Greenville honors its eldest citizen

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GREENVILLE — One of Greenville’s most special citizens, Perley Hood, age 100, was recently presented with a Boston Post Cane, honoring his status as the town’s eldest citizen.

Suzanne AuClair, executive director of the Moosehead Historical Society, was on hand at the Shaw Library in Greenville to meet Hood and present him with the historic cane. As it happened, it was also a Hood family reunion and many family members were at the library to celebrate their patriarch, along with Library Director Linda Wohlforth and Greenville Town Manager Jesse Crandall.

Perley Hood was born on a small island in the Fairfield, Maine area Aug. 1, 1917. At the time of his birth, World War I was raging in Europe. Labeled as “The war to end all wars,” more than 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians were killed in the horrific battles exacerbated by sophisticated weaponry and deadly nerve gas. The news of the terrible war was close to home for Perley’s parents. His father was born in Russia in the 1800s. Their mother murdered, he and his brother fled the country, traveling on foot through Russia to Poland and finally secured passage to America and Canada. Eventually they both became proud citizens of their adopted countries – the United States and Canada respectively.

They changed their complicated Russian surname to Hood to make it easier to assimilate in their new country. They were both professional violinists in Russia, but gave up their professional music careers and spent their most productive years in the farming business.

When rumors of another war loomed in the world, Perley tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. He traveled to New Jersey and just happened to be in Lakehurst in 1937 when he witnessed the fiery end of the Hindenburg, a huge zeppelin that was the pride of Nazi Germany. Perley was turned down by the army because he had no vision in one eye. He wasn’t easily dissuaded and went to a number of army posts to enlist. They all turned him down, so he did what he could to support the eventual war effort from the sidelines.

Always looking for something new, he discovered candlestick bowling, and brought that game to Maine, specifically the town of Freeport. He built his alley near L.L Bean’s factory and first store. In addition, he installed an arcade for the kids with pool tables and fast food being offered. He and Leon Bean became friends.

During his working career Perley worked in the woods, was a cook at a woods camp and helped build the Seboomook Dam. Later he worked as a valve tech at the Maine Yankee nuclear plant in Wiscasset, and in his spare time he could be found on the clam flats. After many years working in Southern Maine, he and his wife Betty came to Greenville and settled down. She was born in the area and very much missed living near Moosehead Lake. All Perley’s life he was a bundle of energy – busy with one project or one job after the other. And, even in recent years he hasn’t slowed down much. Through most of his nineties, he’s worked to maintain his home on the Lily Bay Road.

The Boston Post Cane tradition was started as a promotional event by the Boston Post newspaper only eight years before Perley was born. The cane is elegant and made of African ebony with a 24-carat gold embossed head. Originally, the canes, and there were many in those early days, were presented to the eldest male citizen in 700 towns throughout New England (for some reason Vermont and Connecticut were not included). Although the newspaper is long gone, the tradition is carried on and includes women. Unfortunately there are very few of these canes left, so the presentation is mostly ceremonial, with a plaque or citation substituting for ownership of the cane.

Perley was delighted. “It’s an honor,” he said. “It means a lot.” He was especially glad to see so many family members present for the ceremony. “I won’t be forgetting this day anytime soon,” he quipped. “I’m a lucky man!”

Observer photo/Shelagh Talbot
GREENVILLE’S NEW BOSTON POST CANE RECIPIENT — Suzanne AuClair, Executive Director of the Moosehead Historical Society, presents Perley Hood with the Boston Post Cane emblematic of his status as Greenville’s oldest resident. Jesse Crandall, Greenville’s Town Manager, and Linda Wohlforth, Shaw Library Director, look on.

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