Kailen and Olive (Curry) Morin, Christmas, 1960 Submitted photo

Kailen Morin, prayer shawl around his shoulders, seated in a rocking chair at the home of Paul and Barbara Gardiner in Avon. Paula Kane

PHILLIPS — Kailen Morin, more familiar to many local folks as “the dump guy”, was recently presented with a hand-crafted prayer shawl as a token of appreciation for the friendly and cheerful assistance he provides for his “customers”. Employed at the Phillips Transfer Station (the politically correct term for the facility on Upper Park Street where most of those in the Phillips area deposit their trash), Kailen can be found there on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., always ready with a helping hand and a pleasant smile.

The idea of the prayer shawl was prompted by a comment made by Kailen to Glennice Cottle one day as she was leaving the drop off area at the transfer station. Glennice had asked after Kailen’s health. Currently recovering from a recent hernia operation, he had missed four days of work and was supposed to have been “taking it easy for six weeks”.

“No more heavy TVs for awhile,” he stated, “That’s what did it in the first place.”

He insisted he was “doin’ good”, then added, “Don’t forget to say a prayer for me.”

Glennice, upon her next visit to the Phillips Community Church/UCC, brought the prayer request to those gathered that Sunday morning. Pastor Susan Tierney suggested the prayer shawl. Church member Sandy Welsh, who crochets shawls, volunteered to provide one.

When she brought it to church, it was passed from hand to hand around the congregation and prayed over. Sandy later delivered it to Kailen at the dump, along with the sentiments of his well-wishers.

“That was a big surprise for me,” Kailen said, “I leave it on my recliner, where I sit all the time…keep it right there for when I need it.”

Some time after that, one day when Barbara Gardiner, yet another member of the Phillips Community Church, happened to be at the transfer station, Kailen had the idea that “this would make a damn good story” – a good community story about people helping people, praying for each other, and keeping an eye out for one another. This is a story about the everyday good deeds that take place behind the scenes, away from the public eye, but which make small town life so wonderful.

“It really is something to crow about,” he declared, “Something to call attention to how the community really depends on each other.”

For his part, Kailen, along with just lending a hand whenever he can, takes pride in saving out the things for which folks have asked him to keep an eye out.

“If you see anything decent,” they’ll say, “give me a call.”

Once, he even saved some old culverts which the ATV Club was able to use for area trail improvements.

“If we don’t hear the stories,” he said, “then nobody knows what’s really happening.”

Then, from the other side of the coin, Barbara expressed the sentiments of everyone from her church, adding, “We’re thankful for his kindness and his willingness to help…There’s more to it than anybody thinks.”

“It’s very interesting, I’ll tell you that!” Kailen declared, referring to the work he does at the transfer station, “And we always have good stuff here.”

He shared a story about one lady who noticed a man driving in with a truckload of “beautiful furniture”.

“You aren’t going to throw that away are you?” she exclaimed.

“I don’t want it,” he answered, “Where do you live? I’ll bring it to your house.”

Calls to mind the old addage, “one man’s trash…”

Even the dogs understand how friendly Kailen is. It seems as if he might be the local “dog whisperer”.

“Every dog likes me, I don’t know why,” he said, “A lot of the dogs of the people who come there, boom, they know right where they are…I can hear them barking right off, when they pass the first gate…”

Another benefactor of Kaelin’s sharp eye has been The Little White Church Antiques.

“I love antiques,” Kailen says, “I’ve found a lot of good things for them to sell over there.”

“He has an eye for what’s good and what isn’t,” Barbara confirmed.

There is an area set aside at the dump for people to leave things. Sometimes somebody will swap something out. Sometimes they just take away the treasure.

“It’s another way for people to help each other,” Kailen pointed out, “That’s the way it should be. Most don’t realize the stuff we give away!”

Kailen lives in Madrid on the Reed’s Mill Road. Born up in Jackman on July 9, 1937, he is 82 years old.

As he tells it, “I came back from Connecticut in ’04…living in Rumford then…still married then… before my wife passed away.”

In 1950, “or something like that”, his father moved the family, which included three brothers and a sister, to Rangeley. That’s where Kailen attended school – and where he met the love of his life, Olive Currie from Eustis.

“I stole the best, good-looking girl in Eustis…it was crazy…”

The two met when Olive, who played on Stratton’s high school basketball team, came to play in Rangeley. Later on, the two small schools – “…only like eight kids…” – joined together for a class trip to Augusta.

“I chased her all the time when we were down there,” Kailen shared, “but on the way back…this is the craziest thing you’ll ever hear…there was another girl sitting down with her before, but she left, so I went down and sat down with (Olive) and we started talking, talking, talking…and it was getting close to Rangeley and I said to her, ‘You know what, you and I are gonna get married some day.”

“She said, ‘No we ain’t! You’re gonna see somebody prettier than I am.’

“I said, ‘Hell, no!’…And that’s the way it went.”

He continued, “So then I liked her more and more. I quit school and went to work in the woods so I could buy a car. Father said if you get out of school then you gotta go to work, so that’s what I did – went to work in the woods, cutting wood.”

When he got enough money he bought a car, and you guessed it, he went to Eustis.

The budding romance was put on hold when Kailen joined the Army in 1956. He served for two years before Olive told him, “If I didn’t come out of the service, forget me…so I came home!”

