Maine in autumn can be the most colorfully exhilarating place on earth. But it can also be brutal. When the leaves are in full splendor they are truly awe-inspiring. And when one of those Nor’easters come swooping in off the Atlantic you are suddenly unable to stay warm and dry. Chilled to the bone is an understatement—chilled to the marrow would be more accurate. The fall of 1977 was starting off with mild, mostly sunny weather and easy driving.
I decided to stick fairly close to the I-95 corridor heading downeast, since it traversed nine of Maine’s sixteen counties. Several had interesting and unique names, probably adapted from local tribes: Sagadahoc, Kennebec, Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Aroostook. Others were more typical English and New England monikers: York, Cumberland, Oxford, Knox, Somerset, Waldo, Hancock, Lincoln, and Washington.
I would drive a ways on the Interstate until I saw an interesting sign for a town not too far off the highway. Some of the towns had unfamiliar names as well: Kennebunkport, Bucksport, Skowhegan, Bangor, and Machias.
Bucksport, Maine Machias, Maine
One of my early visits was to Damariscotta-Newcastle, a quaint little burg right on the coast that depended on the summer tourist trade.
I happened to stop by the local newspaper office to see what I could learn about the town. The Damariscotta Town Crier was a weekly. Sam, the owner and publisher, was in and to my delight, took the time to listen to my story about Town Meeting 76. Sam was a New Yorker who had bought the paper about 5 years earlier, so was considered almost as much a newcomer as I was. But Sam was looking for a way to build community awareness and participation. He agreed after spending an hour with me to have the newspaper sponsor the meeting. We had a date set before I left his office and I had met with 3 or 4 town leaders and got their OK as well.
I was only at the end of my first week on the Maine Town Meeting circuit and I had 2 of my 16 on the schedule. Life was good. Maine was cooperating. I headed back to Boston for a weekend of celebration, R & R, sharing what was working and what wasn’t, and planning for the next victorious week.