Thoughts Turn to Home

Perhaps it is the circumstances of the past year that makes me think more of home and the little village of Locke Mills, Maine than ever before.  I’ve been away a long time, or so it seems, from the lakes and mountains which I love so much. A million things have happened in the almost 42 years I’ve been away. I married, lost my husband last October, developed heart problems and other health issues of my own and for the first time, I find my thoughts traveling back to the little town and all its people. This morning, I am sitting here with sight from only one eye, waiting impatiently to hear when I can be treated with laser to get the film from my left eye. Maybe my impatience has made me long for the old time doctors back in the “old days” who responded with what knowledge they possessed  for such things. I don’t know.  As most would say, “probably your age has got to you..”  That could be as well!!

I think of the “filling station” located on the corner of the Greenwood Road and Route 26 , way back when Ray Langway operated the business. I looked forward to Sunday mornings when Dad would grab the little blue can from the kitchen corner, announce he was going to Langway’s to get kerosene for the week and if any of us wanted to ride along. The kerosene was seventeen cents, if memory serves me right. I’d go in the store, glance at the candy counter, but mostly at the magazines and wish I had a million dollars and buy every one I saw. Eating and reading were my two top priorities at the time. Ray was always so friendly to all and treated me like I was a grown-up. He and Dad exchanged the local goings-on and home we would go!

Hank Leach owned the store at the top of the hill in town and he was another who treated youngsters well. We waited there each morning for the high school bus to come from Bryant Pond and on those miserable cold winter mornings, he’d drive up from his home by South Pond and open the door so we could all go in and sit on the wooden plank atop the radiators to get warm. We may have dropped a few pennies for pencils or erasers or a notebook, but his sales were meager when it came to a bunch of poor high school students.

Down the hill, on the left, Arthur Vallee had his store atop a bunch of long, wide cement steps leading up to it. After a day at the high school, if there were no sports, I waited on the steps for the whistle to blow, the mill to open its doors and all the workers to spill out and go in different directions. Sometimes my mother would come into the store and pick up a few things for our supper and Mr. Vallee put them “on the cuff” until payday which was always Friday. I remember the glass cookie jar in which was stored some white and pink puffy cookies with coconut sprinkled on top. Those were my favorite in all the world and occasionally Ma would spring for six of those for a treat. Those you ate very slowly, savoring every marshmallow-y bite! If I had a spare nickel, I’d go for a Dixie cup , open it up and see what movie star’s picture was under the lid…then I’d take that wooden spoon and devour the ice cream!!

The street was lined with pretty houses that I would just look at and wonder how beautiful they must be inside. At one point in my young life, a Mrs. Lister (sp?) had the post office within her house at the bottom of the hill. We were forbidden to cross that land and hop the brook to the elementary school. The teachers were forever repeating that we must follow the sidewalk around ….no short cuts!!!

I’ve written about the wonderful old town hall which holds so many memories . Of course, the church remains where my children attended Sunday School and I sang in the choir for years. In all the years, there’s been an addition built and so many other things to keep it beautiful inside.

I sometimes think of the foolhardy capers I got into and wonder why I remained alive. I won a bicycle in a contest at Mr. Leach’s store when I was in the eighth grade. After school, I went up to the store, hopped on the bike and Mr. Leach told me some nuts and bolts should be tightened. I assured him I would be fine and rode it the four miles home. Lucky for me, they were tightened enough to hold together. Oh, to be that carefree and daring again!!!

My mind travels over the little village several times a week and I marvel at the closeness of the people. I smile when I read of fund raisers; of people helping others in time of need without question. I visualize the town meetings where everyone gathers to discuss, vote and top it off with a great meal put on by one of the Ladies Organizations. At least that is how it used to be!

I hope that way of living goes on forever and is never lost. I also am thinking once all these health issues are laid to rest or leveled out, it is time for me to come home for a visit.

Stay well, my home town folks!

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Springtime in the “Center”

There was one constant in springtime in Greenwood Center, Maine. Mud! Our driveway was chocolate pudding with my father’s tire tracks looking like two fingers had swirled their way through. My mother cautioned us constantly about bringing mud in on the bottom of our shoes as “she was not about to be washing the floor every other day.”

The first sign of spring, to me, was the brook rushing by the house…and soon the snow on the bank melted bit by bit. What joy to run, even on the brown remnants of last fall, along the bank of the brook. We shed those heavy clothes of winter and felt free with the warm sun on our faces.

My mother mixed a concoction of vinegar and water and scrubbed the windows on her days off from the mill. Curtains were taken down and initially cleaned on the old scrub board, until years later when my brother Tink bought her first wringer washer. (Yes, I did catch a finger in it). We had very little materially, but spring meant that doors and windows could be flung open and the winter dust could escape!

What we couldn’t escape, of course, was Ma’s home remedies for preventing the dreaded “worms ” and other parasitic visitors to our bodies. The brothers also got a healthy serving of Father John’s medicine. I cannot recall any foreign bodies invading us because of the spring season. Of course, we all eventually had the usual diseases all kids will have from one varying degree to another.  It took forever for us to break out with the chicken pox and Ma said we would feel better once we did. At long last, Dad decided he would go to Dan Cole’s and get some “sheep turd” and brew up some tea and that would bring out the spots. No need. The mere thought of it and we erupted in good shape.

Meanwhile, across the pasture Gram Martin had her rugs on the line and she and Uncle Louis were beating the dust out of them with a vengeance. Grampa sat with his canes, watching the action and I am sure, giving his two cents worth. I never saw a neater house than my Gram Martin’s …there was even a lid that came down over the wood box so one could sit down for an extra seat and that was scrubbed clean. Like most homes, at the time, there was  no indoor plumbing, but her “privvy” was the best! Every inch of the walls was covered with colorful pictures she had cut from magazines and since it was located within the barn, one could sit and be entertained while not worrying about the cold of the winter or animals!

