Cold snap

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 31, 2019

Looking back through the pages some 50 years, I find myself reading the following in the Black Cat column in winter 1969.

"Maine offers a great deal to its citizens, as we all can testify. Yes, we even offer skating while sitting at the wheel of the family car."

I can't be certain, but I believe that was an attempt at humor.

But I can relate because as I write this, my driveway was recently coated in several inches of snow frozen so stiff that I could stand on it without sinking. Clearing this was a bit like being sentenced to hard labor.

The Jan. 30, 1969, edition talked about plans for the new regional medical center that would become Pen Bay. It was noted in the article that the plan was always for more than a hospital. This would be a place that would promote general health through education and be involved in scientific research.

Leaders in the effort included Richard H. L. Sexton, Edward Ladd, David Nichols, Robert E. Laite and Russell Brace.

It was also reported in 1969 that Rockland was among the hardest-hit cities in terms of air pollution, according to a study at the time from the University of Maine. The study included 12 cities, with Rockland topping the list because of production of finely ground limestone. Rumford-Mexico also made the list because of "fallout" from the pulp and paper mill. Never thought of that as fallout before! Good Cold War word, but now my son would recognize it as the name of a video game series. Augusta also suffered because of smoke from the railroad and its industrial district.

On the lighter side, The Strand was playing "Lady in Cement," a detective mystery starring Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch. Apparently, it was not very memorable; it only gets a 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Also on the lighter side, Rockland was visited by Andre the Seal. Probably. Maybe. Or it could have been some other seal. But it garnered no fewer than two mentions in The Courier. It also created a stir at the Fox & Ginn terminal (sounds more like an English pub to me: The Fox & Ginn).

"Two hours later the visitor, evidently the only one for miles around enjoying the prevailing weather conditions, was still on hand. An intrepid Courier-Gazette photographer finally skated his way to the scene, but Andre or his exact double, had finally departed."

There is no photo that I saw, so I think what this is saying is that a reporter was sent to the scene, where he had to "skate" across some ice and got good and cold in the process, only to find the seal had left just moments before he could get the shot. This is why I prefer to cover rabid otter attacks in the summer.

Winter is our theme, and looking further back we find ourselves at Feb. 1, 1918.

It was apparently bitter cold that year. I found the following:


"Government Boat Frees Coal Barge — ! Navigation At a Standstill — Naval Reserves Have Military Drill In the Harbor,

"A powerful ice-breaker, sent here by the government, has been working in the harbor the past two days and as one result of its efforts the barge West Point, laden with coal for the Naval Training Station, was docked at M.B.& C.O. Perry's wharf. Requests from many quarters are pouring in for the government boat’s services, but nowhere does it seem more necessary than at Vinalhaven, which has been without mail one week, and is short of some supplies."

This is annoyingly vague. "Short of some supplies," could mean anything. We want to know how close people were to resorting to cannibalism. Or worse, eating bait.

"The ice cakes now being hauled from Chickawaukie Lake to the Thorndike & Hix houses weigh 500 pounds and are 30 inches thick. Nothing like them has been seen since 1893."

Try getting one of those ice cubes in a glass of Pepsi.

"Al. Rackliffe, William Colby. Henry Dunbar and Capt. Mel. Webber walked from Andrews Island to Lucia Beach Wednesday. They took a boat with them but had no chance to use it, as there was no open water except in one small place, and the ducking they got there was the only incident, which marked their passage of about two and one-half miles across the ice."

I feel like that incident was much more traumatic for those who experienced the "ducking" than the writer.

Crime and punishment

What else is going on? Football was being discussed in some corners of the newsroom when I was writing this.

I found this front page story from May 1897 somewhat baffling:

"The Bath father who punished his small son for his misbehavior in school by having the youngster’s hair clipped close to his head, thus destroying at one fell swoop the boy’s aspiration to get on some future college football team, knew what he was about."

I don't know what this means, but I like that saying, "He knew what he was about." It's like knowing where your towel is in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

If you can shed any light, let me know.

Editor Daniel Dunkle of The Courier-Gazette lives in Rockland. He is author of the novel, "The Scrimshaw Worm." Send in your stories, photos and memories via email at:; or snail mail to: 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jan 31, 2019 15:46


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