Author Bio Introduction
Three generations of the Degerstrom family lived in Derby, Maine from the early to late 1900's. This small railroad town was more like a suburb of Milo with 2,800 combined population.
The 20 year old portrait here with my wife was taken Down Back in Derby, Maine, one of my favorite childhood places Growin' Up in Maine.
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One of the favorite places to play tackle football was on Clark's front lawn on Church Street at the corner of Railroad Street across from the Derby Post Office. At some point in the mid-1950's, fields in Derby were being cut down and converted to lawns. Clark's field had become Clark's lawn and was about 50 feet wide by 150 feet long from Railroad Street up to their driveway. The only obstacle was a rock about 3 feet wide sticking 2 feet out of the ground sitting off center around mid field. As I recall, there was a street sign or stop sign on the corner, also, which was known to tackle unwary boys several times each season.
Back in 1962 Y.A. Tittle had one of his best years with 3,224 yards, 33 touchdowns, and an 89.5% pass completion record. Please don't mention the earlier years when interceptions outnumbered touchdowns. As youngsters, playing quarterback and pretending to be Y.A. was as close as any of us got to a football career. Being tall and lanky, I was often quarterback (pretending to be Y.A. Tittle) with a reputation for a perfect spiral and better than average accuracy. My younger brother had sticky fingers and an uncanny knack for finding the ball, so together we were a deadly combo.
In 1971 the Patriots AFL team officially changed their name to the New England Patriots, and my long time loyalty to the Giants took second fiddle. Sadly, my Dad who was born in 1920 and passed away in 2000 never saw the Red Sox or the Patriots win a championship. I still root for the Giants in games involving the NFC, and was thrilled to see them make the Super Bowl versus the AFC champion Patriots. Y.A. Tittle (and Eli Manning), move over for Tom Brady.
TAGS: Maine stories football playing games
The illustration shows me peeking out of a pile of snow typical of what usually accumulated by mid-winter each year. The roadsides of Maine are like frozen slots as snowplows continue to push back snow from consecutive storms.
The dotted line simulates the outline of how a few of us kids would dig a tunnel the shape of a submarine in the roadside snow, with a couple of top hatches to enter and exit. The inside was packed solid like an igloo, so it was dry and warm as we played and yelled out commands for "full speed ahead", "fire torpedoes" or "abandon ship".
It would be rare nowadays for kids to play like that. The submarines of the 1950's have been replaced by video games. Coincidentally, pundits report an increase in the average percentage of teen body fat since the good old days.
TAGS: Maine stories games snow
Some would say that the grandparents on both sides of the family raised rabbits. The 1974 photo shown is my 7 siblings with our parents who at last count had over 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Here's the names of the Degerstrom family from Derby, Maine, left to right: Ted Jr, Carol, Ed, Don, Blanche (Mom), Ted Sr (Dad), Jim, Eric, Janice, and Deb. Doubtless we represented one of the last big families from our town and that era.
Our childhood names were less formal; for example Eric was "Ricky". As much as 10 years after the last of us was born, Mom or someone figured out the first initials of the boys in birth order spelled the name of the oldest boy, Ted Jr, or T-E-D-J-R for Teddy, Eddie, Donnie, Jimmy, Ricky.
I was named after an uncle (on a bet). With 3 boys and 1 girl when carrying me, Mom wanted a girl and was so certain I wouldn't disappoint her, she already picked out my name: Barbara. Uncle Jim was surprised she didn't have a boy's name just in case, and she refused. The bet was "name it after me" if you're wrong, and she'd get 10 bucks if I was a girl. It was boy-girl-boy-boy-boy-boy before she got her wish and the last 2 girls.
TAGS: Maine stories derby family rabbits
John and his brother Lars "Fred" Degerstrom, who is my great grandfather, lived in separate homes on Degerstrom Road in Monson, Maine. Both homes are still there although Fred's is no longer inhabitable.
The old photo here shows John with an axe over his shoulder at a rustic log cabin in the backwoods of Maine. The Swedish family ancestors were mostly farmers or joined the military, and their home near the Arctic Circle of Norrbotten Lans in Northern Sweden meant they stayed close to nature. This trait and an appreciation for the outdoors has been passed down to all generations.
John first worked as a lumberjack, and was famous for his skill with a double bladed axe, and few could match his daily production of felled trees which were cut to length in cords of wood. Keep in mind this was long before chain saws. Reflecting on my childhood Growin' Up in Maine in the 1950's and 60's, this photo reminds me of the many log cabins my friends and I built as youngsters.
TAGS: Maine stories Monson ancestors log cabin
The slide was an engineering marvel considering we were all around 10 years old, and the alternating embankments made the ride perfect for flying saucers. While sitting cross-legged in the aluminum flying saucer, and hanging on to 2 plastic handles, it didn't take long to pick up enough speed for a thrilling 2-3 minute ride.
In the early testing adjustments were required at the last few curves downhill because the speed and momentum exceeded the height limitations of the embankment. A few test subjects hit one of those last curves and went up and over the top cork-screwing through the air hanging on for dear life. After adding 2-3 feet of snow to the embankments we were good to go, and spent many days into the late evening enjoying this awesome snowslide.
TAGS: Maine stories Derby snowslide flying saucer