Continuing the first and last statistics for a bit longer:
The final high school class to graduate from the old grammar school building was that of 1906. The graduates were Georgia Daggett, Elizabeth Freeze, Dana Gould, Grace Hagar, Eva Hagar, Melvin Kittredge, Earle Luce, Iris Lovejoy, Iza McNaughton, Allan Mooers, Charles Mills, Aline Nesbit, Fred Shaw and Flora Wiley.
After the new high school was build, what had been two properties were joined into a continuous yard. The 1908 town meeting came up with $200 to grade the new high school lot and the Breeze of 1909 notes with satisfaction that “the large rock which was between the buildings has been removed.”
The building of the Milo Junction School provided housing, of course, for the pupils of the now enlarged community of railroad employees. This section came, bit by bit, to be called Derby, instead of Milo Junction. No one seems to remember how that particular name was given to the community. Residents of the Ferry road for many years resisted the change in name. As late as the 1950’s, I have heard residents of that street bristle at the word and declare that their address was Milo Junction; the second time the word “Derby” appears in the town records is in the 1917 town warrant.
The new Milo Junction School ended forever any need for the Holbrook Schoolhouse. There is little evidence, however, that the Milo Junction School received the mantle of Holbrook, as District 9’s schoolhouse. The idea of the districts, in fact, was giving way now to the general appellation of “rural” schools.
Between 1910 and 1920 a considerable increase in pupil registration again threatened crowding. The American Thread Company was then at its zenith in Milo, its mill operating with the activity of a major industry.
To cope with this new likelihood of crowding, voters at the 1917 town meeting authorized the purchase of Chase’s Hall. This had to be done in two separate negotiations, since the Chase family still owned the lower floor, but the Knights of the Golden Eagle, which had some years before purchased the upper floor from the Masonic organization, still owned that half. Both owners possessed land with their holdings and the Chase family also owned buildings at the rear (toward Elm St.).
The town, therefore, voted $2500 to purchase the lower half of the building together with the buildings that went with the property; and, following subsequent negotiations, authorized $2000 for the upper half, known as Golden Eagle Hall.
Chase’s Hall never did prove an asset of more than questionable value. The town approved expenditure of $500, the first year, for putting one floor or the other in shape for school classes. Voters refused, however, at the time of purchase, to install a central heating plant in the basement to heat the entire building. Consequently, it was cold and drafty winters.
For a year or two, the building seemed to be the object of contemplation as a mistake, or an evil genius. In 1920, indeed, an article in the warrant proposed “to move Chase’s Hall to some other location, or otherwise dispose of it.” The article was voted down, though, and the $500 approved the year of purchase was expended on alterations sufficient to put the upper floor in condition, of a sort, for classes.
I talked to my wife and to Mrs. Dan Gilbert, both of whom spent their 7th and 8th grade years in the classroom on the upper floor of the building. Both testified to its cold and drafty conditions in winter. And both remembered Mr. Bodge, the very, very large teacher of one or the other of their grades.
In 1921 the town did authorize the expenditure of $5000 to remodel Chase’s Hall for classes, both upstairs and down. Examination of the building, however, may have shown the folly of it, for the money was never spent on that project.
Meanwhile, after a year or two more, the 7th and 8th grades were transferred to the grammar school. The downstairs part of Chase’s Hall was put into passable condition for the 1st and 2nd grades of the “war babies” that increased the elementary registration after the close of World War 1, in 1918.
Chase’s Hall was condemned for school classes but it continued to serve for some years in spite of this.
Eventually the new elementary school, fronting on Elm St., was opened for use in 1954. From that time on the buildings formerly used for grade schools were closed permanently, for regular classes. The grammar school did, indeed, serve for several years in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, to house classes for the retarded. In 1976, it, along with the high school and the old primary school were turned over to Basketville, to be repaired and made use of as a basket factory. Buildings and grounds were transferred, without charge, back gratis, if conditions should ever make necessary a purchase by the town to Basketville, the only stipulation being that the town should have the land of the properties.
As for Chase’s Hall, it was sold, sometime after the elementary school was opened, to Kenneth Davis and later purchased by the Bailey Lumber Company.
Retracing our sequence of events now, for a few paragraphs, we find that at the town meeting of 1922, voters approved erection of a new wing for the high school building at a cost of $20,000. To this money to be raised the town added the $5000 that had been earmarked the year before for the remodeling of Chase’s Hall.
High School registration continued to grow. A report by Superintendent W.H. Sturtevant, in 1921, covering registration for the past nine years, showed 70 in 1912, 130 in 1919, and 180 in 1921. On that last date the High School faculty contained 7 teachers. As it happened, I was one of the seven teachers in 1921, having taken a year’s absence from Colby to teach. Let me add further that Helen Johnson, daughter of Levi Johnson, was also a member of the 1921 faculty. Levi Johnson, you will recall I mentioned earlier for his venture in Latin, at the Stanchfield Ridge School.
One high school serving two communities, both of which have a stake in its operation, is likely to have problems. And indeed a knotty problem arose about 1919, having to do with the distance Derby students had to travel to reach to high school in Milo Village.
This problem became so controversial that at the March 14, 1921 town meeting it accounted for two articles in the town warrant. The first, instructing the school committee to provide a conveyance for the Derby students, was voted down. The second article was approved. It instructed the school committee to allow the Derby students to travel from Derby to Milo on the morning train.
There were two up trains in the morning: the K.I. “Scoot”, which reached Milo from Derby between 8:30 and 9 a.m., and the mail train. The scoot went on to Katahdin Iron Works, returning as a down train about 2 p.m. The mail train came up a bit later.
For a year or two the Derby students came up on the scoot. I still remember the utter confusion with the inrush of Derby students, always late, of course, of necessity, during my year of teaching at the school in the school year 1921-22.
