A collection of stories of coastal Maine from 1900 to 1950 has been published by the Northern Lights Press of Stockton Springs. “We Never Knew any Different: Stockton Springs Stories of the Past Century” was compiled from oral history interviews with 10 individuals raised in the Penobscot River town in the early 20th century.

Local writer, editor and oral historian Donna Gold conducted the interviews and edited them for publication. The book reflects the experiences of childhood during a time when families closed off Route 1 so children could sled a mile-long hill; when pranks were planned not for Halloween, but the Fourth of July; and when a dory crossing of the wide Penobscot River was not uncommon. Farmers, sailors, clammers, bus drivers and more tell the stories of life at a time when cars, electricity, phones and indoor plumbing were first coming into rural Maine.

Among those interviewed was Phyllis West Hall (1922-2014), who later directed the Stockton Springs ambulance service. She said, “Probably growing up on the farm were the best years of my whole life. We didn’t know about anything different, so we didn’t miss anything.”

The stories bring to life a time that for many has receded into history, a time when work was both mental and physical and connected to the offerings of land and sea, whether it was picking berries, digging clams or loading Aroostook County potatoes onto ocean-going vessels. They speak to a time of intimate communities, of lives that required both brain and brawn, said Gold, who runs Personal History, an enterprise helping families and communities record their stories.

“It was a privilege for me to connect with these men and women. As I listened, I could watch the years slide away, and whether the person was in their 70s, 80s or 90s, I saw the memories of childhood overtake their faces as they recalled sledding, swimming, or the delicious aroma of Stockton smokehouses, Gold said. “For some, too, I’d see the sting of limitations and longings.”

“Stockton is not a big town, but these interviews show how even a few miles could make a difference in a child's life during the first quarter of the 20th century, said Kathy Harrison, president of the Stockton Springs Historical Society and daughter of one of the book’s interviewees.

“The stories add much to the cultural history of our town. I am thankful that these 10 citizens were willing to share so much of their lives and did not limit themselves to only the ‘good’ times,” Harrison said.

“We Never Knew any Different: Stockton Springs Stories of the Past Century” is published by Northern Lights Press with support from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. It can be found at the Stockton Springs Community Library, located downtown in the Colcord House, and at local bookstores. All proceeds of the $15 volume go to the Stockton Springs Historical Society.

For more information, contact Gold at donna@personalhistory.org.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.