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PEOPLE, PLACES AND EVENTS
 
  people riverwalk entennial indians  
 

This page is dedicated to the people, places and events of Westbrook - past and present. It includes stories, photos and genealogies presented by our readers. We encourage you to send your stories to: info@westbrookhistoricalsociety.org

 
 
 

TED LAMPRON, the BANJO MAN
by Ted Lampron, Jr.

 
  lampron1  
 

Few of us can remember the 1930s when Westbrook and the rest of the United States were struggling through the Great Depression, 1929-1939. It was a decade of hard times in America, but in spite of the hardships that our grandparents and great-grandparents went through, the 1930s was a great decade in American music. Anyone with access to a radio could share in it.

It was during the thirties that Hillbilly music was considered an acceptable label for what is now known as country music. The name, coined in 1925 by country pianist Al Hopkins, persisted until the 1950s. During the late 1930s, the WGAN radio station, broadcasting from the Gannett building in Portland (owned by the Guy Gannett Publishing Co.) featured a Hillbilly band, the only working band in the area at the time. The band was called 'Uncle Lem and his Mountain Boys.'

The group had a lead female singer named Lulu Belle, and one of the band members was the legendary guitarist, Johnny Smith, who later went on to a successful recording career. In 1939, Smith quit the band to start a jazz band called the Airport Boys. His replacement was a Westbrook banjo player named Ted Lampron. Ted was believed by many, in the music business, to be the best banjo strummer in the state of Maine. Ted and the band traveled all over Maine doing pop tunes, polkas, folk songs and so forth at country dances, square dances, fairs, schools and local clubs. The Depression was near an end, and war was looming in Europe, but Ted was raking in about $5 a night – "Big money in those days.

Ted Lampron was born in Westbrook, Maine in the year 1910, he grew up on the family farm on Saco Street and attended schools in Westbrook. Ted was a self-taught banjo player, and by the time he reached his 25th birthday, he was making a living playing the banjo. Ted soon became a small town celebrity and in 1939 joined Uncle Lem and his Mountain Boys to replace the lead guitarist, Johnny Smith.

Ted was a fun-loving musician who liked people, and on occasion, enjoyed entertaining friends and family with some good old fashion banjo music. Many folks in Westbrook knew him and called him the Banjo Man. In 1939, he met and later married Mary Williams (Blanchard) from Westbrook. They had one child, a boy, born in 1940. After World War II broke out, Ted went to work in the Portland Shipyards where he remained until his untimely death in 1943. He was thirty-three-years-old.

Ted's great-grandparents, Paul and Philomène (Mulaire) Lampron migrated to Westbrook from Québec, Canada in 1873. They resided on Brown Street in Frenchtown. Paul worked at Dana Warp mills until his death, in1880. Paul and Philomène had eight children. All present day Lamprons in Westbrook are related to this first Lampron family from Canada.

 
 
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Uncle Lem and his Mountain Boys, with Lulu Belle

 
 
  HARRY L. LOWELL
Champion Violin Maker
 
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Harry l. Lowell
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Lowell family of Westbrook
   
 

Harry Louis Lowell was born April 27, 1878 in Gorham, Maine. After graduating from Westbrook High School, he was employed by the Dana Warp Mills office from Jan. 1, 1900 to 1943 where he was paymaster and later a cost accountant. When he retired, he was the oldest employee of the Dana Warp Mills in years of service and he had worked with three generations of the Dana family. 

Mr. Lowell was a deacon of the Westbrook Congregational Church where he served for 10 years as church treasurer.  He was also a member of Temple Lodge, AF&AM and Mizpah Chapter, O.E.S.  He was a member of the Westbrook Rotary Club and for several years wrote the Rotary Revelrie, a weekly club bulletin.  He was elected twice to the City Council on the Republican ticket. He was Captain of Company M, National Guard and a member of the Cleeves Rifles. He helped build his cottage at Higgins Beach in the early 20s and his family continued to spend their summers there for many years.

One of his hobbies was violin making and he won first prize in a Violin Making Contest held in City Hall in Portland, Maine.  [An edited copy of a news article of the event is included below.]

 
     
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Violin made by H.L. Lowell, seen at Westbrook Historical Soociety
With the first instrument which he ever made,  Harry L. Lowell of Westbrook won the violin sweepstakes at  City Hall yesterday afternoon, when the Violin Makers’ Association of Maine held its ninth annual contest.
Mr. Lowell's fiddle … was pitted against 17 others - and there were some mighty good ones among them - but it stood the test magnificently and …[when] David E. Fisher, official player and one of the judges also, coaxed music from it, it received the unanimous vote of those passing upon the lot, in competition with the other remaining violins.
  To say that the victor was surprised is stating the case very conservatively. "You could have knocked me ever with a feather," he said to the first little group from among the competitors who rushed over to congratulate him.
The majority of the men in this section of the State who man­ufacture violins as a  pastime, and who have in years past turned out some exceptionally fine instruments, were entrants in yesterday's contest…
Mr. Lowell, who is a paymaster in the Dana Warp Mills, said that he had been working on his instrument at odd moments during the last two months, but he had no idea when he entered it that it would be the winner. It is a very handsome violin and has a tone that is the envy of all who competed.
[A list of Westbrook] entrants in the contest follows:             
Robert F. Newhall, Austin Alden, H.G. Lowell, W.E. Lowell, Harry L. Lowell, and Edward Harmon.
   
 

Mr. Lowell’s daughters Alma, Ruth, Janet and Shirley played violins in the Westbrook High School Orchestra and the Portland Symphony.  All their violins were made by their father.

Harry L. Lowell died of a heart attack at his summer home at Higgins Beach in Scarborough, Maine on Sept. I8, 1955 at the age of 77.

 
 
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A sampling of Lowell's violin making items at the Society
 
  Editor: The above information was provided by family members, at the time of their donation of Mr. Lowell’s violin and violin making tools to the Westbrook Historical Society. Visit the Society to learn about other Westbrook violinist and violin makers.  
 
 

ICE CUTTING ON THE PRESUMPSCOT, 1908 - 1910
By Percy Conant*
*This article is copied, as written, from Eleanor Conant Saunders' "Memories Notebook". She related a story, as told to her in 1967, by her father.

[Ed.: The following article was written about ice harvesting on the Presumpscot River;
the photos were taken at the Dam in Duck Pond.***]

 
 
ice1
Herbert Dearborn's Ice House at the Dam on Highland Lake
 
 

B.G. Pride Company had two ice houses situated on the westerly side of the Presumpscot on land bought from Mr. Titcomb (where the pole line now stands 1967).

7 - 8 men and 2 pair of horses on hoist to haul ice into ice house. The horses were used to put ice in both houses. One man on the Grab Pevy.

1 - 2 horses marking and grooving [the ice] and 2 men to do the marking and grooving

2 men sawing and barring off - often they had grooved it. They sawed a whole strip [of ice] off - after barring a header (first cake).

Ice saw was much the same as a cross cut saw but with only one handle, the teeth were much bigger

We would float cakes down the channel on shore side to just off the “slip or run” – then put the grab on block of 4-6 cakes up the run, separated on run before it got to the house by saw, into blocks of 22”X22”. 

The marker grazed the sizes. Then covered them with sawdust.

Their work done usually after the first of January until occasionally March.

We used to cut for farmers, they hauled it themselves

Occasionally a horse would fall in, they wouldn't tread the ice. We put a rope around his neck, hitch in another horse and pulled him out. We had one balking old darn thing, Rufus, bound he wanted to drown – wouldn't try to get out.

Each ice house held tons of cut blocks

Prides’ ice house in Cumberland Mills was filled with cakes cut from Sebago Lake.  Came down by railroad cars each day. Transferred from car to run – and used grab to store them. They came 44”X22” – double headier. Ones on Presumpscot  held river ice.

 
 
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Ice Harvesting Crew
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Herbert Dearborn of Dearborn Ice Co.
 
  ***Thanks go out to Sandra Cort, her Dad Arthur Gordon, and Ken Moody, for providing these wonderful photographs, showing a special piece of Westbrook's history. Photographs originally appeared in Westbrook Firefighters' Yearbook, 1999  
 
  CONNER’S MARKET
 aka ART’S VARIETY
Photos and information supplied by Tom Clarke
 
 
emma conner
Emma Conner, storekeeper, 1943

 
 

In 1935, following the death of her husband Arthur Conner, Emma Milton Conner opened Conner’s Market, a grocery store at 158 Spring Street.  The store became a fixture in the neighborhood and stayed that way for the next 27 years.  From 1955 (after the death of Emma) until 1962, daughter Catherine Finnerty operated Conner’s Market.  She sold the store to David and Mary Mooreshead in 1962, and in a few years, they sold it to Richard Hopkins. It then became known as Hoppy’s Market.

