Friday, May 29, 2020

VA Maine pharmacy launches all mail-order system for prescriptions

Veterans using the VA Pharmacy at the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta should be aware that the facility has switched to an all mail-order system in order to limit participant and staff exposure to the coronavirus.

The VA’s Outpatient Pharmacy will only fill emergency prescription needs for in-person pick up. Emergency prescriptions include post-surgical, emergency department and hospital discharge medication needs.  

All other medications and supplies will be mailed to participants.
Veterans and their caregivers may request refills and renewals by contacting the refill line at 207-623-5770, mailing in refill slips, by Pharmacy Call Center at 1-207-623-8411 option 1 or by requesting them through My HealtheVet and choosing "Ask a Pharmacist."

Any veterans seeking refills are asked to allow seven to 10 days for prescription delivery.

Veterans may request expedited shipments and may request changing routine medications from 30-day refills to 90-day refills by calling the Pharmacy Call Center at 207-623-8411 option 1 or by using My HealtheVet Secure Messaging and selecting “Ask a Pharmacist” when composing a message.

Per policy, the VA Pharmacy cannot send patients 90-day refills of controlled substances, some supply items and certain high-risk medications. 

The also pharmacy will not fill more than 90 days of maintenance medications or honor early refills.

For more information, call 207-623-8411, Ext. 5353. <

A matter of historical record: 1816 – The year without a summer

By Walter Lunt

The winter of 1816 was unseasonably warm in northern New England. Frost left the ground in mid-January; ice on lakes and ponds and along the edges of the Presumpscot River disappeared. No one had ever experienced such conditions. While at first dismissed as an anomaly, the balmy weather continued into February and beyond; March, commented one farmer, 
seemed like May. Many farmers in the town of Windham, located in the District of Maine, were considering early planting and, possibly, the chance for two consecutive mature crops in one season.

Farmer Amasey Sawyer, however, decided to hedge his bets and not plant. He had enjoyed a banner year the previous summer, having produced huge crops of wheat and oats for which there had been a ready market in the West. His profits, more than he had ever earned before, were all in gold. He had become the richest man in Windham. But in this unusual year, his instincts drew him in a different direction.

The year without a summer - 1816.  Photo:
Sawyer was keenly aware of the call for more logs at the bustling mills of Horsebeef (Mallison) and Saccarappa Falls on the Presumpscot River, so he invested in timberland on the north side of Sebago Lake.

The unusually warm spring continued into April with June-like temperatures. Area farmers, whose corn, beans and potatoes had broken ground, began ribbing Sawyer for not planting early. April 10 registered full sun and 74 degrees. But the next day brought a change: a warming southerly breeze abruptly turned to a northwest wind. The thermometer fell rapidly, passing the freezing mark by 3 p.m. As described in one report, “by milking time the temperature was 2 below.” 

Several inches of snow fell during the evening. Jubilation over the prospect of banner crops ended. Ironically, one year earlier, almost to the day, a little-known volcano a half-a-world away had blown its top, an event that was now raining down its full effect over Windham and most of North America and Europe.

Summer brought no relief. Temperatures seesawed for months. Killing frosts, snow and drenching rains were followed by periods of heat and drought. Crop failures led to hoarding. Radical price increases on nearly all commodities led to widespread poverty and despair. Sheep that had been shorn froze to death – the lack of oats and hay brought similar results to cows and cattle.

August emerged with a tinge of relief. Sunshine and warmth prompted farmers to plant new crops, but by the 13th of that month, a cold spell re-emerged, freezing all new growth. Windham, as well as many parts of northern New England, found itself in the grip of sickness, death and displacement, as thousands emigrated westward.

Amasey Sawyer, meanwhile, congratulated himself for never having planted anything – his farmland lay bare, waiting for the season that never came. Instead, his crews were cutting long timber on his newly purchased property in the Sebago region. The cold weather and frozen ground accommodated the task. Logs were driven down Crooked River, rafted across Sebago Lake and then driven down the Presumpscot to the mills. Demand for sawed lumber was high as mill owners hastened to fill orders for lumber in the West Indies.

To feed his crews and his neighbors, Sawyer chartered a coastal carrier to ferry cereals, beans, potatoes and vegetables from North Carolina to Portland.

Foul weather continued until Christmas, 1816. From then on, conditions moderated and the following year turned out to be a return to normalcy.

