Some Mainers still remember – in fact, cannot forget – October of 1947, when, after a season of terrible drought, wildfires burned all over the state. Brownfield was one of the worst-hit areas: 80% of the town, including all churches, schools, post offices, and other public buildings, was completely destroyed in the space of a few hours.
In the face of the fire, Brownfield residents responded with courage and care – and even obstinacy in a few cases like that of retired schoolteacher Mabel Stone. “She had her little dog Woofie with her, and she had a plan: she was going to stay at her house and fight the fire with a broom, a bucket of water, and a snow rake….” Facing the devastation after the fire, neighbors ingeniously made do, shared what they had, and rebuilt what they could.
Lovell storyteller Jo Radner spent a year interviewing people who experienced the Brownfield Fire – residents who did and did not lose their homes, as well as others who aided in the rescue and rebuilding effort. From those interviews and from letters and historical photographs and newspaper reports, Radner has created a powerful story of terror, courage, neighborly responsibility, recovery, and – yes – even humor.
Folklorist, storyteller, writer, and oral historian, Jo Radner creates personal tales and stories about the people of northern New England. She delights in eccentrics, believes that humor and gravity are good bedfellows, and favors characters whose lives defy simple explanations.