Quick, when someone says Maine, what’s the first thing you think of? Lobsters? Lighthouses? Farms? Hunting? You could ask 20 people and get 20 different answers. When I was less gray and wrinkled, the first thing I thought about when I heard “Maine” was grammies but the almost at the same time I’d think of fresh air.
Having started out life in the urban jungles of Connecticut, I was amazed at all the fresh air in Maine and how wonderful it was. Because we usually ended up here in the summer, I cherished those few days of brilliant bright skies, clean air and the smell of cows, fields, pine trees and all the pleasant odors filling entering my ample nose. There was that one time we happened to be here in April after a big snowstorm. The fresh air had turned somewhat colder; and the refreshing stuff I couldn’t get enough of in the summer, now took my breath away.
My grandfather had one of those post cards of the railroad flatcar with a single large Maine potato on it. I recall thinking then about Maine being a potato growing state. I never once thought about lobster and the coast. It thought of Maine as mostly a farm state because that’s the area I knew. I looked forward to coming here on vacations to the farm and my uncle’s garage.
Turning the corner onto Main St. Corinna, we always passed Eastland Woolen Mill and up the road apiece was Dexter Shoe. Two factories I would end up working in for a while. Dexter shoes are being made somewhere out of the country and Eastland is no more. But, then again, my uncle’s garage and the farm I visited and loved are just memories.
Maine is known for many things but what one would think of in the early to mid twentieth century is certainly what one would not associate with Maine today. Perhaps the numerous shoe factories, the woolen and paper mills, the many hundreds of factories turning everything from wood products to fire bells would come to mind. Then the world got suddenly smaller and products stopped being manufactured in the good old U.S.A.
A company decided to have their shoes made in China because of cheap labor. The next guy did the same because he couldn’t compete otherwise. A third manufacturer moved his factory overseas out of sheer greed. By now, you younger people are thinking “Get over it; it’s how the world works today.” Perhaps, but those of us who remember how it was back then feel Maine has lost something unique.
So, all those products once made here can be found anywhere of course except they carry a Made in China, Thailand, or Korea label. Ask anyone now in Maine what’s the first thing they think of and the answer is some different than it was back when I was a young lad. Tourism and the service industry has become the leading employer now. Most of the factories are gone or sit empty. Their once powerful machinery sits silently rusting away. Those of us at a “certain age” remember the sounds, smells of those many brick and mortar giants of yesteryear and we still remember the meager paychecks as well. But, we survived. The factories didn’t and we had to move into different jobs, which often require us to travel many miles to.
I would guess “outa statetas“ would think of Maine as the coast, beaches and lobster. Maybe they think of it as a hunting, fishing or snowmobile paradise? I don’t know what you think of when someone says Maine. Perhaps all the foolishness coming out of Augusta is top on your list?
Whatever your views of Maine, it’s still the best state in the country and the only place to live in spite of everything. My favorite month, September, is here. I think I’ll go outside and breath in some of that great fresh air before it’s made in China. I understand their air is not so good.
About the AuthorNorman lives in Pittsfield and always seems to get a bad shopping cart. If you’d like to contact him, send us an e-mail to email@example.com and we will pass it along for you.
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