In the decade from 1910 to 1920, the diet, especially in the rural districts, was different from that of today. It was probably a great deal more nourishing, for it hadn’t been modernized to the coke-hamburger-chips syndrome. The S.A.D. balanced, hot noon meal, I am aware, has countered, to some extent, the ravages of this present-day juvenile quickie. The coke-hamburger partisans, it is equally certain, have a government-in-exile, determined to fight, to the last dental cavity, for malnutrition.
Yes, in the decade of 1910-1920, things were quite different.
At that time, vegetables weren’t yet hustled from the field to the freezing plant. There WAS no freezing plant. And there was no home freezer. Electricity was still young enough as a household Brownie to merit an occasional word of appreciation. Nor had refrigerated cars begun to bring from Florida the four-seasons shipments of things green, succulent, and tropical. Oranges, lemons, and bananas, to be sure, were regularly available. Most, however, of the fresh, summer crops from the South, in winter, were still a few years in the future.
Farms pretty generally had on hand their barrel of flour, hundred-pound bag of sugar, cask of molasses, barrel of vinegar, barrel of salt pork killed, with a dreadful squeal, just before Christmas; and several barrels of apples.
The vinegar was generally started in the fall by means of an owned, or borrowed, cider press. Vinegar, pork and apples kept in the cellar. The cellar floor was generally uncemented, pleasantly cool, and acceptably humid. There was no furnace in it. Wood stoves in kitchen and dining-room kept the house reasonably warm. The molasses cask was quite heavy and was often kept in the shed. A hand-operated pump wound out the molasses. In winter, it flowed with sore reluctance, giving rise to the expression: “Slower than cold molasses.”
Into bins in the cellar, also, went the fall harvest of vegetables – potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, and cabbages. Winter squashes, too, went down there to avoid freezing. Pumpkins, after Hallowe’en had taken its toll, could be stewed up for Thanksgiving lies. Pumpkin didn’t come then in cans, as it does now.
Berries were processed, in jars, and put down cellar, in a cupboard. Sometimes fall apples were made into applesauce and treated like berries. At other times, the early apples were peeled, the quarters skewered, and strung, to dry, in long lines over the kitchen stove, for later reconstituting, and use in lies.
There were few fruits besides apples. Some cultivated cherry trees grew; a few year trees; and a very few plum trees.
Cucumbers largely went into crocks, either salted down or in vinegar. The slow-aged vinegar of that day was a sure keeper for pickles, sealed or unsealed. The salted-down cucumbers had to be soaked for twenty-four hours in fresh water, to get the salt out of them, before they were used in winter. After that, it was advisable to soak them for a time in vinegar, to make them palatable
Butter, when it was most plentiful and least valuable, was “laid down” – that is, jut into crocks, the layers surrounded by salt. And eggs, in the spring season, when they were plentiful, were “jut down” in “water glass”, a solution widely used for that purpose, in crocks.
Hens hadn’t yet learned to lay the year around. So if the head of the family wanted to snatch a couple off the roost and decapitate them for Sunday dinner, he didn’t have to debate with himself as to whether he was getting layers or non-layers. It depended mainly on the season. In March, April, or May, one had to think twice about it. At that season, cleaning a hen would most likely bring to light an egg with a hard shell, and just behind it on the assembly line, an egg with a soft shell, ready for hardening And behind them, all sorts of nondescript sizes, far too small to merit a respectable rooster’s interest in perpetuating his name.
Nor did one just go to the market and find poultry all out up, covered with stretchy plastic, and attractively displayed in the cooler. There WASN’T any stretchy plastic. And there weren’t any coolers – not like the ones nicely filled, lighted, and beckoning, in the supermarket today. There would be chickens hanging up by the legs, the attached heads telling one: “See, no guillotine!” There would be fowls, too, hanging up the same way. They might be roosters, or they might be hens. If they were hens, and the season was spring, you knew that when they were cleaned, there would be one hard-shelled egg, and behind it on the assembly line, a soft-shelled egg.
Oh, yes, people ate well, very well, indeed. They just didn’t have the all-season variety offered now. Farms had their own beef, pork, and veal. Vegetables, home-grown and stored, were plentiful. And for dessert, gingerbread, apple pies in plenty, homemade doughnuts and, depending on the family taste, frosted layer cakes occasionally.
Baked beans and homemade steamed brownbread appeared regularly Saturday for the evening meal. On the farm, too, they went quite a bit for meat and fish hash, and pork scraps – similar to bacon, but not cured. And pork fat on potatoes wasn’t bad at all, even though butter was plentiful and not too expensive.
About all the farmer bought for food was flour, sugar, molasses and, of course, condiments and flavorings.
Yeast bread instead of biscuits was beginning to come into general use by 1910. “Raise broad” it was called in its earliest stage.
Ira Gould and Edna Hanscom both remembered when Mrs. Rachel Jones, on Riverside St., was the recognized source of potato yeast.
“On Friday.” said Mrs. Hanscom, “everybody used to come to Mrs. Jones’ house to buy two cups of potato yeast for the Saturday baking.”
Each of the nine district schools had its own lore; its own list of family names that persisted year after year; its own way of using its time for learning and for recreation; its own fund of youthful experiences. The memorabilia of some of these schools, alas, have faded with time into oblivion; some of the others this story has captured for the future.
One feature was common to all district schools in the old days: all of them opened with a Bible reading by the teacher, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Another characteristic that was common to all schools of one room: recitations and study hall went on together in that confined space throughout the school day.
