LIFE ON THE PLAINS: The legend of Ginjine Hill

Radio Flyer sleds

by Roland D. Hallee

This week we’re going to continue with our look at Life on the Plains during the winter, that we first took a look at two weeks ago.

Besides the hard work of shoveling the driveway following every snowstorm – lots of nor’easters – we had a good time playing in the white stuff. Two weeks ago we talked about the massive snow banks created from moving all that snow, and how we fashioned tunnels through them, usually culminating with a “snow” fort on the end, facing the street. From there we would spend much time making snowballs – conditions permitting – and creating a cache. When the time was right, and unsuspecting kids walking by, we would send a barrage of snowballs their way. Sometimes they couldn’t figure out from where they came. Many laughs, and many snowball fights ensued.

To fortify our fortress, we would take a shoebox, pack it with snow, creating a “brick” and mounted them on top of the snow mound for added protection. Our fort was the “cat’s meow”. On especially cold days, we would squirt some water in the shoebox to freeze the snow, and make a hard brick that would better withstand an onslaught from the other side. Our mother was never impressed when we came home with our mittens soaking wet.

And then there was the sledding. At the end of one of the streets in the neighborhood – Lockwood Alley – was a steep hill that connected with Silver Street, just about across the street from the location of the old Morning Sentinel building. The city would blockade the hill during the winter for the neighborhood kids to sled without the danger of oncoming traffic. The elevation was called the “Ginjine Hill” (pronounced Jin-Jine). I’m only guessing here because no one really knew how to spell the word, nor do we, still to this day, know from where the name came. The hill is no longer there, dismantled during the downtown urban renewal project in the 1960s that produced the Concourse.

There were many adventures there. We would all show up with our Radio Flyers, a sleek sled made of wood, with steel runners. Believe it or not, I still have mine. Before the initial run, we would wax up the runners to make the sleds super fast. We would line up three – sometimes four – wide to see who had the fastest sled. However, there was a hazard at the bottom of the hill where it flattened out. It was a low spot in the road that could launch a sled airborne, along with its rider. We all knew it was there.

Not only did we want to see who had the fastest sled, along with who could glide the farthest, you also had to maintain control of the sled. Many a contestant would go flying off the vehicle when it would encounter that dip in the road, sending the occupant one way, and the sled the other. There were also times when the ejected rider would collide with a steel fence that surrounded the first house at the bottom. Many times we would walk away unscathed, but on a few occasions, the operator had to go home for “repairs,” and not to the sled.

Of course, being 10-12 years old, we had no fear, which didn’t always bode well. Many a crash would bring out roaring laughter from the others, until we discovered some injuries. Of course, the older boys would always look out for the younger.

The Ginjine Hill was at the northern end of The Plains, but many kids knew the legend.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Winters on the Plains were challenging

by Roland D. Hallee

Winters on The Plains in the 1950s and ‘60s were a challenge, to say the least. Anyone of my generation will remember winters back then, for some reason, were a lot rougher than they are today. In my opinion, winters now are nothing compared to back then.

We would get blizzard after blizzard of 14 inches or more on a regular basis. And, they didn’t call off school because of a few snowflakes. Most of us, whether it was Notre Dame School, South Grammar, or St. Francis School, walked. Only kids that lived “in the country” were bussed.

My dad would say – and I relayed that to my children later – “In my days, we walked to school in blizzards, and it was uphill both ways.”

Other challenges also presented themselves. Like snow removal. The city had plows to take care of the streets, but there were not a lot of privateers who plowed driveways. Besides, my dad had four strapping boys, and our grandfather lived next door.

We would put on our snow suits, boots, hats and mittens, and out the door we’d go. I remember a few times when we couldn’t even open the door due to the snow drifts against the door, which eventually prompted my dad and grandfather to install panels on the porches to keep the snow from drifting.

Using snow scoops and shovels, we began the process of shoveling, and clearing, the snow from a 100-foot-long driveway.

