A John Gould Sampler

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Essayist John Gould, shown here at a 2002 luncheon held in his honor, was first published in The Christian Science Monitor on Oct. 22, 1942.

He was a farmer, a furnituremaker, a newspaper editor, a best-selling author, a town-meeting moderator, a licensed Maine guide. He wrote speeches for Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who often stopped by his house, and mentored a teenaged Stephen King. Mr. Gould was sent to postwar Germany on a mission for the U.S. State Department and, according to Gould, told L.L. “Lin” Bean that he should start a mail-order catalog. 

But what he’s best known for among longtime readers of The Christian Science Monitor are the remarkable columns he wrote every week for six decades. They attracted a devoted following then, and will still amply reward new readers today. 

As we mark the 80th anniversary of Mr. Gould’s first essay in the Monitor, on Oct. 22, 1942, we hope to entice or remind readers with a taste of the Gould oeuvre. The columns linked here are available at no charge to Monitor subscribers. His books are harder to come by, but some have been recently republished. His wife’s timeless and authentic recipe for Maine baked beans is yours to make and savor anytime, however. We’ve also unearthed a video of Mr. Gould’s appearance on a popular TV game show, “To Tell the Truth,” from 1964 (see link at the end). Enjoy!

– Owen Thomas, editor, The Home Forum

Table of contents

  1. An annotated list of columns, curated by Gail Russell Chaddock
  2. Audio recordings from 1962 of John Gould reading four of his Monitor essays
  3. An annotated list of John Gould’s 30 books
  4. Dottie Gould’s recipe for Maine baked beans
  5. Mr. Gould’s appearance on “To Tell the Truth,” 1964

Annotated list of select columns

These first five essays were reprinted together in 2002 for the 60th anniversary of Mr. Gould’s first Monitor column.
Note: This piece includes a tantalizing link to an audio transcript that is no longer active. 

  1. “Buck-saws and Christmas trees,” Mr. Gould’s first column, which appeared in the Monitor dated Oct. 21, 1942. What’s wrong with painting your silo like a huge barber pole? Or making your buck-saw out of black walnut with carved rosettes? Not a thing. 
  2. “The missing fork,” 1959. Dottie Gould misplaces her prized three-tined kitchen fork, and nothing has been right since. Monitor readers worldwide responded with scores of three-tined forks.
  3. “That one-time simplicity,” 1962. Good simple food, such as creamed dried beef on boiled potatoes, with a good pat of butter, is now priced out of sight. An excellent reason to become a millionaire.
  4. “Going to haul,” 1972. On getting up at 2:45 a.m. with a lobsterman to haul 65 lobster traps out of 30 fathoms of water – once. Turns out a farmer’s life isn’t so bad.
  5. “When fire engines clanged and whinnied,” 1998. A 6-year-old’s view of steam engines, fire horses, and a three-day fire in Salem. Now we are all 6. (Also available on the Monitor website.)  

These other selected essays can also be found on the Monitor’s online archive.

  1. Take my advice,” 1980. John Gould knows a thing or two about axes, kerosene lamps, and butter-churning. If only Hollywood would heed his offer to help them get it right!”
  2. Sorting out the p’s and q’s,” 1986. How words from lead-type composing rooms found a life beyond the print shop. Ever been “out of sorts”? Read on!
  3. Grandpa Gould’s very own version of Gettysburg,” 1996. John Gould knew the stories, told and retold, of Civil War veterans who served with Maine’s greatest war hero. But did Gen. Joshua Chamberlain really save the battle of Gettysburg astride a white horse? Best last line in a Gould column.  
  4. The cookie of choice for aunts and lumberjacks,” 1997. All you need to know about finding the right m’larrses for the greatest cookie ever invented.  
  5. A train that filled our field with dreams,” 1998. An amazing tale about a Pullman porter, a moving train, a kids’ baseball game, and an astonishing catch. John Gould reassured his editor that it was all true.  
  6. Your vicarious retreat to the Maine woods,” 1999. Spending a day in deep woods with Gould, a pileated woodpecker, and a fearless gorby. (Read this column aloud, just for the sound of the words.)   
  7. My classic advice to would-be writers,” 2001. Reading Homer in the Greek is not bad advice for a would-be writer.  Nor is learning to spell. But first you’ve got to catch a reader.   
  8. The Halifax disaster, seen from a railway post office,” 2001. An account of the nonstop mercy run from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the night of a massive munitions explosion on Dec. 6, 1917.  
  9. Whatever happened to Aunt Nell’s blueberries?” 2003. What happens when an aunt, who should know better, reneges on a promise to share her blueberries with a kid who would grow up to write columns for an international newspaper.  
  10. How to bake bread – no mittens required,” 2003. Food chez-Gould isn’t about recipes – it’s about home, neighboring, or, in this case, feeding hard-driving river hogs for the Great Northern Paper Company.   