In 1972, Richard Hopkins sold the store and it was renamed Art’s Variety. Forty-four years later it is still a neighborhood landmark and is going strong, even with the advent of larger, chain-store, markets.

 
 
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Conner's market, circa early 50s
arts
Art's Variety, 2016
 
 
 

ON COMING-OF AGE ....IN 1961
by Donna Cousens Conley

 
 
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Westbrook City Hall, 1960s, on the second floor of the Scates Building
 
 

If you were born around 1940 you’ll remember the biggest event in your life….your 21st birthday!   On that birthday you came ‘of age’…you could drink and you could vote…you were a legal adult!  Of course, at that time you were eligible to get your driver’s license at the age of 15, but the 21st far outshone that landmark. 

I was about to graduate from nursing school in Baltimore when I turned 21 in 1961. Baltimore had a large black population, which I had been unused to, growing up in Maine.  A fair amount of segregation was still practiced in the south in the ‘60s; blacks couldn't sit down to drink a soda in many drug stores and segregated bathrooms could still be found in some areas.

I returned to Westbrook to register to vote and my sister took me to City Hall, which at that time was on the second floor of the Scates Building.  City Clerk William Clarke came out of his office to register me at the shoulder-high counter.  Instead of just having me fill out the paper work…as is done today…he proceeded to explain the significance of this event. “See this Bible here, it used to be a rule that you had to read from this book in order vote; this was a way for many states to prohibit blacks from voting since many of them were uneducated.  Today (1961) this is not allowed and every citizen has a right to vote, regardless of race, education or beliefs.  We are so fortunate in this country, to have the freedom to vote, and vote secretly.”   Granted, the words might have been a little different, but I remember how proud Bill Clarke made me feel to be an American.  And that feeling continues today, on each and every, voting day! This is the legacy that Bill Clarke left with me.

 
 
clarke
William Lee Clarke 1919 - 1996
 
 

Anyone who lived in Westbrook during the second half of the 1900s will recognize the name William (or Bill, as everyone called him) Clarke. Bill was Westbrook’s City Clerk for 38 years and a figure known to most of its citizens.   He was first elected to the City Council at the age of 23, in 1943, and served 6 years.  He was first elected City Clerk in 1956 and was reelected for 19 consecutive terms.  He saw his job as “anything a citizen wanted it to be”, and he went out of his way to serve his constituents, regardless of their political affiliations.

 
  bill clarke A less formal photo of Bill as he delivers his Blue Spruce Farm Milk.  
 
  Memories of Gurney's Market
by Grayson Hartley
(see Photo of the Month for original item)
 
 
6 Pine st
 
  A month ago the photo posted above, was added to the 'Photo of the Month page' with a piece about Cleve Gurney's Market which was supposed to be at 6 Pine Street in the 1950s. The following information was sent in by Grayson Hartley and Web Master felt it deserved a place on the People, Places, and Events page. Enjoy! Remember!!  
 
I viewed with a great deal of interest the photo of Cleve Gurney's grocery store and the accompanying information.  I grew up in the neighborhood of Seavey and Rochester streets and remember well the store and the area around it.

Hoping that my memory holds true, I think the store was owned originally by Sam Watson who, as I recall, was a property owner in Cumberland Mills and lived on Lamb Street. George Watson was his brother and worked for a time in the store. As youngsters we flocked to "Sam's" for ice cream in the hot summer.

Two other workers I remember besides George and Cleve, were Robert Finney, and in later years Mrs Johnson who lived on the corner of Seavey and Gray streets, She was the mother of Philip Johnson who was a native of Westbrook and worked as a radio and TV announcer on news programs for WCSH Radio and TV.

The neighborhood boys, some of whom were Stanley Plummer,Daniel Lord, Alton Esty , James Hebert and your truly, and who all attended Forest Street School, had a small baseball.field in back of Gurney's store..The field bordered on the corner of Park and Rochester Streets. A good hit would often land on the side of a house on Park Street, much to the dismay of the owner, who would come out and yell at us.

Gurney and Higgins Market rings a bell in my memory, but I cannot recall specifically  the part Higgins played in the store other than he was a relative of Gurney and was part owner when Gurney bought the store from Sam Watson. The store was located on the corner of Seavey Street and Rochester. Pine Street was the short street that went across from Rochester to Haskell. It was just opposite the corner where Seavey met Rochester.

I don't recall Kitteridge Market at 6 Pine Street. It had to be on the side street that went from the corner of Seavey  and Rochester streets across to  Haskell Street..By the late 1950's I had left home and was on my own
 
 
 

Forest Street School Days ( 1936-1945)
Thomas E. DeWolfe, Hampden Sydney, VA
1st Place Winner, 2015 History Contest

 
 

I write on my memories of Westbrook, notably of my 1936-1945 grade school experiences at Forest Street school These memories are among my most vivid. They are good memories.

I remember every one of my teachers at Forest Street. These teachers cared about their students and their educational progress. From Miss Martin in subprimary who persisted in ushering me out of the extreme shyness of my first days in school to Mrs Foye in the seventh grade who organized a spelling club, none of these teachers seemed satisfied with doing only a minimalist job. Each offered what I remember as special contributions. Miss Lowell, in the fourth
grade, spent late afternoons reading us stories about children in other lands; Miss McFarland in the third grade came to parties at the homes of us third grade boys. Mr Nelson in 8th grade was forever departing from the textbook to discuss intriguing hypotheticals like "Would slavery have become unprofitable and disappeared without a civil war?" Looking back, I have frequently considered such digressions from standardized materials as the most valuable part of our educational experience.

Compared to the schools my own children have attended, my fellow students were an incredibly homogeneous lot. Classes often started with the 23rd psalm and no one complained about religious indoctrination. Issues of racial disparity and conflict that obsess current educators were unknown to us. Our families, chastened by the economic depression, instilled in us an automatic frugality. In December 1941 began the Second World War. Teachers sold war bonds, encouraged victory gardens, supervised scrap drives. In the summer they accompanied buses of school children to the countryside to harvest beans. In air raid drills, they supervised the speedy evacuation of the school and the assignment of students to scattered local homes in the community. Everybody knew there was a war on. We became not only the frugal but also the patriotic generation.

For most of us, school was a secure and friendly place. But not for everyone. Adaption to the special needs of children that failed to fit the norms was poor. Older children with severe learning problems were assigned to repeat lower grades again and again. Those with cognitive disadvantages frequently became social misfits and objects of ridicule as well. Cases of typical attentional disorders became considered "bad kids" and gradually slipped into roles that would justify the label. Westbrook had its quota of such victims recognized as "village idiots" who chased small boys who taunted them and clowned at public functions.

The educational milieu at Forest Street school worked well for most of us. It helped mold a class many of whose members achieved quite respectable levels of adult success. Part of a generation growing up at a time of depression and war, our unique personal histories will never again occur.

Only as an old man who has lived through many times and in many places, have I begun to appreciate the nature and quality of my days at Forest Street School.

 
 

FSS Teachers
Can you name these Forest Street School teachers?

Mrs Lucy Googins (nee York), Mrs. Florence Foye, Mr. Nelson Leland, Mrs. Lydia Berryment

 
 
  DO YOU REMEMBER?
ARCHIE'S VARIETY STORE
 
 

Archie’s Store on Rt. 25…It was right on the Westbrook-Gorham line. It was a very small building that set back from the street a ways. [Ed.: It was where the Baptist Church is now.]

Gorham was a “dry” town for many years [until 1971].  Gorham people would go to Westbrook to buy alcohol. College kids would go to Archie’s store in the day time and paY for a case of beer. Later in the day Archie would put a case of beer in the field behind his store. College kids would go back to Archie’s at night and pick up their case of beer.

Archie Simon was the proprietor.

