I chose to interview Winnie Moore. Winnie comes from a vanishing population in America; she is a person who has lived all her life in the village of Denmark, Maine. Her ancestors go back in Denmark for many generations. Her two children and her two grandchildren also live in Denmark. Her grandfather, husband, son and grandson are all loggers.
Winnie is, in spite of what she calls her “Maine hillbilly accent,” an acutely intelligent and well‑educated woman. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in a five‑year nursing program at a time when few women, especially those from rural Maine, were educated beyond high school. She retired two years ago from the position of Director of Nursing at Northern Cumberland County Memorial Hospital. She has a finger in every pie in town. She is president of Extension, Senior Citizens and the Historical Society, of which she is also founder. She volunteers at the library and is on its Board of Directors. She recently led a fight to save the Odd Fellows’ Hall from demolition. Winnie is active in Women’s Fellowship, Eastern Star, and probably quite a few things I don’t know about. Winnie is sixty‑seven years old, quite short, and plump. She appears to be in excellent health. She is placid and humorous, always with a twinkle in her eye. She is one of those people who get an incredible amount done, without ever becoming agitated.
I interviewed Winnie on my porch on a warm morning over a cup of tea. On the tape are some background noises of birds singing, my dog barking, the telephone ringing, and always the rhythm of the porch rocker rocking. It seems a suitable background for Winnie.
Winnie Moore: A Life Story
My name is Winnie Moore and I live in Denmark, Maine. I have lived here all my life. I was born in the house currently owned by Barbara and Mark Ragsdale. At the time it was a very small little cottage at the lower end of Moose Pond. When I was a year and a half old my father bought a farm in what is called East Denmark. It was originally called the Mose Wentworth farm, and it was the site of the first telephone office in Denmark. My father was a logger. He also had dairy cows. Of course he also had his own garden and raised his own crops and we had a few fruit
trees, mainly apples and a few pear trees. My mother worked part time in the summer ironing for some people who took in wash from the summer camps. Mainly she worked for who we
call Pin Small (some people might know her now as Alvira Davis) and Florence Sanborn. She also worked in the fall in the corn shop. And in later years worked in the summer at a camp called Puk‑wa‑benaki, which was owned by Emily Welch and was on Hancock Pond. The camp has been sold and is divided up into privately‑owned cottages.
I went to school at East Denmark, which is now the residence of Eileen Doyle, Dr. Doyle’s mother. It was one room with eight grades, and I had only one teacher the whole eight grades I was there. Her name was Sadie Ingalls. She was a Smith; she was Russ Smith’s daughter, sister, I don’t know which. Anyway, she was married to Jim Ingalls, and they lived in the brown house on the corner which is now owned by Arthur Barton. She had many, many innovative things that are old hat today. For instance she used to bake our potatoes. She’d carve our initial on our potato and put it on the top of the stove to bake it. It was an old cast‑iron stove that had this thing on top of it; and she’d just put them on top of the stove. She’d do our eggs … we’d write our name on them so she could tell which ones were going to be two minute or three minute or five minute or however long they boiled. We put the eggs in our dinner buckets. You probably had a sandwich and a pastry, maybe an apple or something, and the egg was tucked in around those. I
suppose the sandwich acted as a cushion. Also we could have cocoa or soup.
She made her own ink out of some kind of powder in what were probably old ink bottles. Each desk had an inkwell in it. The seats were big enough for two people to sit in, but we only had one. We had probably about twenty‑eight children in all eight grades, if that was what the grades were for the particular age groups of the students. She did a lot of plays and dramas which the children in the village didn’t get to do. And the village people did not come up; they missed out on a lot because she did a lot of very good plays. I can remember one especially, I was a May Queen and she bought me my first evening gown for my queenly attire. For a kind of four season play she bought cloth for each of the girls who were representing the four seasons.
After graduating from the eighth grade in East Denmark we came to the Village School which is now the Municipal Building. At that time the high school consisted of two rooms, plus a small room that was for chemistry and another small room for a library. The two rooms facing the monument were used by the elementary grades. We had two high school teachers, the principal and the assistant. The assistant usually was the English teacher and the language teacher, and the principal taught in other subjects. I don’t know how they determined who would teach what. Usually the principal was a man, but not always. And the assistant was a woman. One year we had a husband and wife, and they lived in the house where Fran Kerr lives now, by the church.
After graduating from high school I attended a five‑year nursing program offered by the University of Maine. At that time you had your choice of hospitals, between Maine General Hospital in Portland, Central Maine General in Lewiston, and Eastern Maine General in Bangor. I chose Lewiston, because my sister had had her appendix out at the Maine General in Portland. I seemed to think it might be like a slaughterhouse and I wasn’t too impressed. I didn’t want to be as far away as Bangor for the whole five years and so I settled for Lewiston.
We always went to Sunday school; my mother was a teacher. The superintendent was either Angie Colby or Julia Pingree. We usually went through the school year, and in the summer we had two weeks Vacation Bible School, which was held at the Village Elementary School, or the High School, whichever. One thing about Sunday school was a little different from what they do today. It was customary Christmas Eve that that’s when the Christmas program for the Sunday school was held. Everyone in town went. Each class did their little thing and of course Santa Claus came. We always had candy bags full of hard candy and popcorn, and then one gift. After the program and before you were allowed to have your Christmas tree Christmas morning I always had a choice of opening one present while my father did the chores in the barn, and I usually would choose a book that was given to me by Algie Wentworth. Algie Wentworth was the wife of the man who owned the farm that my father bought and part of the agreement of the purchase price of the farm was that my father had to furnish her wood as long as she needed it. So on Sundays when he took us to Sunday School he would go down to Aunt Algie’s and pile the wood in her cellar or do whatever necessary chores she might have to do. She also boarded many of the schoolteachers in town; I don’t know whether that’s why she usually gave us a book or not. It seemed to be something you could do to pass away the time while you were waiting for the barn chores to be done before you could open your other presents.
