Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Retired Hartland teacher-coach publishes first book

  HARTLAND – Charlie Wing of Hartland has worn many hats over the years, including three decades of teaching in School Administrative District 48 – now RSU 19 – and coaching five different sports in three school systems.
  Now, he’s Charlie Wing, author of “Spoons’ Spoons,” a biography of Theodore Edouard “Spoons” Michaud of Brewer, a colorful character Wing met while working at his latest post-retirement job: a parking valet at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bangor.
  Wing met Michaud, who is now 88, about five years ago when he came to the Bangor hospital for medical treatment. “We started chatting, and he told me some incredible stories. To be truthful, I thought he was full of b.s. at first. But as it turned out, they were the truth,” Wing recalled.
  After suggesting to Michaud that someone should write a book about his colorful escapades, Wing was told, “Why don’t you do it?” So after two years, “Spoons” is now in print.

  Wing, who turned 70 this year, will celebrate the occasion with a book signing on Saturday, June 23 at the Hartland Public Library from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  Michael Alpert, director of University of Maine Press, described Wing as a “serious author devoted to his subject. His honesty, intelligence, and enthusiasm were impressive.”
   Alpert said that since he is a taxpayer-funded publisher, he was more than willing to give Wing some free assistance. “Charlie chose a hardcover book with a dust jacket. (But) Charlie does not have a background in graphic design, so the printer called me to ask for further help. I was happy to design the dust jacket, which I did after work hours,” Alpert said.
  The intriguing title of the book came from Michaud’s expertise in playing musical spoons, a talent he learned literally by accident. While playing football in his grammar school days, he was pushed to the ground, his arm went through a hole in the fence and he cut his wrist on an old broken soda bottle. While recuperating, the doctor who treated Michaud recommended that he play with a pair of spoons to strengthen his wrist and make it heal faster.
  Once he realized he could generate a musical rhythm with the spoons, he kept developing the skill and soon became a local celebrity of sorts. “He played with country music artists Freddy Fender, Porter Wagoner when they came to Maine, and even with the Platters when they performed at the Sea Dog Restaurant in Bangor,” Wing said. “I asked him if playing with the Platters – one of the hottest groups of the 1960s – was the highlight of his career. He told me ‘Hell, no! Back in 1941 when I was stationed at Parris Island, I actually got to play with the Harry James band.’ And I don’t doubt it.”
   Michaud’s career in the Marine Corps was short-lived, however, as he was disciplined for returning to his base several days late after visiting his hospitalized father in Maine. “He was discharged early, but that was primarily because he lied about his age and enlisted when he was 17,” Wing said.
  So at age 18, Michaud was back in Maine and started working at a variety of jobs: making salads at a hotel restaurant in Presque Isle, hauling pulpwood from Milford to Howland and working in the bleach room at Penobscot Chemical Fiber Company in Old Town.
  He learned to play golf and made numerous friends with the airline pilots and stewardesses who played on the Bangor-area links during their stopovers in Maine. “Spoon is the only man I’ve ever known personally who recorded a hole-in-one three times,” Wing said. “The last time was in 1998 at Island Green in Holden when he was 75.”
  Michaud, now divorced, gave up golf but still enjoys socializing and having lunch with his son and daughter-in-law on occasion. He lives in an apartment above Cap Morrill’s Restaurant in Brewer, where Wing said is “close to everything he needs. There’s a grocery store across the street, a bus stop nearby and a pub downstairs where he can enjoy an O’Doul’s (non-alcoholic beer) and chat with friends.”
  And just in case there’s music in the pub, Michaud always brings his spoons.
(“Spoons’ Spoons” is on sale at several retail outlets in the Sebasticook Valley region including Bud’s Shop ‘N Save in Newport, Dexter and Pittsfield; Bear’s One Stop in Newport; Sunrise Bakery and Restaurant in St. Albans; and Palmyra Variety.)

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