Several monikers were assigned to that sorrowful time; among them: year without a summer, poverty year, volcanic winter and eighteen hundred and froze to death.

Speculation regarding the cause of the bizarre weather varied, based on the limited science and communication of the time.  Some blamed sunspots (as large and numerous sunspots could be seen through the volcanic haze with the naked eye). Others theorized a change in the Gulf Stream. Governor William Plumer of New Hampshire blamed God, and urged people to humble themselves for their transgressions.

It was well into the 20th century before the cause of the year without a summer was fully explained. It was the eruption of a volcano, Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) on April 10, 1815 that spewed ash and dust into the atmosphere limiting sunlight over much of the northern hemisphere. The volcanic fog reached most parts of the U.S. and Canada a year later. 

Scientists also point out the situation was exacerbated by up to five lesser volcano explosions earlier in the century and by the so-called Little Ice Age which was still prevalent in the early 19th century.

Though few, there were upsides to the catastrophe. Artists of the time were inspired by dazzling sunsets, revealing various hues of red, yellow and orange. Food shortages spawned a new fishery. Hungry New Englanders discovered the mackerel as new source of protein. 

And, for fans of grisly monster stories, without that tragic summer, these words would never have been written, “It was on a dreary night…that I behold my man completed.” Author Mary Shelley was said to have been inspired by the gloomy weather of 1816 when she penned the classic horror novel  Frankenstein. 

For Amasey Sawyer, his riches increased as a result of choosing timber harvesting over planting.  <

Friday, May 22, 2020

Former editor beloved by staff. community

By Ed Pierce

When all is said and done, Lorraine Glowczak will be remembered for her work at The Windham Eagle as a terrific managing editor with a keen sense of what interests Windham and Raymond residents and being a great storyteller.
Glowczak wrapped up her final edition of leading the newspaper on May 15 and now will split her time between writing a book, writing part-time for the paper and working for the Be The Influence, a community collaborative designed to educate and help prevent substance misuse in Windham and Raymond.   
Lorraine Glowczak
Greatly beloved for her easygoing nature and kind-hearted approach to community journalism, Glowczak has drawn praise from staff members who worked with her and from municipal, school and business leaders. 
Kelly Mank, publisher of The Windham Eagle, said that she’s grateful to have been able to work with a capable editor like Glowczak.
“Lorraine is the most unique, carefree, inspiring person I know. I have learned so much from her in the last couple years and she has not only altered my thinking, but the way many think and feel in this community,” Mank said. “Lorraine took our vision of positive and solutions-based news to the next level finding inspiring, heartfelt, lesson learning stories on a regular basis. We are blessed to have her continue as a writer for this paper and look forward to the opportunities she has in front of her. She has made a difference to so many people she doesn’t even know, and most won’t realize it for years to come. Good Luck Lorraine and we can’t wait to read your best seller one day.”
Melissa Carter, Sales Manager and Layout Designer for the newspaper, worked closely with Glowczak and said she will be greatly missed.
“Working with Lorraine was a true pleasure. Her energy and spontaneity was infectious and she was a huge asset to not just the office atmosphere, but the paper as whole,” Carter said. “She will be greatly missed as our editor, but we are so happy that she will continue to be a contributing writer and our eyes and ears for local stories in the community.”
Municipal leaders praised Glowczak for her work with the newspaper.
“I found working with Lorraine to be a real pleasure. She was always upbeat, enthusiastic and committed to covering and sharing the news of Raymond,” said Don Willard, Raymond Town Manager. “In that regard, The Windham Eagle fills what had been a large void in local news coverage. Lorraine played a leading role in correcting that deficit to the benefit of our citizens. Her contributions will certainly be missed. Personally, I will also miss working with her as Managing Editor, but I am glad that she will be staying on as a writer.”
Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts agreed.
“Windham has been very fortunate to have Lorraine at the helm for some many years reporting on the community,” Tibbetts said. “She has earned many praises for making sure the residents are informed, she truly cares about the residents and visitors to town. She is dedicated, and her enthusiasm for journalism is very evident.” 
RSU14 Superintendent Christopher Howell said Glowczak went above and beyond to publicize the activities of Windham and Raymond students.
“Lorraine had an interest in RSU14 that went beyond the development of a story for a newspaper.  She was curious to know what was happening with our students and did all that she could to celebrate their successes,” Howell said. “We will certainly miss having her as a partner for our schools.”
Robins Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Glowczak and been a huge supporter of the chamber.
“For me, Lorraine has been so much more than the Managing Editor of the Windham Eagle. She has been a friend, a mentor and huge proponent of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. As a member of the SLRCC Ambassador Committee, she has volunteered countless hours volunteering at Business Breaks, the Annual Women’s Forum and Holiday Bid of Christmas, as well as the first Annual Sebago Spirits Festival,” Mullins said. “She’s also supported me in Project Graduation and Summerfest fundraisers, even having her own church’s Holiday Sing Along benefit Project Graduation for the Windham High Class of 2017. Lorraine is one of the most kind and generous people I know.”
The Windham Eagle staff writers also say they enjoyed working with Glowczak.
“My first thought regarding Lorraine Glowczak is her positive nature, which can't help but translate into a productive workplace,” said Staff Writer Walter Lunt. “Lorraine did more than manage a newsroom and guide the paper to publication each week, she was a positive and creative leader who elicited the best from her staff by supporting and their ideas, encouraging their suggestions, and doing it with a smile and an occasional hearty laugh. It's been a pleasure to work with such a confident and optimistic person. The staff and The Windham Eagle were better for it.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Richards said she found Glowczak to be knowledgeable and helpful.
Lorraine was a pleasure to work with. She was organized, creative and supportive. It was clear that she was very connected to the community, which was very helpful when I needed assistance finding the right contacts,” Richard said. “She recognized my strengths and interests and matched me with assignments accordingly. I will miss working with her.”
Another Staff Writer, Briana Bizier, said Glowczak was enthusiastic and friendly.
“Lorraine is an inspiration. Her enthusiasm, boundless energy, and commitment to her community are nothing short of amazing. I consider myself lucky to have worked with Lorraine for these past years, and even luckier to consider her a friend.” 
Staff Writer Matt Pascarella said he will greatly miss Lorraine’s editorial skills. 
“I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Lorraine as an editor,” Pascarella said. “She has been great and I look forward to continuing to work with her in the future.” <

