Copyright 2007. Written by Connie Michaud; dictated to Sue Trumble
Note from Denise: My grandmother was Dorothy Leona Michaud, born in St. Agathe, Maine, in 1913 and died in Lewiston, Maine in 2013, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. The author of “My Little Story Book,” is Connie Michaud, my grandmother’s niece.
Connie was known as the family genealogist of the Michaud family. Each year she organized a family get-together and asked everyone to come for “Fun, the Past and the Present Laughter.” She had an acronym in her book:
R = Revellion Christmas Eve and Midnight Mass
E = Evenings together (soiree)
M = Memere’s cooking
E = Enough to eat??
M = Mom’s donuts and cookies
B = Best dumplings in town (Memere’s and Pepere’s)
E = Edith’s ployes
R = Roast pork and beef dinners with brown potatoes
W = Weddings
H = Happy times
E = Edna’s cooking, Sunday dinner with a house full, sometimes 24 to feed
N = Ned’s gifted voice
Connie explains that the book was “originally written as my mother and I sat in the living room on quiet evenings watching television, and, of course, during commercials. All of the information in this book occurred over seven years of conversations.
“I would ask mom questions and she would answer, but her answers were really stories of her life as she remembered it. She didn’t know it, but I wrote her stories word for word.”
My notes about my grandmother Dorothy Michaud Bolduc are in parentheses.
THE BEGINNING OF MY PARENTS LIFE
Donat L. Michaud was born January 1, 1906. Died April 19, 1978. Son of Pierre S. and Laura Caron Michaud. (They were Dorothy Michaud’s parents.) Donat’s wife Edna E. Dubois was born April 7, 1914 and died April 20, 2006. She was the daughter of Noe Dubois and Clementine Rossignol Dubois. She married Donat Michaud on July 6, 1931.
Donat and Edna had eight children: Richard D., Connie, Pierre, Normand, Edward, Gerard, Richard J. and Edna Marie.
Edna belonged to St. Louis church for 48 years. She belonged to Les Dames de Ste. Anne at St. Louis parish in Auburn. As I sat in church with her one Sunday, I had a prayer book that I was looking at, but I was really listening to her recite the mass “word for word” from memory. She was the most remarkable person I have ever known. She lived her life to the fullest and enjoyed her family and friends and all she loved all her life. She had 17 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and 8 great-great-grandchildren. She loved our get-togethers and was an avid card player and had a passion for Bingo. She loved to go places with her daughter Connie and her nieces.
Edna worked in the Lewiston-Auburn shoe shops all her life and retired from work in 1972. She still wanted to work, but the shops were gone.
When my mother and father got married (1931), her relatives got together and had a party for them. The Sheriff got wind of what my grandfather Michaud had done for the party. They had homebrew for this great occasion. The Sheriff went up to the farm in Durham and busted all the booze barrels and bottles. It didn’t make any difference to the family; they had a great time anyway.
They were married at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s in Lewiston. As children, Edna and her siblings had witnessed that church being built from the ground up, stone by stone. This church is now a famous Basilica, blessed by the Pope. When Edna and Donat got married, they had to use the basement of the church, as the top floor was not finished. On their honeymoon, Uncle Patrick volunteered to drive my father’s brand new Durant. The 1931 Durant was purchased in Waterville. It cost $800 from Mr. Hinckley who was Walter Hinckley’s grandfather.
The honeymoon was attended by Memere and Pepere Michaud, Memere and Pepere Dubois, the newlyweds, and, of course, Uncle Pat. They traveled north and visited family and friends and cousins.
In those days they didn’t have hotels so my Mom and Dad spent their honeymoon night at her godmother’s house, Edwina Blanchette. When bedtime came, my mother asked her aunt if she could wash up in the kitchen. Well, of course, Aunt Edwina said yes. So, Aunt Edwina prepared a place for my mother to wash behind a curtain. When my mother was finished, she meticulously cleaned the wash area and poured the water down what she thought was a drain. The water went right to the floor, as Aunt Edwina did not have plumbing. My mother was horrified as she stood standing in her own bath water. She cleaned up the mess, apologizing profusely to her aunt.
