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Maple syrup, cardboard boxes and butterfly gardens
OXFORD – 85-year-old Earl Andrews grew up in what was called Tuell Town, which was a section of Paris. He lived in Massachusetts for quite a while and decided the Oxford Hills area was where he wanted to retire.
He recently took time to tell us about his life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born on July 7, 1925. A doctor Stewart came to deliver me. He practiced in South Paris and there was no doctor in West Paris.
It was on the family farm in Tuell Town which was a portion of Paris at the time. Now it is a portion of West Paris.
It is just easier to say I came from a suburb of North Paris. It was separate, and it even had its own school back then.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: There were five of us in all; Harold, who lives in Auburn; Lucille, who is now deceased; then me; then Florence who lives up in Mexico; and Herbert who lives in Baltimore.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: They did farming, mostly selling milk.
My dad, being a farmer, always had other jobs, as did most farmers. He was a school bus driver and worked in the woods. One of my favorite memories was chasing the sled as it went into the woods.
My mother was a teacher. She was the last teacher at Tuell Town; it stopped being a school in 1930 when the town voted to close it.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: Work ... and I don't say that lightly. I lacked a lot of the other skills like hunting or sports. I was really into working. We were expected to work, but I just considered that's the way it was.
It was the depression days.
I fed the hens and cleaned after them, then fed the cows and cleaned after them. I helped with the hay and corn; whatever came along for work.
We made butter and cheese for us, and we sold milk.
We did all the things that didn't require much skill. We had wooden skis with rubber bands to hold them on. We would go sledding ... from wooden sleds to toboggans and double-runner sleds. We even used some cardboard boxes. We did some skating on Moose Pond in North Paris.
I played mostly with my siblings, but next door, about a half mile away was my cousin’s. My father grew up in my house and my mother grew up at that house ... so most of who I played with was my own family.
In 1929 the house was wired for electricity. Charlie Finney wired the house. And that was great fun chasing him around when I was four. I was probably a real pain; mostly watching and just getting in the way. I would run around and pick up the nickels that popped out of the side of receptacle boxes.
We had a woodstove in the kitchen and barrel stove in the living room. When it was really cold there was a stove in the cellar. There was a woodstove on the second floor and my grandparents even had a stove in their bedroom.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a farmer; that’s all I knew. Then I got older and I realized I wasn’t a good enough mechanic to do that. I thought I wanted to be an electrician too, but I wasn't really cut out for that either.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: At North Paris; a two-room school house and it was primary and grammar. Then I went to West Paris High School and graduated in 1944.
Q: Did you go in the service?
A: I was on the home front producing milk ... my dad had an untimely death in 1940 so my brother and I continued to farm while I was in high school and my brother was the mainstay of the family, along with my mother.
My brother and I had farm deferments because of the point system, but I did join the navy in 1946.
I went to Maryland and Illinois and served on the USS William T. Powell; it was a destroyer escort 213.
I was a record's keeper and part of it was running the store. We had cigarettes, candy, small radios and magazines.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: Not a whole lot, there really wasn’t much time. I did get the best of one of my classmates that was always getting into trouble. We had these fold-up chairs, and I rigged it up just right, so that when he sat in it, he went down. He usually got the best of everyone else ... I was pretty proud of getting him.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I worked a half day at the North Paris Store for one year and I don't remember what I got for pay, but I did get a Sunday paper so I could read the funnies.
I also worked with my father and brother in the woods, mostly in yarding wood. My job was lifting the logs up onto the dray.
Q: Go to college?
A: I went to the University of Maine in Orono as soon as I got out of the navy and graduated with a business degree in 1952.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: I met Amy at the grange. Her family had moved from Brownfield to Greenwood after I went in the navy. She graduated from West Paris and was in my brother's class. So we had crossed paths at two or three points. Both families were Grangers.
We were at a dance and after a while I finally got my nerve to ask her to dance and she said yes. Our first real date was on New Year's Eve and we got married two years later in Aug 27, 1950.
Q: Where did you live?
A: We lived in a small, winter cabin up in Orono for one year and the second year my oldest daughter was born so we moved to an apartment.
Q: Then what did you do?
A: I took a job with the Dept of Agriculture as an administrative trainee. I expected to be assigned to a location outside of DC and ended up getting assigned as a credit analyst in DC and I had no desire to continue living there.
My brother-in-law had started a business in Boston and I worked there. It was office furniture and I did many jobs, but mostly keeping records.
I also worked for the Federal Reserve in Boston and I went back to being a credit analyst again and then I was acting agricultural economist and then I was supervisor of expense accounting and then manager of accounting.
Q: When did you move back to Maine?
A: We lived in Abington from ’54 to ’88 and moved back then. We stayed at my wife’s mom's while we built a house.
I worked for the Advertiser settling accounts by collecting money from stores.
It was a great job, getting to get reacquainted with the area and the people and then I got into volunteering.
Q: Where do you volunteer?
A: I was active in my church in Massachusetts and here at the East Otisfield Baptist Church. I also volunteered at the Market Square Health facility, mowing lawns and helping out, driving people to appointments. I am active in the Grange and doing exhibits at the fairs.
A: Cynthia, Martha and Bruce live in Massachusetts, Alfred lives in Florida, Sharon lives in Alaska and Jeffery lives in Norway. We have 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Q: What do you do now?
A: Other than loaf, I am pretty well involved with keeping my land and buildings up. There is the garden that I like to do and it’s getting smaller all the time.
I do a little bit of maple syrup making and I get 5 to 10 gallons a year depending on the ambition. Pretty much make enough for us, the kids and a few friends.
I’ve also grew strawberries, blueberries, blackberry and raspberries.
One year I had around 450 quarts of strawberries and I ended up selling some beside the road. It got to be too much, so we downsized.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: When we first retired we did a fair amount. We did camping; from a homemade trailer to a pop-up to a motor home.
In 1978 we went cross country with the two youngest. When we lived in Massachusetts, we would come to Maine to vacation and our favorite was Mount Blue in Weld. We camped all over Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
We’ve been to Texas, Alaska, California and Washington State. Mostly we did agriculture tours. We’ve been to the Butterfly Gardens in Georgia and in Alabama we saw a Muskox farm. It’s an animal; cattle size with long hair, which is what they are raised for. You can pull their hair right out by brushing it.
We went to England one time too.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Just Alaska and the country. The scenery is just tremendous and the wide open spaces. It's just intriguing country.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: In retrospect, I guess the fact that I was doing accounting-type work in the navy, I ended up in that sort of direction. ... I loved farming, but most fail and I made the right choice to go into accounting. I have my gardens, and that’s enough farming for me.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: Gardening and maple syrup.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: Great American Folklore by Kemp P. Battle. It's all short stories and it was nice because you could pick it up and read in anywhere. I learned there were extreme exaggerations from Daniel Boone to Paul Bunyan or Billy the Kid. It was an interesting book.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Living in the country. I want to be as independent as I can and the biggest thing I am most afraid of [is having] to give that up.
Q: Do you have a hidden talent or a talent you wished you had?
A: Talent is something I am very short on. I just have a desire to keep busy.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I like the out-of-doors, but I’m not a hunter or a fisherman. I am more into things like hiking so the only thing I hunt for is fiddlehead greens.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: I want to be active ... probably picking strawberries on a nice summer day with my wife.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: Probably be my mother, she was a real mentor to me. She was always helping me out. ... I am amazed at how much she knew, which was not typical. I would tell her that I appreciate all she did and I recognize she didn’t have an easy life.