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.

New Stuff

Franco-American history series revisted

Class portrait showing the 6th grade class of St. Joseph's School, Biddeford for 1943. 27 girls and 2 nuns in habits.
Image 3154. Sixth grade class of St. Joseph’s School, Biddeford, 1943 (27 girls and 2 nuns, none are identified)

In 1972-1973 the Journal published a series of articles by the excellent Franco-American historian, Michael Guignard. This was prior to the publication of his unequaled work, “La Foi – La Langue – La Culture: The Franco-Americans of Biddeford, Maine”. I came across this series while searching for articles on Israel Shevenell this week, and I wanted to bring them to light so they can be read and enjoyed by all again.


Articles in the series

“French-Canadians First Came To Biddeford In The 1830’s, ” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Aug. 11, 1972.

“Israel Shevenell Was Biddeford’s First French Voter,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Aug. 18, 1972.

“Controversy Marked The Early History Of St. Joseph’s Parish,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Aug. 25, 1972.

“Pastors Were Tenacious In Building Up St. Joseph’s Parish,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Sep. 1, 1972.

“St. Andre’s Parish Reveres Monseigneur Decary’s Memory,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Sep. 8, 1972.

“Parochial Schools Were Established To Preserve French Culture,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Sep. 15, 1972.

“Parish Schools Add Teeth to Discipline,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Sep. 22, 1972.

“Early Parochial Students Had To Forget Their Age,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Sep. 29, 1972.

“St. Louis High School Felt Financial Pinch,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Oct. 6, 1972.

“Parochial Schools Are On The Wane,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Oct. 16, 1972.

“High School Students Had To Go To Canada,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Oct. 30, 1972.

“Alumni Did Much For St. Louis High School,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Nov. 18, 1972.

“French-Canadian Newspapers: Press Preserver Of Traditions,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Jul. 16, 1973.

“French-Canadian Newspapers: Protestants Behind Local Paper,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Jul. 17, 1973.

“Early Publications Short-Lived,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Jul. 18, 1973.

“French-Canadian Newspapers: Mr. Zero Famous Native Son ,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Jul. 19, 1973.

“French-Canadian Newspapers: ‘La Justice’ Spanned Half Century,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Jul. 20, 1973.

“French-Canadian Newspapers: Editor Bonneau Multi-Talented,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Jul. 21, 1973.

“In La Justice: Anti-Yankee Views Explored,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Aug. 17, 1973.

“La Justice Dealt With Behavior,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Aug. 18, 1973.

“La Justice Tells: Discipline Is Key To Child Rearing,” Biddeford-Saco Journal (Biddeford, ME), Aug. 20, 1973.

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!

New Stuff, Updates

19th c. Main Street Maps!

Detail from the 1884 map – Main near Franklin Street!

As mentioned in the May 16th Biddeford-Saco Courier, we are thrilled to a virtual unveilling of the two maps we recently had conserved and digitized by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in North Andover, Mass. (The maps are super huge, and we are still trying to figure out how to display them in real life…stay tuned for that!)

Both maps are a wonderful records of Biddeford’s Main Street Historic District, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009. (Oh and also portions of that little area called the Mills Historic District? Also on National Register? You probably haven’t heard about it though…) 😛

You can find full records of each map in the library’s catalog – but we’ve got digital copies right here for you to download and enjoy absolutely free, thanks to the support of the AWESOME Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. ENJOY!

(Psst…the maps are huge, so be prepared if you aren’t downloading from a fast network…)

DOWNLOAD THE 1884 MAP ~ DOWNLOAD THE CIRCA 1890 MAP

New Stuff

FMI: “The Underground Railroad in Maine” with Mark Alan Leslie

The community room was packed to the gills Thursday night, with upwards of 150 people attending author and journalist Mark Alan Leslie’s informative talk on the Underground Railroad in Biddeford and Maine in general.

McArthur was really happy to be able to give Mr. Leslie some documentation on the activity in Biddeford and Saco during these years, though so much more work needs to be done to document this topic and African-American history in southern Maine.

For what its worth, here are answers to a couple local questions that cropped up during his talk :

  • Q. When did the (pro-slavery) Maine Democrat newspaper break up?
  • A. Prior to 1880, as far as I can tell, perhaps closer to 1870? Just as Mr. Leslie conjectured.
  • Q. Was Biddeford’s Negro Island named for Underground Railroad activities?
  • A. NO. We have documents that show Negro Island was called that as early as 1795. We still don’t know why or how it got the name, though.
  • Q. Were there any safe houses in Biddeford-Saco?
  • A. We don’t know! No family histories, oral histories or documentation of UR activities have been passed to the library! If you know of any stories of this, please let us know!!

The over-flowing crowd was obviously hungry to learn more about this important topic in U.S. history…so here are some links for those who were unable to attend the talk, or who wish to educate themselves further about the shameful (and as we learned, still existent!) institution of slavery in the United States.

Biddeford’s Second Congregational (aka “White Church”), Crescent Street, 1909.

The Portland Maine Freedom Trail “Dedicated to the countless thousands of men and women who fled the bonds of slavery but were recaptured or died at the hands of their pursuers before they reached the safe embrace of the Underground Railroad. They are not forgotten.”

Mark Alan Leslie Missed the talk? Look to find the Maine author and journalist in one of his other Maine speaking engagements in 2019.

Slavery in the United States Wish to learn more, and not just about the Underground Railroad? PBS’ excellent “Africans in America” has history, links, interviews and access to video as well. Underground Railroad: the William Still Story, is also incredible, though it doesn’t take place in Maine.

Fort Fairfield, Maine A wonderful narrative about this town’s role as the last stop before Canada on the Maine route, and more current celebrations there.

Neat finds and fun stories

Wild and crazy Halloween librarians, 1960’s style.

1388

“McArthur Library staff shown wearing Halloween hats to please the young patrons of the Junior Department.” (Biddeford Daily Journal – November 1, 1963 – P.1)

Staff (L-R): Pauline Arbour, June Rumery, Annette Danis, Amy Albert. Children: Edgar Devoid, Annette Devoid, Stanley Karlin, Jeanne Gobeil, Denise Gobeil, Jo-Anne Bouthot.

Image 1388, McArthur Library Collections.

 HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN!