Sammy Saunders
December 14, 1982
 

(Names and other words that could not be transcribed exactly are in italics. Unknown voices are referred to as “man” or “woman.” Comments, explanations, and additional names are in parentheses.)

Jane Dudley: Christmas Party of the Alexander-Crawford Historical Society meeting at the Dudley’s cabin on Pocomoonshine Lake. All right, Jack’s - Jack will be introducing Sammy Saunders.

Jack Dudley: All right. Probably introducing Sammy is completely unnecessary. I suspect everybody here if they haven’t met him personally, they’ve heard about him. Sammy was hatched up on Mud Lane in Calais. It used to be called Mud Lane. It was called Union Mills Street, then Union Street. That’s where Sammy started out. He first came to notoriety because he helped a lady up there - a very nice lady, Mrs. Kabulsky, who had a little problem with her livestock, but I won’t go into that. Sammy, as you all know, he worked for Diddie Hanson for years in there, the taxi station and bus station on lower North Street. He then went from there up to Aubrey Gibson’s Ford Garage up on North Street, also. While he was up there, he was appointed recorder of the Calais Municipal Court. Under that system, there was a judge and then there was a recorder appointed. The judge was never consulted, never knew who his new recorder was going to be until the recorder walked into the court room and said, “I’m the new recorder.” I can remember the morning that Sam came in and he listened to what was going on and after everything was cleaned up, he came up and says, “I’m the new recorder.” And, I says, “Good.” So, he says, “I didn’t know how you’d feel about it.” I says, “What do you mean?” “Well,” he says, “I’m a Democrat, and you’re a Republican.” I says, “What difference does that make?” I says, “You were born and raised here. You know most of the people who come in here, and .you’ve got good common sense and I know you’ll do a good job.” And we got along lovely. With that, I’m going to turn you over to Mr. Saunders, who later became the postmaster in Calais for about - what, 22 or 23 years?

Sammy Saunders: 20 years.

Jack Dudley: 20 years.

Sammy Saunders: Well thank you, Your Honor. Thank you. I really enjoyed working with him. Jack, (indistinct words) he really educated me. You know, I didn’t know anything about law or anything, but Jack had a lot of faith in me. He put me in there and I really, really enjoyed it. You know I enjoy his wife tremendously. She’s an awful nice person. She called me the other day and she wanted to know if I would speak out here, and she said, “Sam, you can speak on any item that you think that you are qualified to speak on, you know. That still gave me a hell of a big field, didn’t it. (Indistinct words) I could speak on old post cards, old two holers, or pigeons. I had to decide well what was it going to be between those three - what I would speak on, and so I was lying in bed there and I looked over on my dresser and I had some little statues there or sculptures and - of animals that are pretty - well, they’re legendary animals and they’re something probably you all know more about them than I do but I thought, “Hell, these cost me five hundred dollars and if I can go out and put a few people through a half hour’s misery, you’ll get five hundred dollars worth of information from me, see.” Which is about what it’s worth. So I decided to speak on these animals that have been down through the ages, you know, and things have been told about them and wrote about them, and we wonder whether they’re creatures - if they ever did wander this - walk on this earth or whether they were just imagined - man’s imagination that they came. Who knows? But then, like everything else, anything that you have that you get attached to, people will exaggerate terribly on what these - well even - even locally, you know. We had a - we had a man in Calais. Most people living will remember Howard Hayman? Howard was known as the strongest man in the - in the - in the city, you know, and he did perform some great feats of strength, you know, but they exaggerate on it. Take for instance - I worked for the Board of Transportation. That was a great thing for people to come into there. It was warm in there in the winter time, and it was cool in there in the summer time. And, so every character in Calais some time or other found his way to the Board of Transportation. I was working as a dispatcher there, and I got to know a lot of these characters. So, Howard came in this one day. He was always coming in and taking his fist and pounding off boards or going over and lifting the block of a car that had been taken out there to be repaired. And, this day he came in and there was a little piece of quarter inch iron laying on the bench there and he picked it up and - he just had one arm, you know, and he put it in the stub like that and he whirled it around and made a hoop out of this iron. Well, you know by the time that story got on the streets, that little piece of iron turned out to be a crowbar. So, that’s how they exaggerate. Another one was Jack Waycott. Everyone remembers Jack Waycock. He was kind of a nice character in Calais. Jack would work diligently. He always had a horse and wagon. He would do odd jobs. He’d dicker and he was pretty saving. He never wasted any money, until he went on a bat. About every - twice a year Jack would go on a bat, you know, and he’d spend every cent he had. They made - oh exaggerated terribly on what he spent, you know. How much money Jack had spent while he was on this drunk. Well now, to give you an idea of how he - he came down one day and he showed me a bank book. He had a hundred and fifty odd dollars in the bank and he was going to go on a bat, and so he was going to go up and he was going to draw it all out and he brought it down and he gave me fifty dollars, and he said I want you to hold that for me. Don’t give it to me until I get straightened around. But, by the time that story got to Milltown, that 50 - that 150 dollars - it had come up to 15 hundred. So you see how people - then another one was Kitty Carter. You all must remember Kitty Carter. Kitty Carter was one of the fastest walkers and could do fractions quicker than any man I ever saw, you know. But, every time - Kitty worked in the woods and whenever he wanted to, he’d take off and he’d walk. He’d never ride, never get a ride or anything. He’d walk in to Calais, and they were always telling about how long it took Kitty to get here or there, and finally, you know, every time they’d tell the story, they’d put Kitty another mile back in the woods. Finally, they had him up so that he could beat John R. Frame by even trotting the mile. (John R. Frame was a trotting horse) Kitty could walk faster. And, that’s how they exaggerate - that’s the way they’ve exaggerated most of these creatures of the ages, you know, that’s come along. And, so, I just wanted to give you this to show you that these animals could exist but maybe not with all the fancy and things that were attached to them. You take - you’ve all read about King Arthur, of course. King Arthur and - -

Woman: And the round table.

Sammy Saunders: The round table. Yes. Well, you know, King Arthur was - actually he did exist, but do you believe, you know, that when he was - well, it was what, around 500, wasn’t it that King Arthur, he - he protected the British against the invasion of the Saxons, and he was a great warrior and he kept peace there for so many years. But, they say the way he got to be king was that he drew a sword out of a - it was imbedded in granite, you know, and he was the only man that was able to pull it out. But, still that wasn’t the sword that made him invisible in battle - the sword that he - I think they called it Excalibur or something - that it was given him by the Lady of the Lake, you know. This mysterious Lady of the Lake gave him this sword that made him invisible, and then he went on to be a great king and he kept peace in the country there for so many years. But, then his wife, Geneva - Geneva I think was his wife, and she had a love affair with Sir Lancelot, and that caused a civil war and where his son mortally wounded King Arthur, and he turned around and he murdered - he killed his son but they buried him in Avalon. And people believed at that time that King Arthur would come back to - to save the British if there was ever any dire peril or anything that the British needed - that King Arthur was coming back to - So these are things, I mean, that they attach to these things, but although King Arthur actually did live, I don’t believe that all these magical things happened to him. So that’s the way it is with these little creatures that I have here of fantasy and I just wanted to show them to you. These things cost me $500.00 to get these little items and they’re very fragile. In fact they - they are sold on a thing - you know you pay $62.50 every month and every two months you get a - you get one. Well, my first one arrived and it was the - it was the

Jane Dudley: Would you like a card table - would it be better?

Sammy Saunders: No, this is fine.

Jane Dudley: It’s awful to make you bend over like that.

Sammy Saunders: I had a tag here for the first one - the unicorn. See the first one I got was this unicorn. Of course, my wife is really something else, you know. She’s got to be cleaning and fussing all the time and I hadn’t had the unicorn three days before she was dusting it and knocked it over and broke its horn off. So, I had that stuck on there. So, if you handle anything please be careful. The other one came and had his claw hooked up in the package and it broke the claw off. Anyway, these things were sold on - that they would be a great collector’s item, you see, and I was to - any time that I wanted to turn them back in, I could turn them back in for the purchase price. Well, of course my - there was bound to be a collector’s item. There was only 5,000 of these made and they would become a collector’s item. Well, mine is valueless because it was broken, you see, and so they will never be of any value except to me. But, - -Millie Winckle: What material are they made of, Sammy?

Sammy Saunders: Well, they’re - they’re sculptors’ metal and they’re covered with 24 karat gold. So, they are pretty. But, there is quite a legend to all these - does anyone here think they can name the - name the four of them?

Millie Winckle: There’s Pegasus over here on this side.

Man: There’s Pegasus.

Millie Winckle: This is Pegasus, isn’t it? Over here? The winged horse? Right here? Isn’t that Pegasus?

Sammy Saunders: Yes. That’s Pegasus. Pe-gah-sis, I call him. (Emphasis on the middle syllable.) Anybody else know one? Surely you know the unicorn.

Millie Winckle: I can’t see that one. Is it the Phoenix?

Sammy Saunders: The Phoenix, yes. This one here is the Phoenix. And, this one here, does anyone know what that one is?

Woman: Uh, I do and I don’t.