After Edna and Donat were married, they lived with Aunt Edith and Uncle Joe Roy on Highland Avenue in Lewiston for 5 years. Later they decided to get their own apartment with their own furniture. They purchased all of their furnishings on the corner of Lincoln and Main Street in Lewiston. The stove, fridge and icebox, and a bedroom set, kitchen set, and living room set cost them $150. Furniture was paid on at $2 per week. They moved to Walnut Street; the rent was $6 per week.
When Edna and Donat started a family, they had to move again. They lived at 151 Oak Street. That’s where I, Connie, was born. They had to move again when Pete was on the way. They moved to Ash St. The family moved again when Normand was on the way. They moved to New Gloucester. While we were in New Gloucester, Dad worked for Royal Crown Trucking, delivering soda. For some unknown reason, Dad’s truck rolled over and he was trapped under the truck. God was with my Dad that day — he had minor injuries and was able to return to work the next day.
At this time I was about 3 or 4 years old. Our home in New Gloucester was in a beautiful area with plenty of attractions for a small child. One day, I was all dressed up in white, as Mama always kept her little girl neat, shoes and all. I decided it was a great day for a walk. Oh my! I ventured into the woods! Thank God Mom spotted me, all in white, and kept her eye on me. As I strolled through the woods she came up behind me with a small twig. I really got it that time, all the way home. Another good lesson for Connie — I never went back.
Well, now, don’t you know, it’s moving time again because Neddie is on the way. He was born next to Guilmet’s store on South Main Street in New Auburn. This was a farm where my grandfather planted all kinds of stuff. It’s moving time again! Yes, another child on the way. Both Gerard and John were born on Flanders Street in Auburn. We made our home a happy one and had many good times. Our grandparents, Memere and Pepere, lived with six children, four adults, a dog named Judy, and us. We grew up in a loving atmosphere.
We were all brought up Catholic as the generations before us. Nothing against other religions.
My mother and I used to have conversations when we were alone. I wrote down some of the things she said. My role as the family historian is ongoing. I would like to share these conversations with you, as they are part of your history, too.
When we lived on Flanders Street my mother walked one-third or a quarter of a mile to get fresh water so we kids would be clean before bed.
One day I asked her if she ever told us bedtime stories and she said, “No! None of you kids had stories, there was no time for stories after you all got your baths and said prayers and had your night time snack.” The snack was usually homemade cookies or cake and a glass of milk. “You were all too tired.” I believe she was the one who was tired, but as the loving mother she was, she would never say that. The boys always said their prayers first, one by one, and, of course, before me.
After your prayers were done, then came your snack. Being the last one to say prayers I kept my snack close to me — on my bed. Mom came into the room and said, “Okay, Connie it’s your turn,” and promptly sat on my cake! I did not dare say a word! Prayer time is serious time. But, I could not stop laughing at the thought of where my cake was. But, I was a good girl; I said my prayers through fits of giggles. Mom asked me when I was finished, in French of course, which makes it funnier, “Would you tell me what you’re laughing at?” In French: “Constance veux tu me dire pourquois tu ris tellment?” I said, “Mom, you’re sitting on my cake.” Mom, with her good sense of humor said, “Oh my, go throw that away and get another piece.” I was well behaved and listened to my mother. I went down the stairs, got my “new unsat-on-piece of cake” and, of course, ate them both.
On another occasion, I asked my mother, “How did Memere and Pepere Dubois meet?” She said, “I really don’t know. We never talked about any of those things then.” I replied, “Oh, what a shame.” My mother said that Memere Dubois had boarding people who worked in the woods early every morning. She would cook a huge breakfast for them before they went to work. Memere Dubois used to wash sheets on a scrub board and iron them so her boarders would have clean beds to sleep in after their hard day in the woods. They used to pay her 50 cents to $1 a week, depending on how much they made. That money included a breakfast of steak and eggs, ployes or biscuits.
I remember my mother saying that her parents slept on an old wooden bed and her and her sisters would all sleep on the floor upstairs. I asked her, “Wasn’t it hard to sleep on a hard floor?” She said, “No. We were young and very comfortable because we slept on hay.”
