There was dancing and singing I was told
In the Great Hall when Maine went gold
Champaign flowing for young and old
What I remember – It was damn cold!
When we, the corporate we, the ICA, came up with the idea for the Town Meeting 76 campaign to orchestrate 5000 local community forums, one in each county of the United States, some of us housed in the eight story office building in Chicago which was the ICA’s international headquarters and training center, devised this method of tracking our progress. Since there was no way of completing all of the 5000 forums in the actual bicentennial year, we gave ourselves four years to finish. A huge map of the U.S. was found and mounted on one wall in what we affectionately named the Great Hall. It was a room large enough to hold up to 1000 bodies and where we held our large assemblies in the summer. The map was printed with every county line showing. So when a Town Meeting was scheduled someone would color in that county with a yellow marker, which in our creative minds was pure gold. And when all the counties in a state were colored in, a celebration was held, not just in Chicago, but in each of the campaign headquarters around the country.
It happened in Maine one foggy day in early November 1977. The last of Maine’s 16 counties was scheduled. Thanksgiving was not that far away. Somehow the citizens of Maine had come through. We were to conduct about 10 of the forums on the same Saturday. The logistical genius of our mostly volunteer organization always amazed me. On the ordained Saturday, about 20 of us arrived in South Portland at the Harry and Ellis Bliss home to be sent out, two by two, to conduct the all day forums. After singing Harry’s favorite, When New England Wakes up Singing, we caravanned out to the Maine Turnpike and headed off to our assigned towns.
People actually came and participated! It was a great day! The sun was shining. We were on top of the world. And I – I felt good. I felt like a conqueror. Like a hero. It was the last time that year I would get to have that feeling. But it was all good!
At the end of the day we all straggled back in to South Portland to tell our amazing stories to one another. And we sang. And we drank toasts. And we even danced. Life was wonderful. We phoned in to our colleagues in New York, Hartford, and Chicago.
And Maine was gold!