Strange creature in the basement

By Daniel Dunkle | Nov 30, 2017

My H.G. Wells' Time Machine takes me back this week to November 1977, where I immediately hit the nearest newsstand.

The Nov. 26 edition of The Courier-Gazette has on its front page not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR photos of Santa arriving in Rockland.

"Santa Claus doesn't really qualify as a fisherman, but he used the new Fishermen's Pier at the Rockland Public Landing to make his arrival Friday morning," the Black Cat reported. "The open area and long dock space gave hundreds of children a good vantage spot to see Santa arriving by Coast Guard craft, accompanied by siren and blue flashing lights. Even the tide cooperated, filling the cove to make an easy landing for Santa."

It is added, "RDHS Band Director Marlene Hall was most apprehensive earlier in the week about the weather forecast... but she agreed Friday morning that the Weatherman just wouldn't dare to be too harsh on Santa Claus."

And what were the kids getting for Christmas that year? I should know, I was in my footie pajamas at the time.

I noticed ads in the papers for such wonderful items as "View Master" for just $4.99.

"Let the kids visit their favorite cartoon friends. Contains View Master stereo viewer, and 7 stereo reels."

I notice the can in the ad has a picture of the Peanuts gang on it. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" had been on the air since 1965.

For all I know, I may have gotten my own View Master that very year. I remember clearly that I had reels with pictures from the 1976 "King Kong" movie starring Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin.

I also had a "Dracula" reel so scary I would look at it and then quickly look away in terror. It was really quite cool. They had made models of the vampire's whole castle and the various characters so they could then photograph the storyline in 3D or stereo-vision. The effect was somewhat surreal and more terrifying. That choice was obviously from my dad, who loved to watch the old Christopher Lee movies. I wouldn't mind having it back today!

Another toy I noticed advertised was "Lite-Brite." I had this as well around that time period. Back then it was a big plastic display roughly the shape of an old TV set with a lightbulb in it. Then you would put a piece of black paper across the front and you had all these little colored pegs you could push into the paper in any shape you liked to create a light-up picture. I can remember playing with mine on the floor around '78, '79.

***

In other news, Vinalhaven resident Jeff Nims reported to The Courier-Gazette that he had found a bottle in the "Fox Island Thorofare" with the wording: "Red Seal Remedy Co., Rockland, Maine" on it. It was an old bottle, 50 or 60 years old back then, with a cork stopper. They were interested in finding out more about the company. I am curious as well.

***

"A strange six-inch long lizard-type creature has been discovered by a Union family after it has suddenly taken up residence in their cellar," the Black Cat reported in November 1977. "The reptile is certainly obvious, according to Lee MacFarland, with bright yellow spots all over its black skin."

The columnist put out a call for anyone who knew what it was to inform the paper.

Ingrid Brown of Warren Street in Rockland wrote in to the paper within the next week to inform them it was likely a spotted salamander, "a secretive, nocturnal creature which conceals itself in damp, dark places."

I would compare this behavior to that of politicians, but feel that would be unfair to the salamander.

"When annoyed or excited, it sometimes emits a transparent liquid (like toads do)." She of course also noted that it was an amphibian, not a reptile.

***

Getting back in my time machine, I inch forward 10 years to 1987.

That November, Leanne M. Robicheau, whom I used to work with at the paper, wrote that "Some Drivers See Red Over Lobster License." The story seems to be mostly about local residents complaining about the new lobster license plates.

"It isolates one industry as the state-wide symbol," one Thomaston man said. "I kinda liked my old plate and the number was easier to remember."

A Rockland man thought the use of the lobster on the plate was downright demeaning!

Susie Winter of West Rockport was the one to really call it: "I think it looks like a bug."

Others thought it was "cute" or even liked it. Still others didn't care.

"I guess I'll cover it up, get a ticket and take it to the Supreme Court," one man said.

Talk about boiling over.

Editor Daniel Dunkle of The Courier-Gazette lives in Rockland. We want to hear from you, so tell us what you think! Send in your responses, stories, photos and memories via email at: ddunkle@villagesoup.com; or snail mail to: 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841. Hand-written notes are welcome and appreciated.

-30-

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