With the GI Bill, many of us Maine veterans of the Korean War were able to attend college. I chose the University of Maine after my wife-to-be rejected our attending a land grant college in one of the Dakotas.

I had proposed to her on an interstate bus between Lewiston and Biddeford. I had already completed my freshman year on the Orono campus, and my roommate and I were working a small road construction job.

Upon graduation from Saint Louis High School, a classmate suggested we take the bus to Portland to visit the Armed Forces’ recruiters. We ended up enlisting in the Air Force that very day, and we were given leave to travel back to Biddeford to get our parents to sign a permission slip because I was 17.

With mom’s signature, dad having walked to work for the second shift at the Pepperell, my friend Jerry Beaudoin and I took the bus back to Portland where the next day we embarked on a train for “flight training” in Texas. A few days later, the Korean War started. The Air Force kept sending me to school, so I never got to Korea, whereas many of my friends were assigned to radar units. After boot camp, I never saw Jerry again.

My wife and I were married at the Newman chapel on the University of Maine campus the day before classes opened for the 1955 school year. We lived for a brief while in Bangor, but then managed to get into the South Apartments, the University of Maine housing for married students, who were mostly veterans but included some married faculty.

For the first nine months, we lived in one of the single-story buildings that were collectively known as “Pregnant Valley.” They consisted of about 10 apartments, in a row and back to back, which had to be evacuated now and then when a fire alarm went off accidentally or when someone’s dinner went up in smoke while cooking on the hot plate equipped with a collapsible oven for a stew or some other fare.

When we were sure that we were comfortably pregnant and with a certificate of pregnancy from an obstetrician securely in hand, we could present said document to the major, retired, in charge of university housing. He was a savvy old stickler who carefully scrutinized all documents and applications to verify their authenticity. Subsequently, we were approved for larger quarters in one of the eight apartment barracks.

Sandy Ives, who became a famous University of Maine professor, folklorist, collector and writer about Maine and Maritime provinces woodsmen’s folk stories and songs, was our neighbor. Sandy and his wife and child occupied the bedroom adjacent to ours.

The bedrooms abutted, and on most nights we could clearly hear Sandy playing his guitar and singing to his son.

 

– Special to the Telegram