George J. Mitchell Oral History Project
 

Interviewer

Andrea L’Hommedieu

Date

4-9-2009

ID Number

GMOH 081

Document Type

Interview

Subject Headings

Childhood, Mitchell family, Tennis, Waterville (Me.)

Abstract

Biographical Note
Paul Orloff was born in Waterville, Maine, on June 30, 1931. He is first-generation American, the son of two immigrants from Belarus, and one of two children. He met the Mitchell family at a young age because Mrs. Mitchell and his father would commute together to the woolen mill in Waterville. Consequently, he spent much of his time in the Mitchell home growing up, eventually becoming best friends with Robbie Mitchell, George’s brother. He attended Michigan State University, keeping in contact with Germaine, whom he was then dating, by letters. He served on the Waterville School Board for eight years.

Germaine Alice (Michaud) Orloff was born in Waterville, Maine, in 1933. The daughter of a Canadian immigrant, she grew up in the French section of Waterville, one of six children. She attended Colby College, living at home while commuting to campus. She served on the city council in Waterville for six years, running on the Democratic ticket.

Summary
This interview includes discussion of: growing up in Waterville, Maine, in the mid-twentieth century; immigrant cultures in Maine; lower middle class experience in Waterville; the Mitchell family; Robbie Mitchell’s personality; Hollingsworth & Whitney; George Mitchell as a young man; George Mitchell’s dating; Bowdoin and Colby Colleges; participation in the Democratic Party; the Orloff family; activities at the Boys and Girls Club; memories about various members of the Mitchell family; tennis; growing up as first generation Americans; George Mitchell’s current activities; and local political activity.

Restrictions

This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.

TEXT

Andrea L’Hommedieu: This is an interview for the George J. Mitchell Oral History Project at Bowdoin College. The date is April 9, 2009. This is Andrea L’Hommedieu, and I’m at the home of Paul and Germaine Orloff in Topsham, Maine. Could I start, Germaine, just by asking you to give me your full name, including your maiden name?

Germaine Orloff: Germaine Alice, it was Michaud, M-I-C-H-A-U-D, Orloff.

AL: And where and when were you born?

GO: Well, I was born in Waterville in 1933.

AL: And so your parents, were they from Waterville?

GO: Yes, well my mother was, and my father had been, was Canadian, and then came to the States and immediately went into World War I, and so he was a veteran from World War I, and then he remained in Waterville.

AL: And what were their names?

GO: Her name, my mother’s name was Hermoza, which is a very different name.

AL: How do you spell that?

GO: Well, she said, I think it’s A-R-M-O-Z-A, but she used to say it was H-E-R-M-O-Z-A. Whichever it is, I don’t know.

AL: And your dad’s name?

GO: My, Joseph.

AL: And so what did they do for work?

GO: Well my dad came from a big family in Canada and they had a lumber camp, and that’s what he did, all that. Now, he was one of the youngest in the family so he had been the cook and the go-for and whatever when he was there and then decided, a lot of his family in fact all came to Maine. And he was seventeen, I think. And I don’t know how it got about, but he had some friends, and I think they all went into the army and they were sent to Europe during the war, then he came back here. He was part of the gassing thing, he was gassed, and he was in Togus for a while, at Togus as a patient. And then they were married, around that time. My mother was here, she was, she was doing a lot of caretaking with the children and so forth.

AL: And so was your father able to work later on?

GO: Yes, yes he was. He worked at Hollingsworth & Whitney as a common laborer.

AL: And was French spoken in your home, was that your first language?

GO: Oh yes, yes, yes it was. And in those days we all spoke our first language, I think maybe that was true of George too, where they, they were living in the area where a lot of the Lebanese were living, and I was living in an area where all the French were living, and so I think that the language, because everybody was speaking French, was French at the time, for me, and for him it was probably some Lebanese, I would think. Because his father wasn’t Lebanese, he was Irish, but that’s how it was. We all lived in our own little areas.

AL: Right, right. What was the transition like when you went to school? Was it English-only, or did they teach -?

GO: No, at first I went to a parochial school and it was both French and English, and so that’s when I was about six years old, I learned how to speak English then, and then I was there through the eighth grade, then I went to Mount Merici – it’s still there, it’s a girls school – I went there for a year, then I went to Waterville High School. But we had, always had French and English in the schools in my early years, until I was at high school, so I spoke a lot of French then. Many of my friends were French too, so. It was a large French-Canadian community.

AL: And how many brothers and sisters did you have?

GO: I have three sisters, I had three sisters, and two brothers.

AL: And where did you fall within the brothers and sisters?

GO: Right in the middle, right in the middle. The first three were three girls, I was the third girl, and my brother was a year after me, I think they were very happy to have a boy, and so he was a year younger than I was, and then I had another sister and then another brother.

AL: And Paul, can you tell me your date of birth?

PO: June 30, 1931.

AL: And were you also born in Waterville?

PO: I was born in Waterville, and lived in upper Main Street on - Actually my grandparents had a farm up there. My grandparents immigrated from, well actually from what is now Belorussia, or Belarus area, and it was just a couple of miles out of town. It was a small farm, and my grandfather worked at the Hollingsworth & Whitney, the same place where Germaine’s father worked. And my father worked in the woolen mill in Waterville, actually, Waterville and Oakland too. And for some reason, my association with the Mitchell family precipitated my father picking up Mrs. Mitchell, who also worked in the woolen mill, and giving her a ride to work. So they used to ride to work together, and I spent a lot of time at the Mitchell family home, and of course George was there, but he was a younger brother. I associated with his older brother, Robbie, and we played sports together and, mainly football, that’s what I played. And, but we went around together, and actually, even dated together with, as we got older, when I went off to college and came back and saw my future wife working in Waterville, we did date, and -

GO: With Robbie, and that’s when he met Janet, too.

PO: Yeah, and Robbie and Janet were our good friends and we double-dated a lot so, but my association with young George was only to probably play around outside the house and what have you. He was not always around, but we did see him, and being the younger brother he would not go out with us that much. But the only time we had any association with him at that time was in the household; we would talk about sports and things like this, and that was about it.

AL: Do you remember what you thought of Robbie’s little brother?

PO: Well, he was a smart little kid and he was pretty sharp, but he didn’t seem to have all the athletic abilities that the older boys did, and sometimes the boys would make fun of him. But he did play baseball and he was a pretty good little baseball player, and of course, later on he did play tennis and he was a good tennis player. He spent a lot of time reading and he was more intellectually inclined than the others, so that’s what we thought of him, as being kind of a quiet boy.

GO: He was fairly quiet, I remember that, and he didn’t seem to be terribly involved with a lot of people. I don’t remember him with a girlfriend. He probably had some, but I just don’t remember. I remember thinking, ‘gosh, he’s cute.’

PO: But I don’t think he had a steady girlfriend.

GO: No, I don’t think he did either. He did seem, he was just very preoccupied with the things he was doing, I think. And I knew he was a good student, I used to see him and I thought, “Gee, I wish he’d ask me for a date,” but he never did. I think at the time, dating was not one of his interests. And then he went to Bowdoin, and when he was at Bowdoin I was at Colby, and I’d see him now and then, because there were no girls at Bowdoin so the Bowdoin boys used to come to Colby all the time to find dates and girlfriends and whatever, and I saw him then, and I met his roommate. And I did date his roommate a few times. I went to a few weekends at Bowdoin, like Ivy Weekend, he was there. And he was dating a friend, a friend of mine, because she was in my class, Beryl Wellersdieck [Piper], have you heard of her?

AL: No.

GO: She, well he was dating her at the time. She was a gorgeous, lovely girl, really a lovely, lovely girl. And he dated her for quite a while, I think.

PO: Maybe you ought to interview her.

GO: She lives in California.

AL: California.

GO: She does, but she comes for -

AL: She’s a Colby grad?

GO: Yes, yes she is. And she comes for reunions all the time. She’s always here, and she’s still lovely.

PO: What’s her maiden name, I mean, what’s her married name?

GO: I don’t remember what her married name is. I could look it up.

PO: But what was her maiden name?

GO: Wellersdieck.

PO: Wellersdieck?

GO: Yeah, W-E-L-L-E-R-S-D-I-E-C-K, something like that. Wellersdieck.