My mother said, “In my day, you ate what was put in front of you. No one was ever sick. Today, if your food is not processed, it’s not good for you. We did not have refrigerators or freezers. We had a hole in the ground under the kitchen floor. Not much of anything was ever spoiled.”
As a young girl, Edna and her mother, Memere Dubois, went out in the woods. Ma was 5 years old. They were picking raspberries and Edna accidentally stepped on a wasp’s nest. Ouch! My grandmother picked her up and ran into the street while stripping Edna almost naked and rubbed the dirt mixed with water all over my mother. This mud bath, an old family remedy, kept my mother from having scars or from having any swelling from the wasp sting.
Note from Connie: I’m not advocating we all start the practice of putting straw in our upstairs bedrooms for our kids, nor should we throw out the fridge and dig a hole in the kitchen floor or strip our kids and run into the street for mud should they step on a wasp nest.
But, there is something to be said about the way our grandparents and parents lived. They had great lives with healthy, happy kids.
My mother’s and father’s lives were very interesting, especially the way she told me about the things that happened.
Pepere Noe Dubois used to sing in Latin at church every Sunday. People used to hire him to sing at weddings. This is how Pepere Dubois made his money. He was too sick to work so he sang at people’s weddings. Uncle Ned took after his father as he also sang in church. His was the voice to hear when he sang “Ave Maria.” Pete and Ann also sing in church and Normand’s grandson Michael Murray also has the gift of song. The talent goes on. Thank you Pepere Dubois.
When I used to take my mother to the eye doctor, I would ask her if she would like a honey dip donut. Of course she said yes. I would stop and get her two honey dip donuts. “They are sticky,” she said, but I got her two anyway. She asked, “How much are these wonderful sticky donuts?” At first I told her not too much, but, of course, she wanted to know: “How much is not too much?” So I told her, “85 cents each.” Her reply was, “Oh, Mon Dieu Seignieur. My mother used to make them and sell them for 15 cents a dozen. I wish I could make them like she did.” I smartly answered, “Ya, I wish you could too! I would sell them for 15 cents a dozen, ya right! How about $1? We could get rich!” She laughed and said yes. Then I said, “I would sell them for $5 per dozen so watch out Jake and Andy.”
My mother Edna said that when I was a little girl around 3 or 4 years old, I thought I needed something on top of the bureau. Actually, my father had put something up there and I wanted to see what it was. Being the adventurous person that I was, I pulled out one drawer and climbed up. I pulled out the second drawer and climbed up. I pulled out the third drawer and climbed up. I’m sure you know what happened next. Yes, the entire bureau came down on me. Needless to say, that scared me enough that I had learned a hard lesson: Ask first.
Mother said that when us kids were school age, Pete was the worst. He was very hard to get up in the morning. The rest of us got up and were ready on time. Good Ole Pete was still sleeping. One time when Mom was working, my grandfather said to her, “Pete did something today.” My mother replied, “Mr. Michaud, if Pete misbehaves and I’m working, I can’t punish him if I’m not home. Please take care of it.” No problems with Pete after that.
Pete being such a good boy never misbehaved I’m sure. But, there is one cousin who remembers very well an instance that Pete was not on his best behavior. He put her inside a barrel in the backyard on Flanders Street and left her there. LOL. She still remembers it today and reminds him. Now, he gives her hugs and kisses and says, “That wasn’t me Sue.”
I remember one day Pete was behind the garage all bent over. I went inside and asked Mom, “Is Pete sick?” She said no. So I said, “Well, he’s outside behind the garage all bent over.” Mom went out to check him and immediately called for help and they took Pete to the hospital. He was having an epidemic attack, appendicitis. They did emergency surgery and removed his appendix.
One day Mom and I were talking; it was in the winter of 2001. The winter weather must have jarred her memory. She said, “The weather is always scary with bad thunderstorms and floods during a war.” I said to her, “I have never been through a war since I was young, in 1941.” My mother told me that food was scarce. They had to stand in lines for butter and meat. They had tickets and tokens to pay for their supplies. Since everything was rationed, what you got was determined by family size and paid for with tokens.
