High School and Leon

Fran lying in front of friends/cast members

In high school Frances loved to act. Once, she was cast as Hiawatha in a play, using make-up and an Indian costume, complete with bow and arrow, to enact the transformation.

In her Senior year she was cast in a play called “Anita” along with Leon Plaisted, a farmer’s son from South Sanford whom she also knew from church. He was just a year younger and was a star athlete, playing third base on the Sanford High Baseball team.

Leon throws the ball

After the performance, Frances was sitting with her folks. Leon came over and asked if he could take her downstairs for a dish of ice cream. “I went,” she said. Soon, Frances and Leon went sledding on Kimball Hill on the other side of town.  From then on they went to school and church socials together.

Sanford High School baseball team of 1912. Front row left to right: Winfred Allen, Meyer Shalit '13. Second row left to right: Clarence Thompson '12, Leon Plaisted '12, Irmont Frost '14, Orville Morrill '14, Ivan Simpson '15. Back row left to right: Joseph Bernier '13, Charles Crossland '13, Clarence Thyng '13, Silas Albert

Leon was quiet and kind, and “as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar,” in Frances’s mind. That’s why he was elected the Captain of the Baseball team and called “Cap” by his school peers.

"Cap" on right

He was 5’7” and so strong that he would lift Frances right off the ground and say, “You only weigh as much as a bag of grain!”

A favorite social game then was musical chairs, Fran remembered. Everyone sat in a circle on chairs. An extra person stood in the middle trying to get a seat. They sang “Bean porridge hot, bean porridge cold, bean porridge in the pot 9 days old.” If someone winked at you, you were supposed to change chairs, and of course the person in the center tried to get your chair. Then you would be in the center and the game began over again. “Lots of fun, ending in good refreshments.”

One night Leon invited Frances to his house, Lyon Hill Farm, for dinner to meet his folks and his twin brother Raymond. They had a big, brown and white St. Bernard dog, Prince, who took an immediate liking to Frances. At 5 foot 2”, Frances weighed 105 pounds, so she could have ridden him; he stayed by her side the whole evening and that pleased Leon’s folks. They said he did not take to everyone. Not long after this visit, Leon came to the Davis home at 10 Maple Street for one of the school parties hosted by the Davis family. Frances recalled, “We had a love seat in our parlor. You guessed it. Leon and I found it.”

Logs on Mousam River

When the weather got warmer, Leon asked Frances’ parents if he could take her down to meet his grandmother, Catherine Allen. She lived with her son Frank Allen, a tinsmith, and his wife Florence on a farm that bordered the back road by the Mousam River. They took the trolley from Sanford Square and enjoyed a lovely afternoon with Grammy Allen; “I loved her from the beginning,” Frances recalled. After tea and cookies, Leon asked Frances if she’d like to take a walk; he took her across the road and down an old wooded lane to “a most romantic spot” – an old rustic bridge with a railing about waist high, used to cross the river as logs came down.  They stood on the bridge and watched the river running beneath them. “It was so quiet and peaceful and the birds were singing – ‘Down by the old mill stream, when you were sixteen, my village queen…’”

Leon, Raymond, Mary & Eugene Plaisted, in front of Lyon Hill

Starting in high school, Leon worked at the Wentworth Grainery, which was owned by Mr. Wentworth and Eugene Plaisted, Leon’s father. Wentworth and Plaisted were cousins and their store was in the center of Sanford, near the railroad tracks where freight trains delivered their supplies. After school and on Saturdays, Leon delivered grain all over town with a horse-drawn wagon.

Horses and carts next to First Baptist Church, Sanford

Or, he took the wagon to the freight car and loaded the grain for the store.  He knew every street on both sides of the river that intersected Sanford. He harnessed, watered, and fed the horses, and then, each evening, he put them to bed before he took the trolley back to Lyon Hill Farm in South Sanford to do his chores there before dinner.

In the new Town Hall, Rena graduated from Sanford High School (now known as the Emerson School) on lower Main Street in 1909; Hollon in 1910.

Frances remembered her own graduation in 1911 as a big affair. She was elected the Class Historian and was asked to give the class history for her 25 classmates. As they practiced for Graduation Night, the hall seemed huge to Frances as she tried to project so her teacher in the back could hear her clearly. For the dance the night before graduation, Frances’ mother Minnie made Frances a pink gown with matching pink slippers — size 3! — and pink bag. The girls changed into their slippers in the ladies’ room. And then they all paraded into the dance in a thrilling Grand March. Minnie also made her graduation dress – all white with embroidered batiste from Alfred Embroidery Mills, and neck and sleeves trimmed with tattering. When she finished her oration, her father came down the aisle and presented her with roses. That night they enjoyed a banquet, to which Frances wore another dress sewn by Minnie – a lovely light blue. To celebrate, her class went to Washington, DC to see the sights, and on the way home, they stopped in Philadelphia to see the Mint.

Davis family in the Peerless: Rear seat: Frances, Rena, Ruth; Front seat: William, Minnie

Then, in the summer after she graduated Fran’s father taught her how to drive his new Peerless. They drove on the old dirt road to Kennebunk Beach where there wasn’t much traffic – a good place to learn, Frances recalled,  but also “tricky because of the grass turf in the center of the road.”


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