After a year or two, the Derby students changed and came up by the mail train. This confusion lasted for only a few years. Its momentum seemed just to fizzle out. Probably by that time cars were common enough to make light of the distance between the two villages.
And that mention of cars makes necessary another strange statement in regard to this Derby transportation issue.
At the town meeting of March 13, 1922, the warrant contained an article “to see if the town will vote to instruct the school committee to provide a team for conveyance of the Derby High School students to the village high school.” The article was voted down.
But a TEAM! In 1922! A pair of horses and such conveyance as they might haul, after automobiles had long passed the stage of novelty!
This was no anachronism, though. It cannot be laid to retarded thinking, for the automobile had been long in common use before ingenuity had learned to cope with winter roads.
The old days of breaking roads in winter with a big stick placed crosswise under horse sled runners was long past but the giant snowplows as we know them today had not yet been put into use in northern climates. So the winter snows, offering little hazard to sleighs or pungs or heavily laden horse sleds, made winter driving of cars impossible. Owners just put them into the garage for the winter, blocked them up to spare the pressure on the tires, that weren’t so good then as they are now, and locked the garage door until spring.
A few venturesome owners contrived to operate their automobile in a sporting sort of way, with sled runners in place of the front wheels, leaving the rear wheels as they were. Ford put out a car like that for northern climates. In a rudimentary sort of way these were the forerunners of the snowmobile. They couldn’t use the fields though and scarcely the roads, for their traction still came from the tires and the tires, even with chains, had difficulty coping with unplowed roads.
Here was a state of travel between horse and automobile, when a no-man’s land separated the two: the horse could make it but was too slow for speed’s infancy; the automobile was fast but couldn’t make it at all!
There was one true anachronism, as between voters and school, however, and I must mention it before proceeding to write the finale of the district schools.
At the March 12, 1933 town meeting, the warrant contained an article “to see if the town will vote to purchase an adding machine for the Commercial Department of the High School.” The voters passed over the article, refusing to bring it even to a vote. In this instance, the town hadn’t yet caught up with the fast reckoning of the times. It was as far behind the times as we were behind the possibilities of the computer, twenty years ago.
Yes, this decision was a civic anachronism. The townspeople were out of touch.
Or, were they?
Was the decision a bad anachronism or a good anachronism? Remembering the insistence on mental arithmetic in the old district schools’the stretching of minds to keep them sharp and accurate’and the alarming descent into indolence in schools in the present day’I don’t know! I don’t know!
A more serious anachronism became manifest in the town meeting of March 9, 1914, in which the town refused to purchase a piano for the high school. It was serious enough for the High School Breeze of 1914 to make mention of it.
“We believe,” went the Breeze editorial, “that every school should have some kind of musical instrument. Especially a piano would do much to make opening exercises more interesting. Although it was voted down at the recent town meeting, we hope the question will receive further consideration from the citizens of Milo.”
A courteous but plaintive protest by students who were NOT pampered!
And now the time has come to wind down the district school system its very end.
In 1917, the town voted to sell the Drake and the Holbrook schoolhouses. This was done. The town realized $375 from the transaction Superintendent W. H. Sturtevant reported in 1921. Ransom Decker bought the Drake building. Mrs. Arthur Carey, remembers that four teams, including their own, moved the building to a point on the left side of West Main St., just beyond what is now the Mooers Road, not far from the residence of Winnie Paddock, later Sam Brown’s. The old schoolhouse stood there for years, at low rental, until it burned somewhere around 1950.
The Holbrook schoolhouse went to Albert Donahue, who later sold it to David McFarland, according to Maurice Richardson. A part of the old schoolhouse lingers in the living room of the residence of Morris Smart on, or near, the site where it stood long ago.
Four of the original district schoolhouses continued on until 1923. They were: The Stanchfield Ridge School, with 13 pupils as of that year; the Sargent Hill School, 11 pupils; the Tollbridge School, 20 pupils; and the Lovejoy School, 11 pupils.
In 1922, Superintendent Sturtevant said of them, in his report: “If you are going to maintain schools in your rural districts, you must make improvements in their toilets that will comply with state regulations by 1924.”
A year later, Superintendent Foster L. Higgins spoke the last word on them.
“I think,” he wrote, “we should do more for our rural schools. Every rural building in town is poorly lighted and ventilated. They are lighted from both sides, giving a cross light, which is the worst kind for study. They need jacketed heaters. And they need toilets connected with the schoolhouse.”
In 1924 there was no mention of the district schools. Their era had passed, in Milo.
Meanwhile transportation of pupils had risen in numbers and in cost. By 1924 transportation costs reached $3200.
And the schoolhouses themselves − what became of them?
Three I have already mentioned: the primary, Holbrook and Drake Schoolhouses.
The disposition of five others we know:
Elmer Brown, grandfather of Edith Perry, purchased the old Tollbridge schoolhouse and altered it for a residence. Vernon and Edith Perry (Edith had formerly been one of the pupils there) lived in it for two years before going to Oakfield. Later the engineer who built the new Elm St. Bridge to supplant the old covered toll bridge, lived in it during the bridge construction. The old schoolhouse burned around 1930.
The Sargent Hill schoolhouse was sold to Frank McCormick as remembered by Maurice Richardson. Mr. McCormick altered it for residential use at its original site. It burned sometime in the 1950’s, its occupants barely escaping with their lives.
The old Lovejoy schoolhouse near the Brockway dairy farm, on the Medford road, was moved to Stoddard Hill where my informant tells me it is still in use, much altered, a little beyond the top of Stoddard Hill and on the left.
The Derby schoolhouse missed by a few months being turned over to Basketville in 1976. Just before the Basketville venture came to Milo the Derby schoolhouse was transferred to Stephen Webb to be torn down for its lumber. This was completed a few months before this story was in preparation.
The Stanchfield Ridge schoolhouse was sold and torn down sometime after 1923. Who purchased the building and what he used the lumber for, I didn’t learn.
