IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of March 9, 2017

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

WALLS will now let faithful readers know what had been told about Redington-Fairview General Hospital’s being all that people should be grateful for. So, now, faithful readers, WALLS has spoken, and thanks go again to CEO “Dick” Willett and all staff members and volunteers at RFGH for the caring they exhibit in everything they foresee and do.

O.K., let’s switch to education. Rather, WALLS is repeating what was written a bit ago, namely, ‘’What goes around comes around.” Well, WALLS isn’t sure this subject of ‘education and money’ will come around, but those who were in school in the ‘40s, as Katie was, feel that this solution may have merit. Those were our World War II years and all students in Garfield and Lincoln schools in Skowhegan were given small American flags to wave as soldiers marched passed them on Water Street. Yes, those uniformed soldiers had marched from the VFW Hall on Main Street and were headed for deployment to war and our, then, passenger train would be waiting for them at Skowhegan’s Train Depot on Court Street.

But, what about the budgets for the schools? Well, we of Skowhegan and Madison learned the art of being very frugal in those years. Jean Finley and her family had moved from Pittsfield to Skowhegan and the frugal school boards of Skowhegan and Madison had hired her dad to be superintendent of schools in both towns. Oh, that was just one of the differences that we lived with in the ‘40s. The frugal school boards also had the sharing extend to the sharing of school music teacher, yes, remember Mr. Baraket? The towns also shared our school nurse Mrs. Wise. Oh, and lest we forget that Miss White became Mrs., since female teachers were to be their “students’ mothers” prior to World War II! We also were placed in two-grade rooms. Eight of us in the fifth grade shared the room with Mrs. Lewis’ foruth graders and, likewise, the eight of us shared Miss Weston in her sixth grade and the other desks in Miss Weston’s room were occupied by fifth graders. Well, do you faithful readers think this was a good idea? Frankly, some of the students in a lower grade learned from listening.

By the way, we Skowhegan students were all eager to get to junior high school on the island in Skowhegan. Yes, that building, once, housed Skowhegan High School, but a new high school awaited, when we were ready for it……..yes, the first Skowhegan High School was on Willow Street.

What happened to them? Well, the Skowhegan Junior High on the island burned down and the villages have replaced old Skowhegan High, but the memories linger on.

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of March 2, 2017

Katie Ouilette Walls
by Katie Ouilette

Y’know, WALLS, I must have a touch of Spring Fever, cause all of a sudden I’ve been thinking about the song: “People…People Who Need People are the Luckiest People in the World.” O.K., we’ll talk about people, as this just may be thank you week and our lucky people are those who gave much of their lives and talents to Skowhegan and vicinity.

First, with wars still raging in our Middle East and some of our military there and to those who fought in our wars and their relatives, we must say ‘thanks.” We will soon celebrate Abner Coburn Day and we all know that Abner Coburn was born in nearby

Canaan, but built the ‘decrepit’ mansion on our Skowhegan Main Street Hill. Yes, our Governor Coburn sat with our President Abraham Lincoln, as he delivered The Gettysburg Address, since we of Skowhegan and Maine had men fighting in our Civil War. Yes, People needed those soldiers.

What’s more, my thoughts have turned back to the days when Skowhegan’s Water Street and Madison Avenue had a great variety of stores where people who worked in our spinning and woolen mills could leave their work for lunch hour and, yes, walk down Water Street to window shop or stop in and buy whatever was needed at home. Yes, we had Stern’s and Crane’s department stores, or five-and-dimes McClellan’s, Grants, Woolworth’s or even Cora Cayouette’s Corsetry which was next to Skowhegan’s Famous Bonnet Shop. On Madison Avenue and Water Street there were grocery stores, meat and fish markets, furniture stores, gift shops, restaurants, soda fountains and, lest we forget, the Maine Liquor Store, drug stores and music stores. Don’t forget the many offices that were located on the second floors of our famous downtown buildings.

Here’s a bit of an aside from the Waterville Morning Sentinel’s Amy Calder, who wrote this week of the snowstorm of 1968-69 and who urged me to write of my experiences during that storm. Well, will suffice for now in saying that Skowhegan’s first radio station (WSKW) was located above the William Philbrick Office and that storm happened to be on the first day for my broadcast! Well, we all know that ‘the show must go on,” and I got there through the drifts!

At a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours, at Russakoff Jewelers, a few weeks ago, WALLS promised to write a history of Skowhegan Downtown, but at another time. I will say that Skowhegan’s downtown had a lot of barber shops as the men didn’t have long hair and beard in those days!