PO: We can find it easy enough.

AL: Do you have any reunions coming up?

GO: Not until next year, we’ve had our fiftieth and we’ll be having a fifty-fifth. I assume she’ll be coming. But somebody was saying her husband wasn’t feeling well, I’m not sure what the situation is there.

AL: And so you went through college and you had some connections -

GO: Oh, yes, oh yes. A lot of the Colby girls had a lot of connections with the Bowdoin boys, and that was quite common. They’d have big weekends and they’d all drive to Colby to see who they could find, I think, for a girlfriend. It seemed like that most of the time.

AL: Were they dances, or what?

GO: Oh yes, oh yeah, they were parties and they’re not far from the beach and they had people who had homes right near the ocean and they went, somehow we ended up having a party there, but when I’d go, I’d go with several girls, quite a few girls, so, I mean we were invited.

AL: Right, right.

GO: So, I did. It was fun, a lot of fun, but I was dating him and he was at Michigan State, and I didn’t want to get too involved since I was involved with him, so -

AL: Yeah, that must have been hard. We don’t have the communication things that we do today to stay in contact long distance.

GO: No, there were letters.

PO: That was it.

AL: Did you have a lot of trips home, or?

PO: Not that many, I couldn’t. I came home at Christmas time, and that was about it. Sometimes I’d come home at the spring break, but we had a three term system there rather than the two semesters, so it was a little bit different. It was sort of off schedule. But no, I couldn’t come home that often. So I was home all summer, I worked in the summer.

GO: But anyway, there was contact with the whole family. Barbara, his sister, Barbara worked at Rummel’s ice cream with me, so I knew her quite well. So I think it was just more a friendship with, we were all in Waterville, we’re all here and we all knew each other.

AL: Was it in high school when the different areas of the community sort of merged and you got to know each other, like the Lebanese section and French?

PO: Right, yes.

GO: Oh yeah, oh yeah, there was a Lebanese section, there was a French, oh we did, really.

PO: In Winslow there was a Polish-Russian section, within the French section there up on Sand Hill that was, and the Jewish people too, they had a Jewish -

GO: A lot of Jewish people in Waterville.

PO: Yeah, they - A lot of Russian Jews.

GO: And we were all, all the same, all friends. They played athletics and sports and things together and the Mitchells were basketball people, very strong basketball people. George played, I remember his playing, but I don’t think the interest was there all that much with, I think he had other things in mind. I knew his father, his father was working at Colby at the time, he had retired from his first job and he was working as a -

AL: Like a grounds -

GO: Grounds person, right.

PO: Janitorial, he did some janitorial work up at Colby.

GO: But he was working outside mostly, and I would see him there, so he was a very nice person. And then Mrs. Mitchell, too, was just lovely.

PO: He had a great smile, he was always smiling.

GO: So we knew the whole family.

AL: Mr. Mitchell?

PO: Mr. Mitchell, yeah, the father. And son Robbie had his smile, really. And actually they all did, George and Johnny and Paul, they all have that, the father’s smile, which is great. Before George became senator I think, in his first marriage, they used to come up to Waterville quite a bit, and they had a dog, and I being a veterinarian in Waterville practice, I used to take care of their dog once in a while. I can’t remember the name of the dog at that time, but they used to drop it off when, because sometimes, we did some boarding as well, and when they came up to the family they’d drop the dog off or something because they had to go somewhere else and I got to know his first wife -

AL: Sally.

PO: Yeah.

GO: Actually, she was a lovely girl, she really was.

PO: Yeah, but other than that, seeing him at various meetings and speaking engagements, or he’d come up to Waterville and speak quite often when he was in politics. And he’d go in the small groups and so forth and we’d get to talk to him.

GO: See him, with a great big hug. That was our -

PO: Various Democratic meetings. I think we did see him down in Washington one time when we went to, we took our kids, the whole family, down to Washington on a Washington trip, and we went into Senator Mitchell’s office at that time.

GO: We had gotten, we had written to his office and gotten some, to go sit in the Senate, we went to sit in the Senate.

PO: Yes, and we were fortunate just to be able to see him, because he was there very briefly, he was really busy, but he did greet us and everything which was nice.