Sammy Saunders: The Gryphon. Well, that’s what I’m going to talk on. Of course I was going to try - a couple of things I was going to talk on Old Rum-Bottles, you know. Everybody makes collections, you know, and those Jim Beam collections. Did anybody ever make a collection of Jim Beam bottles? (Women murmuring “oh my,” etc.) Well, I have quite a collection of Jim Beam’s bottles and I thought well, I could talk on that, but then I thought well, no I better not talk on - so I thought I’d bring that out to my hostess as she’s been very sweet to me and I thought, well there - and there’s a little tag on there, Jane, and for five dollars you can send in and find out all about Jim Beam bottles that I know. You can be just as smart as I am. Then you can (indistinguishable words).

Frank Fenlason: Did you empty it before you brought it out?

Sammy Saunders: Yes, I emptied it.

Jane Dudley: When we have our historical society building, we’ll give it a place of honor.

Sammy Saunders: Well, you know these - we don’t know whether these animals actually existed or not because they - in early history, prehistoric history - they make reference to these animals all through history, you see. But, elaborate on them, what they could do. And, it’s not too far fetched to thing that they at one time may have existed. You take the passenger pigeons. Anyone know about the passenger pigeons. Right here in the United States, you know thousands and thousands of these passenger pigeons used to migrate back and forth each year. Now, there’s no passenger pigeons at all because they have just been - people - they say that there were just so many passenger pigeons that they said whenever they would pass over a place it would shut out the sun, and they would land in places and people shot them and fed them to their hogs, and just killed them. And, I often - so, I had to get pigeons into it, anyway. So, I have got a picture of a - of a passenger pigeon, you see, and you’d never see one of those now, but they did exist on this world one time. They did - did come in this country, and they’ve been swept out. So, that’s just the way things go. That’s why I want to kind of take up about this - I’ve got to kind of keep reading here because I don’t know too much about them, only just what I’ve got, so I thought we could have a little discussion of something that would be interesting to all, and so in the writing of this one they say “I am known to be illusive. It has been said however if you catch me and grip on my wondrous horn, you will be rewarded with eternal life.” Now, do you know which one that would be?

Woman: The unicorn.

Sammy Saunders: That would be the unicorn, right there, yes. Now there are fabulous stories about the unicorn, you know. And, he’s a - and with one half - and with one horned horses and things, there’s been quite a thing. The earliest description in Greek literature was by Theseus in 400 BC and he described the animal as being - the animal was the size of a horse and white body, purple head and blue eyes. On his forehead was a cubit long horn colored red at the pointed tip. Back in the middle - and white at the base and believed - and it was believed by the early Christians that it was a symbol of love. You know, so even the Christians adapted the - adopted the unicorn as their symbol of love. In China - in China it was a chi’ lin. It was a dragon-horse, and there’s a lot of Chinese literature on the unicorn. So, you wonder how they would ever come up to draw such an animal if it never existed, see. Or whether an animal existed and people just added to what it could be because of their love for the animal. Now, then there was the phoenix. This is the phoenix here. It’s a beautiful bird, and - and you wonder, but the story of the phoenix was back in the ancient Egypt. In Egypt, and they believed that only one phoenix ever existed at one time. And, he lived for 500 years, and at the end of 500 years, when he approached death, he was a - he’d go to a - to a pole, was it - to the Kingdom of the Sun and there on top of the holy temple he’d build a nest of spice boughs and then King Ra would ignite - in a big ceremony they would ignite the nest and the bird would burn up, but out of his own ashes another phoenix would appear, and he’d live for another 500 years. So that there was a big ceremony ever 1000 years. They’d have a big ceremony in the juvenile - in the - and rejuvenate the phoenix. So you see it’s pretty legendary there that the phoenix. And, it was - they say in the role of the phoenix, “I was born in the Garden of Eden under the tree of knowledge where the first rose of the world bloomed. God kissed me and gave me my true name, Poetry.” All poets, and everything, have adapted this as a symbol of their - knowledge is the Phoenix. And, if you know in - in China and Japan, they have a bird that they call the Phoenix. A beautiful bird and it has a great long tail and they have big cages up so high so that the tail won’t hang down and they do their tails up and the idea is to have the tail of enormous length to - anybody that wanted to raise these and show them would have the cleanest. Well, you know, they brought them to America, and you know what Americans do when they finally get a hold of anything, they change it all around. Well, what they did was cross it with the leghorn, the silver leghorn and it was really known as the Phoenix. It was a beautiful bird, but it’s tail stood up and then came down where in Japan it was only as if - seemed to have no rump but a big long tail, and it was more practical in the United States. And, I had a trio of them at one time, and it was the most beautiful birds that I ever owned. They were just hens, roosters and hens, but they were the most colorful and beautiful birds that I ever had. And you will always know - for some strange reason the male of a species is always the most beautiful. Right? Except in human beings. I don’t know why that is, but Adam was always the - the male of the species is always the - the most beautiful, and the female is always the most dead looking.

Woman: She has to hide herself.

Sammy Saunders: Yes. So, that’s the story of the Phoenix. All right, then we come to this legendary one, the creature that is the Griffin. Now the Griffin was thought to be the most fearsome creature of all the - of all of them. He was supposed to have a - the body of a lion, the wings, and the beak, and the claws of an eagle. And, it was - let’s see, the Greeks believed the Griffin to be a forerunner - a furious monster of awesome height who fed humans to his - to his young. He was so large that a man could make drinking vessels from his claws. The Griffin dwelt in the land between North Land people and the Mongolians, and the one-eyed tribe of Scythian, often called upon by the gods to guard their treasures or draw the chariot of the sun across the sky. The Griffin was the sworn enemy of horses and one-eyed Scythians who were robbers and thieves. Now, they write about the - the Griffin - was a - I have drawn the chariot of the sun and sometimes those of Jupiter. I am the eternal vigilant - a fierce guardian of gold and treasure. Now, back - back in those days, the - the warriors would have a picture of a Griffin on their - on their armor and everything. It was supposed to be such a fierce fighter and everything that they adopted the Griffin as a shield and for their fighting strength. And, it became quite evident back in the - prominent back in the eleventh and thirteenth century and it was thought that a pair of Griffins would haul the chariot of the sun. So, you see the exaggerations and things that they did with these animals. Now, we come to the Pe-gah-sus - how do you pronounce it, the - I pronounce it Pe-gah-sus. What do you say?

Woman: What is it?

Frank Fenderson: Pegasus.

Sammy Saunders: Pegasus. Pegasus.

Woman: Pegasus.

Sammy Saunders: Pegasus. All right. And, it says, “With a stomp of my hoof I could cause the flow of Hippocrene, the fountain of muses on Mount Helicon, thus I am believed by poets and artists through all time.” Now, the - this is the most gentle of all the fabled animals - was the - was this animal right here. I always called him Pe-gah-sus.

Jane Dudley: Why don’t you just call it what you were calling it.

Sammy Saunders: Yes, and he was - comes from Greek mythology, and he was caught and tamed by - by Athena. It was presented to the muses and kept north - in North Corinth. Hearing of the flying horse’s wondrous powers, the Corinthian folk hero of Bellerophon (indistinct word) tried to catch the goddess and failed. (Indistinct words) He slept in the temple of Athens and there the goddess appeared to him with a - with a magic bridle and with this - remained there when he awoke and after he awoke this bridle was there and with the bridle he was able to catch Pegasus and put the bridle on him and ride him. And, it was this - this Bellerophon was a great hero in Greek mythology and he - he slew the animal Chimera. The Chimera was another wild beast, you know, and if I read right, Chimera was a lion with two heads. He had the head of a goat and the tail of a serpent. So, you what imagination - fantasy these people had - must of had in those days. But, he was supposed to have killed this - this animal with the aid of Pegasus. Well, Pegasus - then he tried to reach the Mount Olympus but was thrown from Pegasus and Pegasus went on to make it to Olympus and there he was carrier - became the (indistinct word) horse of Jove, and he had these lightning bolts and everything was supposed to be carried by Pegasus. Pegasus was the - became the symbol of poets (indistinct words) and the emblem of the creative arts. So you see, poets and things get a hold of things like this and they are bound to exaggerate on them. You take in Russia. There’s a painting in Russia which is supposed to have miraculous fame, and the most famous of all Russian paintings, you know, the Virgin of Landemer - Landemer - Vandemer, and it was painted in the early 12th century and actually in Russia they do have this painting and they revere this painting because it was supposed to save Russia on three different occasions. And, one of the occasions was when Napoleon invaded the - Russia in 1812. By the - this Virgin picture was supposed to have been the thing that saved Russia. So you see the thing about these is that they may have existed and they could have existed but poets and things get along - and then they attach so much of this fantasy to them that it’s pretty hard to believe that anything - but it’s not to hard to believe that animals such as this may at one time existed, because we know that prehistoric animals have existed and they’ve found bones of them and created animals that we never believed were on this earth but they were on this earth. And, so that is just a little piece of history that I thought maybe you might enjoy better than you would me talking about pigeons. (Applause) Thank you very much. If anyone wants to examine these - they can look at them and everything, but I just hope they would pick them up by the bottom and don’t handle them too much because they are pretty fragile.

Millie Winckle: Sammy, could I see your pictures of - that thing that came with your horse.

Sammy Saunders: Yes.

Millie Winckle: Thank you.

Jane Dudley: Thank you very, very much, Sammy. It’s just been a real joy to hear all this.

Woman: An education.

Jane Dudley: Yes, an education.