In the olden days anyone that was older than you might be called “Aunt.” She might be absolutely no relation; they just were. It was common that you always respected your elders and you always called your real blood relations “Aunt Dolly” or “Uncle Earl;” now I give them numbers because my mother had so many in her family. In those days you did respect them as “Aunt So‑and‑So.” Even the older people had elders that they called “Aunt” and “Uncle.” Like there was Aunt Em and Uncle Ed Smith in the west end of town. That’s what everybody called them, Aunt Em and Uncle Ed. They were quite prominent in Masonry and Eastern Star, and their son Curley was at one time the superintendent, I guess he was called, of the corn shop in Denmark.
On holidays, we didn’t have much money. Nobody in town seemed to have any money, so you’d have to do your own entertainment. I can remember our biggest event on the Fourth of July was going to Cynthia Head Worth’s, which is where Tom Johnson now lives, and watching the fireworks on Mount Washington. Or possibly we might go up on Fessenden’s Hill where the Camerons now live and watch the fireworks on Mount Washington. I was quite old, I think, before I remember any fireworks in Bridgton. Then we could just look out our back window and watch the ones that went high in the sky, so we didn’t even have to go to Bridgton to watch the fireworks in those days. There weren’t as many trees in the way. I guess they’d probably been cut off and hadn’t grown up again. I know they’ve cut the trees in Head’s woods at least twice in my lifetime, and they might have cut them just before I was born or something, who knows? You really got a good view. There were more farms then. Most of them were dairy farms. I think the Bucknells were about the only ones at that time that had any produce for sale. Everyone else used their own produce for their own use.
I never learned to swim because my mother was working out in the summer and we had to stay home because Dad would have his farm work to do, and haying. In those days we got to the water, at least my sister and I got to the water, only twice a year, once at the Sunday School picnic and once at the Eastern Star picnic. These picnics were held at what in those days was called Rattlesnake Pond, between Brownfield and Hiram; it’s now called Pequawket Lake. Or
Lovewell’s Pond in Fryeburg.
Another thing they really enjoyed that they don’t have today were the corn huskings. We didn’t have them in the east end of town; we used to have to go to the west end of town for a corn husking bee, which was held either at Warren Richardson’s farm or Archie Harnden’s farm. They would get all the corn onto the barn floor and we would go and sit on a box or whatever and husk corn. If you found a red ear of corn then you got to kiss the opposite sex, a man or woman of your choice. After all the corn was husked you went into the house where they had like a smorgasbord type, or a big Thanksgiving dinner. All kinds of vegetables and all kinds of pies, and even though it might be one o’clock in the morning, why, everybody set down and ate.
In the winter for sports we had sleds and we could slide down the roads. We used to slide down Fessenden’s Hill and what we called Rossie Hilton’s Hill, which would be from Bob Barber’s down to where Ruth and Walter Sargent now live. Some days you might turn and slide down the Mountain Road. But it was quite a job to haul your sled back up the hill, so usually we confined it to Rossie Hilton’s Hill. One of my uncles did make a set of bobsleds and you could probably get eight to ten kids on those, so that was a treat every once in a while. I had a Speedway, which I think they still make today.
For skiing we skied on barrel staves because the mountain wasn’t open in those days. We had barrel staves and a piece of leather which hooked on to put your foot in and then your boots were held in place with a jar rubber or a piece of inner tube. Car tires had inner tubes in those days, and when it got a hole in it you saved it of course. You would cut it in circles to use for various and sundry bands, and that was a band you could put on your skis to hold your foot in place. I did graduate to a pair of wooden skis but never skied on Pleasant Mountain because, there again, it was five miles away, and the family was busy and so there was no transportation. You couldn’t go unchaperoned, so consequently you just skied in the fields or on a slope in somebody else’s field. I might have been in high school before they had a rope tow on the mountain.
As far as my birth, the only story I can remember was that I was delivered by Dr. Angus Head, from Bridgton, and so my sister always believed that I came out of his little black bag. I don’t know when she came to the true facts of life. There were two elderly ladies that lived where Steve Adams lives now that were friends of the family and when I was born I was jaundiced and I had long black hair and they said that they would not give a nickel for me.
My mother’s maiden name was Dolloff and my grandfather’s name was Lewis Archie Dolloff and everybody called him Archie. He came from Jackson, New Hampshire. A couple of his favorite stories were … he would say to his wife when he had company … “Well, let’s go to bed now, these folks want to go home.” Another thing he would say was, “Come after breakfast, bring your lunch, and leave before suppertime.” I don’t know whether those were records that he had, the old cylinder type records, or whether it was something that he himself made up. I never knew the origin of the phrases, but these were quite common to him. Another permanent thing in his side of the family was, the family always recited Aunt Shaw’s Pet Jug which is by Roland Day. In recent years Tim Sample has put that out in booklet form.
