Events, Ponderings

My bittersweet adieu to the Journal

Today the Journal Tribune will publish it’s last issue, and then cease to be. I read Drew McMullin’s farewell essay in this yesterdays edition, and it revived the lump that has been in my throat since I learned our newspaper is being tossed. Why? Because it is not a moneymaker, and that is all that matters. I have to admit, I’m pretty upset and so very sad about this whole situation. Biddeford is doing amazing things, and has been doing everything right, and still we couldn’t save our local paper…of course I wonder if we had a fair chance to fight for it. Pay up or else, I guess.

But I’m going to try and keep my disappointment and accusations to myself, because the purpose of me writing this is a need to say something good. I need to convey my deep appreciation for the Journal Tribune, in all its forms, and for all the Journal staff who have ever served our community.

To the past and current staff of the Journal: Do you know that we use your work almost every day at the library? Do you know that we all rely on the work you’ve done to tell the innumerable stories of our city? Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, accidents, fires, triumphs, mysteries, successes, defeats, they are all there, and always have been. Do you know how often the words “Let’s check in the Journal” or some variation of which, have been and are uttered by the librarians of Biddeford? I can only imagine it has ever been so.

We have relied on you, and we are afraid of a future without you. There’s room in the out-of-town papers for the big Biddeford and Saco stories, but what about the little ones? Will the free weekly that is supposed to suffice have room enough amongst the all-important ads for all the little things that make our towns home? When people pass away will their loved ones still have an affordable option to have an obituary printed? I know from experience that a Press Herald obit costs quite a bit more than the Journal did – hundreds of dollars for a modest sized remembrance. Will people in Biddeford and Saco and surrounding towns be able to afford to have their loved ones remembered one last time?

What about in 10 years, or 20 years, when someone wants to learn about the how and why of our choices today in Biddeford – Saco? Will they be able to find that information locally, for free? Or will they have to pay an online service? Or will they have to go to Portland? Or Augusta? Can you even get to Augusta from here without a car?? I don’t know that you can, not easily anyway.

The thing is, our community newspaper is not just a business, it is NOT all about dollars and cents. It is so much more than that, it is the living memory of all of us, in a format that is almost universally accessible. It’s the memory of me, and you, and my kids, and your kids and grandkids. It is our grandparents, or the grandparents of your neighbors up the street, or of all the folks that have lived in your building or your block. It’s all the honor rolls, playoff games, new businesses, and programs at the libraries.

I am so grateful to all of the amazing editors and reporters that I’ve come to know over my 13 years here at the library. I am so sorry that your hard work has come to this, and I promise you that we will keep your words and images alive. I promise that we will do our best to care for and preserve the Journal Tribune and make it accessible to all forever. I wish I could do more. I’m glad I have it within my power to do something, at least.

Thank you for being a part of my story. I won’t forget you.

Events, Ponderings

Biddeford’s WWII Honor Roll

Soldiers patrol the beach at Fortune's Rocks, Biddeford in 1942.
Soldiers on duty at Fortune’s Rocks beach, 1942.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I’d like to post the list of all of Biddeford’d men and women who served their country and the world during World War II. This list is part of the library’s local history vertical file, found under Biographies – Wars/Veterans. It’s 25 pages long – think of it!!! Can you imagine people doing anything like it today? What an amazing generation of people. You can download the full list below.

Page 1 of Biddeford’s list of those who served during WWII. Access the full list below.

Let’s also remember that our beautiful May Field was established in 1943, as “Memorial Field”, to honor Biddeford’s entire veteran population, “as a living memorial for the use of those living”.

Memorial Field (now called May Field), circa 1948
From Biddeford Daily Journal – 1955 City Centennial special
Neat finds and fun stories, Ponderings

Quote-of-the-Day: a story

A patron called up recently with the following question: “when did the quote of the day start running in the local newspaper?”

What a challenging, awesome question! I got to work to see if I could track this info down*…and what I learned was so interesting that I decided it was worth sharing.