 
 

Submitted by Jim Cote, Westbrook.  Jim also brought a copy of Archie Simon’s obituary of April 21, 1975. The obituary states that Mr. Simon lived at 315 Conant Street, and died April 20, 1975 after a long illness. He was born in Lewiston and educated in Portland schools.He was survived by his wife, Artiemise Locke Simon of Westbrook. He was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, South Paris.

NOTE: If you have a photo of Archie's Variety, we'd love to have a copy for our collection.

 
 
  PRESIDENT HARDING VISITS WESTBROOK - 1921
 

The Historical Society recently received scrapbooks, papers, books and other ephemera, which comprised a lifetime of collecting by the late Eleanor Conant Saunders.  The following article was found among some old newspaper clippings.  Those of us currently active at the Society have never heard, or seen, anything else in our collection which mentions this historic event.

We have transcribed the entire article here instead of just the piece related to Westbrook, because of its historical significance.

[Editor]

harding
President and Mrs. Harding (Web photo)
 
 
 

                                                  [Portland Evening Express August 3, 1923]
PRESIDENT HARDING WAS PORTLAND VISITOR TWO YEARS AGO YESTERDAY   

               It was two years ago yesterday that Warren G. Harding, then President of the United States but a few months, paid a visit to Portland [and Westbrook] while en route to Lancaster, N.H. where he spent about a week at the summer home of John W. Weeks, Secretary of War.
               The President, accompanied by Mrs. Harding, Gen. Sawyer, his physician Senator Frederick Hale and various other persons to whom Secretary Weeks was host, came to the City on the yacht Mayflower from Plymouth, Mass., where he had spoken the previous day at the celebration of the tercentenary of the landing of the Pilgrims.
               He was greeted by crowds which packed the sidewalks on every street where he appeared,, he stopped for a few moments at City Hall, where he addressed thousands of local people and visitors from the steps of the building, and then he sped away to the New Hampshire Hills, going over the Roosevelt Trail.
               On his return from Lancaster at the end of the week, President Harding paid a visit to Poland Springs and at the request of Senator Hale he spoke to the immense throng in the neighboring city of Westbrook.  Then he came to Portland was the guest for a short time at the home of Senator Hale on State Street, going there purposely to meet Mrs. Eugene Hale the Senator’s mother, and about 11 o’clock at night boarded the Mayflower and started on his return trip to Washington.
               Originally it had been planned for the President to go to the White Mountains via the Ossipee trail; and the residents of the towns along that highway were prepared to give him a hearty welcome, but almost at the last moment, it was decided to take the other route, and naturally there was much disappointment in some sections up country because they were not afforded an opportunity to pay their respects to the chief magistrate of the Nation. 
               President Visited Paper City
              
Westbrook, in particular, had planned to give President Harding a rousing welcome, and while he was at Lancaster, Senator Hale prevailed upon him to stop in that city when returning to Portland and addressing the citizens.
               President Harding landed from the Mayflower a little after 10 o’clock in the morning of August 2, and a large number of people had assembled to meet him at the dock. The moment that he stepped from the tender to the wharf, hat in hand, he shook hands with the first person to greet him, and said: “Good morning” and then passed down the line. At the same time, Mrs. Harding was being introduced to some of the people in the crowd, and she was presented with a handsome bouquet of flowers to take up country with her.  Making their way slowly to the automobile that was waiting for them, the President and his wife were soon on their way to City Hall, where there was such an assemblage of people that it was difficult for the cars conveying the Lancaster party to make their way.
               Mounting to the top step, the new President was introduced to the people by Mayor Clarke, who spoke very briefly, and Mr. Harding expressed the pleasure which it gave him to visit this City.  He paid a fine tribute to the State of Maine as a pioneer among her sister states in shipping, agriculture and furnishing the Country with statesmen, and declared that he believed in a Nation made strong through accord of all the states.
                                      Gov. Baxter With Harding
               After leaving the City Hall,  the Presidential party went up Congress street, thousands cheering and applauding the Hardings, and Governor Percival Baxter accompanied the President as far as the City line, where he left the procession and return to Portland.
               All along the Roosevelt Trail little knots of people were gathered to wave their hands and shout as the President passed, and among those who greeted him were many of the summer campers. One incident of the trip that will not soon be forgotten by those making it was the joining of the procession of cars by a couple of young girls in a “beetle”, this side of Naples. Driving from the roadside, they kept pace with the larger and higher-powered cars for a time as they ran side by side with them, and finally discovering an opening in the line, they entered it, and had the time of their lives driving behind the President’s automobile until they reached Naples. There they fell out.
               Bridgton turned out a huge crowds and so did Fryeburg, where the cars slowed down in passing through the village in order that the people might get a good glimpse of the man who had recently taken the reins of the highest office within the gift of the electorate. Conway and all the other New Hampshire towns also turned out high throngs of folk who cheered and waved as the party passed.
               The first stop on the way to Lancaster was made at Crawford Notch where the members of the party had luncheon and where the President and others in the party played golf for a little while in the afternoon.
                                President posed for Cameras
               Following the luncheon at the Crawford house, the President held an impromptu receptions for the guests at that hotel, and he good naturedly posed for scores of amateur photographers who wanted to take away his picture as a souvenir of the visit.  One little chap named George, scarcely knee high to a grasshopper, manipulated a camera, and standing on the steps of one of the buildings across the way from the hotel, the great hearted Ohioan waited patiently until the laddie got over his attack of nervousness and could press the button. “Now be careful, George,” said the President with a smile as the youngster got ready to snap him, and then it was over, and somebody else took George’s place.
               The President remained in seclusion at the Lancaster home of Secretary Weeks for the greater part of the time during his stay here, but on Thursday Aug. 4, he came down to the village where thousands had assembled from the countryside to meet him, and gave an address, in which he made an especial appeal to the children to take advantage of the splendid opportunities which this Country and its public schools afforded them.
               Leaving Lancaster Saturday morning, the President came to Poland Spring, stopping en route to visit the disabled veterans at the Oxford Springs sanatorium, and when he reached the Rickers’ resort, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, he was given an enthusiastic welcome.  Luncheon was served soon after his arrival and Mr. and Mrs. E.P. Ricker were invited to join the party at luncheon. During the afternoon the President and Senator Hale were pitted against George B. Christian, President Harding’s secretary and Joseph S. Frelighuyen of Jersey in a golf match and it so happened that the caddy who carried the President’s clubs bore the same family name.  He was George Henry Harding and he was one of the happiest boys imaginable.  During his stay at Poland the President met several Maine Indians in their tribal costume, and former Governor Joseph Newell of the Penobscot tribe presented member of the party with a war club, baskets, and other specimen of Indian craft.
               It was a little after 7 o’clock in the evening when the President left Poland Springs for Westbrook, and at that hour hundred were flocking to Warren park, where he was to speak.  Prominent citizens of Westbrook went out to meet the Presidential party and to escort it to their town, and there being no cannon with which to notify the people that Mr. Harding was coming, the Presidential salute was sounded on the fire alarm system when the party crossed the city line.
               There were all of 15,000 people in the park when the President arrived and he was given probably the most vociferous greeting of his entire trip to this section. I It was plain to be seen that he was immensely pleased as he touted the band stand and faced the cheering crowd, and the shouts broke out anew after he had been introduce in very few words by Mayor John Lawrensen. Raising his hand, the President finally secured silence, and then he began his address, which was devoted largely to what he hoped to accomplish through the disarmament conference which was to meet in Washington in November.
               His remarks were repeatedly interrupted with applause and cries of approval, and when he left the City for Portland he was cheered again and again.
                                  Visits home of Sen. Hale
              
The President’s visit at the home of Senator Hale was a very happy one, and although it was a late hour when he returned to the wharf to board the Mayflower there were many people down there to witness his departure.
               During his visit to Portland and Lancaster President Harding deeply impressed all with his kindliness and his thoroughly democratic manner., while Mrs. Harding also endeared herself to everybody who had the privilege of meeting her.

   
 
  “OLD FAN AND THE PIANO"
by Margaret Hawkes St. Pierre
 
 
piano1
"She'd come to the bottom of a hill, stop, look, sigh..."
 
 

Now, stop me if you've heard this ............ .

My mother's father, my Grampa Wheeler was a wonderful story teller. With him aware of my childhood passion for horses, he related several tales of his younger days working with horses and wagons.

My grandmother Belle would always admonish him when he embellished the truth, so I know the horse stories to be true, as Grammy would laugh and add to Grampa's recollections.

Belle Bradbury became Almon Wheeler's young bride in the early 1900's. He had lived in Cape Elizabeth at the time and would go 'a-courtin', replete with shiny horse and fancy buggy, all the way to Hollis to see her. Clean, starched, gloved and meticulously groomed himself, he softened her heart and convinced her to marry him.

They eventually moved to Pride's Corner where they built their big, brown house alongside his parent's family farm.

Among her belongings back in Hollis, Grammy Belle Wheeler left her beautiful old black upright piano. Her talents for playing and singing to her family and friends throughout the ensuing years, is a memory never forgotten by those who knew and loved her. - - How she'd bounce on that piano stool and throw out wonderful songs like, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and "Carolina Moon". - -Just hum a few bars to her and she'd pick out the tune on the ivories, hitting the chords like a pro. All this, yet I was told she never learned to read music!

Grammy yearned for her beloved piano, so plans were made for its transport from Hollis to her Pride's Corner home.

“Fan", a stout little bay mare was always said to have been a Morgan. She was a tough old bird with a mind of her own, Grampa always said. You had to work around her blue-blooded attitude. If she liked you, it was a plus in one's day-to-day work with her on the farm. Horsemanship wasn't quite the exact psychological science that we 'think' we know today ..... It seems Fan's biggest drawback was that if you were planning a trip, it had to be a one-day event because she refused to drink water other than from her own barn at home.

Of course, in those days, a trip to Hollis by horse and buggy wasn't considered a remarkable thing, but driving there today by car for the thirty miles or so seems like an effortless jaunt by comparison.

Although the roads were well-kept and graveled, they were still sharply winding. The hills were steep and uncut, not like our paved thoroughfares of today. The now "Route 302" was either referred to as 'The Windham Road", 'The Bridgton Road" or "The Roosevelt Trail", due to the fact that Teddy Roosevelt used the route on his hunting expeditions in Maine.

The road was a mere 'four rods' in width when first laid out in 1783, then redefined from a "drift road" in 1806 by being straightened and eventually paved through the years after Grampa built the house at 397 Bridgton Road .... But, like Grampa Wheeler, I digress here ...

The right wagon to haul a piano was chosen, a buckboard with sturdy wheels and heavy bed to accommodate the weight. Making sure that Fan had dutifully tanked up on water for the drive, she was readied and harnessed.

It was summertime, sultry, sunbaked and an overall clear day for the young couple to set out with plans for a short visit with relatives. Hauling the empty buckboard over Pride Street to Rocky Hill, Fan started out briskly, but nearing Sacarappa Falls on the Presumpscot River, her pace slowed. She'd come to the bottom of a hill, stop, sigh, and rest a minute. No urging, prodding or flick of the buggy whip would encourage her to walk on until she felt ready. She would wearily plod ahead when it felt right for her, pausing halfway up the hill. She would sigh again and turn back her head to oversee Grampa engage the brake on the empty wagon so she could lay back in the harness to fully rest her seemingly overworked body.

..... And so it went, a trip that should have taken less than a half day with an occasional strong trot, took a good part of the whole day. Stopping, sighing, resting and an eventual clop-clop-clop pitifully on ... Up she went and down, through the woods and fields surrounding the roads to Gorham, to Buxton, to the
Salmon Falls Bridge and steep hill across the Saco River.

The young newlyweds, anxious to retrieve the piano arrived late in the day at Hollis. Fan finally turned into the homestead. She was unhooked to rest while the folks all visited. Later, the piano was loaded onto the buckboard. As expected, Fan refused to drink the water offered to her and she was reharnessed.

As the sun began to lower in the late afternoon sky, the couple dreaded the thought of the long, slow trip back home in the dark. Of course, there were no phones back then, and the folks back home would be anxiously awaiting their arrival. The decision to fuel the wagon lamps for an arduous night's journey
seemed like a good idea.

... Now, let's say here that the trip home in the waning light of evening was amazingly different from the day's crawl to Hollis ... Out of the driveway bolted Fan with the buckboard weighted down with the piano in tow! The poor, pitiful Morgan mare who trudged a snail's pace to Hollis magically transformed into an equine dynamo!

Grampa leaned agonizingly back on the reins as that very same little bay mare gave them the ride of their life! Hills were devoured with strong, muscled legs. The heavily loaded buckboard with swaying piano careened and spun on two wheels around the corners. Grammy remembered clinging, white knuckled onto the wagon seat for her dear life, her skirts billowing up in the wind.

 
 
piano2
"Grampa leaned agonizingly back on the reins..."
 
  Articles not tied securely down in the wagon flew out the back. There was no pausing to retrieve anything not anchored down and left behind because that mare's one mission was HOME, NON - STOP!

With a big, earth-covering trot, and what seemed in no time at all from Hollis to the far outskirts of Westbrook, Fan hit Pride's Corner and home, barely breathing hard. Her big dark eyes sparkled as she delivered the heavy buckboard, the piano, the wide-eyed Grammy and the exhausted Grampa home in record time to her own barn, supper and big drink of water! No problem to her, it was all in a good day's work.

--As mentioned before, this is a true story. My Grampa told me so, many, many times. I never stopped him from telling it again, even if he asked me if I'd heard it before. I would listen intently each time, relishing in those horse and buggy days stories of my grandparents, sharing in their laughter as they carried me gently and lovingly with them to another time, another era.
 
 
397 Bridgton
379 Bridgton Rd, circa 1900
 
 

This story, and its pictures, was submitted by Margaret Hawkes St. Pierre of Falmouth. Her mother, June Wheeler Hawkes, and her aunt were born “in the front room” of the house that her grandfather built at 397 Bridgton Road, Westbrook [see Photo Archives - Apusunta Club- to read about the Webber Store at Prides Corner.] Margaret and her brother Roland also supplied information on the Apusunta Club and the Winter Fun photos. [See Photo Archives for the updates.]

 
 

ARTHUR AND BILL CURRIER
By Morgan Rielly
Student Runner-up in 2012 Westbrook History Contest

Currier

 

For many Westbrook residents, World War II was the moment that the world opened up to them, changing them forever. Growing up in Westbrook, Arthur and Bill Currier were “very innocent and naïve,” Arthur said. “I never hardly ever left Westbrook when I was a kid. But when I got around to see people from different areas of the country…it’s an experience….It enlightens you a little bit.”

Both men enlisted after Pearl Harbor and saw plenty of action in the Pacific. In the Philippines, when Arthur’s ship intercepted Japanese transports trying to island-hop, Japanese planes bombed his ship. “Close enough that we didn’t want any more of it,” he recalled. “It was a lucky ship.” In Guam, a Japanese sub fired torpedoes at his ship, but missed. At Iwo Jima, Arthur’s ship bombed many different islands, supporting the strike force, and fought off kamikazes. For Bill, the action intensified the closer he sailed to Japan. In the Philippines, he was at battle stations for four straight days, fighting off kamikazes. A sister ship was torpedoed and sunk a half-mile away, with dying men swimming through the burning oil. 

Arthur and Bill also survived deadly typhoons. “When a typhoon crosses the Pacific…the ocean waves are sixty feet tall,” Bill explained. “In one convoy, three ships rolled over. When you roll over, there’s nothing to do. You’re trapped and you swear to God that it’s never going to right itself. I once spent eight hours like that. I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die.” Their parents even heard a mistaken report that Bill’s ship had sunk, and had to wait a full day for the correction.

In the service, Arthur and Bill noticed how some sailors treated the African-American sailors poorly. “There were about half a dozen on the ship,” Arthur said. “They lived by themselves. Didn’t mingle or eat with the others. It wasn’t right.” On Bill’s ship, a group of sailors refused to talk to him after he ate a tin of fudge prepared by an African-American soldier. “What the hell do I care what color his skin is?” Bill asked. “He’s a nice guy. I’ll tell you something about those black guys. When combat started, they were on the same guns as the white guys. So they did their part.”  Added Arthur: “Thank God that’s not so bad anymore. There’s a lot of people still fighting the Civil War.” Both brothers take the same open-minded approach to other cultures. “My advice to people is: think, think, think,” Bill said. “We’ve got to stop being as prejudiced as we are. Other cultures are as good as ours. We have to recognize that.”

            Both men carried these lessons with them as they returned to Westbrook and worked for S.D. Warren. Arthur has been married for fifty-nine years to his high school girlfriend; Bill for sixty-four years to the love of his life. “Good life,” Arthur said. “I’m lucky. God’s been good to me.”

