Out of Our Past

Fall 1916, Part I

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 8:45am

One enduring theme of the later 1910s was the attempt to get good roads, prompted by the growing use of cars. The Sept. 8, 1916 paper reported a Good Roads League meeting was held, the main speakers being Eben Lewis of Boothbay Harbor, and Mill Blake, Tyler Hodgdon, and Frank Rice of East Boothbay. Schools were to open Sept. 18, but there was much overcrowding, with 87 high school students in a building designed for 70. There was no room for the eighth grade in the Harbor school, so the grade was to be located downtown in a room above Simpson, Perkins, & Co. on Commercial Street. Bob DeWolfe, the Harbor road commissioner, made a new road — Fullerton Street, which circled Moore's Rock above West Street. Work started on a new Southport bridge, wooden instead of a steel one which proved too expensive.

Deaths of a Steamer, a Girl, and Birds

Sept. 15, a headline read, “Mischievous Boys Have Made Wanton Slaughter the Past Summer.” Evidently Harbor boys had shot dozens of songbirds. Lester Barter told me that Solomon David hired boys to shoot robins at two cents each — he liked to eat them. Perhaps that explains the wanton slaughter. Every year Native Americans came from Old Town to sell baskets and gift items from their tent at the east end of the footbridge. The town had known well the Indian girl, Marian Gabriel, who had accompanied the Indians for 16 years. Her obituary appeared, explaining that she died of appendicitis. The old steamer Damarin, sold by Mr. Carlton to Billy Sawyer, the wrecking commissioner, sank at Billy's dock on Commercial Street (present site of Tugboat Inn) while awaiting wrecking for salvage. She had been lying on the bottom at low tide, toppled over, and filled with water. Billy was to raise and wreck her.

Richard David was a hero, having saved young Willis Godfrey, son of Captain Godfrey of the Damariscove Lifesaving Station, from drowning. Willis had lost his jack knife through the wharf flooring while playing near Sherb Dolloff's bowling alley (now site of Smiling Cow) and had fallen in trying to retrieve it. Martin Gerry of Mill Cove, at the Eastern Steamship wharf, called for help, and David came to the rescue. David had also saved Roger Rice from drowning some years before.

Great Mackerel Killers

Sept. 22, mackerel catches, the biggest ever, were front page news, as were the number of mackerel vessels in the Harbor. Captain George Rice's Grayling had the record for the biggest shares ever known for a catch, each man getting $328. The Bayville Inn closed for the season, and Selard Pennington's obituary was printed, with a summary of his life at sea and time spent ashore housebuilding.

Sept. 29, Captain John Seavey, “a mighty fisherman” and the great mackerel killer, was profiled. 1916 was his 41st year chasing mackerel and he had been absent from the chase only one year, when he captained J. P. Morgan's yacht Waturus. Captain John was usually high line among the fishermen, catching more than the others, and he was sure to do well with his new 100-foot oil-burning fisherman Lucia, built in Gloucester. Bad weather brought 39 mackerel vessels in and the paper computed the economic boost to local stores. Sharing space on the front page with the mackerel business was a description of the marriage of Lulu Foster and Chandler Reed, who were to run the Oake Grove Hotel.

Polio, the Movies, Randall McLellan

Oct. 6, a front-page article on the polio epidemic ran, noting that some summer residents were staying in Boothbay with their children, rather than returning home. People were urged to control the disease: “Pick up filth, see the banks of your town — tin cans, paper, garbage dumped all over the place.” The Meadow road between the Harbor and the Center, a continual problem because of water, was improved. The top of Emerson's Hill (the Emerson house was torn down to build Seagate Motel) was blasted off, and the fill created was used to build up the foot of the hill near the present stoplight. The high school students had their annual hares and hounds race following trails to Appalachee, the boys by way of the East Boothbay road, and the girls by way of Mt. Pisgah. After arriving at their destination, they had “a big feed” of beans at Camp Appalachee.

Paramount Picture movies and serials at the Opera House were regularly held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Showing the week of Oct. 6 were “Peg O' The Ring,” “Susie Snowflake,” “Old Homestead,” and “The World's Great Snare,” all rather innocuous-sounding films. That week, help wanted ads included those of: the Texas Steamship Company and Hyde Windlass for iron moulders and machinists in Bath; shoe factory jobs in Auburn; in Boothbay, a boy for Marson's Bakery, and house work for a summer resident in Boothbay and New York. Under the “help wanted” category, Flossie Dow of Dover Road “wanted sewing,” Mrs. Preston Lewis wanted to wash laundry, and F. H. McDougall wanted to do paperhanging either “by the day or roll.” McDougall perhaps found he couldn't make a living as a photographer and was augmenting his income as a paperhanger. Under the “for sale” category was an island, butter wrappers, and a car: the whole of Mouse Island, since the hotel had burnt; the Register sold butter wrappers, either half and whole pound, by the thousand; and John Thompson was selling his 1914 Ford since the Southport bridge was shut and he couldn't use it.

Oct. 13, Randall McLellan's exploits were detailed. Though only 17, he had just completed a 50,000-mile trip as a quartermaster on the American-Hawaiian Line. He had first gone with his uncle Lou Carlisle on the 480-foot steamship Texan, then joined the 417-foot steamship Georgian, traveling through the Straits of Magellan to California and Japan and Hawaii. The Irving Reed yard on the east side of the Harbor (now near Chip Griffin's office) was building a 122-foot passenger steamer for Long Island Sound. Ben Rand and George Dunton were doing the “draughting of the frames.”