Thursday, December 31, 2020

A matter of historical record: Foster’s Corner and the rotary – Part two

By Walter Lunt

In the early days, new road construction and road upgrades often resulted in either the reduction or the enhancement of commercial activity in neighborhoods. Such was the case on Windham Hill and in the area known as Foster’s Corner, or the rotary. This part of Windham has assumed many names over its nearly 300 years of settled history: early on it was the Kennard neighborhood; in the 1800s (before being assigned to the neighborhood surrounding the intersection of Route 202 and Windham Center Road) it was sometimes called Windham Center; in the 1850s, it became Morrell’s Corner after a store owned by Andrew Morrell at a newly constructed intersection; by the late 1800s the store was owned by the Foster Brothers, so Foster’s Corner; in 1951, with the creation of a circular intersection, the rotary.

When it was the Kennard neighborhood (pronounced KEN-nard, as opposed to the Ken-NARDS of North Windham), a single road ran through it – a thruway connecting the towns of Gorham and Gray known as ‘County Road,’ later Gray Road. Todays Lott’s Drive, which runs nearly parallel to Route 202 around the rotary, traces the original (or old 202) route.

An early view of Foster's Corner at Lott's Drive
(old Route 202) and Bridgton Road (Route 302).
Left to right, Pleasant River Grange, the Hasty
House, Seavey's Store, empty lot of the former
Pleasant River House hotel (behind snow roller)
and Cobb's Garage. COURTESY PHOTO

The old Kennard neighborhood resembled a picture post card of rolling fields and farmland dotted with grazing farm animals, farmhouses and barns, a blacksmith shop and horse-drawn wagons and implements maneuvered by farm workers. Early families included names we still recognize today: Morrell, Varney, Hall and Kennard.

As far back as 1784, maps showed the thoroughfare that would become Route 302. But that early road skirted the area settled and farmed by the Kennards and others. It ran from Raymond (later Bridgton) to Ward Road in Windham, then to Windham Center Road at Windham Hill, and then to Portland (joining today’s 302 just south of Albion Road).

Due to the creation of a new section of the Raymond/Bridgton Road, the Kennard neighborhood would be changed forever. The added section, from Ward Road in Windham to the spot near Albion Road - which ran through the center of the Kennard neighborhood -  eliminated the need for travelers and teams of horses to navigate Windham Hill. Also, as a result, due to loss of traffic, commercial activity like overnight lodgings and taverns would transfer from Windham Hill to the new intersection at the Kennard neighborhood. Perhaps this was the trade-off for land taken from the Kennards and others for the new road. That new section of road joined the Raymond/Bridgton Road to become Route 302.

Citizen historian Isaac R. Jordan, writing in a local newspaper in the early 1900s, described the early settlers of the Kennard neighborhood this way: “I cannot help thinking that (they built) better than they knew. They are gone, but a pleasant memory of their doings still lingers…we are left with reminders of their well-done duties all around us.”

Although the new road created an intersection that would prove to be problematic (The Windham Eagle – Stubborn Drivers, Dec. 18, 2020), the farmers and merchants of Foster’s Corner contributed immensely to Windham’s rich heritage.

Their story when we conclude this series next time.  <

Friday, December 18, 2020

Before the memory fades: Stubborn elderly drivers and car crashes help pave the way for the creation of Foster’s Corner rotary

By Walter Lunt

Widespread use of the automobile in the 1920s raised certain safety issues in many small towns. In Windham, the increased numbers and greater speeds of cars and trucks forced local officials to consider the condition of its narrow, windy, mostly dirt roads. Many were little more than reconstructed wagon paths.

The following decades brought more challenges as vehicles became bigger, faster and more numerous. One of the biggest problem spots was the intersection of state highways Route 302 and Gray Road (Route 202). Until the 1950s, Gray Road ran just north of the present-day rotary at Foster’s Corner and is today named Lott’s Drive. In the 1930s and 1940s motorists were required to yield, not stop, at the intersection;  but due to a rising number of accidents, transportation officials placed stop signs on the Gray Road crossing. Many long-time, mostly older, drivers were incensed!

Four persons were injured, none seriously, in this
Collision of two sedans at the old Gray Road 
(Lott's Drive) and Route 302 in August 1949. 
The black car on the left had just run a stop sign.
Accidents like this one led to the creation of the 
Foster's Corner rotary, just south of this location.
The Red & White grocery store in the background
would later become Seavey's Appliance. PHOTO
COURTESY OF GEORGE HALL     
George Hall, who grew up in the neighborhood, remembers their persistent and obstinate opposition: “I’ve never had to stop here…and I’m not gonna start now!”

As the arguments over the stop signs heated up and persisted, the intersection grew more dangerous. “It was common to have an accident there at least twice a month in the summer.” according to Hall, “…usually a fender bender and a few roll-overs.” Serious injuries were rare, …”because the cars did not travel as fast back then.”

The biggest problem was medical treatment for the crash victims. Hall explained, “There were no rescue units then (so) the local people would come and help (and) drive them to a Portland hospital in their personal cars. If it was a serious injury the local undertaker would bring his hearse for the transport, (but) often-times…it could be an hour’s wait.”

Hall remembers an old story oft told during those times. It seems there was a collision involving a beer delivery truck. One of the local men who was helping with the clean-up wore heavy overalls with large pockets, which he filled with cans of beer. A fellow worker approached him from behind and cut the man’s suspenders, “dropping his over-loaded overalls to the ground.”

By 1950, the accident rate at the intersection had become untenable. A blinking light was installed, to no avail.

Finally, the state Department of Transportation decided on a relatively new safety design for the dangerous corner – a rotary. Engineering plans called for straightening and improving Gray Road from Windham Center to the Gray town line. The nearly mile-long section, now known as Lott’s Drive, included homes and businesses, so could not be eliminated. The rotary, located just south of the accident-prone intersection, enabled motorists to barely slow down when entering from either Route 202 or 302. The innovative and safer circular intersection opened in 1951.

