The coast of Maine has many fishing villages and old seaports, and its past is steeped in maritime history. Twelve miles from Bath, we came into Wiscasset, known for the wrecks of two old sailing vessels: the four-masted cargo schooners the Hesper and the Luther Little. The Hesper was launched on the 4th of July, 1918. It was a wonderfully festive day when the Hesper was allowed to slide down the inclined ways, but because the ship builders had underestimated her weight, she only slid down the ways by about 10 yards before everything collapsed. The Hesper came to a grinding halt, but fortunately didn’t roll over. It was not until that August before the ship was once again shored up, and launched into the Sheepscot River. Her master was Captain Caleb A. Haskell from Deer Isle, who then sailed her to Lisbon, Portugal. On her maiden voyage she carried a 2,000 ton cargo of coal. I got to know Bo’sun, or Boatswain, Vernon Haskell, who drove the bus that later picked me up in Bangor. He also came from Deer Isle and sailed on these very same ships when he was a young man. Back in those days seafaring was a family tradition, and the Haskells were well-known seafaring folks in these parts. These two sailing ships are now gone and with their loss, some more maritime history is lost forever.
Much of what I had was handed down to me from others. The fact that I was now the oldest child, since my sister had died, put me first in line for toys. Not that the toys and clothing I acquired were necessarily new, nor were they gender specific, but they were newer when I got them, than later, when they were passed farther down the line. It didn’t matter that my sister was a girl…. A coat was a coat, except for how it was buttoned. Looking at old photographs, I sometimes find it impossible to tell if I am looking at my sister or me. It’s only when I see my nautical blue coat, with miniature petty officer chevrons on it that I’m certain that I’m looking at myself. As a baby, I wore her gowns and sleepwear, and this continued until they were worn out, or I outgrew them. Of course I inherited most of her toys, including a plunger type metal top and her beautiful, porcelain dolls. I don’t believe that these dolls were ever for play. They were beautiful enough to have been collectors’ items, but in my hands, they were doomed.
The G.I. Bill, formally known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, provided many benefits for the returning World War II veterans. These benefits included cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend a university, high school or vocational education school, provided low-cost mortgages, and supplied low-interest loans to start a business, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. About 2.2 million returning, honorably discharged veterans used the G.I. Bill in order to attend colleges or universities, and another 5.6 million used the G.I. Bill for other kinds of training programs. This program helped make the United States the best educated country and the exceptional leader of the world, for years to come. It was an exciting time in America and I had a center aisle seat to witness it.” I and many other veterans used the G.I. Bill to help pay for my education. In my case it allowed me to attend Central Connecticut State College (now a State University) to do my graduate work in education. The fact that so many people could afford to go back to school made the United States the best educated country in the years following World War II. Unfortunately during the past five years the United States has dropped by 11 points in our educational standing worldwide and now scores 17th among the 34 OECD countries. To make matters worse is that we are below average in math and science when the world depends more than ever on technology. A good part of the reason is that young people cannot afford the cost of a college education! The defense used by many of the less educated is that college is for egg heads and being a deplorable is worn as a badge of honor. If something doesn’t happen soon we will become a third world country but that opens up another topic for another day!
As a nation we must understand that the future of our country depends on education. It has to be right up front and cannot be an afterthought. It is so important that it has to be available for everyone, not just available to those that can afford it. Our country never fared better than when the GI Bill paid for the education of our veterans. I’m not necessarily advocating a free lunch; however it should be affordable for everyone! For politicians to start handing out vouchers is just a gimmick that shifts funding from Public Schools to Charter Schools. The first thing that should be considered is “Equal Opportunity for All!” I recognize that not everyone is academically gifted or inspired to seek a degree, so a Vocational Technical education may be a viable option for some.