Deer Isle, ME

Nancy & Pearl, Deer Isle, ME — married 1955

Friends since kindergarten, Pearl and Nancy Eaton got married in their teens and had four children in quick succession.  Pearl served six years on the school board and Nancy worked as a secretary in the local high school; but a large share of their working life was spent in business together, running a local oil company and filling station on the island.  At the time of my visit in February, 2002, Pearl was three months away from joining Nancy in retirement.  Their immaculate home is filled with evidence of their many interests and activities, including Nancy’s needlework and the Eatons’ fitness equipment.


 Nancy:
It was one of those cases, I guess, where we just did get married.  Started a family…real young.

RF:
Were there things that you knew you were looking for in a mate, in a spouse?

Nancy:
I don’t think at that... at that age, no.  No.

Pearl:
I don’t think so either.

Nancy:
Today, you know, and as the years go on, yeah, yeah.  You do look for a lot of things if you… you work at it, right?

Pearl:
Oh, absolutely.

Nancy:
I think any marriage you have to work at, to make it successful.  Really.

Pearl:
We was young, and we started having children.  We just got busy.  She raisin’ the children, I was out tryin’ to make a livin’, and just… we both had our things to do.  We just matched good and pulled together.

Nancy:
Life wasn't easy for quite a few years, really.

Pearl:
No, no.

Nancy:
It really wasn’t, it was hard.  We persevered; I think we had very caring and helpful parents, certainly.  If it weren’t for them, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today.  But we had four children.

Pearl:
In a very short time.

Nancy:
And wouldn’t trade any one of them today for anything but, you know, at the time you think, “Oh, my goodness!  Are we gonna get through this?”  But you do, and you just… do what you have to do under the circumstances, I feel.  We look at people that graduate today, or just out of college, or startin’ families, and it just seems like they expect too much.  And most times it just doesn't happen right away.  You’re fortunate if it does.  But I don’t think were envious of those that start that way, I think you learn a lot by maybe struggling for a while.  I don't think it hurts anybody.  You learn… you gain character, I feel.

Pearl:
Yeah, I didn’t have… I came from zero.  Loving family, but strict parents.  And if you wanted a buck, you went out and earned it.  No one gave me anything.  ‘Course, I thought that was awful tough at the time; but I learned the value of a dollar very early in life.  And I don’t think it hurt me now.  Not at all.


RF:
How much of your day was spent together in the workplace?  How steady was that?

Nancy:
The entire time, actually.  He spent most of his time in the office, too, at the desk; telephone, and handling business, and I—we were together, right in the office, you know—all the time, really.

RF:
Was it a benefit, or a drawback?  To be spending 24 hours a day together?

Pearl:
I kind of enjoyed it, in a sense.  As I say, she always had her thing, and did her thing, and I didn’t want to have nothing to do with that.  Anything that I wanted, as far as decision-making, [she would say] “that’s up to you.  Go ahead.  If you want my help, I’m right here.”

Nancy:
Yeah.  I think we played really separate roles in the business.  Even though we were both right there.  He worked very, very hard to build the business up.  Like he does everything, when he does it, he does it and he succeeds.  Lotta credit right on his shoulders.  Really.  And they look at it… they look at it differently than a woman does.  You know, I certainly let him do his thing, but I also get irritated at times; you feel sometimes like their whole energy is going into the business, making the business succeed.  I think any couple that probably work together see the same thing.

Pearl:
But you see, you probably—(to Nancy.)  I haven’t told you this before—but I almost resented when she wasn’t there, when she got done, because then I was all alone making these decisions.  I didn’t have her to pang off ‘til I come home, and then I tried to explain it to her, and she didn’t know beans what I was talkin’ about.

Nancy:
It wasn’t that I didn't know—

Pearl:
So it would be very frustrating for her, then, ‘cause I’m trying to talk to her, and explain to her, and maybe get her input, and she had no background.  She didn’t know what I had done, so—I found that a little frustrating. (To Nancy.)  You didn’t know that, did you?

Nancy:
Yes, I did.

Pearl:
Oh, you did!  (Laughs.)

Nancy:
Sure.  I knew what was going on.  But I think once I’d worked there, and then went elsewhere, I was happier working at school.  I was happier working at the high school.  I really was, and I think he realized that.


Nancy:
I don’t like to fight—it’s important to discuss things, but I am more one that will just kind of walk away, but maybe talk things over later.  I don't like hollerin’ and hootin’, I really don’t.  It upsets me greatly, so I kind of walk away from it.  Which does not always solve things.  Correct?

Pearl:
I have a little different outlook on that.  (They laugh.)

