Growing up on Maine’s Ragged Edge by Thomas Hanna
A Depression-era memoir of life in Midcoast Maine. Author Thomas Hanna grew up in the village of Five Islands on Georgetown Island, in a small, crowded bungalow pieced together on the edge of a swamp with secondhand wood and cardboard. He was the eldest son and the second of eight children born to his young mother and his father, a World War I veteran big on dreams, but low on luck.
During Hanna’s early years, there were some bright moments despite the privation, but as the years wore on, times were often unbearable. He wrote of eating only rice and raisins for days on end, the embarrassment of “being on the town,” his growing resentment toward a father he desperately wanted to be close to, and, ultimately, his bitterness at becoming the man of the family at the tender age of 14. But, it is also a tale of growing up, of collecting Hoodsie cup lids, moonlit toboggan rides, and life in a small village. It was only after serving in the U.S. Navy during the end of World War II, far from the poverty and despair of his childhood, that Hanna found personal salvation.
Drawing on insight gleaned from his 80 years, Hanna’s Shoutin’ into the Fog is a book written with sensitivity, humor, and subtle emotion about a hardscrabble way of life, old-time Maine, and the meaning of both family and forgiveness. His personal tale casts an honest light not only on his own family, but helps illuminate a way of life common to the coast in the 1920s and 1930s that is slowly fading from memory.
I really enjoyed this gem of a book! I love Maine to begin with and this book was like sitting down with Thomas over a cuppa and having a good old talk about his childhood. Such depravation these people dealt with! A small house made of used lumber and cardboard, can you imagine the cold in the Maine winters?!! And on an island no less with cold wind from the sea. They had no water in their house until 1933. Dad would bring bucket by bucket of water from a neighbors well to fill the laundry tubs so mom could do the laundry. And all this with 8 kids! A great aunt finally paid for them to get their own well. Thomas’ dad was not a fisherman, but a salesman and did odd jobs as he could find them. Not much of a provider by any means.
Thomas was a good student and arrangements were made for him to stay on the mainland to go to high school for a period. He got to see that there was more to life than his family’s hard scrabble existence. He was honest about the hardships, the resentment, and the anger he felt, but also about all the small little joys life brought. I really enjoyed the old pictures throughout the book. A good read.