Friday, May 15, 2020

Golden opportunity: Three local actors play small roles in ‘Defending Jacob’

By Lorraine Glowczak

It is not every day one can say they get to act alongside Captain America (Chris Evans) or Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abby (Michelle Dockery), but three Windham siblings get to chalk that up as a childhood experience.

Gracie Rulman, age 12 of Windham along with her brother, Lincoln, age 9, and sister Libby, age 6, were chosen to play guest parts in “Defending Jacob”, an Apple TV+ miniseries based upon the book of the same title, written by Mark Bomback. “Defending Jacob” is a story about a family whose 14-year-old son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) may…or may not be a murderer.

Lincoln Rulman of Windham, 9, center,
has a role on a new AppleTV+ series called 'Defending Jacob.'
“Lincoln was hand selected by the director for his scene with Michelle Dockery [who plays the role of a teacher and Jacob’s mother] and Lincoln acts as one of her students,” said Sarah Rulman, the actors’ mother. “His part in the series was larger, playing in an episode that was crucial to the storyline. As a result, Lincoln got paid more as he was a feature extra and had to register with SAG Aftra.”

SAG Aftra is The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a labor union that represents film, television, and radio personalities.

Gracie and Libby play as background extras and can be spotted in various scenes throughout the series. Gracie plays a middle school student alongside Jaden Martell’s role. “She didn’t get to meet Jaden Martell, but she got to walk behind him in one of her scenes,” Sarah said.

As for Libby, this is her first experience on a professional set, all of which was filmed in Massachusetts, and her mother stated that she loves being a young actress.

“She especially loved wardrobe, hair and makeup,” Sarah said.

Many people in the greater Windham area may recognize Libby as the local philanthropist who collects toys for young children with cancer and other medical challenges who are staying at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland. When asked in a previous interview what she likes most about being an actor, she said with enthusiasm, “Being famous!” What Libby does not seem to know is she is already a local celebrity.

This is not the first time the siblings have acted as extras. Lincoln and Gracie played minor roles in the film, “Little Women” staring Emma Watson and Laura Dern. Their acting debut all began when Sarah answered a simple ad in the Portland Press Herald last spring. The ad was from a casting agency asking for young actors to apply as extras for the film. She applied and within a few weeks, Lincoln was the first to get the call back, with Gracie receiving a call shortly thereafter.

Their acting experiences have taught them important life lessons.

