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Saturday, April 11, 2015

How to Speak like a New England Mainer (Mainah)

Years After Maine, I Can Still Be Heard Doing Mainespeak

I clearly recall churning buttah (butter) with my maternal grandmother Esther Bennett Homer on her farm in Searsport Maine. Why did I say buttah instead of butter? Because that is how I sometimes still talk. I've lost a lot of my Maine dialect or accent, but not to my family, especially my granddaughter Ashley, who loves to tease me when I forget to or am unable to add the "r" sound to my words.

So, I am still somewhat a Mainer, and proud of it! My car is a ca or cah, our nearby park is a pahk, the law is the lah and lava is lavah. Sounds perfectly okay to me, but Ashley laughs and laughs. This got me to thinking about the Maine dialect that I grew up with.

My paternal grandmother Alice Southworth Healey loved lobster which she called lobstah. She always wanted to eat some when we visited Ba Harbah (Bar Harbor). Grammy Homer liked clam chowdah (chowder) when she ate out.

Though I have tried for years to say idea, it always comes out as idear. My mom and dad called me deyah (dear) and Donna, but they also called me Donnah or Donner. Yikes instead of dropping an r sound, idear and Donner added one. How confusing is that? I need a glass of watah! Then I can watch the cahfs (calfs) for a while as I ponder this.

Mainers also like a good oximoron. The one that says something is wicked good. Wicked lobstah. Wicked buttah. Wicked cold or wicked hot. L. L. Bean uses "wicked good" in some of their product line names and ads to relay the greatness of the items. Makes me wantah order somethin' now.

My dad was named Bob. In New England, folks like to use names. A conversation with him would go something like this: "Donnah, what are you doing? Nothing, Dad. Donnah, I heard you were goin' to the pahk? Dad, that is true, but I won't be stahtin (starting) to go for a while. Dad, for now I will be herah." Get the gist? Did you notice that Mainers like to drop the g when talking, such as talkin'.

I love that herah, for here. Stretch that one syllable into two and you speak Mainah. A phrase I recall is that you can't get theyah from heyah.

My dad, by the way was born in Bath Maine, but he called it Bahth. And my Aunt Jane was Auht Jane and not Ant Jane. Auht Jane called my sister and I cunnin, meaning cute. We were, and loved her sayin' it. Oh, we live in Florida now and my sister is Ant Caren, instead of Auht Caren. Too bad.

I was born in Bangah (Bangor), but now when I visit Maine, I am thought to be "from away" and have to explain that my Mainah accent is still there in part, because I am one of them. Doesn't do me much good to explain; they still think I am from away. Could I be mispronouncing Bangor?

It has been wicked exciting to write this article. Brings back so many memories and helps my granddaughter to know I am just a Mainer.

One of these days I will call Ashley's lunch box, her dinner pail. It would really catch her attention if I said suppah pail. In North Carolina we had a basement, in Connecticut we had a cellar and, for us, that meant a dirt or root cellar which we called "down cellar." Our mom did not want us to go down cellah. We also had an ice box and when we got a refrigerator we still called it an ice box. And I don't say hoss anymore. I have mastered horse.

Remembah Ashley is the one that teases me the most about my lingerin' Maine accent. I think I will agree with her on whatever she says next time by sayin' eh-yuh or ayuh instead of yes. She will love it. PS: Let's not tell her that I mostly hear ayuh on old episodes of Murder She Wrote on television. Do you agree? Ayuh!

Photo:  From Flickr Commons Free; by Edward Hand

Saturday, April 4, 2015


My husband and I spent years going to his old home state areas of Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC.  Every time that we passed Surrattsville, MD.  He would share the story that his Granddaddy Charles Conrad Cator Jr. often told: Surrattsville is important to our family.  Remember that. 

My husband's great grandfather Charles Sr. was born in 1863, smack in the middle of the Civil War. It was years before we realized that my husband's great grandmother, Sarah F Stephenson, married his great grandfather, Charles Conrad Cator Sr. and they resided there for a while and had children in Surrattsvile.  Sarah was Irish.  Cator is thought to be Scots-Irish.

