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Quarries, the NSA, and law school
PARIS — Nancy Perham worked as a lawyer in San Francisco for 37 years before retiring to Maine in August.
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 May 9, 1945 and I was brought up in West Paris. I lived up on a hill; we had about 140 acres. We were kind of out in the boonies. We lived on a big farm.
Q: Did you have any siblings?
A: I'm the youngest of 13. I think there's probably 130 people in our immediate family now, including all the nieces and nephews. When I was growing up there were three of my siblings that had already left.
There were 10 of us growing up at the same time in the same house. My sisters and I all slept in the same room, two of us in one bed and two in the other, and the boys slept in the other rooms.
There were eight boys and five girls. Two of the boys and one of the girls were already gone.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My dad, Harold Perham, worked at the Portland pipeline company station in Waterford. He served two terms in the state legislature and then he worked at the Portland Pipeline station.
He would work eight hours there and then eight hours on the farm. That's what we lived on. We had vegetables, cows, chickens. We burned wood from our own property. We didn't have hot running water; we heated the water with the wood stove.
My mother, Maizie Perham, was a homemaker. She got up at four o' clock in the morning and went to bed at nine at night. She worked all day. She did the gardens, she made eight or 10 loaves of bread a week. She did all the baking and cooking.
When I was younger she had a washing machine with a wringer so she had to hang up the clothes. She did a lot of things with the community, also.
My dad spearheaded the movement in West Paris to separate from the town of Paris in 1957, so West Paris is Maine's newest town.
That was kind of exciting. There was a lot of controversy surrounding that. My mother was Maine Mother of the Year in 1960; it wasn't just having a lot of children that made her qualify for that.
One of the requirements was that your children had to have accomplished different things, and we had. A lot of us had gone to college and joined the military, and she also did a lot of the church suppers and she was 4-H leader, too.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was fun because unlike today, parents didn't spend every minute with us to watch over us, they were busy. Both of my parents worked, probably, 15 hours a day.
So we were just out on our own, out in the fields and the quarry. There was a quarry adjacent to our property and we went swimming there. We would dive off the cliffs and explore the caves. Growing up on that type of land was pretty idyllic as a child.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I spent 13 years in the same schoolhouse in West Paris which I think is now the Agnes Gray Elementary school. Then I went to the University of Maine in Orono. I studied political science there. Eight years later I went to law school in San Francisco.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I worked in the shoe factory here when I was 15 and at the canning factory, and I've worked various waitress jobs and when I was in college I did work study.
After I went to UMO I was recruited by two intelligence agencies, the CIA and the NSA, so I went to work for the NSA. That was pretty fascinating.
Then I left there and went to work for the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C..
I lived in Maryland for about six years. Then I moved to the Boston area and I worked at a juvenile detention center for males. Then I left there to go to law school.
Q: Do you have children?
A:I have a son, Eric Heinrich, who will be 30 this year; he lives in San Diego. He graduated from Oxford Hills in the class of 2000; he was living with my niece Debi Irons.
He played baseball. It was fun because he was always in the papers because he was a lefty pitcher and no one knew who he was; the sports writers had never seen him.
It was good for him to be up here because he was kind of a baseball star, but he decided the weather in California suited him better.
Now I have an adorable, wonderful grandson, Liam, who is 17 months old; he's my only grandchild.
Q: What was the last book you read?
A: I subscribe to the New Yorker, and it comes once a week, so I keep up with that and there's some incredible fiction. I also just started reading a book about Catherine the Great because I like historical novels.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I'd like to say that I'm a real people-person. I'm really happy to be back here meeting everybody, people I used to know and new friends. I do like to meet new people and find out what their lives are like.
I'd like to tell people that if I don't remember your name the first time, or the second or third, don't be offended, because that's probably what will happen.