Nancy:
True.

Pearl:
I thought I was the one that—I usually speak my piece, and then I don’t like to argue about it.  She likes to keep goin’.  So I thought I was the one that walked away.  And you don’t like that too well.

Nancy:
You get stubborn.

Pearl:
Well, yes, yes.  But I like to—I have my say, and then… I guess—but, we always work it out.  I guess.

RF:
When you have your say, is that the same as having your way?

Pearl:
No! (Laughter.)  I don’t think so.  (To Nancy.)  Do you?  I guess, my view... I'm just telling what my view is on a particular subject.  I’ll admit, I have strong views; I tell it the way it is, and whether right or wrong, you’ll know where I come from.

RF:
Do you then listen to the counterpoint argument, if there is one?

Pearl:
Yep.  But then I got a bad habit of not waitin’ too long.  You know, ‘bout an hour, which is not very good on my part.  Correct?  But she rambles a lot.  I don’t care for that; you can get to a point without rambling ‘round.  I’m too—I’m a very direct person; and sometimes it works against me.


Pearl:
Her retirement, she has done well on her retirement.  Now, June 1st, I’m gonna try mine.  So that might be a little tussle.  I understand that, I’ve worked all my life, and now I’ve got to try to slow down and, oh, I can find plenty to do for a while, I’m sure.  But she might have to—

Nancy:
Move out?  (Laughter.)

Pearl:
Find some other things to do!  I know it’ll be different.

Nancy:
Really, because he’s never really been around.  All of a sudden, you’re ready to retire, you think, “oh, my goodness; what are we gonna do under each other’s hair?”  Women can keep busy.  Here I go again, but I think women can keep very busy.  And it depends on how many hobbies and what-not men have, how happy that they are in retirement.  No matter what you have with each other, you still—

Pearl:
Have to do your own thing.


Nancy:
[Marriage]  is a lot of give and take.  On both sides.  I feel.  And perhaps you don’t realize that in the beginning; I don’t think you do.  You grow to realize.  You’re not married to change each other, but to try to understand each other and, I think, make the best of the situation, if that’s what you both want.

Pearl:
I think each one has gotta find a role that they’re gonna play in the marriage to make it successful—and the partners happy, I guess—and I think that’s one of our big successes.  I think we’ve done that.  Nancy was home and raising the kids, and this type of thing, and I, doing my financial part of it, and doing what I could to make life a little better for both of us.  And I really think that’s—if you don't pull together, if you’re not happy doing either one, I don’t think it will be successful.

Nancy:
I think the world has—I mean, it’s changed a lot.  Since ’55, for instance.  1955.  The marriage, and out of wedlock, and living together and all, it has really changed.  I’m not carved in stone.  I certainly change with the society, but you might not have to agree with it all; might not think that it’s the best thing for everybody.  We’re all different.  Some people can live together for five years, and not even think of marriage and maybe be happy as a lark.  But I don’t think that would have worked for us.  (To Pearl.)  Do you?

Pearl:
I think the family is in trouble.  I really do, in this country.  I think the strong mother and father are not there like they used to be.  And so the next generation is getting weaker.  And the next generation gets weaker, because they don't have that strong backing behind them or inside of them.  I saw so much of that in the schools, it’d just make you sick.  The way parents just don’t—just send their kids to school.  They have children, and they just don't do anything for ‘em.  How can it get better?  It's sad, really.  Real sad.  And maybe that’s the trouble, that both parents have to work today, to try to make a go of it.

Nancy:
Yeah, I feel sorry for a lot of the younger couples today.  That feel they have to get out and work to survive.  Or have everything that everybody else has got.  And I think the children really—I know the children suffer for it.  You’ve got to be very strong, and very well educated today, I think, to try to do both.

Pearl:
We were in high school when we got married.  I brought, I think, four hundred dollars into the marriage.  That’s my savings I had.  And, man, we didn’t have anything; but we had two strong families, even though my family was split, my mother was a very strong, domineering person.

Nancy:
Today it’s too easy.  It's too easy for ‘em.  It is.  I don't know, what else do they have to look forward to, these young people today?  When they can go and live with anybody they want, and no fear of, say, pregnancy, you know, and then if they get tired of the relationship they go on to another one.  And I don't think it’s producing well-adjusted, happy people.  I really don’t.  You can say I’m old-fashioned.  But I prefer to stay a little bit old-fashioned.  I think.  Really.



Nancy:
We have lots of grandchildren, so we’ll be able to enjoy them now… we have five.

Pearl:
Well, that’s the beauty of marrying young:  you’re young enough so you can enjoy your grandchildren.

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