While writing this, WALLS, you certainly will thank the Alfond Foundation and other local manufacturers for their workers having made the products that enabled giving our area young people assistance with college tuition, with the hope they will stay in this area and develop the foresight to develop products needed and become CEO’s for the manufacture of same. Yes, WALLS, you know full well that “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world,” and, WALLS, you also know that this is the best place to live, “Maine, the Way Life Should Be.”

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of February 16, 2017

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

Well, faithful readers, WALLS hope your Valentine’s Day was a happy one. Over the years and even recently, I have learned that even sadness has a happy meaning or, at least, thankfulness.

OK, WALLS, you know I’m leading to something…..right? Yes, our faithful readers, you know about my stay at our very caring Redington-Fairview General Hospital, but I haven’t told you about visitors, as I saved it for WALL’S Valentine’s column! Yup, visitors to the sick? WALLS, sure that knowing people care is important in the ‘healing-wellness’ cycle. No, WALLS, not a long visit, that is tiring, but just a ‘caring stop’ and wish for wellness. What’s more, it isn’t just for hospital care, but WALLS, I’ve certainly appreciated all the wonderful friends’ inquiries made to Lew, whether at his Whittemeore’s Real Estate Office, the grocery store buying that has become his duty, or as someone has called from their car in a parking lot. Yup, every inquiry that I’ve learned about has made me want to get this healing process into high gear!

Yes, my Valentine’s Day has been a happy one, even if it seems I am glued to my chair in the window and watching our snow come down. However, most of all, as I received Valentine greetings from my family and the wonderful photos from Great-Grands Reese and Owen Paine! Also, WALLS, in front of me are ‘the traditional three red roses’ that ‘say it all’ from Lew. He’s not only been a great care-giver, but his caring has forced me to get totally healed soon, as he says ‘how about some chowder while the snow blows?’

WALLS and faithful readers, I hope your Valentine’s Day was meaningful. Mine was because ‘I believe’.

O.K., WALLS, you caught my being interested in what has been happening in our USA lately. Well, another local newspaper had two half pages dedicated to Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce happenings and one item interested me. It was entitled “Chamber and College Breakfast” and described as an opportunity for business to let our local colleges know what types of things that are expected from their students once they graduate from their college. Surely, there are students in The Town Line area that might be interested. WALLS, the Skowhegan Chamber’s phone number is 474-3621. This is a fine idea which students may want to pursue. After all, we know that ‘in Maine, life is as it should be.’

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of February 9, 2017

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

OK, faithful readers, there’s an old saying about ‘what goes around comes around,’ and, frankly, as I sat in my chair in our kitchen in East Madison and reflected on the problems that were encompassing our USA because of immigration rules and regulations. I also decided to find out why the pile of papers in the corner of the top shelf of our bookcase had been kept. Yup, I made a discovery, WALLS!

I found a column entitled IF WALLS COULD TALK that had been written before The Town Line’s managing editor had called me about writing for The Town Line. You were writing for the extinct hometown newspaper, but, guess what? I learned that my Mémère Zelia Valliere and I were having a talk about my speaking French. Yes, she and my Great-Grandma Sarah would talk French to each other on the phone and I wanted to learn that language, but Mémère said, “No, you don’t want to learn to speak French……You speak English.” It seems I didn’t understand her reasoning until Skowhegan Junior High School and I learned in history class that the French were employed only after all the English-speaking immigrants had jobs.

So, WALLS, as you talk to our faithful readers, it is true today that what went around has come around again. It is true that immigration in those days was from our north, wherein, today, folks who love what they hear about our USA, want to live here. What’s more, many of those who want to immigrate to our USA have experienced unbelievable torture and loss because of the Middle East War.

WALLS, I know you aren’t taking a political stand here, but I do appreciate your being aware of what has happened in the world as we thought we knew it. This brings you back to your opening sentence, WALLS, that ‘what goes around, comes around.’ Probably our faithful readers haven’t thought how speaking our native English has possibly played into the equation. I never thought of it until finding the column in the corner of our bookcase.

Yes, yes….I do listen to the news and I did learn a few days ago, WALLS, that the development area for our famous “Valley” in California has many of other countries working there. In fact, our West Coast family tells us of their many friends from other countries……and many of them are from Asia.

WALLS, maybe we in Maine have lived a ‘protected life.’ You know that there’s been a sign at the ‘entrance to Maine’ that says “Welcome to Maine…..The Way Life Should Be.” Yes, WALLS, let’s make sure people ‘believe.’