“They have learned a lot about patience,” Sarah said. “Libby’s bus scenes, for instance, took over three hours to film and it was freezing. There is a lot of repetition and acting requires listening and paying attention. They need to know and be aware of “cut,” “rolling,” etc. There is a lot for them to remember.”
But even if there are a few difficult things to learn as actors in the film industry, that has not hindered the Rulman siblings’ enthusiasm for the job.

“They all want to continue acting,” Sarah said. “They find it a fun and great experience – and they really love earning their own money. They all said that just knowing they are in a TV show is really cool.”

Lincoln will be acting again soon as he has had many casting calls and requests recently from Hasbro for Toy commercials.

“We have been doing video auditions because of the recent health epidemic and Lincoln has a few commercials lined up after the restrictions are lifted.”

If you haven’t seen “Defending Jacob” yet, sources indicate that it is one of the top three series on Apple TV. But if the crime genre is not your style, one can still stream or rent the most recent film version of “Little Women.”

Either way, you will get to see – and support - local young celebrities in action.

Older adults stay positive during time of social isolation

By Elizabeth Richards

Older, retired adults may not be impacted by stay at home orders in the same ways as younger professionals or those with young children at home, but pandemic limitations bring unique challenges to the older population, including loneliness, isolation from family, inability to participate in volunteer services that bring purpose and joy to their lives, and access to essential items, such as groceries.         

Royal “Corky” Slack, who is 88, has been an active volunteer at the Windham Community Garden, an activity he can no longer enjoy during the quarantine. Slack and his wife have lived at the Gorham House in Gorham since their return to Maine in 2019. 

Previously, Slack said, they had lived in Windham for 13 years after moving to Maine to be closer to their children. When they lived in Windham, Slack said, he started working at the community garden after talking to neighbors who were involved.

When he and his wife moved to Florida fulltime, Slack remained on the mailing list for the garden. 

When they returned to Maine, Slack said he wasn’t interested in a plot for himself, since they no longer had to cook. But he knew the garden had been working with the food pantry and volunteered to tend the food pantry tomato plot. 

He wanted to remain involved not only because of the gardening, but more so because of the people and their dedication to the garden.

“The people running the Windham community garden are not only good gardeners, they’re good people,” Slack said.

The quarantine has prohibited his being able to go to the garden, but he hopes to be able to return to it soon.

The administration at Gorham House has done a great job of keeping the virus at bay, Slack said, and the facility hasn’t had any cases of COVID-19. Overall, Slack said, he and his wife are doing well. 

Though they can’t have typical family visits, their family has come to visit through their window, like when his son and some of his grandchildren showed up with signs on his birthday.

“When we view what’s going on in the world, we feel pretty blessed that we’re being taken care of,” Slack said.  Still, he added, “I really look forward to working in the garden – because of the people.”

Raymond resident Becky Alstrom said she and her husband haven’t been impacted too greatly by staying at home, since they are retired and used to staying home.

As Master Gardeners, she and her husband have a massive vegetable garden that she tends ever year. 

In March and April they planted seedlings for this year’s garden.  She said they have two freezers full of meats and poultry, as well as vegetables. 

I've always stockpiled so my pantry was full, and freezer to stay home, so we have.”

The biggest challenge, she said, is grocery shopping. “To Go” times have consistently been unavailable, so they go during senior citizen hours every two weeks. 

Another big challenge is socializing, Alstrom said. “It’s really lonely at times. But my husband and I are both survivors and we have fun together whether its cooking or games or watching the birds eat. I am a bread baker so right as this hit, I ordered 50 pounds of flour and 3 pounds of yeast,” she said.

But her husband misses his Wednesday morning coffee time at the Windham Veteran’s Center, and she is missing the Raymond Garden Club, Alstrom said.  Most of all, though, she misses her daughters and grandchildren.  Facing Mother’s Day without them, especially since her own mother died in October 2019 at the age of 101, and her brother passed shortly after, was especially difficult.

“As he and I always celebrated Mother’s Day with our mom together, it is very sad that I will be without either of them and our own family,” Alstrom said last week.

The new state of the world is difficult to process.  “Getting used to this new world brings tears to my eyes as I can't believe at our age, we are not enjoying what we had planned,” Alstrom said. 

Yet, there are some bright spots, said Alstrom, who lives in a community on Crescent Lake with the Loon Echo Trust bordering their land. “We see many walkers go by, enjoying their time in fresh air. 

