I have to thank Joseph Owen for all the research he must have done to create his fascinating book, This Day in Maine, and also thank all those who encouraged and helped Owen, including the publisher, Islandport Press. This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read.
For every day of the year, Owen tells us about historic events that happened in Maine on that day. And he doesn’t just list the events, he tells us a lot about them. And for most days, he tells us about several events. Some happened hundreds of years ago, but many happened in my lifetime. And I was there at some of the events he writes about.
For example, on May 24, 1977, Elvis performed at the Augusta Civic Center, just months before he died. And I was there! My sister Edie and I waited hours in line to buy tickets, and we got the last 2 tickets. I felt bad for the people behind us, because they didn’t get tickets.
Our seats were at the end of the last row at the back and top of the civic center, and I took my binoculars to get a better look at Elvis, who didn’t arrive until 10:15 pm. But his performance was magical, something I will never forget. My brother Gordon and his wife Janet sat near us, and Edie remembers Gordon and I standing up and singing with Elvis.
Brother Gordon shows up on page 2, in a January 2, 2019 story about Janet Mills, Maine’s first female governor. In that story, Owen tells about Janet’s hiring Gordon to work on the opioid crisis. He’s still at it, and working very hard.
There are plenty of positive stories, but lots of tragedies too, from entire towns that burned down to ships that sank with everyone on board drowning to plane crashes to a guy trying to set a speed record on his motorcycle who gets up to 285 miles per hour and crashes and dies.
I want to share some of the events Owen writes about, and I can tell you it was hard to pick these out. There are hundreds of great stories in this book. Here are a few, to wet your appetite.
January 25, 1953 WABI is Maine’s first tv station.
February 13, 2019 More than 1000 people set a record for the most people calling moose, led by Roger Lambert. Linda and I were part of that crowd.
March 27, 1980 Frustated with US-Canada trade policies and low potato prices, Maine farmers dump rotting potatoes at nine border crossings, preventing the transfer of goods between the two countries.
April 26, 1983 10-year-old Samantha Smith becomes famous after exchanging letters with the Soviet Union’s leader. But in August of 1985, she and her father die in a plane crash. Samantha’s photo is on the cover of this book.
May 10, 2005 Moxie is named Maine’s official soft drink. I supported that bill at the legislature.
June 13, 1897 Maine businessman John Curtis, who invented chewing gum, dies.
July 30, 1898 Rev. Prescott Jernigan is arrested for falsely claiming his factory in Lubec was extracting gold from seawater.
August 19, 1692 George Burroughs of Wells is hanged after being found guilty of witchcraft.
September 10, 1917 The Maine legislature, consisting of all men, vote by a margin of 2 to 1 against a constitutional amendment allowing women to vote.
September 11, 1922 Dora Pinkham becomes the first woman elected to the legislature.
September 17, 1865 An arsonist starts a fire that burns down most of downtown Augusta.
October 11, 1983 America’s last hand-cranked operator-assisted telephone service ends in Bryant Pond. I remember that telephone service, which I used to talk with friends on the Pond Road in Manchester.
December 5, 1933 Prohibition ends in US, capping an experiment begun in Maine.
December 13, 1947 Maine turnpike opens, linking Kittery to Portland.