Barbara F. Dyer: Looking back at the 1969 Camden-Rockport Bicentennial
You need a break from the articles about the 1900s. But a big event happened in 1969 that needs to be remembered, because the first settler, James Richards, arrived in Camden by boat in 1769. Two hundred years later, Camden and Rockport thought they should celebrate, and that we did.
There was a steering committee of about 13 people, and 27 people who were chairmen of the events, some of whom were on both groups. After many months of planning, it came to fruition.
And I thought nobody would be alive from the committees to have the 250th, so I made a scrapbook for the Camden Public Library of what happened, to make it easier for the new committee. Guess what? I have heard of no plans and two of us are still living: Willard Wight and myself. We now are unable to start something like that celebration, so I shall tell the story of what happened 50 years ago.
On the Steering Committee were: Col. John Wilson, chairman; Alma Anderson, Joe Badger, Mary Cramer, Kenneth Dickey, Lew Dietz, Barbara Dyer, Dud Foley, Douglas Green, Sam Hamilton, Ray Smith, Sue Snapp and Willard Wight.
Then the Chairmen of Events and Activities were David Bell, Gordon Bok, Janice Brown, Colonel Ben Bush, Casper Claravino, Elvin Cox, Charles Crockett, Fred Crockett, Millie Cummings, Ranger Dick, Reuben Dyer, Dave Eaton, Rita Goodman, Doug Hall, Dorothy Harmon, Arthur Hauck, Rev. Don Henderson, Mike Herron, Al Hoffses. George Jennings, Keryn Laite, Parker Laite, Sr., Dr. Edward Morse, Bob Oxton, Janet Parkinson and Capt. Orvil Young.
The purpose accomplished by all the workers was: “To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the settling of the town which later became the neighboring towns of Camden and Rockport. To have five 'homecoming days' of events for the pleasure and enjoyment of those who know and have a love for this very special bit of Maine, where the mountains meet the sea. These days are also for those who have heard of, but perhaps doubted, the usual friendliness of the people and the beauty of the land and sea in this heart of Penobscot Bay.” (I have no recollection of who the person or persons were who came up with the idea of having the Bicentennial.)
A wonderful Program was planned for homecoming days, September 10 through September 14 in 1969:
“On Wednesday: Church bells will ring in the morning to summon you to a Christian service in the Amphitheater. Visiting ships will begin open house. Lunch and entertainment on the Camden Public Landing. The symbolic marriage of Lord Camden and Lady Rockport in the Amphitheater, followed by the Bicentennial flag raising on Mt. Battie. Songs and chanties by Gordon Bok in the Amphitheater and an Edna St. Vincent Millay pageant later in the Opera House.
Thursday: State championship horseshoe pitching in the morning at the high school grounds. The bicentennial luncheon will be in the high school cafeteria. Short speeches by notables, honors to descendants of early settlers and welcome to home-comers. Costumed post rides between Camden and Rockport will deliver commemorative postage. Old fashioned baked bean supper at the American Legion hall followed by block dancing.
Friday: This is “all Rockport Day.” The Rockport Bicentennial flag will be raised in the morning, followed by judging of the beards by a panel of ladies. Lunch at the Rockport Boat Club. Historical Society and Maine Coast Artists Exhibit at the Conway House and Artists' Building in Rockport. Muzzle loading musket demonstration. In the early evening a simulated British amphibious attack on Rockport. Note: The amphibious will consist of both Camden and Rockport personnel.
Saturday: Great doings at the Snow Bowl in the morning: antique car rally, ancient fire engine muster, rides to the top of Ragged Mountain, Scout demonstration, High School Choristers, boat races, water skiing and other events. Lunch at the Outing Club Lodge. In the afternoon a massive parade beginning at the high school and winding through Camden. Chicken barbecue on the Public Lading and a dance at the high school gym that evening.
Sunday: Open house on the windjammers.”
Remembering those meetings to plan so much are recollections like it was yesterday. Many committees I have served on in Camden in my lifetime, but the leadership for that was one of the best. Col. John Wilson, as chairman, began the meeting on time, members did not stray from the subject. We finished all meetings and left for home on time. His military background made him a wonderful chairman.
Col. Wilson would say, for instance: “Now hear this. These are our sailing orders. We are on course. We change course only as necessary to avoid uncharted rocks. All hands keep a lookout for rocks. Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!”
The chairman would then ask for a full report from each chairman of all committees, whether it be about the chowder bowls, the commemorative coins, the window display banners, buttons, plug hats, commemorative postage stamps, car antenna pennants, the Bicentennial booklet, sale of souvenirs, admission tickets, hospitality, floats for the parade, notables to be invited, pioneer brigade, essay contest for schools, fliers, publicity, clean up, cannon, high school spring festival, biographical sketches, bands, antique cars, antique fire engine, Tiny Tots dance, fireworks, and a trouble shooter. You can see there was a lot to cover and to make it all happen.
Some of the meetings for the Steering Committee and Chairmen of the various committees were held at the Camden Manor ($3.95) and a cash bar. Chosen for Lord Camden was Jeffrey MacCoole and for Lady Rockport was Alana Thomas, who were “symbolically married” in the Amphitheater. Some things had to be changed, like a service at Vesper Hill Chapel, because too much of a crowd were going to attend. Parker Laite, who was in Peru at the time, would not divulge any information on the attack of Rockport from the sea. Knowing Parker, we knew it would happen and it did. The Bicentennial flag was raised from the flagpole in the Village Green, made by Sally Wilson and designed by Stell an Shevis. Doug Hall (then editor of the Camden Herald) made a great Bicentennial Booklet with many contributing articles for it.
Camden-Rockport's Bicentennial went very well and people had a great time. My dreams were that one would take place this year for the 250th celebration.