Growing up in Dover-Foxcroft: Part 1

By Rhonda Hanson Weaver
FA Class of 1967

    In the 1950s and ‘60s, Dover-Foxcroft, like most small Maine towns, was a special place in which to grow up. Everyone knew pretty much everyone and so, as a child, you always felt secure. You behaved, too, because word would get back to your parents if you misbehaved.

    I miss visiting the old stores. In those days, ‘downtown’ had everything you needed, whether groceries, new boots, school supplies, tools, medicine or heating oil. Since most of us kids walked home from the Academy (even in the winter, as we had no buses), we would stop at one of the stores for penny candy, a milkshake if you had the money or just to browse or to get warmed up in the winter. Peter’s Pharmacy, Koritsky’s, Newberry’s, Steadman’s, Anderson’s and Lanphers were all favorite haunts. And do you remember there used to be a small bowling alley beneath Lanphers? Traveling to a city (in this case, Bangor) was done only occasionally and was regarded as a family adventure.
    It was about a mile for me and my older sister, Sharon, to walk downtown, but we never expected a ride, even in winter. Occasionally, someone who knew us might stop and give us a lift. We made weekly treks to the library where, of course, the librarians knew us, and often protested about the armfuls of books we would lug back home. The Bobbsey Twins and Carolyn Keene mysteries kept me going back every week.
    When we accumulated enough returnable bottles, we’d pack up our little red wagon and pull it to the nearest corner grocery store at Merrick Square (about half mile away) to redeem the bottles for pennies, which we promptly spent at the candy counter at Steadman’s or Anderson’s. Remember the glass counters? The counters had a glass front, and individual candies were laid out on little doilies, two pieces for 5 cents. We spent long periods of time deciding which to choose, as even a nickel was considered big money for us. We walked back home slowly, enjoying our treats so we didn’t have to share them with our siblings.
    Summers seemed endless, with pick-up baseball games, building cabins in the woods from leaves and branches, wading and fishing in various brooks, waiting in front of the A&P for a ride to Sebec on the Red Cross Swimming bus or watching the bevy of boys who sat on the sidewalk, hitchhiking out to Sebec Lake to spend the day on the beach. Funny, looking back, how it was accepted girls couldn’t possibly hitchhike but boys could, despite the fact that in our little town we knew everyone. Even stranger is no one really questioned it.
    When I was in high school, my friends and I would bike out to the beach if no one would give us a ride. You quickly realized how many darn hills you had to bike up to get there!
    A summer day could be spent looking for 4-leaf clovers, playing army, shooting marbles, challenging someone to hopscotch, seeing who could swing the highest, or riding bikes. Almost every kid had scraped knees and bruises, whether from climbing trees, riding In the evenings, the neighborhood gang would play Tin Can Alley or Hide and Seek. We’d catch lightning bugs, tell ghost stories or lie on the damp grass and watch the stars.
    Decisions were made by saying “eeny-meeny-miney-moe” and if someone wasn’t satisfied we would sometimes give in and have “do-overs”. Peashooters, wax coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside, and candy cigarettes were considered cool. There wasn’t much adventure so we gladly made our own. And most parents didn’t interfere in our neighborhood squabbles, so you learned the skill of negotiating on your own. Lincoln logs, erector sets, penny candy, Teaberry chewing gum, and “olley, olley in free” were part of our world.
    Rhonda Hanson Weaver lives in Harpswell. Her family camp is at Sebec, right by the narrows. Her retrospective column continues next week.

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