Of course, there were some “incidences”. One time, while shoveling the front walkway and steps, my younger brother stood on the railing of the porch to knock down some icycles. Well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when it presented itself. I gave him a gentle nudge, and he fell head first into a snow bank. With only his legs from the knees down showing, and wiggling, – I laughed – my grandfather was able to pull him out in short order. But, I can tell you right now, that did not go unpunished. But, thinking back, it was worth it.

The snowbanks would get so high, I would estimate probably seven to eight feet, once the work was done, we would take out the shovels, and begin to dig out tunnels, and chambers, where we would stash snowballs for a later assault on neighborhood kids. Oh, how I loved those snowball fights.

Once the activities were complete, we would head indoors where our mother was waiting to handle our wet clothes. She would have the woodstove going, and we would sit in front of it with our feet on the door to get them thawed. Hot chocolate and cookies would usually be included in this ritual.

At school, the boys would go out at recess and head to the towering snowbanks at the end of the church parking lot, where the nuns discouraged us from going. And there, we played “king of the mountain”. Some of the bigger guys would go to the top of the mounds, and others would try to ascend to the summit and displace the “kings”. Sometimes, it turned into a melee, and the nuns so disapproved of such actions.

Winters were tough, but so were we.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Final pictorial walk along Water St.

Picher’s Furniture Store, at 88-90 Water St. The building is no longer there. It was located across from Gold St. intersection.

by Roland D. Hallee
Photos courtesy of E. Roger Hallee

A market at 162 Water St.

Behind the market, at 162-1/2 Water St., is what appears to be a tavern.

At 188 Water St., there appears
to be another tavern.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Saturday at the movies

Haines Theater

by Roland D. Hallee

This week we are going to take a hiatus from the pictorial walk down Water St., on The Plains, and look at some other things we did growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Not everything we did occurred on The Plains. By the 1950s, the Maine Theater, on Water St., had been closed for some time, even though the building and the marquee remained. I remember my parents talking about the Maine Theater, but I never set foot inside.

So, as something to do – I think our mother did this mostly to get us out of her hair – we would look forward to Saturdays when we were each given a quarter, and off to the movie theater we went. Now, get this, for that quarter, we would get into the theater, and purchase a bag of popcorn and a soda. Unbelievable, right?

There were two venues to which we would go, the State Theater, on Silver St., (where Cancun’s is now, and Steve’s restaurant before that), or the Opera House. Back then, the Opera House had a “big screen”. The Haines Theater also existed, on Main St., but they didn’t offer any Saturday children’s specials. The Haines Theater was located across the street from TD Bank, today, next to the building that houses Selah Tea. It is now a small park.

At first, we would sit as close to the screen as possible, but as we grew older, we wanted to sit in the balcony. From that point, we could “rain” popcorn and soda on the kids sitting below. You had to be discreet, because on Saturday mornings, there were extra ushers on hand to try to keep the peace. Getting caught meant immediate expulsion from the theater, and you had better have a good story to tell your parents as to why you were home so early.

Again, for that 25-cents, you first had a series of cartoons, Tom and Jerry, Sylvester the cat and Tweetie bird, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and my favorite, Mighty Mouse, who wore a cape and could rip the heart out of any villain. He could also fly. Yes, cartoons were violent, but also funny. We didn’t really care, it was hilarious to see Daffy Duck get his beak blown off his face every week.

Randolph Scott and Karen Steele in Ride Lonesome (1959)

Following that, we got a news reel of current events. That is when the action started in the audience. We really didn’t know what was going on in the world, and, again, didn’t care.

Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger.

Then came the feature movies, usually westerns: Tom Mix, Randolph Scott, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, and the most famous of all, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and his horse Trigger. Of course, Roy Rogers wasn’t a true western. He did chase bad guys with guns and got involved in fist fights, but Dale Evans had a Jeep named Nellie Belle, and Rogers had a side kick named Cookie, played by Andy Devine. The most I remember about Gene Autry is that he wore jeans with rolled up cuffs, and sang a lot.

On occasion, they would have a horror movie. One that I can remember was The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which pretty much scared the dickens out of us. Fast forwarding to the present, I saw that same movie a couple of weeks ago on MeTV’s Svengoolie. That movie wasn’t so scary after all.

Saturdays began with rising before sun-up, complete our paper route, return home to do our weekly chores, usually dusting and putting away the weekly laundry. We would then leave the house to be at the theater by 10 a.m. The rest of the day was spent there, usually coming home after 4 p.m., when darkness was about to settle in or, sometimes, after dark. After supper, it was outside when all the neighborhood kids would gather for a round of “hide and seek,” now called “manhunt”.

We would then come home, get comfortable in our pajamas, and gather around the radio for that week’s episode of Gunsmoke, before retiring to bed.

With no television, yet, in the house, we surely found plenty to do on The Plains.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Pictorial stroll along the east side of Water St., Part 5

by Roland D. Hallee
Photos courtesy of E. Roger Hallee

Part of a row of tenement buildings (top and below) between 30 – 44 Water St., which sat on the east side of Water St., overlooking the Kennebec River.

All of these apartment buildings, and many others, were torn down in the 1960s. These (below) were located on the side where a guardrail now exists, and the lots overgrown with vegetation. You can see parts of the buildings that extended down to the river.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Pictorial stroll on east side of Water St. – Part 4

A Lockwood-Duchess warehouse which ran along Water St., about where the entrance to the Hathaway Center parking lot is now.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

This week we will begin our stroll on the east side of Water St.

Photos courtesy of E. Roger Hallee

A Gulf gas station, which was located where Prsicilla’s Shop is today.

The first of a long row of tenement buildings which ran along the east side of Water St., many hanging over the banking. We will take a look at more of them next week.

This miniscule storefront was the original location of Scotty’s Pizza, which was established in 1962. This building was right across from where Scotty’s Pizza now sits on the corner of Water and Sherwin streets.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Pictorial stroll on west side of Water St. – Part 3

The Maine Theater, showing Three Married Men, starring Roscoe Karns and Mary Brian. That part of the buildings no longer exists.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee
Photos courtesy of  E. Roger Hallee (Waterville, ME)

Daviau’s Pharmacy, on the corner of Water and Gray streets.

Service station, later to become Belliveau’s Service Station, on the corner of Water and Gold streets, now part of KVCAP campus.

H.A. Marshall and First National Stores, on the corner of Water and King streets.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Pictorial tour of Water St. – Part 2

The Water St. Market, located on the north side of the intersection with Sherwin St. The upper floors facade of the Chez Paree can be seen at right. That area is now a parking lot for the “Chez”.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

This week we continue our trip down the west side of Water St., and buildings that are no longer there.

(See part 1 here.)

Photos courtesy of E. Roger Hallee. Most of these photos were taken in the 1930s.

A small shoe repair shop, at 47-1/2 Water St., that sat directly next door to what is now Scotty’s Pizza. The store’s awning can be seen at right.

To the left of the shoe repair shop is this store front, located at 47-A Water St., which this author does not remember its function.

A single family home, at 53 Water St., to the left of the unknown store front.

LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Pictorial walk down Water St., and buildings that are no longer there

by Roland D. Hallee

Over the next few weeks, we will go down Water St., from north to south, and take a look at some of the buildings that played a major role in the self-contained community of The Plains, that have long since been demolished.

(Read part 2 here.)

All photos courtesy of E. Roger Hallee

The old barn that stood across the street from the Lockwood-Duchess Textile Mill, and out buildings. The former KFC building now occupies the site.

Rodrigue’s Market, and below, Ma Roy’s Tavern. In the approximate area of where Sunrise Bagel now stands.

Ma Roy’s tavern

Pete’s Market, three doors down from where Ma Roy’s Tavern was located.


LIFE ON THE PLAINS: The formative years at St. Joseph School

The only photo that could be found of the St. Joseph School was taken in 1944. Maybe you have some relatives in the photo. These were the Cadets (grades 5-8). Front row, left to right, Arthur Belanger, (?), Donald Bouchard, Edwin Daigle, Norman Pilotte, Louis Champagne, Norman Giroux, Gid Talbot, Armand Giguere, Alex Cormier, Robert Bourget, Roger Corbin and Arnold Trahan. Second row, Donald Carpentier, Denis Labonte, Arthur Routhier, Lionel Cabana, Bob “Satch” Maheu, Bertrand Lacroix, Jerome Hallee, Donald Pelletier, Gene Gagne, Reginald Porter, Francis Poirier, Robert Champagne, Thomas Michaud, Richard Duperry, Robert Trahan, Raymond Carpentier and Edmond Martin. Rear, going up the steps, Brandon Rancourt, Roger Ouellette, (?) Champagne, Reg Pelletier, Robert Lessard, Reginald Roy, Francis Poirier, Kenneth Rancourt, Francis Hallee, Richard Carrier, Donald Vachon, Gerald Mathieu, Jerome Poirier, Wilfred Viens, Fernand Michaud, Reginald Trahan, Bernard Bolduc, David Bolduc, Roger Hallee, Marcel Jalbert and Donald Maheu. (photo courtesy of E. Roger Hallee, published in Paper Talks, 1984.)

by Roland D. Hallee

Like any other phase of life, growing up on The Plains also meant school days.

Although the first five years of my school days were spent at St. Francis de Sales Parochial School, there came a time when I had to go to a different school.

St. Francis only accommodated boys until the fifth grade. Girls could stay until the eighth grade. At the time I was there, the “brothers” school across the parking lot had been shuttered. The only occupants were from the Lebanese community, who were using the building as a temporary school while awaiting the completion of their own building, St. Joseph Maronite School, on Appleton St. For some reason I don’t recall, we were mostly segregated from them, and didn’t get to meet them until high school, some of whom became good friends.

So, the boys had to go to St. Joseph Catholic School, on Silver Street, to continue their parochial education, or enroll in a public school. My parents chose to enroll me at St. Joseph’s.

St. Joseph School was located between Preston and Kimball streets, the present site of Notre Dame Catholic Church. It was a one-story, white, clapboard-sided building that sat way back from the street. It resembled your standard-looking school building. It also included a field across Preston St. where we had formulated a crude softball field. The site of the school actually had three softball fields. The other two being in front of the school, one on the south side of the yard, and the other on the north side.

Every day, I would walk up Summer St., actually passing the site of my dad’s old market, and down Kimball St. I only attended that school two years (1960-1962), going on to junior high school my eighth grade year. That is a whole different story.

The teachers at the school at the time was Brother Eugene, Mr. Roberge and Mrs. Pelletier. I only had the two former as teachers, in sixth and seventh grades, respectively. My cousin, E. Roger Hallee, began teaching their my eighth grade year, but I never had him because I had moved on to junior high.

My first experience was strange, because so far my entire school life had been spent with the same kids, most of whom lived in my neighborhood, so we were very well acquainted. Now, I was thrust into an environment where I met other boys, mostly from Notre Dame Parochial School, that was located between King and Water streets, at the time, where the KVCAP main building is now.

There was nothing exceptional that stands out in recollecting those years, except the highly-competitive softball games during recess and lunch hour in fall and spring. The South End was home to some of Waterville’s best athletes, and competing against them, or with them, was an excellent learning experience.

Of course, most of the school year took place during winter months, and nothing much went on outside, except an occasional chance to go to the nearby South End Arena to play some hockey.

I could name some of the guys I went to school with there, but it wouldn’t be fair to those I don’t remember. But I do remember one, who shall remain nameless, who was a left-handed hitter, that could hit the ball all the way to Silver St. – on the fly – something no one else could do. Sometimes in the fall, we would organize touch football games. We also played some soccer.

For those of us growing up in the area of The Plains, those years at St. Joseph School were formative years that prepared us for the next phase in our lives – high school.

Read more of this series here.