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Juicy Fruit, bean patches and Awful Awfuls
WEST PARIS — Sixty-nine-year-old Bruce Tyner was brought up in Oxford and now lives in West Paris. He spent many years in education, and also spent time in the clergy.
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 August 17, 1941 at Central Maine General in Lewiston. I was brought up basically in Oxford. We did spend a few years in Poland, but mostly in Oxford.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: Yes, I had two sisters and a brother. I was the number two child.
Cynthia lives in Berwick, Blaine is deceased and Sylvia lives in Oxford.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: They were both mill workers. Dad worked most of his career at the Robinson Manufacturing Company. Mom worked at several shoe shops in the Lewiston Auburn area as well as Robinson.
She was known through most of the area as a representative for Artex. She sold tube paints for fabrics and it was a sort of a Tupperware thing where she would have parties.
They also did all of that work to support their small farm.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was fantastic. It was a time when no one had money so we didn’t know we were poor.
It was on a farm and we had chores. There were chickens to feed, dishes to do and haying.
When I was 12, dad let me milk and said I did such a good job, it was now what I was to do.
We cut our own wood; that was hard. Dad would cut the trees down and bring them in by oxen. A bolt saw was hooked up to a John Deere tractor with a belt to turn the blade. Most of the wood was small diameter and brought out in full length. My job was to wrestle it up to the table. Dad would do the cutting and my sister did the piling.
I remember the first car we had was an old Woody Wagon; Model A. Then our next one was a Hudson Terraplane that was made in the late '30s and '40s. When they bought their first new car it was in the late '60s and it replaced a 1949.
We did a lot of sliding on Pigeon Hill. We hayed down by the river, so Dad hauled manure down there, so the road made great sliding. When we lived on Johnson Hill Road, we would slide down, timing it right so Dad would pull us up on his way home from work.
We also had a double runner and would go on Rabbit Valley Road. On a good night you could go all the way down to Winterbrook Road.
We didn’t really play sports, like baseball, but I played basketball in high school.
There was a neat group of boys that lived in the area – so we did boy things like camping or fishing.
There was no Scout troop in Oxford, so we started our own group called the Neighborhood Patrol, which was affiliated with the Scouts, so we were able to go to camp. Later we did have a Boy Scout troop. A lot of the life-time skills I still use, such as the knots and camping.
Our house was the hangout for the neighborhood. We had at least five horses to ride and a huge barn … there’s no limit to what you can do in a barn. The hay was always loose, so we could play in that.
We would ride the horses to Hogan Pond and ride them up to their bellies to cool them off.
When I got a bit older, I could drive the tractor and one time I stopped to catch a field mouse and my pants got stuck on the clutch handle. The tractor kept rolling and I scrambled to get away from the wheel. It was strange; Dad shut it off and just sat on the hay loader for the longest time and then said it was time to go home.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: No. I guess I probably just grew up assuming I would be a farmer.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to Poland for a few years, but went up all through Oxford and graduated from the Oxford High School with five other classmates.
We had our first reunion last year; it’s so tough to get everyone together with such a large class!
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: I really didn't get into too much trouble.
There was this one time my neighbor had an antique 22 and it would only take a 22 short bullet and it was the kind that folded open to load. I had a longer bullet and it wouldn’t fully go into the chamber, so I thought if I forced it quickly it would work. It was a rim fire, which if you hit the rim sharply it went off! And it did, right through their floor. No sooner did that happen then I remembered I had to do something to do at home. My friend never said a word, and when I went to his dad’s 80th birthday party I asked him if he noticed the hole in the kitchen floor and he said no. That hole wasn’t visible, but it sure did dicker with me.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: When I was in high school I hayed for my grandmother and at the end of the summer I would go up and Grampa would take out his wallet and give me a $10 bill.
I used to rake blueberries for 4-cents a pound. I got paid $1.25 an hour at some other farm, which was pretty good pay.
I also raised cucumbers and took them to Oxford Pickle Company. It was a contract where they gave you the seed and fertilizer. They would weigh them in and at the end of the year they would pay me minus the seed and fertilizer. They had these huge vats, probably 20 feet high. They would climb ladders and throw them in.
Q: Did you go to College?
A: I went to Farmington State College and studied teaching, and got my degree in 1963 and years later I got my master's.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: I met Jean around the age of 10 and we met in a bean patch and I don’t recall meeting her again until I was around 15 with the youth group at church. She was a year behind me in school.
We got married three days after she graduated from high school. I was a freshman at college, so we lived in a trailer for three years.
Q: What is one of your favorite early memories of your spouse?
A: When we were around 15, the church had gone on a trip and I had given her a piece of Juicy Fruit gum. She must have had her eye on me as she still has the wrapper, but at the time I was sort of going with her best friend.
The first time I went to her house, it was with my girlfriend and Jean’s mother told me that I would make a good son-in-law.
It was always great fun to go bowling and go to Goodwin’s after for an Awful Awful. It was a milkshake that was awful big and awful good.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I started teaching school here in West Paris in 1963 – I taught the sixth, then seventh, then eighth grade and coached the high school girls basketball team.
I became a supervising principal at the Fox School and West Paris; then was sent to Guy Rowe. At one time or another I was supervising principal in every school but Oxford and Otisfield.
I worked in education for 30 years and retired in 1993.
Q: Do anything after retiring?
A: Retirement was time to spend with my grandchildren ... God laughed and said you are going to spend time with your grandmother. She was 99 at the time and moved in with us for almost 6 years.
Just before she died I was asked to be a guest speaker and preach on Valentine's Day at the church in Rumford and stayed for 12 years as the pastor. For nine of the years I was pastor there, West Paris and North Paris. Being principal wasn’t half as consuming.
Q: Did Jean work?
A: She was an ed-tech in the area for 17 years.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: We have been to the Allagash many times and New Brunswick and Quebec.
We did travel across the country one summer and went down as low as New Mexico.
On our 25th wedding anniversary, our friends and family sent us to Hawaii.
Our biggest travel was last year with a fifth wheel. We left home on June 15 and came home August 23. We drove 14,000 miles from here to Alaska to California to home.
Q: Any children?
A: Two girls and a boy. Joy lives in Damariscotta, Randy lives in Lake George, New York and Melanie lives in Poland.
They have blessed us with 12 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and two on the way.
My wife says we have six children, as she includes the in-laws.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: This continent is fascinating from one end to the other. Crater Lake was just awesome. Alaska and Hawaii were also beautiful.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: Besides my wife, I would have to say Gus Higgins, the principal when I was in high school. He made us think that college was something we could do.
He’d say: Bruce, you can go to the Cape and make $4,000.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I like to fish and play golf. A little snowshoeing and I used to ski and roller-skate.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins. It’s about the independence in India and Pakistan in 1947.
I like Kenneth Roberts’s history books and novels too.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: I don’t mean to be biased, but it would have to be God ... other than that it would have to be my wife. I always tell young people that marriage is God’s greatest gift, but it comes at a terrible expense. And that is the death of a spouse, and someone always pays.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: Two days before my brother died ... I would have maybe been able to get him back into the hospital in time.
Q: What was the best memory that this interview brought back?
A: Falling in love with Jean. It is such an exciting time of anyone’s life.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: That I try to be a faithful servant of God.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: It would have to be my dad. I would tell him that I love him. It amazes me how you can lose someone and time heals. I don’t think of him as often now, but it’s exciting when he is in one of my dreams.