My grandfather Dolloff was a carpenter, and he helped work on Camp Blazing Trail and worked on many of the other camps around. In the early days his wife drove the stage, which was the way the mail was conveyed, from Perley’s Mill Crossing up to Hillside, which was part of Sebago. I don’t know whether it was a sleigh in the wintertime and a buggy in the summer, or just what the vehicle looked like. We had women school bus drivers in my day, too. We didn’t have school buses until I was quite old. When I lived in East Denmark we walked to school; everyone walked to school. For the village children, I can remember there was a woman who was paralyzed in one leg, maybe both legs, paralyzed from polio, but she drove the school bus. Her name was Maud Smith and she lived up the Lake Road. For years she drove the Village School bus. But I never had a bus. We always had to walk. Or if it was a rainy day either you got a ride with somebody who happened to be passing by on their way to work, or possibly your parents might take you. We had no snow days, either, because school always kept. The teacher had to be there to teach whatever kids were able to get through the snow. So that was a little different from this day and age where they have to count all the five or six snow days a year. I do remember at the school in East Denmark, when it was a stormy day my father would take the body off his dump cart and put it on his sled and we would go by horse and sled out to East Denmark to school. We would be covered up with burlap and old robes and blankets, horse blankets or whatever might be available at the time. It was fun; it really was. But sometimes there’d be only about four children in school that day, because the others lived farther away, a little farther to walk. They didn’t keep the roads plowed as well as they do in this day and age. We had an old … I think the men today call it a Cleatrack … but that was quite a sight to see. If we heard it coming down what is called the New Road from where Dr. Doyle now lives to my father’s house you’d get up during the night just for a chance to see the snowplow go by. Also there was no fire department here in those days. I can remember a house burning in Hiram and the Bridgton fire department which consisted of one pumper and two or three men would go clanging their bell from Bridgton to Hiram. And so when you heard that coming you’d get out and stand because that was an unusual sight to see. The chimney might be left standing, but I suppose, I don’t know, maybe their insurance was better covered by having the fire department come. I don’t really think that Denmark had much of a fire department until in the forties. I think that the forest fire of forty‑seven brought home to a lot of people the fact that they needed better equipment and so forth. The Denmark fire department had started before that, but it was not as well manned as it is today, and didn’t have as much equipment. I think it started with Roy Osgood having some hose wrapped around a reel on some kind of a trailer. I think that is the first equipment the town had, until they finally decided to build a firehouse and get a fire truck. At one time some of the camps had pumps, and they would store them with this hose so that the town would have protection, and then come summertime they might take the pumps back up to camp and the hose with it. It was available for town use
My grandfather Arthur Richardson was known as Snuffy. He didn’t use snuff but he had long hairs in his nostrils that I guess must have tickled or something because he snuffed all the time. Maybe it was from something else because he did work around lumber mills, and maybe it was the sawdust or something. He and my grandmother were divorced. People say when you’re doing your genealogy, “Aren’t you afraid of what you’ll find?” and I say “No, because it’s right in front of me in the Berry cemetery in Denmark; it’s been there all my life!” After my grandmother and grandfather were divorced he lived with her sister in the house next to the current Denmark Public Library. I think they just rented it; I don’t think they owned it. My aunt, her name was Amanda, had been married to Sherman Ulysses Tecumseh Grant Hartford. She had one son Byram; I think his name was Benjamin Byram Brothers Hartford. He was an antique dealer. She and Sherm were divorced, I believe, because as I say she and my grandfather are buried in a common lot in the Berry cemetery in Denmark. My grandmother is buried in her second husband’s family lot in Brownfield.
We always had old folks living with us. My grandfather Richardson lived at our house all of the time except during horse‑racing season. He followed the fairs; and my father would take him to Skowhegan Fair, which at that time was the first fair. So he would work the circuit, and when I graduated he gave me five hundred dollars for a graduation present, toward my tuition at the University of Maine, so I could say that the horses started my college education. He was a gambler in more ways than one, not just the horses but with cards and probably anything else. Traveling with the mills probably card games were their only form of recreation, in the winter especially.
I cannot connect the Richardson … I call them tribes, because when I was a little girl there were what I call five tribes of Richardsons in Denmark. My father only told me that Sam was the connecting link, but I haven’t been able to connect Sam yet, so I can put all of those five tribes together. I think he was the connecting link to three of the tribes, but the other two I’m really not sure of, because they were in various ends of town and as my father’s family were loggers and mill men they traveled a lot. They also worked as coopers. My grandmother Richardson was a Potter originally, and in the Potter genealogy I find that a lot of them are coopers. My great‑grandfather Potter lived about where Irene Parsons lives today and he had a casket factory in what was the old post office which is currently owned by Corice Feindel. It’s down under the mill hill and I asked someone what that was called and they said “the Maccabee Hall,” which I had never heard of. I don’t know what the Maccabee association was. It must have been an old … I don’t know whether it was a fraternal or just a social organization. So that was Arthur Potter. I have a bedroom set that was made by Arthur Potter that consists of an old high top bed, a bureau which is probably six to seven feet tall, a commode, a bedside stand, rocking chairs and probably four straight chairs. It’s kind of an elaborate thing. He died quite young, so I don’t know whether there is any other furniture around that he made or not. He was in business with an Ordway, and one of the Potters was married to an Ordway, and that’s how come they were associated in the casket making business. I’ve heard people say there is a hole in the ceiling of that building. I don’t know whether they made the caskets downstairs and hauled them upstairs or they made them upstairs and dropped them downstairs when they were finished. But there was a hole supposedly in the ceiling. I don’t ‘think it was used as a funeral parlor, it was just that they made them for people. In the old days a lot of people were just buried in a pine box, so I suppose this was the next step in improving caskets as they’re known today. And maybe they were pine boxes; I wasn’t there so I never saw one so I don’t know. That has just come down by word of mouth that he was a casket maker.
My great‑grandfather Richardson had three wives. I haven’t been able to trace the genealogy of all of them. I think his first wife must have been my grandfather’s mother, and then he was married to a Jennie Kennison. I do have pictures of her that a lady in Naples gave me. Then his third wife was Annie Willey, who was of the family of the famous Willey slide in the New Hampshire Mountains. There is a Willey house now that is kind of a tourist trap up in the mountains; I can’t remember whether it’s Crawford Notch or just where it is. They had a landslide on the mountain, and the Willey house was destroyed, and several members of the family. There is a booklet out about it; but I’ve forgotten all the things about it. I have a xerox copy of the booklet and it has … I guess you’d call her my step‑great‑grandmother’s name in it, so I’m sure that she was in some way related to that family. The narrow gauge railroad went through the mountains, and so whether or not sometime when they cut for the railroad base it dislodged some of the earth, and had maybe a cloudburst, a large amount of water at one time and it loosened up the dirt, anyway it came sliding down and it took the Willey house plus the people. It was several days, I think, before they knew just how many people were lost. But that’s a New Hampshire story, not a Maine story.