Trees, nursery-grown and already 18-years old, were added to the spacious center of the rotary in 1956. Today, their graceful branches, adorned with bright lights, greet travelers with a spectacular display of holiday cheer.

Beginning in 1987, as part of Windham’s 250th birthday celebration, beautiful flower gardens were added to the rotary’s four points of entry.  Every year since then, dozens of citizen volunteers have donated time, materials and funds toward keeping the gardens blooming with cheery, colorful annuals and perennials.

Today, with traffic going faster and the number of accidents rising, perhaps it’s time re-examine the Foster’s Corner rotary – maybe another relatively new safety design.

Next time, more on the history of the neighborhood known as the rotary.  < 

 

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Santa visits neighborhood children, bringing Christmas cheer during extraordinary times

By Lorraine Glowczak

“This year, Santa knows it may be hard to visit him like usual, so he has decided to come out and visit you,” was the announcement made early last week on the Windham Maine Community Board Facebook page.

Visit, he did! Despite the steady flow of raindrops last Saturday, Dec. 5, Santa - whose alternate ego goes by the name of Eric Twitchell, met children at the bottom of their driveways in the neighborhoods between Falmouth and Varney Mill Roads in Windham. Boys and girls greeted Ol’ St. Nick with a cheer and shared their Christmas wish lists with him. Although social distancing was adhered to and promoted, joy was experienced by all.

The young Linscott Family greeted
Santa early Saturday morning
(L to R) Mother Nicole, Chase,
Olivia and Connor Linscott meet
with Santa. PHOTO BY
LORRAINE GLOWCZAK
Do not worry, however, if Santa did not stopover in your neighborhood last weekend. He and his helpers will be back again this Saturday, Dec 12. Needing to let his reindeer rest for the big night on Christmas Eve – Father Christmas and his elves are traveling by foot – so be sure to listen for his belly laugh of “Ho, Ho, Ho” as he walks through a neighborhood near you.  

Already looking forward to next Saturday’s visits, Santa took a moment out of his busy schedule to share his experiences from last weekend.

It was a lot of fun to see the kids happy to see Santa and to also see parents smiling as a result of their children’s excitement,” Twitchell said of donning the spirit of Kris Kringle. “A couple of moments that made it great was a few children ran right to me in excitement. One little girl couldn’t get enough goodbyes in as they drove away, and one girl blew a kiss at me. Some funny moments happened when I asked a few children if they had been good this year - they looked to their parents for a response.”

There were also instances where Santa felt compassion for a few children experiencing especially difficult times.

“The biggest pull on my heart strings was when I read a letter from a foster child asking for her forever home,” he said. “That really got me. I sincerely wish I could help her. Ultimately, knowing that I can bring some joy during a time when traditions may not be happening, and people could use a distraction from everything, brings joy to my own life and to lives of my wife and children.”

Providing holiday cheer during challenging times experienced by many during 2020 was the motivating factor for St. Nick’s visit.

“Last Wednesday, I was sitting on my deck and wondered how I could help out my community in some way during the holidays,” Twitchell said. “My wife and I usually take our children to see Santa at the Mall or LL Bean but due to the pandemic, it wasn’t going to be as easy or the same. Then it dawned on me. I could keep the tradition of visiting Santa by being Santa myself and going out into the community to meet with the children.”

After speaking with his wife Alicia, who encouraged him to follow through on his idea, Twitchell approached Aaron Pieper, the administrator of the Windham Maine Community Board to help get the word out that Santa was coming to town.

“Within five minutes after the Facebook posting, I had many requests to visit certain neighborhoods and four volunteers to help me.”

Santa’s wish is to reach as many children as possible this Saturday and could always use a few more volunteers. If your child wants Santa to visit your neighborhood or you wish to be one of his helpers, contact Santa Claus, via Eric Twitchell, on Facebook or by email at Erictwitchell83@gmail.com by this evening, Friday, Dec. 11.

“Being Santa isn’t just for the kids but also for the parents that look forward to experiencing Christmas traditions with their children every year!”

Keep your eyes out, listen for the bells and that familiar deep belly laugh. Santa may be just around the corner. <

Friday, December 4, 2020

Armed with a menacing frown and a pitchfork, an 18th century Revolutionary War veteran orders a tax collector to vacate his Windham farm

By Walter Lunt

The tax man had just informed Windham farmer Elias Legrow that his cow would be confiscated in lieu of an unpaid tax. The idea didn’t settle well with the Revolutionary War veteran who had just resettled on his farm, intent on resuming his former life. Now he directed the business end of a pitchfork at the visitor, and with an icy stare delivered an ultimatum. Before disclosing how the encounter ended, it’s best to explain the back story.

In colonial New England, established religion was, for virtually every living soul, essential and vital. So much so that colonial governments often mandated the creation of a church and pastor before towns and plantations could incorporate. Such was the case with Windham, first known as New Marblehead. Services were held in the old Province Fort; early pastors were John White and Parson Peter Thatcher Smith. Revenue to support the Congregational Church was collected from the inhabitants in the form of a ministerial tax.

The first push-back to the sacred surcharge came with the establishment of the second religious society; the Society of Friends, or Quakers, settled in Windham in the early 1770s, and although the small congregation actually worshipped in Falmouth (Portland), town records reveal that at a town meeting in October, 1774  it was “Voted, that all Persons who call themselves friends or Quakers … shall be Exempted from Paying ministerial Taxes.”

‘Friends’ reasoned that since their church employed no pastor to lead their services, they should not be required to pay the tax.

Returning to our story, it was Isaac R. Jordan, an early Windham history chronicler who preserved the account of this incident. He wrote, “Tradition says that after (farmer) Legrow arrived at his home after helping to free his country from British tyranny (he was) feeding his cow in the yard…a constable appeared and said that he had come to collect a priest tax for Parson Smith.”

Legrow told the man he never heard of or met Parson Smith and consequently should not have to pay the tax. The constable said if he did not receive the payment, he would be obliged to take the cow. Hardened by his years of war service and feeling threatened by the constable’s ultimatum, Legrow grabbed his pitchfork, pointed it toward the man’s torso and exclaimed, “There is the cow. Take it if you dare!”  He further stated that if the cow was touched, he would “put the pitchfork through.” Legrow’s tone and language during the verbal exchange was described as “vigorous.”

The constable is said to have left, without further argument. And the old soldier heard no more of the priest tax.  <

 

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Unity Center for Spiritual Growth hosts online retreat with internationally known author

By Lorraine Glowczak

“Done right, even a six-hour Zoom webinar can be energizing,” a friend who is now a professional at online meetings said to me. She was referring to the retreat I was about to attend with speaker and award-winning author, Mirabai Starr this past Saturday, Nov. 21. I wasn’t quite sure she would be correct in her assumption – after all, it was a rare fall sunny moment in Maine and sitting at the computer all day didn’t sound enticing.

It turns out my friend was correct. About 120 individuals across the state and beyond participated in an uplifting online retreat from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Originally, the all-day gathering was set for this past spring and was to be held in person on the campus of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

“This [retreat] took many months to plan with many changes required, including the date,” said Rev. Patricia Bessey of Unity Center for Spiritual Growth located at 54 River Road in Windham. But the pandemic, as it has with everything since its arrival, shifted the plans for the in-person gathering.

About 120 individuals from across the state and
beyond participated in an uplifting all-day virtual
conference with award-winning author Mirabai
Starr hosted by the Unity Center for Spiritual 
Growth of Windham last Saturday. 
COURTESY PHOTO   
However, the online alternative did not prevent men and women from joining in or detour from their positive experiences. Participants learned about past and present feminine mystics and the healing and balance they offer in a predominantly masculine society. Starr shared poems and prayers across all sacred traditions and the spiritual spectrum and incorporated the use of Zoom breakout rooms. Everyone had opportunities to journal write on specific subjects.

“I found the retreat to be very energizing,” Ellie Rolnick of Biddeford said. “Compared to other seminars and retreats I have attended where you sit all day, Mirabai was very respectful of our time. She pulled off this online gathering really well and I loved how she started each segment with a poem and a prayer. At the end of the day, I was not exhausted at all. In fact, as a fledgling composer, I am inspired to apply what I’ve learned to my creative pursuits.”

With frequent breaks including a 1 hour 15-minute lunch break, participants had time to step away from the computer, go for walks, eat, spend time with family and have a moment of reflection if needed. But perhaps what may have been important to many of the retreat attendees, is the way they were able to participate in their own learning through personal journal writing.

 “Mirabai’s style was very matter of fact,” Carla McDonnell of Portland said. “I was taught things, but I learned by doing. Rather than teaching by talking at us, we learned by participating in our own growth.”

The activities suggested by Starr to be discussed in break out rooms pushed through some individual vulnerabilities.

“I would have never done sharing like this [in an in-person environment] but I discovered that by sharing our writings with each other, it became a shared strength,” McDonnell said. “Even Mirabai shared her own vulnerabilities. I felt hopeful.”

It was in this hopeful spirit that both McDonnell and Rolnick were able to take away what they learned in this six-hour retreat and incorporate it into their everyday life.

“I recently started making meditation a daily ritual and I experienced how important it is to combine journaling with it,” Rolnick said. “I think meditation and journaling are ways to connect to my inner self and inner knowing. My attendance at the retreat was an affirmation of the path I’m already taking.”

“I learned that it is important to start where you are,” McDonnell said. “I believe we are living in a time of great shift in humanity – and perhaps it is accelerating. I’m learning that it is not my business to be thinking about this shift. Mirabia made it simple – find what your purpose is to relieve suffering. You do this by finding what brings you joy. What we are all doing may seem ordinary on the surface – but it serves a purpose. During the retreat I felt a quiet inner conviction and assurance that whatever I am doing is enough – in a given day that is my purpose.”

McDonnell also summarized the intention of the retreat and how the feminine plays a role in balancing the masculine in western society.

“The feminine is found in poetry, in music, in nature,” she said, paraphrasing Starr. “There is courage, fierceness and determination in the feminine – and at the same time, there is compassion and inclusiveness.”

Mirabai Starr is the author of creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog.

Unity Center for Spiritual Growth was joined in sponsorship of this retreat by the following organizations: Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, The Bertha Crosley Ball Center for Compassion at the University of Southern Maine, Pax Christi Maine, CHIME: Chaplaincy Institute of Maine and Abbey of HOPE. <

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Old Grocery, with its history of tailors, cobblers, merchants and gardeners is today a keeper of the historical record

By Walter Lunt

For as long as anyone can remember it was known as Windham’s Old Grocery. For the last 20 years it has served as a museum, a replica of its earlier time, featuring displays of the services and products it brought to the community. It will continue to do so in its new location on the grounds of the Windham Historical Society’s Village Green history park. The wood-framed building’s 182-year span at the old Windham Center address saw just five owners – the longest, three generations of the Hawkes family from 1845 to 1954. It is probably Windham’s oldest commercial structure.

The earliest historical record reveals the building was relocated from somewhere on Windham Center Road (possibly near the intersection with Nash Road) to a leased lot at the corner of Gray Road (Route 202) and Windham Center Road in 1838 by William Goold and used as a tailor shop. Around 1840, Goold purchased wood carvings of oak tree branches adorned with leaves and acorns from the original St. Paul’s Church in Portland, which was being torn down. He affixed them to his (Old Grocery) shop’s fa├žade. The ornate carvings were believed to be created in England some time before 1802. Goold was also an author and historian, and later wrote in his book Portland in the Past, “The beauty of Old St. Paul’s was its interior. The most elaborate ornamentation was in the chancel (which) I have preserved. The oak symbolized the English parentage of the church.” The carvings remain on the building to this day – some restoration will be needed to bring the features back to their former luster.

