MAINE TALES. WINTER HOT SPOT. BRIDGEWATER, MAINE. Circa 1910.
If you somehow imagined that no one would ever aspire to plan and spend their leisure time in our in our quiet little Maine farming town during Winter, you’d be mistaken.
Not that we’re anything like Florida. Being as how northern Maine has a lot more trees and a lot less people than they do down in the Alligator State. Plus, we don’t have Rattlesnakes.
Customary in all farm country, it is a given that a lot of time here in northern Maine is spent thinking and talking about the past. That past might not have been too awful astounding. But after all, we did get through it, and who knows what the future may bring? Truth be told, we have very little hard experience to go by about the future. As an unknown, the future can be a might bit scary to just about anyone, most especially a Mainer. Mainers know the past well and endlessly continue to make our peace with it.
Farmers’ particular fixation on the past is well-known and has made our people the butt of the occasional joke. “How many farmers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. One to do the the work, and two to talk over how good the old light bulb was.” It’s not that we’re chained to the past. No, we’re just happy being connoisseurs of bygone eras.
Now one observation about the past is that it has an unwavering tendency to get better with age. The pains of hardship and humiliation just seem to melt away with the passage of time. The collective mind dulls and glosses over events that some participants would just as soon have everybody forget. Like that time one wet Fall when during Digging, that young feller just barely missed the McKinnon Farm bridge and drove that truck full of potatoes clear into Whitney Brook. On account of ratcheted-up community excitement during harvest, that mishap could have happened to anybody. But most especially, if that anybody was young and inexperienced and in too big a hurry.
Sometimes, the past is chockfull of goodness through and through. One of the popular features in the local weekly paper, the ‘Houlton Pioneer Times’ (“The Only Newspaper in the World Interested in Houlton, Maine”) is “From Our Files – News From 100 Years Ago.” Here, stories are lifted verbatim from an issue exactly one century prior, and accurately brought to the attention of us modern-day readers. News which is raw, cutting and untainted by any rewriters of history.
Bridgewater (Pop. 532) today no longer has a railroad station, no more a jewelry store, no Milliken’s general store and no gas station. No hotel, like “The Central House” of yesteryear, aptly named because by fate of history it was the halfway point on the primitive and rough ‘State Road’ (now US Route 1) between Houlton twenty-one miles to the south, and Presque Isle twenty-one miles to the north.
But one little nugget reprinted a few years back originated from the HPT issue of January 7, 1910. Succinctly hinting that Bridgewater was the rare pearl possessing the allure, fun and excitement evoked by utterance of the word ‘vacation.’ Offering prima facie evidence that despite occurring during the depths of a snowy, subzero Maine Winter, our humble little frontier potato town was once considered a Winter destination hot spot for light-hearted frivolity by at least one young adoring Houlton school marm.
“Miss Adelle Burpee, teacher at the grammar school returned
from a week of vacation in Bridgewater.”
Bridgewater may well have a future, but for now forgive us if we just keep on being pleased with savoring our past.
Caleb, Jim & Megan