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$20,000 dogs, Jeep Willy pickup trucks and 16-gauge shotguns
SOUTH PARIS – Sam Sessions, 54 years old, grew up in Norway and now resides in Paris. He has had many interesting jobs and has spent much of his life behind the wheel of a racecar.
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 in Lewiston on September 27, 1956. I grew up on the back side of Pikes Hill in Norway. It's the best place on earth for a kid to grow up.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I have three brothers and I am the youngest ... Eddie Brown lives in Virginia, Scott Sessions lives in Mechanic Falls and Sumner Sessions lives across the street from where we grew up on Pikes Hill.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My mother worked in the mills and she retired from the Bridgton Knitting Mill.
My dad was in the retail building business. He was the manager for Diamond National for 25 years and before that he served in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. He worked as a superintendent for SAD 17 after he got done at Diamond National and he also had worked for Swan Supply and Hancock Lumber.
Mom is 85 and she still works!
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: It was great. It was a time when it was OK to go out first thing in the morning and not get home till late. No one worried about you.
There were a lot of boys around the neighborhood to play with but I really didn’t get into any stick sports; I never liked the sports with a ball.
We had homemade soapbox derby cars.
My neighbor, Gary Stack ... his dad, Bill owned AW Walker in South Paris and it was a John Deere dealership. It was always a fight to go over to his house and help mow his lawn because we got to drive those John Deeres.
He also had snowmobiles and he let us ride them around. That was really nice.
He also had ponies and so we got to ride those too.
Both of my parents were really hard workers and perfect examples of the middle class. We weren't rich, but we didn’t want for anything; just very lucky.
In the summer we had a camp on Whitney Pond and we would go swimming and boating. It was the same thing down there; leave in the morning and no one would worry about you all day.
I bought a 16-gauge shotgun when I was around 13 with some lawn mowing money. I hunted for a few years, but I was so little and the gun was so big I couldn’t look straight down the barrel. I could see 100 deer, empty the barrel and not be able to shoot one. But now I am glad I never got one because I don't know how I would have felt had I killed something.
I used to go on the school trips to Mt Abram. I liked to ski and I wasn’t scared of falling, so instead of turning, I would just wipe out to stop.
I was one of the littlest kids in school ... in eighth grade I was 4-foot, 8 inches tall. I grew the most in the next two years and got up to 5-foot, 7 inches and stayed there!
In high school I competed in gymnastics and in my senior year I got second in the state for long-horse vaulting and the team won the state championship my junior year.
When I was in gymnastics ... Mom was always supportive and she always threatened she was going to stand up and say ‘that's my boy!’
I played freshman football, but I wasn’t good at that at all.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be an astronaut. I watched the landing on the moon. You could barely see the picture, but it was pretty amazing.
Q: Where were you when JFK died?
A: I was downstairs with the janitor at school. It was on the radio and no one upstairs knew about it yet.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Oxford Hills all the way through.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: I got kicked out of school for a week in the sixth grade. I was the clown and always trying to be funny. I overstepped my boundaries pretty bad, but it straightened me out.
That particular day, the principal or a teacher had told me to do something and I called her an old bag. They called my father and discussed it and they expelled me for a week.
Q: Was it tough staying home?
A: I was more embarrassed at what I had done, but my parents were pretty fair. I knew I had done wrong, but never worried about a beating.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I did lawn mowing and I bought my first pair of skis at Woodmans and my first gun there too.
In high school I worked at Sunday River when it was only the one lodge. I worked parking cars, unloading the chairlifts; whatever they wanted me to do on the weekend.
I also worked at Snowcraft making snowshoes after school around my senior year.
I went to CMVTI in Auburn and took metal fabrication. It was a full-time six-month course at the time and I think it was $500. I became a state-certified welder.
Q: Where did you work?
A: I went to work at Callahan Brothers in Mechanic Falls and built bridges.
We worked in Topsham and Brunswick. In Brunswick I was working on a bridge being built over 295, which hadn’t opened yet. I was on a staging plank and it broke. I landed in the road next to a bulldozer and broke my wrist; it was around 20 feet high.