Believed to be one of two general
stores at Windham Center about 1880.
Ad on the wall over the seated
gentleman promotes the use of
Adamson's Botanic Cough Balsam,
a cold and cough concoction sold
as a remedy for childhood coughs and
colds. One ingredient proved to be
heroin hydrochloride, later banned.
COURTESY OF WINDHAM
HSTORICAL SOCIETY
Alley Hawkes purchased the building in 1845 and established a cobbler shop. Later, he partnered with Thomas Hawkes, selling grain and groceries in the front of the store and shoemaking in the rear.  When shoemaking was no longer  profitable, the business expanded into a grocery and general store. A post office was added with Alley acting as postmaster. The store was, for decades, a 19th century version of the local mom and pop store. Windham historian Samuel Dole described Alley, at the time of his death in 1890, as the “best known trader in town.”

Opening almost simultaneously across the street from Alley’s Hawkes’ store in the early 1850s, Stephen Staples opened a similar establishment. The two stores were in competition, and in what must have been a very partisan time, Democrats patronized the Staple’s store while Republicans supported Alley Hawkes’ store.

Years later when Staples closed his store, Fred S. Hawkes, son of Alley Hawkes, opened a grocery store on the site. All told, three generations of Hawkes family members were storekeepers at Windham Center corner for over 100 years.

A typical general store of the 19th and early 20th century was generally warm and welcoming. Patrons and proprietors usually knew each other and were on a first name basis. Customer contact often lingered beyond the financial transaction as visitors sought to catch up on local news and community gossip – or maybe engage in a game of checkers near the pot-bellied coal or wood stove. Store interiors tended to be dark as there were usually few side windows. Shelving, stocked high and jammed with all manner of goods lined all the walls; boxes, barrels and bins took up most of the floor space. Next to the scales for weighing merchandise was the limited counter area reserved for point of purchase. Customers could buy just about anything: locally produced perishables, flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, cigars & tobacco, tools, crockery and dry goods, patent medicines and elixirs. Molasses was a big seller – often more than a hogshead (about 60 gallons) would be sold in a single day. Vinegar cider, crackers and cheese were a favorite for the road. Cleanliness was not a priority; dirt and even animal waste was dragged in from the street – soot from the stove settled on the merchandise. On occasion, a proprietor would extend credit or barter with trustworthy patrons.

The mid-1950s saw the end of Hawkes general stores at Windham Center. The ‘Old Grocery’ closed in 1954; two years later, the building was deeded over to a local garden club that used it as a meeting place for many years. Following declining membership, the club turned the building over to Windham Center Stage Theater, which was unable to raise funds to make necessary repairs to the aging structure. Finally, ownership was transferred to the Windham Historical Society.

After hundreds of hours of fund raising and volunteer work, the Society completed badly needed repairs and renovations and opened the building as the Old Grocery Museum in 2000. Items once sold in its past life were returned as historical displays. But lack of parking and pedestrian safety concerns hampered the development of programs.

On Oct. 30, the Old Grocery was lifted off its ancient stone foundation and rolled up Windham Center Road to join a number of other historic buildings that combine as the Windham Living History Park, keeper of the historical record. <

Friday, November 13, 2020

Senior Santa Program to brighten holidays for elderly in area

By Ed Pierce

Christmas wishes can come true, no matter how old you are, and an annual program sponsored by Home Instead of Gorham intends to bring cheer and a smile to older local residents this holiday season in Windham and Raymond.

Relying on volunteers and the generous support of the community, the Senior Santa Program has set up “Be A Santa To A Senior” trees at participating locations which runs from now through Dec. 7. Trees are decorated with ornaments featuring seniors’ first names and gift suggestions. Holiday shoppers choose an ornament, purchase the requested presents and return them unwrapped in a holiday gift bag to the tree location with the ornament tag attached.

'Be a Santa to a Senior' trees are now available
for the public to participate in the annual
Senior Santa Program which runs through
Dec. 7. Local locations includes Chute's Family
Restaurant and Blue Seal Feeds in Windham where
community members can choose a tag from
the trees and buy a gift to be delivered to a
deserving area senior this Christmas.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Local tree locations include Chute’s Family Restaurant, 686 Roosevelt Trail in Windham and at Blue Seal Feeds, 43 Main St. in Windham.

According to Kathy Damon, a home care consultant for Home Instead, the program served more than 600 seniors in Cumberland County last year and works with 20 different nonprofits and senior agencies in developing a list of deserving seniors to be given gifts.

Volunteers pair up with police officers to deliver the gifts and that experience is very moving, Damon said.

“For me, the best part of doing this comes in delivering the gifts,” Damon said. “To hear the appreciation is just wonderful.”

This year the Senior Santa Program is even more vital to the wellbeing of area elderly because of the pandemic.

“Seniors are especially at risk for the feelings of isolation that we’ve all felt at some point during the pandemic, and a simple gift can show them that they have been thought of, which is more important this year than ever,” said Bill Jenks, owner of the Gorham Home Instead office.

Joanne Gerritty of Windham works for Home Instead and said she is happy to participate in such a worthwhile program.

“Most of these elderly people have no family or are financially strapped,” she said. “Usually what the elderly person ranges in needs from food to a warm pair of socks to winter coat and boots. At Home Instead we make sure all requests are fulfilled.”

Each year after the gifts have been delivered, Home Instead receives thank you notes from recipients and senior caregivers who are grateful for the gifts.

“I’m blown away each year at the generosity and incredible work you put into this project. The thoughtfulness and heart that goes into buying gifts for our residents is unreal and we are forever grateful,” wrote Sarah Nute, Director of Life Enrichment at Portland’s Barron Center last year. “One of our residents cried after opening his gifts, he was so surprised someone would think of him. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Gift items typically run from magnifying glasses to hand-held grabbers, warm socks, winter coats and boots, large Christmas bags and tissue paper, Christmas treats, lap blankets, puzzles of different strengths, large-print puzzle books, reading glasses, stamps, to gift cards from Hannaford, Bull Moose, Walmart and other stores, Damon said.

The program is open to all seniors in Cumberland County, although they need to be referred through an agency such as Windham’s Ledgewood Manor.