When we lived in Durham, my grandfather used to leave the house early morning to walk to Lewiston for groceries and then had to wait in long lines for butter. He walked down and back every day. I know we appreciated that.
My mother told me that after the war, which was 1945, the United States really picked up as we have seen in the last 55 to 60 years. My mother said, “I know I won’t be around, but wait and see there will be another war that affects us with no work, no food.” Look at the price of gas today!
My grandfather Michaud also had a huge garden that fed us through the summer and winter with fresh vegetables. If any one of us were hungry and asked for a tomato from the garden, Pepere would say, “Va nans cherchez,” and we would. Yum! A hot tomato, just rub the dirt off and eat it. Back then we didn’t have to worry about bug spray. No way. It was all healthy.
My father had many jobs; one job was as a gas station attendant. In those days, people bought regular or high test. Dad said the people would only want the best “high test.” Dad told us, “If they only knew it’s the same gas.” It was just colored different with a purple pill.
The Dubois girls, Edna and her sisters, lived on Elm Street in Lewiston. The circus master lived next door to them. He was the boss of the circus. When the circus came to town he always gave the girls tickets. He and his wife did not have children and they loved the Dubois girls. He always gave them clothing since there were 14 in the family and he loved Pepere and Memere Dubois and wanted to help them out. The circus master was very well to do. The circus master also let the kids ride ponies. You can see Aunt Alma on the pony in this picture taken on Elm Street in the yard where they lived.
Our grandmother, Clementine Rossignol Dubois was a very talented woman. She taught Aunt Eva how to crochet; she made a beautiful altar cloth for St. Peter’s Church. In those days, altar cloths were made to cover all four corners of the altar to the floor. The altar cloth was made so you could see the chalice design in the pattern.
Eva never read in her life. She used to look at the pictures and duplicate the pattern. She could crochet and knit. She used to crochet for Center Giroux on Lisbon St. Aunt Eva used to walk to Center Giroux on Lisbon Street from Horton Street which was a good distance for her.
She made the most beautiful crocheted christening outfits. I bet you all don’t know she even worked for White Rock Distributors. She put labels on bottles. Most of us kids had handmade mittens and socks made by her. What a talented lady! Anything Memere showed her a picture of, Aunt Eva could duplicate. Memere Dubois used to sew by eye. She never measured and the pant or dress length was always right.
We all know Aunt Eva was very ill, even as a child. When she was young she had Scarlet Fever which was never treated like it would be today. She was given the wrong medication which resulted in her having epilepsy. She would have seizures.
Don Hamel saw her once having a seizure and she lost her bladder. He called out to Memere and she took Aunt Eva to the bedroom to take care of her. Our grandmother was a saint. She cared for her child even as that child grew into an unknowing adult.
Aunt Eva was a gentle, kind and quiet person. When Memere lived on Sabattus Street, I would visit and as a child Aunt Eva would take me by the hand and we would walk downtown to Woolworth and JJ Newbury on Lisbon St.
When my mother Edna and her sisters Yvonne, Aurore and Alma were young, they used to walk to work at Cushman Hollis. When one was sick, the other took her place. No one really knew the difference because they all looked alike. There was no Social Security so it didn’t matter. They used to come home with $18 per week after working 60 hours. This equals 30 cents per hour. They gave it all to their mother except for $1 which they kept for themselves.
My mother Edna was then 15 or 16 years old. They used to leave for work from home on Elm St. in the morning, rain or shine. Sometimes they came home in snowstorms. There were no buses. They walked to work on wintry cold days, way too cold for not having boots. Their house on Elm St. is still there to this day.
Around the year 1936 there was a flood. The biggest flood they ever saw in this area. But, the girls still had to go to work. Now as we all know, the bridge between Lewiston and Auburn at that time was wood. That evening after work they soon discovered that the bridge was under water and it was fast rising. Three girls, Alma, Aurore and Yvonne decided to cross the water by using the train trestle. Not too dangerous, oh yah? Edna said, “No, I’m using the bridge.” She started out and was fine, but halfway through to the other side she found herself knee deep in water. Once on the other side the girls met up again and decided to see how far up the water had risen. They found that it went up to St. Mary’s Church. Once they finally got home, they got the Holy Devil from their mother. Memere was very afraid for her daughters’ lives.
