IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of March 30, 2017


by Katie Ouilette

WALLS, o.k., no famous people today. You want to tell our faithful readers about animals. No, we won’t compete other columnists in this newspaper, because your trigger has been tripped about dogs, since our relative in Turner loaned us a best selling book entitled A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. Yes, I know you’ve not read much of the book at this point, but you know about pets that have surprised folks when we lived in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

O.K., WALLS start with that one-room schoolhouse at the end of Dutton Road. It really did happen, that Mary had a little lamb that followed her there. In fact, the story of that lamb is that it went to school with Mary every day, The children loved it and the lamb loved the love. That was probably in the 1800s, surely not today!

Now, WALLS, tell our faithful readers about the Denis’ Brittany Spaniel, Jock. Oh, he was a wonderful pet and the Denis children could do almost anything with him, such as his wearing a football helmet and riding up the turnpike to Maine with his head sticking out of the car window! People in the cars which we passed surely laughed at the site and Jock was happy that his head was out the window. Oh, and speaking of Jock, I went into a store in Sudbury and, because Jock always jumped into the driver’s seat when we were stopped, a woman ran into the store and announced, “that dog is driving the car!” Well, you know better, faithful readers, but that was Jock’s moment, for sure!

Yes, I do have to refer to a recent article on skunks. That reminded you of the Denis next door neighbor’s experience with one. The neighbors had a garbage can next to the house and that garbage can had a cover on it, since it was a buried can (a lot of them in Massachusetts). Well, the ‘lady of the house’ was wearing a new suit, but also fixing dinner for her family. When she went outside and lifted that cover to deposit the potato peels….you, faithful readers, guessed. She was sprayed by the skunk! Of course, she screamed and I ran to help her. O.K., dinner was late there, our next-door neighbor had to throw away her new suit and she had a bath with tomato juice and water!

Well, WALLS, there is another purpose for dogs that is not laughable, but heartwarming. When the Denis family moved to New Jersey, we lived a short distance from Morristown, where the Seeing Eye Institute was located. You faithful readers surely know that WALLS is about to tell you of ‘seeing dogs’ being trained to accompany their owners throughout downtown. Yes, those dogs are truly faithful, whether the blind owner is crossing a street or shopping in a store. Thosedogs know their purpose. In closing, WALLS will tell you about Ted Glazier. Ted was blind since 10 years old and he attended the Seeing Eye Institute as a teacher of veterans and also was a student at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire. When Seeing Eye Institute was featured at Colby Sawyer College, in New London, New Hampshire, Ted attended and asked a question. Immediately, the blind speaker asked: “Is that you Ted Glazier?” Ted’s seeing eye dog was the first to respond and guided Ted to the stage and blind speaker. Quite a moment for sure!

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of March 23, 2017

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

Well, WALLS, as the old saying has taught us, “What a difference a day makes,” and so it is for our faithful readers today. Yes, you wrote and sent your message on March 17, but it didn’t arrive. Yes, I know that one of the subjects was Lew’s and my stopping at the Red Barn Restaurant when we were en route from going to Sabre Boat’s factory in Raymond. So, it is very appropriate that you repeat our experience at Red Barn Restaurant, as Lew, who is a veteran of a long time ago, still warranted his getting a discount, as he started to pay for our order.

He couldn’t believe that anyone cared about a person who served in World War II, but those folks at Red Barn surely did. Surely, you have read about the wonderful things the Red Barn’s owner, Laura, has done for folks, and now you, WALLS, are proof of her generosity and good deeds through the years. Oh, the reason we were at Sabre Boat was that we went there to approve a boat for shipping to Bellingham Yachts, which is owned by our sons Dean and Nick.

Now, for sure the days since last Friday have given you a new twist for your column, WALLS, but you can still tell our faithful readers about Governor Abner Coburn Day. Yes, The Town Line will not be available until after March 22, but at least our faithful readers will know that invitations were sent to all the historical societies in Somerset County and elsewhere, and the day, which was chaired by Rob Washburn, a member of the Skowhegan Heritage Society. His message dealt with the education of young folks, a subject that Abner Coburn held firmly to, since his formal education ended when he was 14 years of age, when his dad decided he should learn about Maine forests and surveying. Yes, when any of you faithful readers go to Jackman, you will see Coburn Mountain standing tall on the landscape.

Yes, Governor Abner Coburn’s caring about the people of Maine and our entire USA make him one to be held in highest esteem by students who have had the privilege to study at the colleges his many millions financed. He gave Skowhegan its Free Public Library, was responsible for the Maine Central Railroad and Skowhegan Savings Bank in his Skowhegan and was on many committees and boards that made our USA all that he envisioned it could be. He was our Civil War Governor and friend of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, antique photos show his sitting directly behind Lincoln, as our, then, president delivered his Gettysburg Address.

It is important to know that Chairman Washburn is available to schools throughout our Somerset County, so that our young people will know of a very important person in our Maine history. Probably one of the most important of Governor Coburn’s lasting virtues was his generosity. He readily gave his money to those who were in need. In the words found in an antique book about Abner Coburn by Charles Williams: “There are few in Maine, in fact anywhere in the Union, whose life offers a more worthy illustration of what a (person) is capable of achieving.”

Take time to say ‘thanks’ for Maine’s being the way life should be, faithful readers.

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of March 16, 2017

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

Y’know, WALLS, it’s for sure the season for many things. I did write about having Spring Fever a bit ago, and spring has so much for us to be thankful for. First of all, we got the news of a flock of robins flying over Skowhegan’s famous and ‘historic’ lumber business a few days ago. Then, there was a father-daughter dance held in one town and Big Brother-Big Sister celebrations held for many. You are so right, WALLS, the reason I didn’t know about it all is because I, Katie, have been a ‘one and only’ Kathleen Valliere. Thank goodness I had lots of great kids to play with in our Chestnut Street neighborhood and great friends throughout those ‘growing’ days. Yes, WALLS, the Skowhegan High School Class of ‘48 has decided to meet at the new KelMat Café on the first Monday of each month, so our friendship lingers on, as well as our memories.

Now, speaking of memories, WALLS, you must be ‘number three’ in thanking Milt Huntington for making our minds turn to yesterdays. WALLS say many thanks, Milt. Yes, your writing for PAGES IN TIME might have been ‘mushy,’ but every word brought back memories to those of us over 65 years of age but, frankly, PAGES IN TIME surely gave our youngsters a glimpse of what we used to do with our spare time. Yup, no computers and Facebook in our growing years.

Oh, my, WALLS, now antiquity has really come to your fore. Yes, you often have thought about the ancient buildings that have existed in other countries on our Earth. Milt awakened our thoughts about our own Augusta, our State Capitol City and what it used to be like. Yup, we Americans want everything new. In fact, we tear buildings down when they aren’t even ancient! Just this week, WALLS, you witnessed the ancient coliseum in Italy that, admittedly, has walls broken, but remains. You also saw archaeologists digging in foreign lands to find remnants of villages that existed or caves that led to some of the history that we never had to study, because, in yesteryear, none of us knew about them. This is where we must thank scientists for their curiosity and their search for knowledge for us.

WALLS, thank you so much for bringing our history alive through our newspapers, magazines and television. What’s more, even now, modern folks about whom we read or see, are bringing the past to us. Yes, our USA is changing, as we hear of the repairs and rebuilding that is needed for our infrastructure. Let us hope that those rebuilding jobs or repairs are made available to those who need employment and are not left to robots. Yes, even robots and air service are being done for people. What a world awaits our future! But, we know that Maine is as life should be…….even shoveling snow!

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.’