“I have pulled three tags to fill, also during the year I will buy different items that I know we usually run short of, I put in many hours delivery the tags, going through the list to make sure right sizes and items are in the bags and to make sure that there are treats in the bag from candy or cookies,” Gerritty said.

Damon said the logistics of matching the right gifts to the right seniors can be challenging every year, but the Senior Santa Program connects some isolated community members with those who want to help.

“I think everyone should take away from this and realize that there are seniors who can be overlooked at this time of year,” she said. “It can be very lonely for people. This program sends the message that there are people in the community who care about them and want to make their holidays brighter.”

For more information about the program, visit BeaSantatoaSenior.com or call 207-839-0441. <

Thursday, November 12, 2020

A heartfelt tribute to heroes

PHOTO BY ED PIERCE

Veterans Day gathering honors sacrifices of local military members  

Moments after placing a commemorative wreath on a monument honoring the contributions of Windham and Raymond veterans, VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman, Jerry Black of the VFW and Bob Christie of American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 salute those who have served during a Veterans Day observance at the Windham Veterans Center on Wednesday.

In November 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words" To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."

The original concept of the observance was for a day celebrated with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month every year.

In 1938, Armistice Day was recognized by Congress as a national holiday and in 1954, Armistice Day officially became Veterans Day to honor the veterans of all wars and military service. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Manchester School students build community and resiliency through Gratitude Pumpkin project

By Lorraine Glowczak

The idea began approximately 10 years ago by accident. The story goes something like this: artist, teacher and author, Amy Latta was looking for a way to teach her son about Thanksgiving without getting "caught up in the craziness of the holidays,” as Latta is quoted as saying. What came from that moment, is the Gratitude (or Thankfulness) Pumpkin and it has caught on like wildfire.

This simple and creative project only requires three easy tools; a pumpkin, a permanent marker – and of course, an optimistic mindset. All that is required of students is to write words of gratitude on the pumpkin to physically see the positive things that are happening in their lives.

There is scientific evidence that gratitude helps people feel more upbeat emotions, experience improved health, increased ability to deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. It is for these reasons that Manchester School Counselor, Jessica Weatherbee suggested the Gratitude Pumpkin Project as an SEL (Social/Emotional Learning) component with her school counseling program.

“I have been exploring different ways to connect students who are in the same class but attend on different days within the hybrid model,” Weatherbee said. “So, I brought the Gratitude Pumpkin idea to the teachers as it was something that my family did at home last year. Students in Cohort A [Monday/Wednesday in-person class] and Cohort B [Tuesday/Thursday in person class] are both participating and reviewing what their peers and teachers are grateful for.”

Although this was an optional activity for the teachers, many instructors chose to participate, including Meg Sparrow and Deborah Milair (both fifth grade teachers) and fourth-grade teacher, Leah Richards.

“I jumped right on board the Gratitude Pumpkin project because I think it’s so important for people to recognize the beautiful things they have in life,” Richards said. “I think sometimes, especially in times like these, it’s easy for us to feel down in the dumps and defeated. I thought this would be a great way for my students (and myself) to shift our thinking to being more positive. My hope in doing this project with my students was that I could help them to see things in a positive light and focus on all of the good things that we have.”

The students shared many things they were happy to have in their lives, some of which required real reflection on what is important.

“Honestly, at first, I thought I would get materialistic answers from students like my Xbox, a TV, cell phone, etc. because they talk about these things so much, and they’re things that kids really enjoy,” Richards said. “And while some of them did list a few of these things (I mean, who isn’t grateful for pizza?), I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw some of their answers like my family, my teachers, being able to see my friends face to face, food, and a having a place to live. The answers were deep and really showed that the kiddos recognized that they have a lot to be grateful for in life!”

Perhaps one of the brightest outcomes of this project, is a connection the students feel towards one another, even though they don’t get to see their friends every day.

“Not only are the students benefiting from practicing gratitude, but the activity is building a sense of community across the two cohorts as well,” Weatherbee said.

Richards has also witnessed the social and emotional impact this project has had among her two separate classrooms.

“I really did see a shift in my students the last two weeks we’ve been doing the pumpkin,” Richards said. “They’ve connected to one another a lot more, they’re more positive, and they’re thankful for the little things. I think it comes down to the amazing power of a positive mindset. If we can focus on the good things that we have and appreciate the little things that we have going on in our lives, then we will be happier and more appreciative.

“We all, myself included, really took for granted the little things like being able to see our friends face to face, or to learn in person, or the ability to go out to dinner. It’s really easy to focus on the things that we don’t have, or the things that we want, but how does that make us feel better? It’s a tough shift, but my kiddos did it.”

In addition to the connecting with students and friends they don’t get to see every day and the increased feelings of gratitude, the fourth- and fifth-grade students also demonstrated resiliency during times of challenge.

“I just want to say how proud I am of our RSU 14 students. Despite the crazy adventure that we’ve all been on the last couple of weeks, RSU 14 students have shown us what it means to be positive and resilient in challenging times,” Richards said. “We can certainly learn a lot from them! WAY TO GO WINDHAM EAGLES!”<

Friday, October 30, 2020

Virtual event raises more than $140K for Riding to the Top programs

According to Sarah Bronson, Riding To The Top’s Executive Director, the increase in lesson costs and loss of program and event revenue drove her decision to take a leap of faith and turn the organization’s most important fundraiser of the year into a virtual event.

“Honestly, at first I was somewhat concerned because I know how much people love coming to our “Party with a Purpose,” Bronson said.  

An outpouring of community support
helped raise more than $140,000
to support Riding To The Top's
clients, horses and programs during
a Livestream fundraising event
conducted at Headlight AV Studio
on Oct. 17. From left are
Elizabeth Ross Holmstrom, Triple
B Auctioneer, Cookie, an RTT
miniature horse, Sarah Bronson,
RTT Executive Director, and
 Becca Platz, an RTT volunteer.
COURTESY PHOTO, RIDING
TO THE TOP
Last year more than 350 people attended the Annual Triple B ~ Boots, Band & BBQ at the RTT farm in Windham. Bronson said she realized that this event was more than a party to RTT supporters when sponsors, donations and registrations started to pour in this year’s Virtual Triple B.

