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Pumping stations, hen grain and antique automobiles
HARRISON – Born in Harrison, 83-year-old Dick Davis, after working many years out of state, returned to Harrison to live.
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 the fourth day of January in 1928. It was in the town of Harrison across from what is now the boat launch at the north end of Long Lake. It was a little brown cottage. My parents lived there at the time.
I lived in Harrison until I went to college.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: Yes. My sister Penelope was born when I was around eight and my brother Donald was born when I was 10.
Donald lives near the Shorelands and has a house on Crystal Lake and Pennie lives in Indiana and comes here for the summer.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My mother was a minister's daughter and went to Bridgton Academy, but her working life amounted much to being a cleaning lady and working at the corn shop in the fall. She also ran the Shorelands Cottages, which my dad had built.
My father’s biggest job was working for many of the cottages on the shore of the lake. He did construction and masonry for whoever needed the work. He bought the farmhouse that is now the spa and ended up building 21 cottages along the lake.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: When we lived on Edes Fall Road, all we did was play in the woods. I did play baseball and a little bit of football though.
Overall, the entire town was my playground. My two best friends were Delmore Maxfield and Harvey Young, the minister's son. I also hung out a lot with Percy Martin.
We did a lot of exploring in the woods and sapped the trees in the spring.
We had quite an imagination and built roads in the woods for our bikes. We even built bridges if there was a stream.
We would hang around the fire station and sometimes we would even run around on the sawdust in the ice house.
Seems to me by the time we moved to Edes Falls Road we had electricity. We had an outhouse for quite a while, but then got a bathroom.
My parents would listen to the radio, and I couldn’t be bothered with that; I was too busy playing outside.
At nine I had a paper route for about three years.
Us kids built our own one-room cottage, not quite a tree house but close.
When I was 12 or 13 I got a Model T pick-up truck – it was abandoned and Harvey picked it up – we had a lot of fun riding that around the mountains, but we never rode it on the main highway. There was a horse track and we enjoyed driving around that.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I had considered being a minister because my grandfather was a Universalist Minister in Waterford and going to Sunday school every week got me interested in that.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Right here in Harrison on School Street. It started out with the primary, first and second grade on School Street. There is the fire hall now, then a green building then the main school. The next building was sub-primary. By the time I got to seventh grade, the town hall was a school and they put four classrooms in that and I had my last three years there. I went to Bridgton Academy for all four years.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: I remember one time my mother looking for me on Halloween and I was probably eight years-old. It was midnight and I was downtown running around with the big boys. We were raising a little Cain, but nothing too serious.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: Summer vacations I worked at the Harrison House and I was a bellhop. That didn't last out the summer because I was too bashful, so I went to work for the Express Office in town where they delivered suitcases for the girls' and the boys' camp. I did that when I was 14 and 15.
At 16 I went to live in South Portland with my uncle for the summer and build Liberty ships. They stuck me at the bottom of the ship welding.
Q: Ever go in the service?
A: Yes. I went into the Marine Corp. The war was beginning to wind down, so I was able to join for just six months. When I got to boot camp, Germany had surrendered and when I had completed boot camp Japan had surrendered. I used to joke that they must have all known I was coming.
Q: Did you go to college after?
A: I went to U-Maine and studied mechanical engineering.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: She was a sister of my cousin’s husband. She stopped in one time and I was under a car working, so I didn’t see her or even come out, but we were introduced. Later on she rented a cabin and that’s when we started to go out.
We dated for about a year and we got married on October 1, 1949. The wedding was at her parents' house and it was with a few family and friends.
I hadn’t finished at college yet, so I took her back to school and she supported me while I finished. Her uncle lived in the area, so I was able to get a job that summer.
We had a car that we could come home with, but it had a few problems. One time we filled the radiator with hen grain; it was supposed to swell up and fill the cracks.
Q: Where did you work once you graduated?
A: I worked in Massena, New York for Alcoa Aluminum. I was a mechanical engineer for the maintenance department at the machinery plant.
Q: Where did you live?
A: We bought our first house in Waddington on the banks of the St Lawrence. It was a small stone house and we paid $2,500. My dad loaned us another 1,000 to fix it up.
Q: How long did you work for Alcoa?
A: I worked about two and a half years there. Living on the banks of the river, I would watch all the construction as they made the St Lawrence a seaway. And so I went to work for them, building dams and putting in locks to get around the dam.
I did a lot of inspecting of the materials brought in; how much they bought and to make sure it was acceptable for the job. I worked there for seven years and when the dam was completed we moved to Niagara to replace the plant that fell into the river. It was on a muddy bank, got enough rain and fell in. We put in a canal that took water from Niagara Falls and into another open canal where we put a pump station and a dike and ran the water to another power plant to make electricity.
Most of the people I was working with came from the corps of engineer’s outfit that had been building dams out west. They stayed with us, then returned out west to build the canal from San Francisco to Los Angeles ... pumping water up and down hills.
At that point, we came back to Maine to see if we could make a living. I worked for Great Northern Paper Company in Millinocket and we lived in Millinocket for a year or so and went to a paper company in Lincoln.
Then I went to Charles T. Main in Boston, working as a draftsman. When I was working there, we lived in Redding, Massachusetts. After that I went to work for the state of California. The office was in Philadelphia and I traveled all around working for the inspection office. I would go to all the pumps and things for the dams and inspect the machinery, making sure it was properly built. I did that for around three years, until Main offered me a job to go back to New York and build a generating station. Once the station was done, I stayed in charge of the maintenance department.
Q: Did you move back to Maine?
A: Yes. It was 1992. We first went to Gorham and lived in a condo, then we moved back to my dad’s house when my mother passed away. We also have a camp on the lake and we stay here in the summer time.
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: People tell me at different times that I look like someone, but they are never the same person.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: Two or three cruises. We went to Britain and Ireland and on a bus tour of Scotland. We took a river cruise on the Danube River and have been to the Caribbean and various islands.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Down the Danube ... the wineries, castle and villages ... we were bussed to Prague and that was nice. They would pull into a town and we'd go to a cathedral or a winery, wherever we felt like going.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: My wife ... . She got me out of the dorm when I was in college. And she was really good about having to move all those times.
Q: Any children?
A: Yes, we have four. Avril is a builder and lives in Harrison, Daniel lives in Nebraska, Katherine lives in Nashua and Randolph lives in South Glen Falls. We have nine grandchildren at last count and we have seven great-grandchildren.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I started out in 4-H way back. I am in the Sons of the American Legion. I’m a Rotarian and very involved in my church. I liked to play with old, antique automobiles and I enjoy boating and swimming.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: I don't do a lot of reading anymore... . Now that I’m retired; I have a hard time getting through the newspaper.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Other than family, I would have to say coffee. I go through 12 or 14 cups a day. It's what keeps me awake so I don’t need a nap in the afternoon.
Q: What was the best memory that this interview brought back?
A: Just enjoying the roads we made ... riding my bike everywhere almost day and night. I even had a motorcycle for a while too, while in high school.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I have a good sense of humor and enjoy a good joke. I try to be honest when I can, but I really don’t have much to hide.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: It would have to be Katie. It's our daughter from Nashua. I'd tell her we enjoy her visits and the more the better.