 
 
  WESTBROOK STREET NAMES  
  church street
Church Street
 
 

It is interesting to learn how buildings, towns, streets, etc., are named; therefore, over the last few years I have collected a file on some Westbrook streets and how they got their names. During this bicentennial year, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back on this piece of our history.  

In 1886, Sargent Files, dairy farmer and large landowner in the Stroudwater Street area, died suddenly in his mill wagon in Cumberland Mills.  Three streets in this area got names from his family:
    FILES Street – 1894
    BURTON ST - 1901 (grandson Burton Lombard who died in infancy)
    SARGENT Street – 1912    
BRACKETT Street was named for Zachariah Bangs Brackett who built the brick block of stores and the double house adjoining at the corner of Main and Brackett Street in the 1st half of the of 1800s
METHODIST Road – named because Methodists held tent revivals there  
LAMB Street – named for William Lamb who had a  home on Deer Hill, 1767
PRIDE Street – named for Peter Pride
CONANT Street – named for Daniel Conant who had farm on this street
VALENTINE ST – named Leander Valentine, 1st Mayor
ROCHESTER Street: Running perpendicular to Main Street and parallel to Haskell Street, Rochester Street is named for its proximity to the Portland & Rochester Railroad (P&RR), a ribbon of track that connected Portland to Rochester, New Hampshire, during the latter half of the nineteenth  century
CHURCH Street – named in 1867 after the Methodist Church built a new church on the same street where the 1st Congregational Church was located.
CLOUDMAN ST - after the Cloudman family:  Francis Cloudman was a Mayor , his son Andrew was in the 19th Me. and was killed in action during the Civil War.
TRAM Lane – named for the S.D. Warren tram that used to run from the mill, behind the Warren Library, across Main Street, up to the mill storage building [Stockhouse building]
SPRING Street – On the flats, between steep hills, was a pipe going  into a 10 foot deep spring, which gave off an odor of sulphur. It was a once-framed sulphur  spring, its water supposedly having curative powers. People came from miles around to fill bottles with the water. [The Portland Atlas of 1871 pinpoints the mineral spring.]
SEAVEY Street – named for Dr. Milton Seavey of Portland
WALKER Street – named for Benjamin Walker, a local clothier who owned and occupied a home on corner of Walker.

Some other interesting facts about Westbrook Streets:
BRIDGE Street:    
     1903 - ran from Main to Lincoln Street (then it became East Bridge Street)
     1911 - ran from Main to Cumberland Street (then it became East Bridge Street)
     1951 - ran from Main to Methodist Road (East Bridge then branched off toward Park Road)
           [This information gleaned from maps, atlas, and Westbrook City Directories]
MAIN Street numbering, downtown, changed between 1891 (Westbrook Social Library was at 128 Main) and 1909, when Walker Library was then listed at 800 Main Street

 
 

Note:  There are always stories about name origins, so if you know of any not listed here, or dispute some of the information given here, please contact info@westbrookhistoricalsociety.org
           This information was amassed by Donna Cousens Conley, from Highlights of Westbrook History, maps and atlas, Fabius M. Ray’s Story of Westbrook, and miscellaneous articles on Westbrook history found in the Society’s collection. 
       

 
 
WESTBROOK 200 - OPENING THE CAPSULE
capsule

 

Captured in 1958 by Portland newspaper staff photographer Olson, Edward Murray, James Allard and Stephen Bragdon sit looking at the Riverbank Park monument which is scheduled to be opened in June of this year. The park was dedicated in 1914 and a large boulder was brought from Rocky Hill to become a monument to Westbrook's centennial celebration.

The monument's inscription reads: "This stone contains records of the 100th anniversary of the City of Westbrook, occurring June 9th, 1914. This stone is to be opened and records read at the 200th anniversary June 9th, 2014. Erected by the Board of Trade."
[Ed. note - 1914 actually marked the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Westbrook. Westbrook did not receive a city charter until 1891.]

The four day centennial celebration featured what was believed to be the longest parade ever organized in the state at that time (1,000 military men) and the biggest fireworks display up until that time. The capsule is supposed to contain newspapers, photographs and Westbrook statistics. Make plans to be at the opening in June!

 
 
WESTBROOK, TWO-HUNDRED YEARS YOUNG
by Ted Lampron
(a 2013 History Contest entry)
toms
 

For each generation that passes before us, a new time capsule of memories is created, and for those who look back on those memories, they may be reminded of the best years of their lives. Blessed is a generation that can truly appreciate their heritage, and now that the Westbrook Bicentennial is before us, we open the gate to a time capsule that dates back two hundred years. How does one encapsulate or capture the significance of the past two hundred years is beyond my ability. I cannot speak for the early colonist, who, with Colonel Thomas Westbrook, incorporated Westbrook as Stroudwater on February 14, 1814, and I cannot describe the life and times of those people who held dear to their hearts the building of Westbrook from one generation to the next. But what I can tell you, is that my past memories of Westbrook are a state of mind, an illusion brought about by fond memories of my youth. A vortex of thoughts that swirl around in a nostalgic whirlpool of days gone by.
There were no great moments in my life while growing up in Westbrook during the Forties and Fifties - unless you call being kissed on the cheek by Patricia Nixon after I opened the door to Richard Nixon's limousine at the Riverbank Park during the Eisenhower Presidential Campaign in 1952, a moment to remember. Life was pretty simple and quiet back then, at least that's the way it was in Westbrook.. I think my generation would remember things like Tom's Restaurant, Vallee's Drug Store, and the Star Theatre, just to mention a few of the places where a teenager could hang out or enjoy back then. During the late Forties and early Fifties, a carnival would come to town, and set up on a vacant lot at the corner of Quimby and Mechanic Street, just a block up from the old Fire Station. That vacant lot later became the home of Sebago Moc Shoe Factory, where the best penny loafers were hand-stitched by some of Westbrook's finest craftsmen. I worked  in Dana Warp Mills one summer as a Bobbin Boy, and I remember the Zaharias Grocery Store being built across the street at 57 Bridge St., but I would never have guessed back then, that I'd own a sandwich shop at that same location twenty-five years later. It's really amazing how fast time flies by when you're looking back. In the Forties and Fifties, before Urban Renewal changed the landscape of  downtown Westbrook forever, the city offered residents a full array of shopping adventures, from fashions to furniture, and food to hardware, you could find it all in downtown Westbrook. Being a kid back then, I enjoyed swimming in the Presumpscot River on hot summers days, and in the winter of 1956, we had the Westbrook Youth Center at the American Legion Post 103 to keep us cool with the sounds of rock and roll music at the weekend record hops. Like I said, it's all a state of mind, just a flash of memories whirling through a vortex of nostalgia. But, two hundred years of Westbrook is only the beginning for some of you, so keep the faith and move on.

 
 
 
What more fitting article for this page than this one taken from the Westbrook High School year book, The Blue & White, 1955.]
 
     
 

Down through the years from the time Westbrook High School was established, it has been progressing in education and expanding in size.
These interesting items have been collected from the minds and memories of past graduates of Westbrook High School.

 
 

In 1883, the first public graduation was held by Westbrook High at a Congregational Church. There were three graduates: Lotta May Woodman, Eleanor Murch, and Hattie Hamblin. Around the turn of the century, the school day began at 8:00 and came to an end at 12:00. Such pranks, as are played today, were played then. Boys rolled "shot" down the aisle letting it hit against the wall making a noise which disturbed the class. They chewed on their tongues to attract the attention of the teachers who would ask what they were chewing on. They would then stick out their tongues.
Grace MacPherson, a teacher at Forest Street, recalls from 1900-1902, that manual training was established by Ned Warren at Warren School. This subject was open to boys and girls alike. The first item the girls made was a wedge.
Physical Education was promoted by Cornelia Warren and one of the earliest instructors was Mr. Ross. Another thing to note, for years morning exercises were held for all classes in the Main Room.
In 1912, the first Washington trip was held, at the cost of S32 per person. The chaperones for this trip were Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, the principal and his wife. The group took a train to Boston, but proceeded on to New York by boat. As they entered New York harbor early in the morning, they saw the Statue of Liberty. In the city they visited the Hippodrome. From New York they traveled to Philadelphia and saw such interesting sights as the U. S. Mint and the Liberty Bell. After leaving Washington, it took them five days to reach home.
Basketball has always been an attraction at Westbrook High and in 19I1, they went to the games on a trailer, hitched to the back of a trolley car. When Westbrook won the basketball championship in the years between 1913 and 1917, Hazel Wyer, a teacher in Westbrook, recalls how the students did a snake dance down Congress Street. The games were held at Cumberland Gym and plays, shows, etc., at the Star Theatre.
The Woman's Relief Corps presented Westbrook High School with an American flag in 1918. In 1919, the Seniors taught some of the subjects to the lower classes because of a shortage of teachers.
Harold Fernald, a student in 1920, remembers the days when the students from Pride's Corner came to school by horse-and-buggy while the students from White Rock came by train. That year the graduation was held outdoors at Warren Park.
The blue and white was published with class pictures for the first time in 1921, but these pictures were only snapshots.
Miss Abbott, present history teacher at Westbrook High, came in   1925 when James Lewis was principal.  In this year the Charleston became the dance craze and school was closed for the Gorham Fair.  