She said she was especially pleased to welcome back Reserve Grand Champion sponsors, IDEXX, Norway Savings Bank and Portland Volvo.  

Still, that did not mean Bronson was expecting the outpouring of support the organization received during the virtual event on Oct. 17.

It was a new Triple B experience for all of us and thanks to the generous support of so many, this year due to COVID, community support is more important than ever,” Bronson said. “While RTT's cost to deliver lessons has gone up, we have not passed these costs along to our clients and we remain committed to serving as many clients as possible while keeping everyone safe.”  

In case you missed the LIVESTREAM, you can see a recording by going to the RTT website: ridingtothetop.org/triple-b and click on the View LiveStream Recording button.  Wonderful videos capture all that has been happening at RTT during 2020. In addition, check out the DIY demos for cocktails (thanks to the Falmouth Lions Club) and DennyMike’s special mouthwatering BBQ. 

It is not too late to donate at ridingtothetop.org! All Triple B proceeds support the programs and horses of RTT. 

Founded in 1993, Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center’s mission is enhancing health and wellness through equine assisted activities and therapies. More than 250 clients participate annually and are assisted by certified instructors and/or therapists, volunteers and horses, all specially trained to assist with therapeutic riding, carriage driving, equine assisted learning and hippotherapy. RTT is a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International).   

Just five miles outside of Portland in Windham, Maine, the center is located on a 50-acre farm and is the state’s only year round PATH Intl. accredited program solely dedicated to equine assisted activities and therapies. 

For more information about client services, volunteering, making a referral or a gift, please visit us at www.ridingtothetop.org or call 892-2813. <

 

 

Friday, October 23, 2020

A matter of historical folklore: Laughing and playful sister spirits haunt Chute Road graveyard

According to local legend, the ghosts of two
little girls playing in this Windham cemetery
haunted residents for many years. The story
persists. PHOTO BY WALTER LUNT
By Walter Lunt

Halloween. Time for that obligatory ghost story. Every town and city have their share of haunted places, eerie happenings and ghosts. Windham is no exception. The intriguing tale that we’ll share now is both haunting and tragic because if there’s an element of truth in it, we’ll have to accept the horrific death of two little girls.

The legend is probably about 200 years old. Most versions are similar, although embellishments likely have been added along the way.

It seems two young sisters, Mary and Catherine Chute, ages 5 and 3, were playing near their home located somewhere in South Windham. 

Their extreme misfortune was to fall into a deep well, or mineshaft, where they both died. Their bodies were never recovered; however, legend says that the grieving family placed one or two memorial gravestones for them at the Brown Cemetery.

Brown Cemetery is located on Chute Road near its intersection with River Road. It is one of Windham’s oldest burial grounds.

Today it is well kept, mowed, signed and fenced. Many of the gravestones date to the late 1700s; some are broken and no longer standing.

Stories of the sisters’ ghostly spirits appearing inside the cemetery began shortly after their disappearance, and have been passed down through generations of Windham residents, particularly
among families living on Chute Road. An early farmer was supposedly one of the first to observe the pair as he drove along Chute Road in his horse-drawn carriage. Through an early morning mist, as the story goes, he observed two young girls dressed in the garb of an earlier time: long ankle-length dresses, wool stockings and sunbonnets. The pair ran among the gravestones, hiding, jumping around and giggling in gleeful play. Believed to be the ghosts of the two young sisters who had perished earlier, it seemed to be their grand protest against a stolen childhood.

Down through the years, though infrequently, the ghostly apparitions appeared to others, although not in modern times.

Countless historians and paranormal detectives have scoured the cemetery grounds, but have failed to find the memorial stones placed there for Mary and Catherine Chute.

The legend is now an embedded and familiar part of Windham folklore. One, it seems, writers are obligated to repeat from time to time.

Next time, history is put on the move as one of Windham’s most historic and familiar corners changes forever.  <

American Legion Oratory Contest now under way

The Windham American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 and the American Legion National High School Oratorical Scholarship Program is once again under way.

The program is a Constitutional Speech contest that provides winners with scholarship opportunities at all levels (Local-District-Department of Maine-National). Contestants are asked to speak on a topic of their choice related the U.S. Constitution for eight to 10 minutes followed by a speech of about five minutes on a Constitutional topic selected by the judges.

All high-school students in Grades 9 to 12 attending public high schools, private schools, parochial schools, military schools and home-schooled (great opportunity for home-schools) are invited to compete in the 2020/2021 contest. The usual procedure is for contestants to compete in a local Legion 148 Post contest, then progress to a district contest, and the winners representing each district advancing to the State Finals.

The department winner will represent Maine in the National Contest in Indianapolis on April 9 to April 11, 2021 with the national organization funding round-trip tickets and lodging for both the contestant and a chaperone over 21 years of age.

The primary purpose of the contest is to instill in our students a better knowledge and appreciation of the United States Constitution. Additionally, the Legion post hopes to develop enhanced leadership qualities, thinking and speaking clearly, and preparation for acceptance of the duties, responsibilities, rights, and privileges of American citizenship. A secondary purpose is to assist students in paying the high cost of a college education.

Previous contestants have remarked that the positive experience of speaking in front of an audience will help them in many aspects of their lives going forward.

Students who compete in these contests have the opportunity of receiving money awards toward their future school endeavors.  Post and district awards are to be determined by those areas. 

At the Post level, the winner will receive $200. On the state level, the first-place winner receives $1,500; second-place $500; third-place $300; and fourth-place $125. Students who compete in the National Contest will receive at least a $2,000 scholarship with the final competition awarding $25,000.

The State Oratorical Contest will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 at Thomas College in Waterville. A tentative snow date of Feb. 20, 2021 has also been scheduled.

