Webmaster Note: This article was written by Joanne (Jo) Stow Boyington secretary of the Androscoggin Grange in Greene and published by Sun Media Weekly Newspapers.
I actually grew up in a city in Connecticut, but because my Mom Nada, was born and raised in Aroostook County, and she thought it best for us to know how soothing a slow-paced, country life could be, she brought us up to Maine, in our old black Buicks, every summer.
Somehow the very dark nights in Maine were frightening in their absolute silence, so far from our city lights, and yet they held a magic that you could never begin to even explain to those kids back home.
The whole town of Oakfield was darkened, with each kitchen light in the houses in town being extinguished, before folks left their homes, for the walk up the town hill to the Grange Hall, for the Saturday Night Supper and Dance
I remember well, the smells of the food, from many a favorite, well stained cookbook, passing separately, and them curiously merging together through the hall, and escaping out each of the old, painted wooden framed windows.
The cast iron pump in the old cracked white enameled kitchen sink, needed a little priming from a dairy jug of water, each time the ladies went to fill the pots and kettles to cook the meals, and yet again to heat the water on the old cook stove, to wash up the dishes and pots after the meal was over.
I loved the look of those lovely, old, mismatched dishes, in differently colored china patterns from probably a hundred homes, brought over to the hall throughout the nearly 100 years since the hall was built. They sat piled on the sideboards, in towers of unusual edged patterns, that were created by the placement of wider and narrower plates, and saucers, that always seemed to lean dangerously to one side, over the iron sink.
The women would all fling over their left shoulders, a dish towel, that was long ago worn out, matching no other one there, and soaking with rinse water too soon. They were stored, folded a little differently, by each ringer washer of a load of them, in old wooden drawers with no one caring to even remember their long ago forgotten origins. Strangely, it was this unique collective kitchen ensemble, that I remember most, and stays in my mind as a tribute to those women’s proud inner sanctum, of the now nearly forgotten Public Suppers, at the local Grange Halls.
I had a favorite “Carnival Glass” cup with a copper sheen, at that Hall, that I truly missed when I went home to Connecticut, to begin another school year. I would ride put of town, praying no one would break that cup, before I could return to the Hall, again the next summer.
My Grandfather Thornley Pratt, called the square dances, upstairs in the big hall, with a mesmerizing accent, and in a strangely amusing language, using loud commands and softer suggestions to the dancers, that I can still hear sometimes, when the night is still.
We kids were allowed to stay upstairs and watch the dancers, but only from the old staircase in the hallway. I would guess that there are at least 100 sets of initials still carved in those old stairway wall boards. An odd array of combined initials, of those who had perhaps once found a summer love, sitting there on those stairs. Maybe shyly smiling at each other, while watching the lady dancers fly by, in flashes of checks and flowers, over old fashioned, bellowing crinoline slips, and plain, clean white sneakers.
And, just when we thought we could stay awake no longer, the men would pack away their fiddles, and the women would come and gathered us up, along with the Supper leftovers from the kitchen ice box. Then we all walked down the hill to town, with us continuing up Station Road, to my Great-Grandmother Sadie’s house, where we spent those magical foreign summers.
If I sometimes close my eyes, I can still feel myself lying there, in an old four poster iron bed, in the upstairs bedchamber, listening in the still night to the trains on the tracks at the station nearby…backing up, and moving forward- just ever so slightly, in a rhythm that lulled this “City Girl” fast to sleep. I also remember gently breathing in the different scents of the layers of old wallpaper, that were hung, one over the other, by other folks… that once might have slept there too.