After that I went all over the country building wastewater treatment plants for a company in New York called American Tank Company. They had come to Rumford Point while I was working in the area and I told them I'd like to work with them. I went to Florida for that winter and they called me the next spring.
I worked for them for a couple of years and another guy that worked for them started a company doing the same thing. It was called SamORock. The office was in my house and we did all the bidding right from home.
Q: Where did you live?
A: I had bought a house on Pikes Hill in the late '70s. A man that my brother had cared for passed away and I got a chance to buy the house. The daughter sold it to me and when she did, she asked if I wanted the dog and cat. When I said I didn’t, she told me I had to do something with them, so I kept them. So, I always called it a $20,000 dog and she threw in the house.
Q: What did you do in your spare time?
A: I started racing. I came home from one of the jobs for a vacation and my brother was going to drive someone’s car at Oxford and he let me drive it.
I ended up having a long career in racing and won quite a few races.
I also got the chance to drive at the Sanair in Montreal. Speeds were over 160 miles-per-hour and that was something else.
Q: Any championships?
I won the Pro All Star series in 2001. My biggest purse was at Wiscasset and we were pretty happy about that.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: About a year after I started racing I met Holly at Market Square in South Paris. A buddy and I were riding around in a snowstorm and she and a friend were building a snowman in the middle of the circle. We knew the friend so we stopped to talk to them. She had a little, two-year old girl at the time.
We dated for about three years and got married in 1986 and built a house in South Paris in 1994.
Q: Any children?
A: There was Nicole and we had another daughter, Shella five years later. Nicole lives in Poland and Shella lives in Oxford.
Q: Where does your wife work?
A: When we met, her family owned Fiddlehead Market in Market Square.
She worked there until about late '80s and then they closed the store. She started her own cleaning business and she cleans houses and she also has a crew.
Q: What do you do now?
A: Right now we own Tuscany Hall and we just did a major renovation and also rent the part of it for office space.
I just invented a tree de-limber and own the patent and manufacture it. It has two arms; one is stationary and the other adjusts as the tree changes widths. It scrapes all the limbs off.
I make some exercise equipment for Planet Fitness and I use to do a lot of portable industrial welding.
I also do some excavating; I guess I am a Larry, Daryl and Daryl all wrapped up in one.
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: Actually many say that I look like Dale Earnhardt ... but that’s only because of the same nose, mustache and I was wearing a helmet.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: I worked all over the country, but for personal trips, we have been on three cruises and to Jamaica a few years ago. We went to Europe and we’re planning a trip to Niagara Falls for our anniversary.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Hawaii was beautiful, but fascinating was standing atop all the seats at the Bristol Speedway.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: It wasn’t a person so much as a thing and that would be racing. If I hadn't have been racing I would probably still be building tanks. I could have probably been a lot more successful had I not raced, but I wouldn’t be where I was today and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I have an ’03 Harley Deuce and it’s mostly to go for a little putter around town.
In the winter I run antique snowmobiles. We have done that all around; places like Hemond’s, Turner and New Hampshire.
My biggest hobby now is my grandson Ryder. He will be two next month. He is the thrill of my life. My other daughter's boyfriend has a two-year old also, Gavin and it's great playing with him too.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: Things that I read would be mostly race related and I hardly get a chance to do that.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: My friends; I have many of them and have been so fortunate.
Q: Do you have a hidden talent or a talent you wished you had?
A: I'd like to be able to sing ... but I've never done it.
Q: What was the best memory that this interview brought back?
A: Growing up on Pikes Hill. It was just really awesome. Going plowing with my dad with an old Jeep Willy pickup ... . That was a jackpot to get woken up to go ride with him ... and we thought it was such a thrill. It took a while, with older brothers for me to get the chance and when I finally did, I was excited.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: One thing is that I really like people and like to be friends with everyone. It really bothers me if I can't get along with someone.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: It would obviously be with family with a big barbeque and just being together.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: I'd like to see my dad ... I don't know as if I'd tell him anything. We’ve always had a relationship where we never had to say anything. He was never a big talker.