For additional questions and information pertaining to the Oratorical Contest in Maine, please contact your Guidance Officer at your school or The Field-Allen Post 148 Commander, Eric Bickford at 207-310-8618 or Department Headquarters at 207-873-3229.

For more information, visit www.mainelegion.org  or your local American  Legion Post. Check out state and local oratorical contests by visiting the American Legion’s national website at www.legion.org. <

Friday, October 16, 2020

‘Trunk or Treat’ launching spooky new drive-through tradition

Windham Parks and Recreation and the Sebago 
Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce are
co-hosting this year's 'Drive-Thru Trunk of Treat'
from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Oct. 24 behind the
North Windham Hannaford. Pre-registration
and COVID masks are required. Trunk hosts and 
candy sponsors are still needed and have until
4 p.m. on Oct. 21 to do so at
www.windhamparksandrecreation. 
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
  
By Ed Pierce

Ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night are prepared to substitute for the hallowed tradition of trick or treating as Windham gets ready for a pandemic-edition “Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat” from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 behind North Windham Hannaford.

Hosted by Windham Parks and Recreation and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the spooky “Trunk or Treat” event is open to Windham-only residents. All pre-registered trick-or-treaters and their families will drive through the grounds with pre-packaged candy and goodies distributed at each trunk.

In lieu of admission, a donation will be accepted for the Windham Food Pantry. The event is open to families with children through eighth grade and to abide by health requirements, COVID masks must be worn by participants over the age of 2.

Families will drive-through and not get out of their cars and may only drive-through at a time designated when they pre-register.

Those who wish to host trunks for participants are encouraged to register by 4 p.m. Oct. 21 at www.windhamrecreation.com

According to Linda J. Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation department director, the town has been hosting “Trunk or Treat” since 2017.

“We initiated it as a way to handle the growing number of people that were attending our Halloween party each year,” Brooks said. “Additionally, we recognized that since Windham has its rural areas,
there are some families who wanted the benefit of seeing the kids in their costumes, but don’t traditionally get trick-or-treaters at their homes.”

She said that the most challenging aspect of staging the event has been managing the large crowds that have turned out each year to celebrate Halloween. 

“Prior to last year, ‘Trunk or Treat’ was just one part of our larger ‘Halloween Adventure’ that had included a costume contest, games, refreshments and ‘haunted happenings.’ By 2019 we had acknowledged that we had to focus on the ‘Trunk or Treat’ alone, since that was the best way to effectively manage so many people,” Brooks said. “We had plans in place to move the event to the high school for 2020, since we had outgrown the middle school – both the parking area for the outdoor event and the inside facilities available for our inclement weather alternative.” 

Brooks said that the best part of Trunk or Treat every year for Parks and Recreation is the collaborative effort involved in bringing an event of this magnitude to the Windham community and the expressions
of gratitude they receive from those involved.

“The trunks have been hosted by a number of local businesses, community organizations, Town of Windham departments or committees, not to mention generous and creative residents wanting to contribute their own resources to make this all happen,” she said.

This year’s event co-sponsor is no exception.

“The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce jumped at the chance to partner with Windham Parks and Recreation on this event,” said Robin Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce executive director. “The SLRCC has worked with Linda Brooks and her amazing staff on several events and have been impressed with the hard work and dedication the team gives to the residents of Windham. We as the local Chamber of Commerce want to do our part by immersing ourselves in the communities we support and be a resource not only for our 10 towns and their programs, but also for local businesses, residents and non-profits as well.”

In addition to “Trunk or Treat,” Windham Parks and Recreation also will host a virtual Halloween Costume Contest sponsored by Dairy Queen.

Brooks said the contest is for kids ages 18 and under. Photos of children in costumes must be submitted
by 4 p.m. Oct. 28 for judging. Along with the photo submission, they require a child’s name, child’s age, parent’s name, a description of costume, and your address as the contest is limited to Windham residents only.

Windham Lions Club members will serve as judges and costumes are judged based on creativity, effort, originality and authenticity. Contest submission may be made to Parks&Recreation@windhammaine.us

Pre-registration for the “Drive Thru Trunk or Treat” opens at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19.

For more information or to pre-register, go to www.windhamrecreation.com  <

Friday, October 9, 2020

A matter of historical record: Lonnon Rhode of Windham – slave and Revolutionary War soldier

By Walter Lunt

Before he was a rebel soldier during the American Revolution, Lonnon Rhode was the house “servant” of Windham’s second settler, the blacksmith William Mayberry. According to history writers Andy O’Brien and Will Chapman (The End of Slavery in Maine – Mainer, June, 2020), due to “…the ambiguous status (of) many African Americans in the north at the time, (a servant) was not considered a slave in the household, but neither was he truly free.”

Many African-Americans in the north
were not considered a slave in the 
household, but neither was she or he
truly free. COURTESY PHOTO 
Add caption
Rhode married Chloe (surname unknown) in December of 1763, according to old records, in a ceremony officiated by Parson Peter Thatcher Smith (The Windham Eagle – Sept. 25, 2020). They were “owned” by Mayberry and, as such, taxed as “property.”

According to the late Windham historian, Kay Soldier, William Mayberry died soon after the couple married; under the estate settlement, Lonnon was bestowed to Mayberry’s son and daughter-in-law, Thomas and Margaret, while Chloe went to another son.

Lonnon and Chloe would have four children. Three died young. Lucy, believed to be their youngest, would live out her 65 years as a pauper.

Slavery in Massachusetts (including the District of Maine) would not be abolished until 1783. However, freedom prior to that could be achieved in a variety of ways; one was service in the War for Independence. For his enlistment in Capt. John Skillings’ Company in January of 1777,  Lonnon would receive 26 British pounds; he would pledge 20 pounds of that to Margaret Mayberry for his freedom.

Lonnon served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, including the bloody and pivotable battles of Hubbardton and Saratoga. His company joined Gen. George Washington’s army at Valley Forge in December. It was there he died, probably of exposure after 10 ½ months of combat and misery. It is believed he was buried where he died.

