A tribute to my friend

By Barbara F. Dyer | Apr 08, 2021

I first met the "other Barb" in 1938, when she came from Hope to Camden High School, as a freshman, since Hope did not have a high school. She was rather shy, but we made friends easily. Her parents would always invite a half dozen of her friends to their farm for the weekend. Her mother didn't seem to be bothered by the noise of a crowd of teenagers, or cooking for them, but now I think she was doing it because she was just kind and thoughtful. We had fun on the farm; we went swimming, fishing and boating in Hobb's Pond, which was only a short walk from their farm, just down the hill. Barb would play the piano and we would all sing, and sometimes her Mother would play the piano for us. They never even told us to be more quiet. They appeared to enjoy the teenage noise.

Barb had an old car, "Josephine," that had been her grandmother's. She would drive some of the other kids from Hope to school every school day. Barb was a good driver, as she had always driven trucks, tractors, and such, on their farm. A relative left his little Ford coupe, with a rumble-seat, for me to learn to drive, so I would be able to take his wife and child where they wanted to go. Barb came to my house every morning and evening, before and after we got out of work, to give me driving lessons. I only had a short time to learn because my relative's husband was coming home, and she wanted to meet him at the train station when he got out of the army. I went to the courthouse, on a rainy day, to take my test for a driver's license and passed. I had never driven in the rain before. My instructor was a retired state trooper, and was very nice, and he knew that I was nervous. He put me at ease by talking to me.

To our surprise, my relative's soldier got a ride from Rockland and surprised her when he walked into their house.

We did not own a car, so I probably would not have learned to drive, had it not been for that. Barb put me through some real tests like driving through the cemetery where there were sharp corners and gravestones that challenged me, as I did not want to hit them. They are still standing, so I obviously learned well. She had me backing up steep hills, and I said, "Why?" Her reply was, "Well you never know when you might have to." In all these years I haven't had to, yet. I must say the training was very thorough.

We went to dances, learned to brook-fish and even go smelting, walking to the spot late at night, finding the head of the brook and hoping they were there in droves to spawn. We fished in Hobb's Pond, where I once pulled in a large brown trout. My wish was to catch a salmon and we tried Megunticook Lake, but with no boat, it was just fishing from the shore. Once I caught a very tiny salmon and Barb says, "You have to throw it back; it isn't legal size." I wanted to keep it anyway and put it under my lunch pail. We had never seen a warden before, but one appeared that day and the salmon was so small he did not see it under my lunch pail. When he left, I decided to let it go back in the lake and grow up. Barb was afraid of snakes. One day, while brook-fishing, she caught an eel. Her whole rod, reel, and eel went flying back in the brook.

One day there were four of us, two couples including Barb and her husband, and me and my friend, riding around in the country, and we saw a pocketbook lying in the road. Barb stopped the car and she and my friend made a dash for it, hoping it was full of money. They both reached for it, and it was full of cow manure. I was still sitting in the car, laughing my head off.

Harry James and his Orchestra was playing at Old Orchard pier and he was my favorite singer. Barb and I decided to take off after work, drive to Portland, and see Harry James. We did, and enjoyed it, but it was too late to drive right back to Camden. So, we pulled into the lighted railroad station after the dance and slept in the car. We did not have money for a hotel room, but there was a nice rest room at Union Station. We bought some chocolate milk for our breakfast. Then about 6 a.m. we started driving back to Camden, as we both had to be at work at 8 a.m. It was a little safer in those days, but we were rather tired that day. It was really great to see a big orchestra, especially Harry James.

That worked out well, so one night we went to Bangor and listened to another big orchestra, and again got home in time for work. That was the year when many Big Bands came to Maine and we followed them wherever they were playing. Sometimes there were as many as six of us "girls," other times it was just me and Barb.

It was fun to do all the things we did without money, and in Barb's old car, "Josephine." You might refer to it as "The Good Old Days."

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.

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