Here is the the second and final interview on memories from my mother. Here is the first interview if you missed it.
Everyone has memories from high school. What were your major memories and experiences that you haven” discussed yet? Maybe senior year and baby Rebecca?
My senior year, I had Becky so I didn’t attend much of the latter part as she was born in April and we graduated in June, but from September to March I was a substitute teacher at the high school. It wasn’t well thought of that I was an unwed, teenage, pregnant student. So the school thought that if they made me a substitute teacher then I wouldn’t be a student hanging around to set a bad example. As a result, I didn’t have any classwork senior year and I could have graduated my junior year. The odd thing was that I wasn’t the only pregnant teenager at that time in school. One of the other girls was named Judy. Her baby was born a month or two before Becca. When we met up during graduation, she asked to see a picture of my baby. She took one look and said, “Your baby has a cone head.” Becky didn’t, but her head was oval. Judy’s baby had been delivered as a C-section or cesarean. As she showed me a photo of her baby, I snapped back and said, “Your baby has a fat head!”
How do you think your classmates remember you? We’re talking high school and not college.
Let’s see, school classmate how do they remember me? School experiences… I remember back in the third grade, my mother wanted me to wear dresses to school and to dress up. I was a scrapper and I liked to fight. One of my very vivid fighting experiences was fighting in the mud with Toby, while I was wearing a dress. I quickly came to realize that at third grade, boys have more muscle than third grade girls. Prior to that, I always won every fight, but now that boys were putting on more muscle and becoming stronger than me, the tide had turned. Actually, Toby and I became good friends after that. He would hold my hand I would walk across the curb as if crossing a balance beam.
Also in the third grade, I remember kicking Leo in the shins. He fell down on the sidewalk crying while I continued to walk into the K-3 school to the lunch room. I had to apologize because it made me feel bad.
My best friends were the ones that I used to sit on the bus with to and from school. Tommy Webber, June Gilley, and Deirdra Hewett. We stayed close even on the school playground – swinging, playing freeze tag, and generally chasing each other. My father and June’s father were friends so I visited her family’s farm often. Her father was the Santa Claus hired at my Dad’s store each December.
Deirdra lived across the road from the store where my family lived. My mother brought me over to meet Deirdra. I think it was preschool age and I couldn’t pronounce her name and called her, “Dandruff.” Her mother quickly told me to, “Dee Dee.”
In kindergarten, I met my other classmates. One was Barbara Brewster. She lived in town so I wasn’t able to visit her as often. I do remember sleepovers at both June’s and Barb’s. We sang songs on Barb’s record player, collected eggs from June’s chickens, talked about boys and played Barbies.
Later in 6th grade, we attended school dances together with Tommy Webber, Glenn Shaw, and Steve Grenier. Barb wasn’t allowed to receive phone calls from boys or about boys so we changed their names. Steve was changed to Stephanie, Glenn to Glenna, and Tommy to Tina! When Barb’s mom was on the phone, Barb could use the code names. Lol
My mother allowed me to have dances at the house with my friends. We used the Hi-Fi stereo with our 45s – records. Fast dancing was fun. Slow dancing was serious. If you slow danced with a boy, you were considered a couple. Roland Quirion had joined our little group and Tommy phased out. Roland was the first boy I kissed. He asked me to go out with him and I asked, “Go where?”
Then there was Cony High School with field hockey, junior and senior proms, and Chizzle Whizzle ( a school performance of various skits, singers, musical numbers etc. like vaudeville). Each year was finished with Field Days: Relays, races, tug-o-war, and various field games of one class vs another. The winning class usually got an ice cream party. After graduation, I lost touch with my classmates except for exchanging Christmas cards until the 20th school reunion. We had all changed so much! Now we keep in touch on Facebook. There is also a Cony High School group page where we keep in touch. How do they remember me? Of course, it depends on the person.
Overall I think of my classmates as sharing good times. Often it was “us” vs the teachers. Some of those classmates went to France went together as a class. These classmates opinion towards me was important when I got glasses and braces. We all struggled with our musical instruments. Mine was both guitar and clarinet. We had to sing in chorus and harmonize together.
Thinking of hard times as a child versus as an adult, wear necessities met? Were you aware or the struggles around you?
My adult years, when I first had Becky, were hard. As an adult, your father and I had a trailer that my mom helped us with – financing so we had to make the payments to her each month. It was a 12 by 60 foot trailer mobile home with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, kitchen on one end, and the three bedrooms on the far end. We had it set up in the mobile home park up in Vassalboro, Maine. Then we got a dog. After we got the dog, we found out that there was a deposit that needed to be paid. So we paid the money. Then we found out there was a size limit on our growing puppy and we didn’t want to get rid of it so we would have to move the trailer out of the trailer park.
Talk about a stubborn and wrong decision that I can look back at now! Both of us really wanted that dog though. We wanted that dog so much and yet I don’t have a clue whatever became of it. Isn’t that ironic? So we took a perfectly good trailer all set up in a trailer park with all the modern conveniences and had to pay $500 to a tow truck to haul to Mud Mill Road to Marie Vigue’s property. There was no water, there was no heat, and there was no electricity. My grandparents, my dad, and Richard had to install a wood stove and the necessary piping that goes with it which became our heat source.
It was a lot of physical work to stack the wood, move the wood, load the stove, clean the stove of ashes… then start all over again. The water, I had to haul that from the Vigue’s in a 5 gallon bucket to have drinking and washing water – whatever we needed. We had to have a potty setup in a perfectly fine bathroom. We did have an extension cord for the refrigerator and one other appliance which was usually either a radio or a toaster. So Becky got to take her bath either in the kitchen sink or in the five gallon bucket. Was I aware of the hard times? Yes. Were necessities met? Yes, but at a great physical expense.
I remember a specific time when we were living in Washington. Your father was trying to support me with two young children and he didn’t have a high enough pay grade to be able to do that very well but I’m not blaming him.
He had previously worked at a shoe mill. Then all the shoe mills closed down so he went to work at Lipman’s Poultry Plant. Then of course the poultry industry collapsed in Maine. So your Dad sought the next thing to do which was joining service. We were married with one daughter and I was pregnant with the second daughter so I thought we would talk it over. He said, “No I already made the decision to sign up.” And I thought, “Well they have those deferred things when you sign up you don’t have to go in for six months or a year or something like that.” He said, “No I leave in two weeks.” Because he chose the Army infantry, he wouldn’t be just gone for six to eight weeks. He would be gone for I think it was four to six months! By the time he got out of basic training, we were getting stationed up to Fort Lewis in Washington. You, Sarah, had been born. Your dad didn’t have much rank; therefore not a lot of pay. It was hard to stretch the money for four people. I would take my two kids, ride the bus to Tacoma and to the blood plasma bank and I would donate my plasma which you could do 3 times a week. The only thing is that when you donate plasma, it’s time-consuming because it takes about 20 minutes for your body to pump the blood out then they would use a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the red blood cells which then you had to receive your red blood cells back. Then of course was the ride back on the bus. At least it would pay for a few meals for us so it was worth it.
As an adult, food has always been a big concern of mine – making sure there’s enough to go around. As a child, my father owned a grocery store and later a restaurant so there was always food around and plenty to eat. All I had to do as a child was ask and a whole store opened up for me. I even remember unwrapping Tootsie Rolls to feed the dog. As an adult, sometimes food was very scarce. I think that’s why when I lived in Litchfield that I didn’t mind volunteering at the food pantry. We donated one of our freezers to the food pantry to keep it full for them. Once a tractor-trailer truck spilled on the highway while it had been carrying broccoli and I don’t know how many cases of broccoli we got but it had to be blanched and then frozen to be able to keep it. I remember that we had eaten a lot of chocolate croissant because the freezer was so full there wasn’t room for any more. I also remember that when we lived in Georgia (when I was married John) that every time we went down to Hoboken we would bring groceries with us to share. The Herrins didn’t have much money and there were different families different Brothers with their wives who were living with Granny Herrin.
What a difference from my childhood where eating freshly ground beef made into burgers from the grill and how every holiday was celebrated with food compared to my adult life! There would even be special foods to go with special occasions, turkey for Thanksgiving, prime rib or ham for Christmas. Easter was traditionally ham. But not just a ham, it would be a ham decorated with slices of pineapple with pineapple juice and brown sugar and cloves on the ham with potatoes and carrots and onions. At Thanksgiving, there was more food than the family could eat in three days. We had a 26 to 30 pound bird with stuffing inside and outside. Gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, appetizers, and dessert galore!
What have you concluded from these hard times? Where are your insights?
I believe in my childhood that I had plenty of everything except for mental support. I felt alone and afraid. I had the luxury of owning for ponies yet I couldn’t play with them. I couldn’t ride them. But they were there. There was the cost of the ponies, the cost of their food not to mention shoeing and veterinary bills etc. But during this whole time, I felt very alone. My best friend was a dachshund named Rupert and my little brother John who was four years younger than me – a lot of material possessions without any substance. In my adult life, there was rarely enough money to go around but I had a lot of love that I wanted to give.