Growing up in the ’50s in southern Maine was a source of wonder and was marked by yearly rituals that became the traditions of my life.

The last days of school in June would make our morning bus rides exciting. With the windows open, it felt like we were flying through the countryside. Warm weather brought fresh wild strawberries in fields and along the road to be searched out, picked and enjoyed. Since my best friend lived over a mile away, my full-time companion was my dog, with whom I shared many adventures in which imagination played an important part.

Warm summer evenings brought fireflies or “lightning bugs,” which we captured in jars. Very disappointing the next morning to find nondescript little brown bugs. At 71, I still enjoy going barefoot and gardening without gloves, reminiscent of my childhood. We swam in El Pond during the hot days when our parents could be persuaded to drive us there. The water was wonderful, but on exiting we always had to check for bloodsuckers.

Fall brought new clothes, shoes, and each year a new pencil box. It contained pencils, an eraser, crayons, a 6-inch ruler and something called a protractor that I never did find a use for. Each year the smell of the pencil box was the aroma of fall and the ritual of returning to school. Cooler days brought more time inside. Our first TV was a black-and-white console with no remote. We had three channels, and if President Eisenhower was making a speech he was on every channel.

Halloween was trick or treating as a group with my best friend and her older sisters. We knew every family we went to, and no one worried about being able to eat what they gave out.

My first two school years were spent in a one-room schoolhouse in the High Pine section of Wells. There were eight grades and one teacher, so the older children helped the younger ones. By third grade I was moved to the new school in Wells, where everything was brand new and the blackboards were actually green. The building still stands, weathered and boarded up. But when I drive by, I recall how large it seemed to me at first and the resulting friendships that lasted into my adult life.

Most of the activities of our growing-up years cost very little and only required an abundance of imagination. Life was simpler, more predictable and made us more self-sufficient. What will the kids of today, glued to their video games and cellphones, remember in 50 years? I wonder. I’m not against progress. I just don’t want “the way life should be” to be forgotten.


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