plenty of milk and eggs and poultry and beef and vegetables. We had a very healthy diet, I think. Probably that was because my father had had so much trouble with his stomach, he was very careful about what we had to eat and also getting plenty of exercise. So we had both the
outside of it and spiritual side of it. We were taught to be honest, and there wasn’t anything my father disliked more than anybody not telling him the truth. I think we did it not from fear, we did it from love. We loved my father so much, and it was early on… we had him for so few years but we really worshipped the ground he walked on and, of course, we had our mother for so many years ‑ we sort of took her for granted. We had him for such a short time, it made us a closer family too.
I think I pretty well do what I please and, of course, I have wonderful neighbors in New Hampshire and I have wonderful neighbors in Massachusetts. I lived with the people next door. I boarded there for a good many years. I was very close to people who live there now and his mother was one of my best friends, and I have watched him‑‑I tell him I have known him from before he was born. And I have seen a great deal of him ever since he was a youngster, and he still does an awful lot for me. He repaid what I did for him many times over. He makes sure I am plowed out in the winter. He makes sure I have plenty of things that I need and his wife is very, very friendly. I am 84 years old now, 5 years from now will make me 89. My friend down the street is 92 and she still drives, even takes me places sometimes. I take her on the long trips so I think it’s the healthy air in Sterling. I still mow my own lawn and I still rototill my own garden, and I have a good sized garden. I don’t know as I really need the garden, because the fellow next door has a real vegetable garden and he has five or six greenhouses. I really could just go over the wall and help myself.
The world will be different in five years. The way they are beginning now to predict the weather more accurately, we are going to know what the weather is going to be for the whole week ahead. This last storm proved that. They had it right down to the letter, exactly what was going to happen. The only thing was we didn’t lose the power, which was good. The way with television and the way with all the modern equipment they have, it’s going to be a very different world.
I don’t really think I want to forget all the love we had as youngsters and all the things that friends have done for me. All the wonderful trips I have had. All the interesting things I have done. I was a Scout for a good many years and then, for over 20 years, I had charge of one troop through the Fitchburg State College. I took over a troop. Then, when I came to Sterling, I got involved with them. Finally, I had the troop for a good many years so I was involved there.
I think the younger generation should learn to do more for their community and more for other people they are in contact with. I think they need to have more service. Part of the trouble with the children today is what, when we came home from school we had chores to do and we had dishes to wash, we had tables to set, we had to help with the meals. Today the children come home and there is no wood to carry in, no chores to do, and that’s one of the reasons why I think they get into trouble. There is nobody there. I think coming home, what these latchkey children… are the cause of a lot of our difficulties. To come home to an empty house‑‑and I know. I had a friend who worked for me and her little boy would come. He was in the fifth and sixth grade, but if he came before she did or before his older brother did, he would take the dog and sit in back of the stove. He was just almost afraid to be there alone. I think that isn’t good for a child. They need to have somebody there when they come home. When you come home to an empty house it is an invitation to get into trouble. The working mother is the cause of all of this and they really have to work to get by today. To be carted off early in the morning and to be put into a child care center, I think that is the ruination of the child. They should be home. One of our doctors we had in Sterling said that no child should go to school until he was seven. They should be home with their parents learning the way to cope with the world, and I think he was right. Today you see you can’t with all the things you think you need.
