Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day '08

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Vet Reflects on WWII Experiences


Dick Goodie was born in Bangor in 1923. At 19 he was drafted into the army and
found himself being shipped to Britain at the end of 1943 in preparation for the
planned invasion of Europe the following summer. That sea voyage, recalls
Goodie, was a precarious experience in which the threat of German U-Boats was
ever-present. "We shipped out of Fort Shanks New York on the Queen Mary. It took
us 5 days to cross the Ocean and the ship, its speed was thought to be its best
defence, but had it got torpedoed, I learnt 20 years after the war that the
Queen Mary, of course it could carry 15,000 soldiers across the Ocean, and we
found out afterwards that had it been torpedoed that it carried enough lifeboats
for about half that number."
- John C.L. Morgan

h/t: Reader Maine Ale

Q&A with Westbrook Historian Andrea Vasquez


[S.D. Warren] was vital to the growth of Westbrook into the city it has
become. At some point, most likely in the early 1900s, residents began to
affectionately, and proudly, refer to Westbrook as "The Paper City," which
carried over into local newspaper articles, books, and public speeches. It was
the pride and affection clearly carried by the nickname that I was drawn to.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Local Author Publishes Book on Westbrook History (May 10, 2010)
Related: Did You Know? (January 23, 2008)

Kudos for Main Street Cafe

The menu is packed with well-priced comfort lunch options such as grilled cheese
($2.99), soup or chowder and a half sandwich ($5.99), and a BLT ($4.29). The
cafe also serves breakfast all day for locals with a penchant for noontime
bacon. For workers on the run, Main Street Cafe offers a bargain $2.99 Italian
sandwich to go. But it’s worth it to slide into a booth and mull over the "Find
the 50 states" placemat crossword puzzle during the short wait for your food to
- John C.L. Morgan

William Clarke Drive to Undergo Makeover


After more than a decade of planning, a $5.5 million project to reconstruct
William Clarke Drive in Westbrook begins Tuesday, the day after the Memorial Day
holiday. The approximately 1-mile project on the four-lane road is expected to
take more than a year. The plan calls for transforming the state road--on which
cars now often race along in excess of the 35 mph speed limit, causing
pedestrians to scuttle out of the way--into a tree-lined boulevard with a grassy
median planted with trees, shrubs and flowers.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Paper City Streets: William Clarke Drive (January 19, 2009)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Product Placement

Hat tip: Down East political blogger (and Westbrook resident) Mike Tipping.

- John C.L. Morgan

Booknotes: The More Things Change...

(Editor's Note: I recently bought a copy of Ronald Banks's Maine Becomes a State: The Movement to Separate Maine from Massachusetts, 1785-1820, so I figured I'd kick off a new feature of the blog that will include thoughts on Maine-themed books I'm currently reading.)

Ronald Banks:
Economically, the District [of Maine] before the Revolution was poor. Even by
1782, according to Moses Greenleaf, the total wealth of the District was only
one-tenth of that of Massachusetts proper.
I guess the good news is that Maine has narrowed that wealth gap in recent years. The ratio is now more like 7 to 1, as Maine's Gross State Product (GSP) in 2008 was $49.7 billion, and Massachusetts's GSP in 2008 was $349.9 billion.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Booknotes: Thank You, New Hampshire (May 24, 2010)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

PPH: WPD's Crackdown on Speeding is a Good Thing

When stopped, motorists complained to police officers asking why they weren't
out catching "real criminals," but they were missing the point. Speeding is much
more of a threat to a motorist's safety than most of the seemingly more serious
crimes that people are concerned about. According to a study by the Insurance
Institute of Highway Safety, excessive speed was a factor in one-third of fatal
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: WPD Cracking Down on Speed (May 20, 2010)

Monday, May 24, 2010

c. 1800

Booknotes: Thank You, New Hampshire

(Editor's Note: I recently bought a copy of Ronald Banks's Maine Becomes a State: The Movement to Separate Maine from Massachusetts, 1785-1820, so I figured I'd kick off a new feature of the blog that will include thoughts on Maine-themed books I'm currently reading.)

Given our geographical and cultural proximity to New Hampshire, we Mainers have long had a natural and bitter rivalry with our neighbors to the south. The 260-year-old boundary dispute between the two states regarding ownership of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, for example, was finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2001. Then there's the fact that our southern neighbors are often depicted as our fiscal and economic foil, the granite-ribbed John Galt to our flabby-bellied beggar (see here, here, and here for just a few examples). And most recently, the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 population estimates not only highlighted the fact that we were one of only three states to actually lose residents, but it is also rubbed our noses into the fact that more people now live in New Hampshire than in Maine for the first time since 1800.

