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NORWAY– Eighty seven-year-old Wilma Alice Warren Knox Taylor was born in Stoneham and lived there all her life until she moved to the Norway Rehab and Living Center. Although multiple sclerosis has limited her mobility, her spirit and sense of humor will light up any room.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born in Stoneham on April 8, 1924. I imagine that it was a home birth. Yes, it was because my mother had a neighbor that came in and helped her.
I was brought up in Stoneham too.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I had a half-sister who was 10 years older than me and her name was Carla. She passed away a few years ago.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: They were farmers. My father worked in the winter logging and in the summer would do the haying. My mom was a farmer as well and she had the reputation for making the best butter there was. If they ever did sell a quart of milk it was for 10 cents, but it was mostly for our use.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: I was quite pampered and my father called me Babe. I didn’t have to work on the farm at all. My mother was quite a worker and did whatever she could. She would do the hay raking with the horse and I would just go to the field with her, but she wouldn’t let me do too much; I was probably nothing but a nuisance.
We had calves and pigs, chicken and, my favorite animals in the world, horses.
I had a Shetland pony and that was my first horse I ever had all to myself. Her name was Sweetie.
Then I had an Indian pony and she was painted red and white and her name was Queen. I would ride her to school and shoo her off back to home. One time she didn’t make it and my mom had to go looking for her. Mom found her napping about half way back to home. Mom didn’t send her off to pick me up in the afternoon; I think she would come with the horse to pick me up.
I tried to skip school whenever I could because I hated it. I couldn’t add two and two and I still can’t.
We always had one family dog, what family didn’t back then?
My aunts loaded me with dolls but I didn’t care about them, all I wanted to play with was the horses.
I didn't play with my sister too much because she was older, but we were very close and cared for each other dearly.
There were no neighbors around. There were kids at school to play with, but other than that I was home playing by myself and my horse.
I had a rifle that my mother had gotten from her grandfather. My parents told me to be careful with it and I would go hunting.
Later I got a western cow pony, Tommy Tonto and I would put the saddle on him whenever I wanted to ride. I would go all over that neck of the woods. We’d stop at the brook to give him a drink of water.
I had a guitar and a harmonica… I could play the two of them together at the same time. That was always a lot of fun.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: It was down by the cement bridge in Stoneham and it was about a mile from the house – not really sure if it's still there or not. It was a one-room school house. There were quite a few kids there and it went from first grade to eighth grade.
There was a big stove for wood to heat it with and we had a big blackboard. We had two recesses and lunch. I didn’t go home for lunch, so we all brought pails and bring a lunch. I would take sandwiches, cookies or a piece of cake and milk.
Once I had my aunt for a teacher, but the one I loved the most was Helen Blackmer and she and I stayed in contact for years. She eventually moved to New York and while she was teaching her name was Abbott.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: As long as there was a horse involved I was happy and would have done that had there been jobs to do.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: Not that I can remember, other than shooting a deer out of season one time. I thought my family would be proud of me and they weren’t. My father was the most honest, decent person there ever was and always obeyed the law. I didn't get a spanking or anything, but he looked at me sadly and asked why I had done that. Bill French was the game warden and he never caught up with me.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: There was a little camp past our house and his parents owned it. Fred was an identical twin and his brother’s name was Frank. I was the only one who could tell them apart. They lived in Fryeburg and would go to their camp on weekends in the summer on to hunt in the winter. We'd see the big car go by and knew they were heading to camp. The boys would always come right down to our place to play once they arrived at camp and if Fred didn’t come down with Frank I would always be disappointed. I was just a child...and in grade school. I don’t really remember having a first date or anything, we just ended up together. He was a few years older than I was.
He went into the service and had to go to Texas for basic training. He got a furlough before heading to New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan and during that time he came home and we got married. We just went to Norway to find someone to marry us. It wasn’t anything fancy like they do today. You just found someone to marry you and that was that!
Q: What did Fred do?
A: Fred was working at the post office in Lovell as an acting postmaster and when they needed a fulltime postmaster someone else got the job.
Fred was a hardworker and did a lot of odd jobs and was a guide for fishing and hunting.
Q: Did you have lots of game and fish?
A: We always had a freezer full of deer meat and stuff to eat. I loved to fish when we were first married and we would go up north and go fishing. I don’t like to eat the fish, ‘cause I never liked anything that was slimy, but I did like to catch ‘em!
Q: Did you have children?
A: Yes! Fred and I had four children and we were married for four years before the first one and each child was four years apart. There was Sally Annette … and she was my only daughter; she passed away in the fall of 1998. Thomas Warren lives in Florida, Kirby Holmes lives in Lovell and so does Kenneth Haley.
Kenneth was born on a Friday the 13th! Everyone kept saying that I was going to be stubborn and wait till that date … and I did!
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: The only job I ever had was to be a clerk at the Lovell Post Office and that was after Fred had left as acting postmaster.
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: Not to my face!
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: No. If we needed anything we went to the store. We would go up to North Conway now and then. I don't think I've ever been out of the state of Maine other than to New Hampshire.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: I never knew what direction I was ever going in to begin with!
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: Horses and horses and anything that was Indian related.
My father had big farm horses and my mother and I both had saddle horses all through my childhood. And we boarded horses for one of the camps in the winter.
After I got married, I did still have Tommy Tonto, but my husband wasn't that fond of horses.
My granddaughter and I wrote a story about me and my horses, so that was a bit of a hobby. It's about my whole life too and its title is Madame Bud.
Now, I just live to read. I love to read anything that is interesting. I like mystery books and anything and everything that has something about the outdoors and wildlife.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: I have MS and I've pretty much had to give it all up already. At least I can eat what I want. The one thing I would miss the most if I had to give it up would be my coffee.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: I would love to have just one more day on a saddle riding a horse and feeling free. It was just the best feeling in the world to be on a horse.
Q: Scared of anything?
A: Snakes. Well, most any slimy thing, but mostly snakes.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I live here at the Norway Rehab and I’ve been here for 13 years. I think the death of my daughter took a great toll on my MS. I’m in a wheelchair, but I love it here. It’s the best place to live and if I had a chance to leave, I wouldn’t want to. This is my home now and I get to participate in quite a few activities and I even get to cook. My son’s birthday is next week and I’m going to make him an apple pie.
Q: Any regrets?
A: I always hated school and I know that back when I was a child, it was normal to live too far away to go to high school. I don’t regret so much not going to high school as that I feel a bit ashamed I didn’t go, but I read well and learn and get entertained from lots of books.