Oral History Podcast

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Bill White grew up on a farm in Ludlow, Maine in the 1940s and 50s. His grandfather, Nehemiah, lived in a cabin on the property. And Bill says Nehemiah was important to him for many reasons – two stand out.

First, he instilled in Bill a love for the outdoors. So much so that bill became an environmental scientist. And second, Nehemiah was exactly what a young boy needed growing up – even though it drove Bill’s mother crazy.

Bill was interviewed at the Houlton Historical Society in the fall of 2010.

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Basket makers George Neptune with his grandmother, Molly Neptune Parker (photo by Peter Dembski).

George Neptune is a master basket maker. That’s quite an accomplishment for a 21-year-old – the title of master is usually bestowed on older practitioners. For generations, the Neptunes have kept alive the traditional art of basket making. George is the latest generation. He learned from his grandmother, Molly Neptune Parker.

George Neptune was recorded at the 2010 American Folk Festival.

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13Tom Cote

2 Cote stump man 14 Cote carving

 

Tom Cote of Limestone, Maine comes from a long line of talented woodcarvers. In fact, his great, great grandfather, Jean Baptiste Cote of Quebec, carved church altars .  Tom learned to carve wood from his mother and now he’s teaching his grand-daughter.

Tom only uses hand tools – nothing motorized. He works with mallets, chisels, and knives and he can carve anything from toothpicks to… donut turners.

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Tom Cote was recorded at the American Folk Festival in Bangor in 2010. Photos by Peter Dembski

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Irene Coady lights up the keys and buttons!  (Photo by Kathleen Mundell)

There’s a substantial population of Franco-Americans in the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine. For the French speaking community there, music springs from the heart of their homes. Especially around Christmas.

Irene Coady and Lorraine Ouellette were recorded at the Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine, Lewiston.

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Buster Prout details the unique qualities of his hand-built Merrymeeting Bay Gunning Float, a duck hunting boat.

It’s probably fair to say that Merrymeeting Bay is the duck hunting capital of Maine. Buster Prout can testify to that. He’s lived his whole life right near the bay in Bowdoinham and started hunting at age twelve, in the 1950s. And to say Buster’s an avid duck hunter and guide would be an understatement.

“Actually,” Buster says, “duck huntin’ is addictive I think.”

Buster Prout was interviewed as part of the Merrymeeting Bay Oral History Project which was sponsored by the Maine Maritime Museum and funded by the Merrymeeting Bay Trust.

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Bruce Berry shows off a wedding anniversary gift from his wife — an eel, stuffed and mounted.

The eels that live in the Kennebec River got their start far out in the Atlantic Ocean. All American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda. The newborn eels drift north along the eastern seaboard. A bit mysteriously, they locate a river, like the Kennebec, and head upstream where they mature.  Years later, the eels swim back to the Sargasso Sea to repeat the process.

Unless Bruce Berry was working. For over thirty-five years Bruce fished eels in Merrymeeting Bay. Four to five thousand pounds a week.

Bruce Berry was interviewed as part of the Merrymeeting Bay Oral History Project which was sponsored by the Maine Maritime Museum and funded by the Merrymeeting Bay Trust.

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Sometimes when we interview folks for Story Bank, the stories we hear are more like snapshots. Audio photographs. One by one, they don’t say a lot. Strung together, they make well-rounded image of a life.

So it was with State Representative Joyce Fitzpatrick. Joyce spoke to us about growing up poor in Linneus, Maine.

Joyce Fitzpatrick was interviewed at the Houlton Historical Society in 2010.

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Kay Bell reminisces about the German POWs housed at a prison camp in Houlton during World War II.

It’s hard to imagine, but during World War II there were a handful of German P.O.W. camps in Maine. German soldiers were captured, brought to the states, and taken to places like Houlton. Kay Bell remembers. She says P.O.W.’s worked on her father’s potato farm.

Kay was recorded at the Houlton Historical Society in the fall of 2010.

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Pam Cunningham and Tracy Neptune Ray practice the craft of fancy basket making. Both Pam and Tracy are Penobscot Indians and they’ve learned the art of weaving sweetgrass and brown ash from tribal elders. They dropped into the Story Bank Maine mobile recording booth in 2009 to chat about their cultural heritage and learning to weave.

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When it comes to bees, Carol Cottrill may be the most passionate person in Maine. Carol is a Master Beekeeper. She raises bees in Rumford, Maine where she makes honey and beeswax products from her hives. Carol was recorded for Story Bank Maine in 2009.

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