Despite these rivalries (and let's face it, slight jealousies), though, we Mainers do owe New Hampshire a big thank-you. Why, you may ask? Well, simply for existing:

Thus, from 1691 to 1820 there was no political
entity known as Maine, only Massachusetts, which included all the territory
between New Brunswick and Rhode Island except for a segment of New Hampshire
that inconveniently protruded to the sea. It was this wedge of land that denied
to Massachusetts that complete and binding integration she desired, for through
the years this geographic fact of life served to remind those in Maine as well
as in England that the union of Maine and Massachusetts was not only
an unwilling but an unnatural one
[Emphasis mine]

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Westbrook Politics: May 24- May 29, 2010

Monday, May 24
Westbrook City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Wednesday, May 26
Burglary Prevention Seminar
Westbrook Middle School

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: May 16- May 22, 2010

High: 82F (May 20)
Low: 41F (May 17, May 18)
Precipitation: 1.08 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:10a
Previous Sunset: 8:07p

High: 82F (May 20)
Low: 29F (May 11)
Precipitation: 1.77 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 85F (April 8)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 23.60 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Voters to Decide on School Budget Jun. 8

City voters on June 8 will be asked whether they want to approve the new $33
million 2010-2011 school budget. The budget is $2,000 less than this year’s
budget, and doesn’t raise taxes or involve any layoffs, according to School
Committee Chairman Ed Symbol. He said that Westbrook has been able to present
such a budget in the economic recession because of wise fiscal measures that the
city’s schools have employed over the last decade. He cited consolidation of
school and city positions to save costs, and a gradual reduction in school
positions if they were no longer needed whenever staff retired.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Voters Approve School Budget (June 9, 2009)

WPD Cracking Down on Speed


Last week, Police Chief Bill Baker sent a letter to the City Council and the
mayor asking for their support of the police department’s ramped up effort to
crack down on speeders. Baker included data collected by a radar detector called
a SpeedSpy, which the department places in different areas of the city for
24-hour periods to determine where speeding issues are worst. On East Bridge
Street, Baker said, the detector clocked 97 percent of cars going over the speed
- John C.L. Morgan

(Update: The PPH has more on this story.)

Related: Speed City (May 1, 2008)

Smiling Hill To Re-Open The Barnyard

In Carol Bishop’s eight years working at the Smiling Hill Farm Dairy Store,
she’s fielded a lot of questions about the farm’s once-popular petting zoo. Now,
she can finally tell people it’s coming back. After a nearly decade-long hiatus,
The Barnyard will reopen Wednesday. Though Bishop never visited the petting zoo
herself, customers frequently tell her that "it was absolutely awesome," she
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quote, Unquote

"Pass a $5 billion budget and you get ten phone calls. But if someone walks topless through town, you get one hundred."

- State Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), quoted in a June 2010 Down East article on how 2010 might go down in Maine history as the "Year of Living Toplessly." (Sorry, no link.)

- John C.L. Morgan


- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vocational Students Gain Real World Experience

Student heavy-equipment operators from Westbrook Regional Vocational Center last
week were geared up as they constructed a parking lot at the sports dome in
Gorham. "This is the real thing," Ellis Oliver, a Westbrook senior, said just
before he climbed up into the cab of a gigantic, half-million-dollar dump truck.
Oliver was one of several students in the crew, most who arrived in a Westbrook
school bus at the non-profit YourSpace in Gorham to man heavy equipment donated
by local companies for use on the project. The students excavated, relocated,
leveled and rolled materials, shaping a parking lot.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: High School Students Repair Laptops for Ill Children (March 5, 2010)

Social Pressures Cited as Cause for Students' Subpar Test Scores

Westbrook Middle School students may no longer be tripping over ripped carpeting
or stuck in windowless rooms, but moving into a shiny new building on
Stroudwater Street was the solution to only one of many problems that face the
school, according to Superintendent Reza Namin. While elementary school students
in Westbrook have performed above the state average during the past three years,
middle school students’ test scores fall below that line--a trend that worsens
in the high school. At the same time, social pressures seem to be greatest for
that age group, according to a recently released health survey given to middle
and high school students last year, which shows bullying among students and
suicidal thoughts are highest in the middle school.
- John C.L. Morgan

