What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 29 weeks ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 32 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 32 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 42 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 42 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 51 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
3 years 3 days ago
More in Community
Birdhouses, wild date nights and Perhamite
WEST PARIS – 77-year-old Frank Perham has lived all of his life in West Paris. His parents owned the mineral store, but Frank wanted to be more hands-on and spent most of his life in the mines. He is quite a gem!
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 March 5, 1934 in West Paris. In fact I was born in the doctor’s office and my aunt Myrtle was the nurse midwife. It was right across from the Agnes Gray School. It was almost next door to my parents.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I have a sister, Jane and she is 11 years younger. She lives in West Paris in the summer and Arizona in the winter.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: They owned the Perham’s Mineral Store in West Paris.
I don't remember my birth mother because she died when I was 8-months-old.
Mom originally came from California and then she moved to Connecticut to live with her aunts. She went to Bates and that’s where she met my father.
She died in Connecticut visiting relatives. That was tough for my dad because he had this sprawly brat and the store. I actually went to live with my aunt Myrtle for about a year and a half.
My father remarried around then and I moved back home. She was a godsend for both me and my dad. She has always been my mother, I didn’t even know till I was old enough to be told.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: We lived at the store. Half the place was a store and half was home.
We had heat and water. Mom had an electric range and I remember our first refrigerator with the big coils on the top.
One thing I remember as I was small, that the living room was a typical place with the unlevel floors and I could play for hours with my metal trucks and let them go and they would hit the mopboards.
I was just a little tiny kid, but I remember them building the gymnasium. They mixed all the concrete by hand. The forms were all built by hand too. For a four-year-old kid, I was quite impressed.
I used to like to play outside. It was right at Trap Corner and there were fields and people just down the road, around the corner and next door. West Paris village was right there and it was pretty much a close knit community.
Collette’s garage was next door and we would go play up back in the fields, and play around the rocks and juniper bushes; we played kick the can.
In May we would hang May Baskets.
I was probably one of the few Perham’s that wasn't sports minded. If you look at all the sports awards at the high school and see a Perham, it wasn’t me.
I always liked woodworking and I would tinker around and make birdhouses. I would take my bikes apart and try to make them better.
I had a target rifle, a 22 and when I was 12-years-old they had a rifle range in the basement of the Post Office. We would set the targets up...and most everyone was in their 50’s except for me. I got so I was pretty good at it and they didn’t mind me going.
My sister and I didn’t play too much together because of the age difference, but we did have a place that was fenced in and sometimes I would take care of her. We did get closer once she was older. When I went to college, she was a teenager and helped with the store. She eventually took it over.
My dad died when he was around 73 or so. He was just walking to the Post Office one day and dropped dead on the sidewalk.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: Just to be in the mines. During WWII, dad worked for the Department Bureau of Mines. He would have to go around to the mines and check and see if everyone was making their quota or if they needed parts or supplies. I would go with him and I got very used to the explosives. I would even sometimes get the dynamite.
People were mining for feldspar at the time, but Beryl was needed during the war for radio tubes. It had a certain amount of metal in it and put with other metals would change the characteristics. It was getting $600 per ton and in 1950 that was a lot of money.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: All through West Paris. It was all in the same building.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: I have no halo, but never really did much. Come Halloween we would move someone’s hay wagon from the field and put it in the center of town or wrap toilet paper around things. Back then you have to be a little more mature because you were expected to do more.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: Part of life was to work in the store, but I worked as a guide too. I would take kids from area camps and go to the ice caves and I got to ride in the Woody. They would tour the store first then I would take them out and explore the mines.
After WWII dad started a mica mine in North Norway and I used to work there.
Dad had bought the Trap Corner grocery store and it also had a garage, so I worked there on the times when others wouldn’t work. I did the filling in. We had even moved the mineral store over there.
It turned out – the oil company who dad had borrowed the money from went out of business and the loan was called. So dad had to find someone to buy it quickly and we moved the mineral store back across the street.
Money was a bit tight, but it was quite a relief to me.
Q: Did you go to college?
A: I went to Bates for two-and-a-half years. I was in the class of ’56. I didn’t have much money, so I joined the service so that when I got out and the rest of my schooling would be paid for.