John Gould reads four of his essays, 1962

Our thanks to the Monitor’s communications manager, Greg Fitzgerald, for locating these previously unknown recordings of Mr. Gould, courtesy of the Pacifica Radio Archives in North Hollywood, California. We have no context for them; we don’t know why Mr. Gould made them or to what end. But we’re glad to have them to share.

Grandma’s Pantry

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In a sign of those times, Mr. Gould reflects on a “Grandma’s pantry” campaign urging people to have food stores on hand for their fallout shelters. In Mr. Gould’s view, folks would be eating much better if they truly followed grandma’s example. Pacifica Radio Archives

Pennies and people

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What transpired when a beleaguered merchant brought a bucket of pennies into the bank for deposit, thanks to a then-new 2% sales tax in Maine. Pacifica Radio Archives

Long pants, and longer memories

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Listen to Mr. Gould relate Soviet fashion dictates for men to his boyhood $14 bespoke suit – the one he had to continue to wear (even as he grew and the suit did not) until he’d worn out both pairs of pants that had come with it. Pacifica Radio Archives

Getting a line on fish talk

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Mr. Gould attends a respectable lecture at his alma mater, Bowdoin College, on talking fish Pacifica Radio Archives

Annotated list of books

John Gould’s 30 books include novels, essay collections, history (more or less), autobiography (pretty much), and – always – humor. Some have been recently reprinted, others are difficult to find.