How could kids study with the noise of recitations going on all the time within twenty feet of them at the farthest? Well, if that is puzzling, how can kids study today when they DO study with the hi-fi on full blast?
Mrs. Agnes Sawyer (Agnes Day, when she was teaching at the Stanchfield Ridge School in 1910) told me how she met the problem.
“I had written work for the grades not reciting.” She said. “It might be a poem to learn, or spelling words to study, but the recitations didn’t seem to bother them anyway.”
“With all the grades in the one room, recitations had to be much shorter then today.
How much shorter?
“Well, there couldn’t be more than ten minutes, for the most part to any one class,” said Mrs. Sawyer.
“Was there time for each scholar to take part in reading?”
“Every scholar,” she answered, “read every day.”
“And what about cheating?”
“There always has bee and always will be cheating,” said Mrs. Sawyer, “but there was little cheating in my classes.”
How did she cope with it?
“I always talked about cheating before the whole class.”
“And one more thing about those scholars in the district school,” she added, “they could read; they could spell and they could write!”
Roy Monroe, who was a high school teacher in the 1930’s and later, corroborated this statement.
“Some of the best students I had came out of the district schools,” he said.
To recall details of the routine in each of the nine district schools we should have to go back 60, 70 or in the case of the Murray District School, 80 years and that would put more pressure on memory than it could stand, even if we could find scholars from that far back still living in Milo.
The Murray District community, on the back Brownville Road, was once quite populous and the experiences there were no doubt as exciting and memorable as in any of the other schools. In the time intervening since 1895, however, the community that was has died.
And so it is with the Hobbstown District. The Hobbstown Road, leaving the Brownville Road not far from the foot of Swett Hill, on the Milo side, once ran through to Sebec. There is no usable road there now nor is there any Hobbstown community. The Hobbstown community, in the old days, ran perpendicular to the so-called Hobbstown Road along the ridge. The section can still be reached by trucks out of Brownville. There are no longer any houses there. A few old cellars are visible with trees growing out of them; an elm tree stands here and there; and a few lilac bushed still flower along in late May or early June. And a visitor may stiffen suddenly as an old gravestone comes into view. That is all though − no community and only a trace of the old road through it.
This is true, to a degree, also, of the old Holbrook District. There is still a road and there is still a small community along the Billington and the River Roads. But the Holbrook School! There are few in Milo who even remembers that there WAS a Holbrook School at the corner of the Billington and the River Roads. It closed around 1906 and all that is remembered of it is that George Ricker, Kate Mitchell and the Collins family attended school there. My wife’s mother, Carrie Livermore, later Mrs. E.M. Hamlin, once taught in that school.
We left too long ungarnered the rich, collective grains of past years! Human interest falters in memory after the passage of a single generation. After two generations (approximately 60 years), the details of life that was linger only in a few vivid memories. And after that there will be names in the town records − nothing more.
In six of the old district schools more or less of the heritage of the past lingers on in the memory of senior citizens. These are the Drake, Tollbridge, Lovejoy, Sargent Hill, Stanchfield Ridge and the Village (District 5) Schools.
The Drake School
The Drake School at the corner of the Brownville and the Hobbstown Road was named after Stanley Drake, Sr. who lived on Swett Hill below where Paul West lives now. Drake’s son, Stanley, Jr., had a large family. He moved away from Milo to the northern part of the state.
There is one extant roster of scholars in the Drake School dating from around 1910. It included the Bergman brothers (first names not remembered); Arthur, Harry, Warren and Frederick Carey; Lyndon, Jeanette and Hazel McGuire; Edna and Myra Tibbetts; Daisy, Lawrence, Grace, Betty, Nattie and Ernest Buswell.
The McGuires then lived where Paul West lives now, farthest house up on Swett Hill, right side going toward Brownville. It was called McGuire Hill in those years. The family of Edna and Myra Tibbetts had just moved up from the Lyford Road (the big farmhouse on the right, shortly after the turn into the Lyford Road), to the house now owned by Kermit Hatt on the Brownville Road. Several of the Careys still live on the Brownville road.
One of the scholars in the Drake School, along at that period, was William Boyce, father of Philip Nathan Boyce, whose radio name is Curly O’Brien. Curly’s grandfather, Alec Boyce, drove a team, for years, for the American Thread Company. The family moved from Milo to Brewer nearly forty years ago. Curly’s mother, Madeline is dead. His father is still living in Holden. A brother of Curly’s, Bobby, lives in Bucksport.
Among the teachers at the Drake School were Annie M. Snow, Myrtle Paddock, Eva Clark, aunt of Judge F. Davis Clark; Martha Jones, later Mrs. Martha Prescott; and Nellie Livermore, later Mrs. J. Chester Hamlin, mother of Mrs. Nellie McLaughlin and grandmother of Mrs. Gayle Shirley, who is librarian at the Penquis Valley High School.
Almost nothing of the flavor of school life at Drake lingers in the memory of those still living.
Clothing and Weather
And now we must leave temporarily the recollections of school experiences, in order to consider another aspect of life that was both relevant to the story, and different from today – clothing.
In the days before thermostats kept heat constant in home and classroom; when the giant snowplow of today wasn’t even dreamed of; when winter winds howled, and winter snows drifted, even as today; and when scholars, as Edith White told me, “Got to school the best way they could” – clothing, in the country place, had to accommodate itself to lack (thermostats and snowplows); non-cooperation (weather); and necessity (getting to school). For those reasons, district scholars had to forego some of the niceties of today’s apparel and wear what enabled time to core with the problems of the times in which they lived.
