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Flying bats, mustard pickles and the bean patch
NORWAY – 70-year-old Marguerite Alberi grew up in South Waterford. Her smile can light up a room, and she has a wonderful sense of humor and outlook on life.
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 on October 12, 1940 in South Waterford. It was a home birth. My dad paid the doctor with a cord of wood. My husband said that’s way too much!
I was brought up in South Waterford as well.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I have one brother, and I make sure he never forgets that he is five years older than I am. His name is Philip Chaplin and he lives in the family homestead.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My father was a Jack of all trades and he passed away of a sudden heart attack at 38. I was 13 when it happened. It was tough when he died. It was especially tough to my brother because they were so close. He was a senior in high school and the heart attack was so sudden. It happened at the house and we were upstairs sleeping.
My mom worked on the farm until my dad died. After that she held down at least three jobs. She did whatever she could; picking apples, driving a school bus and doing housework. She is still alive at 94.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was quite quiet actually. I didn’t really have anyone close by to play with.
I had my dolls. They were china-face dolls back in those days.
We had electricity back then because my dad had a generator. We had running water too. We had an outhouse that was attached to the shed between the house and the barn.
It was a farmhouse and we had animals. We had cows that were milking cows, but just for our own use.
My mother worked hard on the farm. She would pitch the hay, milk the cows and take care of the gardens.
My grandparents lived in the farmhouse and dad grew up there, so we all lived together. It wasn’t separate quarters.
My mother was a very good cook. She made the best filled cookies. She would fill them with homemade mincemeat.
She canned all the vegetables and we had hens for eggs, and also slaughtered them to eat. She would can the meat. I think it was cooked meat and then broken off the bone. They would go into the jars with liquid, then into a hot water bath.
When my dad was alive, she would have a huge crock of mustard pickles. Didn’t he love them; he was a big eater.
We had plenty of hills and would slide with the old fashioned sleds and cardboard, and there was such a crust at times that it would hold up the horses.
My parents had a car and I remember when I was little, the school bus was a woody!
My dad had signed up to drive bus just before he passed away, so my mom did it.
She used to mow the cemeteries too.
We used to go to Kimball’s store and they would sell penny candy, and always had an ice cream cooler and we loved to go get ice cream sandwiches. We would go there to fill our May baskets too.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to South Waterford and that was a grange hall converted into two rooms. We had an outhouse at school, but it was always quite a treat to go down to get the water. We all took turns. It also had this huge boiler that kept us warm, but there was this huge space at the bottom of the door and I swear a cat could walk under it.
Then they built the Waterford Memorial and we had flushes! I went there somewhere around the fourth grade, then I went to Norway High School.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: I played a prank on my mom one time. A neighbor and I found a snake and we killed it and we put it in the shed. We wrapped it around itself so it looked like it was sleeping and hollered to my mother. She had a few choice words for me and we never did many other pranks after that.
My brother would put a small Heifer on an old red wagon and promised me he could handle that cow. Every time it would start to move the wagon made a noise and the cow would jump up. My brother couldn’t hold on to it and I fell out. I smartened up after about two or three times and realized he couldn’t control it.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I didn’t have any jobs in high school. I wouldn’t have had a way to get there.
I did raise beans in a part of the garden and sold them to the bean factory. That would buy my school clothes.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: This is a love story! We met when I was 12-years-old. Jim would spend a couple weeks at my neighbor's, who was his cousin, and they were the same age.
We met in the bean patch, picking beans. We have been inseparable ever since and still as much in love.
I recently found a sign that said: It all began in a garden. How true that was for us.
We dated all through high school and we got engaged when we were juniors. We got married a few weeks before we graduated and three weeks after graduation he went into the army. He was gone for 4 years.
Q: Where did you live and work?
A: I lived at his grandparent’s house and I worked at Stewart’s doing seasonal work, like string beans.
Q: What is one of your favorite early memories of your spouse?
A: We had gone parking one time and we got stuck in the mud! Jim had to walk up to a house and get the man to pull us out with his tractor. I knew which house he was going to because there weren’t many houses around. I knew the man, but I stayed in the car so he didn’t see me. Luckily he didn’t know Jim.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: Yes, we have done quite a bit of traveling. We have been to every state but one; Mississippi, I think.
We took the camper to Alaska on two different occasions and stayed for three months, both times. Milly and Bob Pope went with us, so we tell everyone that we traveled with the Pope. Joe and Peggy Perham and Milton and Eleanor Inman were traveling there at the same time and we met up with them.
We had a blast. The guys would catch salmon all day and the ladies would can the salmon all day…and at night listen to Joe Perham stories and laugh.
We have also taken the camper to Florida for about a month and went to visit Jim’s mom.
We flew to Montana and went snowmobile riding all over. We went through West Yellowstone and we saw all the bubbling pots, Old Faithful and so many animals.
We spent over a week in Missouri in Branson.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Every place was so different and unique in its own way, that it would be too hard to pick one. There was Hoover Dam, the mountains in Alaska, the Grand Canyon, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Q: Where had you and Jim worked?
A: Jim retired from the Norway Post Office after 30 years.
I worked at Hannaford for 17 years; 11 years of it being the deli and bakery manager.
Q: Do you have children?
A: Yes, we have three wonderful children: James Jr. lives in Otisfield, Patti lives in Texas and Pam lives in Wells.
We have five grandsons and are very proud of each and every one of them. They range from age 8 to22.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I like to do crafts. I don’t make them, but I just like to go shopping at craft fairs.
I do have quite a few decorative roosters and I love to watch birds. We have all kinds of birds at the feeder and we have deer that come around too.
My husband is one of the founders of the Norway Fish and Game, and he is still involved and we enjoyed that. Everyone helps to send 9 or 10 kids to conservation camp. It’s a great way to get kids into hunting and fishing.
We are also members of the Norway Trackers.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: The name of the book was Alice and it was based on a true story and finding out she had Alzheimer’s. She was a very smart professor and did speaking all over the country. She got to the point that she had to totally read from paper to remember.
Q: What subject do you wish you knew more about?
A: History and geography. You really don’t retain that like we should. I will sometimes pick up a book and just read about Maine history.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: I would hate to give up my good health, especially my mind.
We have our friends and neighbors that we could not give up, especially Nick and Sharon Barker. They are about the same age as our children and we would go away fishing and come home to all of our wood split or a deck built that we needed.
Q: Do you have a hidden talent or a talent you wished you had?
A: I would have liked to have gotten into painting a little more. I had started painting and took some lessons and stopped and never went back.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: I wish I could go back in time to when my children were all very young. It wouldn’t matter what they were doing as long as I could enjoy watching them play again.
Q: What was the best memory that this interview brought back?
A: It made me think a little more about my dad and my nephew, who passed away around Christmas time. He fell out of a tree while trying to top it off for a Christmas tree.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I love to laugh, but everyone says I have a very dry sense of humor. I love my family and friends and neighbors.
As you get older, you lose more and more friends. You need to take each day as it comes. Life if precious and we can’t take anything for granted. The best gift we can have is our health and our minds.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: Have a piece of steak and eat it with Jim. I’d even share.
Q: What scares you the most?
A: The dark. I have nightlights everywhere!
Jim had to go out of town one time and there was something different about the house that day. A few things had fallen and I was afraid it was an animal. Of course when I went to bed that night, a bat flew out of the bedroom. I slammed the door shut and called a neighbor.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: My dad. I would just like to have an ordinary conversation with him now as an adult.
I’d also like to see my nephew and tell him how the whole family misses him. My kids were the same age and grew up together, so it was hard on them.