Of the nearly two dozen Windham soldiers who served at Valley Forge, historian Samuel T. Dole (Windham in the Past – 1916) wrote “…their sufferings were almost beyond human endurance. They were without sufficient food, clothing, and shelter…the destitution of these soldiers…cannot be expressed by any language we possess.”

Lonnon Rhode left a widow and his 5-year old daughter, Lucy. After her mother died, as was the custom of the time, Lucy would be “auctioned” off annually at town meeting. She would go to the highest bidder to perform household duties and farm chores in exchange for room, board and clothing. Records show that in 1817, Dr. James Merrill paid $36 to the town in exchange for Lucy’s services for one year. Later, she would live at Windham’s Town Farm (for the poor). Lucy died, age 65, in 1837 and is buried in the paupers’ section of Brown Cemetery on Chute Road in Windham.

In their book Maine’s Visible Black History, authors Price and Talbot comment on the life and military service of Lonnon Rhode, “(He) bought his freedom by paying twice – to earn the money and with his life.”  <                                                             

Friday, October 2, 2020

Windham Masons rededicate lodge building on River Road

By Ed Pierce

Every day drivers traveling on River Road in Windham pass by a large brick building not realizing the history and tradition associated with the structure. To be precise, 964 River Road has been the home of the Presumpscot Lodge 70, the local gathering spot for Freemasons in the area since it was constructed and dedicated in 1970.

The history of the Windham Masonic Lodge dates back 156 years and as Maine celebrated its bicentennial this year, masonry joined in the observance as it can trace its roots in Maine back to 1820 as well. Often misunderstood as a “secret society,” masonry is an international fraternity that Benjamin Franklin, a mason himself, once said “had no secrets.”

The Presumpscot Lodge at 964 River Road has
has been the local gathering spot for Freemasons
since it was first constructed and dedicated in
1970. A ceremony on Saturday will observe
the 50th anniversary of the building in Windham.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
According to Jim Ross, Presumpscot Lodge secretary, Windham’s Masonic history coincides with the rise of the community of Windham.

“Organized in 1864, the first Lodge Master was John R. Rollins, and the first Lodge building was located at Windham Hill,” Ross said. “The lodge takes its name after the Presumpscot River when that river played a prominent part in the town’s early formation.”

Ross said that in 1887 the original Masonic building was dismantled and reconstructed by John R. Rollins, a local carpenter and businessman, at a location near what is now the Vacuum Doctor building at 725 Roosevelt Trail in Windham.

“The Lodge remained at that location until 1970 when its new Lodge building at its current location at 964 River Road was constructed,” he said.

In 2009 the Presumpscot Lodge was consolidated with Standish Lodge of Masons, who were in a very old building requiring needed repairs which were cost prohibitive to that membership.

“The Windham Masons happily accepted their neighbors at the Windham location and a new Lodge was essentially born while maintaining the name of Presumpscot,” Ross said.

Masonry in Maine dates back even further. In 1762, the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Grand Lodge of England (now the United Grand Lodge of England) issued a charter to form a Lodge in Falmouth, which eventually became Portland, at the request of several Masons living in the area.

In 1819, the people of Maine voted to withdraw from Massachusetts and form a separate state. There were 31 Maine Lodges at the time, active and thriving, who then met in convention and voted to follow suit and form their own Grand Lodge when the separation took place, Ross said.

“When Maine joined the Union as the 23rd state on March 15, 1820 and the Grand Lodge of Maine came into being on June 1 following,” he said. “It was consecrated by the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire on June 24, 1820 with William King, the first (and serving) Governor of Maine installed into the office of Grand Master.”

Windham’s Presumpscot Lodge’s membership in 2020 stands at 233 and its organizational structure consists of a Lodge Master who is the presiding head of the Lodge, a Senior Warden and Junior Warden who are the second and third officers respectively in charge along with a Secretary and a Treasurer. All five officers are elected by the membership at its annual meeting in December every year and hold one-year terms.

Remaining lodge officers include two Deacons, two Stewards, a Chaplain, a Marshal, and a Tyler (also known as a sentinel) and are appointed by the Lodge Master, Ross said.

Helping to celebrate the lodge building’s 50th anniversary and rededication Saturday will be the Lodge Master, Mark G. Rosenhek of Raymond.

I like being a part of a borderless, international fraternity whose members are accepting of varied opinions and beliefs,” Rosenhek said. “I find Masonry’s association with Colonial America and our member Founding Fathers, meaningful. As the Worshipful Master of Presumpscot Lodge, I most enjoy sharing our ritual with, and welcoming new members into our Fraternity.”

Ross said that Windham’s Masonic Lodge is made up of men who share similar values for their own well-being, and for the overall health and welfare of the inhabitants of their community.

“Masons contribute time and resources to charity. They participate in many outreach programs designed to better their community,” Ross said. “Many of these endeavors are performed on an individual level while the Lodge may organize to support a chosen endeavor in town that is important to its members”

He said that when a man asks to join a Masonic Lodge, he enters into an opportunity for personal development, character building, and the acquisition of leadership capacities.

“Through his Masonic journey and his association which his brethren provide, a Mason learns the skill and finds the understanding with which he can enhance his community and strengthen his family,” Ross said.

Former Maine Sate Representative Tom Tyler, a lifelong resident of Windham, said being a Mason has been a meaningful part of his life and he enjoys the camaraderie he finds at the lodge.

“For me becoming a mason was to join a fraternity of men who had a common bond of responsibility and dedication to charity,” Tyler said. “Everyone knows of the Shriners, a part of Masonry, however what I found was so much more. As we say to men interested in joining the Masons you will be ‘Not just a Man, A Mason.’ For me it is the fellowship, working with men from all walks of life for common goals,” Tyler said.

Ross said that while the moral philosophy of Freemasonry is founded upon religious principles, it is neither a religion nor a substitute for one.

“It does not solicit membership but welcomes men who have good morals and who profess a belief in a Supreme Being,” he said. “Any man sincerely desirous of serving humanity needs only to ask a member in order to receive a petition for membership.” <