Bill Tracy Reflects on Growing up in Calais in New Book

Bill Tracy recently published a collection of his stories related to growing up in Down East Maine and serving as a paratrooper in the Army. The stories include many characters of the extended Calais area. (Submitted photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

If you’re from the Calais area and of a certain age, you’ve probably heard of Bill Tracy. The name belongs to two men; Bill Tracy, Sr. was a devoted policeman in Calais and in Woodland for nearly two decades, while his son graduated from Calais Memorial High School in 1973 and would go on to serve in the Army as a paratrooper. Now, the younger Bill Tracy has finally done what his many friends have been after him to do for years – he has released a book that compiles a collection of stories about growing up in Down East Maine.

Born in 1955 in St. Stephen, as nearly all babies were at the time due to a lack of a sufficient hospital in Calais, Tracy grew up during a time when the community was vibrant from the exuberance of the Baby Boomer generation. Neighborhood stores lined the streets, and many of the grand old buildings downtown – including the Post Office – still existed. “I was very lucky to be raised in Calais at that point in time,” Tracy recalls.

Growing up with a police officer for a father was an experience in itself. “He had seen the worst of teenagers, so he was very lenient in some ways,” Tracy said, explaining how his father had never given him a hard time about the long hair that he preferred to wear. There were some inconveniences that would later prove to be advantages for Tracy’s character, too. “My friends could always con their fathers. With me, there was no way. He had heard every teenage lie, so I was honest with him.”

Tracy developed a close bond with his classmates at school. “My classmates and I were family,” Tracy said. “We literally grew up together. I love all of them, just like I love the St. Croix Valley and its people.”

After graduating, Tracy went to Alabama for a year before returning to Calais and joining the Army in the mid-1970s. In the post-Vietnam era, military personnel were not regarded kindly by many. “We were scorned,” Tracy said. “In 1978, I was actually refused a restaurant seat in Logan airport in uniform!” Since then, the popular perception has dramatically shifted. Tracy’s son is in the service, and he has a completely different experience while in public. “It’s like sitting at the table with Frank Sinatra or something,” Tracy joked. “People coming up, shaking his hand, paying for the food. It’s fantastic.”

Aside from his experiences jumping out of airplanes in the Army as part of the 82nd Airborne Division and his military training and qualifications in desert, jungle, arctic, and mountain survival, the book includes many local characters from the Down East Maine region. Jay Hinson, former editor of the Calais Advertiser is among them, as well as Eddie Boyd, and many, many more. “The stories are all true life,” Tracy said. “I have had an interesting life, and I thank God for it twice a day. 

Tracy credits his wife, Rhonda (Erskine) Tracy for helping him assemble the book. “People have been bugging me for years to do a book. If it wasn’t for my wife, the book would never have gotten done, period!” he asserts. Rhonda performed all the formatting work necessary to publish the work.

Bill Tracy’s book, “The Talking Part is Over,” is now available on Amazon. It has been very well received based on comments from readers on Facebook. For those interested in a signed copy, Tracy is planning on coming to the area in January to conduct a book signing.