The Life Story of Angela
Interviewed October 2004
I was born in Glasgow, and I was born two days after D-Day, so that was kind of, anytime my parents would talk about my birthday, always added to it; I was born two days after D-day. So, the war was coming to an end when I was born. I had four brothers; I’ve lost one brother, and a sister. I’m the youngest in the family. When I grew up, I still saw evidence of what the Germans had done to Glasgow. You know, streets being bombed, buildings, and so forth. When I was five years old, I could still see the evidence of what World War Two was like.
At that time another memory that I have was that we had coupons. You had to have a book of coupons to go to the store and get your groceries or candies. Of course, as a little girl, I naturally loved candies, and I can always remember my mom trying to save as many of the coupons because getting candy was frivolous, and we were looking more in going to the grocery store to get our groceries. When I started school, I also remember we would practice when we would hear the siren go off. We had gas masks that we had to put on and then we would go out into the yard of the school, go down a stair, and we would stay in the basement. I remember being petrified of that whole process and crying when I would come home, reaching a point where I didn’t want to go to school.
Also, I remember in my own home that my parents had gas masks there, which of course, came from the fear of World War Two, in case there would be gas dropped in the bombs. They lived through that part, I didn’t. So, they shared with me about when the Germans would be attacking and people would go to shelters and my Mom never would. She didn’t want to take her little people to shelters. They were usually cold and wet. She just didn’t want that for the children, so they stayed home. They would kind of get into a room, go under a bed, go in a cupboard, a closet space, and that’s where we’d stay until the siren would go that it was all clear, the Germans had gone. So, that was very vivid for me, listening to those stories, because they still were being shared when I was a little girl. So, my birthday was always kind of acknowledged by everyone because of the date it was.
My grandfather, my father’s father, my paternal grandfather, died before I was born. I was about six, when my paternal grandmother died. I have a little memory of this gray-haired lady who was always in her bed. That’s what I remember of her. Then with my maternal grandparents, I was about the same age. I was about five when my grandmother died. She died before my grandmother Noble. I always remember her being real gruff. In those days, it was very normal to have big families. That grandmother had twelve children, but out of those twelve children, only six survived. In those days with diphtheria, small pox, and whooping cough, there was no cure and no vaccinations so you lost a lot of babies due to these types of tragedies. So, out of the twelve that was how many had survived.
She was very strict, I always remember that, and very particular about how her house looked. You kind of sat and you had to be really good. In my days, when I was little, the term of children should be seen and not heard was very strong. So you were in that type of culture where you were to be mannerable; you weren’t to interrupt a conversation, and you weren’t really to join a conversation of adults because you were a child, and you didn’t know any better.
That was the kind of culture that we had, but I have to add that being the youngest, I was spoiled, really spoiled. There was 13 years between my oldest brother and I, so I really had the best of the best because they all spoiled me plus my mom and dad spoiled me, so I had a great time. I don’t think they expected another baby when I came along. They always used to say to me that I was a big surprise, but I think I was a big shock because there were six and a half years between my sister and I. Between the rest of them, my brothers, there was only like a year and a half, and the same for my sister. So, I was quite a long gap to come along. I think I was a bit of a surprise for everybody.
I have one brother here in the United States and I have two brothers and a sister in Scotland. He (the brother in the United States) lives in Connecticut. I’ve been here 35 years. I think he’s been here 37 years. His wife and he immigrated over to the states, so he’s been here not much longer than me. We talk.
My other brother, he was here for twenty-three or twenty-four years, and always missed back home. He always missed Scotland, so he decided to move back. So, that’s why he’s back in Scotland. He’s been back there, I think nine years now, but he did live here for a while.
My mom was a very, very loving gentle lady. She never worked. In those days, the man was to work and provide what he needed to provide for his family. So typically, you didn’t see many moms or wives out there working. It was always the man that worked. So, my father was also an interior decorator, and most of the work he could find was in London. He would be down there Monday through Friday, and would come up in the train and stay for the weekend at home, then leave again in the early hours of Monday to go back to London to work. This went on until I was about eight years old when my father decided that he was losing out in watching me growing up and decided he wanted to come back and live in Scotland. So, when you think about that, I was eight years old, my oldest brother was twenty-two and my mom, up until then, had actually always been by herself raising her children because dad worked there. Even during the war, when I was sharing what it was like, my mom was by herself because dad, again, was doing lots of work for the government, with planes and so forth, and was in London. So, I always had that kind of admiration for her and also, as I say, she was totally in love with her family. Those, to her, were her happiest moments; cleaning her home, and being with her children. I really had a fantastic, wonderful mom.
My daddy was a little stricter. He would come out and say to me, “You know, you can pull the wool over your mother’s eyes, but you can’t pull the wool over mine,” and he was right. I really couldn’t, but I could with mom. So, he was a kind of discipline person. If mom would discipline me, I could easily talk her out of it, but when my dad gave me a consequence, that was the consequence. He was very hardworking, extremely hardworking, and he was the oldest of his family. He started working when he was fourteen years old. When you think about it, most of his life was being a hard worker, but that’s the way it was. That was just the acceptable way in those days.
He was very, very strong about manners and how you spoke, and even how you looked. We were never allowed to wear even nail varnish on our nails in our home. He didn’t like it. It wasn’t a thing for women, they shouldn’t be doing that. So, he came from old ways. He actually comes from Ireland. My father’s parents were from Ireland, and my father was born in Ireland, but he left there when he was very tiny. I think he was like maybe six months old when they came to Scotland to live. So, when I think back now, I think that a lot of it was the culture for him and from where he came from. He was extremely superstitious, and if you sit with some of the Irish people, they’re extremely superstitious. You know, if you walk under a ladder, something was going to happen to you. If a black cat went in front of you, that was a tragedy of tragedies.
He very much was a Christian man, but of the old school; basically the Old Testament brainstorm and fire, rather than the New Testament. So, he was very strong in his convictions and in his commitments, and even on a Sunday. No way could we do any housework on a Sunday or do laundry or do anything. Sunday was church and it was a day of rest and he never ever changed his ways about that. Although he was stricter, I truly admired the man that he was. The honesty of him, his kindness, his gentleness, all those were still a big part of him. They were terrific parents. They really were wonderful. I used to always say that if God had come down and said there were five couples, you’re going to pick any parent you want; they were going to be the best. He already gave that to me because they really were the best parents anybody could have.
My mother had a great love for children and I find that I have that same unique wanting to help people. My mom was like that too. So, a lot of times, when that happens, I see my mom in me. “Oh, my gosh. This is what mom used to do,” and it happens without even realizing it. Then there is my daddy. I can be very confrontive. I think people don’t like that in me, but I’d rather talk to you than talk around you. I was always taught that by my dad, but I know it’s difficult for people to receive it. It’s almost like a mirror. I always think about that with my dad who’d maybe talk to you and challenge something. He’s always look in the mirror himself, heckling the imaginary mirror because he’s working on the same things himself. But, I see a lot of people that flip the mirror so they want it to blame someone else rather than looking within themselves. I do see that in myself. I challenge myself a lot too. My dad was that way, most certainly. My dad would never even say the word ‘hell.’ You never heard it. Now I can say the word ‘hell’ quite easily, but he never did. We were never allowed to speak like that. If we couldn’t use proper English, we were not to talk at all. We learned that, and he didn’t deviate. My daddy never deviated. You understood that was the way it was. You had a choice, and hopefully you made the right choice, but it was never up and down. You knew, and mom was the same way, although I could challenge her a little.
I see those pieces of them in me. I really do. I also see those pieces, not only in me, but in my daughters and I see them in my grandchildren. So, like I’ve said many, many times, when you lose someone, when they die, they actually never do, because this is the beauty of it, these are the memories of it and you just pass it from generation to generation so they live on, and on, and on, and on. So, that’s what I see in my family. It’s really neat, it’s really neat.
My husband, Bob, and I met at a dance. I liked him right away and he liked the outfit I was wearing. That was always so funny, remember Bobby? Oh, my gosh, what color was it Bobby? (Yellow) It was too. I had this beautiful yellow dress, pale, pale, a little glitter to it, and a coat to match, and he always remembered that outfit. We made arrangements to meet each other. I think it was two weeks later, in Glasgow. We did, and that was it ever since. I can honestly say that, you know, it was love at first site and that’s just the way it was. It hasn’t ever changed, never changed.
He was stationed in the Holy Loch, it’s called. The town is Dunoon, which is about two hours from Glasgow. So, we were together for two and a half years and then we came over to America. When he was there in Glasgow, he was in a submarine tender.
He was stationed there the whole time until he got stationed over here, and Bobby where was the place? Norfolk, Virginia, on a destroyer. Yea, they shipped him. We were upset, but there was nothing we could do. I came here. Bobby was only here two weeks. I was pregnant with Eva and Bobby had to leave. It was hard.
My daddy had been quite ill for a while. We didn’t know what was wrong. My mom loved Bob. Bobby was her son. She always called him son. She loved Bobby. But, my dad never had a lot of time with Bob. When we flew over here, when I flew over in May, my daddy died in July. So, my mom flew over. She knew Bobby was gone. I couldn’t fly back home because I was pregnant with Edwina. She was due in September. So what my mom did was fly over so she would break the news to me, but Bobby was able to get, um…You were a week off, Bobby? A week’s leave? (Fourteen days.) Yeah, fourteen days, before he left for Cuba. She knew that Bobby was going to be there. They had had all this communication that I knew nothing about.
She brought the news about my daddy. She stayed for about six weeks. So, my mom was here when Eva was born, which was wonderful, and I had Eva at home. I did not go in to the hospital. Dr. Pearson, in Milo, was the doctor. The reason being when I came here, June was four years old, or three. Everybody was strange to June. You know, she knew nobody. We had taken here away from all of her family. Your eating habits were different from ours, although I love them now. You know, everything was different. Quite different. That’s the best way I can say it, and I was determined that I was not going to leave June with anybody, even Bobby’s mom and dad. They were fine, but they just didn’t know, I felt, how to take care of her. You know, because of who she was. So, that’s why I planned to have Eva at home, and I did. Dr. Pearson delivered her and my mom was right there. It all worked out. Yeah, that’s the determined Scot. She had to be with her mom and her new baby. So, it worked out perfect, and my mom was here, I think like two weeks, after Eva was born. Then Bobby came home in the November. Eva was born in September. So Bobby never saw her until she was three months old. That was when Bobby got out of the Navy.