GO: The kids were pretty excited. That’s our family up there, grandchildren.

AL: Oh, wow, yes, how many do you have?

GO: Grandchildren? Twelve.

PO: Five children.

GO: We had five kids.

AL: And did they all grow up in Waterville?

GO: Yes, they did. None of them live in Waterville, well, there’s one who lives in Belgrade, because we lived in Belgrade before we moved in here.

PO: That’s Belgrade, I’ve had some great fun in Belgrade, we had a home there for forty -

GO: So we have one daughter who lives nearby, near there, and the others are all, John is eldest, he’s in New Jersey, he’s a doctor, his wife is too, and then Lauren, who’s in, who’s in Belgrade, is a physical therapist and is still working, and Karen is in New York, Dobbs Ferry, New York. She does a lot, more or less, now she has a real [paying] job, but she has always done a lot of volunteering and she’s been working with some of the inner city kids. And then Glenn has a business, Metropolitan Shuttle in Washington, D.C., and he lives there, and Ellen is my actress and she’s in Colorado, and right now she is Golda in The Fiddler on the Roof.

AL: Wow, so they’re spread out doing very diverse things.

GO: Yeah, they are. And they all went to, John went to Dartmouth, Lauren went to Simmons, and Karen and Glenn went to Colby, and Ellen went to Middlebury. Janet, the Mitchell kids went all over the place too, Janet had seven and she, all the kids were interrelated school wise. So it’s been sort of fun for the continuation of the families. I know all her family, and I know her children’s children, some of them, and it’s really kind of, sort of a nice relationship.

AL: Have you maintained a friendship with Janet Mitchell?

GO: Oh, yes, she was here yesterday. We went out to lunch yesterday.

PO: Oh, yes. She’s her best friend, actually, and it’s real nice. And so any of the family events, the Mitchell family events, we always go to and occasionally see George there. He’ll come in very briefly sometimes, and he doesn’t attend all of them because he can’t, but now and then we see him at family events.

GO: He’s a busy person.

AL: Can you talk a little bit more about Robbie, because unfortunately we can’t interview him, but I’d like to get a, more of a sense of Robbie and your friendship with him over the years. He’s been referred to us as sort of the entrepreneur.

PO: Well, okay, Robbie, Robbie and I and Paul [D.] Paganucci were probably like the Three Musketeers in Waterville High School, we were in the same class. And we had a Christmas tree business because my grandfather had a lot up in Fairfield Center and we could go there and cut trees and sell them. We did that a couple of Christmases. Paul Paganucci, his father was in the oil and coal business and he had a truck, and Robbie had connections, so -

GO: Robbie always had connections.

PO: So he used to, well the three of us would get together, and we’d go up in the woods and cut trees and put them in the truck and come down. Robbie knew all these store owners and, around Front Street, Main Street and all about, so we used to drop off trees to all these places and have them sell them, and we’d get just a few bucks for them, because they used to sell them for like five dollars, and so we’d get probably two. And he also was in the cotton candy business at the fairs, and that was his thing. My father allowed me to use his car, and he [Robbie] was related to the Baldacci family up in Bangor, so I remember the Bangor State Fair, Robbie had a cotton candy machine and he didn’t have any transportation to go up there, so I got my father’s car and he and I drove up there and set up a cotton candy machine, and I -

GO: They lost their shirts.

PO: Robbie told me to, he said, “I’ll be back in a little while,” he said, “you can take care of this for me.” I said, “Yeah, will do.” So, it was in the morning, and then pretty soon, God, the afternoon went by and still no Robbie. And finally he shows up late in the afternoon and I said, “Where have you been?” He said, “I had things to do and places to go to,” you know, and I had to tend to business all day long. So we stayed overnight at the Baldacci’s place, and the next day we set the machine up again, because it was on a weekend, and we both worked then. I said, “I’m not going to stay on this machine all by myself, Robbie,” I said, “you have to stay here with me because otherwise I’m not doing it.” So he said he’d stay, and we made a little bit of money but we, you know -

And so I had to drive home after the fair closed that night and, because my father had to have the car to go to work, and I think Robbie stayed in Bangor. And I drove home, and it was a foggy, foggy night, and my lights went out in the car, and I had this machine on top of the car that was all strapped down, and I had a flashlight and I was, I had my hand out the window and driving the car all the way from Bangor down to Waterville, and I didn’t get home until the middle of the morning and of course everybody at home was kind of all worried and looking for me, and I made it home, I was really sleepy and tired.

