Monday, September 10, 2007
B is for Bowdoinham
Although I was born in a hospital in Tilbury Town, I soon came home to a rented house without electricity on the Ridge Road in Bowdoinham. Not long after my arrival, the REA arrived and we got a light fixture and an electric socket. Shortly after that, with a bonus from my father's World War II service, my parents bought land just north of my grandfather's farm on the Millay Road and started building a house there. Through all our travels, we always kept that house and Bowdoinham as our home.
The glory days of Bowdoinham were already over before my grandparents moved there in 1925, a few months before my mother's birth. In the 19th century, it was a shipbuilding town and had many other businesses, as well as farms. A famous bank robbery there netted nearly $75,000, an amazing sum for the time. By the time I remember the town, there were two small factories and 3 stores, and one or two gas stations; some small car repair shops, the smelt-fishing and duck-hunting camps along the rivers and Merrymeeting Bay, and farming completed the town's economic base. Already at that time, Bowdoinham was also a bucolic bedroom community for people working at the Bath Iron Works or the Brunswick Naval Air Station. I think it was one of my Harpswell cousins who scornfully characterized the town as "up among the dust and cucumbers."
This past weekend we enjoyed "Celebrate Bowdoinham" days. Dust was much in evidence, as Friday and Saturday were very hot, and there were cucumbers and other produce aplenty on exhibit in the Masonic Hall. There are now several CSA farms in Bowdoinham.
We began the day by watching the parade, which featured vintage cars, trucks and tractors (these three belong to my Uncle Phil),
puppets, horses, Scouts, and fire engines from three communities' Volunteer Fire Departments. After seeing the above-mentioned produce exhibit, we made our way to the newly-opened Merrymeeting Arts Center, a memorial to Bryce Muir. The old leather mill (it made patent leather) already housed a couple of fine woodworking shops, a studio belonging to a woman who works in shibori and sashiko, and a flea market and dog training center. Now, the Arts Center has been added. Part of it is a museum of Bryce Muir's work; there are also items by local artists for sale, including jewelry, note cards, books, scarves, fine furniture, etc. The plan is also to offer art classes in some of the space. It is a very fitting memorial.
After some lunch and a break to tend to Rusty at home, we returned for the Bean Supper at the Fire House. Here's a glimpse of the table of beans and casseroles and one of the dessert table. I had lemon meringue pie and Onkel Hankie Pants had chocolate cream.
Not only baked beans, but casseroles as well, and you can see that the pies and other desserts are wonderful!
This year was Bowdoinham's 245th anniversary as an incorporated town. (It rather alarms me that I can remember the men growing beards for the Bicentennial!) The town has proven that it can grow and change with the times while still retaining its rural, small-town ambience. I'm proud to be a native daughter.