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Ben & Jerry’s, lip reading and dishrags
OTISFIELD — Pat Heintz, 81 years old, grew up in Belmont, Massachusetts and vacationed in New Hampshire. She and her husband have owned a camp on Thompson Lake for 50 years and she says she is a Mainer at heart.
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 on July 2, 1930 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My parents were living in Cambridge, with my grandparents, but my dad was building a home. In December we moved to the new house in Belmont where I spent most of my childhood.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: Just my brother, who was 15 when I was born. He passed away in 1990; four days after my 60th birthday.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My father worked for what was then the Boston Elevated Railway System; he was an assistant to the chief engineer and worked downtown. Now it's Massachusetts Bay Transportation.
My mother was a housewife and she was quite busy, as our grandparents lived with us. And my brother, Laurance was born deaf, so that took up quite a bit of her time too.
He went to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was a very nice residential town.
Mom and Dad were thrilled to have a little girl after 15 years of raising a son. I wasn't as much spoiled as I was just loved.
I was very close to my brother. When I was a baby he would take me for walks in the carriage for hours. We would also play kick the can and play with marbles.
My dad called me Patsy and my brother called me Pattesy.
We would vacation at Ossipee Lake and it was fun to row the boats.
We went to the movies every Saturday morning. Laurance loved those because they were mostly westerns.
Being so close to Boston, we went to a lot of Red Sox games and Bruins games too.
I took piano lessons and tap lessons; I was better at dancing than at piano.
Q: How did you communicate with your brother?
A: When I began to talk, we did lip reading because he went to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and they preferred that over sign language.
I had to take enunciation classes so that he could read my lips better.
But we did do sign language as I got older.
Q: Was it tough socially?
A: Back then, life was hell when you had a disabled sister or brother. I would ride the bus with him and we would do sign language. People would stare or talk and they thought I was deaf too.
I was 11 when Pearl Harbor happened and he was the first one to be drafted. He ended up being 4F and it was hard, because every other young man in town had on a uniform and he didn’t.
It was tough for me because I was the sister and that’s how I was described, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
The school was wonderful for him, and I loved my brother the way he was.
They had a prom at his school and I got all dressed up in a gown and went with him.
It was quite a life experience.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a teacher.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: Oh yes. Lots of it! At night after supper, my brother’s job was to wash and I was to dry ... so I snapped the dishrag to let him know we were done. He would start chasing me around and that always ended when my dad stomped his feet.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I was a waitress at Liebs Deli and I was there for a couple of summers. I also worked at Filene’s, right there in Belmont Center.
When I was in college I was a counselor at the Happy Health Camp in Boxford, and I did that for the two summers. It was a camp for underprivileged children and the menus were very high calorie ... I gained 35 pounds in those 2 summers ... I'd lose it during the winter and get it back again come summer.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went through all the Belmont Schools. I went to Leslie College for teaching. It was called normal school and I was in the last class to graduate with a two-year degree. After that you needed a four-year degree to graduate.
The two-year students were told by the dean to apply to the outskirts because the four years should have the better jobs. Despite him I went to Waltham and taught there.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: He was working at the grocery store and I walked by the window and he asked a buddy of his who I was. He asked me out right away ... I was going into my sophomore year in high school. I was 15 and he was 17; it was1945.
On our first date we were going to go to the movies, but the line was so long we just ending up walking and walking. We ended up back at Belmont Center and had an ice cream sundae and he even kissed me goodnight. He also asked if we could go out again on a date the next weekend.
He went into the Marine Corp and was gone for two years ... during my senior year in high school and freshman year in college.
While he was stationed in Guam he sent me a letter saying that he'd like to get married after he got home and we'd saved up some money to buy a house.
Q: Did you teach?
A: Yes. I graduated from Leslie in 1949 and I was hired to begin in September, but the woman I was replacing was injured in a car accident in April, so I started then. I was pretty much down to doing finals and the school let me rearrange my schedule.
My first year was for $1,800.
Dad said he would not charge me room and board, but I had to give Dad my check and he'd give me expenses. Wally came back and was making 65 cents an hour as a meat cutter at the grocery store. Our dates were very limited except for going dancing on Saturday nights.
We got married in 1950.
Q: Where did you live?
A: We moved to Waltham where I taught.
After we were married four months I read an article in the newspaper about Harry Truman being able to activate the Marine Corps within 30 days. Wally was an inactive reserve so I wasn’t sure how it would affect him. Well, he got his orders two weeks later and he was on his way to Camp Lejeune. He stayed right there the whole time and was a meat cutter and was able to come home every other weekend.
I got pregnant and back then you were not allowed to teach if pregnant. So in January, I had to resign and we lived in a trailer that we hauled to North Carolina and lived on the base. Our daughter was born there and we were done when she was 10 weeks old.
Those were some tough times.
A: Yes. Susan lives in Durham New Hampshire and our son, Thomas passed away five years ago.
Q: How did you end up in Maine?
A: Wally always said when we got married we would have one house in the city and one in the country.
We had been renting a place in Fryeburg and in 1959 our neighbors in Waltham told us about this place on Thompson. We packed the kids up for the day and came to see it. The kids just loved the woods and thought this place was heaven ... so we bought it. So the day after school let out the kids and I came up for the summer. I didn’t have a car and when Wally came up on days off he would bring groceries. We did get bread from Cushmann’s and milk from Hemond’s because they delivered to the big camp next door.
The second year we had a boat and I could take that.
My brother moved in with us in the '60s and in 1977 we sold our home in Waltham and Dad sold his in Belmont and we had this place and a place in West Palm Beach. So we cared for both him and my brother. Dad lived for four years and my brother lived until 1990. Laurance, by the time he passed away had also become blind.
Q: How did you communicate?
A: We would write on each other’s hand. We didn’t need to spell the whole word out. It was almost like texting before texting came.
When my brother was in the hospital, I wrote cancer on his hand. He thought I had written canker ...
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: People used to tell me I looked by Barbara Stanwyck, especially my husband.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: We spent winters in Florida and went to Bermuda for our 25th anniversary. We also went on a cruise for our 50th. Other than that I haven’t been past Michigan ... my husband has been everywhere.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: My heart is really here in Maine and it doesn’t get better than sitting on this porch. Everyone that we knew in Maine used to tease us about being from away. But someone told us that Maine was part of Massachusetts in 1841, so I tease everyone that they are from far away too.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: I guess it would have to be my dad. He knew I would be a good teacher because of my brother and always encouraged me.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: Photos of all our kids. ... I love to bake cookies and all kinds of dessert.
I used to collect a few bottles and things and one of the milk bottles ended up in the Oakhurst Museum. A friend gave it to me and it had a picture of a little boy on it. We took it to Stanley Bennett and he had never seen it before.
Q: Did you make it through Irene?
A: We lost power for quite a while, but our neighbor had a generator and let us put some of our frozen goods there. They also had another freezer downstairs and another neighbor put her blueberries in that. The next day we went over to check and the one downstairs wasn’t running. All it had was the blueberries and some type of an aluminum pan in it. We saved the blueberries and realized the pan was full of a dessert made with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, so we brought it over here and ate it! It was delicious!
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: The day I got married.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: With all the grand and great-grandchildren, some I've never seen. We would have a wonderful family reunion, right here at the lake.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: It would have to be my son, even though my husband would probably say Marilyn Monroe. He died six years ago and we always kidded him about never missing a meal. We have a hummingbird outside our deck and he never misses a meal either, so we say that’s our son. He is probably somewhere up there with Marilyn Monroe having a good laugh!