 
 
THE DIRENZO FAMILY
by daughter Shirley DiRenzo Cleveland
(A 2013 History Contest Entry)


Direnzo[History of Assunta and Antonio DiRenzo seen below was supplied by their youngest daughter Rose DiRenzo Prillaman of Newport News, Virginia. This was inserted to give a background setting for her sister Shirley's family story.Thanks also go to Rose for the pictures of her family.]  

 Assunta DiFiore came to the United States with her mother Antoinette DiFiore and her two siblings after her father Dominic died at the age of 24 in their hometown of Adano, Italy. At the time of her immigration she was approximately 8 years old, her brother Alfred was about 9 and her sister Minnie about 7 years old. After coming to Portland, relatives matched Antoinette up with the much older Rosario Mancini, father of four grown children. They married and lived near Adams and Newberry Streets.

Antonio DiRenzo was the son of Olympia Direnzo. His father was not in the picture and the family feels that he died at an early age. Olympia was described as tall, thin and always stern. She would live her entire life with her son and daughter-in-law.

Antonio and Assunta knew each other before they sailed into Boston from Italy. After their marriage on November 8, 1913 in Portland they moved to an apartment on Federal Street. They later bought a house on Warren Avenue before moving to Westbrook in 1945. They would have 13 children, two of which died at childbirth. Their oldest daughter, Lena, was bitten by a rabid dog when she was 13 and died several days later.

Antonio & Assunta DiRenzo, 1920

 

I remember moving to Westbrook when I was in the second grade at the Warren Elementary School, one of 13 children of Antonio and Assunta DiRenzo, immigrants from Italy.

My brother and my mother purchased a building and made one part into a fine Italian restaurant and the other part was known as Matty's Dine and Dance, a place that became known as the place to go.

Matty went on to start a successful construction company and the only taxi cab company in Westbrook. In 1972 the Dine and Dance closed its doors and opened as the Cumberland Mills Furniture Warehouse after my brothers accepted our God as their Lord and Savior and became Christians. In 1993, this furniture warehouse caught fire and was partially destroyed and was offered up for sale.

My mother would begin making her Christmas presents in early spring. She wanted to make sure all her children and grandchildren had something.   When she passed away, we found a lot of grocery bills that the clients could not pay for, but she would wait on them and give them what they needed, not asking for any money. Her knitting needles were always close at hand along with her crochet needles, even as she worked tending to the family business. The beautiful vests, socks, gloves, and sweaters she made for the following Christmas were made with so much pride and love. The kind of love that glowed from her face when she spoke of her children. Then when the grandchildren came along, they too got the special gifts more precious than money could buy. She would give away many of them also. Her canning blueberries for the holidays started early. My sisters, mother and I would go pick blueberries in July and August. We would spend hours in the open fields, and my mother would always make it seem like fun. Ma was so wise in her ways and all the hard work of preparing these blueberries paid off with pies and tarts.

She was quite a lady who went by the name of Ma, Grammy, and Mrs. DiRenzo to who knew her. A mother whose children will never forget and a father who loved us all unconditionally.

As for me, I never got to attend high school after graduating from Forest Street School, as I had to work.

This story is dedicated to the members of our family whom we have lost, Ma and Pa, Matty Pauline, Marion, Esther, Joey Jr., Mark, Charlie, Lena, Bill, Dominic, George Sr. and Jr.,and Tony. We miss you. I am living now in the Westbrook High School apartments for seniors, so that proves it's never too late to go to high school.

 
 

Direnzo33
Mr. & Mrs. DiRenzo and family on their 33rd Anniversary

 
 
 

Top of the S.D. Warren Chimney - October 1979
by Alwyn R. Waite
[2012 History Contest Entry]

   

Al
ALwyn Waite at top of S.D. Warren chimney; Presumpscot River below.


   

Burt Bittner and I were asked to measure the temperature of the exhaust from the Warren chimney. It was just another interesting day at work on the job for us and we didn't think much about the climb of the 360- foot plus Warren stack. To measure the correct temperature of the exhaust at the top, it would require reaching into the center to avoid any edge effect. We used two long pieces of 3/8-inch pipe extended towards center of the chimney with thermocouple-measuring wires attached Thermocouple wire consists of two different kinds of metal welded together at the end, which produces an electric current. These wires would extend to ground level, the electrical current measured and converted to find the temperature. Days before, we prepared the wires with a special coating to protect them from the weather. A crew was doing maintenance on the chimney and had installed a platform around the top. with a hoist to bring up material. The hoist consisted of the steel cable with about an 18-inch iron ball at the end holding it straight in the wind.

The Climb:
Both of us were in our twenties and thought little about climbing a ladder over 360 feet high. The ladder was surrounded by a simple open cage. The ladder and cage had been inspected and declared OK even though it had been exposed to the weather for over 27 years. So, up the chimney we went. About the half waypoint (160 to 170 feet) we suggested to each other we stop and take a break. We were exhausted! From that point to the top we must have stopped two or three more times. When finely reaching the top we sat on the platform for ten minutes just to get our breath back. The climb had taken (9) nine minutes We were told later that a first climb would be about (15) fifteen minutes but if you were in good shape and experienced it would take (8) minutes.

The View:
The view was suburb [sic]. Mount Washington northerly, the ocean southerly. Easterly laid Prides Comer, but in the opposite direction was Westbrook. Looking down lay Cumberland Mills with its two-way traffic and over a dozen active businesses. I don't remember much about the trip down the chimney ladder except for stopping a few times and resting against the cage.

The Final Results:
The temperature coming from the top of the S.D. Warren chimney was averaging 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it was time to take the pipes and wiring down, I had left to work on another project. Burt Bittner was left to take everything down   He stood on the hoisting iron ball and held onto the cable that hoisted materials and rode to the top. Burt explained "it's the only way to go".
_________________________________________________________________________________

 
 
 

CUMBERLAND MILLS BARBER SHOPS
by Grayson A. Hartley
[A 2012 History Contest Entry]

   

BarberCM



   

There was no shortage of barber shops in Cumberland Mills during the 30's and 40's. I recall growing up in Westbrook during that period of time: Stevie's Barber Shop, Earl Stanley's [pictured here; see below. Ed.], Ben Crowley's, Vincent Bruno's and for a short time, Willis Strout's.

The oldest shop was "Stevie, the Barbie's" located in the Brown block on Main Street. The block also housed a small Warren Memorial Library at the opposite end of the building from the "shop" with Gene's Wonder Bar located in between. The second and third floors of the Brown block had apartments, the Redmen's Lodge Hall and Saccarrappa Grange Hall.

Walter Stevens operated the barber shop along with his son Bernard. "Steve", as Walter was known, opened the shop in the 1880's and in 1942 at the age of 85 was still cutting hair and giving shaves. Steve was shaky, as the word had it, but when he had the straight razor in his hand and was ready to shave a face, the hand steadied. Bernard was said to have had a glass eye, evidenced by the cuts he gave. Stevie's shop had two chairs facing the large plate glass mirrors on the wall behind the counter. Old shaving mugs with names of customers in days gone by with names inscribed, were arranged on the counter. I remember going to Stevie's for a haircut before Earl Stanley opened his shop in the Warren Laffin block at the intersection of Main and Cumberland Streets opposite the Warren block.

Earl Stanley's Barber Shop in the Warren Laffin block was the last of his three locations over the years in Cumberland Mills. The first one I remember was located next to the Cooperative Market, later Jensen's IGA. Stanley also had a shop for a short period on the first floor of a home on the corner of Lamb Street and Main Street.

Earl was a barber for most of his life. In his younger days, according to all reports, he was quite a ladies' man and a heavy drinker who went through three marriages. In the 1940's Earl laid off the booze and started a comeback. The result was the barber shop in the Laffin block. Noted more for his stories than the quality of his haircuts, he constantly entertained customers with stories as he chopped away. I remember how he whispered stories in your ear that carried all over the shop. The stories were colorful and were enlarged every time they were told.   One or two of his famous stories I wouldn't dare repeat.

Stanley hade two co-workers that I remember. One was Willis Strout who had his own shop for awhile in the area where Stanley's shop was, next to the cooperative market. The other co-worker was Ben Crowley who came from Portland where he barbered in the Congress Square Barber Shop. Ben was part Indian, a good barber and a great conversationalist. He and Stanley were skeet shooters and would go on weekend skeet shooting junkets. On Tuesday, after shop closure on Monday, they would display the awards they had won. The skeet shooting started out as a friendly competition but developed into a competitive relationship which finally led to Ben's departure from the shop and starting up his own place across the street in the old Cressey and Graffam building where he had a good business into the 60's. During the war, Earl collected pictures of Westbrook service men and displayed them on the mirrors in the shop. Free haircuts were given to any service men who came in.

Stanley's clientele were mainly S.D.Warren employees, both management and labor. The influence of "Mother Warren" was alive and well in Stanley's Barber Shop Saturday afternoons during the 1940's and 1950's.

Before the war and after his service time, Vinnie Bruno operated a barber shop again in the shop area formerly occupied by Earl Stanley and Willis Strout. After a short stay, Vinnie moved down to a business building across from the Riverbank Park, mainly to get away from the squabbling between Stanley and Crowley, so it was said.

Barber shop stories reflect their times, and need to be preserved. They played a big part in the local scene of the life in Westbrook.
_________________________________________________________________________________

 
 

Thanks to Mike Sanphy for the above photo to accompany this essay, and for the following supplemental information:
The buildings seen here were located on Cumberland Street and owned by Warren Laffin. Mr. Laffin sold the buildings in the early 1960’s to Westbrook Trust Company and they were demolished to make way for a new Cumberland Mills Branch of Westbrook Trust Company, replacing the original CM Branch that was located for years in the Warren Block across the street

The Barber Shop seenon the left of the larger building (7 Cumberland Street) was operated for many years by Earl Stanley. When Mr. Stanley passed away his wife Mildred took over the Barber Shop and operated it until the building was sold. Mr. & Mrs. Stanley resided at 511 Bridge Street, present site of Rocky Hill Manor Nursing Home.

 
 
REMEMBERING BROWN STREET 1930s to 1940s
Written by Philip LaViolet (1924 - 2009)

[This article and accompying map was done by Phil LaViolet quite a few years ago "so people of Westbrook will remember what Brown Street used to be like when I was young." Copied,as much as possible, as he originally hand-wrote the material.]
 

S.D. Warren Houses at one end
Dana Warp Mill houses at the other end
Walker St, houses (Scotch Hill) in between

1930s to 1950s [Brown St. was] Beautiful and clean with people proud of their home. A self sustaining community.  It was a real neighborhood watch, with (mothers especially) everyone watching for everyone and helping everyone.

The on-foot police officer walking the beat and knew everyone on the beat. (Patrolman Hebert). It was a real self-sustaining area.  When the mill whistle blew at 9:00 PM it was curfew for everyone under 18, and we’d better be off the streets or else the patrolman would ring your home and give your parents hell and they in turn would give you hell.  If you had to be out for a real special reason, you had better have a written permission.

There were very few funeral homes until after World War II. The bodies were kept at home, with the wake lasting all night for 2 to 3 nights and days.   There usually was a lot of food from neighbors, and professional wake watchers would check the obituary to find out who died, and go to those wakes for free food.  The front door was draped with flowers, and black armbands were worn by men for 6 months women wore black dresses.

 
plvmap
 
 

WHEN I WAS YOUNG...(in Westbrook)
Submitted by Rhoda Daley Leroux, 86 (a History Contest entry 2012)

 
laroux1
Rhoda M. Daley
WHS 1943
"To be awake is to be alive"

When I was young we walked everywhere. There was very few cars on the road. The winter snow made it hard to drive. There were no plows. It was all done by hand.
In the summer we went swimming up the river. We would walk down Lincoln Street and jump the fence where the Jordans had cows. They never stopped us.
Our yard was always full of kids. Many games were played every day. Winter was ski time down our hill into the silk mill yard.
King Cove was the place to go skating when I was very young. Later a building was built on Lincoln Street called “The Bremans”. A second rink was DeClinton on Tolam St, and a third on North Street run by the Eagles.
The Star Theater and Rialto was a favorite place to go.

Back then the church bells filled the air. And Dana Warp mill whistle sounded at noon, 3:30 PM and at 9PM. On Thursday and Saturday the stores were open until 9PM. All the stores closed for the weekend.
As a teenager we went dancing at the American on Dunn Street free.
In those days you never had to lock your doors when you went away for a while. Everyone watched out for one another.
Back then the milkman and the iceman came by horse and buggy. No electric frig then.
My dad planted gardens that helped feed us all winter. In the fall all food was canned. The apples were turned into jam. That went great on the homemade bread my mother baked.
Those were the good days when we were taught to help. I’d say I was a very happy little girl.

One more thing to write about: 1943-48 when the war broke out, all houses had to keep shades closed at night. Street lights had skirts on them. It made walking at night quite scary.
********************************************************************************************

This all started in the early 1920s
               Margaret Guitard came to Westbrook from Belledune N.B., Canada married to Fred Robichaud and then sponsored many families from Belledune N.B.  She was next door neighbor to the Daley family. In the summer of 1923 she sponsored Henry and Marie Culligan Daley and infant son Henry Armand (1922) to come to Westbrook. She let them live in her home on Ash Street until they got their first apartment on High Street where the second son was born: Joseph Earl Daley in 1925, Mary Rhoda Daley 1925, Charles Culligan 1926 and Katherine Marie in 1933; all born at 19 Lincoln Street. In the early 30s was the great famine. People lost jobs and homes. That’s when my mother and father bought the 19 Lincoln St. home from John King for back taxes. To this year of 2012 it is still in the family.
***********************************************************************
Many families came to Westbrook from Belledune N.B. early 1900s
Henry & Marie Culligan Daley & son Henry Armand Daley 1923 (5 kids)
Clarence Daley married Mary DeRoche   5 kids
Mary Ellen Daley married Paul Pealer   2 kids
Walter Shannon married Katherine Daley   54 kids
Bella Guitard married Gene Berube   1 kid
Steve Guitard (brother of Bella) married Victoria DeRoche   2 kids
Emma Guitard married Edward Berube   4 kids
Loraine Guitard (niece of Emma) married Andre Metivier  6 kids
Angus Hare married Blanche LaBrecque   5 kids
Micky (sister of Angus) married Eli LaBrecque   5 kids
May Hare (sister of Angus) married ? DeCormier   1 kid
The mother of Charles Guitard
Charles Guitard (son of above) married Regina LaBrecque  0 kids
Jody Guitard (sister of Charles) married ?    0 kids
Clara (sister of Charles)  married 2nd Carl Conant (his 1st)  2 +1= 3 kids
Myrtle Guitard (sister of Charles) married ? Berube   1 kid
James Guitard married Ellen Guitard (cousins)  9 kids
Many more people I can’t remember all names. Many offspring came from these immigrants.

                             Rhoda Leroux   86 years old 2012

 
 

THE ALBERTS OF WESTBROOK
Submitted by Craig Siulinski

 

The Albert's of Westbrook have two distinct legacies: one related to the industrial history of the city and one related to a once-thriving and revered local business. Before these legacies came about in Westbrook, the Albert ancestors raised their families in Canada, and earlier in France.

 

The photo to the right shows many Albert descendents at a 2010 family gathering in Westbrook, Maine.

 

The industrial legacy of the Albert family began when a young man named Ferdinand Albert (1864-1929) emigrated from the province of New Brunswick, Canada to the city of Westbrook, Maine. Ferdinand was the son of Leandre Albert and Phoebee Poulin of Caraquet. Like so many other French Canadian individuals and families in the late nineteenth century, thoughts of a more prosperous life compelled Ferdinand to leave Canada. The 1881 Census of Canada listed Ferdinand as a sixteen-year-old farmer's son. A few years later, he would decide to redirect his destiny from agriculture in his homeland to industry in a new land. Descended from many generations of fishermen, and later farmers, Ferdinand made his way from Canada, c.1887*. See the relative distance between Caraquet and Portland in the map below. The trip itself must have been filled with incredible adventures and dangers.

To set the historic timeframe of Ferdinand's journey, Karl Friedrich Benz invented the first gasoline automobile in 1886. Also at this time, a new beverage came out on the market - Cola Cola.

 In 1895, Ferdinand married Georgiana Hebert in Westbrook. The image to the left may be the only picture we have of Ferdinand. He worked as a silk weaver at the Haskell Silk Mill.** 

 

 
* In the 1900 US Federal Census (Cumberland County, Westbrook, Maine), 
Ferdinand's year of immigration was reported as 1887. 
** See photo and more information on Haskell Silk Mill on the 'Photo Archives' page

 

The business legacy of the Albert family began when Ferdinand’s son, Auguste, found his life’s calling in the art of salesmanship at a very young age. The early death of his mother caused him to be resourceful by finding work helping local businesses. One of those businesses was the clothing store called A.H. Benoit & Co. His experience working at Benoit's, and the contacts he made from working there, led to the formation of his own clothing business that became known as The Men's Shop, Inc.
The Men's Shop ad (above) was taken from the 1924-1925 Directory of Westbrook, Gorham and Windham, p. 206.
 

Auguste Albert (1900-1982), known as "Gus", developed a reputation as a devoted astute businessman, and was much respected and loved by his family and loyal customers.  He inspired this writer to create a blog on the genealogy of the Albert's called August Legacy (augustlegacy.blogspot.com).


In this photograph, Auguste Albert is shown with his wife,  Bernadette (Gagnon) Albert, at Kinney Shores in Saco where they lived for many years.

 


Our immigrant ancestor from Europe, Gabriel Albert (c.1738-1795), emigrated from Normandy, France, to the town of Pabos (Gaspe region of Canada) to work as a fisherman. Well before Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, French fishermen were reaping the benefits of the abundant fishing grounds off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Pabos became an important fishing harbor. Gabriel married Genevieve Le Bouthillier in 1751.***


***Gallant, Les Registres de la Gaspésie in Mémoires (Montreal: Societe Genealogique Canadienne-Francaise, 1961), p. 105.

caraquet
Monument to the Founders of Caraquet     
Source: Wikipedia

 

As a result of a northern campaign in the French and Indian War, British forces burned Pabos in 1758 causing settlers to scatter. To ascertain the whereabouts of the Acadian population after their tragic 1755 expulsion, an official from Montreal, Pierre duCalvet, went to the Gaspe Peninsula in 1761 to conduct a census. Although not Acadian, Gabriel Albert (and his wife and first son) were among the counted, and found to be living on Caraquet Island. In the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Albert family moved to the mainland. They were among a group of families allowed to settle on uninhabited land in Caraquet proper.

Later and more famously, Gabriel and his first son, Pierre, received 400 acres of land through a royal decree in the "Great Grant of 1784". The grant brought ownership of the lands they were settling on. Thirty-two other families also received land grants, and these folks became known as the Founding Families of Caraquet. The government of Nova Scotia administered the grants because New Brunswick had not yet become a province.

The diagram below shows the Albert genealogy from Gabriel Albert to the children of Auguste Albert. Jean-Baptiste Albert (c.1760-1830) was Gabriel's second son.

 
THE LABRECQUE FAMILY'S CANADIAN LINE
 
Anna Rose de Lima Labrecque was born to Regis and Sarah Ann (Witty) Labrecque in Canada in 1883. She and her family immigrated to Westbrook, ME in 1892. There were thirteen children in the Labrecque family. Anna's grandson Michel Giguére of Quebec City writes that he has some interesting photos of Anna and her family and of Anna working at the Blue Bell and teaching at the elementary school in Westbrook (see photo below; also see the Photo of the Month page.)
 
 
ALabrecque

In 1912 Anna married married Conroy Giguére in Westbrook and returned with him to Quebec City where they raised their family. She left ten of her brothers and sisters behind in the States.

In seeking information about Anna we were surprised, and pleased, to discover that she was the sister of Joseph Labrecque, whose article appears below.

Anna's grandson is now seeking photos of Anna's wedding, family and friends in Westbrook. If you have any information, please contact the Westbrook Historical Society at:
info@westbrookhistoricalsociety.org. We will put you in touch with him.

 
 
MEMORIES OF THE LABRECQUE FAMILY AND SPRING STREET

 

Leanne Hudson of Stamford, CT wrote to us recently about her great grandparents Joseph E. and Eugenie (St. Pierre) LaBrecque.  Joe was one of 13 children of a Westbrook family. He and Eugenie were married in 1933 when Eugenie was 45 and Joseph was 36. (Their wedding picture is seen here).  Around 1945 they moved to a home beside the Stroudwater River, at 546 Spring Street, where they would live for the next 30 years.

Eugenie was an artist and the river became an inspiration for some of her paintings. Leanne sent a copy of one of Eugenie’s paintings which appears to be of the old Johnson’s Mill which sat on the river, in line with Brackett Street, around the turn of the century.  Leanne’s mother told her that years ago Warren Memorial Library exhibited Eugenie's artwork.

Joe was also an ‘artist’ but his projects were created in his workshop where his great grandchildren spent many an hour watching over him as he  made everything from whirly gigs to glider swings. And, as Eugenie signed her paintings, Joe burned his signature into a wall in his shop.  Leanne states that Joe was a wonderful unique human being…a true one of a kind.  She called him “Beautiful Joe” as in the vintage storybook that was given to her by Eugenie. Leanne still has that book and it is dated late 1800s in pencil on the inside cover which tells her that her grandmother had it as a child as well. 

Labrecque1

 

Leanne remembers that Joe and Eugenie attended St. Hyacinth's church every Sunday, most times with her and her brother in tow.  “They were very devout Catholics. Back then men wore hats to church and clipped them in the hat clips on the back of the pews, women wore mantillas and fully garbed nuns were in abundance...”

Leanne also writes: I was very fortunate to live next door [to her grandparents] at 544 Spring for 10 years and had an extremely close relationship with my Grammy and Joe…. I played in that river from the Spring Street end all the way up into the woods towards Saco Street. My childhood friend, Judy Willette and I took a homemade wooden raft down the river from Spring Street all the way to Portland!!  We had to carry along the bank at some points but what an adventure! We ended up calling from a pay phone for a ride home and our parents were in shock. I ended up with a good case of poison oak as a result but would do it again tomorrow if I could. What a great childhood I had working on Clarke's dairy farm, riding horses, bringing in the cows, hay baling was a huge adventure as we all rode on top of the bales behind the tractor down Spring Street after a long day in the fields. I was trampled by feisty cows and horses once and Mrs. Clarke had me on the concrete floor of the milk room hosing me down to wash the blood off. I have the scars to prove it! I even helped Mr. Clarke deliver a calf one day. What a great childhood... I attended the junior high on Main Street which I understand is apartments now. I remember going up in the annex for chorus and feeling like we were going to fall through the floor! ….I miss those times very much. I was born in 1958 to give you an idea of the timeframe I am talking about. Clarke's farm is still there, my best friend still lives on Spring Street and her parents’ home is still there (now Ed's Batteries)

 

 

Leanne’s parents are Bob Hudson and. Carol Ann Cass. “My father grew up on Tolman Street and also came from a large family. He owned Hudson's Floor Covering on Route 302 in South Raymond for many years but has retired to Florida. I miss the old days up at our camp on Panther Pond too. What a great life between Westbrook and the lake - only 30 minutes apart. I wish so much that my son could have had the childhood I did. The world has changed so much unfortunately.

[Eugenie LaBrecque's painting of the Stroudwater River]

Labrecque2

 

You may also check an on-line genealogy of the Labrecque family which contains many Westbrook connections, including the family of Joseph E. LaBrecque:
http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/l/a/b/William-A-Labrecque/PDFBOOK1.pdf
 
     

     
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