What I found was that the Quote of the Day first appeared in the Biddeford Daily Journal on November 13, 1922. It was originally called “Thought for the Evening”, and the very first one was a quote by Sir Francis Bacon (see below).

I was curious, why then? What happened to spur the paper to print something like this each day? In looking at the prior day’s paper, I found what seems to be the answer…Armistice Day. The prior day’s paper honored Armistice Day, and there were numerous events around Biddeford and Saco…after all, the war had only ended 4 years prior.

The scars were not yet healed from the War to End All Wars. And so, perhaps it was this need to reflect that inspired the publisher of the Journal to include a daily quote from that day forward.

*Librarianship Nerds! You wanna know how I found it?? I started with the earliest decade I knew had a daily quote (1940’s) and then looked at microfilm from each decade, starting at 1899 earliest, and moved inward in increasingly smaller chunks of time (decades, to 5 years, etc.) from those ends until I zeroed in on the date. It took awhile. Library work is for people who like to solve puzzles and is definitely not for quitters!

Ponderings, Resources

Where have all the Francos gone?

I wanted to call attention to the following article, because it so beautifully articulates much of my own experience and I suppose that of many others as well. I excerpt the first paragraph to draw you in, and it will – I promise. Then click on the link to read the rest at the wonderful site where it lives. Be sure to read on at the end, the numerous comments are just as instructive.
~Renée

Play cast in production of "Tonkourou", Biddeford, 1910.
Play cast in production of “Tonkourou”, Biddeford, 1910.


From the Blog French North America: Québécois(e), Franco-American, Acadian, and more
by David Vermette

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why Are Franco-Americans So Invisible?

“Why are we so invisible?” I’ve heard this question wherever Franco-Americans gather, be it through my social media contacts, at conferences, or at my occasional speaking engagements. The history of Franco-Americans is all but left out of the historical accounts on both sides of the border. It couldn’t be more missing among the history of U.S. ethnic groups. And it is largely unknown in Québec.”

READ ON HERE….

New Stuff, Ponderings

Thinking about (Franco-American) heritage

Are you Franco-American?
No…?
Are you sure??

If you live in Maine and have a french last name, it is pretty likely that some portion of your family history trails back to Quebec or other parts of Canada, whether you realize it or not. After all, we share more border with Canada than with the U.S., and you haven’t always needed a passport to cross over those lines. Also, in the past we were a much less settled society – if you needed to move away to find work it wasn’t as big a deal – people moved around quite a bit, actually (the New England genealogists’ lament!)

One of my college professors (I was an undergrad in Maine) used to love to tell the story of how, when she asked for a show of hands amongst her students one day the number “who were french”,  she only got a few hands. But then when she asked who had a memérè and pepérè (french grandmother and grandfather) most of the hands went up. These second, third, fourth generation Franco-Americans just never saw themselves as having any kind of particular culture or heritage, besides being Mainers (which is it’s own thing, for sure…but that is a different blog post).

For others though, being Franco was an important and distinguishing part of their identity throughout their lives – in terms of their family, or their community, or both. In the radio piece above, we hear scholar and journalist Jane Martin (a Biddeford native now living in Montreal) talk to her own family members about their Franco identity, while reflecting upon her identity as well. The piece eloquently explores the challenges of moving between different cultural worlds and identities – French versus English; American versus Canadian.

As for me – I had one grandparent who immigrated to Maine from Canada as a teenager. But my Grampa married a Yankee girl, only ever spoke English, and was about as all-American as they come – I didn’t even know he was a naturalized citizen until after his death. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized I had any kind of Canadian connection at all – and at that point, I woke up to the myriad little things my paternal grandfather did which were part of his Franco self.

So how about you? Did you come from a strongly grounded Franco family like Jane? Or are you french in name only, like me? It has been interesting but a little sad too, since it’s too late for me to talk to my Grampa about his life – but maybe it’s not too late for you. So go have those conversations, and begin your journey of self-discovery – whatever your heritage may be. Bonne chance!

Neat finds and fun stories, New Stuff, Ponderings

The Langlais Art Trail = art in your backyard

Who? BERNARD LANGLAIS (1921-1977) was an award-winning Maine artist and sculptor.

