A horde of Britishers

By David Grima | Oct 03, 2019

As a result of the publication of last week’s front page, the question that has been gripping the Lime City like plague fever ever since is: who is the real city clerk?

One of them is apparently a scarecrow, and the other is the real thing. But which is which? How can we tell?

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John Bird’s new history of Rockland is now available from Rockland Historical Society, a cultural organization whose members gather, like hobbits, deep in the bowels of the city library. There will be a book signing from 2 to 5 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Congregational Church.

I warn you well in advance, as I am told there is a photo of me in it, as well as the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live. The question is, will it also explain why I am forced to live there?

The last citywide history was printed for the national bicentennial, so it is now rather out of date. Bird’s book can be ordered by mail at P.O. Box 1331, Rockland ME 04841, or by calling at the society’s museum or at 594-6193. Historical Society office hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. It costs $54.95 and contains 535 pages and 300 images.

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Speaking of Rockland’s ZIP Code, I see you can now buy a coffee mug emblazoned in bright red with the city’s famous five-digit number. I got mine at Seagull Cottage on Main. Helpless, and could not resist.

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I saw a help-wanted ad recently for someone to run the electricity company for Vinalhaven and North Haven. What power! What responsibility! Here is part of it:

“Fox Islands Electric Cooperative, Inc. is an electric distribution cooperative serving approximately 1,700 customers on the beautiful islands of North Haven and Vinalhaven, 15 miles by ferry out of Rockland on the coast of Maine. The present general manager is retiring and applications for the position are now being accepted.”

Apparently this person will also be responsible for the three wind-powered turbines that produce some of the power over there.

I had an idea a while ago that somebody might find a way to reverse-wire the turbines on occasion, so they can be used to blow away the considerable quantities of fog that often conceal the islands from view. Just a thought.

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Speaking of the view, our one and only large cruise ship of the year arrived and left on Sunday. In between these two events, it discharged a horde of Britishers (mostly the English type) upon our shores.

I followed them up to Camden on a spy mission, where they ranged up and down the streets causing large-scale sales and purchases of coffee and other items, using a strange currency they did not quite recognize.

One coffee clerk in Camden seemed to be flagging under the pressure, so I told her to cheer up, that there were even more Brits still down in Rockland. She said she had been told that only about one quarter of them had chosen the bus tour to Camden, while the others stayed behind in our city.

I mention this for the benefit of my friend Steve Alley, who remains convinced that all cruise-ship tourists landing in Rockland immediately drive to Camden.

I heard reports from both communities that U.S. currency was something of a puzzle to these Brits, many of whom were elderly and gray. (Like us). Most would just hand over fistfuls of bills and coins, asking the store clerks to figure it all out.

At one store in Rockland, the Brits asked if there was a charity box where they could dispose of their unwanted quarters and nickels and dimes, as they were heading off to Canada later and did not need our money much longer.

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I am advised by one of my agents that the oft-incognito Helga Testorf was in Rockland the other day, visiting the Strand during the Camden International Film Festival. Let us consult my friend Mr. W. Pedia on the subject of this lady who was painted by the late Andrew Wyeth, an artist of some repute. I presume they took a break between pictures…

“Wyeth asked Testorf to model for him in 1971, and from then until 1985 he made 45 paintings and 200 drawings of her, many of which depicted her nude. The sessions were a secret even to their spouses.”

The story around here goes that the presence of these long-concealed pictures was revealed to the universe by the Courier’s art editor of the time, the late Ivy W. Dodd. I cannot prove that, and I cannot ask her, for obvious reasons. But I heard it from a semi-authoritative source, once upon a time and long ago.

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Drove past Hussey’s General Store in Windsor the other day, accompanied by someone who told me that’s where she bought her wedding dress all those years ago. But, she insisted, she did not buy a shotgun or beer, which are the two other staple items available at Hussey’s.

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With the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day coming up this month, I am making a last-ditch desperate plea for it to be called by a less grating name than the officious and silly-sounding Indigenous Peoples Day. I do have some suggestions. Of course.

For example, we could call it First Peoples Day, or even Native Americans Day. Or, depending on how strongly you feel and from which perspective you view it, it might be simply another D Day.

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Speaking of Brits struggling with American cash, I was wondering a few weeks ago how much cash is still left in circulation. After all, I haven’t used real cash for much at all since the bank gave me a debit card those many moons ago.

Do banks still have vast quantities of the stuff lying around, even though many of us no longer use it? Where have all the nickels gone?

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A recent Bangor Dreadful News item reports that Rockland’s ambulance service is frequently bailing out the ambulance service hired by Camden, Rockport, and other towns up the road from here. Also often called in to help is the Union ambulance.

According to the “Penny Dreadful," the ambulance service those towns have contracted with is more often than not taking somebody for a non-emergency ride to some medical appointment elsewhere, or to some hospital with prettier wallpaper, and is often not available for real emergencies, which I suppose would be something like a heart attack, or “a cow fell on my head.”

Residents of those towns up the road say they are upset by long delays, and one was quoted as saying she’d rather drive to the hospital than wait for the ambulance service. The ambulance company defends itself by saying it made it quite plain the terms under which it was hired, and if the towns want actual emergency service, they will have to pay extra for it.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

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