75 years on Penobscot Bay

By John K. Hanson, Jr | Jun 06, 2011
Photo by: Eastern Illustrating Collection, Penobscot Marine Museum Tillson Ave., Rockland, 1938.

Imagine that it’s 75 years ago. 1936. Hamburger is 12 cents per pound. The Great Depression is full on. Unemployment is at 16.9 percent. The winds of war are building across Europe and the Pacific. Radium E has been synthesized. People are singing “Pennies from Heaven,” reading "Gone With the Wind," and rooting for Jesse Owens in the Olympics. Radio is the dominant social media. The pace of change is accelerating as fast as the flying boats that connect the United States and Europe. The modern world of today is emerging.

Much of this sounds strikingly familiar, doesn’t it? To further explore the parallels between then and now, between 1930s culture (industry, enterprise, boatbuilding, and transportation) and that of today, a series of short articles will be presented here, written alternately by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors and Searsport’s Penobscot Marine Museum. These stories will delve into the past and offer modern-day outcomes from the coast of today.

For example, life on the coast of Maine was indeed changing in 1936, the old giving way to the new. Some in Maine felt that the mad dash to modernity would destroy our heritage. One response to that threat was the founding of the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. According to the museum’s creation myth, Clifford Carver, son of a Searsport ship captain, discovered barrels of half-hull boatbuilding models being sold as kindling. Aghast, he bought the models and created a museum dedicated to the preservation of Maine’s maritime heritage… and the rest is history.

Future articles in this series, which was inspired by the notable 75th anniversaries of the Penobscot Marine Museum and the local windjammer fleet, and informed by the similarities between global economic conditions then and now, will culminate in two summer events: the ninth annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show and the “75 for 75” exhibit at the Penobscot Marine Museum.

The Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show will be held in Rockland from August 12-14. This year, the show will focus on the coast circa 1936 as part of an annual exploration of how “Tradition Shapes Innovation.” In addition to historical images and films, a mix of vintage and modern products will trace the influences of that time on the products of today, and the ways that creativity has moved the state and its craftspeople ever forward.

As Maine’s only in-the-water boat show and coastal lifestyle event, the show annually features approximately 300 exhibitors of boats and marine gear, home wares and furniture, art and jewelry. It is produced by Rockland-based Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, maineboats.com, 594-8622.

The Penobscot Marine Museum’s summer show “75 for 75” will showcase 75 items from the museum’s collection, ranging from marine paintings and domestic furnishings to small craft. PMM is located on Route 1 in Searsport.penobscotmarinemuseum.com, 548-2529.

 

John Hanson, Jr., is publisher Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.