1769-1969

Camden-Rockport bicentennial

By Barbara F. Dyer | Nov 06, 2014
Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer Wayfarer's Barbie D float in parade.

Many of my readers were not here in the Camden-Rockport area 45 years ago, when someone thought we should celebrate the bicentennial of the first settlers’ arrival. It took many meetings and many thoughts to celebrate that 200th anniversary.

The Steering Committee was chosen. Col. John Wilson, chairman, who ran the meeting like a colonel. The meetings started on time, discussions were settled quickly, no time was wasted and things got done. Plans began in February for the September event.

Wilson would say, “Now hear this! These are our sailing orders. We are on course. We will change course only as necessary to avoid uncharted rocks. All hands keep a lookout for rocks. Full speed ahead and dam the torpedoes!”

His committee consisted of: Alma Anderson, Joe Badger, Mary Cramer, Ken Dickey, Lew Dietz, Dud Foley, Doug Green, Sam Hamilton, Ray Smith, Sue Snapp, Willard Wight and Barbara Dyer. In addition there were 27 others, who were chairmen of the various events and activities. At the time, I made a scrapbook for the Camden Public Library hoping it would be of help to a committee to plan the tercentennial, as no one of this Steering Committee would be living. Well, it is only 45 years later and, as far as I know, Willard Wight and I are the only ones living from that 1969 Steering Committee.

The plans made were for a five-day celebration from Sept. 10 through 14, 1969. The first day was a Wednesday that began with the ringing of church bells for a Christian service in the Amphitheater. Lunch and entertainment were at the Camden Public Landing. The “first settlers” came in by boat to the landing at the head of the harbor, as they had done 200 years before. As Camden and Rockport were one (Camden) in 1769, there was a wedding of Lord Camden and Lady Rockport in the Amphitheater. A flag was raised on Mount Battie. There were songs and pageants in the Camden Opera House.

The following day there was a bicentennial luncheon in the high school cafeteria, with short speeches and honors to the descendants of early settlers. Post riders between Camden and Rockport in costumes delivered commemorative postage. That day would not be complete without an old-fashioned baked bean supper followed by dancing at the American Legion Hall.

Friday was to be “Rockport Day." They had a bicentennial flag to raise and many men had been growing beards for the occasion, and ladies judged them. Lunches were at all the historical places. That evening was by a simulated British amphibious attack on Rockport. Both Camden and Rockport residents participated, and Parker Laite headed that event. So you know that was exciting.

Saturday many events were held at the Snow Bowl. Some people appeared wearing old-fashioned costumes. The Camden Women’s Club put on a fashion show with authentic dresses of the past, loaned to us by Fannie Payson. There were chairlift rides up Ragged Mountain, a rally of antique cars and fire engines. Lunch was served at the Outing Club Lodge. The afternoon was topped off with a wonderful parade beginning at the high school (then on Knowlton Street) and winding through Camden. One eye-catcher in the parade was a spouting whale, made by the “Wharf Rats”(a nickname for the men who were around Camden Harbor). Later there was a chicken barbecue on the Public Landing and a dance in the high school gym that evening.

The celebration ended on Sunday with open house on all the Windjammers.

A very nice booklet was printed by The Camden Herald, then under the ownership of Doug Hall. It had many historical articles in it, written by our well-known writers. Businesses were generous with their advertisements.

In addition to planning the entertainment, it was necessary to have to have commemorative things to sell, to help defray expenses. The coins were well designed. Some were sterling for collectors’ items and others were bronze keepsakes. Also some bronze coins were put in Lucite for paperweights.

The chowder bowls were designed especially for this celebration with underglaze coat of arms by Stell & Shevis on the bottom of the bowls.

There were buttons to wear. One was a permit to shave. Otherwise you must grow a beard to be judged at the bicentennial. Window display banners were of felt material about 16 by 18 inches. They were also designed by Stell & Shevis for display all summer in as many windows as possible. There were car antenna pennants made by the Firemen’s Auxiliary, flown on as many cars as possible all summer.

The commemorative postage stamps were canceled at both the Camden and Rockport post offices, and became a collectors’ item.

Many floats had been built for the parade. Notables (political) came to be in that parade. An essay contest was held in the schools and some were selected for the bicentennial booklet, while others appeared in The Camden Herald in different issues. Fireworks were set off during the bicentennial, instead of the 4th of July that year.

The bicentennial ended up being a smashing success, due to all the many people involved doing their job. The residents of Camden and Rockport were enthusiastic and a wonderful time was had by all.

But who would believe Camden to hold two bicentennials? After the one in 1969, because that year was when Camden was first settled, (James Richards is given credit as first settler), they held another one in 1971 for the bicentennial of when Camden became incorporated, maybe more about that later.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.

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