What? THE LANGLAIS ART TRAIL is, in essence, an art installation on a state-wide scale. A network of over 50 institutions in over 40 Maine communities allow the public to access and enjoy thousands of works created by this prolific and important Maine artist. Made possible by the Colby College Museum of Art and the Kohler Foundation, Inc.

When? FOREVER! The Langlais Art Trail is a permanent installation, and can be accessed whenever the host locations are open to the public. (Note: Some locations are free, some charge admission–best to check before you go.)

Where? ALL OVER MAINE. But your local Langlais Art Trail participant is Biddeford’s McArthur Library. The wild and whimsical pieces are on permanent display in our Children’s Room, to be enjoyed by art lovers of all ages!

Why? Because access to art makes us all richer people, and this trail gives many opportunities to access art for free. And not just any art, but works by an important and well-regarded artist, who did his own thing in his own way. Art historian Daniel Kany sums it thusly: “…it’s undeniable that the tremendously talented Langlais changed the Maine art landscape and that his late sculptures successfully achieve a raw and intentionally primitive power.”

To Learn More:

Boston Globe: Building an art trail through Maine

Portland Press Herald: The whole Bernard Langlais at the Colby Museum of Art

 

Bernard Langlais at the Colby College Museum of Art
Bernard Langlais at the Colby College Museum of Art

“Bernard Langlais at the Colby College Museum of Art”…  borrow from your local library, or purchase at your favorite local bookseller.

Neat finds and fun stories, Ponderings

A little inspiration for the newest townies…

Biddeford is in the middle of something big…we all know it, it’s been years in the making, and it’s pretty cool. There’s so much hubub, building, renovation, and yes demolition! going on nowadays…the city is changing before our eyes. But you know, it’s not the first time this has happened. Biddeford has always been a dynamic place, from fishing village to bustling lumber, milling and trading hub to textile manufacturing mecca. No matter what or whom has been at the heart of Biddeford, the face of the town is ever growing and changing. It’s one of the most interesting parts of my job, to piece together places in their many iterations, and then finding some way to share that with the community.

I’ve been cataloging a large number of old images of streets, homes and buildings lately, and thinking about all the renovating and upgrading and new construction going on downtown and elsewhere. It came to me that maybe you all would like to see some of the beautiful old dwellings which have graced our streets in the past. Maybe these images will inspire some of you newcomers in your renovations and rebuilding work, I hope they do! And if you have any questions or want to see more, you can feel free to contact us at the library or take some time to poke around the Local History Catalog (which is updated on a regular basis with new materials). Enjoy!!!

PS. Please excuse any mistakes made in my descriptions–my enthusiasm far outweighs my architectural expertise. Feel free to share what you know about this stuff!

Image 2439. Home on Center Street, Biddeford.
Image 2439. Home on Center Street, Biddeford.

Postcard Carr 619. Homes along Elm Street near South Street (200 block).
Postcard Carr 619. Homes along Elm Street near South Street (200 block). (Recognize these homes?? The mansard roofed building is now white, and the little New Englander has a big porch attached to the face of it now. Look at those trees!)

carr0343
Postcard Carr 343. This is after the Harmon’s Corner fire, but see those homes? That’s the Methot Insurance building on the corner of Main and Elm, and the cute little cape next door is where the rental store is now.

Image 3008.  A home in Biddeford, circa 1877. The location is unknown, but this is a great example of a nice, simple home. Check out the pretty lamp on the corner!
Image 3008. A home in Biddeford, circa 1877. The location is unknown, but this is a great example of a nice, simple home. Check out the pretty lamp on the corner!

Apartment building, Elm Street and Emery Court (St. Joseph's Street), circa 1910.
Postcard bid.gen.039. I love this building! It was next door to St. Joseph’s Church, now it’s the parking lot. Beautiful windows and details, and check out those great buildings around it!

Image 0772. Apartment buildings on Main Street @ Elm Street (across from St. John's Building).
Image 772. Apartment buildings on Main Street , near St. John’s Building. Check out those great bay windows!