Citizen profiles: Sharon Silver, Woodstock
If you need a hug, or a kind word, or a smile that brightens the room, you look for Sharon Silver.
Born in Rumford, Silver grew up on Felt Road in Bryant Pond as an only child. The daughter of Richard and Barbara (Coffin) Felt, she lived ‘down on the farm,’ and was an outdoor kid, skiing and skating in her own backyard.
In the summer months she rode horseback, swam in the brook, and climbed Spruce Mountain, also in her own backyard. While inside, she played Chinese Checkers, and was very good at it.
“I learned to drive a John Deere tractor at seven years old, graduating from driving teams of horses for logging or haying,” she remembers. “I would rake with a bull-rake to catch the scatterings, earning a penny a load.
When I was in junior high, Mom’s appendix and I was introduced to cooking for five people.”
During her school years at Woodstock Elementary and High School, softball was her sport. She also excelled on the sax, clarinet, piano and drums.
“I would like to say I got my musical talent from dad,” said Silver. “He could only play by ear, and I could only play by notes.”
(Richard Felt has his own band, and was featured in National Geographic in 1993 because of his unique talent and how he played the harmonica. He plays old time music and has played at nursing homes, and dances, and played three times per month at the Grange Halls around the area. He would get one Sunday off a month if there were five Sundays in the month, she said.)
Silver enjoyed going to record hops with a live D.J. at the Greenwood Town Hall, at a cost of 25 cents.
“We didn’t have to have parents as chaperones because the faculty and their spouses came to all the dances. They were our chaperones,” she said.
There was also a dress code for staff and students. No pants or pant suits for many years for girls. When pants were allowed, it was only with a pantsuit. Skirts could only come to above the knee, and had to be worn with nylons.
“There were definitely no flip flops or sandals worn back then, said Silver. “High heels for the ladies and dress shoes for the men. No jeans, for anyone.”
During her teen years, Silver had a ski jump in her back pasture. When she wasn’t skiing, she was splitting wood for her family with an ax. “We didn’t have wood splitters back then,” she remembers. “We WERE the wood splitters.”
From late spring to late fall, her dad had many a hot dog roast at a bonfire in one of the family’s gravel pits, and everyone enjoyed her mom’s biscuits year round.
On Saturdays, just like in other houses across town, it was baking day.
“We made pies, cakes, cookies, rolls and hot bread,” Silver recalls. “In the fall, it was nothing for mom and I to put up 500 quarts of fruits and vegetables in the pantry. When you walked into the room, it looked like a rainbow because of the colors in the jars. Our pantry and freezer were always full,”she said.
From a very young age, Silver has worn many hats. She worked summers with neighborhood kids, picking acres and acres of green and yellow beans, as well as corn and cukes for the factory at Burnham and Morrill at the A.L. Stewart’s canning factory. “The neighborhood kids worked on the farm to earn money. Mom and Dad had a gift of making work fun. We never knew the difference.” she said.
One of her fondest memories was a ritual with her mom.
“We lived at the end of a one mile road, and unless the weather was brutal, that mile was walked to meet the bus to school. The best part of walking home at night was watching for my mom who would walk out to meet me and help carry my books home, and chat about our day,” Silver said. “She always managed to bring me a treat, fresh from the oven to warm my hands, belly and heart, and to help me forget about the long walk home.”
Silver sewed clothes for herself and her family for many years. “My daughter was three years old before she wore a ‘store bought’ dress. I even made her diapers,” she said. “I remember that sneakers were a dollar a pair, and kids got one pair in the spring and another in the summer.”
From Silver’s freshman year in high school to her freshman year in college, she worked weekends and vacations for Burnham and Morrill and A.L. Stewart as a switchboard operator and a ‘weigh mistress’ for the fruits and vegetables. She also worked on payroll.
From there, she worked at Harold’s Motor Company as an accounts receivable clerk and service dept. assistant.
After graduating from Bliss Business College, in Lewiston, Silver started working for SAD 44 at Telstar in 1968. She was the secretary to then Principal C. Richard Vaughn. “We were known for our famous ‘Flexible Modular Scheduling,’” she said. “I was sent to Columbus, Ohio, to attend a conference on FMS that the principal could not attend. I was the only one from Maine and the youngest at the conference, and the only one of the female’gender,” she said.
Other principals she worked for included Keith Cunningham, Wayne Gersom, Warren Bouchard, Brian Flynn, Walter Phillips, Ad Muller, Nancy Davis, Ellie Tracy, Bruce Bell, Bill Yeo, Ted Davis, Patrick O’Neal, David Murphy, Shawn Lambert, Daniel Hart, Sandy Schroeder and now Clark Rafford.
Silver did not work at the school in the summer, but she has worked many other places.
She worked 10 summers at the National Training Lab (NTL). From 1979-1981, she took a break from SAD 44, working part time for the Town of Woodstock as the town clerk, pro temp, at night. She waitressed at Jordan’s Restaurant.
And, she said, “I took dictation and transcription for Ret. Gen. James Alger, and corresponded for him regularly with Gen. [William] Westmoreland,” she said.
She also worked for three years at the Maine Teacher’s Association in Norway, until the organization moved operations to Auburn.
In 1980, Silver returned to SAD 44.
She married Roy S. Silver on Christmas Eve of 1987. He was a guidance counselor, worked in industrial arts, taught woodworking for adult education; and worked in special education. He finished his working career as a bus driver. He died in 1991.
In 1992, she donned another hat, spending the summers as a landscaper, opened a florist shop, (which she ran in her free time until 2008 and still does it as a side job), owned a lawn care business, and became famous for her Christmas wreaths.
As for her ‘mom hat,’ Silver has one daughter, Jennifer Lynne Felt, who graduated from Telstar High School, University of Maine at Farmington, University of Maine at Orono, and holds a certificate as a literacy consultant. “She now teaches college classes and will be presenting at a National Literacy Conference in the fall,” mom said proudly.
Through the years, Silver has seen things change greatly in school. “I wish we had respect, discipline, and accountability back in our lives today. The kids could benefit from it immensely,” she said. “Our parents expected it of us, and we were raised to be considerate of others’ feelings. It wasn’t ‘all about ‘me.’”
“I will always be grateful to my parents for teaching me not to be afraid to work,” she said. “They taught me to be flexible and to be okay learning something new.”
Silver wishes kids today would grab every opportunity that is at their finger tips. “Put down the gadgets, interact with kids and people you don’t know. Use your imaginations,” she said.
If you are ever in need of a smile that lights up the room, or a friendly word to make your day, or even a generous hug for those who come to school to check up on their own kids, you will find ‘Mrs. Silver’ sitting behind the desk, wearing multiple hats, working with the middle school kids and staff.
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