One among six Franklin High School graduates in 1948, Bruce Carter “kicked around home for a year” while researching two interesting college majors. “I looked into becoming a veterinarian” before deciding to pursue an engineering degree at Maine Maritime Academy, he recalled.
Commissioned a Navy Reserve ensign at his 1952 college graduation, Carter left that day for Boston, stayed overnight with an aunt, and “went down to the [Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association] union hall Monday morning.” For the next two years he sailed as an engineer on dry-cargo ships “along the East Coast and parts of Africa.”
Called up by the Navy in 1954, Carter “went to the engineering department on the aircraft carrier Intrepid” (CVA-11) and saw duty in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. He then reported to the Retraining Command at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.
Carter rejoined the Merchant Marine after leaving the Navy in 1957.
Several years later the Navy needed engineers as the American military poured into Vietnam. Joining the Military Sea Transportation Service, Carter helped recommission the mothballed freighter SS Minot Victory at New York City.
“We were an ammo boat” carrying munitions to bases supporting the Allied troops operating in the Mekong Delta, said Carter, the ship’s second engineer. “The Delta was a bad place,” with “a lot of snipers” shooting at sailors venturing on the ship’s decks. “The Marines did a good job on keeping the snipers down,” he recalled.
The Minot Victory called at Danang, Saigon and elsewhere before returning stateside. “I was home by July ’66,” Carter said.
Retiring from the Merchant Marine in 1972, he soon had “a junk shop, an antique shop here in Franklin, and old stoves suddenly became popular.” He opened the Franklin Stove Shop to convert used stoves, “all sizes and shapes,” to “burning wood.” Demand was high — “I couldn’t get enough stoves,” Carter said — but “it just bellied out one day,” so he sold his remaining stock and got out of the business.
Hired by the Maine Department of Corrections as a plant engineer in March 1985, Carter helped fire up the heating system for the new Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport. He worked there until retiring in 1992.
Carter and his wife, Alice, raised their children Dawn and Greg in Franklin. Alice died recently; Carter fondly remembers when she “and I used to travel all over Maine” and “stay overnight” while visiting different areas of the state. “We always tried to take one day a week off that was strictly our day.”
A Franklin selectman “for 12-15 years, elected over different terms,” Carter has also served the town as a tax assessor for 40 years. He and fellow assessors Millard Briggs and Hugh Hooper meet “every Saturday during the assessing season,” which starts after April 1, Carter said.
“We get the tax bills out in August, and then we run!” he chuckled.
After the tax bills go out, the assessors meet the first and third Saturday of each month “or by appointment,” Carter said. “If you call, we will meet with you.”
Last year saw an uptick in building permits in Franklin. “The area is growing,” and “we’re seeing more people looking at houses in Franklin” as The Jackson Lab expansion and other economic developments increase employment in the Ellsworth area, he commented.
A member of VFW Post 109 in Ellsworth, Carter belongs to the Franklin Veterans Club and David A. Hooper Lodge No. 201 in Sullivan. He enjoys doing genealogical research and likes reading “about the history of the country around the time of the Pilgrims.”