Out of Our Past

Winter 1916, Part II

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 7:30am

Shipbuilding, Icecutting, Town Meetings

On February 11, 1916, the paper reported that the Townsend Marine Railway (now Boothbay Harbor Shipyard) was to build a 108-foot vessel, the Halcyon, for the fish hatchery. And icecutting on the local ponds had started with Dewey Spofford in charge of Pat's Pond on the east side, Billy Sawyer at Southport’s east side, the Knickerbocker Company at Trevett, and Herbert Bennett at Bennett Pond on the east side—all cutting and storing ice. February 18, a fire threatened much of Commercial Street but was contained, with only the Merrill Perkins business being lost. The next week the paper revealed why the fire alarms failed and that "King" (Professor) Stuart, a local character, had accidentally started the fire in his third-floor apartment above Perkins's store. Sharing space with the fire was a long discussion of the funding problems for a new Southport bridge.

During mid-March the town meetings were covered. Before cars became prevalent, the meetings were held during the day with midday food being served by women's organizations, On March 10, the paper devoted the front page to the goings-on at the Harbor's town meeting, the thorniest issue being selectmen's meetings. They had all met together only a few times during the year, and the townspeople voted that they must meet once a week. On March 17, the Boothbay town meeting dominated the front page. Attendees at both wrangled most about road and sidewalk upkeep, residents complaining loudly about particular problems in their areas. Thod Bryer said the Back Narrows Road was like an old man, all worn out, and in great need of work. The stormiest Boothbay issues were whether to move the Back Narrows school and whether to rent the town hall to the Boothbay Center Hook and Ladder Company for a dance. Fears of liquor being consumed and immoral conduct taking place kept the discussion lively.

Dramatic Club and Commerce

Sharing the front page with the Boothbay town meeting was a description of a play written by Dick Hallett and put on by the Boothbay Harbor Dramatic Club. Starring in it were Evelyn Marr, Linc Harris, Flora Hodgdon, Burt Hume, Nellie Stevens, Nat Grover, Dr. Sprague, Clarence McKown, and Wes Hyde. During the intermissions, Saul Hayes did a vaudeville routine and Dr. George Gregory did a black-face act in minstrel costume.

March 24 the paper reported that the Board of Trade, with Chandler Reed president, was formed to encourage economic development. Luther Maddocks spoke, reminding the public that 30 years earlier there had been 160 sailing vessels enrolled in the Boothbay region, 59 of them from Southport. In 1916 he said there was not one, illustrating his point that the area needed alternate sources of income. He said that of the working population, 80% were laborers and fishermen, 7% store helpers, 3% professional, 2% hotel men and clerks—then the math goes haywire when he added that 18% loaf all but the summer, 15% loaf all the year round, and 20% live on their incomes. A third of the men found wanting in the work ethic! Some of the men must have been included in more than one category, and I doubt that one in five was sufficiently well off to live on their incomes.

Many of 1916's stories have stayed current, but nearly vanished is the neighborhood social life of men gathering and entertaining each other in local stores near their homes.