In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Thomaston: The Town that Went to Sea

Raymond Wallace

Three 10th grade students interviewed resident Raymond Wallace, age 76, and his wife at their home in Thomaston. No audio versions of this interview are available. He discusses jobs that his family held, minimum wage, and his thoughts on President Barack Obama.

Raymond Wallace
Thomaston ME
January 22,2009
1:45 PM

What year were you born?
1933

About how old were you when the Great Depression occurred?
Very young, it didn’t seem like much had really changed.

Even though you were really young did you have to take on any responsibilities?
No not many. We played a lot and helped out around the house and had a few chores.

Did you feel much pressure?
Much of our money was left in the banks. When the kids were born there wasn’t much of my mother working. She stayed home and worked around the house.

Did you have many struggles?
My father lost his job, and then he went to work for a rich family for 4 to 5 years.

Did you have to move to find work?
No we always stayed here. Before I was born my father had to look for jobs.

Did you celebrate many holidays?
We only celebrated the 4th of July and Christmas. There weren’t as many holidays as there are now. I always had my birthday parties but my parents never celebrated theirs.

What did your daily life consist of?
We were just kids, we would go out side and they would have a hard time getting me in. We would watch the milkman come with a horse and carriage. It wasn’t very sanitary I don’t believe.

Are there any similarities between now and then?
I think that there will be some. A lot of the companies are laying people off so I think they better be doing something to stop that soon.

Did it bring you closer to your family?
I think that it did. I was always over to my grandfather’s because we lived so close.

Do you think the Thomaston was affected?
I think it was of course. The lime yard had just closed down so there wasn’t a lot of work.

What about your siblings?
My sister got married right out of school before I was born, they lived in friendship.

Were there any positive affects of the depression?
I don’t think so because it cost our family lots of money, and other families I’m sure.

How did you get your food?
We grew lots of our foods from gardens and canned lots of it to keep it fresh longer.

How’d you get water?
They had a water system at the time. We didn’t have refrigerators so I remember a man coming around with ice and we would eat the small pieces.

What was schooling like?
I went to school in Thomaston. We don’t have the teachers we had then that we do now. We had strict teachers; they could get away with it back then. They would hit us with a ruler and I wasn’t about to tell my father I was having troubles in school. When we had graduation there were 32 other students in my class so there weren’t many kids going to school back then like there is now. When I was in 8th grade we didn’t have typing and one of my teachers had a whole history of Thomaston and we would have to write it down, I missed a lot of it.

My mother liked to have enough money to help the family and she came back to Thomaston after her mother died to help out

How did you get medication?
Doctors were around town. They would come to the house; you wouldn’t have to go to an office like you do now.

Were your parents strict?
At times they were strict. I remembered I broke out all kinds of windows in a building and my father made me go and redo all of them so I learned to cut glass.

WIFE- we were only allowed to have a certain number of shoes. They would stamp each pair.

How’d you get heating?
We had woodstoves but it only kept one room warm. My wife had it harder than I did.

WIFE- I lived in St. George and we didn’t have running water or bathrooms or anything. Before I was 25 I had had 5 children.

How did you get your clothing?
My mother made the majority of our clothing.

Did your dad work?
He was a boat builder so he had to find some other jobs to help out with money.

Were kids affected?
I think they all were. I think we might be going back there but it was quite a time.

I started my first job at 13 at Thomaston grocery. Hard work gives you money. I worked up there and I don’t really remember how much I got paid. I would work 48 hours a week and get just over 40 dollars. When I was young my father wanted me to go into carpentry so I made all my toys. I remembered getting my first bicycle. At that time you were told to work and that is what you were supposed to do.

My sister worked in a shipyard like my father. Also two of my father’s boats were in museums. One is in Massachusetts and one is in Penobscot Bay. He designed the one in Penobscot and it was very popular around here. He was quite a character.

What was minimum wage?
I don’t really remember but tires cost 18 dollars and I could get one a week. But things have changes so much since the war and I hope thing never go back to that.

What impact did WWII have?
We picked up a lot of business. My father had a lot of boats to build.

Was there anyone to blame for the fall of the economy?
I think that my mother blamed Hoover and blamed the whole thing on him. She was a democrat and he was a republican.

Did your mom like it when Roosevelt became president?
She thought the world of Roosevelt cause things got so much better after.

Do you think Obama will get us out of this?
Not the way that they are bailing us out of everything and not putting taxes on all of our things.