Maxine Wright interviewed by Richard Ade - April 17, 2001



Maxine Wright interviewed by Richard Ade - April 17, 2001


Interview with Maxine Wright by Richard Ade. Conducted for Richard's Eagle Scout project. Richard also prepared the transcript below.


April 17, 2001




Wright, Maxine




2001.037.0014 (Transcript)
2001.037.0035 (Cassette)

Oral History Record



My full name is Maxine Wright. Do you want my maiden name, too? Maxine Dodge Wright


March 11, 1911


Now do you want the family before I was married?


There was my dad and mother, of course and my older sister is gone. I was the second one. And then the third child is three years younger than I am and she is still alive and my brother. Now I’m going to have to think. My brother was Russell and he is dead. He died. You never know when they’re going to do that. Is this for boys scout?


My dad was an electrician. He learned that a long, long time ago. This is all in California, now. It’s different than it is here. California was the new state and everything from the electrical and lights and everything was before the other states. It just originated there. We were very lucky and lived on Route 90 and we had indoor plumbing and electric lights which nobody…the other states heading this way just didn’t have it.

I went to high school and the teachers college was in the same town. We walked. I walked to college for the one year and I took music. I quit college and became a music…a piano teacher. That’s the way I grew up. We walked.

We had Model A Ford’s…and you had never even seen any of that. If you could just drop everything and go back my 90 years, you wouldn’t know where you were. Street cars…you paid a nickel for a street car and you could ride all the way across town for the cost of a nickel. You can’t get anything for a nickel now. Well, you might get a popsicle. That’s the way we grew up.

My mother was strict. Not too strict…she was a smart gal. When I couldn’t get my arithmetic, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and we got it. There was no maybes about it. She just put it in your head. She always wanted to be a teacher and she got to teach four kids. But, I was dumb when it came to mathematics. The only thing I was really good at was playing the piano. I was pretty good at that. Okay, what else do you want to know?:

We had indoor bathrooms and when I went to West Virginia 45 years later, they didn’t have bathrooms or anything like that. So, California was a head of many of the states and it would be an interesting place for you to go back and see, like I said, 90 years ago. It was a different world. The world is not the same as it used to be.

We were taught writing in school. Now they have computers. I don’t …there’s a lot of things I could tell you. I could tell you about the big depression which you have heard of. It’s something that you just wouldn’t think it was something that happened. But, at that time, it was a terribly serious thing. I mean many millionaires would be penniless overnight. I remember that so plan because I heard of several places in San Francisco where they just lost all their money. I wonder what they do now a days…if you were a millionaire…now you just think about it…and all of a sudden there was no money. The poor folk were just fine because we knew how to get along. We didn’t expect too much. But, I heard several cases where millionaires just jumped out of the windows and committed suicide because they just lost their money overnight.

There’s just lots of things that happened in the world that you won’t ever see. In Oklahoma and places like that they went through the dust storms and there was nothing left for them. They just walked off and loaded up their old Model T Ford trucks with the dogs and cats and the kids and the, well, I guess they might have left the cats out, and went to California. I remember when I was a kid when I would see several of those trucks going by and we would say…There go some more Oakies. Now, what else is there?


My earliest memories. Oh, you don’t want to hear this one. I was in first grade and there was a Chinese man who came along with a long braided pig tail down his back. There were three or four of us little snippy girls and we hollered across the street….I should have been whipped…we hollered “Ching Chong China Man with a long tail…along came a black man and chopped off his tail”. We sang that out to that poor man. To this day, I remember that China man with the long pig tail. He was across the street and he just walked on. He should have come over and spanked each one of us, but he didn’t. He just ignored us. The Chinese helped the United States. They did a lot of helping. That’s one of my earliest ones.