And we had a business together at the Maine State Jaycee Convention in Waterville. Robbie and I had a stand out on Main Street that we served drinks and stuff like that out on Main Street, and so we had all sorts of little businesses together. But that was Robbie, always going into something. And of course, after [that] he went to Rhode Island State, just like his brother John, played basketball there, and he was a very good basketball player.

GO: He was a great guy, too. He was funny. We used to double-date, Janet and Robbie, Paul and I, and it was just always lots of fun. But they had been going out for a long time, all through high school they went out together.

PO: We didn’t go out until afterwards, until later on.

GO: Yeah, after I graduated from high school, just before I started college. And then when they’d come home we’d get together.

PO: Yeah, Robbie was always looking to do some sort of a business deal with somebody or someone, and I always got involved with it too, but he was always the one that was trying to finagle this and do this, and he had all these different ideas and so forth.

GO: I can remember when they were seniors I was a sophomore, and I was in modern history class up, way up on the third floor in the school, and I was right near the window. And modern history can be kind of boring, and I’m looking out the window and there’s this, and this through school hours, mind you, and there’s the school truck out there, and who’s in it, getting in it, these three. I said, “Oh my God, how in the world are they getting the school truck, what are they doing?” But they did, they just manipulated, I don’t know exactly how, but I -

PO: I remember doing that; I was trying to remember what it was. I think we went to the athletic field to move some bleachers.

GO: But you, and Robbie and Pag.

PO: Yeah, we took the truck. That’s when we were seniors, I think, and we were allowed, Clare Wood, the -

GO: He just loved them so he just let -

PO: Clare Wood, the principal, let us do just about anything we wanted to, yeah, so it was good. Yeah, we had a lot of fun in those days, and Robbie was a big part of it, he was.

GO: Yeah, oh, his sense of humor was, and he’d always laugh, even when he was really sick, I’d go see him, and about the time before he died, I was diagnosed with MS and he knew that, so he says, I went to see a doctor in Boston, he was going to the, not the Lahey, the clinic -

PO: The Dana-Farber.

GO: The Dana-Farber, and right next to it is the Women’s -

PO: The Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

GO: Yeah, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and I went there to see a specialist. My son, who’s a doctor, arranged for me to, he says, “Well you better go see him, ma.” Because I was diagnosed in Waterville, he thought I should have another diagnosis, so I went there. And Robbie hears about it, and he comes right over and he said, “Oh, here, look, I’ve got a special parking place; I want you to use it.” So he gives me this card for his special, because it’s, the hospitals are right nearby, and so he wanted to be sure I had that card so I wouldn’t have to walk too far. It was so funny. So we were kindred souls there for a while. And he’d have tennis tournaments at his home, he had, sometimes the whole family would be there -

PO: Oh yeah.

GO: George, everybody would be there, and we’d go and they started tennis tournaments because Robbie and Janet had a tennis court in the back yard and they, so Robbie and I would sit, since we couldn’t play tennis, I had stopped playing by then because of my balance just was quite bad -

PO: Yeah, but I played a little.

GO: And he couldn’t play, he played a little bit, but not very much. So we’d sit there, the two of us, and watch them. It was fun, and he was enjoying just seeing the people play, where he had played so much himself.

PO: When he was real sick there at the last few years, because he couldn’t do much before he died.

GO: But he still had his sense of humor.

PO: Oh, yeah, right to the end.

GO: Which was, I think, much to his credit. He really did, it was wonderful.

PO: So, that was Robbie.

AL: And he and George were pretty close, weren’t they, through the years?

PO: Oh yeah, yeah, oh yes.

GO: They were close in age, although those kids all were, and Barbara wasn’t that much younger than George.

PO: No, no, they were very close.

GO: And George, he’s actually very close to my age. I was born in September and I went to school when I was five, five in September. He skipped a grade or something, because he was five just a little before I was and somehow he ended up a grade ahead of me.