Judge: Pidexx Court Case Will Not Be Delayed

A judge has denied Pike Industries' request to put its court case on hold while
it continues to work with Westbrook officials to find a compromise to operate
its quarry. Justice Thomas Humphrey met Thursday in Cumberland County Superior
Court with lawyers representing the city and businesses in and around its Five
Star Industrial Park. Sigmund Schutz, a lawyer representing Pike, asked Humphrey
for more time to seek an agreement allowing Pike to operate its quarry off
Spring Street. "We have an extraordinary interest in resolving this," Schutz
said. "I don't suggest that this litigation be slowed down in any way. We think
this is the fastest way to bring this to a close."
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: May 17- May 21, 2010

Monday, May 17
Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Wednesday, May 19
Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Thursday, May 20
Wescott Junior High School Re-Use Committee
Wescott Junior High School, Cafeteria A

Friday, May 21
Long Creek Watershed Board of Directors meeting
Portland City Hall, State of Maine Room

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: May 9- May 15, 2010

High: 67F (May 13, May 15)
Low: 29F (May 11)
Precipitation: 0.00 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:15a
Previous Sunset: 8:01p

High: 81F (May 4)
Low: 29F (May 11)
Precipitation: 0.69 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 85F (April 8)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 22.52 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, May 14, 2010


From jayrgallery.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Presumpscot's Progress

Tispaquin's Revenge:
During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, very few people, including scientists, ever
believed the Presumpscot River would attain Class A water quality during their
lifetimes. During this period and in the decades prior, most people in southern
Maine, and those who lived along the Presumpscot, had long given up hope that
the Presumpscot River would ever be clean again. The challenge seemed too
daunting and the prospect too remote. What then seemed a fantasy is now the
reality. It has been done. It can be done.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Your Supreme Court Fix (May 18, 2009)
Related: On Location: Presumpscot River (June 3, 2008)

(Naked) Shakespeare at Riverbank

Get thee hence to Westbrook's Riverbank Park, where
methinks you'll find redemption at the Westbrook Shakespeare Festival. This
weekend and next, the Naked Shakespeare company, presented by Acorn Productions,
will hold outdoor performances of "As You Like It" and "Romeo and Juliet" in the
park. But soft! There is more, my liege.
For those of you who are wondering if this means the recent rash of topless marches and public nudity in Maine has now spread to the Paper City, the theater company's name is figurative.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Acorn News Flash (October 20, 2009)

Superintendent Restructures Schools' Administration

Westbrook High School Principal Marc Gousse will also be the principal of the
new Westbrook Middle School next year--one of several administrative positions
being altered in order to balance the budget. The plan, which was approved by
the School Committee last week, is the second administrative restructuring
brought forward by Superintendent Reza Namin this year. Those changes, along
with some alterations to teaching positions, will save the department $184,000,
bringing the budget for the fiscal year beginning in July in at $2,000 less than
the current year's budget.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: School Superintendent Plans to Cut Spending, Salvage Teachers' Jobs (December 28, 2009)

Former Sappi Employees Eligible for Federal Aid

Jobless workers at Sappi Fine Paper in Westbrook are now eligible for so-called
Trade Adjustment Assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor. That's according
to Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who announced the assistance
today. The two say workers laid off on or before January 20, 2009 are eligible
for the benefits, which include reemployment services and training, as well as
job search allowances.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, May 10, 2010

American Journal Reporter to Leave for Waterville Daily

Al Diamon:
Incidentally, the Press Herald won’t have
to worry about being beaten by [Leslie] Bridgers any longer. She’s been hired as
a reporter at its sister paper, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: American Journal's Leslie Bridgers Wins NEPA Award (February 9, 2009)


The 31st annual Westbrook Together Days will take place on Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5.


- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Party Like It's 1980 (June 23, 2010)

Local Author Publishes Book on Westbrook History

Westbrook writer Andrea M.P. Vasquez's book, Remembering Westbrook: The People of the Paper City, has been published by History Press.

Vasquez's book is a collection of the biographical vignettes that she's been writing for the American Journal since March 2009, as well as some other previously-unpublished content.

Copies of the book will be signed and sold at the Westbrook Historical Society on June 5, from 9a-3p.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Beverly Jensen's Web Site is Up, Book to Be Published June 28 (January 21, 2010)
Related: On Location: Westbrook Historical Society (June 24, 2008)

Westbrook Politics: May 9- May 13, 2010

Monday, May 9
Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: May 2- May 8, 2010

High: 81F (May 2)
Low: 44F (May 8)
Precipitation: 0.69 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:23a
Previous Sunset: 7:53p

High: 85F (April 8)
Low: 31F (April 14)
Precipitation: 0.69 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 85F (April 8)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 22.52 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, May 7, 2010

Buckfield Art


- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Buckfield or Bust (May 26, 2009)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SPACE Gallery to Screen Al Hawkes Documentary

Longtime Westbrook resident Al Hawkes is the subject of a documentary film that will be screened by Portland's SPACE Gallery on Friday, May 14.