The only organizations in Denmark that I really remember are the Rebekkahs, the Odd Fellows, the Eastern Star and the Masons. The Eastern Star and the Masons met at the top of the store by the monument. The third floor was deeded to the Masons for their use and they had the right of way of going up the stairs to get to the third floor and had to maintain the roof. Now the Eastern Star met the first and third Thursdays of the month. The Rebekkahs were under the hill in the Odd Fellow’s Hall and they met the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. So it was customary for some of the women in town, you’d go to the top of the hill one Thursday night and to the bottom of the hill the next. It seemed to be kind of a generational thing, that if your parents or your grandparents belonged to an organization, why when you became of the age you just automatically joined. They’re all gone out of town now. The Odd Fellows and the Rebekkahs gave up their charter; the Masons joined with the Shepherd River Lodge in Brownfield and use the Brownfield Masonic Hall; and the Eastern Star now meets in the Brownfield Masonic Hall, although the charter still says Mount Moriah Chapter OES. So mainly it’s just a letterhead left in town.
There was a grange, but I think that had disbanded before I can remember. The grange met in what is now a building owned by Donald Monson. It was at one time a church; then it was sold to the grange for a grange hall; then the grange gave it back up and sold it to the Congregational Church. They kept it until the time that they raised the current church to put a basement downstairs for the Sunday school to meet in. In my day the Sunday school met in the church itself because that’s all there was. The heat was an old wood or coal stove at the end of the church proper, between the doors where you enter. Hartley Hill was the janitor. Hartley lived over where Elma Lord lives now, with Elwood Pingree, Elmals first husband and his first wife Molly, and lived for a while with Elma until he died. He was alive when Lincoln died. Each class had their own individual table in the corner of the building. So it was later that they raised the church and put a basement under it.
Another thing with the church ladies was that they always used to make fir pillows and potholders and stuffed animals and would have sales for the camp children. A designated day would be set for each camp to come to the church or the community house for a sale, and each camper would have a little manila envelope with whatever amount of money they were allotted, and probably the counselor would hold the money until the child got ready to make a purchase. So that was a money‑raiser for the church ladies. Later the ladies would go into Camp Walden or Camp Wyonegonic with their wares on a particular night. It was kind of an entertainment for the camp children.
We did have more camps in town in those days too. We had Camp Walden, which was a Jewish girl’s camp. We had Camp Blazing Trail, which was more of an arts and crafts camp. They studied to be licensed Maine guides; they used to go up to Chesuncook in northern Maine to have their Maine guide tests in canoeing and what have you. The Cobb family owned Wyonegonic and Winona. Winona is actually in Bridgton, but Winona was the brother camp to Wyonegonic. The Cobbs had their home place down by the dam in the village. Also, on the corner, where the marina is now, was a little tea room, and the men that worked for the camp would come down in a little boat. One of them was the Richard, named for Richard Cobb, and they’d bring some of the campers down when they came to Denmark post office to pick up the mail. The children were allowed to go to the tea room to have an ice cream cone and then they would go back up the pond by boat. At the other end of Moose Pond by the causeway the Cobbs also owned a place so that some of the children would go for outings in that direction. Of course that was another way for local people to earn their living by working as caretakers at the camps. In those days they might take a trip to Mount Washington and they’d go by horse and buggy or horse and carriage. These would be several days trips, or possibly a week. It was a big to‑do for the camp children to climb Mount Washington. Also I can remember Alvina Kennison used to make ice cream cones. They were similar to those sweet waffle cones that are made today, only they were homemade cones. Alvina is alive today; she’ll be ninety‑three next week.
I can only remember two churches, the current one and one in East Denmark, the Methodist Episcopal Church. I don’t ever remember its being used as a church, but in about 1937 or 38 it was torn down and the material was salvaged and used somewhere in New Hampshire as housekeeping cottages. I have heard that there was a Baptist group in town, but I believe they met in individual homes and schoolhouses. One of the schoolhouses was recently torn down and burned. Albert Sanborn was the last person to live there and I understand that was frequently used as the Baptist Church. That was between where Molly Davis lives now and the hill going up to Jane Schrader’s.
In more recent years there were several other little buildings. There were people in town that had a pile of stale bread that looked like a woodpile might look today. The must have taken old bread from Nissen’s or someplace that was no longer for sale and must have had it as a gift
to feed their animals. At the time that they tore down the old schoolhouse and burned it there was a pig living in a Pinto car. I don’t know how often the pile was replenished, but I know several people in town rode by just to see this pile of bread. It was the talk of the town.
One of the functions that we had in Sunday School was a box supper. The girls would prepare a lunch like you might put in your dinner pail if you were working and you would go to the community house. The girls would take their box lunches and the men would bid on them. The only real time that I seem to remember was that Hartley Hill bought my box. Hartley was probably forty years older than I was, and as I’ve told you before he was the janitor at the Sunday school. I was a little disappointed that some of the younger boys hadn’t bought my box. Probably it wasn’t very well decorated.
Another custom we had was to hang May baskets. That didn’t have anything to do with Sunday school or Church; it was just something to do in the summer. We didn’t just hang them on May first, we did it any night of the week that we found our parents would let us get out for a few hours in the evening. The May basket might be made out of an old matchbox, or any small box that your mother had saved for some reason. You would decorate it with crepe paper, maybe make roses, and you would braid the handle. Might be all one color, might be two colors, it depended on what scraps of crepe paper were left from some other party. We didn’t use flowers in our May baskets; it was just the baskets.
