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Pulpwood, potatoes and patriotism

ST. FRANCIS, Maine – Lucien Jandreau turned 90 last month. Although he is now “the oldest man in town,” Jandreau is known and respected for much more than his longevity. Jandreau is an ex-Marine, a woodworker, a canoe builder, an artist, and a family man.

Lucien Jandreau of St. Francis

Lucien Jandreau of St. Francis

In a recent interview, Jandreau spoke all about his life from his short, formal education to the time he now spends working in his workshop.

After graduating seventh grade, Jandreau headed to the woods. At a time when there were no chainsaws or machines to haul logs out of the forest, he recalls the hard work and dedication the men had in the woods. While speaking, he pointed out some of the one- and two-man bucksaws he used, preserved and mounted in his workshop.

During the wood harvesting off seasons, Jandreau used to hand pick potatoes for the many local farmers. The growers, he said, were paying as much as a quarter a barrel.

“That was good money back then,” he recalled. His whole family would drive away for weeks at a time to pick and come back with their earnings to support one another.

The previous record for number of barrels filled in a day was 140. He thought to himself, “I can beat that.” So he had a friend build him a special large wicker basket. The next day, with the ambition and determination he still has today, he pulled in 164 barrels, blowing the previous record out of the water. Jandreau joked, “That put some coin in the pocket!”

After a few seasons of cutting pulp and picking potatoes and at the ripe age of 18, he voluntarily enlisted to serve with the United States Marine Corps in “the big war.”

“I went in in ‘44, did my basic training, then on October 30, we got on board ship to go overseas.” Jandreau went to Hawaii for a brief period before “boarding ship” again bound for Iwo Jima, Japan.

“The city had been cut to pieces,” he remembers. He and his fellow servicemen went in as replacements after they had trained for “about a month or so.”

Jandreau's war memorabilia, framed and hanging above his St. Francis wood burning workshop.

Jandreau’s war memorabilia, framed and hanging above his St. Francis wood burning workshop.

“We were [on boat] about two weeks away when they dropped the atomic bombs,” he said. “We went in as an invasion force, but it turned out more as an occupation force.” He saw very few people. Most of the natives ran into the mountains to hide, according to Jandreau. After a while, he recalls, most civilians made their way back to the rubble and became friendly with his occupation force.

After a brief time in the Marshall Islands, Jandreau boarded ship yet again for what he thought was the United States, but actually turned out to be Guam where he, unknowingly, got reassigned to the 5th Marine Regiment and shipped to China.

While in China, Jandreau often volunteered to take train tours that lasted weeks. The purpose of his division being there was to protect infrastructure and bridges. He toured China, helped, and became friendly with the locals for eight months before making his way back to the States.

“I had no reason to hate these people,” he said, showing his true kind nature. “It’s just our governments didn’t get along.”

After a total of three years in the service, Jandreau returned home and married his wife, Ida. They will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary next year. While living with his parents, he had his house built just yards down the road. He and Ida have nine children and 17 grandchildren.

A cabin Lucien Jandreau built himself out behind his St. Francis home.

A cabin Lucien Jandreau built himself out behind his St. Francis home.

Running logs down the St. John and Allagash rivers was another job of Jandreau’s. He participated in the last log drives in northern Maine.

“We used to blow up the dams with dynamite. You know how dynamite works? It’s pretty powerful stuff.”

The mills, he said, used to be the whole economy of little towns like Madawaska and Van Buren. Jandreau cut logs until he was 45, then decided he wanted a less manual job and took a job with David Sinclair at a start-up mill which was bought out by Irving five years later. He supervised the mill until he retired at the age of 65 for a life of hunting, fishing, and woodworking.

These days, Jandreau is still living in the same house he raised his family in and spends most of his time carving and woodburning different projects. He is known around The Valley as the go-to man for paddles and wooden canoe repairs. His workshop is filled with handmade cabinets, paddles, wood burned landscape scenes, and family.

Some of his children live nearby, visiting almost daily.

“Family support is the most important thing.”

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