I think we have to learn to do more for others and be prepared to help. I have been in situations where there has always been someone there to help you, somebody willing to do something for you, and you are expected to do something for somebody else. Now just the other day… I belong to this homemaker’s group and I take a lady that is pretty well crippled to that meeting. She enjoys it very much. It is a lot of work to get her up the stairs and up in the places but I take her, she enjoys it so much. At the end of it, we decided one day that instead of going home, we would go out to eat and while we were eating the lunch she wondered if I would take her up to visit another pupil that I had, but a friend of hers. A dear friend friend who is in a wheelchair, but living alone. We went up there and spent the afternoon with her and then I thought well, gee, it’s really sort of stupid. We went to a restaurant to eat and she is all alone in this house. One whole side is paralyzed, and she had to go to the refrigerator and just pull out a sandwich. “Well, why don’t we, the next meeting, instead of eating at the restaurant, have them pack our lunches and we’ll take the dinner up and eat with her?” we did that and she had the most wonderful time with us there, so we decided at least once a month we would stop and pick up the dinner, all hot, and we will call her ahead to have her pick out what she would like to eat and go up and eat with her. I think it’s going to be right now, the lady thinks I ought to do it every two weeks. The oddest thing is, one lady comes in every Saturday night, Saturday morning and Saturday night, gets her out of bed, gets her dressed and puts her in the wheelchair, and then goes up at night and reverses the procedure and gets her to bed. It happened to be I met this
lady at the Post Office, and it’s a very dear friend of mine who is doing this two nights a week. She was telling me how much she enjoyed the dinners that we brought up, so I guess I’ll have to do it more often. It will take probably two days a month if I do it twice a month, but it gives this other crippled lady a chance to go up with me and those two are very dear friends. She was one of my former pupils. I had her in the third grade and she was the sweetest little youngster. The part that bothers her most is her mother walked out on her when she was 11 years old. She had an older sister and a younger sister who was four or five, and she had most of the care of the younger girl from the times that she was eleven, and she has always sort of resented her mother walking out. And her mother now is blind, but she goes to see that mother in spite of her feelings. Her father did marry again and her stepmother was wonderful to her. She was so happy when her father got married again because her duties at home were much less. It is so interesting to see‑‑this girl‑‑one whole side completely paralyzed and she has had two brain tumors removed, and she is still so happy. She wants to be alone in that house. She adopted one child. She had two boys of her own but the children‑‑she loves to have little grandchildren come to visit her. Here she is‑‑I can’t imagine anybody having the courage to live all alone like that. I live alone but I have much easier life than she does. I think we should learn to do more for others.
I think I have had a pretty happy life. I have gotten a lot of the things that I enjoy a lot and, if it wasn’t for my dear friends, I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things that I do now. If it wasn’t for Brenda and her folks, I couldn’t stay up here alone. They do so much for me, and still I have my neighbor who takes over anything that I can’t take care of.
My older brother had two girls and my younger brother had twins. And he was married just before World War II started, and he was gone for five years. His wife got a job teaching at Wheelock College and she was a graduate of Simmons. She has always been connected with library so she had plenty of work while he was gone. One of the twins, both twins are married, and one twin has adopted four children and the other twin adopted three children. One that adopted four, one came from Peru, and two came from Columbia, and one of them was a Vietnamese baby born in Lowell. Her twin sister adopted three from Columbia. On my 80th birthday, one of the twins and her husband gave me for a birthday present a trip to Norway with them, and it was a very interesting trip and a lovely trip. The children were wonderful. We had had a family reunion down at Plymouth, and my younger brother took me down there. And then I went with this niece to Cambridge, and we picked up all their things and went right to the airport and flew to London, and then from there to Norway. It was an interesting trip because we went from one end to the other. One of the things the children wanted was to go up and go skiing and dogsledding in the northern part. We were up there a whole week. They got their skiing trip. They got a fishing trip and they went mountain climbing. We went through all the fjords and then we went down to the southern part and visited with a relative. They stayed in the family’s city home, and I went out to the island to stay on the ocean with the‑‑this would be one of my cousins‑‑and I stayed with them. Every day the folks would come down by car and we’d all be together all day. Oh, it was really a marvelous trip. I thought that was a pretty nice 80th birthday