The fate of two of the schoolhouses remains lost in the haze of oblivion; the Hobbstown and the Murray (back Brownville road) schoolhouses. Did they linger on a while, “with staring windows and doors a sag”, until age had worked its will on them and time had returned them in decay to the earth? Or did they burst forth into a sudden surge of light and heat − heat more intense, for a few minutes than their run down stoves had ever given them during their years of use?
This is a second and quite different story about Milo’s district schools. It is a sequel to the account of the primitive but very effective old district facilities that I put into the hands of the Milo Historical Society officials earlier.
This story stays within the memory of Milo’s living senior citizens. It attempts to put a reading glass on the period between 1910 and 1922-the final date of operation of the last district school in Milo. Its objective is to catch something of the human interest that flourished in and around those old buildings and around the town that supported them − before the laughter and tears, the pranks and the whoppings moulder away and nothing remains but dry names.
Quite a few of Milo’s senior citizens living today went to school between those dates. And many an experience comes back into prodded memories as sharply focused as on the day it occurred.
Happily for this postscript, these memory pictures take us back into another day when schooling was different and life moved more slowly. Clothing, recreation, transportation, environment-the whole lifestyle lights up a period now dead but vividly remembered.
Even the population pattern was quite different. Old roads that are choked with bushes today were edged with broad fields and blessed with near neighbors sixty or seventy years ago. Farms that abutted on them bustled with activity rang with shouts and laughter, housed large families and sent a numerous troop of scholars off to the district school mornings.
Let’s take a look at one such road.
About three years ago, Ira Gould and Kenneth Stanchfield returned one day to the site of the old Stanchfield Ridge schoolhouse where they had gone to school more than sixty years ago.
They drove up the Ramsdell Road (first left off the Lakeview Road) in their jeep. At the four corners they found their vehicle couldn’t take them any farther. The rest of the way to the old schoolhouse site was impassable − even though it was summer and their jeep had a four-wheel drive!
The “four corners”, of course, meant the place where the Ramsdell Road crossed the old Ryder Road. The Ryder Road, you remember from the earlier story, ran from the back Brownville road to the ridge Road (second turn left off the Lakeview Road). Beyond the four corners, the Ryder Road became the “Schoolhouse Road” the rest of the way to its terminus with the Ridge Road, half a mile or more up from the Lakeview Road. It carried this name because the Stanchfield Ridge schoolhouse stood on this stretch.
If you were on the Ramsdell Road, at the four corners, therefore, in the old days, you had to make a right turn to get to the schoolhouse. So, when you pulled on the right rein, at the four corners, many years ago, your house turned slowly into the Schoolhouse Road, drawing your carriage after him. Your horse was in no hurry and neither were you, in those days.
After turning, you noticed first, on the left, an orchard. (It is still there). The orchard belonged to the Smart farm. The Smart residence was a little farther along on the Schoolhouse Road.
The Smarts, Austin and Flora, had a large family, quite common then. They had twelve children − Kit, Daisy, Harry, Percy, Edna, Grace, Lulu, Elva, Mildred, Aura, Earl and Teddy.
A little beyond the Smart residence, and a bit farther back from the road, stood the schoolhouse. If you can find a copy of the “Town Crier”, of January 20, 1977, you will find a picture of the schoolhouse inside. I say “if you can find a copy”, because it may be years and years after 1977 when you read this.
Beyond the schoolhouse on that same crossroad was the farm of Frank Stanchfield. Frank and Susan also had a rather large family by today’s standards. They had eight children − Delia, Marguerite, Kenneth, Luther, Norman, Frank, Pauline and Shirley
So you can easily believe that the Stanchfield Ridge schoolhouse drew a good many scholars from the environs within its district. District 4, it was, and its boundaries included the Ramsdell Road and the Ridge Road, both well populated and part of the back Brownville Road (after the Murray District school was closed in 1895) − as well as the Schoolhouse road.
So Kenneth Stanchfield, who had once lived just beyond the schoolhouse and Ira Gould, who had lived on the Ridge Road many years ago, drove up the Ramsdell Road one summer day about three years ago and left their jeep at the four corners. Even with its four-wheel drive and in a dry season, it still couldn’t negotiate the path that was all that was left on the old Schoolhouse Road.
There were no houses standing along that path any more; Kenneth and Ira quickly noticed that. Only the remains of old cellars and frost-heaved foundations remained. And these, the original forest was quietly and greedily claiming for its own. The locale was too quiet, much too quiet, for the old neighborhood that had been anything but quiet! It seemed as if the old community had drawn its breath and then not dared to let it out − for fear of disturbing the wild creatures around. The surrounding had a Rip Van Winklish appearance. More than Rip Van Winklish! Rip had slept for twenty years; THIS community had slept for sixty!
The schoolhouse, like the houses, was gone − a long time gone. No one had attended school there since 1921 and the building was torn down shortly after the school ceased to call its scholars to it. Most of the teachers whose ruling arm had swung the peremptory clapper bell from the doorway, two generations before were dead.
Two relics, however, these visitors from another time recognized.
In front of what had been one of the two entrances, the stone doorstep maintained its unwearied vigil. It had once served as third base at recess time when boys and girls, without distinction as to sex, had played ball together. And across what had once been the schoolyard was the crotched cedar tree that had served as first base. The old tree lay on its side on the ground now, but it was the old landmark, without any doubt. Cedar lasts a long time.
“I remember just as plain as yesterday,” Ira told me, three years after that nostalgic visit. “I remember the first day I went to school there. I sat with Virginia (an older sister). The bench that went with the desk was wide enough for two.
“I remember that I had to go to the toilet. So I raised my hand and spoke right up: “Can I go out?” I don’t remember what the teacher said − probably just ‘Yes”.”
So much for the Stanchfield Ridge School for the present. We’ll come back to it later.
Just how many of the nine district schools listed in the records of 1890 were still operating in 1910 isn’t exactly clear. We do know from the town records that there were 570 children attending schools in Milo in 1910.
Closing of the Murray District School, on the back Brownville road, in 1895, I mentioned earlier. And it is certain that the Holbrook School, at the foot of Billington Road, closed permanently after the Milo Junction School was built in 1907-1908. Others of the original nine were voted, from time to time, for consolidation − but would bob up later in the records as repaired and functioning again. The Hobbstown and the Drake Schools, as an instance, were forever teetering on the edge of oblivion, and forever returning to service, with their little contingent of scholars.
From the records we know that the Lovejoy School closed in 1920. The Stanchfield Ridge School may have been one year later in suspending operation. The Sargent Hill School, after 192l, was the only one left. The record for 1922 lists one teacher as “rural”. After that − nothing.
The 5th District School, in the village, and the Milo Junction School, which took over for the 9th District, became the central schools into which consolidation emptied the outlying scholars after 1923.
So this story will concern itself mostly with these six schools.
One of the most striking stories of “crime and punishment”, in those golden years of irresponsible boyhood, came from John Rowe, who attended the Tollbridge School, just beyond the bridge on lower Elm St. The exact date doesn’t matter. John didn’t remember it. Somewhere between 1910 and 1915, he guessed.
John, along with Carroll Hughes and John Kazoota (who later studied medicine and became a doctor, John thought), liked very much to fish for trout. Their favorite brook ran under the road and the railroad track on the Lyford Road near where the Ernest DesChamps family lives today. There were some pretty good trout in it then, John said.
The boys always carried fish hooks stuck in their cap so to be ready when the urge was on them. A boy could carry a rolled-up line in his pock together with a light sinker, if he wanted it. Then tie a hook on the line, cut an alder pole, dig a worm or two and he was ready to fish.
Well, these three boys went trouting early one morning − a school morning. And the pleasure they got from following the brook and matching wits with the trout made them late for school − quite late indeed.
The teacher at that time, John remembers, was Dorice Clark. She was Arthur Clark’s sister, Judge F. Davis Clark’s aunt.
School discipline was strict in those days and learning was considered important. Teachers took a dim view of tardiness unless it was for some good, excusable reason − which fishing was not. And if you’re a successful fisherman, there’s no disguising the fact. You smell of fish.
So the teacher kept the three after school. She talked to them a little, then called them up front, one by one. She took their right hand firmly in her left and spanked the palm with her ruler.
The punishment hurt, not a doubt of it. It didn’t prevent them, however, from repeating the offense. There was something about trouting that appealed to primal instincts. It couldn’t be resisted when the weather was warm and the trout were biting. So they went fishing again on three more occasions, were late and twice got the ruler.
The fourth time they were tardy, John said, they had a surprise waiting for them. When Dorice called them up front, after school, she said: “Now we’re going to do it a little differently this time. You’re going to put the ruler on My hand.”
“And she made us do it, too, all three of us,” John added. “I never felt so foolish in my life. I didn’t hit her hand hard at all and the others didn’t.”
“What effect did it have on you? I asked him.
“Well, we never went fishing again mornings,” John answered ruefully.
If we can omit World War I, which brought heartache to many lands (and so to Milo, one little town in them), in the years between 1914 and 1918 − if we can omit that, then the years between 1910 and 1922 were golden years. Electricity, telephone and running water were creeping into the outlying sections after 1910. Automobiles had arrived although they were something of a curiosity between 1910 and 1915. They had not yet become a plaything. They were still not a deadly weapon in the hands of the irresponsible. And they had not become a universal necessity to meet speeded-up schedules. Roads weren’t that fast in those days.
Radio was being talked about, in awed tones, as a definite future possibility. Television wasn’t talked about; wasn’t even dreamed about except in those restless, questing minds to whom nothing is impossible.
The silent movie was already in operation. It necessitated a pianist down front, facing the screen, ready to change pace and theme at a second’s notice to keep along with the momentary mood of the picture. There was a lot of running and pursuit and speeding trains bearing down on a victim tied to the railroad track. One of the silent picture pianists in Milo was Grace Day, now Mrs. Charles Doble, who lives on Stoddard St. Another was Althea Cole Moore, not dead. A third, who played as substitute, was Mrs. Ruby Inman, wife of Arthur Inman, who operated the theatre. The Inman’s moved away from Milo years ago.
The Milo Theatre, as you may have noticed on the ruin of its front, was built in 1913.
Money wasn’t all that abundant in those days, although the American thread Company and the Bangor & Aroostook Shops were in operation. A dollar, however, would buy about what four dollars will buy today. Farming was still an important calling so adequate food was little of a problem. People who were poor didn’t realize that they were poor, as many do, acutely today.
Simple pleasures were still the rule. Sophistication, which is never quite at home without more and bigger and faster and more complex and more permissive and dirty stories and pot and wisecrack and cocktail parties was still a little in the future.
So what did kids do in those days from 1910 t0 1922 to make life bearable?
Well, kids hadn’t yet actually learned that life was unbearable. They would learn this later when gadgets had burst the dam and come flooding in and industry had grown too big for its britches; and the atom had been split; and the universal draft began pointing its inflexible finger at you, and you, and you!
The world was still beautiful. Life was sweet. Girls were as pretty as a picture. (If you think the wrinkled faces of old age that you see around today weren’t beautiful sixty years ago, you should look at the graduating class pictures in the old copies of the High School Breeze, in the Historical Society’s rooms!)
Yes, kids found things to do that were quite satisfying − simple pleasures that a sophisticated age would hoot at.
They worked on the far, studied evenings, played games, fished, swam, hung may baskets, played ball, slid, skated, made snow forts and skied − on unwaxed barrel staves. If they were very lucky, according to Maurice Richardson, a kindly uncle might make them a pair of white maple skis. He had such a pair himself.
Kids had parties and spelling bees, got up Larkin soap orders to earn their bicycles and watches and other needs as “premiums”; went to the “movies”, once in a while; popped corn, made molasses candy, attended the Price-Weber shows in Chase’s Hall, in May; and jumped up and down on the bulges in unsurfaced roads to make the bulges “buckle”, just after the frost was one, in the spring.
At Halloween they played tick-tack-toe with a notched spool, making a devilish noise on windows to set households in a dither. They played ball haley-baley, over the rood, went to box socials at Christmas time and bought the lunch their girl had put up, to eat with her; and played marching, hand-squeezing games to express their feelings for the pretty girls.
At any of the many parties, at one home or another, they played − with a great deal of laughter − button, button, winkum, musical chairs, drop the handkerchief, post office (which could be slightly amorous), or blind man’s buff. On occasion, they went to dances, though these were rather frowned on as immoral. “Rubbing bellies”, critics called dancing.
Really, in those times before pleasure came to be measured by how fast one could travel in his sports car, such enjoyments as making molasses candy weren’t to be laughed at. Having a candy pull, they called it.
Nora Hamlin told me how it was done.
First you boiled the molasses, a cupful or two, depending on how big a batch you wanted to make. Some added a little vinegar to the boiling mass to give a tang to its sweetness. When you dipped a spoon into it and found a hair forming on it when you lifted it out, it was done. It had gotten quite thick by that time.
You let it cool enough so that it wouldn’t burn, buttered your hands well, spooned out a gob of the thick molasses, took it into both hands, pulled it apart just enough so that it wouldn’t break, doubled it over, pulled it apart, doubled it over and kept repeating until the strands were much lighter in color. Then you left the straight strands (about three-quarters of an inch thick), in a dish to cool. When they were cool, you cut them into inch lengths. And you had a pretty nice and tasty batch of candy. And you had had a lot of simple fun in making it.
Or consider the unsophisticated pleasure of hanging may baskets. That used to be a tradition all through May here in Milo. It has been long since forgotten. Hanging may baskets had much in common with the custom of sending valentines in February. Of the two, hanging May baskets was a much more personalized way of saying “I love you.”
To make may baskets, one cut inch-wide strips of crepe paper, then used to scissors painstakingly to make one-half of the width “frizzy”. Then she (generally the girls made them; their hands were more skillful) wound and mucilaged this prepared crepe paper around and around so to cover completely the outside of whatever little pasteboard boxes were at hand. She then glued on a handle to hang it by and filled it with candy or nuts or whatever goodies she had to fill it with. Lastly, she put in a name card “to” and “from”.
After she had completed a sufficient number, she hung them along with other kids in the community. Small boys generally went along for the thrill. Hanging time was about the same hour as trick-or-treat is a Halloween today.
They left the May basket on the doorknob, or if there were a number of them at the same time, on the doorsill. Then the gift giver knocked or rang the doorbell and ran like the dickens − well, perhaps not at full speed, for the receiver was duty bound to catch and kiss the giver. Receivers would be at the door, you can bet and would be out, pell mell, without bothering to read the “to” or “from”.
This could go on evening after evening throughout May, each evening to a different friend’s house.
Up on Sargent Hill, Edith West told me that some of the old timers were irked a little when may basket hanging went right on Sunday evening, like the other nights. And one evening, she said, some of the older boys set out to enjoy some good, clean fun by tying a sheet to a string, tossing it up over the telephone wire so that it would open when the string was pulled. Then they waited. When the evening’s contingent came by, at hanging time, the boys pulled the string, producing a made-to-order ghost, which was funnier to them than to the little kids.
And then, there were the spelling bees. They were much prized in those days when spelling was highly competitive and good spellers came a dime a dozen, they were so plentiful.
Sometimes these were held in school on a Friday afternoon as a reward for good behavior during the week. Captains were chosen or more likely appointed by teacher from the best spellers. The captains chose their “sides”, one by one until all were affiliated. The poor spellers came in on the tail ends as a sort of compassionate afterthought or more likely as unavoidable leftovers. The two-sides lined the sidewalls facing each other.
Teacher gave the words; taken either from the spelling book or from a list she had on hand, zigzagging from one side to the other. Oh, but eyes were bright and concentration a sight to see, as each sounded out silently his or her assigned word! Those who misspelled the word sat down, out of the contest. The last one up was said to have “spelled down” the rest.
Those scholars of sixty years ago have mostly forgotten the details of these matches. Only the excitement and the pleasure of them remains in memory.
Edith Perry, who went to the Tollbridge School, remembers that she once went down on “bologna”. Well, wouldn’t all kids today, even the best spellers, unless they were permitted to spell it “b-a-l-o-n-e-y” − no matter how it was sliced!
Edith West, at one of the Sargent Hill School spelling bees, went down on “Constantinople”. Later she told me someone devised a complicated formula for spelling that stumble-prone word. It went “C-sigh-constan-ti-nople, people, spells Constantinople.”
Once in a while, and this was very choice, the spelling bee was held in the evening. Then the six kerosene lamps along the sidewalls had their rare lighting. These lamps were three to a wall and they gave such light, as you wouldn’t want to try to thread a needle by unless you got pretty close.
Sometimes the scholars, sometimes a mixture of scholars and townspeople of the district were drafter. Townspeople, too, were pretty good speller themselves and weren’t averse to laying themselves open to teachers secret word-list.
Evening programs of any sort at the schoolhouses were much prized. For one thing, the interior looked much different in the mysterious half-light. For another, the seats were pushed back, if they were loose, and the program took place on the teacher’s platform
Edith West remembers one such program at Christmas time when three girls, one dressed in red, another in white, the third in blue, sang “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean.”
Another thrill came with the first “auto” ride!
