“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” ― Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack

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Ms. Joan E. Cavanaugh of Mystic, Conn. sent in a letter last week entitled "Around the Square in the '30s," about her adventures growing up on Sea Street in Rockport.

The square was formed by the four streets just south of Hoboken School. She and three other neighborhood girls grew up there flying kites they made from brown paper bags, picking strawberries and even picking at a small dump which was in the vicinity.

"We slid on Moon's Hill in winter when our parents asked the town fathers to refrain from sanding it when the sledding was good," she wrote. They also used to slide on the tiny falls of the brook behind the Fosters' on Maple Ave.

"We searched the seaweed for crabs and collected periwinkles to be cooked for our cats… The most fun we had was playing hide-and-seek at dusk on summer nights when everyone joined in with visiting friends and neighbors — a sense of mystery and revelations thereof pervaded!"

It reminds me of Scout and Jem playing outside in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Too bad kids today do not know the joy of simple outdoors play and turn instead as modern lotus eaters to lifeless screens.

Cavanaugh also mentions several local people including 1930s newspaperman Earle C. Dow and his granddaughter Nan Dow (now Mulford), who lived in Rockport at the time. Dow's legacy is well remembered in this newsroom where his scrapbooks and photos reside on loan from Sue Thurston of South Thomaston.

Thank you for the thoughtful note; we look forward to future dispatches.

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On Nov. 23, 1999, this reporter had just completed a year on the job for The Courier-Gazette when an unseasonably warm wave of weather came through the area. The result was that I ended up out on the Rockland Breakwater taking a photo, which would appear on the front page in the Thanksgiving edition, of two young ladies walking barefoot out to the lighthouse.

The header on the photo was, "A summer day?"

"April Nelson, left, and Traci Temple of Michigan take advantage Tuesday of the record warm weather for late November by taking a walk on the Rockland Breakwater. The sign at Androscoggin Bank in Rockland recorded the temperature Tuesday as 68 degrees. The average high for Nov. 23 is about 44 degrees."

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As I was looking up the information for that last bit, I came across a picture of them putting up a Christmas tree downtown that was made of tree, rather than lobster traps, which reminded me that there was a time, not too long ago, when we did not yet have Rockland's famous Lobster Trap Tree.

The Rockland Lobster Trap Tree made its first appearance in 2003, according to Gordon Page, executive director of Rockland Main Street Inc.

"The idea came from Bob Hastings, who was the executive director of the then-Rockland/Thomaston Area Chamber of Commerce. We had great input from Stephen Liberty of the Trade Winds, Peter Cella, who was at the time with Central Maine Power, Bob Pratt of the S/V Morning In Maine, and several others. It was part of the Festival of Lights, which at the time was only the parade and the Sunday breakfast. The parade of lights began in 1998."

Rockland Main Street has been running these projects, as well as the Summer Solstice Celebration, since 2009.

A part of the lobster trap tree promotion includes the annual Lobster Trap Raffle, which offers two chances to win 50 lobster traps, or $2,250 cash.

The tree contains:

– 154 traps, including the one containing the fiberglass lobster loaned by Trade Winds

– More than 2,500 lights, equal to about 1/8 of a mile

– An equal length of balsam rope garland

– More than 100 authentic (used) lobster buoys

Rockland Main Street will also decorate and hang 144 Christmas wreaths in the downtown shopping district.

"It was great fun watching volunteers assemble Rockland's innovative Christmas tree last Saturday morning," The Black Cat reported in November 2005. "The mild late-autumn day was just about perfect for the task, and as the creation took shape you could sense the growing enthusiasm and energy going through bystanders. Traffic passing through the intersection of Park, Main and South Main streets slowed to catch a glimpse… Many drivers honked their horns and waved…"

Ken Waltz wrote the following year: "For the second consecutive year, Rockland's Christmas celebration will have a distinct nautical look, as a 32-foot high tree constructed of lobster traps — and adorned with colorful buoys and topped with a lobster statue holding a star — will stand in Mildred B. Merrill Park."

"Last year, the tree … stood at Chapman Park on the corners of Park, Main and South Main streets (over by Rite Aid), but was moved because that area includes a monument, flag pole and large memorial boulder."

In a short time the trap tree has become a beloved tradition in the community, and it's hard to remember when we didn't have it.

***

According to History.com deer meat stew, seafood such as mussels, and ducks, geese or swans were as likely as wild turkeys to appear on the menu that first Thanksgiving 1621. Potatoes were not served at that time. "…the Spanish began introducing the potato to Europeans around 1570. But by the time the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower, the tuber had neither doubled back to North America nor become popular enough with the English to hitch a ride."

Corn would have been served as a mashed porridge, possibly sweetened with molasses and they didn't have the butter or wheat flour needed to make pie crusts. There may have been some kind of pumpkin confection roasted in the hollowed-out gourds.

You may want to be a purist in preserving Puritan tradition, but I'm happy to incorporate more current additions to the plate. Whatever you find on your plate, remember to give thanks!

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.

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