Underclothes, as an example in winter, were thick; knitted wool stockings, black or white, were heavy, and knee-length, for both boys and girls. A thick, ark petticoat under the dress, provided additional warmth for girls, whose underclothes might not be so thick as those of boys. (In summer, the petticoat was thin, most likely white). Partly, it took the place of the present-day slip. petticoats were waist length.
Boys’ pants and girls’ dresses were both short, rants reaching the knees and ballooning there. It would be late in the teens or early in the twenties before boys would wear long punts, like men.
In summer, so far as they could have their own way, both boys and girls, in the grades, went barefoot.
For dresses, girls often wore pinafores to school – loose wrappers they were, and over them, sometimes aprons, tying at the waist, or tyers, which tied both around the neck and at the waist.
On the head, boys wore mostly caps, although once in a while, a soft hat made its appearance. Luthan Crosby recalls one such hat the 7th grade boys. Lott Harmon wore it. The reason Luthan remembers this is that Lott was holding the hat in his hand as the 7th grade marched out of the building, one noon. It happened, just at that moment, that a pigeon flew over and, probably without malice, made Lott’s hat a target!
In the photograph of an unidentified district schoolhouse, in 1910, made of teacher and scholars in front of the building, there is also one hat among the boys’ headgear. This photograph is in the possession of the Historical Society.
Clothes, in those district schooldays, Bertha Howland remembers , DID feel heavy in winter. But then, she said, the protection was necessary in the cold. Everyone walked to school and on a cold winter day the temperature could be biting. For extra warmth, boys wore a sort of mackinaw, and girls a sort of heavy, coarse-knit coat.
There would be wading through the snow, Bertha said, and for that the gaiters came in handy. Gaiters were of grey, or black cloth, quite heavy, and warm. They went around the legs, below the knees. They had elastics on the bottom, which went outside of, and down under, the shoes, and they buttoned at the sides, all the way up and down.
At first, when the gaiters were new and stiff, the wearer had to use a button hook to sort of roll the button through the eye. As soon as the gaiters softened with use, one could button them with the fingers.
From Maple St. out to Park St., on a schoolday morning, after a winter storm, as kids waded the length of the street.. the purpose of the gaiters became apparent From Park St. on. most likely, the big, wooden roller would have pressed the snow down. This massive machine rolled on an axle. A pair of heavy horses, driven by Clint Daggett, who lived on Pleasant St. on the left, just on the brow of the hill, pulled the roller. On occasion, according to Chellis Mitchell, John Dean, who lived on Billington road, had his yoke of oxen ahead of the horses, in difficult going. And there were times, Chellis remembered, when as many as three teams of horses pulled the roller. At such times, half a dozen men would be standing on the roller platform to give added weight, if the depth of snow were really a problem.
The purpose of the roller was not to throw the snow aside, as the snowplows do today, but rather to firm it down, and so obviate the wading which would otherwise he necessary.
The American Thread Company owned another sort of machine for coping with snow on the roads. A “snow spade” some called it. Drawn by a lair of horses, it had two cutters that sheared through the snow, and wings which Ticked it up and threw it aside. It wasn’t used a great deal on town roads. Its main purpose was to clear two tracks, 12 or 15 inches wide, for winter traffic.
The primitive, and original, arrangement for coping with a snowy road was a two-horse sled with a long stick running crossways under the front runners. This, like the roller, firmed down the snow to a certain extent. The
process was called “breaking” roads. Will Bishop, who lived on the back Brownville road, is best remembered as a road breaker for scholars east of Pleasant River.
Will was by no means the only one to do this. In the town records for one year around 1915, no fewer than forty-three persons collected small amounts from the town for “breaking roads” at one time or another through the winter.
On very stormy days, parents who had a horse and sleigh (one seat), or a lung (two seats), were apt to hitch up and take their children, and others along the road, to school. Edith White recalls that her father, Albert Brown, who operated the Chairback Sporting Camps in summer, used to do that. He picked up scholars all the way from their home, on Park St., to the Primary school.
Anyone who was old enough to go to high school walked!
In those old days, there were no low shoes. Boys, in winter, were apt to wear lumberman’s rubbers, with two or three thicknesses of stockings underneath.
The schoolhouse itself, on a winter day, was apt to be cold.
“We sometimes wore our jacket or sweater all day in the schoolhouse,” Ira Gould told me.
Winter headgear, in those olden days, included “stocking legs”, long knit, rollable hats, mostly for boys. Girls were apt to wear knitted hoods, or, sometimes, tamoshanters, a flat hat with a pompom on top.
Girls braided their hair; sometimes tied it with a ribbon, sometimes rolled it on top of the head, and secured it with hairpins. Make-up was pretty nearly entirely missing in those days of the district school.
The above descriptions refer to the grade children generally, in the district schools. There were exceptions. With some parents, the determination to dress their children in fashion was as strong then as now. And, of course, when children reached high school ig– clothing, too, changed.
Bertha Howland still remembers a very exact detail of clothing she admired a great deal when she got into high school. It was a navy blue dress, worn by Helen Johnson, who taught in the high school in 1921 and for a year or two afterward. The dress had wide, dark panels, elaborately embroidered, Bertha recalls.
“When she (Helen) walked,” Bertha said, “the panels trailed back of her. And I used to watch because I admired them so much. I used to embroider a lot, so it was of great interest to me.”
In the period around 1920, the camisole, a shorter version of the slip, was worn by women.
I remember a story about the camisole that I heard Mrs. Carl Feakes tell, in 1921, when I taught a year at the high school and boarded with the Peakes family. They lived in the house, right beside the tennis courts of today, on Elm St.
Mrs. Peakes’ story was about a man who said he couldn’t distinguish between the meaning of “camisole” and “casserole.”
The answer, Mrs. Peakes said, was “Is your chicken alive or dead?”
And now, let’s take up the memorabilia in the last five district schools: Lovejoy, Sargent Hill, Tollbridge, Stanchfield Ridge, and village.
The Lovejoy School
The Lovejoy or Goodrich School on the Medford Road was one of the later ones to close. It ceased to operate in 1920 according to the town records. And quite a number of its scholars of sixty years ago are still around.
No official roster of scholars in any one particular year is still extant. Eddie Mayo, one of the scholars of that period gave me a pretty comprehensive list of those who attended school there. It is by no means complete, however, and it covers a number of years.
Eddie’s list included the following: Dewey, Frank, Allen and Marion Call, who lived on top of the hill a mile or so beyond the schoolhouse; Charles, Howard, Oscar, Bernice and Hazel Mayo, children of Oscar and May Mayo. Oscar, Sr. was shot and killed at age 31.
Next were Perley and Dewey Hughes; Fred, Eddie, Florence, Annie, Gertrude, Elizabeth, Iris and Madeline Mayo, children of Fred and Emma Mayo. They lived in a big farmhouse across the road from, and on the village side of the schoolhouse. The house burned somewhere around 1940. A smaller house stands today on the same site.
There were Barbara, Omar, Lewis, Lester, Hildegard and Eva Brockway, children of Elmer and Ottolie Brockway, mentioned before; Ellen, Ena, Anna and Olive Fowler, children of Harry and Alfretta Fowler, who lived in the first house on the Medford side of the Lakeview Road; Everett Clement, who lived with his parents on the Vernie Mayo Road.
Maurice and Albert Mayo, children of Frank and Mary Mayo, who lived on top of the hill beyond the schoolhouse; Roma and Irma Russell, who lived near the Call Family, on top of the hill; Lyndon, Hazel and Jeanette McGuire (their father was John McGuire). They lived where Frank Stanchfield lives today. A sister of the McGuire children, Lucia, married Howard Artus, who long operated a grocery store where the Dexter Shoe Outlet is today − most of it the same building.
Then there were John Weymouth, son of Clif Weymouth, who lived across from where Frank Stanchfield lives; George and Violet Mayo, children of Vernie and Mary Mayo; and Hattie Fitz, whose father later operated the Medford Ferry. Hattie later married Aubrey Strout. They live today a few houses beyond Sargent Hill, going toward Dover, on the right.
One of the tenderest stories of the Lovejoy School, around 1910, concerns Alice Gould, the teacher and Anna Fowler.
A little girl of four, Anna wanted very much to go to school. Alice knew about it and although there was a good scholar load to teach at the school, Alice prevailed on Alfretty, Anna’s mother, to let Anna go to school. So she did.
Anna was too young to do school work, but she had pencil and paper to draw pictures and learn to form letters. And afternoons, at nap time, Alice made up a little bed for her on the floor and Anna slept through the afternoon class, dreaming peacefully, no doubt, of the time a few years later when she would be in a class with other scholars of her age.
Both Alice and Anna told me about this incident and neither objected to its appearance in this story.
About the time that preceding paragraph was first written, Alice chase died, after a long semi-invalidism. May she rest in peace. Alice had suffered heartaches as few have suffered. She was married many years ago to George Rowe. They had two children, George, Jr. and Elizabeth. George, Jr. died while in the grades. His father died a few years afterward. Elizabeth married and lived in Houlton. She, too died early in her married life leaving her husband and one daughter, Alice’s only living descendant. Years later Alice married Ernest Chase. Ernest suffered a stroke several years ago and has been in a nursing home ever since.
Well, life must go on. We cannot linger with tragedy no matter how hard it may strike us. So let’s be gay again and look at a bit of braggadocio that Eddie Mayo remembers.
This was the time Maurice and Albert Mayo brought a jug of cider to school intended to make men of them. The cider was newly pressed but the boys preferred to think of it as very old − perhaps drawn from a cask aboard a pirate ship.
At any rate, they hid the jug across the road from the schoolhouse and ever now and then for the rest of the day they stole furtively across the road for a drag of the pirate brew, staggering back to the schoolhouse thereafter, wiping their mouth on their sleeve and reflecting with villainous laughter on the victims who had walked the plank at their evil prodding!
Fortunately for them the teacher didn’t perceive their wooden-legged hobblings forth nor their black bearded returns to the schoolhouse, else she might have strapped sobriety back into their wobbly legs and asked questions in the smarting afterward!
Teachers mentioned in the town records for the Lovejoy School during the 1910-1920 period included, besides Alice Gould, Jessie Sturtevant, Maude Shores, Marie Cobb, Ethel M. Lloyd, A.R. C. Cole, Bertha Whittemore, Annie Young, W.E. Heberd and Vesta Dean.
Earlier I mentioned that Eddie Mayo served as janitor of the Lovejoy School at ten cents a day. This could be, Eddie reflected sagely, an irksome or a rewarding contract, depending on the teacher. Some of them (presumably Alice Gould was one), demanded a well-swept floor and well dusted desks. Once in a while, a teacher wasn’t so particular. The district school was a discouraging place to keep tidy. It didn’t offer much to look at, even when it was neat and clean. Eddie quickly discovered by a trial balloon of neglect, when he had a permissive teacher to please. Once, he recalled, he didn’t sweep for the entire term and got away with it!
Eddie has ever had a fertile imagination, a keen sense of humor and a quiet way with the practical joke that might have endeared him to a pirate, in the pirate’s kindlier moments.
Consider, for instance, when he spotted his brother Fred’s mittens on the floor by the stove on a cold winter morning, left there to dry and take up a bit of warmth for the noon walk home for dinner.
Fred was as studious and conscientious. Eddie said, as he himself was devilish. So when Eddie, whose job it was to keep the wood box filled as part of his contract, went out for wood, how could Fred know that Eddie’s crafty eye had fallen for an instant on his mittens? But it had. And when Eddie returned with the wood he also brought in some dog leavings he had picked up outside, which had no more place inside a schoolhouse than Mary’s little lamb had.
First, Eddie put the wood noisily into the box. That got the school’s attention. Then, when he was sure Fred and the teacher were otherwise occupied, he held up Fred’s mitten for his schoolmates to see and deposited inside what the dog had left.
Eddie got chased all the way home from school by his brother that noon. He still felt that it was worth what he got. What he got, he didn’t say.
Sargent Hill School
In the Sargent Hill School a number of personalities pop up in retrospect. And here, for the first time, we learn the exact district boundaries within which a district school called its scholars.
The Sargent Hill District included the Dover Road to and including the well-populated Turner Howe Road; the Billington Road (after the Holbrook School closed, around 1906); Sargent Hill; the Mooers Road and the Carver Road (which we today call the D’Este Road).
Few residents today recognize the location of the Turner Howe Road, although that is still its official name. It turns off the Dover Road, to the right, going down the hill past the Devil’s Snowshoe Tracks. Mrs. Clyde Hughes lives at the corner of the Dover and the Turner Howe Roads.
Turner Howe, for whom the road was named, married Fannie Hall Strout (her second marriage). Lorin Howe was their son. Lorin married Marjorie Mills, daughter of Alonzo and Sarah Mills. Marjorie still lives on Clinton St., where her parents lived.
In the period around 1910, the families on the Turner Howe Road included those of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Perkins (you remember their daughter Belle, the artist, in the former story); Mr. and Mrs. George Angove, Hughie O’Neil, Mr. and Mrs. Silas Ricker, and Mr. and Mrs. Leon Mitchell. These families accounted for twenty-two scholars. Of these Howard and Sadie Perkins had fourteen: Floyd, Belle, Miles, Lloyd, Bertha, Grace, Ralph, Josephine, Eugene, John, Vesta, Zana, Ester and Carl. Sadie Perkins was Sadie Wyman before her marriage − related to the President of the Central Maine Power Company.
Of the other families on that road, the Turner Howes had one, Lorin; George and Littie Angove had two − Clyde and Harold; Silas and Susie Ricker had three − Silas, Jr., Violet and Inez; Leon and Kate Mitchell had two − Lona and Fay.
Violet Ricker married Maurice Richardson, an employee of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad. They continue to live near the corner of the Turner Howe Road. Maurice has a large, large collection of bells of various sorts.
Hughie O’Neil, the only bachelor on the Turner Howe Road, lived with his mother. Hughie had one idiosyncrasy, which was duly recorded in the memory of his contemporaries: he was averse to dotting his “I’s”, and crossing his “t’s”. He had worked for some years in an office in Massachusetts. He saved his employers a lot of ink, he avowed, by doing this half job on the “i’s”and “t’s”.
There is still extant, in the possession of Edith West, a 1914-1915 school folder listing the scholars of that year. They included Clyde Angove, Edith, George, James and Perley Buzzell; Doris Cook, Lorin Howe, Gerald Kinney, Catherine Lord, Donald London, Donald, Dorothy, Gladys, Glenn, Lurlene and Selden Mooers; Belle, Bertha, Grace, Lloyd and Miles Perkins; Bernice Thomas, Elton Thompson, Freeman, Richard, Robert and Stanley White.
Freeman White was Al White’s son and lived on the Carver Road. Richard, Robert and Stanley White lived on Sargent Hill. Their parents were Richard and Annie White. Annie was a sister of Elmer Jenkins, who lived on Albert St. Elmer’s wife was Sue Perrigo of a musical and theatrical family. We knew Elmer as an eccentric but quite talented painter-carpenter-mason. He worked at whatever hours suited him, often from 10 p.m. to dawn. One of his monuments is the stone wall at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. Another is the building between that corner and the bridge, which houses Jimmy Ladd’s insurance business. Elmer remodeled and rebuilt this building from a ruin to a really presentable edifice.
At the time the 1914-1915 folder was issued, Helen M. Wingate (now Helen Livermore) was the teacher. W.S. Adams was Superintendent of Schools.
Among other scholars there in the same period were Alan, Ida, Marion and Geraldine Heath, who lived on Sargent Hill. Another brother, Lee, was a policeman in Dover-Foxcroft. Their father was Herman Heath.
Still another was Henry Crabtree, who lived with his uncle and aunt, William and Sadie Thomas, who lived across from the reservoir, where Claude and Dorothy Trask live today.
Teachers, at one time or another, included Maribel Levensalor, Mary Johnson, Clarice Piper, Gladys Gordon, June Gray, Helen Wingate, Effie L. Ward and Delia Carver, the last teacher before the Sargent Hill School closed permanently, and Lydia Rhoda, who died in March of this year of 1977, after a long illness in a nursing home.
When Lydia taught at the Sargent Hill School, her brother Fred operated the dairy farm at the lower end of the Billington Road, across the road from the old Holbrook School. The Rhodas (Lydia never married) moved later to the house on the Bangor side of the Elm St. Bridge, where so many others lived at one time or another. The Rhodas were of German ancestry. Lydia still remembered and spoke some German in 1975, when she was boarding at Toy Sturtevant’s on the Hovey Road.
Two of the personages of the period this story is about were Will and Delia Carver. I just mentioned Delia as the last teacher at the school. Will was a farmer and an amateur veterinarian, called at any and all hours by farmers with a problem − calls to which he willingly responded. Will was also the first to transport scholars from the Sargent Hill district to the village, after consolidation was effected.
The Carvers had no children of their own but “they were very big hearted”, according to Edith West and they took in no fewer than four children and raised them as their own. They lived on a road, no longer used and now grown up to bushes, which took off in a northerly direction from the flat on the Carver Road.
Quite a bit of the information on the Sargent Hill School came from Edith West. It was a good school, much revered in memory.
“We accepted and respected our elders,” Edith said. “We never called them by their first name; never sassed them. Oh, if we could get away with something, we did. We whispered; we chewed gum. But we didn’t question that the learning we didn’t want was good for us. We wouldn’t have questioned the statement: “You’ll be glad later that you were made to study!” We respected the property, though. There was never any vandalism there − no destruction for destruction’s sake.”
There was, of course, some cheating. One of the scholars wrote out his spelling words, lifted out the inkwell (you remember − in the top of the desk farthest from the scholar), and put the illicit list down under it. Of course, when spelling at the desk, spelling books (spellers, they were called) had to be closed. It was a gosh-awful job, retrieving the words from under the inkwell, but he went about it until he was caught. The reward for his wrongdoing Edith didn’t remember.
School experiences at the Tollbridge School have appeared largely in the preceding pages.
The Tollbridge Schoolhouse was known as “The Little Red Schoolhouse.” Little, it was. The town records mention more than once its small size. It housed, nevertheless, sometimes a student body quite numerous.
When this school was operating the covered bridge across the Piscataquis River still stood. The tolls had been taken off many, many years before, but this was the covered bridge that had been build about 1845. The present bridge replaced it around 1925.
Two rosters of scholars show the scholars of different years. One, in the possession of Helen (Wingate) Livermore, gives the list in 1914. It included Arthur Hughes (later drowned); John, Leo and Angie Row; Orrin and Margaret Lyford; Ola, Geraldine and Hester Stone; Linscott, Pauline and Eva Morrison. The Morrisons lived at the Cookson place (which the present road past the Diamond Chiip Mill has left on a side road in recent years).
Another forgotten roster included Grace, Roland, Margaret, Percy, Perley, Albert and Sadie Lyford; Floyd, Clarence and Edna Tibbetts; Dan, Wilbur and Katie Boober.
Other scholars of that period included Earl Rhoda, Bernice Hughes and Arthur Heal. The last two, Edith Perry remembers as classmates of hers. Bernice Huges Thayer now lives in Hamilton, Mass. Arthur Heal lived with his parents in what is now the fork between the old and the new roads to LaGrange.
The land on which the Little Red Schoolhouse stood was given by Frank Tibbetts, Edna’s father, who then owned much of the land around the corner of the Lyford Road.
Among the teachers at the Tollbridge School besides Helen Wingate were Nora Downes of Sebec; Blanche Mayo, Dorice Clark, Martha Pooler, Helen S. Page, Romie L. Lee, Merrill Carter, Ethel Morgan and Cora Mayo, daughter of Isaiah Mayo.
One of the principle items of pride in the old district schools was apt to be the unabridged dictionary, generally kept lying open on a stand. The dictionary at the Tollbridge School came as a result of a box social gotten up by Helen Wingate when she was a teacher there.
Like all the district schools the Tollbridge was heated by the one stove. Around the stove, Edna Hanscom remembers, was a bench on which the scholars left their dinner pail in the winter. If left in the entry, it was apt to freeze.
For a few years John Rowe was janitor at the school. Janitorial duties were about the same in all schools: build the fire, keep the wood box filled, see that the water pail was filled daily; sweep the floor and maybe dust the desks. John doesn’t remember that he got paid for this duty. The Rowes lived on the Lyford Road across from where Elma and Madeline Johnson live today.
John told me several experiences at the Tollbridge School illustrative of the boyhood mind and the facilities it had for getting into trouble in those days at the Tollbridge School:
Boys, he said, always carried a pocketful of matches then, in anticipation of the possibility of lighting a fire somewhere or of finding something that could be experimented on as a material for smoking. Boys didn’t have access to cigarettes then nor parental consent to indulge in smoking. Nevertheless they DID carry matches − lots of them.
One day, John said, he slipped in his seat and the friction of it started the matches lighting in his pocket. His pants, fortunately, were thick and the heat brought his hand immediately to the area in an effort to smother the flame. It succeeded but not until the teacher, Dorice Clark, had gotten him into the shed for security. The smell of the burning matches was strong. John kept his hand tightly on his pocket to smother the flame and Dorice watched him from the open door to make sure “I didn’t burn up,” was the way John put it.
On another day the matches had a more serious effect. The shavings in the school’s pencil sharpener, mostly the shaved wood of the brown, penny pencils, offered the possibility of a good smoke, John thought. He carried pieces of newspaper for wrapping purposes for the same reason as boys carried matches − to be prepared.
So when the opportunity presented itself he poured out the contents of the pencil sharpener and rolled two makeshift cigarettes in the newspaper coverings. Then, after school he went down to the brook that had brought him woe in school because of his love of fishing. Sitting on a rock by the brook he lighted the first “cigarette” and smoked it. His idea was to smoke both of them. But the poison of the pencil shavings proved to be immediately toxic.
“It made me a little crazy,” John noted. “The shavings must have contained lead or oil − something, anyway, that was poisonous.”
John doused his head in the brook, finally took off some of his clothes and ran all the way home
Thereafter the contents of the pencil sharpener went into the stove, while John was janitor!
The other adventure in which he was involved had to do with the fish hooks he always carried in his cap − against the unpredictable call of the brook.
Scuffling with Orrin Lyford at the schoolhouse loosened one of the fish hooks which became lodged in Orrin’s cheek. It went through the cheek wall and the barb made it impossible to withdraw. So the teacher, Dorice Clark, hustled him home. Orrin lived on the Lyford Road. Phones were available by that date, so a call went in for Dr. Crosby. Telephones but not cars were in fairly general use.
Dr. Crosby, however, generally kept a horse harnessed to be prepared for a quick start in emergencies. There had to be, neverless, a considerable time lapse between the time the hook became lodged and Dr. Crosby’s arrival. With his pliers, Dr. Crosby cut off the hook at the barb and simply pulled the shaft back through. Nothing to it, when one knows how!
Stanchfield Ridge School
It is the Stanchfield Ridge School that gives us the most complete details for a “before and after” contrast. This school closed either in 1920 or 1921 after a long-populous district had drastically shriveled in numbers.
In the first pages of this supplementary account of the old district schools, the Schoolhouse Road, with its contingent of twenty scholars came in for consideration.
Three other roads in District 4 − the back Brownville Road, the Ramsdell Road and the Ridge road − added their scholars to swell the school population in this 1910-1922 period before the district schools ceased to operate.
The back Brownville road had been lessening for years in scholar production. The community had been gradually dying for twenty years or more. In the period this story deals with, only five scholars from the back Brownville road went to the Stanchfield ridge School. Mr. and Mrs. Harry Chase sent two − John Chase and Murray Haines. Murray was Mrs. Chase’s son by an earlier marriage. Abner and Sarah Allen had three childred − May, Edna and Maurice. Both these families lived not far from where the Ryder Road took its beginning from the back Brownville Road.
In the olden days, before the time of this story, the Ramsdell Road, theoretically ran through the Ridge Road from the Lakeview Road to the back, back Brownville road. I say theoretically for while the town had approved a road through, only an Indian’s eye could have detected the opening the town had blessed through the virgin growth beyond the Hurd farm.
There were seven farms on the Ramsdell Road at one time. Beginning at the Lakeview Road, they were: the Ramsdell farm, Phinney farm and the Smith farm; (the four corners next); then the Cilly farm, Hurd farm, Orrin Stanchfield farm and lastly the Austin Gould farm.
Austin Gould was a bachelor. He was Ira Gould’s uncle. His farm was on the Brownville side of the line. The Stanchfield farm was on the Milo side of the line but it, like the Gould farm, had access only to the back, back Brownville Road.
Orrin and Rose Stanchfield had four children − Beulah, Hattie, Daisy and Otis. Situated as they were, they had to send their children to the Brownville district school and the town of Milo paid tuition for their education.
In those days, Brownville had two district schools in the vicinity; the Smith School to which the Stanchfield children went because it was not too far from the Ramsdell Road terminus; and the Burry District School. This school was situated on the Lakeview Road near the Highland Quarry. In the days of the quarry operation, there was quite a settlement, including a hotel or boarding house for employees. This hotel road off the Lakeview Road ran through to Brownville. In the 1930’s it was still passable.
During the period this story covers, the Cilly farm and the Hurd farm had been idle for some time. The only scholars from the Ramsdell Road came from the section between the Lakeview Road and the four corners.
The Ramsdells, Carroll and Annie, had two children; Nora and Mary. Charles and Pearl Phinney had three − Celia, Gretchen and Royce. Charles and Katie Smith also had two − Raymond and Ernest.
From the Ridge Road during this period more than forty scholars added to the Stanchfield Ridge School attendance.
The John Hodgman family had eleven children − Bert, Fred, Gus, Harold, Guy, Leon, John, Earl, May, Inez and Ethel. George and Mildred Gould had Ira, Virginia and Maurice. Charles and Jane Foss had Charles, Jr., Lyle, Mina, Pearl, Chester and Lewis.
Moses and Harriet Foss had Ella, Leslie, Edith and Dorothy. Nelson and Delia Brown had Nelson, Jr., Donald, Ethel, Minnie, Lulu, Clint and Ina. Ivory and Cordelia Stanchfield had Zeb, Frank, Orrin, Evelyn and Olive. Zeb and Lucy Stanchfield (Zeb, too, was Ivory’s son) had Dorice and Marjorie.
On the Ridge Road were two bachelors − Zeb, the older, who lived with his sister, Lavern Bumpus; and Olin Pollard, another uncle of Ira Gould.
That was the “before” in the contrast; here is the “after”.
In that section, which was the Stanchfield Ridge district, there are today, three children of school age and they, of course, are bussed to one or another of the School Administrative District 41 Schools.
The Schoolhouse Road has no scholars, no inhabitants, no houses even. Neither has the Ramsdell Road, unless you count one camp − an altered garage, occupied in the summer by out-of-state owners. Neither has the back Brownville Road. The Ridge Road still has five families − those of Carl Hoskins, Rupert Brown, Melburn Brown, James Larson (one child of school age); and David Larson (two children of school age).
And that is the school population of District 4 as of this year of 1978.
Many of the teachers in the Stanchfield Ridge School remain in memory. They include Agnes Day Sawyer, Marion Brissett, Flossie Taylor, Alice Cunningham, Grace Thomas, Phyllis Decker, Dorice Clark, Lydia Rhoda, Hazel Black, Sumner Clark, Clint Kittredge, Catherine Madden, Clara Carlberg, Rose Doble, Linnie Ryder Dick, Carrie Snow, Levi Johnson and Hiram Gerrish.
Agnes Sawyer, one of the very few still living who taught in that school, remembers that when she taught there in 1910, she received $8 a week of which she paid $2.50 for board.
In spite of the cold and the primitive methods used to cope with winter roads, schools operated right through the winter. Teachers and scholars alike walked to school, if the snow-covered roads could be waded or like Alice Gould, they had a long way to go. Alice, of course, went back and forth by horse and sleigh, in the winter and horse and wagon after the snow was gone.
Sometimes when roads were deep in snow in the morning, they rode with the breaker of roads. Agnes Sawyer said that there were times when she rode with Will Bishop on his horse sled as, with a six or seven-foot section from a small tree placed crosswise under the front runners, he firmed down the snow a little so that it could be more easily waded.
Some of the distances were long for the Stanchfield Ridge Scholars. When the ground was bare or the snow not too deep, they took short cuts across the fields. In deep winter they had to keep to the roads. Some of those short cuts, alas, are now grown up to bushes and the fields where they were are fields no longer!
Dorothy Severance had good reason to remember one winter day at the Stanchfield Ridge School.
She was working at the blackboard behind the stove. The stove was hot and suddenly she fainted. While the teacher worked over her, one of the scholars ran down to get her father, Moses Foss.
Moses hitched the horse to the sleigh and taking the short cuts across Zeb’s yard and across Rapid Brook, he drove to the school as rapidly as he could; put his daughter into the sleigh and drove to Dr. Crosby’s. Dorothy’s fainting spell was diagnosed as typhoid fever. Her sister, Edith Williams, who lived on Water St., took care of her and nursed her through it. Dorothy didn’t get back to school for the rest of the term.
Nor is Mary Tyler, who was Mary Ramsdell then, likely to forget the time she climbed over a fence without noticing some quills a porcupine had left on the fence and evidently forgotten to pick them up again. Why the quills were there is open to debate. What matters is only that they were there and that they lodged in Mary’s hip. Quills have a barb like a fish hook, a fact that Mary learned in the next few minutes, while Linnie Dick, the teacher and Nora, her sister pulled them out.
Linnie may have reflected just in passing, as she pulled them out, what a nice instrument for chastisement a porcupine’s tail could be for incorrigibles, if only a teacher could find a way of grasping with proper protection, a gingerly-severed porcupine’s tail!
It’s odd how many apparently insignificant details of school life, long forgotten, turn up years later when a little pressure is put on the memory.
Ella Hodgman (she was Ella Foss then), recalls a couple of such incidents. One was the day Hiram Gerrish, the teacher, kept her after school for some make-up work and then forgot her. She remembers remaining meekly in her seat until nearly dark when her brother Leslie came up for her.
“Leslie was pretty mad,” she remembers.
The other instance was a game of hide and seek at recess.
I mentioned that “ball” was the favorite game at recess which most of the scholars played with enthusiasm.
Not all, though.
Ella and this other girl, whose name she doesn’t remember, were playing hide and seek. The other girl, in her absorbing race for the “goal” ran right through the ball game and right in front of the batsman who was just in process of swinging his or her bat. It hit the girl in the back but apparently there was a split second in which the batsman could withhold the home run attempt so the blow in the back wasn’t at all serious.
And then who could forget the time big, brawny Genevieve Harris went out of the room for a minute or two and the order in the room gave way to a little clean fun. Chet Foss, Kenneth Stanchfield and Don White took the teacher’s chair to the back of the room and made of it such as would produce the best and most laughs.
Poor Chet! He happened to be sitting in it when Genevieve suddenly came into the room.
Order was order in those days, if school was to be for learning. So Genevieve, big-muscled and able, held him where he was and whacked his head first on one side, then on the other, until she felt that dignity had been sufficiently demonstrated.
Yes, order and promptness were of the essence in those days.
There was a pond down below the schoolhouse where scholars went skating at recess in the time between freezing and the copious snow that would cover the ice. Once Luther Stanchfield didn’t get his skates off promptly enough when the after-recess bell rang.
So Linnie Ryder, the teacher, administered chastisement promptly as teachers were wont to do. She had a bunch of keys on her at the moment; so rather than let the opportune moment pass, in the search for a better instrument for applying discipline, she whopped Luther on the knuckles with the bunch of keys. It was merely to admonish him not to be late getting back next time!
Oh yes, there were many, many details to remember about the old Stanchfield Ridge School − the hanging lamps for the infrequent lighting; the settee used for recitations during the 10 or 15 minute recitation periods; the speaking of pieces at Christmas time at the school; the box socials, generally at Christmas, but infrequently at other times for some special purpose; and the singing games at week-end socials with Mildred Gould, Ira’s mother, as the singer. She had a nice voice and was always called on for the singing role.
“The Needle’s Eye”, and “In and Out the Window” were the songs. They don’t sing them anymore.
The Needle’s Eye
The needle’s eye that doth supply
We have caught you, we have caught you.
She dresses so neat,
In and out the Window
Go in and out the window,
Stand frong and face your lover,