One on One with…Pam Grant
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — When Pam (Watkins) Grant was a little girl, she called Casco home.
While she was busy living life with her parents and her siblings, with her friends at school and with her friends during summer vacation, Pam wasn’t aware of the rich history all around her. If teachers mentioned it, Pam admits she might not have been listening to that lesson.
It was not until the 1970’s — as a working woman raising two boys with her husband Ray Grant — that she decided to volunteer for the local historical society, which at that time had a vibrant and active membership but no place to house its artifacts and donations.
Currently, Pam Grant is the curator of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society Museum that is located along Route 302 in the structure built and donated by her fifth cousin Skip Watkins.
During National Women’s History Month, Pam talks about the museum’s role in the community and reveals her short list of her favorite women in history.
B-News: Will you please describe your work with the Raymond-Casco Historical Society Museum?
Pam: We all work together toward one goal, so I hate to single out myself. I am the curator. I have been the president and the treasurer over the years. We devote our time to collecting and displaying and preserving the donations and the articles that we already have. Our main purpose is to preserve the history of the towns of Casco and Raymond. All of us with the historical society volunteer our time. I tend to put in more hours because I have more time. But, I love it. It’s something I just love to do.
B-News: What is your favorite exhibit in the museum?
Pam: I love them all. I think my favorite is the Princess Goldenrod collection. I knew her when I was young. She was a friend of my mother’s. She was this beautiful woman who was a real Indian princess — to me, she was. About three years ago, Princess Goldenrod’s daughter gave us some of her mom’s jewelry and baskets. She came to the museum again last fall and gave us all of her mother’s books that were used for research and for the work she did with the Penobscot Indians.
B-News: What is your favorite program that the museum offers?
Pam: We have had quite a few programs, lectures that range from genealogy to appraisals to how to start spring gardening. That has worked out well for us. We’ve had members give programs as well.
B-News: What do tourists find the most interesting at museum?
They like the museum. They like the car barn. They love the cars. It doesn’t matter if they are young or old, everyone loves the cars.
B-News: The Museum does tours for Raymond Elementary School students who are studying the history of their town in the classroom; could you please tell me about a little bit about that?
Pam: The third-graders really love the car barn. The school bus takes them on a field trip to see some of the places they have been learning about like Frye’s Leap and the bus brings them to the museum. They are little sponges. They are so excited to be there and to be seeing things they have only seen pictures of. They just love it. We do, too. The members really love to have the kids visit the museum. It is a fun thing for everyone: the historical society volunteers, the kids, the teachers, the parents who chaperone. Lot of times, over the summer, the kids bring their parents back to the museum. It’s been good. I’d like for the kids from Songo Locks School to do museum tours, too.
B-News: Do you remember being interested in the history of the community when you were a little girl growing up here?
Pam: No, I wasn’t. I wasn’t interested in it. I grew up in the old farmhouse right here in Casco. I lived with old stuff. The family had been there for years. I didn’t care for it. I didn’t pay attention. I wish I had listened to my mother and to one of my teachers when they told me stories about the past. You raise a family and work. I just didn’t get involved (in the history of the area) until I as older.
B-News: How did you get interested in preserving history?
I think I was still working when I got involved. The man who founded the historical society, Ernest Knight, was also a teacher at Casco High School, where I had gone to school.
That was 40 or 50 years ago when I joined the historical society. If you look at the membership of the society, say 10 years ago, it did not have nearly the membership that it had back in the 1970s. I went to a meeting in Raymond and decided to join. They were looking for a place to go, to have a home, to have a building. That was when Skip (Watkins) did this wonderful thing for us and built the building. Then, we had a place for the museum.
B-News: Why is it important for communities and for society to preserve history?
Pam: Because it is who we are. It is our past. To me, it is very important to preserve it so people know what it was like.
B-News: Why is it important to preserve historical buildings, whenever possible, in towns and cities in Maine?
Pam: For the same reasons we preserve historical pieces, because it is who we are. It is our past. Plus, the old buildings in Maine are beautiful. For example, the buildings in (downtown) Biddeford and Saco. Those towns did a good job in keeping the older buildings. Another reason to keep historical buildings is because of what they had to do to build it compared to today. It was a hard, tremendous job for people to build some of the building still standing today.
B-News: Who have been some of your favorite women in history throughout your own life?
Pam: You know, I really never thought about it. But after hearing the question and after thinking about it, I would say Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt. Amelia Earhart, she knew what she wanted. She had a goal. I’ve always admired women who knew what they wanted and went after it. She wanted to be a pilot. That was in the early 20s, 30s. It was a man’s world back then. It must have been a difficult goal to be pilot. She persisted and she did it.
Plus, my mom. My mom is my favorite women in history. Isn’t your mom?
B-News: Since March is the month of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, what is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
Pam: It was always “The Cat and the Hat” and “Horton Hears a Who.” Those are the books I read to my boys when they were little.
B-News: Could you please mention your relationship with art and your experiences as an artist?
Pam: Art is something I did not try until later in life. Now, I wished I’d done it sooner. I don’t know what obstacles stopped me from trying different art other than being busy and working. I do enjoy doing art. I like charcoal drawing. I have done watercolors and oil painting. I like, not necessarily my own art, but the art I have that my kids did. I have family art. Some of it belonged to my grandmother.
B-News: What years did you and your husband bring up your family?
Our boys were born in the early ‘70s, Adam and Dan Grant
B-News: How many grandchildren do you have and what are their ages?
Pam: Just one grandchild. He is Dan’s son. He is 17 years old now.
B-News: What kind of recreational activities did you do as a family?
Pam: We all snowmobiled, ice-fished, went camping. We went to our camp on the Crooked River, which we still have.
B-News: How has your role as a mom then changed now that they are adults?
Pam: I am their mother. I think now I am their mother, but also their friend. We are fortunate that they live around here and we still see them, which is important to all of us. But, we don’t see them all the time, which is good, too. They are good sons. I call them kids even though they are 40 years old.
B-News: Do you think raising children has changed in the 2000s compared to when you were raising children?
Pam: No, I don’t think so. I think kids know more because of technology and things they (the parents) didn’t have. I think the values of every parent and of every child have stayed the same. Everyone trying to raise a family, whether it is now or back then, learns that it is a hard job.
B-News: Is it true that it’s more fun being a grandparent than a parent?
Pam: Oh yeah, it is a lot of fun.
B-News: Do you think the roles of women have changed in the past 40 years? In what ways?
Pam: Some basic things have never changed with women: the importance of being true to themselves, having values to live by, and staying true to their family.