AL: Yeah, he was, well he graduated from Bowdoin two years younger than most people, however that falls, and he was born in August.

GO: Yeah, yeah, he was. Because he, as I said, he’s a little bit older than I am but not that much, but he was a whole year ahead of me. So, he was going to parochial school too, the Lebanese Church is on Front Street, and that’s where they were going to school. So I knew him at that time because I knew, I didn’t live too far away from there so I knew a lot of kids around that area. Somehow you just sort of get together.

AL: Does the Boys and Girls Club in Waterville hold any memories for you during those years?

PO: Oh, God yes.

GO: They sure do.

PO: Because I lived out of town and I had a hard time getting down there, but I used to go there after school somewhat, and I never got to play basketball as much as these other kids that were in town but I spent a lot of time at the Boys’ Club. And of course the Mitchells and the Jabars and all the Lebanese kids were, they controlled the whole thing.

GO: They didn’t have a Girls’ Club in those days, and once in a while they had a girl associates group, and so that was like once a month the girls were allowed to go in. Except for dances, the Saturday night dances at the old one on Temple Street was more fun, we wouldn’t miss a dance on Saturday night for anything. And everybody would go. And no one had dates, we all danced with each other, which was a lot more fun, I thought. A few of them were couples that were together, but a lot of us, we just went. It was really fun. I used to love those dances, it was fun. It was records, of course.

AL: And I forgot to ask you the names of your parents.

PO: My mother’s name was Alice, Alice Kachnovich (sounds like), and my father was Paul Orloff, and they both actually were born in Belarus. My father came over when he was sixteen; my mother came over when she was two years old. And they met actually in Lynn, Massachusetts, where my mother was working at the GE plant down there, and my father, for some reason, came up from New York. He was in New York for a while. And for, I don’t know why and how, but they met and -

AL: Now, did they speak Russian in the home, or would you, did you -?

PO: Somewhat, they didn’t want me to have an accent so they tried to speak English as much as they could.

AL: And your mother probably spoke pretty good English.

PO: My mother spoke English, and she spoke some French too because she grew up on Sand Hill when she was a young, young child, because they lived in Winslow, right with the French people up there and there were, there were some Poles and some Russians in there, and Jewish people and, because everybody spoke their own language there somewhat, but they sort of, had a mixed up thing, there was more French than anything, so a lot of the kids could pick up some French words and phrases. They didn’t speak good French like the French kids, but they did know some and they could converse with them somewhat.

GO: A few words, the nasty words, not quite, but I’m just saying, those are the words that kids always learn.

AL: If you look at George Mitchell over his life and career since you’ve known him, how would you describe him, what would be the things that stick out in your mind as -?

GO: Well, I always thought that, we all knew he was a very, very smart person, because there was just no other way to describe him, except for that’s what he was. And he was sort of quiet; I don’t remember him, like a lot of the antics we used to, I mean he was never around for that, the things that we did. I would describe him more as a quiet, studious, friendly person. He didn’t mix all that much, I don’t think, with most of the kids.

PO: But as he grew older he had a good understanding of what the common person was, and what their feelings and interests were and what their concerns were, because he grew up right on Front Street where the poor section was in Waterville, and he knew all about it. And his family, his father and his mother both worked and they were both common laborers. And so he had a firm understanding about how the common person lived, and so therefore his concerns were with the Democrat Party, to help these people as much as he could. He was very family oriented, he loved his family and his friends and his community. He was very, very proud of all of these things, so I think he, he was a very understanding person.

GO: He laughed a lot, too, you could, you know -

PO: He had a good sense of humor, yeah.

GO: He had a good sense of humor, all the Mitchells did, I think. Johnny does.

PO: When you’d meet him at some kind of function or something, he always had some funny remark or something to make, because he knew us and so -

GO: Whenever we went to a party, which we have, a family thing, that all the Mitchell boys and Barbara, they all did a lot of joking, laughing. It was a happy time, always a happy time. So I’ve enjoyed that. I remember one party that Barbara had at her house was for George, George was here, and came in, and there was a lot of politicians, but we had fun, I mean it was fun.

