This week I'm borrowing Mr. H.G. Wells' time machine, pulling the little jeweled lever back and watching the cars downtown first turn boxy, then long and sleek, then grow fins. When I stop they are black, rounded gangster cars from the 1930s.

It's Jan. 28, 1931, and there's big doin's in Rockland.

"The annual riot that accompanies the announcement of the winner in the Knox County beauty contest took place Monday night at Spear Hall and eclipsed all previous performances in ferocity and duration," says the article in the Portland Evening News, which appears in the scrapbook of family newspaperman the late Earle C. Dow.

"Such epithets as 'liar,' 'thief' and 'crook' rang long, loud and frequently above the din at the food fair of the Veteran Firemen's Association, and many a stalwart knight who fought for his lady 'fayre' was nursing black eyes and bruised shins on Tuesday morning.

"The TNT exploded when it was announced from the stage that Miss Loraine Mank had won the title of Miss Knox County by a margin of 7,000,000 votes."

Why would anyone question those numbers? Runners-up were Miss Peggy Verge of Thomaston and Miss Dorothy Cross of Camden.

"Miss Mank is a relative of Charles Lawry, chairman of the contest committee, and friends of the other candidates 'booed' the decision vehemently."

This was followed by "…a pitched battle of fists, chairs, and what have you in your hand. Chairs were thrown, booths were ripped down, and it was almost an hour before the police and members of the Fireman's Association were able to bring order out of chaos."

They were not happy to stop at that. A group of "malcontents" turned on all the faucets in the building and flooded several offices on the lower floor.

Please, Rockland, bring back the rowdy energy of the 1930s! I want to write stories like this.

Many of the best stories of the old days involve animals. I couldn't help noticing an article in The Sunday Telegram while I was wandering around downtown in the 1930s about 13-year-old Harold Kaler of Pleasant Street and his pet hen. The headline: "This Rockland Biddy Is Right At Home On Her Master's Bike." Not the kind of headline you tend to see today.

"The bird is nearly four years old, and should be a sedate matron as she has mothered three broods of chicks, but she is as fond of riding as any of the chickens." This seems to imply other chickens were also riding bicycles.

"…Now she will settle herself on the baggage rack when placed there, and Harold will ride all over town with her, and no matter how thick or noisy traffic gets, she doesn't seem to mind."

The bird went with him to the stores downtown on "Dollar Days," and police were happy to help direct traffic to keep the duo safe. Motorists were much interested.

"And she may be described as a talking hen or a crooner, whichever you prefer, for she keeps up a continual conversation with herself as long as the wheel is in motion."

Back on the time machine, I nudge the lever just a bit to get into the late 1930s, around 1937. And here's a Portland Press Herald headline for you: "Prize Porker Takes Possession Of Rockland Lawyer's Kitchen."

Rockland attorney Frank Tirrell won a pig in a raffle of the Camden Outing Club, like you do. An "express man" delivered the prize early one morning. Tirrell, being a bit of a late sleeper, apparently, hollered down from the bedroom window to put the box in the kitchen and went back to bed.

"His slumbers were again disturbed in a few moments by loud and uncouth noises from the lower region," the article states. "Investigations showed that the pig, which was considerably larger than Mr. Tirrell had supposed, had worked a slat loose from his crate, and had possession of the kitchen. There was considerable excitement and some breakage before the live wire bundle of animated pork was removed to more suitable surroundings."

The last selection for this week is also from the Press Herald from this time period, and I found it a bit confusing. Apparently, a summer person decided to ship her pet cat by train back to her house in Massachusetts. The cat managed to escape the box, much as the pig above did, due to a loose slat. Clearly when they say, "They  don't make them like they used to," they are not talking about pet carriers.

So the cat managed to get out of its box and jump off the train. The express agent on the train witnessed this and made a wild leap to run after the fleeing feline. He retrieved the cat, nailed it back in its box and sent it on to Mass.

Only problem was, when he jumped out of the train, he caught the wrong cat. He grabbed a cat owned by one Mr. John Thomas, age 70, and a bowling champion. Why the owner of the wrong cat's sports achievements were important to the story, I don't know.

The result was an angry woman in Mass. with a Rockland bowler's cat, while her own cat was presumed still at large on the tough streets of Rockland, Maine. For all we know, kitty still roams those streets to this day, digging fish skeletons out of trash cans and lamenting in the moonlight the loss of his mistress.

The headline that caught my eye was "Bales Of Official Papers Flying Over Cat Lost In Transport, And End Is Not Yet, By Heck!"

Editor Daniel Dunkle of The Courier-Gazette lives in Rockland. We want to hear from you, so tell us what you think! Send in your responses, stories, photos and memories via email at: ddunkle@villagesoup.com; or snail mail to: 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841. Hand-written notes are welcome and appreciated.

-30-