Alta Valente told me that she had her first ride as a little girl with Fred Perkins, grandfather of Gracia Kittredge. (Gracia married Edward Prescott, brother of Rachel and Jane and lives in Camden.) They lived on High Street then, between Church St. and the old grammar school. Alta said that they didn’t travel more than ten or twelve miles an hour or so she thought. That was a whizzing speed at that time, of course. Horses on the road didn’t travel at a third that speed. You must understand, roads were poor by today’s standards. Anything like today’s speeds, even if automobiles could have approached them, which they couldn’t, would have shaken you apart at the joints. A wagon behind a horse moving at four miles an hour was acceptable to the bottom of your spine. Wagons had leaf springs under the seat and they could take the ruts and jounces as they had always done, slowly up and slowly down.
On that auto ride, Alta remembers, they went to Milo Junction. She was too thrilled to remember many of the details.
She DID remember that they wore “dusters”. In auto or wagon, in those days, passengers wore a duster, a long, lightweight, dust-colored coat. To wear one was a wise precaution against the dust that often lay deep on the roads. That was before surfacing of rural roads had come into practice. Vehicles, any vehicle, kicked up the dust in clouds, even at four miles an hour. It got into your hair, unless you kept your head covered and into your mouth, unless you kept it closed all the time. And unless you rinsed it at the end of a ride, you most likely found yourself chewing grit for an hour or two.
Of an evening at home, especially in winter, a scholar did his or her homework sitting by the kitchen or dining-room table, a kerosene lamp by his elbow and a dish of apples and a paring knife, if he peeled his apples (kids usually didn’t, parents often did), within reach. On the farm there would always be several barrels of apples in the cellar for good “keeping”. Apples lasted all winter in the dark and the cool down there.
Keepers included Tolman Sweet, Stark, Ben Davis and Russet. Other types had to be eaten in early fall, like Red Astrakhan, or Yellow Transparent or Porter, or Duchess; or by early winter like Aneuse, Bellflower, High Top Early Sweet or Sops of Wine.
After homework was finished kids played Flinch, a game with a monstrous deck of cards, or Checkers or Dominoes or Parchesi. Parents sometimes entered into the spirit of it, although for the wife and mother there was always darning stockings or mittens or ironing or knitting more stockings and mittens.
Once in a while, a bag of candy would appear in the home. It was generally spoken of like that: “BAG” of candy, rather than a box of. At the store, the uncovered candy, at least the unsticky kind was displayed in open boxes under the glass counter. You chose the kinds you wanted and the storekeeper picked them up, piece by piece, in his hand and bagged them. You assumed, of course, that his hands were clean; that he hadn’t been handling the cat or blowing his nose in the meantime.
You got, when the storekeeper was so inclined, six cents’ worth for five cents. And five cents would buy what a quarter buys today.
Ira Gould told me that Linnie Dick, who was one of the district schools’ best disciplinarians, used to bring “a bag of candy” sometimes, for the last day of school. It would be hard candy, Ira said, not chocolates. Linnie knew, even in those days, what was bad for the health.
Linnie, Ira said, by the way, was a good teacher.
“We would try to do things we shouldn’t, of course”, he said, “but when we found we couldn’t do them − then we didn’t.”
Earlier in this story I mentioned that boys and girls played ball together, regardless of sex. When there were only a few players and the time was short, they would shout for position-“batter” being first choice, and the first to shout for it got it, although sometimes after a brief argument. The brevity of recess wouldn’t admit of extended controversies. The others trailed after, down to “field”, which was the lowest in the pecking order. From there, the player had to work up to “base”, to pitcher, to catcher, to batter.
It there were enough for two teams, often two acknowledged leaders chose sides. The first tossed the bat to the second, who caught it Then the tosser wound his hand around the bat, touching the hand of the one who caught it. And so up, hand by hand, until the last could get his thumb over the top and three fingers down on the bat before touching the hand of the other. He had first choice.
Teams could be chosen and playing, by that accepted rule, almost before you could count ten. They HAD to be quick if it was recess time. The recess break lasted only fifteen minutes and you had to need to go to the privy pretty badly before you took the recess for that rather than to play ball.
On occasion boys and girls were sufficiently numerous to promote rivalry between the sexes. This was so, during one spell, at the Tollbridge School. Edna Tibbetts (now Edna Hanscom), one of the players, said that the girls took on the boys and generally won. Part of the reason, she acknowledged, could have been Dan Boober, who generally served as umpire.
“Dan”, said Edna, “had more mouth than the rest of us. He liked to play, but he liked better to umpire. He had a lot to say and I think he favored us girls a little. Anyway, we generally won.”
Edna and Hattie Tibbetts with Grace and Maggie Lyford made up the girls team.
Edna’s two brothers, Floyd and Clarence Tibbetts, both of whom died in their twenties, and Forrest Farris and Albert Lyford constituted the boys team.
Grace Lyford, now Grace Shaw, was the star pitcher and batter on the girls team, Edna remembered.
“We played with a regular batstick and a regular ball,” she said.
There were three bases to cover still, although each team had only four members. And the one outfielder had to cover several points of the compass, unassisted. Consequently, if the batter poked a ball to left field when the outfielder happened to be holding the fort at right field, it’s a pretty good guess that a run was as good as across the plate.
And if the batter trickled a little grounder down to third base, he or she, was sure of getting safely to first base − from which he or she, legged it to second and to third, with the first pitch thereafter. However, what was an advantage to one side was an advantage equally to the other side, whichever happened to be at bat. Whoever was detailed to keep the score had to be possessed of an accurate memory and a facility for quick addition, for the score could be massive at times.
The only inequity was Dan Boober as umpire with that little extra warmth in his heart for the girls!
Baseball or spelling bee or a game of flinch − it was all entertainment. And it was so with the annual arrival of the Price-Weber show at Chase’s Hall.