Here we must digress for a moment to recount an anecdote about two high school mates who joined the service at the same time, but were separated after going through eight weeks of basic training together at Fort Dix. Kailen was sent to Germany and his buddy to Korea. That was the last they saw of each other for 61 years!

As fate would have it, it was a chance encounter that brought about the reunion of the two pals. According to the 2017 article by Winona Davenport in The Irregular, Phillips resident Lisa Haines was chatting with Kailen. It came out that her husband, Sonny, had been at school in Rangeley during the same years as Kailen, though a year ahead of him. Kailen, however, had no recollection of a Sonny Haines.

The next question, “Did you know a Guy Haines?”, was the key to the puzzle. Guy Haines was the fellow who entered the service with Kailen back in 1956. Kailen never knew him as “Sonny”. Come to find out, they’d been living within ten miles of each other for the past several years.

“I’d been driving past his house all the time, all the time,” Kailen now realizes, “Now I stop in to visit sometimes.”

Right before he got out of the Army, Kailen contacted his father and made plans for a brand-new car upon his return.

“There was the old Ford place in Farmington,” Kailen explained, where his father had done business for a long time.

“My father knew (the owner) very well. I told him, go over there and tell him I want a brand-new Ford when I get there.” When he was back in the States, “my father picked me up in Portland and we stopped by and (the dealer) said, “Take your pick.”

“All my money is in Skowhegan,” Kailen responded.”

“He said ‘That don’t worry me. Take it, try it out,’ – so that’s the one I bought. Cost me $2,250 – all equipped – four-door sedan – blue… Imagine that these days!”

When he came tooling into Eustis with his brand-new car to pick up Olive, she didn’t even know what day he was coming home. He found her at the restaurant there.

“When she saw the car, she knew it was me,” he said.

But he never proposed to her until just before Christmas that year in ’58.

“We’re going for a ride,” he told her.

They drove to Farmington where he stopped in front of the jewelry store.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“I think it’s time to buy a ring.”

“When we got married, I was working for DC Morton (a car dealership located in Farmington back in those days),” Kailen continued his story. Olive had been attending Farmington State Teachers College for a year, but she decided to leave when the two married on October 8, 1960.

In the springtime, business at the car dealership was slow, “so the only thing that was good for a little while was driving the wood down the rivers” so during that time Kailen became a river driver.

It wasn’t long after their marriage that the Morins moved to Wollick, a little town in Connecticut, seeking work.

“I did a lot of crazy things”, including making storm windows and working for Pratt & Whitney. His wife worked at the US Time Corporation, a factory in Waterbury, making “the tiny little springs you can hardly see”.

“She was supposed to make 1400 a night,” Kailen recalled, “…it took me an hour to make one!”

Pratt/Whitney “was okay” for Kailen, but “too strict”, plus it was a long drive to work. Kailen decided to find something better. His last job before returning to Maine was at Bartley Manufacturing, plating “everything from safety pins to car parts – you name it.”

The decision to return to Maine was also greatly influenced by his wife’s illness. Because of her diabetes, she was not “doing too good”. Her eyesight was failing, she couldn’t distinguish colors. That led to the loss of her driver’s license.

“That’s what brought her down,” Kailen said, “That really hurt her.”

Doctors were predicting that she didn’t have a lot longer to live. “She went through Hell,” he shared, adding that two years before coming back to Maine she had to have one of her legs amputated.

The couple moved back to Rangeley, then to Rumford because of the need to be closer to the hospital. Olive, his wife of 44 years, passed away in 2004. The couple had one daughter, Kathy.

Kaelin returned to Rangeley for a time before moving to Farmington, then to Madrid about eight years ago. Having retired back in Connecticut, he “wanted something to do, I couldn’t just stay home.”

The ad he came across in the newspaper nine or ten years ago seemed like just the thing. The Phillips Transfer Station was looking for someone to work four days a week.

“That’s a good job,” he decided, and he’s been there ever since.

Besides his work at the dump, Kailen also enjoys watching NASCAR on the weekends.

“That’s all I watch on weekends,” he confessed, also saying that he roots for the cars more than the drivers, his favorites being the Fords. Although, he did mention the young Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.

Kailen’s love of cars was born when he was just six, living in Jackman and traveling to St. George in Canada with his grandfather, “a taxi driver with a heavy foot”, every weekend, weather permitting, to watch the races.

“If (the weather) was nice,” Kaelin remembered, “He’d call up, say, ‘Yep, we’re racing!’ He’d pick me up and we were off to the races.”

He still enjoys hunting, deer and birds, though he doesn’t go out as much as he once did. He won his first .22 bolt action rifle from a 50-cent “punchboard ticket”, which his father bought for him at Wing’s Store in Madrid way back in the ’40s. He’s always had dogs, the last three being poodles. His current canine is named Pudgy, “after I girl I used to know”.

AND, he’s learning to fly! At Lindbergh Airport in Avon, home of the Sandy River Flying Club.

“Every time I get a chance, when they go up, I go up with them…they let me fly the (club’s) plane.”

Of course, Kailen also has a fast car – a Firebird – and a truck that boasts the slogan “Giddy Up Go”, which was his CB handle back in the day as well as the nickname by which his co-workers once called him, and the motto “I’d rather be flying”.

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