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Mount Hood, aluminum pans and shoe irons
POLAND — Fred Andrews, now 81 years old, grew up in Whitman, Massachusetts and came to Maine to go to college. He met his wife here and decided that Maine was a great place 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 December 21, 1929 in Brockton Massachusetts. I was only in Brockton for five days; it was in the hospital. I grew up in the town next door, Whitman.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: One of each. Margaret lives in Florida and William lived in Rhode Island. They had stayed in Massachusetts, but I got out. My sister is four years older and my brother was two years younger. I got caught in the middle.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My dad was an accountant and he did that just about all of his life. My mom was a homemaker.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: We had all the comforts of home. We lived in a fairly nice place in the outskirts of town. The houses weren't crammed together, but we weren’t in the country either. Dad took the train to Boston every day to go to work.
We didn’t have a phone until I was in high school; it was maybe back in the early '40s before we got one. There was no TV, but we had a radio and listened to Little Orphan Annie, Jack Armstrong and Tom Mix. Jack Armstrong came on at quarter of 6 at night and he was the all-American boy. I think the sponsor was Kellogg’s or Wheaties.
I was actually listening to the radio the day they bombed Pearl Harbor. They had interrupted whatever we were listening to and everyone sat there glued to the radio. It was a pretty traumatic time, but interesting.
I was in high school during the war and everything was rationed.
We collected newspapers, aluminum and grease for the war effort. The Boy Scouts collected and filled a box car with aluminum pans and it was the same with newspapers. We all had a route and would pick them up. When we had enough they sent a freight car and we would fill it.
We also worked as runners for the air raid wardens. ... we had them in every town. Runners would look to make sure everyone had their lights off and everyone had to have black out curtains. The tops of the headlights on the cars were painted black on the top so not to shine upwards, but not many people drove much anyway. You were only allowed four gallons on a sticker. We had points ... little red or blue tokens and you could use them to buy meat if there was any. Lots of the stuff, you just couldn’t get unless it was on the black market and there was plenty of that around.
They had done a lot of bombing off the coast, but we were about 15 miles in, so we didn’t hear it much.
We lived very close to the blimp base and they would go on patrol and look for submarines. They even carried depth charges.
Other than that, we did all the typical boy things; baseball, basketball and football.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: If I did, I've forgotten it now... .
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: All the way through high school at Whitman. I started at four years of age and graduated at 17. It was a regular school, first through sixth and junior and high school in other buildings. They have either all closed or turned into old-age housing.
When they built the new high school, the principal and school board invited the 50th class reunion people back to participate in graduation. The year it was my turn to go was the first time I had seen the new building. The principal had even sat down and studied the yearbook and when I walked in he told me I must be Fred Andrews. During graduation we all had to parade up and they gave us another diploma. The principal talked about us and what we had done over the years. That was a neat thing for the school to do.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: Me? No one had cars. You went on the bus or you rode bikes or walked. Most of my friends in high school didn’t live too close, so there wasn’t much chance for mischief.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: When I was 13 or 14 I mowed lawns with a push blade for 25 cents a lawn. I also delivered washings for a lady who did laundry, but to do that, I had to go to the ration board to buy a bike. On Saturday morning I worked for another guy doing the lawn and garden. That was 35 cents an hour.
I had a paper route and also worked making and repairing the irons for shoes. They were specially shaped and they heated the leather to make it fit.
A: Aroostook State Normal School, which is now the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Back then, the word normal was attributed to teacher training. I graduated from the three-year program and got certified to teach. When I graduated you had to take one more year to get your BS or be drafted. I got my deferment and went to Gorham and got my BS in 1952.
I taught school in Caribou for one year and it was the sixth grade; teaching everything.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: I met Ermatrude in Caribou; she was the secretary at the school. I was going home from a basketball game and she gave me a ride. We dated for three years and got married in 1955.
Q: Ever enter the service?
Much to my chagrin; yes. I served 23 months and some-odd days; about a month and a half short of two years. I was in Fort Dix the whole time ... other than Devens for two days. I was a personnel administrative specialist ... probably what you would call human resources today.
There were six of us in the service that had all gone to college together; either Presque Isle or Gorham.
Quite a few guys were going to or coming back from Korea. The place was pretty full, sometimes more than we needed, but I was lucky; I was made Corporal in the First Army Area. I didn’t even know I had made it. The sergeant came in and said ‘good morning Corporal’ and then he told me to go check out my orders next to the typewriter.
Q: What did you do when you got out?
A: I took advantage of the GI Bill and went back to get my masters at Orono.
Ermatrude and I got married shortly after I got back to Maine. She had two children, ages five and three and within a year, we had a third. And it was tough living on $60 a month ... half of it went for rent.
We had a two-room apartment and we shared the bathroom with the two other apartments.
Q: Where did you teach?
We went back to Caribou and lived there from 1956 to 1968. I taught there for a few years and then went to Loring and taught. Then I became the principal.
I eventually went to Dixfield and was the superintendent for SAD 21. Later I came to Union 29 and was the superintendent and retired from there in 1981.
Q: Do you have children?
A: Melanie lives in Acton, Michael passed away when he was 49, Timothy lives in Casco, Todd passed away when he was 30 and Philip lives in Casco. We have eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Q: What do you do now?
A: I am a tax preparer and I’ve done it for 27 years. I work for Just Taxes in Lewiston.
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: Nope, not that I know of!
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: No. We've been to principal’s conferences in Oregon, Texas and Boston. When we went to Oregon, we went to San Francisco to visit relatives.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Oregon. We went up the Columbia River for quite a ways and saw Mount Hood and it was July and snowing. We took a car ride and went south to this semi-arid region and then west over to Mount Hood. The fellow’s relative lived there and she had us up for supper ... they owned the top of the hill, it was a fancy house and all. It was something quite different from the relatives over here in the east.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: No, I did my own thing.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I live to read and I do like to hunt; not as much as I used to, but I am going on my seventh moose hunt this fall. We’ve had eight tickets in the family.
I am a member of the Lion’s Club in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland and I am the treasurer.
I also really enjoy collecting antique still banks ... people now would call them a piggy bank.
Q: Do you have any favorites?
A: Yes, I have two. I have a bank of Independence Hall, which is three banks in one. It is 11 by 8 by 3, all cast iron and I also have one that is Plymouth Rock. They may not have much value, but they mean a lot to me.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: It is a book by Kenneth Roberts and he lives here in Arundel, Maine. He wrote four or five historical novels based here in Maine.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Besides family, I couldn't give up reading. I would hate to have to give that up.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: I can’t really think of what I'd like to do again, unless it was to maybe go back and do a few do-overs.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: Just to be respected and realize that I like people, I'd really hate to be without ‘em.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: I'd be reading a good book by the lake. But I live on a lake and do that a lot. I guess that’s just good living!
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: There've been so many over the years ... I would have liked to have met Franklin Roosevelt ... I grew up when he was president and throughout the war. I always thought he was a great leader. To just sit and talk with him would be interesting ... hopefully I will someday. I don't think either one of us will be down below!