A young couple with young daughters from Brooklyn moved into her parent’s vacation home across from us. So, meeting them and helping each other has been pleasant. It’s given us a grandparent feeling,” she said.

The Alstroms set up a vegetable stand this week for neighbors to purchase organic vegetables from their garden.  Last week, they offered parsnips, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and chives, lovage, tarragon and catnip. “I even have pie crust on the stand for those that cannot find it. It is giving us a purpose now and to look forward to something,” she said.

Alstrom said that any small thing, like getting haircuts last week, taking a ride, or going to the grocery store, is a big treat now. 

But even with all the limitations, she said they feel blessed.  “We want for nothing and we have many things to do at home.” 

Alstrom added a final bit of advice to remember in this difficult time: “Just stay kind and thoughtful to each other.”

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A matter of historical record: The story of Windham’s first school bus

By Walter Lunt

Fun fact: The driver of Windham’s first school bus had to first build it before transporting the children.

During the early decades of the 20th century, small rural schools were closing in favor of fewer, larger buildings. One-room schoolhouses, located within walking distance of the scholars, were fast disappearing. Additionally, the emergence of high schools that served very large districts further necessitated the need for transportation. Windham schools budgeted for conveyance (student transportation) through the mid-1920s, according to Windham Town Reports. However, this was not bus transportation. Families arranged their own rides in private vehicles, and often paid the driver directly, usually five cents per ride.

Windham's first school bus
was a converted Model-T truck
(Photo courtesy of Windham Historical
Society and Neil Lowell)
Due to increased numbers of students attending Windham High School, located at Windham center, the demand for conveyance increased, especially for students living in North and South Windham. Eighty-nine students were enrolled in the high school in 1928.

Responding to the need, Ralph Lowell, a local mechanic, had an idea: a coach-sized vehicle that could carry multiple scholars. That, he reasoned, would translate into multiple nickels.

The enterprising Lowell, an employee of Cliff Morrill’s Garage near Foster’s Corner, set to work in his back yard converting his old Model-T truck into a coach. He extended the back frame and built a box-like wooden body. Wooden planks afforded seating. Voila, the first school bus.

In the 1929 Annual Windham Town Report, the report of the Superintending School Committee stated: A change was made this year (1928) in the transportation of the scholars to the High School from North and South Windham. A contract was made with Ralph Lowell to convey the pupils by bus, the High School transportation money being used for this… scholars paid 50 cents per week besides.

Neil and Ruth Lowell, Ralph’s son and daughter-in-law commented recently from their home in North Carolina, “It’s (part of) the family story that, due to the need, the bus was his idea…In 1930, he bought a new Chevrolet truck and extended the frame by six more feet. (To this) he added seats (possibly) from abandoned passenger cars.”

Reportedly, the new seats were padded and covered in black imitation leather. In addition to being more comfortable, the new bus also carried a greater number of students. The bus schedule, however, was less than ideal. After students from one part of town were dropped off at the high school, the arrivals had to be put in study hall until the bus returned with students from the other end of town.

In 1936, Windham purchased two first full-sized commercial buses (although one, purchased late in the year, did not go into service until September 1937). The pair covered the entire town, however private vehicles continued to serve three one-room schools.

Beyond being a bus-builder, Ralph Lowell is remembered for his kindness and good humor. His niece, Patty Buck, who resides in Windham, still refers to him as “my favorite uncle.”

“He loved to talk. He would drop anything he was doing to say hello, give you a hug, tell a story or find out what was going on in your life. He made you feel special, like you were the only person in the world at that moment.”

The kids on Lowell’s bus got the same special treatment. Buck tells the story about a little girl who moved to River Road from South Portland in 1933. Ralph knew the family and learned that the girl was nervous, not only about going to a new school (in this case, Newhall) but about riding a school bus for the first time. The day before school opened, Ralph visited the family and explained what the bus ride would be like and the time that he’d be picking her up. To ease her anxiety, he saved the seat behind the driver just for her. It remained her seat for the rest of her school days, through eighth grade.

Until the day she passed at age 92, that girl would tell the story of Ralph Lowell, often summing it up this way: “He was quite a guy, the nicest and most handsome man I ever knew.”

Buck said her uncle went hunting on several occasions with her father, Mac Lyons.

“Uncle Ralph wanted to experience hunting. He carried a gun, but my father would say, ‘He’s got buck fever.’ Ralph just couldn’t bring himself to harm an animal.”