Another one of my earliest ones, I guess, is..I remember it because our mothers at that time…they made us mind or at least they thought they did. It was my birthday. I think I was in the first grade and I invited a few girls, the ones that I liked, I invited them to a birthday party at the house and my mother met us at the door. My mother met us at the door and said there was no birthday party. She sent them all home…Mothers wouldn’t do that now a day. Sent all those kids home and I cried…What would you do? You’d cry too because you thought you were having a birthday party. But, my mother on the side, told all the other mothers to keep the kids home after my mother sent them home and when they got to their houses where their mothers said, now you can go back to that same birthday party, after I had a good squall. Mother’s wouldn’t do that now a days. We were taught lessons that we just don’t grow up and …it’s not automatic. What else?

Well I guess the birthday party was one of the severe ones and calling out to that China man…that was naughty. That was naughty….Yeah, you might do a thing like that, but it was just plain naughty. Now, do you think that was nice?


No. and that was two of my earliest things…I guess they were lessons.


I went to Lumpolk, California to first grade. I was there until the third grade and they wanted to promote me to the fourth grade from the third grade. And in the meantime, at the same time my father…my mother had very poor health and Lumpolk California was very….um…cool, windy, rainy…it was very much like San Francisco and I would sit outside on a…we had a slanted basement door and I’d go up there in the sunshine and just sleep out there. It was so nice and sunny. But, my mother couldn’t stand that cold, nasty weather and so my dad stopped his job…he took all four of us little kids…piled us into the Model T Ford and we went to Chico, California in the Sacremento Valley and it was nice and warm there. Right now the trees have already blossomed and they are getting ready to have their apple orchards and there beaches and English walnuts, which you don’t raise here…peaches…which you don’t raise here…olives. That one section in Chico California is the only section in the United States where they raise the black olives. That’s something for you to note. That’s where they had the college where I went to. They had a big university there and we walked. I walked two miles to high school. I walked two miles to college. We could really walk…we could travel when we walked. We weren’t out power walking like they do now. We just power walked to school. I don’t know what else you want to know.


Teachers? They were nice. Strict. We had to get our lessons. Our subjects that we had in high school, which you would be interested in. for each year we had three years of U.S. history. We had other subjects. Everybody took gym which I don’t think they do now, I don’t know. For graduation they had to have three ,,,one and two years of mathematics. I took two years of algebra and one of geometry. I didn’t like geometry too well, but I did pretty well in Algebra. I took sewing. I learned how to sew. We could take cooking. The boys learned…they had carpentry. They built houses and that was nice. Plenty of music. We had band, orchestra. It was a nice big high school. And chorus..lots of times I would play piano for the chorus because they didn’t happen to have a piano player. And, oh my, I can’t find the word…geometry, trigonometry. There were several classes that I didn’t take. Something else that we had to take…I can’t think what it was….But, we had other classes besides that. It was a well run school. Oh, typing and that sort of thing so that by the time the girls graduated, they were ready to go out and learn a living. They didn’t have to go to college to get these things. They could get though school much faster and they didn’t have to go to college and that helps a lot because a lot of your money is in college and that’s expensive.

There’s a lot of things that we learned. It was a busy school. The teachers were nice but they expected attention. We didn’t play tricks in class. We just behaved ourselves like we’re supposed to. We couldn’t smoke on campus. We were not allowed to drink, naturally. And, we had football, basketball, tennis, all the sports and that was just when I started high school. I just, I don’t know. I was just an ordinary kid. I always felt sort of dumb, but I got through school. We did have to behave ourselves and we would be expelled if we were caught smoking or things like that, which is necessary for it to be a well rounded healthy person. I don’t know exactly how they do that now. Do they let you sort of sneak off and smoke?


Then, it’s just about like it is now. Your parents were called in on it. When we disobeyed any way like that, our parents were held liable for it. So, the parents were brought in too. They knew what the kids were doing. I don’t know if they do that now or not?


I lived in California until I was 30 something. By that time, I was playing piano for the choruses. I did a lot of that. And for gym. Every girl took gym and then it got to the point…I would play for gym classes or dances or that type of thing. So, I was quite busy. That’s another thing that you could do better in California. You could work in the fruit could pick peaches, apricots, prunes and most other fruits. That was mostly just picking. Olives…they are put in big vats and seasoned. You can’t…did you ever try a ripe olive off a tree without cooking it? It’s an experience. They are just as bitter and they will pucker your mourh for ten minutes after you just bite into one. They are terrible…so now, when you eat a ripe olive, you just remember what they were like before they went through that material they were seasoned with or whatever. You couldn’t eat it. You’d spit it out.

