Take a break one of these summer days. Don’t give a thought to the impending fuel crisis, nor that doctor’s appointment you have next month. Instead, sit down and write.

We’re always urging older people to write down what they remember – and it’s not as difficult as you might think. One day, early in the morning, I was mulling over a question put to me by a nephew. He had asked me, “What did you do in the summer when you were a kid? “

To his mind, without a mall or movie theater or skateboard park, there was nothing to do. So to answer him, I jotted down the following. You can do this, too, and it will be of enormous value to others who ask what you did in the summer.

The first short heat wave of the year leaves everyone wilted. When this happens to me, and I’m unable to sustain any level of housework, and with fingers too damp to type on the computer, I think back to the days when I first went to work.

Many country children in Maine worked at farms in the days when local farmers grew big market crops – string beans, berries, corn, cukes, peas, etc.

The first crop of the season was weeds. Danny Shaw, a farmer over on Windham’s Land of Nod Road, paid kids 25 cents an hour to pull weeds from his garden.

Hot, yes! We’d pack up a lunch of sandwiches made of raspberry jam (made from wild raspberries) and peanut butter. Danny’s sister, Viola Dyer, who kept house for him, would provide the lemonade and molasses cookies, which made up our lunch. I always loved to pull weeds, but the best part of the day was sitting under a huge old tree in the shade and enjoying real lemonade.

The next crop was strawberries and many young people around Windham Center picked at Alley Hawkes’ on Windham Center Road. We picked into baskets, crouching down beside the plants, and when our knees got tired, we’d pick standing up and bending down, until our backs gave out – and then it was back to kneeling.

I remember getting 5 cents a quart for cultivated berries. Of course, at home we picked field strawberries (yes, those tiny little ones) and picked enough so that our mother made jam from them. Imagine doing that today.

After the strawberries had gone by, there was a reprieve of a few weeks and then it was time for string beans, both green and yellow or wax beans. Youngsters in Windham often picked over at Jim Pratt’s farm, off Nash Road at Inland Farm. (This is a housing development today.)

Bean fields could stretch so long that you almost couldn’t see the end of them. We’d choose the row we wanted to pick and we’d leave our burlap sack or grain bag at the end of the row, and take our pail (galvanized water pail) or a white bucket and start out. Flicking off the bean weevils (little, yellow, fuzzy critters), and being very careful not to pull the entire plant out of the ground, we’d make our way down the row.

When the bucket was full, we’d mark our spot with a weed or big rock in the row, and walk back to the burlap sack and dump the beans in it. When the sack was full, we’d tug it over to a big scale, set it on the flat place and see how many pounds we’d picked. If picking was good, and there were a lot of beans, we’d get 2 or 3 cents a pounds. As the season went on, the price would go a little higher, as the beans got scarcer on subsequent pickings.

Corn was another big crop in many places, but in my immediate walking area no one was growing this. There was a “corn shop” in nearby Gorham, where canning was done, and lots of farms over in that town grew corn.

The first day I ever picked beans, I earned $1.92 for the day’s work and was allowed to spend it any way I wanted (Candy, potato chips and junk food bought at a store was a mile hike from home.). From then on, though, we had to save our money for school clothes.

By the time I was 15, I had a “real” job – making beds and cleaning bathrooms in a motel located at the corner of Albion Road and Route 302, called Swampscotta Motel. It was hot, tiring work and I learned I didn’t want to spend my life doing that for a living.

About this time, my parents decided I was old enough to babysit – and that kept me (and later on, my sisters) busy on Friday and Saturday evenings. Babysitting was a breeze compared to the other jobs, which by now had been taken up by a younger group of kids.

When I graduated from high school at 17, and went to work in an office in Portland, it was the first time I even knew there was such a thing as air conditioning.

It happened that the insurance company I worked for was trying something new in the business world – computers. They looked like huge square robots and had their own special air-conditioned rooms built. These big pieces of equipment required a constant temperature – so the rest of the offices on that floor reaped the benefit of this new technology, and the temperatures were evenly maintained, a blessing on hot summer days in Maine.

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