Happy 76th Anniversary Mom and Dad

My mother and father, Louise Adele Johnson and James “Gene” Rier, married on February 15th, 1943 at the Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Portland, Maine. Their special day was chosen because it was the day that my grandmother Harriet wed Ezekiel Johnson (and eloped) in 1908, and it was birthday of my great grandmother, Nellie Getchell Means, born February 15th, 1857.

Mom lived and worked in Portland at the time. Dad, now Lieutenant Rier, traveled there from Newburgh, NY where he was an engineer and pilot instructor at West Point, Stewart Field Air Force Base. There was a snow storm. Their families from Downeast Maine, Lubec and Machias, had a time making it to the wedding although Dad’s brother, Babe, and Mom’s mother Harriet, did. It was a long rough drive. Dad’s brother Paul, also stationed at West Point as PFC, was his best man. Mom’s maid of honor was her friend, Margaret Hadley.

After the wedding, Mom and Dad had a short honeymoon Downeast before they drove to Newburgh NY and settled into military housing for the servicemen and their wives.

Mom became a World War II bride in a marriage that lasted their lifetimes.

One of my favorite photos of that day is Mom with a wide smile. She looks so happy. There are photos of Mom with her mother Harriet, the wedding party, and the happy couple back at Stewart Field, West Point in Newburgh, NY.

 

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The news articles…

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Mom’s Adventures in Portland: Horse Back Riding. 1942.

My mother, Louise Adele Johnson, was born in Machias, Maine and a life-long resident. She lived elsewhere just twice in her life, the first when she and her mother Harriet moved to Portland in 1938. She lived there until early 1943 when Mom married. Then she was off to Newburgh, NY for two years while Dad was stationed at Stewart Field Air Force Base. When Dad was discharged from military service in 1945, they returned to Maine and lived in Calais for a year. Dad worked at the mill, saved money to start a business and cut the logs for a small home in the garage of their rented home. At the end of that year, Dad built a log cabin on Dublin Street in Machias where they lived until he finished the building for his business with an apartment on the second floor for them and my brother Jim. In 1949, another son joined them, my brother David. By then, Dad had nabbed the Buick franchise and had a thriving business, Rier Buick Inc.

Portland was an adventure for Mom. Perhaps following the Johnson tradition of horses and harness racing, she joined the local horse club, Abenaki, in 1942. There she made many friends, including her life-long friend Louise Bryce. Their lives became very different: Mom married, had three children and lived Downeast; Louise remained single and lived in Gorham, not far from Portland. All the same, Mom and Louise stayed in touch all their lives. Toward the end of Mom’s life, she couldn’t find Louise. Her letters had stopped. But, Mom sat with the old photo album on her lap, looked at the photos of them together. “We had so much fun together,” she said with a smile, warmed by the memories.

It’s easy to see just how happy Mom was at this time in her life, time spent with new friends and horses. It was her last year as a single woman.

The newspaper announced the new members of the Abenaki club. Mom was appointed corresponding secretary.
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Photo on the right below. Mom and her dear friend Louise Bryce.

 

It appears there was some horsing around…

 

My Mother Louise Adele Johnson

The Early Years: 1920 – 1942

Mom was born January 19, 1920 in Machias, Maine, the third child and only daughter of Ezekiel and Harriet Means Johnson. She had two elder brothers: Warren, born in 1908, and Robert, born in 1918.

She was a towheaded toddler who explored the outdoors in a sweater and boots. The back of the photo reads:

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Mom loved to play in her grandparent’s barn at the house at 24 Broadway. One day, she romped with her brother Bob and cousin Charlie on the upper floor where the hay was stored. While big brother Warren stacked hay, Mom got carried away, forgot about the hole to throw hay down to the horses, and fell through to the lower barn. When she told the story to me over 30 years later, she vividly recalled her surprise descent but didn’t get hurt. There was soft hay below to catch her. She remembered that Grandmother Nellie was not pleased.

Mom entered first grade at age four. I asked her why she started school so young. She told me that her brother Bob was entering school that year and her mother thought it best to send them together.

This photo of the first grade class at Hemingway School is kindly provided by Irene Vose Robinson. Mom is in the back row, 5th from the left, the little girl with the hat. She is beside Irene (on her left). Mom’s brother Bob is in the front row, 3d from the right.

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10327198_649622821753733_998484054_nMom and Bob graduated from Machias High School together in 1936. Mom had an Italian boyfriend, Giouvanucci. Her mother did not like him much but didn’t interfere.

“He had the most gorgeous Chrysler car. We used to ride all over the place,” Mom said. From her grin, I knew the guy was as gorgeous as his car. Mom had an Italian boyfriend? In Machias? Now that was news. More investigation of old photo albums revealed that this intriguing boyfriend was the brother of Mom’s close friend Sue.

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After graduation from High School, Mom got a job at the Washington County Court House in the Registry of Deeds office and lived with her mother who taught piano lessons. Soon, Mom met my father, James Eugene Rier, one day in downtown Machias. Dad said he knew she would be his wife the first time he saw her. I asked him how he knew he had found his true love.

“When I first laid eyes on her that day, I tingled. All over. All the way to my toes,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye. Dad always had that Lubec sense of humor.

In 1937, Harriet inherited the house at 24 Broadway after her mother, Nellie died in December the previous year.  She and my mother could not afford to heat the house, in spite of their combined incomes. They moved to Portland that year and rented rooms at the boarding house of a friend at 15 Bolton Street. Mom snagged employment as a administrative assistant for a prominent lawyer, Albert Knudsen. She loved the work. As Mom turned the pages of the old album and showed me the news articles on Knudsen, she said fondly, “He was so intelligent. A good man. I learned so much from him.”

 

 

 

Harriet and friends 1939. Her family, my father and his sister gathered there too.

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L to R. Standing. Evelyn Rier (Dad’s sister), Lillian Johnson (wife of Warren), Dad, Harriet, Bob. Kneeling. Warren Johnson (Mom’s eldest brother) and son Billy.

For Mom, there was time for horseback riding. She became an enthusiast, joined a club in Portland, and made many friends there.

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In 1939, Mom and her mother traveled to the World’s Fair in NYC. Dad was their escort. Or perhaps Harriet was Mom and Dad’s escort? Most of one family scrapbook is dedicated to the sights they saw and the memories they made there.

 

Dad took a photo of the two of them in front of a warped mirror…

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One of the highlights was the precision formation flying exhibitions. Dad was entranced. Then and there he decided to become a pilot. That dream would be fulfilled. In 1942, he joined the US Army Air Corp, went to boot camp in Texas, was assigned to Stewart Field in Newburgh, NY, and trained as a flight instructor. Mom was still living and working in Portland. They decided to marry.

 

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Related posts:

Mom Hanging Out With Friends.

Mom and Brother Robert on a Sleigh Ride. Postcard 1920s.

Mom at 16. High School Graduation. 1936.

Mom’s Adventures in Portland: Horse Back Riding. 1942.

Mom Keeps Men at Stewart Field Air Force Base on High Alert. 1944.

Mom and Friends. Rotary Anns Bowling Team Trophy. 1959.