Don Karl was the original Groundkeeper. He was born July 15, 1886, in Rockland, where he lived his whole life until he passed away Dec. 5, 1956. He lived at 50 Granite Street. It would be hard to imagine someone more Rockland than him.
For 47 years Don Karl worked for the Rockland Post Office, which was in the great granite castle that ran between School Street and Limerock Street.

He appears in this photo below on the left at the beginning of his career. He began as a clerk and then became a carrier for many years. He retired as Superintendent of Mails, second only to the Post Master.

Photo courtesy of Rockland Historical Society

Don Karl is the reason I was born in Rockland. He married my paternal grandmother who was living in Bangor. Both Don and my grandmother had lost their mates in 1945. Don would drive to Bangor and court Gladys.

On one of his trips to Bangor in the winter, Don slid off the road and got stuck. Someone came along and helped him out of the snowbank, and Don gladly paid him with lobsters he had in the trunk. After that Gladys and my father John moved to Rockland.

My father met my mother in Camden where she was apprenticing to be a hairdresser. The salon she worked in was over Haskel & Corthell – next door to my 1990 Courier-Gazette office.

History will also record that Don Karl was the final owner of the Atlantic House, which ran from 5 South Street to Marine Street. It was built by shipbuilder Francis Rhoades and served as a boarding house for shipyard workers.
In 1926, the house was featured in a painting by Edward Hopper. The painting was called “Haunted House.” Don later had the house demolished. I have a half model of a three-masted cargo ship in my music room that I believe came from the Atlantic House.

Atlantic House Stereograph image, James P. Armburst, c. 1875

Don had a wonderful cottage on Megunticook lake that I have only seen in old photos and driving by. It is on the part of the lake near Molyneaux Road. In one of my earlier stories – “A question of style,” I posted a photo of Don rowing a boat in his necktie on the lake.

He also had an amazing lobster connection. In the 40s Don would spend time in Spruce Head, pulling lobsters out of the rocks at low tide. I cannot say how productive this was, but I do not doubt he got some. We have lots of pictures of Don hosting clambakes and shore dinners on the rocks in Spruce Head and Pemequid. He is most often wearing a sport coat and tie.

I was a month shy of my first birthday when he passed away. He knew me; I wish I knew more about him.

I owe him a lot.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Don Karl in Spruce Head. Photo from the Billington/Karl photo album