I used to cry myself to sleep every night. I just could not stand it. I just missed my family so much. I mean I had never been gone from home. Vacation, yea, a week or two weeks, but to be completely gone from my home and to come over here, it was awful. That’s all I can say. It was absolutely horrible. I hated the blackflies. I hated the mosquitoes. I hated the heat because we just don’t experience that back home. My accent was so strong. I had the real “braw” and the “brrrrr.” I would talk, and Bob’s mom would have this smile on her face and nod, “Oh yes.” Okay mom. I’d say, “She doesn’t know a damn thing I’m saying.” She’s just nod and nod. So, I always wanted to hear a Scottish voice. You know, it was quite an adjustment. Now I adore it. I’ve loved it for years and years. The first one (Scottish voice) I ever heard was when we were in Connecticut. There were a few Scots that had moved to Connecticut. When I came back from Connecticut, I met the minister, David McLeash, in Dover, and he is from Scotland. He and his wife were just married a few weeks ago. But he lost the Scottish accent. The first time I ever met him and we talked a little bit about back home, I’m standing listening to him, and I finally looked at him and I said, “You don’t even have your accent. Your accent’s gone,” and he said, “Well, I had to do that so people would understand me.” I’ve never, ever lost my accent, so I thought (giggling), “What a trader.” It was like that. You just wanted to hear someone from your own country.
I just want to add that with people, my voice, my accent, has opened lots of doors for me, especially in the world of children. When I’m talking or training, people want to listen because they want to listen to the accent, so it gets their attention. But like I’ve said to people to, that’s only one piece of me. The whole me is made up of many other pieces, so if the only thing people focus on is my accent or that I’m from Scotland, then they’re missing many, many pieces of me. But, it has been wonderful as far as that is concerned. I used to be very embarrassed. I could hear my accent and I used to be really embarrassed in how I said words and how we pronounced them. When you’re talking in a room with people, all you can hear is my accent. It was a struggle for me at first, but then I got over it and people became warm to me.
What was interesting for me, number one, was what people’s thoughts were of city people. You know, they don’t care for each other, they don’t know each other. When you live in the city, you know this is absolutely false. People in my hometown were very outgoing, very kind, very caring for one another. They didn’t not care. It didn’t matter if you knew people or not, they always reached out.
When I came here to Milo, Bobby had said to me, “You’re not going to what you’re leaving,” and I didn’t realize just how much he meant that. It was a shock. I did not like it at all. The thing about it, I didn’t feel people were very welcoming to me at the beginning and of course, not understanding me. Bobby and his mother were there at the airport and I remember sitting in the car and I’m like, “Oh, good grief. When the heck will we ever get to Milo? I felt this drive was never ending and all I saw was trees and trees and I’m like oh, this is horrible.
We went to Connecticut for about a year. We lived in Westbrook. I loved it. It was beautiful. My brother had found work for Bob. Bob was just out of the navy and couldn’t get any job in Milo. He couldn’t get back to the B and A. So, Jim had called, and he was a foreman. He got work for Bob and we moved down there. As I say, I loved it. I loved Connecticut. I loved where we lived. You could see the ocean. There were a lot of Scottish people and a lot more to do than in Milo.
We were driving up one time. It was Thanksgiving. We were coming up to Bob’s mom and dad’s. When Bob drove, he was very quite. We’d go up through the interstate, and he never spoke much. I remember this particular time we were coming to Newport, and he started talking and never shut up. He kept going and going and going. I said to him, “You miss Maine, don’t you?” He goes, “Yeah.” For me, it didn’t matter where I was. I was three thousand miles from home, whether it was Maine or whether it was Connecticut. That’s when we decided to come back and live in Maine, and to be honest, I have never regretted that. I’m glad we didn’t live in Connecticut when the children were growing up.
It’s funny how you change because when I used to fly home and the plane would arrive in Scotland, I could understand why people felt they wanted to kiss the ground. I really wanted to kiss the ground. I’m home. I just absolutely loved it. But, as the years kept going on, and I went home the last time nine or ten years ago, I could not get on the plane fast enough to get me back to New England. It has absolutely switched the other way. I still love Scotland. I still love home. I love to visit. I love to see them, but never want to go back. This is my home. It’s the biggest part of my life now; America. Scotland is the lesser part of my life. I was twenty-five when I left Scotland. I’ve been here thirty-five years. I just told you my age, so be very cautious and don’t tell. So, I’ve been here longer than I have been in Scotland. That has been interesting.
I was raised by parents who never hit. All they needed to do was talk, and you knew you could not. As I told you before, I could get around my mom, but I never could get around my dad. There would be a consequence, but it would be fair. I deserved it, to be honest. I never felt I got one that wasn’t fair, you know, “How could you do this to me?” I really deserved it. I had been fooling around or staying out later than I should playing with my friends, so that always got me in trouble, or I had a chore to do and didn’t do it. But, I never ever was spanked or hit by either of my parents. Bobby and I were very strong about that with our children, that we never, in their lives, have ever hit our children.
My brother-in-law and my sister, they live in the Isle of Man. They always lived in Scotland. They moved to the Isle of Man because their son had moved there, he was a computer programmer, and of course they have two little grandsons and they wanted to be close to them. So, when she, my sister, went to the Isle of Man, they were walking through town and met our cousin. We knew he was a doctor over there. She hadn’t looked him up yet to find him, but there was Joe Swan, Doctor Swan. He was at Noble Hospital as a cardiologist. Our maiden name was Noble, so we used to laugh. My sister would say to him that they named that hospital after us because of our last name.
His mom, my aunt Muriel, had done a lot of going back into the generations, the genealogy, the whole nine yards, the family tree and so forth. It was absolutely fantastic and my brother-in-law sent me a copy. I have the whole thing. We go back to, on my grandmother’s side, my paternal grandmother, to King Boru of Ireland. So, we laughed about us being royalty. It goes right back to then and brings us all the way forward. We have a lot of Irish in us, and although we’re Scottish, we still have probably more Irish in us from generation to generation. We’ve had a lot of fun about that, and that just happened a couple of years ago. So, I have it for my grandchildren. That will be part of their history.
I’d like to talk to you about school; what I find really different here than what it was like back home. Now we’re talking about when I was at school, okay. There is not quite the discipline now as there was when I was young. In schools back home, religion was a part of it too. Protestants went to protestant schools. Catholic children went to Catholic schools. We didn’t mix together. So, some of my best friends were Catholic, and we never went to school together. That was a loss when you think of it. I’m Protestant, so I went to a Protestant school.
The other thing that happened in school was that we wore uniforms. Each school had their own colors. My particular color, for my school, was a deep burgundy. You had your school badge on the pocket and you wore a green skirt. As a little girl, it was lace shoes and knee length. We were twelve when we would go to the senior high, and we are fifteen when we leave school, as you do here when you’re eighteen. We did it when we were fifteen, and we went to the University. It was Glasgow University where I went when I was fifteen, and that was the difference. Education was very quick. When we started school, there was no half day. You went to school all day and it was academics, and you could not tell who was rich and who was poor because we were all dressed the same.
The other thing I loved back home was that we all could play sports. Intramural sports were very, very strong. We didn’t travel, like you do in this country, to play with other schools. We played within the school, and we had what we called houses. You belonged to Woodlands or you belonged to Park, another one belonged to Calvin and so forth. We would compete against one another and it was just as competitive as it is over here, going from school to school, because it was real important which house was the best one. You wanted yours to be best, so you really were competitive. We played netball, you call it basketball, and hockey. All of that. No child was left out. You didn’t have to tryout and see if you got picked. Everybody was equally broken out into their houses and competed against each other. I love that. The difference here is for children who love to do it, but may not be the best sportsmen in the world, do not get chosen, don’t get picked, and it’s so devastating, really demoralizing. That’s how I feel. I did not experience that in school. We did not have school set up that way.
The thing in school in Scotland, once again, was you did as you were told. You would never answer back to a teacher, and you did your homework. If you should get caught talking, which my girlfriend and I often did, you would get taken down to the front of the class and you had to hold your hand out and you would get hit by a leather belt. The strap was quite thick and it had two prongs in the middle. You held your hand out and your teacher would give you the belt, as it was called. That sucker used to hurt! One time, I’ll never forget, my friend and I, once again, were taken down because we were talking. This teacher was half blind; couldn’t see anything. I held out my hand and he missed me. He completely hit the desk, and didn’t hit my hand at all, but he thought he hit my hand. So, my friend was all smiles. “Oh, this is good Sheena.” She holds her hand out and he hits her hand pretty hard. She was so mad because he missed mine and got hers. So, it was very much like that. It was very strict and again, the rule of respect, quiet, lining up, and you don’t talk. Teachers were very, very strict.
What I noticed over here, was that it was much more relaxed, and also I loved the way religion doesn’t become a part of the educational piece over here like it does back home. I love seeing that some schools are wearing uniforms, but it’s typically your Christian schools or your private schools that are doing it. I wish that America had taken that on, asking kids to go to school in uniform, because I don’t think we would have as much of the labeling of young people as we do over here. It’s sad we couldn’t have it.
We all lived in the city, and we all had to wear the same uniforms. We had blouses, white shirts, and we wore a tie which was our school colors also. You know, I think back about it, and it was just natural to all of us. It was never we’re all dressed the same. It never felt that way at all. It was more we could recognize what school you went to by your blazer and your colors and so forth. I think back and it was never something we hated. We were all fine with it. I see the kids, when I was home, wearing their school uniforms. They’re not quite as neat as we used to be with the shirts and ties. I see that their shirts are open, but their still wearing their blazers. I kind of chuckled.
I played netball, which is different from basketball. You don’t move with the ball. You don’t dribble. You pass it to one another. I don’t know how better to explain it. I would also play hockey. Back home girls never played soccer. That was the male gendered game. Horseback riding. I used to love riding, and roller-skating and ice-skating. I did all those things. Bobby loved riding as well. I never knew that about Bobby when we met.
I was telling you about all the children my father’s mother had, and it was the same thing for my mom. Her mother had fourteen children, but only eight survived. The tragedy, listening to my mom tell me at one time, was going up to the hospital to see two of her little sisters, one was a year old and one was two years old. I always remember the names, actually. My mom was just a young girl when it happened. Sadie and Nita were their names. Mom was telling me that the story goes that they always left the babies windows up so that babies could get fresh air. This is how they thought about it because they didn’t have all the modern things we have nowadays. As they were walking up the hill to the hospital, mom noticed the windows were shut and then her mom looked, my grandmother looked, and said, “Oh, I think they’ve died.” She lost her two little ones. That was the kind of tragedy that went on. Oh, I lost my train of thought. Where was I?
Did I have a steady boyfriend in high school? No. That was something about all of us. We just didn’t. We used to watch American movies. The boy was carrying the girl’s bag, or they were going steady. They would wear the ring and you’d see all of this in the movies and we didn’t do that back home. No, we really didn’t. I used to chuckle a lot here when I’d ask questions and hear different things. It’d just make me laugh.
The other thing over here is young people. Bobby was able to have an automobile. We didn’t do that. I came from a city. I would walk to work. It took me maybe ten minutes to get to my office from where I lived, or in Glasgow, no matter where you worked, you jumped on a bus. It was just right there, and that would take you. So, I never ever drove back home. I learned to drive when I came here. I had never driven a car. That was a part of your culture, but that wasn’t part of my culture at all.
It was never that you really had a steady boyfriend, and this was the in thing to do. You had boyfriends off and on, but no big deal. We never really got into that tightness of dating and going steady like we saw America did. We never had time! Then I met you (looking at Bob) and geezum, that changed a bit. So, there weren’t those headaches or parking in the car. We never knew that. Oh, I was laughing when I heard that. None of us had cars! So, that was another part that was different for me.
It was a riot (learning to drive here). I thought my husband was going to divorce me. He (Bob) started to teach me when we were in Connecticut. I mean, he was having a nervous breakdown with me but he was very gracious, as Bobby always is and kind and giving. My brother started to help me because he didn’t want poor Bobby to go nuts any longer with his wife.
I started in Connecticut, but it was when I came back to Maine that I really learned. My sister-in-law in Maine, Carol, Bobby’s brother’s wife, took me out a lot. When I went for my test and the guy wanted me to parallel park right outside the town office in Dover, I did the worst job in the world. Bobby had been practicing with me. So, Bobby’s watching me, and I can see Bob, “Oh, she’s blown it,” because it was so bad. But the guy, of course he hears my Scottish accent, and he looks at me and goes, “Well there’s quite a bit of space between the curb and the car. I have a feeling though, that you would walk ten miles before you’d ever parallel park.” I said, “You’re right. I will never parallel park.” So, he (Bob) was amazed that I got my license. The Scottish accent, sometimes it came out really to my benefit! He was really cracking up when he saw how I’d parallel parked. Well, that’s the only thing I did, was not parallel park. He thought, “Oh, she’s not getting it.” So, when I walked up and said, “I got my license,” he was like “WHAT!?” It was an automatic, but then I learned a standard and it was all right. But it was in an automatic car that I did it. I was here five years. I was about thirty before I got my license.
We had struggles, but they were awfully good girls and that was a beautiful thing. We always knew where they were.They were there with their horses. It is a pleasure to be their mom and bring them up and watch them with their children.
I see the love being passed down from my children to their children. Unconditional love. That was passed to me by my family and my kids, and I’ve passed that on. I see a commitment to family. I see her (Eva) role the way I must have shown it to her, because I see myself in her. I’m hoping that we, and I know we did, instilled morals and beliefs and love and commitment, and I see all those pieces.
Eva and June, I watch them with their husbands and their families, and it’s almost like I’m looking through this time tunnel and seeing Bobby and I. Jane and Michael have two boys. Matthew is older, of course, than our beautiful granddaughter, Aileen. Matthew is over a year. Devon and Christopher, there is only six months between them, Devon being the oldest. That was funny too, because both the girls got married the same year so we had two big weddings, which was a nightmare, but we got through it! Then, Eva and David came forward and said, “We’re going to have a baby,” and a month later June called, it was actually a few months later, and she’s going to have a baby. I remember Bobby looking at me and going, “Can these two girls do anything that’s not in the same year?” I said, “I don’t think so.” He was so funny because he said, “Maybe I’ll get a grandson,” and I said, “Maybe you’ll get two granddaughters.” Of course, he got a grandson, so that was always a joke. Now (a granddaughter), is she magic or what? Is she the most delicious? She’s gorgeous, and my boys.
Being a grandparent is the most wonderful gift ever you could be given. I absolutely idolize my grandchildren and I can’t even put it in to words. I keep saying to people, “You won’t believe it until you become a grandmother or a grandfather.” It’s indescribable and overwhelming, the love you feel. Then, looking at them and thinking, “They’re my grandchildren.” It’s great.
When we had foster care, we didn’t have the grandchildren staying here. It was so different. We were glad when we retired. We got our spontaneity back. We couldn’t just say, “Let’s go.” We’d have to take the kids or get a babysitter, which we never did. They were such high needs children. So now, to be able to have my grandchildren come spend the night is awesome. It’s a piece we didn’t have, so life is good. Life is good.
My title (at the Charleston Correctional Facility) is Chief of Volunteer Services. It’s a brand new facility; of course we only had the detention facility before. Down in Portland, they have a Chief of Volunteer Services because that’s where we house kids. The reason being, that we needed a place up north, was because we cover from Fort Kent to Augusta in our area. Prior to that, people from Fort Kent, who wanted to be with their children, had to go to Portland. It would be like you and I going from Bangor to New York. So, you didn’t get family involvement, but we’re getting a lot more.
I had to develop the program and I had to develop all the training. It took me about six months, which was good because the new facility wasn’t quite ready when I started. I started in October and we didn’t open the doors until February to get kids into Mountain View. So, during that particular time I was developing the program. What I do is train people who want to become volunteers. They get trained prior to coming in so they learn expectations, security, contrabands, and so forth. I try to help them to be comfortable to come in, because it’s scary. You walk in and the doors bang behind you and you know you can’t get out. Although it’s a developmental center, it’s still a prison. You still have doors lock behind you. It’s a little intimidating, but once people come in and see the kids and start working, they get into it, actually. So, that is my role; the Chief of Volunteer Services. That also entails going out into the communities and talking to people and educating people about who we are and what we’re trying to do, and to emphasizing that these are Maine kids and they’re going to be coming back to your communities and coming back to your schools, and what we need is people to support them and help them. So, that’s what I do.
Some of the children there come from such violent backgrounds that they’re victims. Although we have other victims out there from what the kids have done to them, a lot of these kids have been victims most of their lives. So, you’re trying to retrain, rethink, get them better tools and skills and so forth. I absolutely love my job, as far as working with kids. Working with adults sometimes, you know, for any of us is difficult. Working with the kids is fantastic.
A few months ago a couple of the boys, we were sitting and talking and they wanted to learn to crochet. I didn’t crochet, I knit. But anyways, we struggled. Some of the girls crocheted so, some of the boys started. I had five, so we crocheted. Some of the officers, the male officers, this was a shock to them. I thought, “Don’t worry about it. They’re enjoying themselves.” They said, “It’s a woman thing.” So, this went on for a while. I said, “They’re fine with their gender. You seem to have problems with yours.” Of course, they’d all give me this look and say, “Ms. Lundin, you know, it’s not a boy thing; a man thing.” Well, it ended up that we had thirty boys crocheting over there. The perfect peak to the end of this story is that you can walk in and you’ll see some of the officers with kids on each side of them teaching them how to crochet.
So, it has blossomed through the whole facility and my kids have made Afghans and little booties and hats for babies in Nicaragua. We had one of the missionaries going over there who was also a mentor, and he came up and saw the kids stuff. It was a Wednesday, he was leaving on the Sunday, and he said, “I wonder if the kids would make some for me to take.” I talked to the kids. No problem. So, we had nine Afghans, seven sets of booties, and seven hats all ready for him on the Friday. The kids were crocheting morning, noon, and night. We’ve also had blankets go to a project for critically ill children. We’ve had blankets go over to the Hibbard’s Nursing Home. Now we’re making some for Charleston Christmas time, for the children. They’ve made a little dolly blanket and they’ve made cradles so the dolly blankets go in the little cradles and they get that as gifts.
The kids over there have given a lot back to the community. The boys, we do have girls crocheting to, we have three girls crocheting, but right this minute, I have twenty boys crocheting. It is fantastic!
One of them really touched my heart. He’s taught me a lot. He’s only fifteen and some of the stuff he’s done even in the facility is pretty hellacious. We were just talking and talking and he saw the crocheting and he said, “I don’t know if I could learn that, Ms. Lundin, but I’d like to.” So I said, “Well, we’ll sit together and we’ll try it.” So we did, and he became one of the fastest crocheters there.
He got transferred back down to Portland; his family is from that area. He sent me a letter and sent me a picture of this blanket he was crocheting, and he’s got the kids down in Portland all crocheting with him. So, it’s blossomed there. He made me one that was so funny. It was all different colors. He surprised me and gave it to me. It was adorable. It was pretty special because all of them in this one unit did a little piece of it so, it’s the blanket of many colors! It’s a riot! This blanket of many colors… It was pretty awesome, pretty awesome. It was kids again.
The age range (at the facility) is typically 16 to 18 years old. We have some 14 year olds, and there was an occasion, three different times, when we’ve had 11 year olds. We can take them as young as that age, but our superintendent got them out immediately. Eleven year olds should not be over there. Twelve year olds should not be over there. Even if a judge thinks a short sentence for a weekend will scare them, that’s still not an age that we want over there. The population typically is fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. To leave us at eighteen and commit another crime, you go to the big people jail. They don’t come back to us. But, I just love my job. I love it. They’re pretty awesome with me.
At Christmas time, they don’t get what other kids out here would get. They might get shampoo and deodorant and conditioner and a hat or something like that, but you would think you’d have given them a million dollars. For some of the children, it’s their first time having a present set out for them. All of them (the presents) are sitting out of their rooms, so when they get up Christmas morning and their doors are unlocked to their rooms, their Christmas bag is sitting in front of them.
So, all my life here, this part of my life here, has really been with children. You know, as I look at the journey that I’ve done, it’s been around children. At Headstart, I was there for twelve years as a director of Headstart, and then treatment foster care, so it’s always been children. My mom was the same way.
I always loved camping. That was my favorite, favorite thing. I like to read. I always liked to study and learn. I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I still like to take courses off and on. I just finished studying religions in corrections, because I really wanted to learn about that piece. So, I like to do stuff like that. I like to knit, if I’m in the mood. I used to knit all the time, not crocheting, but I don’t even do that as much now. But, that’s really about it. I’m not a great person with lots of hobbies. I’m not. So, really that’s about it, knitting or reading, or my garden. I loved my garden. That’s my favorite. You know, just let me go out there and pick flowers, pick weeds, plant the flowers, so I love that in the summer.
I brought a friend of mine from the University of Maine out and she did some horticultural therapy with the kids. Then we did stockings. You put grass seed in them and soil and then you tie a knot and then you draw on eyes and a mouth and set it in a cup. They also made adoption papers. This happened over there (at the facility). I got this for the kids. We did this as an activity one night. They made up a name and how to take care of it and we were giving it to foster children in child placement agencies. So eventually, the hair would grow, the seed gave it its hair, and it was grass because of the grass seed. They’re absolutely adorable. We tied bows in them like a ponytail. We separated them and put hair bands on them. It was a riot, and all the boys had written a lovely little adoption, how to take care of me, and named them.
This year they’ve started some flower gardens and a few vegetables, but we are going to do that bigger and better as time goes on. They have lots of stuff over there; woodworking, cooking classes, iron chef competition, and it’s so much fun. They’re awesome at it, and the food they make! So, it’s been great. We have fun. Lots of tragedy, but lots of fun.
In the winter, I might just sit and relax and read and listen to music. I love the peace and quiet, just listening to music, but my garden was the biggest thing. Although, somebody said something to me at one time, when I was a foster care developer and I would go out and do home studies for potential homes to be licensed to be treatment foster care, and I was hysterical over it. One of the rehabilitation workers who worked in my home with one of the children was laughing with me one day, and we were talking about how we relax and she said, “I’ll tell you how Sheena relaxes and how she gets to be by herself. In the summer, she’ll mow her lawn,” and she’s right. I’m on my tractor, where no one can disturb you, and I’ll mow the lawn. “The other thing she does is shampoo her carpets.” Honest to god, she was right again. When I was real stressed out, I’d shampoo my rug. Nobody could talk to me. I had the shampooer going. I never even thought about it. I was hysterical, I was hysterical. Oh, good grief. That is just what I do. She was meaning it nicely, but it was just like, “God, yeah, that’s what I’m doing.”
I think of my mom, and when my mom was stressed out, she would do housework. Laundry. We didn’t have a washing machine. I remember as a little girl, she had me up in the sink, and we had a scrub board. The soap, I always remember the soap, it was a green soap and it would sit in the little lip of your scrub board. I’d stand up and I’d have the collars of shirts and I would rub the soap on the collars of the shirts, then I would scrub it on the scrub board. Then, she’d have another big tub, which she constantly changed, and that’s where she would ring it out and rinse it. I can remember when I was older, I was about eight years old, helping her hang the washing out and I counted 24 shirts, and she had washed every one of them by hand. They were as beautiful as if someone had had a washing machine.
I remember back that Thursday and Friday nights were always your housecleaning days and nights, so that your house was clean for the weekend, just in case you had visitors or guests over the weekend. The carpets would lift up and you would put them over the clotheslines. We had carpet beaters, and you would beat the carpets. I can remember that, beating them, and then you’d take it down, fold that one up, and then would come another one. We did that. When you washed the floors, it was a can of wax and your cloth and you would do strips of the floor. Then you had a big buffer and you would shine with that. Then we’d go to the next piece and shine that. So, now when I think about it, you didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. You used brooms and brushed the carpets if they were fitted carpets in your home, and then you had all of your scatter rugs. So, you’d have a broom and you’d be brushing your whole carpet. I always remember that and polishing, and as I say, it wasn’t pledge that you would spray, you’d put wax on and then you’d have to buff and shine it, and you could see your face off the furniture.
With our windows, I remember that you used vinegar and water, and it was newspaper that would shine it. I swear, it would gleam. It cleaned so nicely. But it was vinegar and water, and then you’d use a chammy, and then a newspaper as the final shiner.
I also remember, boy this is really telling my age, we would heat the iron on the fire or on the stove, and then be done. You’d have to watch what temperature it was so that you didn’t burn anything. Also, when I was a child, we didn’t have central heat or oil heat. None of that. It was coal. All our houses were heated by coal. So, you had a fireplace in your kitchen, you’d have one in your living room, and you had one in your bedroom. Then you’d have what you called your coal bunker in your house. When I was little, the guy would come delivering the bags of coal and it was horse drawn. I remember when the horse would stop he’d put a bag on his mouth to eat grain and the horse would never move while he would go and delivered the coal to so many houses. Then, he’d move the cart. I’d always run out and he’d always let me feed the horse a carrot and I could pat it. So, before I even rode, I always loved seeing the horse. I can remember, coal heat is warm if you’re sitting on top of it, you know. In the bedrooms, I always remember mom putting hot water bottles in all our beds. So, it was a lot of work to cleaning when you’re burning coal. She never stopped too long. That’s what she did all her life. Of course when I was growing up as a young woman, mom had a washing machine. But, as a child, that’s what I remember her doing.
I think the saddest thing for me was what religion was like back then. That was the most wonderful part, as I said before, about coming here; that it wasn’t like that. The Catholic and Protestant part was just so horrible back home. I remember that at one of the schools I was going to, they were building an addition. So, for a short period of time, we had to go to a Catholic school. I can remember going out on the playground and there would be groups of them and they’d come and grab you and the question they would ask you was, “Are you a Protestant or a Catholic?” If it was a group of Catholic children and you said you were Protestant, you were going to get thrown all over the place and hit. Of course, we didn’t know who was who in this group. I can remember always trying to avoid them so I would never get caught, but then this particular day I did. They were all around me in a circle and asked me if I was a Catholic or a Protestant. I was looking at them, and one of them I thought, “Well, she goes to the Catholic church,” so I said, “I’m a Catholic.” They were all Protestants, and they all shoved me and it was horrible! I hit my back and I kept thinking, “Why’d I tell a lie?” I was always thinking, “I told a lie. I shouldn’t have told a lie.” But, you know you’re little; I was six. So that tells you how much that stuck in my mind. I’ll never forget it. That’s what happened to me.
I don’t regret a minute of my life. It’s wonderful. I really don’t. Being here, with Bob, is the greatest thing. He’s my best friend; always has been.
The other thing I want to mention is our clan. That’s a big part, as you know, in Scotland. Your clan can be decided on what your surname is. Our surname is Noble, and our clan is clan MacIntosh. My father always made sure that there was something in the home that would make us remember that we belonged to clan MacIntosh. I don’t know if you’ve seen a lot of the tartans that are of each of the clans, the designs, the plaids on them are just gorgeous and gorgeous colors, but the funny part about it is my mother. My mother would never buy me a kilt that had MacIntosh tartan because the colors were so hideous. They’re just red and black with a touch of green. They’re really ugly. Of course, I used to chuckle, but dad would get so upset, “They should be wearing our clan,” and she’d say, “No, they’re not. It’s hideous.” So, she would just put us in whatever kilt tartan she liked, and her favorite was the Anderson tartan. We didn’t have any Anderson in us, but that is the tartan we’d wear. He was very proud of that. That’s where we belonged. That’s our clan.
As a child I never really thought much about it. I really didn’t. I guess you take it for granted. It’s no big deal. You know that’s it, so what? But now, I’m much more inclined to read about my clan, be proud of my clan. Down here, I have a little thing that has the MacIntosh clan. So, I do think that piece of culture, that cultural part, that I don’t have here, I do. I’ve shared it with my children so they’ll have it, and they’ll share it with their children. I do still grasp on to those cultural pieces that I don’t want to be lost. I never want them to be lost. I know my daughters. They’ll never let it be lost, and neither will my son-in-laws. I’ve seen Michael very strong with Christopher knowing about Scotland and knowing about his heritage, and David and Edwina are the same way. So, I know I’m not going to lose it.
The Scots are the same as the Irish- they’re great storytellers and for me, I used to love, as a child, sitting and listening to my daddy tell stories. One of my aunts would come and we would sit, the whole group of us. There’d be maybe about ten of us. You could hear a pin drop. It was the stories, and I do the same with my family. I think we retain it and remember it. It’s much more personal when it’s a story piece and connection piece. I seem to hold onto it so much stronger. Again, that’s where the memories, where people still live on, like I said at the beginning, because you do that.
Another part that I missed when I came over here was that all your houses were made of wood, and our houses back home are stone or granite with the most beautiful designs. When I lived there as a child, I took it for granted. Now, I’m older and gone from Scotland, and when I go home, I really recognize Rennie MacIntosh. His building and his designs, you know them. He was very famous and right from Glasgow. Rennie MacIntosh.
Lasting words? I will tell you a piece of advice that Eva still talks about and practices, and so does June. When everyone of us, meaning my brothers and I, before we got married, and we did get married but it was before, my father had a talk with us. I got the talk and here’s what it was. “Now there are times when you and your husband are going to have arguments, okay, it’s natural. Now you may come home and want to tell your mom and dad all the terrible things that have happened, all the terrible things that were said, in your heart. Your mom and dad will listen. It’s difficult, but they listen. But then, naturally, you’ll make up and everything’s going to be okay. But if you’ve shared all the terrible things your husband said to you or your wife said to you, then mom and dad are not going to forget it. It’s always going to be there.” So my advice always was, and you can take it or you can leave it, but if you have an argument, this is what could happen. I remember my dad saying that to me, so I never did, and I’ve said it to Edwina and Jane, and they never did. They’ve had their arguments, but kept their arguments to themselves. So, that’s been my biggest piece that I think I’ve carried from my family, my dad, my upbringing, to my girls. Let me tell you, there’s some things I’d really love to know. That came from my mom and dad. If you need us in anyway, we’ll be there. But that part, between a husband and a wife, should be between husband and a wife, and stay right there.
As far as for my children and my grandchildren, just always be there for one another. Be caring to each other and kind. Be kind to one another, and love comes through all of that. You know, it’s very easy. As far as for me, please keep alive the memories and the stories.
So, that’s basically it. I’m a kind of simple person. I don’t need a lot. There’s not a lot of great wisdom, just take care of each other, and love each other, and be kind to each other.