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Maxime Nicholas Fidao's Life Story (Written in 1947)
(Page 8 of 8)
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Much work was done on the highways, in the schools, parks and fire houses. Some of it was repair work only but much of it was permanent. One must concede that where many workers were not fully able bodies men and their proficiency often limited, the results could not have been perfect for we were limited in the assignment of workers, skilled and unskilled, to persons on relief. But when all these limitations are taken in consideration, it can be said that the result was satisfactory as it was recognized by the Town authorities.

During my connection with the Town of Greenwich as Works Director on the Federal Projects, my hours of work were from 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. I had time to spare and I continued to be the cook of the family for eight years.

I had an opportunity during those years of Government Relief Work to get acquainted with the lot of manual, outdoor workers whose manners were not those of white-collar workers in offices, but whose character and behavior were equally as good, often better. They were on the whole sincere, friendly and generous and would go out of their way to be of help to their fellowman. One thing that confused me somewhat at first was their brusqueness and loudness, but that I discovered was really the result of circumstances, for when working in the open in noisy surroundings and handling heavy tools and mechanized equipment, one had to talk loudly if not brusquely.

The house I had built in 1924 ceased to be mine as a result of a foreclosure. During the two preceding years I had been unable to meet all the charges on it and my new job was not big enough to take care of them. When we had to move to other quarters, I rented a house in Cos Cob, located on the Mianus River and with flower and vegetable gardens and several fruit trees.

When all our men, but a few on our P.W.A. Projects, had found outside employment in war plants our office in Greenwich was closed. I was again out of work.

At this time, Lloyd was drafted in the army and I was wondering if we would ever see him back with us. However, he was very little concerned and was animated by the same patriotism that was displayed by the youth of the country.

I took him to the train early in the morning feeling very cool, having already visualized this forced separation, but when I shook hands with him as he boarded the train in Greenwich Station, I could not speak and a few tears that I had been laboring to contain wet my eyes and rolled down my face. I was shaken and had to wait a few minutes in my car to recover before driving home.

At the distribution center at Camp Devens, he was given a chance to join the Army Air Forces which he immediately accepted. He could not fly on account of his age of 31 and was to be attached to the ground forces.

His I.Q. test showed that he had mechanical ability, much to his surprise. He had never done any mechanical work nor studied mechanics, but when he started his course in Aeroplane Mechanics, he found the studies and the work most interesting. He was so fascinated by it that he stayed up nights studying rather than sleeping. When the final examinations were taken, he was third high man among 125 students which included college men, automobile and other shop mechanics. He was subsequently appointed Instructor.

He was only a Corporal, but in view of the fact that he was instructing Sergeants, Captains and even a Major, a notice was posted in the class room that during the courses he outranked every officer in the class. He specialized in carburetion and lubrication and was assigned as Crew Chief to one of the battalions of the 9th Air Corps, which was sent overseas and stationed in England for about a year before D Day.

His outfit landed in Normandy shortly after D Day and he served through the whole European campaign close to the Ardennes and was involved in the struggle and final deflection of the famous German breakthrough in December 1944.

While stationed in England, their fields were bombed and strafed practically every night but he returned home without a scratch. He served for three years in the 9th Air Corps, two of which were overseas.

My son Maxime, who had married Margherita Childs of Cos Cob and Setauket, Long Island, was also drafted in 1943 and was assigned to an Ordnance Division. He saw service in North Africa, India and China. In China he was stationed in Kunming as chief clerk in the S.O.S. Headquarters. When his Commanding Officer was hospitalized for two weeks, he took charge of headquarters and saw all by himself to the stocking and distribution of all the war material throughout China which was brought through the Burma Road and over the Hump. For the high quality of his work and the cooperation he managed to inspire in his fellow workers and working crews in the field, he received a Citation and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service. He returned in January 1945 also safe and sound.

The eight years we lived in Cos Cob, during which I worked in Greenwich, were most gratifying. They had justified my decision not to return to work in New York. In the morning, instead of heading for the train and then the New York subway, I repaired to the garden, spring, summer and fall, tending to the flowers and vegetables and doing the same evenings at five o'clock.

My work for the Town of Greenwich was interesting and I put in much time on our Projects, many of them in the Parks and on the highways in the countryside. It was a normal active life, conducive to undisturbed thinking and concentration, and close to nature. Under such conditions, man rediscovers himself and his fellowman.

Marjorie and I were now all alone in the eight room house in Cos Cob. We decided to give it up, with regret, and find individual living quarters. Disposing of the furniture and all the contents in the house was a problem. I did not want to store them, for the war was only beginning with us and it could last many long years. A couple of the nicer pieces were sold and a few given to my married son and friends. But what about the rest filling every room from the attic to the cellar? We showered our neighbors with all they could use; in garden tools, implements, with furniture, blankets, books, crockery, etc., until we made a nuisance of ourselves. I called a second hand furniture dealer who came to look at the contents of the house from top to bottom. He said he did not want any of it. We had only one day left for vacating and in my anxiety I offered to pay him to clean out the house, he accepted my offer reluctantly, but when I saw it all being carried out to the vans I realized how nicely I had been taken in by this shrewd dealer who knew that we had to vacate the house the following day.

In August 1940, I took a trip to Maine during a one week vacation. This was the first vacation I had since working on the Federal Projects. I had never flown before and I decided to fly part of the way. I took a plane at La Guardia Field, and in beautiful weather, we floated to Boston in one hour and ten minutes. I envied the birds and wished that we could, without discomfort or expense, detach ourselves at will from our terrestrial anchorage. We will perhaps some day travel in planes as silent as automobiles.

I stopped in Portland at the Eastland Hotel. It was centrally located and from there I took several trips by bus and boat and sailed over several lakes and bays. The most beautiful trip was to Cadillac Mountain on Desert Island near Bar Harbor. The visibility on that day must have been over fifty miles. The thickly wooded islands in the deep blue waters of the ocean, and the lakes that one could see in the distance, made a most inspiring spectacle that one admired in silence and in ecstacy.

In my years of work in connection with Federal Relief Projects and the production of war essentials, I often saw reflected the personality of our then President, F.D. Roosevelt. I could not help being impressed by his readiness to tackle new problems with daring and resourcefulness. While he did not prove an expert in economic matters, although in March 1933 he handled masterfully the Banking Holiday, he surely showed great vision and understanding in other matters, particularly the foreign situation. He saw clearly and fully the hidden designs of the Nazis and provided the wherewithal to beat them. His requests for huge appropriations for planes, tanks, ships and materials, were often thought ridiculously extravagant and quite unnecessary, but still it came to pass that we did not have too many of these war implements.

With a conservative Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, we could have lost the war. It has been often said and held against him that he knew how to spend but not how to earn. War is waste and a spending proposition and I believe that we were fortunate for his propensities for spending, for they helped enormously to win the war.

In another way, he was most anxious to improve the lot of the average earner, but here too his spending propensities came into play together with his political ambitions in a manner which, in the opinion of many, contributed to class antagonism.

Larger earnings for the majority of the population certainly is something to be desired by both capital and labor, for who can deny that a large national income makes for bi (big?) business. One cannot be an expert in all lines. This is an age of specialization and the politician himself is a specialist.

You cannot be an active business man and a politician at the same time. You do not have the time for you seldom know how to be both. The day remains at 24 hours and life is only of three score and ten. It is the politician's role to govern, and he can not do it properly without some business acumen which comes in the main from experience. What will the outcome be?

In September, 1942, I had joined the Homelite Corporation of Greenwich, manufacturers of gasoline driven generators, pumps and blowers. The generators were used by the Air Corps., the Navy, and the Signal Corps. Our whole output was contracted to the Government and our units were of the best produced in the Country.

I worked in the Production Department on requirements of parts and metals. I remained with Homelite after the war and assisted in the compilation of pricing of left over material and parts in connection with the Contract Termination reports prepared for the government.

I had daily opportunities to see the workers in the Tool, Machine shops and the Assembling Departments at work on the manufacture of parts and the assembling of the units from beginning to end. It was work which most of us could not do for lack of training and special knowledge, but I saw in tangible form the importance of technical education in this industrial age of ours for our new generation.

In my numerous contacts with the workers in the plant, I saw again, as I had seen on the Federal Projects, that their work and daily life were different from that of an office worker. They used their muscles and their brain, while we office workers use our brain only.

I envied those men whose work called into play both their physical and their mental powers. Theirs, I felt, must be a more real life, more balanced life, and a happier life.

My work at the Homelite Corporation ended in March 1946. I spent the summer at the home of Mrs. William Siegrist in Shorelands, Old Greenwich, where I had spent the two previous summers. It was most cool and comfortable there and I had the use of the family's boat, which I rowed almost daily in the harbor for exercise.

I enjoyed immensely the company of Mrs. Siegrist who is an unusually gifted and gracious lady and to whom I often remarked that she had the mind of a statesman.

In September, 1946, Henry N. Flynt of North Street in Greenwich whom I had known from my days with the Town of Greenwich when he was chairman of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, asked me if I cared to go to Deerfield, Mass., to act as a sort of Clerk of the Works in connection with the reconditioning of an historical house on Deerfield Street, the "Allen House".

It was a most welcome offer. Here, I had an opportunity to live for a while in the heart of New England. There I would find the true America I was longing for. I moved immediately to Greenfield, Mass., from where I commuted to Deerfield.

It was a most interesting experience. The house was originally built around 1710, and it was being reconditioned to its original state. The stone foundation was rebuilt and the frame reinforced. When the work was completed, the house had its original outlines and appearance, its original floors, wall and ceilings.

The walls were paneled and the floors covered with the original wide boards of old pine, some of them two feet wide. It was, in other words, a new old house. It was furnished with authentic antique new England furniture, most of it from the Town of Deerfield itself which Henry Flynt had been acquiring for some time for the purpose. We had visitors there daily, some from several States of the Union.

The architect and contractor was William Gass of South Deerfield, Mass., the foremost authority in historical New England architecture and appointments.

When my work was completed, I could not bear to return to Old Greenwich. My life about Greenfield was most simple, no amusements or entertainments out side the movies. I had no old friends there, but the whole atmosphere was engaging. The even countenance of the people, their serenity, sincerity, were refreshing. They seemed sturdier than in lower Connecticut, and the women did not look clothes conscious or man conscious. The beautiful green valleys and the mountains, had an uplifting effect and I experienced real enjoyment observing the active rural life in the vicinity. No crowds, no jostling, no tumult. I felt healthy mentally and bodily. I was happy. Although away from my children and friends, I still wanted to remain there, for I could see them often by taking the train to Greenwich and New York.

I did my best to find gainful occupation. I tried several Colleges in the vicinity, but there was no openings for a man with my business experience, and I returned to Old Greenwich.

But, this must not be the end of my story. The great country that I started out to seek, and which I have hardly seen, must be found. Also, I must somehow see again my twin brother Joe, six thousand miles away, whom I have not seen since 1923.

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