At one time I was asked about how the Denmark Historical Society got started. The only thing I can remember is several people in town mentioned we should have one, and then one day in the post office Allene Feindel said “When are you going to start a historical society?” So I said to her, (because she was the one that had the calendar for the library community room,) I said, “Well, when can we have a date?” And so she set up a date the next month, and the feeling was if we could have eight people come each month that it would be a viable organization. So we met for a year, and had our eight people per month, not always the same eight, but eight people, and so after a year’s time we became incorporated. Currently we are still gaining; we have a few members and a couple of life members and are having a few programs to create a little more interest, and are collecting several paper artifacts.
We do have one checkerboard table, which reputedly came from the Colby store in Denmark. I had never heard of the Colby store, so I had to go to the girl I call my foreign correspondent, and she had some Colbys in her family and found out that the Colby that had the store was a Samuel Colby who came to Brownfield from New Hampshire and then in the early eighteen hundreds came to Denmark. He built the house where currently Pam and Gary Anderson live. The store was on the corner by the monument going down the mill hill from the corner where the building is which is currently resided in by the Warner family. After a few years this
Samuel Colby built the house down South Road which is currently owned by Dorothy Chapman. In my day we called it the Lesso place. Of course they were related to Fred Colby. Angie Colby was a Trefethen and she came from Peak’s Island, Maine. Trefethen is a big name, evidently, in Peak’s Island. Fred’s family ran a boarding home. In the olden days people would come from the city for health reasons or to get out of the city, and they might come and stay for a week, or the people might come and stay all summer. So I felt possibly that Angie and her sister might have come to the Colby cottage to work as chambermaids or waitresses or something like that, but I’m not sure. But anyway Angie and her sister both married men in Denmark. Julia was married to Perley Pingree and lived in the house where Bob and Penny Morris now live. Ray and Marie Small now live in the Fred and Angie Colby house. So there were a lot of Colbys in town. There are people who are descendents of them one way and another; all of the Lord girls, Percy Lord and his sisters Esther Dunn, Marion Monson, Betty Bucknell and Thelma Ford. Their mother was Emma, whose mother was a Colby. I’ve already said Edith Sawyer was related to the Colby family in some way. When we get our genealogical section going, I’m sure that we will have many charts that will connect several families in town to one person, back several generations. I know Ida MacLeod, Ida Moulton MacLeod has a chart that connects her with Julia Snow.
Down in the main floor of the odd Fellows Hall was one big room with a stage in the background that was used for dances. Sometimes they were called balls, but I never figured out the difference because the same people went. They’d have Thanksgiving Ball; they had Hunter’s Ball; we had Town Meeting Ball; we had Graduation Ball. At Graduation the girls might wear evening gowns, but that would be just the graduating class; other people didn’t. So I never knew what the distinguishing factor was between an ordinary dance and a ball. Usually once during the night at a ball they would have a grand march. People would form by couples in line and go through intricate designs depending on who the leaders of the grand march were. That’s the only thing I can remember that didn’t take place at an ordinary Saturday night dance. The orchestras could have come from any surrounding town or be a mixture of people from Denmark, Bridgton, Hiram or maybe even into New Hampshire. It would probably have had five pieces; you’d always have a piano, violin and drums, and possibly a saxophone, or maybe a saxophone and a clarinet, some instrument like that. You always had to have your violin, or a fiddle it was sometimes called. The dances they did most were what I call round and square dances. They did the Boston Fancy, Lady of the Lake, Haymaker’s Jig, two‑steps, polkas and waltzes. The Boston Fancy, the Lady of the Lake and the Haymaker’s Jig were contra‑dances. You line up with the men on one side of the hall, the women on the other. In different figurations depending on whether it was Boston Fancy, Lady of the Lake, or Haymaker’s Jig. The whole family went to those dances, everybody but the dog and cat. The kids would go and there’s a little room off the stage that led to the outhouse; the kids would usually lay on the folding chairs out in that little area, or possibly right out on the dance floor itself on the folding chairs. When it came time for them to fall asleep they just fell asleep. Maybe the father would put his coat over them to keep them warm while they were dancing. And, oh, yes, they always sold refreshments. They always had hot dogs and tonic. The hot dogs were cooked in a clothes boiler that you used to wash your clothes in before there were washing machines.
I imagine people did bring in alcohol. I don’t remember when I was little. I think they didn’t bring it in; I think they went out to drink. They probably had rum, or … I don’t really remember beer in those days. I think it was probably more home brew. My father was not a
drinking man so we might have had whiskey in the house for medicinal purposes. Or if he was out in the woods and he was real tired at night he might take a swig right out of the bottle. But as a child I don’t remember any drinking at the dances. In later years after I had grown up I can remember these two men. One of them lived in Denmark; the other had a little camp in Bridgton. The two of them were walking home from the dance. In those days my father’s house had a wraparound porch on it which Lana Henning has since torn down. At the end of the porch was the bulkhead, which was probably a twelve foot drop-off at least. I can remember when we came home from the dance passing those two men walking and about two o’clock in the morning my mother woke up and heard “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” outside her bedroom window. This old Frenchman was walking home and got off the road and was on my father’s porch. My father had to get up and direct him back to the road. So that was an unusual experience at two in the morning! But they weren’t the kind, even though they’d been drinking, that would do anybody harm. It was just their own enjoyment, I guess. If you call drinking enjoyment.