The show always arrived (with all the regularity of the swallow of Capistrano) during mud time. That would be about the end of April or the first part of May, Nora Hamlin told me. Nora was Nora Ramsdell then and lived in the first house on the Ramsdell Road.
“We always came out to the show in a hayrack,” she said, “in order to keep out of the mud.”
Price-Weber was one of the characteristic traveling shows of the day, moving from town to town by horse or horses and carriage − depending on the amount of equipment they carried. Price-Weber offered a varied program including dog acts, a hypnotist, vaudeville and a version of “Uncle tom’s Cabin”, which always had a scene showing Eliza crossing the river from ice cake to ice cake.
The price of admission, several said, was ten cents.
Some traveling shows, it should be added, offered bagged popcorn for a nickel. This was guaranteed in the sales pitch to be without “old maids” − the name given to unpopped kernels. Old maids chewed pretty hard and were quite unpleasant when you set your teeth hard against one unsuspectingly.
Now, all the recollections that appear in this story come from years long past − from 55 to 65 years ago.
For the most part they don’t concern things learned from books, although a few do. Nora Hamlin remembers the first page of the primer she had in her first year at the Stanchfield Ridge School. It read: “I see. I see you. I see.” And Edith White can recall when Luvie Hackett (who later married Joe McKeen and lived in the house next on the village side of the Methodist Church) used to read every noon, a chapter from “The Last of the Mohicans”. Luvie was an excellent reader and the scholars used to beg her to read more. Edith hasn’t read the story since, though, and it has become blurred so that she remembers only that it was “a story about Indians”.
Of Luvie Hackett McKeen, however, we must write more − for she was one of the very strong teachers of that period. Teacher HAD to be strong then, and firm − sometimes downright harsh. If they weren’t, they were better off to leave teaching and do something else for work.
The disciplinary strength of Luvie Hackett, Mrs. Arthur Carey, Sr., remembers clearly. Mrs. Carey came from Kenduskeag, about 1905, and went into the second grade. Her experience with Luvie comes from the year when she was in the 8th grade.
This was a turbulent period, for most of the year. The class was prone to act out, drove two teachers out early and didn’t learn much until along toward the end of the year.
The first teacher, Mrs. Carey said, was “crazy”. Well, crazy − she was odd and didn’t get along well with the class. The second, Mrs. Carey said, “was scared to death of the class.”
Then Elder McClain, Pastor of the Methodist church, came in as an interim teacher, until someone could be found to take charge.
The one they found was Luvie Hackett. And about as soon as she came, the class settled down.
Details of the settling process have become obscured, but one fact Mrs. Carey remembers.
“After she came,” said Mrs. Carey, “you could hear a pin drop in the room.”
Surveying the results of her strong arm, somewhat later, Luvie remarked, perhaps a little grimly, “I was told that this was an unruly school. I wondered what the matter was − teacher or scholars!”
Luvie always planned to take a situation in hand while it was still only a situation.
Edith White remembers the time when Luvie grabbed Bill Owen by the collar so roughly that she broke off a button and sent it zooming against the blackboard. Bill held on to his seat firmly enough so that she couldn’t yank him out of it. He evidently had the feeling, however, that something after the order of a tornado had struck.
“He turned awfully red in the face,” Edith recalls.
When the button struck the blackboard, Luvie felt, no doubt, that she had made her meaning clear.
“She let go then,” Edith said.
Martha Gould, of Charles St., one of the five alive today in Milo who taught in the district schools, told me with a laugh, that she herself was regarded as quite a martinet during her teaching years.
“I met a former scholar, a little while ago,” she said, “Who told me `You were the ugliest teacher I ever had`”.
“I told him, `Well, I’ve changed now”. Martha said.
She added, “I had only to look at scholars to get obedience. If they were inattentive, I would stand still and say ‘I’m waiting’. It always worked.”
“I got that,” she said, “from Dr. William Powers, who was principal of Washington State Normal School, at Machais. He used to say ‘Stop and wait. Don’t do a thing without their attention’.”
Dr. Powers has been buried these many years in the Brownville Cemetery, far corner, on the left.
Sometimes a scholar could exasperate a teacher just because he was he! Take Bud Webster, for instance. Bud was good-natured, very big and probably at the time-deserved punishment − Mrs. Carey didn’t remember what he had done. Miss Soper, the teacher, grabbed him and tried to drag him out of his seat to strap him. Strapping was laborious and ineffective unless it could be applied directly to the bottom. A seated bottom was no kind of bottom at all to work on. And it could be humiliating to a teacher to do half a job when the code called for a good strapping.
So Miss Soper knew it was incumbent on her to yank or drag or somehow huff Bud out of his seat.
Bud was so big, however, that he himself could just squeeze in behind the desk and there was no way to get him out without his cooperation. To be sure, Mrs. Carey recalled, Bud didn’t interpose any resistance. But he did sit there and grin. So the battle ended in a draw with a very angry, frustrated teacher, an unstrapped bottom and a grinning, unresisting, very big and unrepentant scholar.
Miss Soper later married a Charles Ellis − not the one we know on Pleasant St. Her husband lived on Elm St. Bud Webster lived on Curve St., where Mr. and Mrs. Albert Blanchard live today.
On the other hand, speaking of teachers, there was Jennie Cranmore, who afterward became Jennie C. Ladd and lived next house to where the Hatch Auto Body Shop is today.
“She was the best loved teacher we had,” said Edna Hanscom, who was Edna Tibbetts then. “She took care of us like a mother.”
Jennie lived here in the village but during her period of teaching at the Tollbridge School, she boarded with the Fred Grovers. They lived in the house just on the Bangor side of the bridge, left side going toward Bangor. (It seems as if almost everybody lived in that house at one time or another).
This gives an idea of the roads and the nature of transportation in those days. Today one might say to his wife, along about supper time, in late August: “If you’ll put water on to boil, I’ll drive down to Rhoda’s and pick up a dozen ears of corn. I won’t be gone more’n ten minutes.”