One day as we were talking, Mother told me the winter sleds they had when she was younger were not like ours. They weren’t as good as ours. They had two blade runners and three pieces of wood on top. The snowplow was a lot smaller and not made like ours today. The snowplow would leave enough room on each side of the road, about three feet wide, so the kids could slide down the huge hills.
Mom told me about our home on Flanders Street. I remember it. It looked like a tarpaper shack. Actually, it was a chicken coop and Dad slowly made it into a home. He had to make the bottom floor larger.
They had no fridge and made a hole in the floor for a root cellar to put vegetables, milk, butter, actually anything that would be refrigerated today. Memere Michaud had her favorite cow. She used to get her milk and use the cream to make butter. She used to make bread, homemade biscuits and ployes. With a large family like we had, everything she made would be gone in a meal.
Now, living in a chicken coop you can understand that Dad had work to do on it to make it a livable house. The second floor went up, but first they had to raise the roof. This was a big job. Dad would work on it after he came home from work. Pepere Michaud was helping on the roof. Being Catholic, they needed special permission from the parish priest to work on Sunday. They had to make three bedrooms up there and Mother Nature was no help at all! It rained so much they had to put up blankets so the rain would not come in the house.
Mom used to get up in the night to take the blankets down that were makeshift walls and wring them out in the wringer roller machine. Then, she put them back up again for protection. When winter came, the frame was done. We had no furnace so we had to feed wood into a stove for heat. After this was done, we lived like that for a few years until Dad heard about some wood flooring that St. Mary’s was going to throw away. Voila! We had beautiful wood floors. Our parents worked very hard to give us a beautiful home.
We didn’t have running water, so Dad dug us a well. In order to flush the toilet, however, we had to hand pump water from the black kitchen sink into a bucket and take it to the bathroom. That’s how we flushed. Mom had to pump water and heat it up so we could have warm bath water.
We had a lot of love in that family.
Memere and Pepere Michaud lived with us until they got a three-room house, a former garage, for their own privacy. They lived there quite a few years. After Memere Michaud died, Pepere came back to live with us since he didn’t want to be alone. We had three adults and six kids in a four-bedroom house. We had an extra room we called the TV room and we turned that into a bedroom for Pepere Michaud. Our house had a huge kitchen and a pantry. This old house kept us comfortable and warm.
We also had a large barn that kept cows, pigs, chickens and a rooster. The rooster was Pete’s favorite; it followed him all around.
As we watched TV game shows like Jeopardy, my mother, Edna, answered the questions and was correct 85 to 95 percent of the time. How did my mother know all that? She never had a formal education, but she sure did circles around us with her knowledge. As the old saying goes, “She sometimes hears what she wants to hear and blocks out the gossip.” She was not one to talk about others unless they pushed her buttons. Then, watch out! She would tell you what she thought.
I always got a kick out of my mother. We would be watching TV and I would see her falling asleep. I would say, “Ma, why don’t you go to bed?” She would answer, “No, I’m not sleeping. I can hear everything they are saying.” I would look over and sure enough she would be snoring. I would ask her again, “Ma, why don’t you go to bed?” Again, she answered, “No, I am not sleeping.” I am sure she is looking down at us right now as I share all this with you and just smiling.
Our house was a haven for all children. My mother watched other people’s children for them. Since she had to stay home and take care of us, this was her contribution to the family’s welfare. Some of us were privileged to be taken care of by her. She enjoyed each and every one of us.
One day I asked my mother if I had ever wanted to tap dance as a young child. She said, “Oh yes. You used to get on your father’s feet and dance with him. He would dance all around the house with you.” Dad used to play with all family youngsters and everyone had a good time.
One night we were watching TV, mom and I. It was “A Christmas Story.” She told me that when the Dubois kids were young, her father would get a horse and sled and they would all go riding in the winter air. The moon was out and it was very cold. She said, “What a life! We had good times with Paw.” I told my mother, “He sounds like a good man.”