Caring about the kids he transported didn’t always translate to friendliness. Sometimes he felt they needed to be taught a lesson. When the older ones acted out on his bus, he would give one or two warnings; if the behavior continued, he would stop the bus.

“Okay, you’re off!” was the familiar refrain – no matter how far from home the adolescent was.
Ralph Lowell’s thoughtfulness, patience and friendly disposition was acknowledged by his youthful admirers in 1935 when the Windham High School yearbook, Windonian, was dedicated to him.

Beneath his picture read:

The students of Windham High School
Gratefully dedicate this issue of
The Windonian to
Ralph M. Lowell
Our genial bus-driver and friend

Lowell’s contributions beyond the driver’s seat continued for another 20 more years, interrupted only by work at the South Portland shipyard during World War II.  

One-year, veteran elementary teacher Isabel Taylor, who was teaching a unit on Windham history, was looking for a volunteer to give her students a history tour of the town.

She recorded the result of her search later in a memoir: Ralph Lowell, one of our bus drivers, took us on a three-hour trip around our town. Being familiar with the town’s landmarks and history, we found him extremely helpful.

Lowell’s tour caught on and became a tradition. In later years Windham Historical Society volunteers carried on the tours, and they continue to this day.

Lowell drove a Windham school bus for a total of nearly 25 years, contributing to the community and its children in countless ways, leaving behind countless memories. Today, everyone agrees, he was quite a guy.  <

Friday, May 1, 2020

Join the Windham Public Library for the following online events

To continue providing services for their patrons, the following events and services are available at the Windham Public Library. Please join one or all.

Friday, May 1
Help Desk Call-in Hour- 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Research and technology help. Questions with the cloudLibrary? Trying to find a phone number or access a website and need a hand? Call Reference and Technology Librarian, Ray at 207-892-0428 on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, from 3-4. Can't call then? Email your question to anytime.

Art Night In- posted at 5:00 p.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Join Sarah for a relaxing and fun art project every Friday evening. Sarah creates art tutorials based on supplies you can find around your house. Projects are for all ages. Approximately 5-10 minutes. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Saturday, May 2
Good Old-fashioned Fun- posted at 9:00 a.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Every Saturday morning Miss Diana shares a few simple and engaging activities for your family to do. Length of time varies. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Fun Time Activities- posted at 2:00 p.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Two fun activities each Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Play with your family or on your own. Question of the week, scavenger hunt, word search... see what Sally has in store for you. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Sunday, May 3
Fun Time Activities- posted at 2:00 p.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Two fun activities each Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Play with your family or on your own. Question of the week, scavenger hunt, word search... see what Sally has in store for you. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Elementary School Read Aloud-  posted/broadcast at 7:00 p.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Every Sunday evening Miss Sam will share a longer story aimed at an elementary school audience. You’re never too old for a bedtime story! Approximately 30 minutes. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Monday, May 4
Story Time- posted/broadcast at 10:30 a.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Join Miss Sam for our fun Story Time. Children up to age 5 and their parents/caregivers. Approximately 30 minutes. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Help Desk Call-in Hour- 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. through the Windham Public Library. Research and technology help. Questions with the cloudLibrary? Trying to find a phone number or access a website and need a hand? Call Reference and Technology Librarian, Ray at 207-892-0428 on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Can't call then? Email your question to anytime.
Tuesday, May 5
Books & Babies- posted/broadcast at 10:15 a.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Join Miss Sam for our Books & Babies time. Children birth-24 months. Includes songs, fingerplays, and a story. Approximately 20 minutes. FMI, call call 207-892-1908.

Wednesday, May 6
Adult Story Time- posted at 9 a.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Even adults like to be read to from time to time! Listen as Jen D. reads a short story or poem geared toward an adult audience. Length of time varies. FMI, call 207-892-1908 or email

Help Desk Call-in Hour- 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. through the Windham Public Library. Research and technology help. Questions with the cloudLibrary? Trying to find a phone number or access a website and need a hand? Call Reference and Technology Librarian, Ray at 207-892-0428 on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Can't call then? Email your question to anytime.

Thursday, May 7
Story Time- posted/broadcast at 10:30 a.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Join Miss Sam for our fun Story Time. Children up to age five and their parents/caregivers. Approximately 30 minutes. FMI, call 207-892-1908.

