Democracy in a small Maine town

HERE IS A VINTAGE CIRCA 1941 PHOTO OF A LOCAL TOWN HALL.

 

greenwood town hall

 

No account of Maine’s development and spirit would be complete without mention of its great sea-faring activities. Even before statehood in 1820, Maine produced ships for the military and for private merchant fleets. Maine had the lumber to produce ships, it had the ocean front–2500 miles of it–from which to commence. The CHRONICLE editor points out that sea-faring gave what would have been a fairly provincial existence the worldly experience necessary to broaden thought. Country boys were given a chance to learn the skill, gain in authority, and see places only dreamed of by many.

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the little girl who stopped the big war

samantha smith

the little  maine girl who stopped the big war

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons—terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never—never—will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on earth. 

–from Yuri Andropov’s Response to Samantha’s Letter

In this little world of learning,

a goodly heritage

CHRONICLE editor Lee included words about the village school in his collection of Maine writings. The educator Mary Ellen Chase writes of the old-time two-room school she attended as a child. She points out the flaws of the “system”; reuse of old books, obsolete maps, “harassed and overworked,” teachers. And she tells of its strengths: “pride in learning well,” “solidarity of outlook” and the instillation of morally strengthening ideas. In this little world of learning, perhaps considered narrow and barren by some today, a love of learning flourished in Mary Ellen Chase as she glimpsed learning at levels higher than her own. Learning was something mysterious and wise, as she saw in “the beauty and order of common fractions” that an older student had transcribed on the board. In this I find the idea that knowing is not as enlivening as the process of learning. Once the thrill of revelation wears off, one wants to proceed through the process of learning afresh.

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humor succeeding in maine

MAINE: A LITERARY CHRONICLE

Maine humor, dry, often self-deprecating, was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Editor/ compiler W. Storrs Lee, Mark Twain was influenced by Maine’s Artemus Ward (born Charles Farrar Browne just over the hills in Waterford). Ward practiced Maine humor. Lincoln wanted him in the room with him during the Civil War–at least he wanted Ward’s words there, opening a meeting of the cabinet.

I found exquisite humor and style in George S. Wasson’s “Standing Room Only” where night life at Cap’n Simeon’s Store is described. Here old salts gather round the stove, and youths atop barrels and meals sacks listen while simple wisdom and lore unjaded come forth from the humor of experience.

 

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Faith in Maine

My favorite selection in a particular book was written by Robert P. Tristram Coffin. So good were his words that I did not want to come to the end of them. His subject was “Cathedrals of the North,” a celebration of the Maine barn and the “worship” that is performed therein. He speaks of the fullness of summer being brought into the barn and stored against the leanness of winter. It is fed there to the patient beasts under the farmer’s care.

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