Mother was always ready to go anywhere with me, John or Joan, but she would not fly. She wanted her feet on the ground.
Mother worked in the shoe shops for 50 years. That’s how much they liked her. She did all the samples and never got one back for error. Mr. Ed Williams worshiped her for her work ethic and her personality.
One night as we were talking, my mother said to me, “When you were a little girl you always wanted to babysit the boys.” She went down the street to the meat market taking one bus down and one back. “You sure did change a lot of diapers. Connie, I will never have to worry about you not having anything to do. You always will have something or someone to take care of. If you would stop, I would think you were sick.” I said, “It runs in the family. I can remember you in the kitchen at 11 or 11:30 at night, so we are the same.”
Every time we went to church we would have to go early to sit facing the altar. Mom never wanted to be late and wanted to be able to see the priest.
One day we were driving to UPS to mail a package and Mom pointed to a building and asked what is was. I said, “Ma, that’s the Payne Incense Company.” She said, “Even before your father and I were married, he would go in the woods and collect pine cones and other things he needed to make incense. He was very good at it, but did not have the education to follow up on it. He had to let it go after a while. People heard he wasn’t doing it anymore and asked why? He told them the sled was too run down and he could not afford to fix it.” So, my father not being business-smart, the Paynes took it over and today it’s a great business. That shows you what an education is worth.
Mother said, “All of you children were treated equally, one did not get more than the other.” The love flowed all the time.
A bit of tidbit: Did you all know that Uncle Ned had a little restaurant on the same lot that Uncle Joe Roy had a convenience store and garage? Did you know that Don Hamel worked at that restaurant? Well, not for long. Don was born to hunt, fish, and become a master at the bow and arrow, not at washing dishes! He lasted a couple days at washing dishes!
On Mother’s 90th birthday, almost everyone was there who could be there. She had a great time. At the party, we shared an interview that Sue did with Mom. It was an assignment Sue had to complete for a college course. Pete started to read it and of course, he had to let Ann finish due to his eye floodgates not working properly.
On her 92nd birthday, Mom didn’t feel well enough to go out. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren came to her to celebrate this special day with her. She really enjoyed seeing each family member, every one. Sue said, “We all had something special that she would mention to us or recall from a time past. I don’t know about you, but I always felt it a gift to be in her presence and hear her talk. She always made me feel like I was the only one in the room when she talked to me. I’m sure all of you feel the same.”
Do any of you remember when Uncle Tom had a car to sell? Or when Uncle Joe Poulin was the only one in town to fix big trucks? Or when Uncle Pat would smoke and I swear his ashes never fell. Now, how did he do that? Or when Aunt Betty used to go out and kill a chicken so her company could eat? Do you remember when Aunt Alice used to make rice pudding that melted in your mouth? The custard was to die for.
Terry said, “In the year 2000, I went to pick up my mother-in-law Edna where she worked at a shoe shop. I asked her, ‘Memere, would you like to try out my new RAV?’ And she said, ‘You would let me drive your new car?’ I said, ‘Of course I would.’ She got behind the wheel and off we went.”
Connie’s story: When we were kids, my dad had an old Mercury. He came home from work, and in those days we thought he was tired, but the truth is he had a few under his belt. My dad would always put his car in the garage. He had to get out and open the garage door. When he got back in the car that had swing out doors, he got into the back seat instead of the front. He began to cry, “I lost my wheel.” My mom came to the rescue and said, “Okay, Don. I’ll take over and put the car in the garage.” Phew! We didn’t have neighbors in those days so that little incident was a secret.
Connie remembers one Christmas when she was young, along with Jerry and John. They went looking for a Christmas tree. There was a man with a big field with a lot of trees. Connie went to the man’s house to ask if they could cut down a small tree. The man said, “No, if you want one, go buy it!” Scrooge! He hurt our feelings.
Thank you for reading this story written by Connie Michaud as dictated to Sue Trumble.
Some of Edna Dubois Michaud’s favorite songs:
Je rai la voir un jour (I will go see her someday)
Wind Beneath My Wings
Beautiful Face Without a Name
Edited by Denise Scammon, 2023.