In high school we used to have our own basketball teams in the wintertime, and we played surrounding towns. We would go by cars to Bridgton, West Paris, and Casco. One year we had what we thought was a state championship team. We went to Fairfield, Maine, to play them. We really didn’t get any highlights, like they would today, if you won the game. But we thought we were good. I don’t remember whether we won or lost the game, but that was a game that was really big to us because you had a bus instead of going by individual cars, so that was really a thrilling time. The girls and boys both had a team. They probably would have played the same night. The girls would probably play the first game. It might start at seven o’clock, and then the boy’s game would start just as soon as the girl’s game was finished. We wore uniforms that were just shorts and a middy blouse. The middy blouse dates back to my mother’s era but we still had them when I was in school. They were probably cast off from some of the local camps. When the campers went home the local women would go in and clean the camps and usually the camp director would send boxes of what the kids had left out to the schoolhouse. The box would consist of jackets, sneakers, middy blouses, shorts, and tennis balls, whatever. It was a big thing to be able to rummage through one of those boxes and get a new thing. In those days, when I went to school, you had two changes of clothes for the year. You’d have a third dress for Sunday school, or dress‑up, but during the week you had two changes. You might wear one dress for two days in a row and the other dress for three days in a row, and the next week you might wear one dress Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and the other dress Tuesday and Thursday, or blouse and skirt, whatever it was. You were not overly endowed with a wardrobe. And of course those were the days when you wore cotton stockings, and wore long johns, and had to fold the long johns over to pull up your stockings to hold the long johns in place … you could always see a crease. I don’t think there was any real feeling, one way or the other, about the kids from the camps. You didn’t get to associate with them. You were just glad to get their cast‑offs at the end of the season. About the only thing I can remember, quite often the Camp Walden girls used to stop in my father’s field to pick brown‑eyed Susan’s and I don’t think there are any brown‑eyed Susan’s in that field today. Their camp colors were brown and white and that’s why they wanted the brown‑eyed Susan’s for the brown, not just an ordinary daisy. You would see the girls, perhaps, if you were at the post office. But there again, there wasn’t that much traffic, and we were staying home and so we didn’t get out to the village in the summer or other times, except probably on Sunday to Sunday School. So it was kind of like the east end of town was a settlement in itself versus the village.
One year, when we got older, we had a cucumber patch, and we sold the cucumbers to the pickling factory. I’ve forgotten how much a pound, but we had to pick the cucumbers. We usually picked one section every other day, so you picked every day. They were maybe something like three to five inches. Another group might be the eight inch group, but I think anything over eight inches they didn’t take. I can’t remember whether the pickling factory was in South Paris or where they went. They’d come in a truck and pick up your cucumbers. Denmark had the corn shop, and they also canned squash. Part of the squash would be labeled “pumpkin,” and the other part was “squash,” even though it was all squash. The squash was canned in the same building, same people, as the corn. I think they would do the corn first, then harvest the squash at a later date. There must have been eight or ten workers that were called huskers, and the same number of cutters. Then they had some people who worked on what they called “the belt.” First of all, the farmers would come in with truckloads or busloads of corn. It would be weighed and then dropped onto a cement floor onto an endless belt that went to the huskers. The husker was a machine that took the husks off the corn. Then it would go onto this endless belt. People would sit there and look and pull off the silk that was still remaining before it went to the cutters. The cutter was a machine where the woman would put the ear of corn in, just one ear after another, and that cut the corn off the cob. From there it must have been another endless chain or something. I really don’t remember the sequence of events after that, but it would go to wherever it was mixed. There was someone upstairs that made this hot, hot syrup and I guess the corn went into the cans and then they poured the syrup in. They had what they called a retort, which is a hot oven, no, first it would go to the sealer and the lid would be put on. Then it went into big racks and a man would take the racks into what they called a retort but I’d call a hot kiln, or something like that, where it was cooked. I suppose after it cooled down, they’d put it upstairs and into storage and at a later date, after the season was over, they’d label it. It would be labeled depending on whoever they got their orders from. It was the Burnham and Morrill Company, but they might sell to other distributors. Of course they did have the two types, the whole kernel and the cream style, but the label could be for … I don’t remember Shop and Save in those days, it
probably was IGA and First National, something like that. Depending on the order they would get special labels. The cans would go into a wooden box and they would stencil on the outside of the box as to what company it was to go to. I don’t know whether they were shipped by truck or rail. They could have gone by rail from Brownfield Station. That would be the nearest place to get on the railroad tracks. Some of the people would sometimes go over to South Paris to work and they would can other things. I’m guessing that probably the pickles went either to South Paris or maybe Buckfield.
We always had to fill the wood box. There were two wood boxes, one for the living room and one for the kitchen. We had no central heat. I had no brothers, so wood was one thing you had to do. My father always cut the wood and then hauled it to the front of the woodshed and then you’d have to throw it into the woodshed. Then you had to pile it up in the shed, and then nightly you would take enough in to last for the next twenty‑four hours.
I had one sister who was three years older than I. I also had an older sister who died when she was eleven months old. Her death certificate says something like “tumulation of the heart.” I always thought she died from scurvy or something like that, because my mother had told me how she had just begun to walk, and all of a sudden her legs didn’t function any more. She died in November, and I had an aunt who fell on the floor in December. She had the same symptoms and I was told that they gave her tomato juice and she didn’t develop whatever it was. But there’s nothing on my sister’s death certificate that says anything about scurvy. It may have been rheumatoid arthritis or something like that. We have had other members of the family, my father’s sister, who was very crippled from rheumatoid arthritis. But she was fortunate; she lived in Nashua, New Hampshire and her husband worked for Gregg and they had a very good income. They had no children and so she was given the best of medical care that was knowledge at that time. So I’m really not sure.
