MAINE MEMORIES: Maine Memories Looking forward to those Saturday nights

by Evangeline T.

Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state. For this installment, I have a story about the wonderful Saturday nights of my childhood.

I recall when Saturday night was something to look forward to, a truly special and momentous event. My home town only had a general store, a post office, and a small service station, so every Saturday night, we’d drive to the nearest bigger town, which was 12 miles away. They had everything a family like mine could possibly want, and I looked at Saturday night there as a magical adventure. Plus, we’d top off the fun by taking in a great movie!

There were so many interesting things to do. I loved going to the restaurant, where we enjoyed grilled hot dogs. Dad liked going to the full service station, usually spending a whole dollar’s worth. A courteous young man dressed in a company shirt and cap pumped our gas, washed the windshield and mirrors and always asked, ‘may I check the oil, sir?’ That’s real customer service!

Afterward, we’d visit the five and ten cent store. What a place! The second we walked in, the enticing smell of roasted peanuts hit us like a wave. All the nuts and candy were displayed inside large sparkling glass containers. It was an experience for the senses, and even today, when I smell peanuts, I’m reminded of those long ago childhood days.

Mom and Dad bought peanuts for the movies. They allowed me to have a new jump rope or marbles or something that caught my eye, as long as it didn’t cost more than a quarter. Money was scarce during those days, and I made the most of my choices.

Next on our itinerary, we shopped at the grocery store. There, we’d get flour, sugar, coffee, tea, molasses and crackers.

Molasses was drawn from a barrel by a pump into a jug, which mom had brought with us. Most of our food was grown on the farm, like meat, vegetables and berries, but the other stuff we needed from the store. And oh, I sure loved molasses!

Once the groceries were placed carefully in our car, we headed for the movie theater, on Main Street.

Upon entering the building, you went up four or five steps, and in the middle of the floor stood a glass-topped booth. Inside was a young lady, from whom dad purchased tickets for admission. The concession stand was nearby, and there were dozens of choices! We usually settled on a big box of delicious hot buttered popcorn for ten cents.

With everything bought, a man in a red jacket and cap politely ushered us to our seats, using his flashlight to guide the way. The best spot was half way down, on the right side.

Now came my favorite part: a 10-15 minute cartoon before the main attraction. They made me laugh, especially Felix the Cat. Some­times, there were short black and white news reels on World War II. I closed my eyes through those, as I still had sad memories of my dad being gone, and I didn’t like to be reminded.

As a child, I loved Walt Disney’s animated movies. Musicals and comedies were high on my list, too. Bambi, The Wizard of Oz, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and the Three Stooges. I saw them all.

Well, that theater is still standing, boarded up and lonely. Its faded green paint is peeling, an old relic from another time. The service station is now a vacant lot, and the grocery store an insurance company. The five and ten cent store is closed, too. Everything changes.

I have lived in that town three times, once as a baby, once as a young woman, and the last, as a wife. My husband and I even had a small business there.

But my memories remain of a town and its Saturday nights many years ago, when a little girl and her parents ate roasted peanuts and popcorn at the charming movie theater on Main Street. I remember it well!

MAINE MEMORIES: The blue bike!

by Evangeline T.

Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state. This issue, I have a story for you. Hope you enjoy it!

In a small bicycle shop at the end of the mall, tucked away in a dark corner, was a very sad bike named Blue. He had white tires and a very comfortable seat and couldn’t understand why some parent hadn’t bought him for their child. After all, his design made him suitable for either a boy or a girl, so what was the problem?

Blue felt so lonely. Every day, he’d try to look his best, hoping the shop owner would put him in the big front display window…and each day, he’d be pushed aside, and some other bike placed in the window. Yesterday, it was the red bike. Today, the shiny silver one. I just don’t understand, he’d think. I’ve been here the longest. Why can’t I be in the window?

Over time, bikes came and went, but Blue remained. Then, one day, a small boy stopped outside the window and peered in at a large decorated green bike. His eyes grew wide with excitement, excitement that soon turned to sadness. Wiping a tear from his cheek, he turned and walked away.