  1. “New England Town Meeting: Safeguard of Democracy” (Stephen Days Press, 1940, with photographs by the author). This slim (61 pages) book explores the character of democracy in action at the local level.
  2. “Pre-natal Care for Fathers” (Stephen Days Press 1941; William Morrow, 1946; Down East Books, 2017). “A nonmedical, nontechnical, nonscientific explanation of the masculine side of the matter,” says the title page, “with much that is useful and nothing that is wholly useless.”
  3. “Farmer Takes a Wife” (William Morrow, 1945). How Gould plucked his wife, Dorothy, out of Boston and planted her on a Maine farm. Reprinted essays from The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times Magazine, and the Baltimore Evening Sun. It was a bestseller.
  4. “The House That Jacob Built” (William Morrow, 1947; Literary Licensing LLC, 2012). The story of the Gould family farmstead in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and how Mr. Gould restored it himself. Reprinted essays from The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times Magazine, and The Lisbon Enterprise. 
  5. “And One to Grow On: Recollections of a Maine Boyhood” (William Morrow, 1949; Down East Books, 2020). Gould recalls growing up in Freeport, Maine.
  6. “Neither Hay Nor Grass” (William Morrow, 1951; Down East Books, 2020). Twenty-eight humorous tales.
  7. “The Fastest Hound Dog in the State of Maine,” with F. Wenderoth Saunders. (William Morrow, 1953; Down East Books, 2021).  Mainer buys a dog and tries to take it home on the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad.
  8. “Monstrous Depravity: A Jeremiad and a Lamentation” [About Things to Eat] (William Morrow, 1963; Down East Books, 2021). Celebrating the food of the past and bemoaning the food of the present, complete with recipes for custard pies to clambakes.
  9. “The Parables of Peter Partout” (Little, Brown, 1964). Fictional letters from Peter Partout of Peppermint Corner, Maine, to the editor of the Lisbon Enterprise.
  10. “You Should Start Sooner; in Which Widely Separated Topics Are Strangely Discussed by an Old Cuss” (Little, Brown, 1965). Fifty collected essays from The Christian Science Monitor. Foreword by Monitor editor (and fellow Mainer) Erwin D. Canham.
  11. “Last One In: Tales of a New England Boyhood, a Gently Pleasing Dip Into a Cool, Soothing Pool of the Not-So-Long-Ago, So to Speak” (Little Brown, 1966; Down East, 1979). More of Gould’s Maine boyhood; dedicated to his grandson Willy.
  12. “Europe on Saturday Night: The Farmer and His Wife Take a Trip” (William Morrow, 1968; Down East, Books, 1979 and 2016). John and Dorothy travel through Europe in a VW Beetle.
  13. “The Jonesport Raffle, and Numerous Other Maine Veracities” (Little, Brown, 1969; Down East Books, 2017). Tales of Maine, from 16th-century fishing camps to the lumberjack days. “Much of it true, but some of it isn’t,” Gould notes.
  14. “Twelve Grindstones: or, A Few More Good Ones, Being Another Cultural Roundup of Maine Folklore, Sort of, Although Not Intended to Be Definitive, and Perhaps not so Cultural, Either” (Little, Brown, 1970; Down East Books, 2019). “Anecdotes, tales, jests, and other Maine apocrypha,” from blueberry picking and prison reform to smart dogs.
  15. “The Shag Bag: More Stuff from Maine” (Little, Brown, 1972; Down East, 1979). Some “magnificently renewed and embellished” columns from The Christian Science Monitor and the Baltimore Evening Sun.
  16. “Glass Eyes by the Bottle: Some Conversations About Some Conversation Pieces” (Little, Brown, 1975). Forty-four “conversation pieces” of wit, nostalgia, and Maine folklore.
  17. “Maine Lingo: Boiled Owls, Billdads & Wazzats,” with Lillian Ross (Down East, 1975 and 2015). A compendium of Maine regional language.
  18. “This Trifling Distinction: Reminiscences From Down East” (Little, Brown, 1978). Stories about the Gould clan. Tall tales and heroes roam freely.
  19. “Next Time Around: Some Things Pleasantly Remembered” (W.W. Norton, 1983). Reminiscences “by a man who would make only a few changes here and there if he had his life to live over.”
  20. “No Other Place” (W.W. Norton, 1984). Gould’s first novel. It concerns Jabez Knight, his family, and “above all his daughter, Elzada” in pre-Revolutionary War New England.
  21. “Stitch in Time” (W.W. Norton, 1985). Humorous short stories about the inhabitants of a Maine village.
  22. “The Wines of Pentagoet” (W.W. Norton, 1986). The saga of Elzada Knight continues, taking up where “No Other Place” left off.
  23. “Old Hundredth” (W.W. Norton, 1987). Dedicated to Gould’s mother, Hilda D.J. Gould, on her 100th birthday. Fifty-one tales about life in Maine.
  24. “There Goes Maine!: A Somewhat History, Sort of, of the Pine Tree State” (W.W. Norton, 1990). Maine’s history, Gould-style.
  25. “Funny About That” (W.W. Norton, 1992). Short humorous stories, collected mostly from his previous books. Many of them first appeared in The Christian Science Monitor.
  26. “It Is Not Now: Tales of Maine” (W.W. Norton, 1993; Down East Books, 2021). Fifty humorous tales.
  27. “Dispatches From Maine, 1942-1992” (W.W. Norton, 1994). Fifty years of selected columns from The Christian Science Monitor.
  28. “Maine’s Golden Road: a Memoir” (W.W. Norton, 1995). Narrative of the retreats that Gould and his daughter’s father-in-law made over the years.
  29. “Our Croze Nest: A Morning River Farm Story” (Blackberry Books, 1997). His third novel completes Elzada Knight’s story and “brings us into today, when summer people have discovered Down East.”
  30. “Tales From Rhapsody Home: or, What They Don’t Tell You About Senior Living” (Algonquin Books, 2000). A fictionalized, humorous-but-pointed look at living in a retirement home.

Dottie Gould’s baked beans 

(with tweaks from daughter Kathy)

1 pound bag of dry Jacob’s Cattle beans, if you can find them. But if not, any dried white bean will suffice.
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
½ cup dark molasses (or more)
¼ cup brown sugar
White sugar (a smidgen)
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. dry mustard
¾ tsp. dry ginger
¼ lb. salt pork, ½ lb. if it has some lean

1.   The night before, rinse and pick over beans. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water to a depth of about two inches. Let stand overnight. 

2.   In the morning, drain and rinse beans. Put in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil. 

3.   Cut onion in half and put halves in the bottom of a two-quart lidded casserole or, better, a bean pot. Drain beans and put them into the casserole/bean pot.    

4.   Add salt (if desired), dark molasses, brown and white sugar, dry mustard, baking soda, and ginger. Put salt pork on top. (It helps to deeply score the pork, making half-inch squares.)

5.   Fill pot with heated water to just cover beans. Bake all day in a slow oven (250 degrees Fahrenheit). Check the beans occasionally and, if needed, top up with boiling water. Uncover the pot one hour before serving, to crisp and brown the pork. Serves six.

“To Tell the Truth”

Mr. Gould was featured in the third segment of the Jan. 20, 1964 episode of the game show “To Tell the Truth.” Note that social sensibilities have changed significantly since then, and that John utters perhaps a dozen words altogether. Evidently, he was not very convincing at playing himself. You’ll see. Fast forward to about the 16:45 mark for John Gould’s appearance.

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