My sister’s husband lived in Hiram at one time, and his sister worked in the corn shop there. She worked on the cutting machine and lost her hand in the cutting machine. That was kind of a drastic thing at that time, to have a young girl, she must have been right about sixteen and she lost her hand. Roy Osgood is the only other person I can think of who lost a hand. And he was a carpenter, even though he had lost his hand when he was a youth, and built several of the houses in town. He did a lot of the work on the community house, the cabinets down there. There was a man in Brownfield that lost his leg; we used to call him Pegleg Pete, although his name was Thomas. He used to use an old slab for a prosthesis; I don’t know whether he ever did get an artificial leg or not. I don’t remember many people with amputations in those days, nowhere near as many as there are today. One thing, people didn’t sue in those days. I think you were just careful, and if you got hurt it was your own business and you shouldn’t have been so clumsy. I don’t remember even hearing about anybody drowning in the river drives. There were people who drowned in town, but they drowned for some other reason. Either they drowned in the Saco River, which, as everyone knows, claims three lives every year, and so they got caught up in an eddy. There are many places in the Saco that are not really fit for people to swim in because of the rips and the eddies and various other things. I know a little girl in Brownfield; her hair got caught under some logs and whatever might be at the bottom of the river, and by the time they found her it was too late. Of course in those days they didn’t realize about hypothermia and so forth so if you weren’t breathing when they got you out of the water and you’d been there for so many hours they just took it for granted that you had drowned. Now this day and age they would do CPR, and hopefully get them to a hospital and put them on a machine and gradually change their body temperature until they could be revived, if possible. But in those days, no, they didn’t have that. The methods have changed; they used to roll them over a barrel to give them artificial respiration. I seem to have started with an “S” method, like Simon and Schuster or something like that. Schaeffer or one of those “S’s” was the method they used. Then of course they called it artificial respiration in those days, not cardiopulmonary resuscitation. So that’s a change.
My sister and I used to play dolls and that’s how I became a nurse. We both always wanted to be nurses. I can remember we would, especially after my sister had her appendix out, we would take crayons and mark incisions on the cloth bodies of our dolls. I used to take my father’s harness punch tool to make pills out of colored paper. I do have cousins that are nurses that are younger than me, and I have a niece who’s a nurse, but before my day I don’t believe there was anybody, just housewives and homemakers. Nursing school was a five year program, and we went to the university our freshman and sophomore years. In between, during the summer session we went in the hospital. We had about a week vacation in between. Then when we got out of school after our sophomore year we went to the hospital and stayed until it was time to go back to college for the fifth year. It was really like the three year diploma nurses for our hospital training plus three years of college to get our bachelor (sic) degree. Mine is a Bachelor of Arts, because they really didn’t know what to do with what was probably the second or third class that
they had in this particular program. They felt that nursing gave you the science so that if you had a Bachelor of Arts in Nursing you had a broader education than if you had a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
When I first went to the University of Maine of course I didn’t know anyone that first week, but fortunately my high school teachers were in the area and they visited me and so I did see two familiar faces for a brief period of time. Then after the first week a girl from Sebago came, but at the time she was the only person I knew. It was like a little tadpole in a big pond and all these frogs around me.
In my high school class there were seven of us graduated. Five of us were cousins. I think possibly I was the only one that went on to school. I don’t remember the others going. Some of them were married shortly after we graduated and some were married within the year. Some went to work. Of course when I graduated it was during World War II, and some of them went to war jobs. There was one boy in the class; he probably went into the service. Another of the high school things they did in those days, they used to take a trip to Washington, D. C., to be gone a week or ten days. Some of them that didn’t have as much money went to New York. My sister graduated in 1939; they went to Canada. I graduated in 1942 from Denmark High School and we went to Boston because it was kind of during the war time and we didn’t have that much money. We went from the Cumberland Hotel in Bridgton by bus to North Station. We took in a play, My Sister Eileen and we went to the Arnold Arboretum. It was a little interesting because here we are country hicks in this big hotel, probably the first time any one of us had been in a big hotel. One of the girls’ boyfriends went so the boy in the class wouldn’t feel alone. So we decided one night that we wanted something to drink. The girls had two rooms, so we left one girl to answer the phone in case the principal called, and we went down to buy a soda. Well, we went by this man reading a newspaper, and up to this counter, and wanted to buy some sodas. Well, they didn’t sell sodas; all they had was drinks. Naturally we were not old enough to be served and had to go back to our rooms; that was before the days of vending machines. So as we go by this man reading the paper the newspaper was lowered and it was our principal sitting there. He said, “Oh, where were you girls going?” So we told him that we had been down for a drink, and he said “Well, I knew you wouldn’t be served but I thought you needed the experience. Now you may go back to your rooms and stay there!” Which of course we did. So that was a little interesting excursion!
We had divided the money that we had raised through various school functions. I think it cost us something like eight dollars to go by bus round trip. Whatever money we had left we had for our spending money which paid for our theater ticket and whatever. I bought a blouse and I came back with money. We weren’t used to spending all that amount we had to spend. We probably brought some kind of a souvenir back to whoever was at home waiting.
Sometimes some of the classes went on their trips by truck, a farm truck or an old cattle truck. The kids would be bundled up in the back with their suitcases, all the way to Washington. We went by bus to Boston, but I’m sure they went via truck to Washington. When my sister graduated they went by private cars to Canada. There was one year when the World’s Fair was in New York; that graduating class went to the World’s Fair.
Merle came to Denmark in 1941 to work for his uncle Arthur Rankin, so I started going out with him during that winter of 1941. He’d probably‑take us to the basketball game, myself and some of the other girls. This was about my senior year in high school. When I went to nursing school he went in the service. School started in September and he went in the service in October. He was in the service for three years. He was stationed in Panama except for six months when he was out on the Galapagos Islands. So even though he was not in war territory it was considered overseas duty. He got out after I had finished my term at Central Maine General. I got through there in September and I still had a year left before I could even take my state boards. I had nothing unless I went back and finished that last year. It was kind of stupid because we should have taken our state boards when we first got out of the hospital, because as it was we had that last year of academic teaching at the university which really had nothing to do with our hands‑on nursing. We couldn’t take state boards until October, and so even though I had graduated in June of ‘47 I couldn’t take the state boards until October. So it had been well over a year away from nursing before we took the state boards for nursing. They really should have let us take our boards a year earlier and not let us get our Bachelor in Nursing until we did finish that last year at Maine. So that was kind of a drawback, I felt, although I passed my state boards, but I think I might have had better marks had I taken them when I finished nursing.