Spring meant really one thing to me. Baseball!! Oh, how I loved listening to the Red Sox play. Rex and I turned on the old Philco radio during the day, being careful not to run the battery down so that Dad could listen to the news that night. I could not wait until all the snow left the yard and we could take turns batting and pitching.

Years later, it was almost time for folks to come down from Locke Mills and we’d have a pick up game on the “flat”. Oh, what evenings to look forward to when the cars arrived and we chose teams. The flat is no longer; that was long ago and far away. Every time I ride through the Center, I glance at the field full of trees and wonder if it was just my imagination that I once played baseball almost every spring and summer night there. At times, it is true, you can’t go home.

My Uncle Roy was getting his strawberry beds in shape for the coming season. Uncle Louis was already thinking about next winter’s fire wood. He was a planner.

Gram Martin’s lilac bush by the road blossomed and the air was perfumed clear to our yard. My mother had a secret mayflower patch and each year would go to the clotheline, kneel down, and brush leaves away with her hand. A few hours later, in the middle of our oil cloth covered table would be a jar filled with the beautiful little flowers. They were her favorites.

Twitchell Pond grew darker and blacker each day; thinning ice pulled away from the shores and everyone was guessing the “ice out” day. The fishermen were the most eager to see it go and get the boats readied. Uncle Louis painted his a deep green color each year.

Spring. What a wonderful season of re-birth. Why does it take so long to get here? I don’t know…but it’s worth waiting for, isn’t it.

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THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL

It was the happiest of days. Had I realized it at the time, I would have savored every moment and filled a jar of memories for the years I am living now.  It is not uncommon for someone in their elder years to compare today’s surroundings with those in their childhood years. For some reason, schools always come to the fore when I start placing A next to B.

The smell of the well oiled floors greeted us each fall and a certain excitement filled the air. Who would be our teacher? Would there be any new kids?  I cannot remember any problem with bullying. Most of the kids were in the same financial category. Most parents worked in the mill across the road from the school. There were no designer jeans and fancy clothes.

To most of us, the opportunity of having swings and teeter boards to use during recess was something we looked forward to each day.

I had a love/hate relationship with school. From the very first day, I was bored with Dick and Jane and Spot and the teacher, Miriam McAllister sensed it. She soon had me trying different arithmetic problems to keep my mind off the paper cutter at the rear of the room which seemed to attract me for some reason.

There is one memory and I have no idea why it sticks in my  mind so vividly to this day. I was in the first grade and Mrs. McAllister was having us read or was reading  to us about some Chinese people and drinking tea and where that originated etc. Suddenly, a feeling of revulsion came over me and I thought”Those are very bad people.” Never before nor since have I ever had that thought or felt that way. I remember shuddering and wishing we could go on to another story.

I am placing my sanity in your hands when I go on with this tale. Years later, on a lark, I accompanied others to a reading by either a medium, psychic, or whomever and she asked if I believed in reincarnation. At the time, it was not a subject I readily thought about, so gave a half hearted shrug. She looked at me and  said, “In a former life you lived in Mongolia. You sold jewelry and you were shot in the street. You were not involved , just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  It was then the feeling in the first grade leaped into my mind. Well, it is anyone’s guess but I thought it strange that I should remember a feeling I experienced when I was six years old…

Lunch time meant , in good weather, sitting on the school grounds, opening our brown paper bags and examining what was within. What we found , we shared with the village dog, Sandy, who knew exactly what time to visit. My brothers and I usually had biscuits with peanut butter and/or jelly and perhaps a cookie or a cracker with peanut butter. Anything to fill the hole, as Ma used to say. We ate it and were happy.

Our music department consisted of a lady coming in on a Friday morning, pounding the piano while the entire school assembled in the “big” room and sang along. There was no gym and Phys Ed, but a whole school yard where we became hooligans during noon hour and recess.

There was no school nurse. Teachers kept bandaids and the basics in their desk drawers for small emergencies.  A doctor came at least once a  year to administer shots. I remember a small pox vaccination which was not a favorite day in my memory bank.

We collected dimes for the March of Dimes; picked milkweed for the service men so they would have parachutes they needed. It was the time of World War 2 and everyone knew someone who was overseas.

In the photo below you see the entire third, fourth and fifth grades assembled on the school steps to commemorate a really fun day…as you can see, the Clown came to entertain us. I cannot remember one thing he did, but it broke the monotony of another school day. Mrs. Ruth Ring stands in back of all her hooligans …imagine being responsible for three grades at one time!!

I loved some of my teachers and those I didn’t love, I learned to respect because I was deathly afraid of them…which was good because my sense of humor was always getting me in trouble. Frances Gunther and Olive Lurvey put the fear of God in me and I learned more from them than I can express.  Ruth Ring was a softie but such a patient teacher…look at what she had to work with at the time! I dearly loved Gale Webber, our seventh grade teacher, because it was beyond my imagination that a man would be a teacher. I have no clue why I felt that way. Sorry to say he left after that one year, and we had another , a Mr. Guy Meserve, who boarded with the Norwood Fords on Bird Hill for the school year. I will not even go into the details of my final year at the little school house. Suffice it to say, Mr. Meserve’s favorite expression was “You’re not putting me through a knot hole and putting the plug in after me.”  That was not directed completely at me, but at the room in general.

The little school house, in comparison with today’s schools and expectations was sadly lacking in so much, but on the other hand offered so much that is not seen in the present day.

Summing it up, we were just a bunch of happy kids.IMG_1960

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