Eloise Jordan, a long-time columnist and feature writer for the Lewiston Evening Journal, is remembered by few who read the physical incarnation of this local paper today. Mention her name to the digital paper’s readers and the response will be a louder silence.
Her columns and features graced the publication of my childhood and young adulthood; she wrote content for the Lewiston paper until 1989. She died of a stroke on January 5, 1989 while visiting her dear Portland friend, Lorna (Brown) Young. Meticulous and conscientious in turning in material before deadline, her final column was published posthumously on the Saturday following her death. Jordan’s former Evening Journal editor Faunce Pendexter said “she did a good job for us, and she came through week after week. She was very faithful.”
Her final column? A recollection regarding an opera diva she had known. Eloise Jordan loved opera and wrote more than one or two columns about it over the years.
She was born on March 27, 1907. Her father, William Jordan, was a lumber dealer and owner of numerous rental properties in the area. He was also noted to be a descendant of Cape Elizabeth’s Reverend Robert Jordan, who arrived here in 1631 to act as minister to the colony established on Richmond Island. Memories of her father and mother as well as her post-Mayflower lineage would occasionally find their way into Eloise Jordan’s features and columns.
She graduated from Lisbon High School in June, 1924. Nicknamed “Tweedie,” the high school yearbook notes she was the “school soloist” for four years and kept busy “writing stories by the peck.”
In 1928, she entered Simmons College in Boston and graduated in 1932 with a degree in Library Science. The 1932 Simmons yearbook, The Microcosm, lists among her activities the Glee Club and the Poetry Club.
Following graduation, Eloise Jordan returned to Lisbon. Her mother died in 1934 and Eloise became her father’s housekeeper and secretary in his business holdings. They lived in the family house in Lisbon, which is still standing on what is now Route 196. In an April 29, 1950 Lewiston Sun Journal feature about her father, Eloise wrote “I traveled with him constantly, driving the car when he was on crutches with an injured foot, keeping accounts, and looking after his business when he was ill.”
In June, 1945, Will Jordan died. Eloise, an only child, went to live in a small upstairs apartment located in a house owned by Meryl Brown on what is now the Upland Road. The apartment, recalled as “tiny” by those who visited, had a kitchenette under the slant of the roof, a bed, and a typewriter among other things. And it was filled with books.
Shortly after her father’s death, Eloise began writing features for the Lewiston Evening Journal. These feature stories would run in a Saturday “magazine” section. Her first feature ran on July 6, 1946. On September 28, 1946, her first “column” ran with little fanfare. It was titled “The Corn Shop” and recalled the long ago tradition of bringing the summer’s corn to a centralized location and canning it. She would revisit this column on September 8, 1984 (almost forty years later) and write “I cherished a desire to husk corn but Father dissuaded me by saying I was not husky enough.”
She lived a “spinster’s” life, not unknown to women of her generation. She wrote her columns, drank tea, listened to opera, and occasionally traveled. She was a “club woman,” a member of the Women’s Literary Union and the Progressive Club, among others.
On Wednesday evening, March 8, I’ll be giving a talk about the life and times of Eloise Jordan at the Lisbon Historical Society; I’ll also read from some of her columns. As is always the case at these events, we’ll all learn more than we anticipate from one another.
Located at 18 School Street, the Historical Society entrance and parking lot are located at the rear of the building, accessed on Berry Avenue.
The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served, tea included.