The Camden Spyglass, Feb. 8

Feb 08, 2018

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships are making news in publications near and far, but most seem to have the same information you will find on our front page this week.

Keith O'Brien wrote a cute piece last year in the New York Times travel section titled: "Competitive Tobogganing in Maine. Well, Sort Of Competitive."

O'Brien, whose family moved to New England from New Orleans, competed in the toboggan races dressed in colorful duct tape. He lamented that he did not have time to build his own toboggan, but the family managed to take home a best costumes prize.

The article notes that the championships have been taking place here since 1991 (though the chute dates back to 1937). He also threw in some "did you know" type facts about the history of the toboggans.

"They are native to the region. Algonquin and Penobscot tribes used them to help transport items, in the snow and upon frozen rivers, but also in tidal flats, lugging supplies or buckets of fish after throwing a tow rope across their chests," he writes.

He also writes about Tom Cox -- "a retired high school teacher, [who] wasn’t just a former toboggan race champion — he was the official toboggan inspector..."

Other stories are popping up in places including The Boston Globe, WABI's website, and an Associated Press story that is running in a variety of publications.

The racing will be held Feb. 9-11.

 

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If you're looking for an invigorating workout, you could do worse than a walk up to the top of the toboggan chute. There are wooden steps leading up past all of the 400-foot-long chute, some wider than others, and unless you are in excellent shape you will feel the climb by the time you are halfway up.

Imagine how much work it must take to maintain all of those steps and a wooden chute dating back to the 1930s. Likely those who volunteer and work at the Camden Snow Bowl are getting all the exercise they need this winter.

 

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On Feb. 8, 1978, residents were busy digging out from the massive Nor'easter that dumped up to 55 inches of snow in some parts of New England, according to History.com.

The storm had been the convergence of three major weather systems hitting New York first Feb. 5.

"It is estimated that 3,500 cars were abandoned on Massachusetts streets and highways and several people died in their vehicles on Interstate 93 when they became trapped," History.com reported. In the end there were 56 deaths as a result of the storm.

Here in Maine, waves destroyed three lighthouses and an amusement pier, the site reports.

It was the worst blizzard to hit New England since 1888.

Camden had an 11-member road crew working the storm to keep roads plowed, Camden Town Manager Elmer Savage told The Courier-Gazette at the time. There was some minor damage to the public landing and businesses were affected adversely by the storm.

 

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We barely even noticed Groundhog Day Feb. 2 here at the Herald.

It dates back to 1887, according to History.com, at least the current practice headquartered at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa.

If the loveable rodent comes out of its hole and is frightened by its shadow, it dooms us to six more weeks of winter.

This tradition grew out of the old European Christian holiday of Candlemas, which was related to the distribution of candles needed for the winter. Not having Tyler Southard to predict the weather, they started in Europe by using hibernating critters, the hedgehogs. When the Germans settled in Pennsylvania, they switched to the more prevalent groundhogs, also known as woodchucks and sometimes referred to as "whistle pigs" for the sound they make.

We think Bill Murray may have said it best in the 1993 "Groundhog Day" movie: "This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat."

We want to hear from you! Send in your Camden-area observations, humor, history, trivia, bits of New England poetry, photos, proverbs and wisdom. Be sure to include your name, address, phone number and email. Email spyglass@villagesoup.com or snail mail 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841. Follow on Twitter @CamdenSpyglass.

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