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Doggy bags, ferrets and Tiny Tim
OXFORD – 83-year-old Barbara Paradis lived in the Norway area all her life. Her mother and aunt owned Barjo’s, which was named after her and her mother. Later in life, she and her husband, Henry, opened the Country Way Restaurant.
She recently took time to tell us about her life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born in my grandmother’s house on Deering Street in Norway. It was on November 16, 1927.
I think it was Dr. Nelson that came to deliver me.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: None. I was an only child, so I had no one to fight with. I didn't like it because I missed out on a lot. I did have a few neighbors to do things with because practically every house on Deering Street had kids my age. I spent most of my time at the end of the road with the Cleveland girls.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My mother worked at the Norway Shoe Shop packing shoes, and my father died when I was three. I think he worked in the shoe shop too.
Q: Did you mother ever remarry?
A: Yes. When I was five, my mom remarried, but I continued to live with my grandmother. When that man died, she remarried and I went back to live with her and Percy, her third husband.
My mother was Josephine Stone and she owned Barjo’s. When she was married to Percy, she and her sister Margaret opened the restaurant and actually named it Marjo's when it first opened. It stood for Margaret and Josephine but after I was born, they agreed to change the name to Barjo's for me.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was busy. I had a good life and I lived with my Nana ‘til I was 10 or 12.
We had indoor plumbing and electricity.
We did the typical childhood things, like sliding and skating; the whole nine yards.
I went to first grade where the art place is now. I think it was called the upper primary.
It was only first grade, anyway … we were out at recess one time and there was a fire up the street from the school. Everyone else went inside at the end of recess and I went to the fire. The teacher made me go under her desk as punishment. The desk was enclosed on three sides and on the side that faced the classroom, there was a small hole in it. I kept poking my finger out the hole and making everyone laugh.
I took tap and marimba lessons. In fact, one time, four of us kids from class went to the radio station and played our marimbas.
It was a regular house, it wasn’t a farmhouse, and I used to help my grandmother make donuts, and I used to deliver them to the restaurant.
Q: Did you eat some on the way?
A: No, I used to get the donut holes to eat – and knowing my mother, they were counted, so I knew not to touch the ones I was taking to the restaurant.
I spilled them once! I never told anyone, but I picked ‘em up and put ‘em back in the tin can – I brushed the dirt off them and don’t know if she ever knew I had spilled them.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be three things: an airline hostess, a nurse and a vet.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Upper primary, then Guy Rowe and then Norway High School.
I later went to Mt. Ida and that was a Junior College in Massachusetts. I graduated after taking classes to be an airline hostess, but I came back here to help my mom with the restaurant.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: You bet I did. I used to run away to find friends in the neighborhood to play with. I guess you would call it going out without permission. I thought of it as being independent.
If Percy was at the restaurant or in the service, my mom would let me sleep with her. She was always afraid of everything and she had to look under the bed every night to be sure there was no one hiding under it. One time I looked under the bed from the other side. I can't repeat what she said, but I never did that again.
She was afraid of everything, but to know her you would never realize.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I always worked at the restaurant...I was still pretty independent though, and would work ‘til I got enough money to go to the movies. I’d then say bye and be back to make more to go to the movies again.
I would have to get up early during the war years and put lunches up for the pipe line guys.
Q: Any stories from the restaurant?
A: We always had a ferret in the basement of the restaurant. We kept it in a cage during the day and let it out at night to catch mice.
Every night after work, we would take a ride up Norway Lake and Paris Hill. My mom always kept the money from the register in a paper bag. One time we were out riding and it was 2 am. We saw a car coming from the opposite direction and asking us to stop.
Being afraid they wanted the money, she threw the bag out the door. We pulled over, but all they wanted was directions. After they left, it took us a while to find that bag.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: It was at a dance at the grange hall on Whitman Street. And he didn't even dance! Henry thought he could though, but never learned.
It was OK. We had a deal; he liked to play pool and so he would drop me off to dance with a girlfriend, and the two guys would go play pool and pick us up after.
We dated for seven years before we got married.
Q: What did you do for a living?
A: We opened the Country Way Restaurant and had that for 29 years before we sold it.
Q: Was that fun?
A: Yes! You get to know a lot of people.
We used to have live entertainment and had great people come like Tubby Boots, the Malibu’s, Tiny Tim, Dick Curless, Tommy Cash and Sherry Allen.
Tiny Tim was just like he was on TV; he was something else. Tubby Boots was hysterical. His mouth was not very clean, but he always made fun of me. He saw me coming one time and I had a red dress on… he said he thought I looked like a thermometer because I was so thin.
Q: Any good stories?
A: We had a smorgasbord, so of course there was no doggy bag. We had this one lady that would always come in on Sunday and tuck food in her pocketbook. I knew she did it and I’d had enough, so I told the waitress to charge her husband for 2 smorgasbords and one smorgasbord to go! They never came back.
One guy liked his martinis and went to the bathroom and forgot to button his pants. He came out and his pants dropped to the floor.
We had mirrors in the bar and we got customers to put money up all over them to raise money for something going on. It was Christmas for Kids or basketball or softball teams that needed money … or maybe breakfast for Santa.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: The first place we ever went was Hawaii. We also went to Austria, Vegas, San Diego, Italy, Martha’s Vineyard and San Francisco. We used to go to Florida and had a place down there in the winter.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Austria. It was just the cleanest place – you could eat off the floor.
The mountains were just beautiful and it was something else to snowmobile in the Alps. The men would have the beards and the newspapers were on a stick.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I used to love to play golf and knit. I wasn’t very good at golfing, but I got exercise chasing that ball around.
I just love to read, bake, shop and spend time with family. No one eats my baking anymore. It seems like everyone is on a diet.
A: Henry and I had three girls and one boy: Andrea, lives in Norway; Jody lives in Oxford; Robert lives in Norway and Darcy lives in Kingston, Mass.
We have five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Our kids worked very hard for us and if it was not for them, we could never have done it.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: Montana Sky by Nora Roberts.
Q: What subject do you wish you knew more about?
A: I would like to know a lot about everything.
You never know. Had I learned something different, maybe I would have lived my life differently.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: All my kids, but other than that and I would never want to give up having my hair done!
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: The day the Country Way opened up and the day my children were born. Gosh, I think I about it and there are just so many days. I have really been lucky to have had the life I’ve had.
Q: What was the best memory that this interview brought back?
A: All the kids in the neighborhood and playing with the Cleveland kids. I was always there, probably because I was an only child. Sometimes it felt like I was part of the Cleveland family as well.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I would want people to know I was a good mother and grandmother. My mother was so into her work, she didn’t always have as much time for me as I would have liked.
I was always a hard worker and anyone that knows me, knows that. I just wish I could do more for others, but I’m just too old now to help others like I did when I was younger.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: I want my whole family together and we are gonna eat!
It would definitely be a cook out, because we used to do that a lot. It was always bring your own hot dogs.
Many years, because the restaurant was so busy, we would have Christmas in July. We would get a tree and put beach stuff on it. We’d play pool and shuffleboard and the kids had four wheelers. So I’d probably like to do one of those days again.
Q: What scares you the most?
A: I’m not scared of anything! I had a son and he broke me of all that stuff. He used to bring it all home all the time. He had a snake in the playroom! I got so used to critters that I lost all fear for them
Henry’s niece was going to come to stay with us one time when we were going on a vacation. She refused to come because of all the “things” he brought home.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: Henry! I miss him so much, but I wouldn't need to tell him anything. He would just know. We were married for 58 years before he passed away in 2004.