Babies, Don the Horse, and a Runaway Sleigh

Fran and Dolly at the Beach

In the winter of 1915, Leon and Frances turned the front parlor into a bedroom for their first baby. On May 14th , with a fire on the hearth warming them, Dr. Wentworth helped Frances give birth to Dorothy Frances Plaisted, or Dolly, at the farmhouse.  She weighed 9 ¾ pounds and was “the joy of our lives.” In that farmhouse, Robert (Bob) would be born on February 2, 1918 and William (Bill) would be born in 1923.

The doctor said the baby “could go where I go,” Frances recalled, so “we took her everywhere, even down to York Beach where her dad played professional baseball.” Frances had an old-fashioned baby carriage large enough to hold a full-sized bed pillow as a mattress to lay the baby on with blankets like a bed. In the heat of summer, of course, Dolly didn’t need any covering and Frances enjoyed walking with her along the dirt roads, the excellent springs keeping the stones and rocks from bothering the happy baby.  A parasol attached to the side shaded the baby and Frances could adjust it as she pushed the handlebars. They walked when car traffic was low, on weekdays after people had gone to work but before they came home, and Frances enjoyed the fresh air.

Leon, Fran, and Baby Dolly

Sometimes Fran’s dear friend Helen Allen would ride down on the trolley with her baby Adelaide, a bit older than Dolly, and the two babies played together while the mothers compared notes over a cup of tea and cookies. “I always kept two big jars of cookies ready – light ones and dark ones, sugar and molasses; big ones that went for a snack with a glass of milk for whoever wanted it and when they wanted it. We always had plenty of milk.”

Dolly in Mini-Sleigh, Ten Maple St. Christmas, "Don" the Horse and Sleigh with Leon and Fran

For Thanksgiving of 1915, Leon and Frances and Dolly were invited up to the Davis home at 10 Maple Street in Sanford. Leon hitched the horse Don to the small one-seated sleigh and Frances climbed in, holding Dorothy, and snuggled under the heavy, plush robe. Leon was already in, holding the reins. Apparently, Don was surprised at the odd change of weight and sounds behind him; he was used to carrying hay or wood. So, “off Don went like the wind,” Frances recalled. “Leon saw that he had lost control so he said, ‘Jump, Frances, jump!’ I was holding Dorothy. I could not jump with her because I was afraid I would land on her, so I threw her into a snow bank and jumped after her. The snow was soft. Neither one of us was hurt and the horse turned in at the next house where the closed barn door stopped him. Quite an adventure!” They made it to dinner with an older horse and had a good Thanksgiving. “Sometimes real life is unbelievable,” Frances mused.

Thanksgiving with the Davis grandparents at Ten Maple Street became a tradition and Frances recalled the pleasure of her sister Ruth and family joining them all as the years went by. At age 87 she still remembered that holiday trip in the sleigh from the farm to Sanford. “My husband had a fine tenor voice and all together as we sped along we would sing:

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh over the white and drifted snow. Over the river and through the woods, trot fast, my dapple-gray. Speed over the ground like a hunting hound for this is Thanksgiving Day. Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house we go. Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie!’ Author: Lydia Maria Child.”

Waiting for the Train; the new Ford car

Fran remembered, “It was a sad moment for us when we lost our horse. The first and only time that I have seen Leon cry. We loved Don and he was a great loss to us.” But then, they bought their first car – a Ford that you cranked and with side curtains to keep out the rain and snow.

Baby Bob

On February 2, 1918 Frances gave birth to Robert Leon Plaisted. Dr. Wentworth had just been called into service as WWI heated up, but he was given permission to stay long enough to deliver Robert. “What a cold, stormy night,” Frances recalled. “The snow was banked right up to the windows and the wind was howling and causing so many drifts that the trolley cars stopped running, but the big snow plow was going constantly to keep the tracks clear. Dr. Wentworth came down to Lyon Hill farm from Sanford on the snowplow and he stayed all night with us. There was a fireplace in the bedroom and a fire was kept going all the time as well as one in the living room and kitchen. But even then it was so cold that the frost would seep through the wood work.” Mother and baby came through sturdy and healthy in spite of the weather.

Dolly and Baby Bob

Baby Bill

On September 6, 1923, Frances gave birth to her third child, William. Frances remembered, “By this time we had an automobile and a new doctor, Dr. Ross. He helped the family through many illnesses even though he had to drive out to us in the country.” Between Frances’ big medical book and Dr. Ross’ visits, as well as being “from good stock” and “all sturdy,” the family was healthy. They all loved Dr. Ross. “He was the kind of doctor that when he entered your sick room you always felt better,” Frances recalled. He had a hospital on School Street where the post office now stands. He wanted me to have my baby in the hospital; he thought it would be best and it was the best. I had the best of care and a fine, healthy boy was born.”  They named him William Eugene Plaisted after both grandfathers.

Longfellow School

Frances remembered, “Dr. Ross’ wife was a nurse and she would bring in homemade cookies for me. The Longfellow School was just across the street from the hospital and the day that William came, Robert started school. My mother looked right after Robert and started him off alright. Dorothy was already in school and, as both took their dinners, Dorothy would see that her brother was alright for the afternoon session. The children knew all about going on the bus.”

Bill Plaisted, 3 years old, 1926

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