In the 1700s Surrattsville was named Surratt's Villa, and ultimately would become today's Clinton, MD.  The Villa was simply a crossroads and a few buildings.  By the 1800s it was calls Surrattsville and had its own post office, a voting place, and a tavern. Mary Surratt, famed from the days of Abraham Lincoln, owned a home there and in DC. 

Charles and Sarah F. married on the 4th of  December 1890 in DC per the record of their marriage. Since Sarah was born in 1871, she was but 19 years old to Charles 27 years of age.  Charles and Sarah had a baby boy who lived 5 months; he died 25 Apr 1892.  Before she died at the age of 27 in 1898, she had two living children, Granddaddy - my husband's grandfather who raised my husband. Granddaddy was Charles Conrad Cator, Jr. born 1895.  Their other living child was Aunt Mabel Estelle Cator (born 1893).  Granddaddy was just 2 when Sarah died; Mabel just 4. 

Charles Conrad Cator Sr now married Rachel Lurania Clifton as his second wife.  She is the sister of Charity and Joseph Clifton.  This is important as Charity married into another line (Belle Cator's line).  When Sarah Stephenson Cator died, leaving Charles Sr. to take care of his two living children, he was likely guided to marry the single Lurania to help raise his children.  Perhaps he loved her dearly, but the stories in the family do not support this.  Lurania is not fondly remembered our family.  She was mean-spirited and would punish the children in a myriad of ways, including hours in iced bath water.  Charges were actually brought against her for abuse of the children.  The charges were dropped, but not forgotten by our family.  This was likely a story 27 year marriage, at best.  She died first; he outlived Lurania by 15 years.  Peace.  The coming of the dreadful Lurania as stepmom within the ame year that Sara died, 1898, was ultimately harsh for the children.  By the 1900 census, Lurania's brother Joseph Clifton was living with them.  He was a 23 year old unmarried milkman and I hope he was good to Mabel and Charlie Jr.

By 1910, Joseph Clifton had moved on, but the teenagers Charlie and Mabel now had their granddad living with them, Thomas Cator, age 75 as a "boarder" who had his own income.  Charles Sr. was a furnace man at the Navy Yard in DC.  Lurania never had any of her own children.  A good thing.  

When Charles Sr. died he had chosen to be buried with his first wife Sarah when he passed away, rather than with Lurania who lies alone further back in the same cemetery.

Interestingly, Charles Jr and Ruth Ridgeway eloped while under the reins of Lurania.  This is an interesting story as Lurania was continuously on the prowl! Charles Sr was not opposed, though it implied he was.   See the full story at


William McKinley was president the year before Sarah died.  She may or may not have lived long enough to realize that the USS Maine exploded in Cuba in February of 1898.  And she may not have lived long enough to see Wyoming and Idaho become new states (43, 44) nor to know that Hawaii was annexed by the USA in mid 1898. 

In 1881 she and Charles were well aware that their President James Garfield was shot and died.  And, think of it!  They lived at the very time of the OK Corral gunfights in Tombstone, AZ in that same year when the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday tried to disarm Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury.  Billy, Frank and Tom died.  And electricity was generated to 85 customers in NYC on September 4, 1884, and a year later the Statue of Liberty was delivered. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Mangle Iron at Myrtle and Warren Southworth's home in Belfast Maine

I loved to visit Aunt Myrtle Dickey Southworth and her husband, my Uncle Warren Southworth in their Belfast Maine home.  They lived on the top floor of a two story duplex.  The home had a back room, like an attic room, but on the same level as the duplex apartment.  In the room was a mangle ironing machine for pressing sheets and such.  Fascinating!
Aunt Myrtle was a kind and caring woman to me and trips to her home were always a highlight of Belfast Maine visits (my home state).  Her husband was my great grandparents' son.  I do recall that the Mangle was large, but do not recall if it was this model.  

Aunt Myrtle E. Dickey and Uncle Ralph Warren Southworth were married on Saturday, November 10th in Belfast Maine. They had two children, a daughter and a son.  Myrtle died in Chula Vista California in 1982 at the age of 70. She was living near her daughter's area.  Uncle Warren died in Belfast Maine in 1970 at the age of 59.  In this picture, Warren is standing with his older brother Dana Southworth.  Dana died in 1971 at the age of 75.  Dana's second marriage was to Helen Devlin Southworth, who was a violinist in the Boston Pops Orchestra.