Father Bill Speaks

Bill Packard: What's with all this greening of Camden?

Fri, 08/09/2013 - 4:00pm

Even though I live a couple of towns away from Camden I still follow what goes on because it is my home town and it’s fun to watch the struggles that people create when they take themselves way too seriously.  Whenever some big subject comes up, a person or persons from away will strongly advocate for their view because “we” don’t know what could happen if the natives, locals, lesser humans don’t take immediate action.

I’ve listened to this for 40 years or more.  Thank God everyone moved here when they did to save us from ourselves.  I was just at an event where the “greening” of Camden was the subject of discussion and a fellow native who has a business in Camden relayed that when he was asked to be on a committee and his viewpoint wasn’t in alignment with the committee, he was accused of not having an open mind.  His feelings were hurt.  Over a beer brewed locally in Lincolnville, I explained that maybe the town official was right.  Over the years, we probably have not done as good a job as we could to prevent, or at least hinder, progress.   I understand there’s a big move in process now to “green” Camden.  Replace parking spots with trees.  What a wonderful idea.  Imagine the postcard scene looking from the library down Main Street with not a car in sight and trees lining the street.  Never mind that shoppers have no place to park and do business.

If we’d stood our ground and our parents had stood theirs, traffic would be blocked every afternoon while Bud Jameson backed his trailer truck across Mechanic Street to load product from the Knox Mill.  Instead of bagels, workers would be making shirts across Washington Street.  The dining choices would be limited to the Village Restaurant, Marriners, Yorkies and the newly opened Bay View Street Garage.  Where New England Real Estate is located would be an appliance store and Baldwin’s Cleaners would be next to the Village Green.  There would only be one real estate office, Security Real Estate.  Camden National Bank didn’t need all that downtown space.  They would have a little corner of Bay View and Elm with a 5 & 10 next door and the above mentioned Security Real Estate behind, and Depositors Trust would be across the street.  Two banks were enough.  We had a hospital right in town.

I mentioned the Knox Mill.  The doors would all be open on these summer days and the clack, clack, clack from the looms could be heard all around.  Where Harbor Audio-Video is would be a Chevrolet car dealership.  There would be grocery stores everywhere.  A & P where Rite-Aid is.  First National where the town office is. IGA where the Riverhouse is and later in the shopping center.  French and Brawn and Megunticook Corner are the only survivors.

We let our guard down and now we’re paying the price.  Most people who need to work cannot afford to live in Camden.

If you wanted to work, Camden was the place that had jobs.  The mill, the tannery, Tibbetts,  Boynton Chevrolet, Brewster shirts, the grocery stores, the place that made kids clothes on Washington Street whose name escapes me.  We let our guard down and now we’re paying the price.  Most people who need to work cannot afford to live in Camden. They take their paycheck to an outlying town where they can afford to live and they spend their money there.  When the Camden people have a need for essential services like fire, police, EMS and highway, they depend on people who live in other towns because people with those kinds of jobs can’t afford to live in Camden.  Here’s what’s sad.  I don’t think many people care about that.  They care that the postcard of image of “their town” is preserved.  They care that their opinion of what could happen to “their town” needs to be listened to, and they clearly state that they are smarter than the natives.

The older I get, the more I feel like a Native American.  The white man moved in and promised all sorts of good things to the Indians but then never delivered. Despite what you might think from reading this up to this point, I don’t have a native vs. from away attitude.  Many, many people have contributed so much to this area to make it better by moving here. However, others think only of themselves or what’s best for them and pull that trump card every time.

“This happened where I came from and we can’t let it happen here.”  At some point everyone who wasn’t born here, showed up.  If they stayed, it was probably because they fell in love with the area.  Whom do you think was minding the fort before you showed up?  We lived through it all while you were someplace else.  There should be some sort of common sense.  People love Camden just the way it is.  Why try to fix something like the public landing?  Why replace parking spaces on Mechanic Street with trees?  Why call people closed-minded when they don’t agree with the next big plan for Camden when they’ve seen big plan after big plan get all kinds of air play and then disappear, never to be brought up again?

So let’s be clear.  I don’t have a thing against you moving here.  I’m glad you discovered this little corner of heaven on earth that we’ve known about for a long time.  Embrace it.  Join the community.  Get involved.  You’ve got a lot to give and we’re wonderful receivers.  Don’t come on with this “I’ve come here to save you from yourself” attitude.  It doesn’t serve you.  But hey, what do I know?  I live in Union.


Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com.  He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant. 


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