Blue didn’t understand. The green bike was a thing of beauty and a great bargain, too. Why had the little boy looked so sad? A day later, the same little boy returned, and the shop owner noticed. ”Hello, young man,” he said, opening the door to greet him. “I’m having a sale, and any one of these fine bicycles would be a perfect fit for you. Why not bring your parents down and see what’s available?”

“I…but my parents…” Without another word, the little boy turned and ran off.

Blue saw all of this, not really understanding. The shopkeeper had been very polite and accommodating. Why such a reaction? Running away never helped solve anything, even Blue knew that.

As he always did on Thursday mornings, the shop owner arranged his window display for weekend traffic. He began moving bikes here and there. “Well, Blue,” he sighed, “You’re all I have left, so I guess it’s your turn. Our new shipment didn’t get here because of a bad storm, so I’ll have a used bike sale.

Used? Who’s used? Not me! Blue thought. Oh, it really doesn’t matter. I’m finally going to get my chance in the window.

The shop owner took a soft cloth and something cool and wet and wiped all the dust off Blue and put him in the window. Wow, what a view! Blue was so elated. Later that day, a man came into the shop. “Hi,” said the owner, “are you looking for a bike?”

“Actually, I am,” said the man, “but not for me. I’m looking for a gift for a little boy I know. You see, he doesn’t have much, his dad isn’t around, and though his mom works really hard, they just can’t afford any extras.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t have much to offer right now. My bike shipment didn’t arrive this week due to a bad storm,” the shop owner said. “Maybe if you came by in about a week…”

The man looked around and said, “how about the blue bike in the window? Is that for sale?”

“Why, yes, it is,” replied the owner. “I’ll take $50 for it.”

“Sold!” shouted the man. “I’ll even put it in my truck for you!”

At last, a wonderful, kindly gentleman bought Blue. After paying, he carefully took Blue from the window, making sure not to dent or scratch anything, and put him in the back of a shiny pick-up.

As they drove down the road, wind blew through Blue’s spokes. It felt nice to be out in the warm sunshine, with delightful breezes and the smell of flowers! Blue was delighted, too. This went beyond his wildest dreams!

Soon, the truck turned right into a driveway. Honk, honk! The front door flew open, and out ran a rambunctious, smiling boy. Blue recognized him instantly. It was nice to see his face in real life, without the glare of a shop window between them.

The kind man pulled Blue out onto the driveway. “Here’s a surprise gift for you,” he said. “May you two enjoy many fun adventures together!”

The little boy rode his new bicycle all afternoon. Blue was beyond happy. Every moment spent dreaming and wishing and praying had not been wasted. Now, he could race down hills and explore the world and never sit alone in a back room ever again.

His secret wishes were coming true in the best possible way!

MAINE MEMORIES: Pets and how they affect our lives

by Evangeline T.

Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state.

This week, I have a story about pets and how they affect our lives, young and old.

People love having pets. Dogs and cats are the most popular, but you’d be surprised at how diversified some people are, especially when it comes to pets. Here’s my example:

When I was younger, living on a small farm in Maine, I learned that animals were a lot like people. They all have different built-in habits. For instance, pigs love to rut, dogs like to bark and chase cats, and most cats love to catch mice, and the list goes on.

As a naïve young child, I thought any animal would be happy if you fed them and loved them. Boy, was I wrong! I’ll never forget the day I caught a raccoon in a barrel. Oh, wow, what a cute and cuddly pet, I thought! I didn’t realize he really wasn’t a pet and didn’t particularly want to become one, either.

Daddy explained everything to me, and I listened carefully. This raccoon was a wild animal and probably had a family somewhere that missed him. “You don’t want to make his family worry, do you?” Daddy asked. No, of course not. Much to my dismay, I did the right thing and let him go. Still, I cried buckets, and it wouldn’t be the last time.

My next pet was a long-haired fluffy white kitten named Snowball. She allowed me to dress her in doll clothes and didn’t mind riding around in my doll buggy. During the winter, I’d wrap Snowball up in a blanket and put her inside a red doll’s sled I had. We’d walk outside, over snow and ice, and my kitty never complained. Honestly, she was mild-mannered and sweet.

I don’t remember Snowball’s departure, but I haven’t forgotten crying once again. She had been my best friend, as I was an only child, and losing a best friend is always hard to take.

In May of the next year, my parents bought me a puppy for my birthday. He was so adorable, and an instant bond formed between us. I named him Rusty. He’d also would ride in my doll’s carriage and wear my sun glasses.

Rusty became the best pet ever. He loved everyone and went everywhere with me, even ice skating. He’d run and slide on the ice, and we’d all laugh.

While I was in school, mom taught him to call for me. He would utter a whine that sounded as if he was saying, “I don’t know,” to her question, “where is Evangeline?” He would run to the window in the direction of the school bus. What a smart doggie!

Years passed, and I grew up, fell in love, and got married, and Rusty came to live with us. Only one problem. He was so jealous of my husband. He was the only person ever that Rusty growled at. Over time, things got better, though!

My husband was in the Air Force, and he received orders to go to Texas. We knew it would be too much for Rusty, at age 13. He wouldn’t be able to withstand the trip and intense Texas heat.

I had four cousins, all girls, and they were delighted to give him a nice home and so much love. It was the right thing for me to do, though I missed him terribly. Still do.

My friend, my dog, my companion, my wonderful pet, Rusty lived the rest of his years making four little girls happy. That’s what a good pet does.

MAINE MEMORIES: The Grocery Trip!

by Evangeline T.

Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state.

As a child, I lived in a small house located between two hills. One was called Cemetery Hill, since there was a cemetery at the beginning of it. The other was Freeze Hill, because families living there had the last name of Freeze. A nearby dirt road went nowhere, except back into miles of woods. Cars were few, so sliding on the hills in winter was allowed without fear. It wasn’t unusual to find kids taking advantage of snowy days and the thrills of sliding down a slippery, icy slope!

Also located between the two hills was a pond called Mill Stream, a railroad crossing, and two houses: ours and a large farm owned by a neighbor. He had a frog pond in his field, and whenever it froze, my friends and I put on our skates and had fun.

We always had plenty of snow. Our road was scraped by the town, so perfect sliding hills were available. Back then, the road wasn’t plowed, just scraped with a grader pulled behind a truck. The grader had a high blade on it. A man had to guide the blade with a steering wheel, an image I’ve never forgotten.

Against such a backdrop, something unusual — and a little frightening — happened. It began with Mrs. Freeze putting together a grocery list. She told her two sons and daughter to take their sleds and go to the general store for supplies. It was approximately a mile away to
town and wouldn’t be that much of a trek.

Putting on their coats and boots, mittens and hats, they got their sleds and started out, list in pocket. When they walked past my house, they decided to ask me to go, too, so with mother’s permission, off I went, with sled in tow. Plus, a nickel for candy at the general store!

Now, the general store sold everything from groceries to blue jeans. I liked that place, full of wonders galore. One had to do with a pair of jeans so big, they would’ve fit the Jolly Green Giant! These jeans were hung from store supports and used as an advertisement, and they certainly were conversation-starters! Very memorable. And imaginative!

On arrival, we gave Mrs. Freeze’s grocery list to the clerk, who busily went about gathering all the items together. Meanwhile, we each selected our own candy, mine being a roll of candy wafers by Necco. The clerk handed us a grocery bag, and went ran out into the frosty cold morning.

Trudge, trudge, trudge. The snow was packed solid and going back took longer. When we got to the top of Cemetery Hill, someone suggested we hook our sleds together like a train. Sounded like a fun idea! Then, placing the groceries on the biggest sled with the smallest boy holding them, everybody got ready.

Uh-oh. We were setting ourselves up for disaster, without even knowing it.
Down the hill we sped, laughing and having a great time. Then, half-way down, the middle sled suddenly veered sideways. You guessed it, the whole train turned over, collapsing
like a house of cards.

The sleds, kids, and groceries all came to a stop, and it’s a sight burned onto my memory. One of the girl stood up with eggs dripping from her black coat. My candy wafers were a trail of different colors, marking a path down the hill.

We stood there in the midst of this terrific mess, quiet, not knowing what to say. One of the boys finally broke the silence. “Our mama’s gonna kill us,” he muttered. “Whose bright idea was this, anyway?”

“We all agreed. That means, everyone’s to blame,” his sister piped in, “including you.” Yes, she was right; we were all to blame, definitely.

We gathered up as much as we could, packed it securely and headed home. My house was first, and since I wasn’t bringing groceries, I didn’t get into trouble. The others left me with sad looks on their faces. I could only imagine what kind of greeting they encountered, with a dozen broken eggs in the bag!

They never told me what happened, and none of them were ever sent to the general store for groceries with their sleds again. A lesson learned…but at least it wasn’t a total loss. I managed to save some of my candy wafers, and boy, did they taste good!

Maine Memories: The amazing story of Mr. Perkins

(internet photo)

by Evangeline T.

Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state.

For the first installment, we have a story that starts in a far-away country, across the Atlantic Ocean.

One day, a young soldier was on shore leave, and as he strolled along picturesque sidewalks and byways, he couldn’t help but notice a sign that read, “Puppies for sale.” Since he adored animals, especially dogs, this kind-hearted military man decided to pass some time just looking at the pups, no intention of buying one. After all, he was a soldier stationed on a nearby base, where animals were not allowed.

The sign pointed along a brick path, up to an old house. He rang the bell, heard it echoing inside, and soon, a man answered.
“Excuse me, sir. I was walking through your charming neighborhood and saw the sign. Could I possibly meet your puppies?” the soldier asked.

“Of course! Follow me.”

He was taken around to a small shed housing a large box. Inside were a mother dog and four pups. They were small, about the size of a cat. One was all black, the others had black coats spotted with white.

“I’ve changed my mind,” said the soldier, smitten by love at first sight. “I’d like to buy one.”

“Good for you. Take your pick!”

The soldier pointed to the black pup. “Him,” he said. “I can tell we’ll get along just fine.”

So, a great adventure began for both of them.

He named the dog Mr. Perkins. Why, I can’t explain. No one knew. But the name fit him perfectly, like a glove. As time passed, Mr. Perkins grew and grew and grew. Eventually, what had once been a tiny puppy now resembled a bear cub!

The soldier received his orders to return home, to a small radar base in Maine. It took a while, and a lot of paperwork, but he arranged for Mr. Perkins to accompany him. Another adventure awaited!

Mr. Perkins continued growing. The soldier once again relocated, but this time, Mr. Perkins was left behind because of regulations. That didn’t mean he was lonely. The town adopted him as their mascot, and he lived – and continues to live – a very happy and rewarding life.

Each morning, Mr. Perkins made his rounds to the local grocery store and the restaurant, where a variety of local cuisine awaited. He was now as large as a bear, and the local children would even take turns riding on his back! Mr. Perkins loved everyone, and everyone loved Mr. Perkins.

One day, he followed me home from downtown and decided to take a nap outside my front door. I didn’t realize he was there until I tried leaving the house. I pushed and pushed, but Mr. Perkins was just too heavy for me to move, and he wouldn’t move until he got good and ready. I had an idea. I went out the back way and around to where he was sound asleep against the door. One wave of a delicious treat in front of his nose, and that got him up and moving. Mr. Perkins never resisted a free meal!

Last I knew, Mr. Perkins was still the town’s mascot and still making his daily rounds to the grocery store and restaurant…but he’s also added the new local ice cream shop to his list. He’s a great big dog, definitely the largest I’ve ever seen. No one can resist his sweet personality. If it hadn’t been for that smitten soldier, we’d never have met such an amazing animal.