Q: What branch?
A: The Army for three years. After basic, I went to learn to build and transport floating bridges and took classes with technicians to use explosives.
I went from there to Korea and they took 500 of us. They went through our names in alphabetical order and half went to Germany and the other half (including me) to the Far East; all unassigned.
We were hoping for Hawii and ended up in Japan then the next thing we knew we ended up in Seoul, Korea. That was nothing but a devastated city. We headed north and knew we could kiss away all the luxuries.
We ended up at the 38 (th) parallel and got out of the truck in this dusty place with rifles and duffle bags over our shoulders. There was an officer in the middle of a muddy field and asked us one-by-one: any skills? I told him I was a decent auto mechanic and he told me I looked like Joe College. I repeated myself and he told me to go see another guy and that if I ended back at his desk I’d be going to the heavy mortar company.
I ended up a lowly private in auto repair, but after a year or so, I was the maintenance sergeant. All that tinkering as a kid paid off ‘cause I knew I would much rather fix trucks than be shot at.
Q: Did you go back to Bates?
A: Yes. I got my degree in geology. The only thing I could have really done was get a job in oil geology, so I went back to work at the store.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: Mary grew up in Greenwood, so we went to high school together. Her father owned a mine that I mined for feldspar.
Our Saturday evenings were going to the mines and loading bags of mica and take them to Bowdoin Pines. There, they would go through it, cut what they wanted and we'd bring the low grade stuff back. That was our wild weekends out.
We were married in 1955.
Q: Did you stay at the store?
A: No. We bought a house and I worked at the store for two years. Then I left the store to go mining myself.
I bought a gas-powered jack hammer and other equipment and during the week I would do jobs for the town or whoever doing blasting.
I also had a garage next door and worked on cars. Between the two other jobs, it paid for me to mine on the weekends.
I was very interested in Mount Mica and talked to the owner and even made a profit the first year. Dad would have the guy at the store cut the tourmaline and we would split the money and he would sell the cut stones.
I remember while at Mount Mica, I had told my wife one day to go up and check the mine and make sure I hadn’t left anything. She showed up where I was working with a box full of potential gems.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I am reasonably retired, but we still mine a bit in the summer at mines that I own.
I have a little place in the basement, and it’s Franks Mineral Shop. Much of the stuff is under glass and I love to have kids come and see the gems. I want school kids to discover a place from nature – everything here is almost all mined in last 50 years and within 15-mile radius. I want them to discover that they aren’t just rocks under their feet. They are the next generation on mineralogist.
Q: Any children?
A: We have three daughters, Paula, Patricia and Pamela. We also have one son, Paul. Paula lives in Greenwood, Patricia lives in Massachusetts, Pam lives in North Carolina and Paul lives up the road.
We have two grandsons.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: Not much. In the last few years we have taken time to travel around Northeast and Nova Scotia. We had a great way of traveling. I would give my wife half of the spending money and I would keep half. When half was gone, that’s was the time to head home. That’s an ideal way to travel.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: I used to read all sorts of books and was an avid reader as a child. I started with David Copperfield and Madame Curie. What I have read lately are mineral books.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: My equipment was hired at a mine in Newry in 1972. I had already been there and had a good idea where to fine tourmaline, but they had found a mineral pocket and we started there. I pretty much stood around watching my equipment, but then told them that I was here and I can either stand here or work.
I decided to go about 45 feet from where they were working and mine as that was where I would have mined on my own. I found the best tourmaline in North America! It was two tons in a pocket six-feet high and 29-feet long. It was estimated to be worth two-million dollars. I was hired for $100 a day. Not bad eh?
Q: Any gems named after you?
A: Yes. I was mining in West Paris at the Tinsley mine and found what I thought was cookite. After a chemical analysis and other tests, it was found to be an un-named gem, so they named it after me. I told the guy to name it after himself because he did the testing, but he said he already had a gem named after him.
Q: Any regrets?
A: No. I have probably done a few things I could do without, but all-in-all, I would live every day all over again.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: My father. I always felt bad that he had died at such a young age. I would really love to show him all the gems I’ve gotten over my lifetime.