Bookish Live- broadcast at 2 p.m. on Windham Public Library's Facebook page. Join Jen D. and a staff co-host for a live discussion of books and book-related topics. What are you reading? Do you need a recommendation? Join us and we'll respond to your comments live on facebook. Approximately 40 minutes. FMI, call 207-892-1908 or email

A matter of historical record: 240 years since New England’s “Dark Day”

By Walter Lunt

It was late morning, a little after 10 a.m., on Friday, May 19, 1780 when a mysterious and unsettling darkness enveloped most of New England and southwest Canada.

Residents, mostly farmers, paused in bewilderment as their day became night; not just a passing dark cloud, but full-fledged darkness. And with it, a change in the air, which turned acrid with the taste and smell of sooty ash. The mysterious circumstance persisted for the rest of the day and all the following night – over 20 consecutive hours.

The bizarre black day of May 19, 1780.Above - before the
mysterious darkness. Below: Noon day darkness.
In his 1916 book “Windham in the Past”, historian Samuel T. Dole described the occurrence this way: “The people (of Windham) were compelled to light candles at noon-day, and a physician whose duties obliged him to be out that night stated that it was so dark he could not see his white handkerchief two feet from his face, although it was the time of the full moon. 

People watched and waited all night in mortal terror, but the next morning the sun rose on a clear and cloudless sky, thus dispelling the darkness of the preceding day and night, and also the gloomy forebodings that had oppressed their minds.”

Newspapers and personal diary accounts of the phenomenon stated, “…that fowls went to their roosts and the whip-poor-wills sung their usual serenade…” It was noted that animals shuffled about nervously; cows returned to their barn stalls, woodchucks whistled, and frogs peeped as if night had just fallen. Wrote one witness, “It was the appearance of midnight at noon-day.”

Many claimed the air, a reddish-hue, tasted and smelled like sooty black ash, a malt-house or a coal kiln; and observed black scum covering the surfaces of streams and ponds. At one point during the day a light rain indicated the presence of a cloud cover above the low curtain of blackness. All that was familiar, and routine was suddenly unravelling.

The young nation was immersed in a bloody rebellion; it had just emerged from a bitter, cold winter; now with the sudden and mysterious darkness, a subtle panic ensued.

To the south, General George Washington was encamped with the continental army in New Jersey. He noted in his journal, “…a dark (day) and at the same time a bright and reddish kind of light…”
Religious groups of the time attributed the mid-day darkness to a variety of causes from stormy weather to the supernatural. Some feared the apocalypse was at their doorstep, an event that represented a harbinger of the ‘last day.’ It was said that many wrung their hands and waited for the sound of trumpets announcing Judgment Day. The Shakers used the occasion to lure the reform-minded over to their newly formed religion. Seventh-day Adventists regarded the darkness as a fulfillment of the prophecy. One historian observed that the northeast was a deeply Protestant society and that people would instinctively look for biblical precedents.

Despite the lack of scientific information in the 18th century, some attributed the phenomenon to natural causes, citing “clouds with highly charged smoke from fires in the back country.” They weren’t wrong, but it would take more than 200 years to prove them right.

Modern day researchers found no evidence of volcanic activity during the time of the dark day. A solar eclipse, which at totality would last only a few minutes, was ruled out. For many decades, a meteor strike was at least considered a possibility.

In the early 2000s, forestry researchers discovered fire scars on the growth rings of trees just north of New England in Canada. Evidence suggested massive wildfires dating to the time of the dark day. A drought, known to have occurred at about the same time, would have increased the likelihood of fire. And prevailing westerly winds from the area would have carried soot-laden weather over New England.

By 2007, it was the consensus of forestry officials, meteorologists and other scientists and historians that New England’s Great Dark Day was the result of a combination of dense forest fire smoke, a thick coastal fog and storm clouds all combining at the same moment in time. Mystery explained, at last.

Dole, the Windham historian, credited poet John Greenleaf Whittier with the most “vivid picture of the occurrence.” In 1866, Whittier wrote:
            ‘Twas on a May-day of the far old year
            Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
            Over the bloom and sweet life of the Spring,
            Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
            A horror of great darkness, like the night…
            The low-hung sky
            Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbs
            The crater’s sides from the red hell below.
            …bats on leathern wings
            Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;
            Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
            To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet…

Whittier was also the author of another well-known poem related to Windham history. In “Funeral Tree of the Sokokis”, the famous 19th century poet vividly recounted the final battle between Chief Polin’s Presumpscot band of Wabanakis and the English settlers led by Stephen Manchester. It’s a matter of historical record for another time.