The film, which is entitled The Eventful Life of Al Hawkes, focuses on Hawkes's role in the cultivation of a country music scene in New England in the 1940s and 1950s, including his founding of the record label Event Records in 1956.

The fee for the 7:30p screening and a post-screening Q&A with Hawkes is $8. FMI, see here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: On Al Hawkes (April 9, 2010)

2010 v. 1895

Though I focused mostly on the baby-making aspect of Greg Kesich's column on the need to grow Maine's population (see below), his riff on the need for immigration is also key:
Short of putting fertility drugs in the public water supply, Maine needs to find
a way to attract new people. One of them will be learning how to be friendlier
to "people from away." For a state that has made a whole comedy genre out of
being unhelpful to tourists, this won't be easy.
W.W. Thomas, Jr., a key player in Maine's recruitment of Swedish immigrants to Aroostook County following the Civil War (hence the County town of New Sweden), recalls sounding a similar alarm in the 1870s, when it was determined that Maine was one of only two states in the country (New Hampshire was the other) to experience a net population loss after the Civil War. Here's Thomas in an 1895 speech commemorating New Sweden's twenty-fifth birthday.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: More Babies, Please (May 5, 2010)

More Babies, Please

PPH columnist Greg Kesich:

Here's a question for anyone running for governor (but the rest of you can play
along at home). What is your plan for producing more babies? In addition to the
budget crisis and the jobs deficit and an over-dependence on foreign oil, we in
Maine are facing a potential demographic disaster that threatens our quality of
life. Simply put, we are not growing. Maine's population is virtually flat and
is projected to begin declining within the next two decades. Those of us who are
here now are growing--older that is --and every year more of us move into
retirement age.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Cross-Pollination, Take Two (March 10, 2010)
Related: Are Too Many Candidates a Bad Thing? (January 12, 2010)

Westbrook and Portland Vocational Schools Plan to Share Resources

Portland and Westbrook school officials are moving forward with plans to merge
administration and educational programs for Portland Arts and Technology High
School and the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. Their goal is to reduce
administration at the two regional vocational schools, combine duplicated
programs and expand the variety of courses offered to students from close to two
dozen schools throughout southern Maine.
- John C.L. Morgan

Finally, an Answer to the Proverbial $64,000 Question

The owners of the Skybox Bar and Grill have been granted a city amusement
license that will enable the embattled business to offer live entertainment. The
City Council voted to grant the license after a public hearing Monday, at which
co-owner Allen Moore described his plans to host comedy shows and live music.
Moore said he wanted to have four rock shows a year and deejays every other
month or so. He said he would schedule bands to play between noon and 8 p.m. and
use his own sound system, to minimize the volume. "I came to you 18 months ago
and $64,000 ago with just about the same proposal," Moore said at the meeting.
"I've had this vision since the beginning. It's been rough, but I'm positive the
hurdles are behind us. If there is a problem, we will pull the plug."
- John C.L. Morgan

City Council Takes a Step Toward Rezoning Five Star Industrial Park

The city moved one step closer to rezoning its Five Star Industrial Park on
Monday as the City Council approved a recommendation to call it a Manufacturing
District. A task force that was formed to find a way to let high-tech industries
coexist with a rock quarry recommended the change. At Monday's meeting, it
proposed to the City Council a list of conditions and performance standards to
let Pike Industries mine its quarry in the industrial park off Spring Street.
The proposed terms of the agreement include limiting Pike's hours of operation,
and the frequency and intensity of its blasting.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, May 3, 2010

Judge: Former City Employee Has Not Harassed Mayor

Judge Jane Bradley concluded that the evidence presented by Hilton did not
constitute harassment. Because of that, Bradley denied the complaint for
protection from harassment and terminated a temporary order that was placed on
Rossignol after Hilton filed a harassment complaint in March. Both women
appeared in court Monday for a hearing. Bradley took the matter under advisement
and handed down a ruling Tuesday.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Mayor Also Seeks Protection from Ex-Finance Chief's Son (April 5, 2010)

White Bros. Erects New Asphalt Plant on Warren Avenue

The skyline along Warren Avenue is changing. Looming behind the White Bros.
office building is a large, green asphalt plant. As Pike Industries fights to
keep its quarrying operations open across town--a battle that began over
opposition to an asphalt plant--the new addition to the White Bros. property
went up without much fanfare.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: May 3- May 7, 2010

Monday, May 3
City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Wednesday, May 5
Zoning Board of Appeals meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan