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Not-so-good old days
Just as it is today, fire was both a blessing and a curse to mankind and the Oxford Hills were not exceptions. As it is now, the "blessing" side of that equation usually didn't appear in newspapers. Two of this week's stories from the 1930s illustrate the negative side.
From the Advertiser Democrat, Dec. 10, 1935:
Cripple Burned to Death
Mother Made Frantic Attempt to Rescue
Katherine Thayer, eleven years old, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth G. Thayer, and a cripple from infancy, was burned to death in a fire that swept through rooms at her home about 4:30 Wednesday afternoon. Her mother and brother made frantic efforts to save the child but were driven back by smoke and flames.
Arsene Blaquiere and Ernest Descoteau of Norway Fire Department used smoke masks and secured the remains after conditions were possible to enter the kitchen where the badly burned form was finally discovered.
The tragedy occurred in the upstairs apartment of the Charles Stevens house on Tucker Street, occupied by Kenneth Thayer, his wife and six children, who came to Norway from Mechanic Falls two months ago.
The mother was hanging out a wash when she smelled smoke and discovered flames coming from the kitchen in the ell. Rushing upstairs she started to carry the daughter to a place of safety but left her for a moment to first save Paul, aged 14 months who was asleep in the next room. Returning quickly from a neighbor's where she left Paul, she could not re-enter the room so rapidly had the flames and smoke spread in the apartment.
In the mean time two sons, Gordon, 8, and Clayton, 6, made their escape without difficulty. Kenneth, Jr., and Robert, who arrived from the school gymnasium, attempted to save their sister, but were forced back.
A defective chimney is believed to have cause the fire which worked through the petitions on the second floor. The lower part of the house was damaged by water.
Members of the family are being cared for by neighbors.
Of course, the word "cripple" would not be used in a story today, let alone in a headline, by any editor who wanted to be around for the next week's edition. But in the 1930s, the term "politically correct" would have drawn blank stares of incomprehension from most people back then.
Another fire story, published a week after the one cited above, illustrates more than just the developmental stage of language usage. However, thankfully, it did not involve a death.
From the Advertiser Democrat, December 27, 1935:
Fire Destroys Wireless Station
Fire late Monday destroyed the amateur wireless station and equipment owned by Robert G. Pike, located on Elm Hill, about one mile from Norway village. Loss is estimated about $2,000, without insurance. When Mr. Pike left the camp about three o'clock, everything appeared all right, but at 5 o'clock the building was a mass of flames. People living in the vicinity notified the family in the village and a number from the fire department responded with a booster tank but the ruins were falling when they arrived, so nothing could be done.
The building put up not many years ago was a camp, den, work shop and wireless station operating under the exit number WIAFA, being one of six active stations about Norway and So. Paris. This was adjacent to the summer cottage of Robert Pike's father, L. Fred Pike, of the L. F. Pike Co.
The equipment was powerful and hundreds of reply cards that adorned the walls proved the station was far reaching. Cards represented forty-four countries on six continents and several thousand amateur stations.
Several times the young operator had relayed messages to "Little America" and many times in a direct touch with the Grenfel hospital in Labrador.
His first outfit was a small homemade affair of limited range, but he increased in knowledge and received his license in 1927. Before locating on Elm Hill, he had upper rooms at the Main Street home where now his radio business as a dealer is located.
Robert is undecided what he will do, but his friends believe another broadcasting equipment will be installed before many months because he just can't keep away from the fascinating work.
For 21st century readers who haven't yet figured it out, "wireless" at that time meant "radio." The young man on Elm Hill had what we, today, would call a "Ham" radio station. They still exist, but in much smaller spaces but are on reserve for use in disasters when cell phone towers and phone cables are out of commission.
Only a few years later, our government was very intent on finding a similar radio station somewhere in Maine — one used by Gnats sympathizers or spies.
As is our custom, we try to exactly reproduce the grammar, spelling, punctuation and style of the original. Commas might appear where least expected and remain absent where we’d expect them if the item was written nowadays. On the other hand, consistency was not considered of utmost importance, so variations of a spelling might appear within one story. In addition, some words were abbreviated differently than today. Where brief explanations of terms are considered necessary, they are presented in brackets  within the quote. Otherwise, explanations appear at the beginning or at the conclusion, without quotes. Parenthesis () used in a quoted passage appeared in the original.