trip. It proves that you should wait to get to 80. That really was lovely. But back to being married. We really had a wonderful marriage and we were married in 1942, married 42 years. I taught 42 years so I think 42 is my lucky number. We had a friend who had a boat down where we kept our boat down here at Robert’s Cove. And one of our friends down there had Mr. Ashley visiting with his wife and the children there, and they were looking for a place to stay. And we used to keep in contact with these friends with walkie talkies. They called up to see if we would call and make reservations for an overnight cabin or some kind of hotel. I said, “Don’t bother with that. Tell them to come up and stay with us.” So up they came, Mr. and Mrs. Ashley and Brenda and Dorie, and we had the most wonderful visit. In the process of this, he was looking for a place to put his boat in and the marina was full. He couldn’t get one. We were in the process of getting ready to pull ours out because we were going to Alaska for ten weeks. We told the Ashleys that they could use our mooring. We’d pull our boat out and they could put their boat in, and they could have it until Labor Day. Then, in the process, he mentioned that he had a camper. I said, “Fine, we have a wonderful back yard.” So here, we had never seen these people before, and they spent the night with us. We were so impressed‑‑that anybody could have two such obedient, nice children had to be good people, because they were so good to their children and the children were so good. They agreed they would bring up their camper and camp in our back yard. We gave them the keys to the house and told them if they had visitors‑‑that Mrs. Ashley’s mother and father might come up and stay‑‑and they could stay and use the camp. Then my husband’s uncle and aunt were going to come up. And it so happened that both of them came the same time, and they had the most wonderful time playing cards together, they‑‑Lewis’ uncle and aunt and Mrs. Ashley’s mother and father. Anyway, they took wonderful care of the place, so we decided they better stay in the back yard permanently. So, what was it, around four years, I think, they camped in our back yard. Sometimes they would come up in the middle of the winter and visit us, too, so if they got here first they turned up the heat. Then they decided they were going to build next door, which was wonderful. So while they were building, they were still with us, and we still have keys for each other’s houses now. They have been wonderful, wonderful neighbors. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t dare come up here. And, of course, while we had this camp here and a house in Lunenburg, we still leased a place at Moosehead. As I said, out of 50 years I only missed, I guess, one year. Anyway, they came up with us for a week a couple of years in a row, two or three years in a row. They had the most wonderful time. Every night after supper we would go out looking for moose, and I think they went home one week with 23 or 24 moose they had seen at night. Then here, a year or so ago, we went up‑‑and, of course, I am not leasing that place anymore‑‑but we went up about seven miles above there and stayed at these cottages up there. We still went out looking for moose at night, and Brenda and I had a wonderful time. We had one cabin ‑ but we had mice visiting us. I woke up in the middle of the night and there were these mice sitting over‑‑they had double bunks on the bottom and double bunks on the top. Brenda was in the bunk right above me, but on the bunk that I wasn’t using, here was this little bunch of mice huddled up in one corner. One started crawling over me and, boy, then I was ready to scream. I got out. I picked up‑‑what did I pick up, a paddle or a broom? A paddle. Anyway, I woke up her folks in the next cabin, and they could see with the light on that I was running around the room with a broom in my hand. They came running over. Dale came over and I guess he eliminated one mouse, but that left four more to run around. In a couple of days we had caught most of them but, really, it was a little bit scary. I am not afraid of mice but I don’t want them in my bed. Brenda was safe because the poles that help up, they were cedar poles and they had been waxed or shellacked. And it was so slippery, no mouse could climb up those posts, so she was safe up there. That was a fun, we had a wonderful time up there. And to think that years and years afterwards, after Brenda was grown up, she still liked it up there.
One night I wasn’t with Brenda and her parents when they went out looking for moose. I don’t know where I was, but they were travelling along and they came to some beehives. Somebody had hives up there for the bees to get raspberry honey. And when they were there, this bear had knocked over one of the hives and was trying to get honey out, and the bear was in the middle of the road. They had to stop and wait for the bear to move. We didn’t see too many bears. They had a dump, and I guess the dump took care of two or three communities there. And if you get up there just before dark, the bears would come in and see what there was new to chew on. And sometimes you would see four or five bears out there munching, and you could sit in your car and watch them. It wasn’t very safe to run around, though, because bears still are wild animals. That was fun at night, watching them.
This concludes the life story interview of Margaret Thomas.