Margaret Sprowl Recalls The Good Life
by Melissa Berry

In the 1790's my great-great grandfather, John Wright. came up here from Massachusetts and bought a piece of land on Wright's Hill. He hired a man to clear ten acres, which were virgin forests then, and burn everything and sew it to rye. He gave him fifty silver dollars to do it. John went back to Massachusetts and worked for a couple of years; then he came up and built a log cabin. In the process of buildin' the log cabin, between his trips back and forth to Thomaston, he met this girl who had just come over from England, she and her family, six months before. They were married and came up and lived in the log cabin. They had their first two or three children there in the cabin and in the meantime he was buildin' a house.

That would have been about 1800. They had nine children, one boy and eight girls. I remember my grandfather tellin' me about his father tellin' him about how they went to school. His father would get a team of oxen and drag a log along and then they'd all walk along in the trail that the log made in the snow. That's the way they'd go to school when the snow was real deep.

Then John's son Oliver, and his family, lived in the house. He had two children, John and Loni. I think he had several other children but in those days the mortality was high.
Then John, Oliver's son, lived there and he had three children, Irving, Edwin and Flora. Irving is my father. He got married and lived there and raised his family on the hill; he had seven children. He built a new house. Now there's three younger generations of Wrights Iivin' on the hill. My brother, and his son and his sons. So there have been seven generations livin' there on the hill. My grandfather always lived with us and used to tell us some stories, kind of unbelievable.

I remember one he told. They had some maple trees tapped out back of the house and they looked out one mornin', and there was this black bear settin' right on his haunches, and he had the pail, and it looked just like he was holdin' it to drink out of, settin' there on his haunches havin' him a drink of sap.

He used to tell about how his father, the wolves would holler 'round the house at night, and he'd take a fire brand out of the fireplace and chase 'em off.

The generations have all farmed on that small farm. It was a small farm. But. 'course then everybody had a small farm, a few cows and everything; raised gardens. My father was a farmer but he also bought and sold apples and blueberries and things like that. He was more of a trader. But he was always a farmer; he did a side line of that;
wood and things. That's how we all got started.

My father used to ship apples and eggs and veal calves, dressed ones, and dressed poultry on the Boston boat to Boston. If it was almost time for the boat he'd let us wait for it.
I can remember standin' there and feelin' like we were goin' out instead of the boat
comin' in to us. Then we'd watch the stevedores run up and down the ramp with the different freight. It was quite an occasion for us.

The summer people used to send their cars and their servants, them days they had all kinds of help, on the boat. They'd roll off one of them long tourin' cars for them. Always had chauffeurs.

One of the things we used to do for recreation was go to Oakland park and have a picnic. They had ball games and things down there. There was a dance hall there. I don't remember of any rides. There were swings and things. There was a baseball game most every day. Of course, we went down to the shore. That was quite a thing in them days.
We had an awful small world when I was growin' up. Until I went to high school It was just as far as you could walk. We walked to the pond, and we walked to the store and we walked to the neighbors to play and things. Just as far as we could walk and get back. Our world was small. We really didn't need or think about all these things they got today. Going' into Camden or Rockland was quite a big thing. Really, the most exciting' thing that would happen would be a package coming' from Sears-Roebuck or father's trip to Camden every week. He'd get the Boston Post and a few groceries. Groceries weren't like they are now; we just got the staples. I guess it was a good life.

I probably started grade school 'bout 1918 and the school was about a mile and a half away. I started with my two older brothers and older sister, so I had somebody to walk to school with. We always walked back 'n forth, a mile 'n a half. In the winter, why we got there the best we could. There wasn't any road and some days we'd miss school. There wasn't any plowed roads except with the horses; they'd go through, a pair of horses.
We had long vacations with the winter; we had winter vacation and mud vacation. The mud was worse than the snow, really, because that tied everything up. You don't know what it was like! There was no paved roads then, this was sixty-three years ago! When I was in about the fourth grade we had our first transportation, and that was an old open truck, a half ton truck with sides on it had curtains you let down when it rained.
When the truck came we'd jump in over the tailboard and sit on the floor. That was quite an improvement to walking. That was our first bus. In the winter they took us with a horse and a sled. Then in the spring, in the mud season, they came with a wagon and thehorse. That was when I was in the fifth grade.

I had already been to school for four years by walkin'. Two years later they opened up the red school house which was only a skip and a hop from my house. I could go home to dinner. That made five different one room schools in the town. Usually there was about twelve, fourteen, sometimes it'd be less, to a school. The two years that I was up to "the Little Red Schoolhouse," we called it, up close to home, I was the janitor. My father furnished the wood and on awful cold mornings he'd split me up some kindling, and I'd have to go an hour or so before school, Of course, there was no heat in the school all night and I'd go in there and start up the fire.

I could turn the ol' chimney red hot there, it ran the whole length of the school house, to heat it up. But it was hard some days to get it hot enough, so we'd have to sit around the stove the first few hours of school. couldn't sit back in our seats. But I got 10 cents a day, that was 50 cents a week, and at the end of the year the school committee paid me $18. I was some pleased. I had to keep the fire goin' and sweep the floor.

Then I went up to Camden High School. I had my own car; my father bought me a 1928 brand new model A Ford. Boy! I had that car to go to high school with. Of course, the roads were narrow and bumpy and everything. I used to take riders to pay my gas bill. They'd give me 50 cents a week to ride. Of course, gas was cheap then, you could get six gallons for $1. So we could go quite a ways. I was the only one from here to have a car. Boy, I was some ol' proud of that! The first two years I boarded down (in Camden) in the winter and durin' mud season. I rode with other children the rest of the time.

I stayed down through the week and then I'd come home Friday night and go back Monday mornin'. One particular mornin' in the winter, we had a terrible storm and nothin' was movin' or anything and there wasn't any school Monday. About noon time I started for Camden on my skis. We didn't have skis, just homemade skis with a little strap to poke your feet into, wasn't like it is now. But it was better than walkln'. So I came down over the John Rich Hill and went down where Earl Pearse lives, that was the shortest way to town. I got down about Mansfield Schoolhouse, (Molyneaux Road), where the corners are. Someone came along in this ol' truck, with all these chains on it, and they was a plinkin' along. There was these three men in it and they stopped and said, 'Throw ya skis in and jump aboard.' Well. I was boardin' down to Millville and, boy that was some relief! I was pretty tired 'cause I had to break trail all the way and my skis weren't really turned up much in front. But we got down there.

I always remember one Monday mornin', this was in the winter when I was boardin' down. My father took the horse and sled and he was going to town for something so I rode in with him. I was going to Rockland later that week to a basketball game, with schoolmates on the old trolley. Admission, it wasn't much, but it was enough. Father had his butter and his eggs to peddle to his customers along the way down. The first customer, he took him a pound of butter and brought out 35 cents and gave it to me! I appreciated it then! I had the extra money to go.

(Durin' high school, for entertainment) . . .we had a radio. We used to go to the movies. I had the car, and they'd chip in and we'd go to the movies. And then we always went to the basketball games.

My brother always liked to have hens. When I was about nine or ten, he had all these settin' hens, broody hens, broodin' in the boxes around. He was taken sick with pneumonia and he was sick a long, long time. Well, he had these hens settin', so he says to me, 'If you take care of 'em, you can have 'em.' Well, I was about ten, and I used to sit out there by the hour to see that they got off and on the nest. They'd have thirteen eggs under 'em, usually. Since then I've always had chickens. Not always of my own, I tended 'em for my father. That was my job.I've always enjoyed hens and have always had 'em. I haven't had layin' hens for a good many years, but we used to. In high school, in my senior year I had some hens and sold the eggs, 'course not many, but enough to get a little pin money.

The first chickens I ever bought from a hatchery was in 1931 or 1932. I bought 300 for $30 from somebody down to North Edgecomb. He come up with 'em but when they got to the pond road the mud was so deep he couldn't get any further. It was in the spring of the year. So he took the three boxes of day old chicks and put them on his shoulder and lugged 'em over home, which was about 3/4 of a mile. That's how the first ones I ever bought were delivered.