In that part of the country I was raised in…they had dates too. Which I liked. And oranges. It was…if you hear of Chico University, that’s the part of the country I’m talking about. It’s different country well…you just don’t find these things. It was a nice place to grow up in.

Then I went to Arizona. Indians can have Arizona. I stayed for five years and that was it. You have heard of it being hot enough on the sidewalk to fry and egg. I tried it. It works. I didn’t like Arizona at all and then I got married and went to West Virginia. Princeton, West Virginia. I lived out in the country and I learned a lot of new things. I learned things in West Virginia that California never heard of and vice versa. It’s interesting to go to different places. Then, I came up here and it’s still completely different. I like the snow but I like it to leave once and a while. I think we are supposed to have more snow. Are you taking all this down? Oh, yes, the tape recorder. Isn’t that something. I’m going down in history.

I got a phone call the other day. I would say it was one of the Gould youngsters that I had met the other day. They picked me out for one of the old people to talk to. You’ve already found out that I’m dead. I didn’t quite understand but she said something about a project and I said, well, I am 90 years old. Would you want me, a 90 year old woman, to be on one of your projects. She kind of giggled and then she said no. So, I got off of that one. Now, what else do you want to know?


World War II or I? Oh, I remember World War I…You don’t want to hear about Word War I? That was completely different. My dad was a home guard. He went to town and he had four children so he was never sent overseas. That was bad. I remember World War I because I remember picking out the songs that they sang during World War I on the piano. I was just a little kid.

World War II I worked in the army hospital in Chico. They had big planes. It was an interesting time to work in places. One thing that I remember. You won’t know this. But, the barracks for the white boys were different than the barracks where the black boys were. They ate at the same mess hall. I worked in the mess hall. They ate at the same mess hall but they didn’t have the same barracks and I never could quite understand that. I never…I just didn’t quite agree with it. But, that’s the way they did. What kind of planes did they have…B20, B21 or 2. They had a lot of planes coming in and I worked at the hospital…so many of the boys were brought in burned or just broken up. Some of them …you couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. I remember one little boy…I called him a little boy because he was so much younger than me…he had lost one leg. He would not stay in bed and he would get up out of bed and hop around on that one leg. He could get around and get in more trouble on that one leg than everybody else with their two legs. And one boy was so badly burned that he just had bandages and I had to feed him and he was such a nice youngster. I felt so sorry for him…He just could not feed himself. He had to lay in bed and let me fee him. I remember that very plainly. There’s just lots of things we could talk about on World War II.




I married…I had two husbands. I married the first one when I was just 20 years old. I didn’t know what marriage was all about. I didn’t know a lot of things. We lived in Phoenix Arizona. I was with him for five years. I had three youngsters and I went home to see my parents in California. Went back to Chico. I took my three youngsters and I didn’t want my youngsters to grow up like he was so I kept my three youngsters and wrote him a note. I guess you call them Dear Johns…told him I wasn’t coming back and I never did. So, the second husband. I met him during World War II. He worked in the same hospital as I did. When the World War was about over, we went back to Princeton West Virginia where I stayed for 45 years. He had stroke and passed on. He raised my three youngsters. The little girl, she’s here in Maine. I’m living with them. That was his youngster. She always called him daddy. That was here daddy. So, it’s just as well. So, she turned out to be a pretty good youngster. Very smart in school. I wasn’t smart. I was lazy. I would rather….We had windows in our high school and I would rather sit there…look out the window. I went through chemistry that way. Looking out the window and making up poetry. I didn’t pay much attention to chemistry. I flunked. (LAUGHTER.)


