Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beyond the South End on Hiatus

"Beyond the Southend" is officially on hiatus until mid-August. I will bring you the Maine report when I return from my Maine vacation which starts July 27. I have updated the Thomaston Library News which includes one item for August. See you in Maine!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Common Sense and Politics?
I don’t do politics. Common sense dictates that if you want to keep a friend you don’t discuss two topics with them: Religion and Politics. Who can make any “common sense” out of what our politicians are talking about today anyway?
Here in Georgia the political ads are driving me crazy. I sit with remote in hand during the evening so that I can mute them every time they come on. It’s just one backstabbing statement after another it seems. Who wants to listen to that and, even more importantly, who wants to vote for the politicians who “approve this ad?”
That being said, I must put my thoughts on paper and disperse them out there on the internet this one time because things are getting out of hand up there in Maine. If I am going to be repatriated to my beloved State of Maine in the near future, there is one thing you all have to do for me before I get there. Get rid of Governor LePage!
There I’ve said it. Does this man ever say anything nice about anybody in Maine or any institution in Maine? He has essentially called Maine’s college graduates idiots and says that out-of-state corporations will laugh at you when you apply for a job if you say you graduated from a Maine college. Well I’m here to tell you that I graduated from one of those same Maine colleges and I have never run into any potential employer who scoffed at my education when I applied for an out-of-state job.
Publisher of the Courier Gazette, Reade Brower, recently quoted the Governor in one of his columns. It was the last straw as far as I was concerned because it struck home big time this time around.
It seems Governor LePage thinks that Social Security and Medicare are welfare handouts. The quote goes something like this: “It doesn’t matter what liberals call these payments it is welfare, pure and simple.” He calls them handouts disregarding that most of the money put into Social Security comes from contributions of working Americans and is taken out by the same.
Excuuuuuuuse me? I collect both of those benefits for which I contributed to for all of my adult working life. By the way, Medicare doesn’t come free. A certain amount is taken out of my Social Security each month to pay my portion of it. On top of that, I carry supplemental health insurance because Medicare doesn’t pay for everything.
The man who calls himself governor of my beloved State of Maine, is THE most misinformed man I’ve ever come across. Who is feeding him this stuff? I see by his bio that he went to Husson College in Maine and the University of Maine. Was he ever afraid to apply for a job out- of- state because he was a Maine college graduate? I know he had a difficult childhood and was basically a street kid at an early age and I applaud him for getting through all that and being a survivor, but this Governorship ride has to end for him now. He was a businessman before and I’m sure he can start his own business after stepping down and do well at it.
LePage put in papers to run for Governor again in 2014 way back in 2011. Guess he figures he needs to try to gather up his cohorts early on. I sincerely hope his campaign is not successful this time. I’ll smile and wish him well as he steps out of the Governor’s office door one last time up in Augusta.
According to Brower, the Governor tried to backtrack of his statement about Social Security and Medicare. However the press release containing this statement was written by whom? Why the Governor of course. He says he was “misunderstood and that the meaning of what he meant distorted.” What?
I’ve come to think that this man makes these outrageous statements just so he will make the evening news that night in case we forget who he is. Well he’s succeeded in that respect at least. As for myself, I can’t wait for him to be long forgotten.
As I said at the beginning of this tirade, I don’t do politics. Therefore I do not want to get into any political debate with any of you. Don’t send me email please. I just wanted to vent. I don’t care who is elected the next Governor of the State of Maine as long as it isn’t LePage. I also don’t care what political party they belong to as long as they don’t have the same views as LePage. Can you all up there do me this one big favor and vote for an informed man or woman this time around? I would appreciate it greatly.
(My muses for this blog were the comedians George Carlin and the sometimes funny Lenny Bruce. Maybe I should look into being a stand-up comedian myself.)
Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Memories Rising With the Flames in Machias

Most people in Maine will probably agree that there are two restaurant landmarks located on Route 1. The first is Moody’s in Waldoboro and the second is Helen’s On Rt. 1 just before the dike that crosses the mouth of the Middle River, where it joins the Machias River in Machias. Both restaurants have been in business for over 50 years and both have seen one or more generations carry on the business. I have written about Moody’s before in this space. Today I must bring you the story of a very special place in my heart which burned to the ground this past Friday. That place is Helen’s.
I will bring you my memories of Helen’s later on in this story. First we must report on this terrible fire. Tim Cox of the Bangor Daily News did a terrific job in his reporting of the event. Many of the pictures of the fire come from him. I will highlight his report here, but for the full story, go to the BDN site.
The fire started in the early hours of July 11. Crews from many surrounding towns came to assist in the fire, but they were not able to extinguish the fire, but only contain it. Owners, David and Julie Barker could see the restaurant from their home atop a hill in Machias. Julie heard the sirens, looked out and saw smoke coming from the restaurant, and she and David then drove to the site. At first they thought they might get away with a little smoke damage and only be closed down for a couple weeks or so, but soon the whole restaurant was engulfed. The exact cause of the fire is yet to be determined.
Governor LePage in a news release said, “Helen’s is a Maine landmark…this is a true loss for the owners, David and Julie Barker, as well as the Down East community.”
The estimated loss was $1 million to $1.5 million to rebuild. The owners have insurance and intend to rebuild with a hopeful opening date of next spring. Fifty people are employed at the restaurant during the peak summer season with a weekly payroll of about $10,000, according to Barker. Julie said, “Our only concern is for our Helen’s family—our co-workers.” If you would like to donate to the fund to help out the employees check the end of this blog.

Dave and Julie Barker, present owners of Helen’s.

Pictures of the Fire
Here are some of Tim’s pictures of the fire on Friday.

In 2005, Life Magazine named Helen’s blueberry pie as the best in America. This is what was left of one of those pies after the fire.
I cried when I watched this video on YouTube. It seems as though one good memory after another rose with the flames above our dear Helen’s.
The History of Helen’s and my History with Helen’s
This is the original Helen’s I remember. When I arrived in Machias to go to college at Washington State Teachers College (now University of Maine at Machias) which stood on a hill above the dam, this Helen’s had been open about 10 years, or since 1950.  I believe these are the original owners standing by the door, Larry and Helen Mugnai. We can assume that Helen gave her name to the restaurant. Sixty-four years later it is still going strong.
Bob and Joan Carter purchased Helen’s in 1976. Since then it has been passed down to one family member after another until David and Julie Barker bought it from his mother in 1983. He is the third family member to operate the restaurant.
Helen’s was originally located up on Main Street in the center of town. Because of the crowds waiting up the street and poor parking, the business was moved to its present location. The Carters also opened the Machias Motor Inn next door to the restaurant in 1988.
My memories of Helen’s are probably the same as the generations of college students who have passed through their doors since 1950. I remember Larry as being a quiet, yet friendly man. I suspect he fed more poor college students than we’ll ever realize. He used to have a small filing box with cards in it with students’ names on them. It was the record of their tab at Helen’s. Once in a while Larry would gently remind a student that their tab might need to be lessened a little, but he was never demanding. As far as I know, when students graduated from WSTC, they always divied up with Larry before they left town. It became a matter of respect for Larry because he was so warmly loved by all of us.
I also remember the boycott of our dorm food program. It was pretty darn awful and we students decided to boycott the service even though we paid for it in our tuition fees. It was a big expense for most of us, but if we could, we’d head down to Helen’s to see what we could manage to eat for supper. At other times we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; or popped corn in our corn poppers in our room; or made soup in them as well. They were the kind of poppers popular at that time before microwaves when they were metal and round like a regular cooking pot.
The boycott worked eventually. The chief cook was fired and a cafeteria style system was set up so we could pick and choose what we wanted instead of relying on whatever the “family-style” system chose to give us that day.
I also remember one friend who made an arrangement with the school to not pay for school food and instead she ate exclusively at Helen’s. The reason she gave was that the dorm food didn’t agree with her system.
It was a long and cold walk in the winter up and down that hill and across the bridge with that cold wind off the water threatening to blow you over. Very few of us had cars, but we willingly gravitated to our favorite hangout at every opportunity. Helen’s may have gone up in flames, but our memories really didn’t go up in flames too. Most of us, who graduated, even 50 years ago like me, can still see ourselves sitting down amongst our friends to enjoy a meal at Helen’s.
Donations for the Employees
As mentioned before there is a fundraising site for the employees at Helen’s who will be out of work because of the fire. Unless you are a fisherman or lobsterman down that way, jobs are hard to come by. You can find this site at The goal is $20,000 of which $19,734 has been raised to date. However, if the weekly payroll runs to about $10,000 it seems to me that 50 people will need more than that. Therefore, maybe the goal should be broadened.
If you were ever a student of WSTC or UMM, I urge you to support these wonderful people we all came to know and love. If the rest of you can see it in your hearts to support a wonderful landmark institution, so much the better.
Thanks for listening.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sail, Power & Steam Museum

Launching of the

Friendship Sloop

Coming soon at the museum

Watch this space

This picture was posted on Facebook today, July 14. The sloop as it comes out of the shed.