Jennie had a daughter, Ruth − a very pretty girl. Ruth later married and moved to Wiscasset and Jennie went with her.
Teachers, as the story noted earlier, didn’t balk at either hard work or primitive working conditions or applying the strap where it would do the most good.
Earlier I noted that Alice Gould, later Alice Chase, drove daily from her home on Main St. to the Lovejoy School, three miles away and arrived there at 7 o’clock. And remember, she was driving a horse. In winter especially, it was necessary to get there early in order to get a fire started, sometimes shovel a path to the road and have the place tidied up, so far as a district schoolhouse could be tidied up, before the scholars arrived.
On occasion, one of the scholars served as janitor of the school. Eddie Mayo remembers that he held that position for a time. His job was to sweep mornings, dust the seats, bring in the wood, get a pail of water and put up the flag. It wasn’t a highly competitive position. Pay was ten cents so that he could often get other scholars to sweep, etc, in exchange for doing it and still keep the ten cents.
Alice stabled her horse at Lovejoy’s, across from Fred Mayo’s, which was pretty close to the schoolhouse. Mrs. Lovejoy was a Manter. The Manters used to live down on Elm St. where the Wibberlys lived of late year and the Ed Daggetts before them. The Manter house was on the same site but burned years ago before the present residence was built.
The Mayo and the Brockway families were especially dear to Alice. She said the Mayos were “awfully nice”, and that Mrs. Brockway used to bring over something hot for her at the school every day. The Brockways were of German descent. The family name was Graustein. Mrs. Brockway’s parents lived next door beyond. Their place, still standing, near the foot of the hill, was referred to as the “German farm”. Mrs. Brockway spoke German fluently.
Alice’s home, on Main St. was between where the Merrill Trust Company Bank and Knapp’s store are now. The terrain there was on an evenly ascending grade then. The residence contained a millinery and women’s wear shop. The stable was back of the house.
One of Eddie Mayo’s recollections had to do with Alice Gould when she was teaching. Eddie said he was standing in the entry, telling a story to the boys. The story called for a bit of profanity and Eddie filled it in where it was supposed to be.
He said that a heavy hand suddenly descended on his shoulder and yanked him into the schoolroom. He remembered being seated with considerable dispatch. The hand was Alice’s.
Quite a number of local woman are still remembered as teachers at the Tollbridge School. There were Nora Downes of Sebec; Blanche Mayo, sister of Iris Mayo Davis; Martha Jones, later Martha Prescott, mother of Rachel and Jane Prescott; Flora Wiley, who later married Ed Wingler; and Alice Wiley, later Mrs. Don Brown. Ivan Brown is their son.
Edith Perry remembers best Helen Wingate, now Helen Livermore. Edith was Edith Kenney then and lived on lower Elm St., in that same house just beyond the bridge that I have mentioned before.
Helen Wingate was Edith’s first teacher. “She was good,” Edith said, “and a good disciplinarian.”
It was in 1913 when Helen taught at the Tollbridge School. Her wage was $7.50 a week. In 1914, she taught at the Sargent Hill School at $8 a week. Out of this wage, she said, she paid her board.
During this period she also worked as bookkeeper evenings and Saturdays at Freese’s Garage. The garage was located in a space, which is today part of the parking lot off Main St.
Helen’s ideal of a good learning environment she expressed as having more than one grade in a room. Strangely I heard this same ideal mentioned recently by a young man of today. The reasoning behind both was the same: the younger would learn by listening to the older ones.
The second principle Helen expressed was effective discipline. The third, a dedicated teacher.
“I ranked my scholars every day,” she told me. “I corrected every paper and marked all errors in it. And I spent many a recess and noon hour teaching some scholar who couldn’t learn easily but wanted to learn to read.”
Her fourth principle was that school officials should stand behind their teachers.
“When I went to teach at the Sargent Hill School, “she said, “Superintendent Adams told me, “You teach that school and I’ll stand behind you!”
“And he did,” she added.
It was years later, in 1943, that Helen Livermore graduated from Husson College. For quite a few years afterward, she operated a grocery store at Derby.
A lot of the recollections of the senior citizens have to do with discipline. Not all, though.
Edna Hanscom told about the first graduation from the eighth grade at the Tollbridge School. Elizabeth Rowe, George Rowe’s sister was teacher there then. Elizabeth later married Dr. Humphreys.
They decorated the platform for the ceremony, Edna said. They made a little stage and Elizabeth brought carpeting to cover it. They had the parents in for the afternoon ceremony. The graduates were Clarence and Floyd Tibbetts, Forrest Farris and Albert Lyford.
Elizabeth brought a melodeon down. That was a small organ, a portable one about the size of a TV cabinet. Four of the girls, Margaret and Grace Lyford and Hattie and Edna Tibbetts sang two songs. What they were Edna has forgotten.
Some of the school experiences were quite thrilling, indeed. At the grammar school, around 1910 or 1911, they used to march in and out of the building, morning, recess and noon, to the rat-a-tat-tat of a drum, Mrs. Arthur Carey, Sr. remembers. The whole school, scholars in all the rooms marched in and out.
Drummers were Arthur Carey and Virgil Blood. Virgil Blood lived on a farm where the Dillon House is now. If you want to know what the farm looked like, you can see it on one of the Historical Society’s 1896 maps. The buildings show up quite clearly on the map.
Some of the instructions, too, Mrs. Carey said, were thrilling to remember. There were lessons every week in drawing, painting and music. Art work consisted on pencil drawings and work in watercolors. Elsie Merrill who later married Mr. Lewis, head of Lewis Industries in Brownville was the art teacher then.
There were weekly elocutions too, in the seventh grade. And there were lessons in physiology that were fun. In one of the lessons, she remembers, they traced a droop of blood through the veins to the heart.
Why don’t they have things like that now? She wondered.