I think all of them have good points. I’ve seen so many of them, I might get the names all messed up. I’m wishing that Mr. Busch, the father and the son now, I think he’s going to be okay if they give him a good chance. I am a republican. But, if the president is a Democrat, that’s okay. But, I didn’t…Mr. Clinton did some bad mistakes and you know all about those. I think Mr. Busch right now…we’ll just center on him…I think he’ll be okay if they give him a good chance. I miss Colin Powell. I wanted him to be president several years back. He is smart and well educated and he has helped run the government for so long. He knows the things that nobody else knows. He would have been, I would say, an excellent president. I hope they give him a good chance now to do good work. Ronald Reagan. He’s an interesting man. Very clever. Ronald Reagan was a very good president. You might say I had several. I don’t really have a favorite. I think we should take care of the one we’ve go and see if we can’t really do something with him. That’s up to the people. Did that tell you anything? No.


Well, when I went to West Virginia, from California. There are things there that I learned and had to do that I would have never done in California. We lived on a farm, which is okay. My husband, he wanted a cow. I said, it’s all right to have a cow. He said I’ll teach you how to milk it. I said now that’s different. I said no, I won’t milk the cow, you bring the milk to the door and I’ll take care of it. So, I learned how to make cottage cheese and homemade ice cream with fresh, thick cream…it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Put a fresh peach…that’s a change. What else? I could swim easily in California and in West Virginia it was cold. That’s a difference.

It’s a different life, going from California to West Virgina. Everything changes. I learned how to cut up sausages. We raised pigs. Pigs never lived in California. That’s a change. I learned how to can sausage which is the best you ever ate. I learned how to cut up beef. I learned things there that I never learned any place else. That would be a big change.

Getting along with the people. I wouldn’t say…I’m not putting them down or anything. The people in West Virginia were educated different. Maine is very much like California. It’s different. They talked a little bit different. They would say I has went or I have went. I couldn’t understand it. They just didn’t go for the right speech or the right train of schooling. They didn’t go through too much schooling. Here in Maine, everybody that I met of the old people have graduated from Gould and they had good schooling. They talk well…English. They are smart. There is a difference in each state and you keep that with you. Like Canada….now, I’ve never been much in Canada. They’ve got beautiful flower….um…not arrangements….they’re um…I can’t find the word.

When you get 90 you will lose your words. You just won’t be the same person that you were when you were…how old are you, now?

I’M 18.

18. You’re just a kid. Just a kid. When I was 18, I was just a kid and I was going to the first year of college and I stopped after the first year of college because I got all the music that I wanted out of the whole school so then I went to teaching music. So, that’s what I grew up doing. Lately, I’ve taught a youngster, 35 years old, some music the other day. I can still do it. I can still play the piano. So, I can’t understand why my brain goes and everything else drops away. It gets old and worn out and so forth and yet I can still play the piano as well as I did ten years ago. Now, you tell me something. How can you do these things? My brother in law….I was talking to him on the phone…he’s in Washington state. That’s an interesting state…they are having trouble, though, with that section with the Indians and bingo games…I don’t like those bingo games. I think they can use their money someplace better. But, anyway, he said the same thing about me. He doesn’t understand how I can play the piano for church and all the other parts of me are going. I can’t walk…and so forth. Can’t you explain? Well, you’re going to have to because someday it’s going to happen to you. When I was talking to my brother and he said I have been doing that [playing the piano] for so long that it’s just part of something that yu can do. I can’t even write as well as I used to. I can’t sing, either. I used to be able to sing. Your voice changes. Your brain changes. The way you think changes. So, see what you’ve got ahead of you.


Oh, eight years. I’m a new person here. I’m a new comer. But, I do like Bethel. I wish it was…I wish it had more stores where you could buy things instead of having to run to another town. I think, from what my son in law says, Bethel used to be a thriving town that had all these things. It’s a shame. I think Bethel could be easier to live in if we didn’t have to travel so far. See, Oh, they won’t let me drive any more, either. Bethel is nice. I have met some wonderful people here. They are just extra loving people at the church where I play. You can go into a store and in a lot of places you can’t do this and stand next to a person you’ve never seen before and you can talk with them. You can’t do that every place and it is, I think it’s important to note. There’s a lot of people here who are easy to get acquainted with. I love Bethel and I love Maine. I love the ocean. I’m a Pisces. I like water. I’m like a fish. I go two different directions at once. I like Maine, but I wish the snow would leave right now and let us get into some of these things, like to plant, and so forth. I like to do my own tomatoes and cucumbers and things. I don’t like to go buy them when they are out in the back yard. Does that tell you anything about Maine? I love the ocean. I love the mountains. I like a certain amount of snow. The snow here is better than it is in West Virginia. They have a heavy, slick snow and it’s awfully hard to drive in. But, when it’s spring time, I want the snow to leave. I like your summers except for the bugs. But, you don’t have a hot summer. California has a terribly hot summer. There’s a difference and I’ve been in Louisiana…in the French quarter. That’s excellent. That’s a fun place to visit. But, it gets awfully hot in the summer time. I don’t know whether I’m telling you anything or not or if it’s just a bunch of silly stuff.


My daughter, married a Bethel native, Bob Everett, you’ve heard of him? He’s one of your selectman. He was born and raised here. He was in the navy and he married my daughter and they came back here and he had an heir or something to one of the old civil war houses…one of the old….what are they…in the 1850’s…you know, one of the old houses, like these here. They tore down part of the old house and made the new part exactly like the old so it’s a new old house. I was living in West Virginia and my husband had passed away and so I was all by myself. Carmella, that’s my daughter’s name, she and Bob wanted me to come up here and stay with them. That was about eight years ago. I’m still here. I like the people. It’s the people who make your country. It’s not the houses or anything. It’s the people that you can talk to and enjoy. I love to talk! My tongue is the only thing that hasn’t worn out. It still goes. And my fingers. But they are not as good as they used to be.


I work over here next door at the historical society. It’s good for me. It keeps me doing something…I meet some interesting people. I have never gone in for historical things before or family history….or geology, but I am getting more interested in it because I am finding out that so many people like it. And, when you think about it, most of us don’t remember what your father did or what your grandfather did. It’s good for you. I should know more about my family. I’m also going to church. But, I’ve always been a church person. I also play the piano for the grange. I’m into the grange. If somebody needs help with something, I’ll help. I just like to help people and that’s about it. At my age, at 90, you just don’t get in to too many things….I don’t walk good and that sort of thing. The historical society…and grange…and church. So many old people don’t have many people to sit and talk with and that’s nice to go in and visit somebody that’s bored. That really…I guess I never thought about it before, but as you get older you will find out it’s necessary. It’s good for you. Now, you’re learning something too, now.


There are so many of them. Well, I would say, when I left my first husband and took the children and made a new life. That was an important decision. When, I went from California to West Virginia and finding new people and a new place to stay and a different area of the country and different ideas, that was also another big decision. I’m not sorry, because I’ve learned a lot from it. But, if we make a new decision and we don’t learn anything from it…You know, coming up here was a very big decision. I had to sell my house and practically everything in it and make a lot of decisions doing that. When I…you’ll laugh about this one, when I was a kid, just a little kid and every body in California swam. We were all swimmers. That was one of the things we did. I was afraid of the water. My dad picked me up and threw me in. I had to swim out. That’s a decision, when you think about. I could have just stayed there and hollered for him. But, I decided to get out of there and just do it. Some of your decisions are when you are in high school and you have to pick different subjects…Sometimes those can be really big decisions. After I came up here, I had to make the decision of whether or not to live by myself. That was a big decision.


Honey, in 90 years you’ve got a whole slew of those things! (LAUGHS) I would say coming up here, maybe. It’s when you change from one state to another or when you, like when I left my first husband. That, because you are not leaving all by yourself. I had three children…little children that you have to make a living for. Nobody is going to help you. You have to do it yourself. It’s something you’ve got to do. A changing from one state to another or from one life to another…you will find that out. Whether you should take a job here or there. That’s a big decision. I had to make that. One of my decisions was if I was going to work during World War II at the hospital. I was thinking of leaving town and getting another job. I got this work right near town. It was five miles to where I worked up there at the air field. That was an interesting…I would say, the three, leaving from West Virginia back to California was a big decision and I had to do it all by myself. Going out to the air field and working instead of leaving town for another job. That was a big decision. Most of your decisions are connected to your work and where you live or who you’re going to marry. That’s a big decision. You can make a mistake so easy and not know it. Helping other people sometimes. You’ll find that out after you are grown. You’re just a kid now.


Well, I don’t know how you live or what kind of mom and dad you’ve got. I would say, they probably brought you up pretty much like I was brought up. I mean, you’re not out here slashing tires and so forth. There are youngsters that I see now a days and on television. I wonder if television doesn’t show kids what to do that they should not be doing. Drop some of the television. Do something with your hands and brain instead of playing with a computer too much. I wonder if the computer isn’t going to mess up a lot of people’s lives. It’s going to make them lazy. You cannot be lazy. I was not allowed to be lazy and I’m going to …I would say that would be one of them. Watch what you are headed for. Do right decisions. When you go, do something and see if it will improve you instead of letting you be lazy. You know what I’m talking about. Accomplishing something is terribly important and if I didn’t feel like I was doing some of those things, I wouldn’t be worth anything else. So many of our youngsters are not taught that. You’ve got to see ahead and see where you are headed. Are you doing the right thing? And are you accomplishing anything? I guess the word is accomplish. And be active and love people. Love is terribly important. Like people…just talk to them. If you can help somebody, do it. Not especially money wise, but help your neighbor once in a while. Go to church once in a while. Church is important and it won’t make a sissy out of you. You don’t want to be a sissy. You want to be a grown, accomplished and proud of yourself. Proud of what you do. Now, isn’t that what you think? If you did all those things, you’d be a pretty smart boy and people would like you and you would accomplish things. I met five of the little youngsters…I don’t know why they picked me out…they picked me out as one of the old people. We had a good time. They were nice and lovable. They came to the house and we had a good time. You don’t always have to know people to have a good time. You can have fun with strangers. Don’t be snobbish. I just don’t like snobbish people. That’s enough for you, wasn’t it? Are you working for the boy scouts or what?


Well, you’re doing pretty good. How many are doing this?


What nationality are you?


My mother was German. She took German in high school and she said it was a hard subject to learn. She wanted to be a teacher so bad. I had a smart mother. If she couldn’t reach us by grabbing us, she’d get us with her foot. She was a smart gal. She could do most anything. She was a hard worker. She was a small person but she was…a good mother. I’ve tried to be a good mother but I don’t know…I guess you’d have to talk to my kids about that.

I think I’ve told you pretty much….I’ve had a hard time hearing. I’ve got this stupid hearing aid on! I hate hearing aids. Anything that you have to wear that’s abnormal. It doesn’t come out right. Okay, what else do you have on there?




They need more of a business section instead of having to go so far…you are sending all of your business to other towns. For me, I want to do my groceries here. If I go shopping, I want to be able to do it here instead of getting in the car. A car is an expensive thing. Not just gas but the upkeep and everything else. Cars are expensive and people jump into them and think oh, it doesn’t cost anything. Phoey. A car is expensive to run. Bethel needs…they ought to go back to the town from what my son in law said. They could shop here. Not just eating places. You could buy anything you needed instead of having to go across town. No, I think Bethel needs to be built up a little. Do you agree? It makes sense, doesn’t it. Can you buy a pair of shoes here? No. And there is only one little store for clothes. Well, they also have that big drug store and I don’t like that at all. Bethel needs more people to keep going. I think they have the room. You know, they started this new section but it’s kind of bad because the old people who live in town can’t get to it either. I think we should keep Bethel going and shop in Bethel. Look at the money you are losing by going to other places. My mother, in her town, she could get out of a taxi or off the bus and stay in the town and get everything she wanted just by walking. You could stop and eat and you could spend the whole day doing things in one location. That’s what Bethel needs.


Don’t you think I’ve talked enough?!