The Plaisteds always had good books around the house, where they could be picked up and read while resting. “It is surprising how soon you finish a book using spare moments,” Frances mused. “In our bookcase we had a large family Bible with illustrations and a concordance in the back of the Bible. We learned a lot about the different utensils and musical instruments they used in the olden days in the Holy land. At Christmas time we read the story of Mary and Joseph and how the child Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room in the Inn. We also had a large book of Shakespeare’s works. It was fun acting them out. A collegiate dictionary, which I used at Gorham Normal School and while I was teaching, was always handy and it was always put back in the same place so to be ready for the next person that wanted to look up a word. Then the large medical book was a great help to me in bringing up my family. There were illustrations of our body and where the heart, liver, etc were placed in our body and also a section on herbs and their uses. With that book my Latin came in handy. So many kinds of herbs. And such a help for every ailment.”
Home and Church
Frances kept a spotless house. She acknowledged that “some people called me a perfectionist” — and maybe that made her tough to please at times. But, really, she said, it was just simple things; she never liked to have her slip show below her dress; or, if something needed mending, she would sew it instead of pin it.” She never liked gaudy things; she just “liked to be neat and have nice simple clothes – soft and feminine always.” As a mother she tried to create the same kind of happy home she had grown up in. She believed the universals: that “necessity is the mother of invention”; that “be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home, sweet home”; that to make a marriage work, “you should never go to bed angry.” As she said, “I did not consider myself perfect or my family perfect, but I did want the best for my family…. As the Mother, I would boost the others and put myself last.” In her mind, it worked. “I always had faith and trust and tried to the best of my ability to do what was right.”
Sundays were busy, but even when they lived down at the South Sanford farm they were never late for church. Grammy Allen lived in her own apartment in the farmhouse and would stay with the children, and sometimes Frances, when the children were young and the rest of the folks went to church. As the children grew older, they all attended services at the Sanford Baptist Church. “We were never late,” Fran recalled. It helped that they lived near the main road, which was always kept clear in winter.
As on every day of the week, each person pitched in with the chores on Sunday – tidying bedrooms, preparing breakfast, taking care of the cows and chickens. Frances ran a tight ship. As she said, “Better be an hour early than a minute late.” They always sat in Pew 14 – “the one I sat in as a child growing up. The ushers always saved the seat for us. We filled the pew. They were very comfortable, wooden pews, with a curved back where one could relax, but not enough to go to sleep as the minister was preaching.” They enjoyed a “fine, volunteer choir” lead by a high school classmate of Leon’s, Asa Low, on the organ. Asa had replaced their high school organ teacher, Mr. Murdock, when he retired.
Frances joined the Order of the Eastern Star, and at The Sanford Baptist Church she worked with the Ladies Aid and the Tri-U Class, and taught Sunday School. Tri U stood for “unity, unselfishness, and understanding. The Ladies Aid cooked dinners to raise money for the church and made baskets for the sick and shut-ins. One of Fran’s favorite gatherings was the evening “song service,” sometimes with a small orchestra, sometimes with just a trumpet. Sometimes just the men would sing; sometimes just the women, and then they’d all join in at the chorus. Frances’ favorite hymn with the group was “Our God, Our Help In Ages Past.” One of her favorite verses in the Bible was Proverbs: 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” And Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”
Thanksgiving and Christmas were “busy, happy times,” Frances recalled. “The children were made to feel so important, as they were, but in the busy time of everyday living one does not always let them know that we are always thinking of them and loving them all the
time.” Thanksgiving: “How good everything smelled. The house was filled with the aroma of turkey – mashed potatoes, squash, corn, stuffing and apple, mince, and pumpkin pies – and of course the pudding with the special sauce. What fun as we all sat around the dining room table. The best gold band china was used. The turkey was carved at the table. Instead of a bouquet of flowers in the center of the table, we had a large bouquet of celery with the leaves on and we always had bread on the table for those who wanted it. Bread, the staff of life.
“In between courses, while the older folks were clearing the table, ready for the next course, the children bundled up and went for a walk or run. They were back in time for dessert. Now in the center of the table was a big bowl of mixed nuts and we had nutcrackers for those who could handle them and we helped those who needed help. Later we all sang around the piano.”
Christmas Time: “The house was decorated with tinsel and mistletoe – you never knew where it was and so, if you stood under it, a kiss you received. What fun! Always a big tree with a star at the top – the same star year after year and the same ornaments. All colors and an angel that guarded the house and a string of popcorn and cranberry chains. Of course our stockings were ‘hung by the chimney with care.’ The children could have whatever was in the stockings as soon as they woke us. There was always an orange there and a polished apple. And candy bars and money in the toe. Then, after breakfast, we had our tree. Everyone was always remembered. One year during the Depression we could only spend ten cents on each present but that was one of our best Christmases. Each of us went to the ten-cent store to see what we could buy. Much thought was given to each purchase. No one felt depressed because we all had the right spirit. We had plenty to eat – potatoes, salt pork, biscuits, gravy, squash – and I had canned strawberries and dried corn and canned greens and string beans. We all worked together. What happy memories.”