Teaching, Lovebirds, Waitressing

Gorham Normal School

In September following her graduation from Sanford High School, Frances took the train from Springvale to Gorham, Maine and began her training as an English teacher at the Normal School there, along with her good friends, Gertrude Blossom, and the sisters Amy and Marjorie Blanchard. She loved working with the “little ones” but she chose also to study other subjects like sewing, cooking, manual training, and birding (her favorite on early morning hikes: the bluebird). She enjoyed creating useful things – sewing patterns, a Gothic frame for a mantel clock, a sleeve ironing board that could also be used for ironing baby clothes, a bread board. She was one of the few girls in the Manual training class: “Not many girls did that back in 1912 and 1913,” she recalled.

Gorham Normal School friends; Fran: top center

Fran and Leon in love

The following spring, Frances and Leon attended their first Alumni Ball at the Sanford Town Hall. It was filled with alumni from different classes, all chatting and sitting in the chairs along the sides of the hall, listening to the orchestra warm up and waiting for the dance to start in the middle. To their utter surprise – and then joy, Leon and Frances were chosen to lead the Grand March. Everyone joined in and Frances and Leon had great fun leading them all – making circles, spelling SHS and going down the Hall by fours and by eights. Then they split the men from the women and lead them in opposite directions, finally meeting in the center and weaving in and out again until the orchestra brought the exciting march to a grand end with the prolonged crashing of the symbols. Everybody caught their breath and stopped for refreshments, chatted with old friends,  and then the DANCE “was on” again.

Fran on Monhegan Island

In the summers of 1912 and 1913 Frances earned money as a Head Waitress and housekeeper at Monhegan Island, joining her friend Gertrude Blossom for the dramatic trip by ferry from Boothbay Harbor. She remembered the beauty of the island – Lover’s Lane down its middle, Pulpit Rock. She waited on artists and wealthy Cabots. One weekend they were fog-bound, with the foghorn blowing constantly – “weird but exciting.” Because screens were not rust-proof then, one had to be careful when closing a door; if the damp screen spewed rust spots on your clothes, the stains would not come out. At the Gift Shop she bought mementos of this “perfect year” – some small lobster buoys and a leather covered snapshot book.

Fran's Zither

Frances graduated in 1913 from the Normal School, and started teaching 2nd and 3rd grade at the Hallowell School. She was the only teacher in the one-room schoolhouse; the children were eager to learn, so Frances never had problems with discipline. The music teacher came once a week to review the song from the previous week and teach the children a new song, which Frances would help them practice over the next week, using a pitch pipe to start each song and then strumming her zither.

The children liked to comment on what she was wearing or tell her how pretty she was. Sometimes they brought her flowers and fruit. She learned that “if you brought a smile into the classroom, it would radiate around the room” and they would smile back. She was always truthful with them. If they asked her a question and she did not know the answer, she would tell them she would look it up. “You can’t fool a child,” she said. “Be honest with them and they will trust you and do their best for you.”


2 Responses to Teaching, Lovebirds, Waitressing

  1. Brenda says:

    Hello. I am wondering if you know what course work was needed at the normal Schiller. My grandmother attended this school a few years later and taught in brownfield, Maine.

    • Beth Taylor says:

      Hi Brenda. I’m sorry, I don’t know any more details other than Frances’ description of domestic arts, birding above. I did find her McGuffey textbooks: reading, writing, memorizing. Also some basic math texts.

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