Anyway, I finished nursing in September, and so Merle and I decided we’d get married in September. Of course you had free lab work and stuff at the hospital while you were still there, and so I had my blood work done, for premarital blood work, before I got through. Married girls weren’t allowed in training in those days. I could not live on campus at the University of Maine my senior year because I was a married lady and my husband was in the state of Maine. Had he been still in the service stationed at the Dow Air Base in Bangor I could have lived on campus. But because he was an ex‑serviceman we could not get government housing on campus. He tried to find a job in the area, but he couldn’t, and so I didn’t have a place to live my senior year. About a couple of weeks before school started I got a room off campus down by the post office in Orono. I paid three dollars and a half a week for my room. Fifty cents of that was for using the refrigerator and I could cook my own meals. Well, my roommate was a freshman and here I am a high senior, rooming with a lowly freshman who was opera‑minded and was always trying to sing in an operatic style which drove me nuts. In fact her picture was in the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago because she’s in some of those musical productions in the Portland area. She was a Methodist minister’s daughter, a late‑in‑life child. She had brothers and a sister who were probably twenty years older than she was. We came from altogether different life‑styles and actually we had nothing in common other than that neither one of us had any money. At the local restaurant in Orono you could buy a meal ticket for five dollars and a half and they’d punch out a nickel or a quarter or whatever your meal came to, so finally I arranged myself to go on up there for breakfast, and then she and I got a job working at the dietetic department. They had a cafeteria where kids taking home ec could cook the meals and faculty and other people could go there for their lunch. I waited on table there and she cashiered there in return for a free lunch. Then at night I would go back and eat in the restaurant on my meal ticket and she would wait at a table in another house where the lady took in some boys, and serve them their meals.
Being a nurse and living off campus, it was cheaper to buy a two‑way bus ticket to Bangor, that cost two dollars and a half a week for unlimited rides from Orono to Bangor. I would buy a bus ticket, and then sometimes my college roommate that I had my freshman and sophomore years might use my bus ticket and I might sleep in her bed. She’d go down to Eastern Maine and work a shift and earn some money or maybe some of the other friends that trained there, they might go down and work. Occasionally I might go down and work. We’d get five dollars and ninety‑nine cents for the eight hour shift. But that was a godsend in those days. Sometimes, as I said, I’d sleep in their bed while they worked. Once I stayed on campus overnight with one of the other girls and my roommate got mad because I didn’t spend the night with her. She reported that I was illegally staying at the dorm. So I had to pay fifty cents for the use of the cot, as if I had done it legally. This day and age of course I could have sued the whole schmo of them for discrimination for not letting me live on campus because I was a married woman.
Merle was living with his folks in West Baldwin because when we got married my mother was dying of cancer, and so my folks didn’t have any money. They gave us a piece of land to build our house on. And his folks gave us some lumber, only it was yet to cut the trees. His uncle had the sawmill, and so Merle cut the trees and sawed the lumber for our house while I was finishing up school. So we were married in September and I left him in October. Then he might have come down the end of October and I’d be home for Thanksgiving. I’d come home for Christmas and he’d probably come down in January and I came home for February vacation. And so we saw each other once a month the first year we were married. But I wouldn’t have had anything if I hadn’t finished, and he just felt that it was imperative that I finish. So that’s how we came to have our house. It’s not the way I’d build a house today; it was a house for the times, because you built according to the amount of money that you had. It was easier to heat a story and a half house than it was a ranch, and the ranch houses weren’t getting built. Well, some of them were in that day and age, but those people must have had a bit more money than we did. He must have started in ‘47, because I graduated in ‘47 and so he would have cut the wood in ‘46 and ‘47. After I graduated we moved in with my folks so that he could go down and work on the house in his spare time. We didn’t move into it until after Donnie was born, in October of ‘51.
There was another thing about growing up which was about going to Fryeburg Fair, which was and probably still is a big deal. In those days it was a three‑day fair and the schools were always closed the middle day. And my grandfather being the gambler bought a season’s pass in my father’s name because my father was the farmer. Grandpa would take the pass for the first day, and then we would have the pass for the middle day, and then give it back to Grandpa for the last day. You’d have to leave right after the cows were milked in the morning because the roads were still dirt roads. Then you would get there and there was a pine grove behind the grandstand, where this couple that I previously mentioned, Aunt Em and Uncle Ed Smith, who lived in the other end of town, would park their car in this grove, and they would have it heaped full of pickles and old cheese boxes full of all kinds of sandwiches and pies and what have you. Everybody in Denmark that knew Aunt Em and Uncle Ed always had to stop and have something to eat with them, so that was something special that isn’t at the fair any more. They were the only people that I knew that actually did that. Of course now the trailers are there, where people invite you down to their trailer for something to eat or drink or whatever, but this was Aunt Em and Uncle Ed and that was their thing, so that was a big memory.
Another thing that I can remember about Fryeburg Fair was they had, well in those days they were called steam shovels. They had this candy and a few little trinkets in this thing and you’d put in your nickel and this steam shovel would go up and come down and grab something or another. Probably all you’d get was something like Certs or some of those little pieces of candy. It really was something if you got a ring, or some little trinket that didn’t amount to anything, but that you thought was worth a fortune. Then of course we had to go home by the middle of the afternoon, in time to milk the cows at night. I can remember going to the Bridgton Fair once, and I don’t remember anything about the fair exactly, except for when we got home. My father had a young bull calf, and the big bull had got loose and gored the little one. And I lost my balloon that day too, coming home in the car it blew away. I have not fond memories of Bridgton fair.