This past week I started to do one of my annual fall cleaning jobs in the west living room before winter sets in. First I had to remove some of the furniture and small scatter rugs that cover the large oriental rug so I could give it a real good cleaning and vacuum it to remove all the small particles that had been tracked in during the summer. Then I polished and dusted all the furniture before I moved it back into the west living room. Then I took all the scatter rugs outdoors and shook them and then vacuumed them and replaced them in the right location in the west living room.
There is a lot of history in these scatter rugs that were hooked by local people right here in the Damariscotta area, as well as the braided rugs that were made right here also. I would like to tell you some of the local history of these braided rugs, as well as that of some of the hooked rugs made right here in the Damariscotta area, by our home.
When I was a young schoolboy, my folks were very close friends of Mr. Ernest Morvin and his wife, Dot.
Their home was just where you enter the Back Meadow Road off Main Street. The house stood on land that is now the location of the Damariscotta Bank & Trust. The two hooked rugs which I show you in this column are of a clipper ship and a large buck jumping over a fence and were made and hooked by Mr. Ernest Morvin in 1947, right in his home.
My parents used to play cards at the Morvin home on different Saturday nights. Mr. Morvin would always show my parents and myself some of the rugs he was in the process of hooking. He was very good at hooking these beautiful rugs over the years. As I have stated before, he used to take me rabbit hunting as a young boy out in the Back Meadow area. He had a well-trained rabbit hound. Mr. Morvin died early in life of a brain cancer and his wife still lived in their home for a number of years.
When Dot decided to sell her home and move into an apartment, Marjorie and I decided to buy all of Mr. Morvin’s hooked rugs because they meant so much to the both of us.
My wife, Marjorie, used to go snowshoeing with Dot in the Back Meadow area. We even bought their snowshoes and a 5-horse outboard motor. I used this outboard for a number of years.
I recall driving up along the section of Main Street with my parents to the Ralph Keene farm and in the summertime you would see all kinds of hooked or braided rugs displayed for sale by the roadsides in front of people’s homes. Many of the people made some extra money making and selling rugs.
My wife’s mother used to braid rugs over the winter months and we still have some. Our neighbor across the street, Mrs. Mattie Hitchcock, also made different kinds of hooked as well as braided rugs to sell for extra income on their farm and I also have a few of these rugs. These women were always looking for wool dresses to cut up into strips to make their braided rugs from.
These same women, Mattie, Kathleen, and Madelene, made beautiful braided chair seat covers of many different colors as well. People still use these covers today to protect their chair seats.
I also learned to braid and made a number of wool braided rugs. Back in the 1970s, Marjorie and I would often drive up to the woolen mills here in Maine and buy odds and ends of wool cloth and bring them home and cut them into 1 1/2-inch strips and baste them and braid them into rugs.
I truly have to say I enjoyed making these braided rugs over the long winter months.
Marjorie had no problem selling them in her shop in the summertime. I even braided small chair seats and sold them in sets of six each and they also sold very well.
Many people use these beautiful hand-hooked rugs as wall hangings, saying they are too beautiful to walk on.
One time Marjorie and I went to a woolen mill and picked out beautiful wool remnants of cloth, which you could buy at a real good price. When we got home, Marjorie’s mother, Kathleen, looked over all the cloth and took some out and said she would make Marjorie a real nice wool pleated skirt, which she did. It takes a lot of extra cloth to make a pleated skirt and everyone who saw it said how beautiful it was and what a fine seamstress Kathleen was. Just wonderful memories of past years.
After cleaning these rugs, I thought to myself that I might braid a rug or two this winter. I still have a cedar chest partially full of nice wool cloth. This would keep my mind active and pass the time. There is not much to watch on TV today. My hands are still in good shape and I have no arthritis in my joints yet.
I recall another close neighbor who lived next to where I live today. Her name was Mrs. Madelene Hopkins. She was a schoolteacher in Damariscotta for 40-some years. Her mother, Mrs. Sidelinger, lived with Madelene for the last year of her life. In the summer months, when not at school teaching, she ran an antique shop called Ye Old Antique Shop next to her home. Their home and shop was on the land that is now the location of the Damariscotta Bank & Trust here at the intersection of Back Meadow Road and Main Street. Madelene and her mother made beautiful braided rugs in their spare time and sold them in their antique shop.
Mrs. Sidelinger made my wife, Marjorie, a beautiful hooked rug as a birthday gift on her 25th birthday back in 1955. This hooked rug is still in the hallway at the base of the stairs going up to the second floor. All these people who made these hooked and braided rugs have passed on, but have left beautiful items for all of us to remember them by.
Stay safe, wear your mask, and keep a safe distance.