AL: Did you get involved at all in the 1974 race for governor when he ran?

GO: I don’t remember.

PO: Somewhat, but not -

GO: Yeah, somewhat, I don’t remember that I did, yeah.

PO: No.

GO: I was very busy in those days with my small kids, and then I was starting to work, I was doing some teaching, so it was, we did, we supported everything. We always did.

PO: Oh yeah, we went to all the functions and so forth.

GO: Because we were very Democratic, so, I always supported. My father was – this is really something, because he didn’t speak much English, but he would sit there by the radio, because we didn’t have a TV when I was a kid, but he’d always be sitting by the radio, and he’d listen to all this news in English. Now, his English wasn’t too good, but evidently, he knows, and then he would read the paper. He taught himself how to speak English and read English, and then he went down to be sure that he could vote. He was very, very intent on voting and the political scene, he really was. So, if we needed any civic or anything for school, we’d ask him, because he could tell us because he had heard it all on the radio. But he was always on the radio. We never could get near the radio to put on music because he had his news on it when he was home.

He was funny, because he came back from World War I, and he was not a citizen and he wanted to be a citizen, and the first thing he did was go down to the office to see if he could sign up, but he had to be able to read some English. And he sat there trying to read the newspaper, and the guy says, “Oh well, you’ve been reading all this time so you must be able to read English,” so he signed him up and that was it, he became a citizen, which I thought that story was funny, because I can just see him now, sitting there, listening to his radio. But he knew everything about politics, he was very, very - I think that’s where I got my interest, because I’m very interested in politics and I always have been. I ran for the City Council in Waterville and I was there for six years, so, it was fun, I enjoyed that.

PO: And I was on the school board for eight years.

GO: So, we did our, we ran on the Democratic ticket.

AL: Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you feel is important to add, maybe something I haven’t thought of.

PO: Gee, I don’t know, it’s, you’ve pretty well covered everything that we know about him.

GO: I think all of us at that time came from rather poor families, and we all managed. I think we sort of got drawn together, because we all managed to go to college and somehow that a lot of people in our circumstance wouldn’t, didn’t try. I think that was, and I think the education in the Mitchell family was, the parents were very, but they were not in a position to be able to pay, but somehow those boys and Barbara all made it. And it was the same with me. I, my family just, in fact, “Well, you went to high school, you don’t have to go to college.” They didn’t understand. It wasn’t that they didn’t want me to; it’s just that they didn’t understand that. And when I came home and I said, “Well, I’m going to college.” And they said, “Poor people like us don’t go to college.” And that’s where we come from, and that’s where, I think most of the Mitchells. But they came from the working group of people and they just didn’t -

PO: But education was very important, especially them, to the family.

GO: Yeah, it was, to some families it was really important, and -

AL: I wonder how they, I wonder how they had such a strong sense of that education piece, because it wasn’t yet the generation where everybody was expected to go to college like it is today.

GO: Oh, no, no, no. In fact we weren’t expected to go.

PO: See, that was the vehicle for improving your lifestyle, to getting better. Education was the answer. And, like my father would always preach to me and I only had one sister, and to stay in school, make sure you did your work and very adamant that we did our homework and we were, behaved ourselves in school, and if we did anything wrong in school, if they’d hear about it, well we got hell at home. It wasn’t the teacher’s fault, it was always our fault, you know. Not like it is today, the teachers don’t have much to say at all about anything, there’s no discipline or what have you in school because they’re, its not like it used to be.

GO: But the times were so different, when I think of it now. And now there’s no question, like there was no question that our children would go to college, they all did. And, but with us it was like not a fight, but a determination, a push, we had to push hard to get there. I went to Colby, I had a scholarship there for four years, and I was there two. I couldn’t have gone without it. And I lived at home, because I couldn’t afford to live on campus, which I would have loved to do. But anyway, that’s the way it was.

PO: She came from a bigger family than I. We didn’t have much either but we only had the two kids, so that made a difference.

AL: Well, great. Thank you so much.

PO: Yes, okay.

GO: Oh, you’re welcome.

End of Interview

 
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Interview with Paul and Germaine Orloff by Andrea L’Hommedieu

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