Sanford, and The Kids Grow Up

When Dorothy — called “Dorf,” neared high school, Frances and Leon decided to move the family into Sanford. There was no public transportation for high school students from the farm and Leon now worked under Frances’ father William as an electrician in the textile mills that made rugs in town.

At first they rented a house on Shaw Street from Elmer Blanchard, the brother of Amy Ellingwood, a friend of Frances. “It was a pleasant home: 6 rooms and a bath with a good cellar and a garage and good neighbors,” Frances recalled. It was centrally located and in walking distance to the schools, the mill, and their Baptist Church, where all of them attended events, classes, and services.

Then, to save money, they moved into one side of a duplex at 31 Emery Street that Eugene Plaisted and his father Henry had built around the time Leon was born in 1893. Eugene and Mary had lived on one side of the duplex when Leon and his twin brother Raymond were young; then they moved out to the farm at Lyon Hill and they rented out the Emery St. home. Now, Leon and Frances moved back in.


During that year, in 1929, the mills were conducting experiments on how to rubberize the backs of carpets. Frances recalled, “There was an explosion. My father was caught in the midst of it. He didn’t have to go in there, but he offered. They rushed him to the hospital, but they could not save him. It seems as if in every new experiment some lives are lost for progress. The rubber back was to keep the rug from slipping on the wax floors. It was eventually perfected. But Sanford as well as his family lost a loving and understanding man.”


Dorf, Bob, and Bill enjoyed their town life and friends. Frances remembered that Bill, in grade school, and a neighbor, Robert Leonard, “had great fun working at the bench at our house and at his home. They spent many hours working on a cart for the soap box derby. It really worked well. They also made airplanes and different kinds of games and a model of a sailing boat, which was a beauty – lots of delicate work in it. He was very handy with the tools. He was a fixer; he could make things work. Bob used to run to school. He kept trim for sports. Dorothy liked dramatics. All the children liked sports.”

Bob and Boy Scouts

In June of 1933 Dorothy graduated from Sanford High School. She had been working at the local “Five and Dime” each weekend, saving up money to go to Bates, or maybe Smith, as her English teacher suggested. But then the bank closed and she lost all her savings. And, that same year Leon was laid off. His father Eugene was still living on the farm in Somersworth, NH. He asked Leon to come fix up some of the farm buildings. So Frances and Leon moved to Somersworth for awhile, taking young Bill with them. Bob stayed in Sanford with friends so he could stay in Sanford HS.

That same year Frances’ Aunt Dell and Uncle Henry in Claremont, NH, offered Dorothy a loan to go to Keene State Teachers College. Along with a job correcting English papers funded by the National Youth Administration and a job frosting cakes on weekends to earn “pin money,” Dorothy made her way. As Frances recalled, Dorothy was “a very bright student and was one of the top ten to be chosen for a four year course” instead of the traditional two-year course at Keene. She excelled in art and dramatics too. “One year her snow sculpture won first prize.” Modeled on a popular song, “Little Old Lady,” Dorf carved a life-size lady with an old-fashioned bustle and muff, and a valentine around her neck.

Sketch by Dorothy while in college, 1935

Dorothy majored in English and taught for several years – in Hancock, Walpole, and Concord, earning enough money to pay back the loan to Aunt Dell and Uncle Henry so the money could be passed on to help her younger brother Bill go to Bates College.

Soon Leon found work again — in the Sanford Mills dye house, so the family returned to their hometown and Bob joined them.  Each morning he would run from their home – now on Emery Street, to the school, keeping in shape for football. Bob played a lead role in the Sanford H.S. production of Pirates of Penzance, earned the Eagle Scout award, and also moved into Sea Scouts. He graduated in 1936 and, with Aunt Dell’s and Uncle Henry’s help he headed for Bates College where he studied history and geography and played football all four years. Leon and Frances loved to go to his games – “rain or shine.” After graduating in 1940, Bob started teaching at Kennebunk High School. But soon the war started and he enlisted to become an officer in the Navy.

Bill and Bob both served in WWII. Then Bob taught history in Turners Falls, MA while his wife Polly (formerly Pratt) taught math at nearby Greenfield High School. They had four children – Stephen (Steve), Sarah (Sally), Rebecca (Becky), and Peter (Amin).

Bill had studied science at Bates and Bowdoin, and wrote a prescient paper on plastics — which were almost unknown at the time. He went to graduate school at URI and became an engineer, moving his family – his wife, Rusty (the former Florence Ayer of NH), and their two daughters, Karen and Cynthia (Cindy) – to California to help design the first Space Shuttle.

Dorothy married Hubert Taylor in Pensylvania and they had three children, Geoffrey (Geoff), who died as a teenager, Elizabeth (Beth), and Daphne.

Baby Steve and Polly, Fran, Bill, Dorf, Leon, Bob picknicking on the beach, late 1940s


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