I graduated and was married during the depression. I remember the first fall that we were married, in '32 or '33, I can't remember, but my husband got a job out to Northport to dig postholes. They was buildln' some kind of a walk there on an estate, and he got 40 cents an hour for a ten hour day, and when the five days were over he brought home that $20. Boy, that was a lot of money!

We had two or three hundred hens then, that I took care of. That was a big flock then.
Shipped 'em to Boston, 17 cents a pound.

We came here to live forty-nine years ago, and built three small chicken houses that first winter. We always had hens. We'd take 'em down and ship 'em on the Boston boat to Rhodes Company. I was up to Boston recently to that Faneuil Hall Market and some of the places and there was that Rhodes' sign, that we used to sell to.

The first winter we moved here. . . 'course they didn't plow the roads much then, they had an old plow on a truck but it couldn't push anything much. This road wasn't built up much then. New Year's Day, my husband went workin' in the woods, and there come up a storm, so he came home. He thought it would be a big storm so he left his car out up at the top of the hill, 'cause he knew he couldn't get it out if it was stormy. He walked in. From then on, I think it was the 15th of April, before we got a car in. I don't know if it wasn't even longer because of mud season. We had chickens here and the man up there with his horses used to haul the grain in on his horse sled. Couldn't come in on the road 'cause the drifts were so deep. He'd come in through the woods and down across the field and bring in the grain and take out the eggs, We'd lug in our groceries. We had a radio that went by a car battery and when my husband went to work he'd take it on a shovel and drag it up the hill and put it in his car and go to work. Then he'd take it out and drag it down the hill so we could have a radio that night.

We had an old fella up here, used to work around for different people. He was one from the old school and instead of saying, 'I work for this fella,' he'd say, 'I helped him out yesterday' or 'I helped him chop his wood.' That was his attitude. I mean, that was the way he'd always say it; he'd help someone. But I guess he took the money all right.

Today I'm beginnin' to find things that I can't do that I used to be able to do. That's what frustrates me a lot, because I have to call on my daughter's husband to come down for the heavier work. I just can't do it.Well, I'm pushing seventy.

When I was Iivin' at home we always raised all our vegetables and had a pig and meat and my mother always canned an awful lot.We always had plenty to eat and the depression wasn't hard that way. We didn't notice it as much as some people did.

I can remember when I was goin' down to high school and, drivin' the car down, and that was when there was some snow on the ground you'd meet a while line of these men comin' up with their hand sleds. The town had a wood lot by the bend in the river and they gave free wood. They'd come to get what they could for wood. Well, they wasn't workin'. There was no unemployment (payments) or anything, and they could get wood enough to keep 'em warm. In those days there wasn't the cash runnin' 'round like credit cards and all that stuff. We didn't have to have anything for that, you see, no welfare. Got that WPA goin'. They had hired men around here. I remember one job they had, this was in the winter, and there was six or eight or ten men, they was shovelin' the snow off the road up there towards the cemetery. Then they had these trucks come with a little gravel and put in the road then they spread it 'round by hand. That was what people did to earn their WPA money. People thought they was earnin' their money!

Just like my birds out here. We never thought of feedin' them, forty years ago we'd never feed the birds. Now look what we got, free loaders. They always used to scratch and live and survive by themselves.

I would slow the world down a little. It's movin' too fast. My mother took her frustrations out on the scrub board, and she had seven children, ten in the family. Now they've got to do something different. I don't know whether it's better or worse. They're different worlds all together; there is really no comparison. I do think we appreciated things more then, than we do now. My mother made all the clothes and everything. When I was about ten or eleven I got a store bought sweater for Christmas. It was a light blue slip on with a big collar on It. I put that on and went up on the hill. If it had been fifty below I'd been warm enough. It was such a good feeling to have that. Now, Good Lord, they have great piles of packages and they open 'em up, and throw 'em down and look to see if there's anything else, not knowing half what they got. And they sure don't appreciate it. But that's the way people are today. They go after this and after that but they don't look back to appreciate what they got. Gotta stop and count your blessings. People don't stop to think of that now.


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