Society Notebook: Instead of the exhibit, Harpswell Citizen Historians are hosting a book launch

The Harpswell Historical Society and the Merriconeag Grange had collected 20 oral histories and received a $ 2,000 grant from the Maine Bicentennial Commission to create an exhibit to celebrate the state’s 200th anniversary in 2020.

When the programming was canceled due to the pandemic, the people of Harpswell knew exactly what to do with the stories and the funding: publish a book.

“It was everyone’s idea pretty much at once,” said Lili Ott, co-author of “Glimpses of Harpswell Past and Present: Stories Celebrating Maine’s Bicentennial”.

As proof that many hands do lighter work, 42 ​​contributors have written, edited, and published a 308-page collection on all things Harpswell. Just over a year later, this fishing town of less than 5,000 held a well-attended book launch on July 11, with half of the first print run of 500 sold before sunset.

“It’s a beautiful book,” said Helen Wild, whose husband, Paul, wrote two poems. “It’s one of those books that you can just pick up and read little bits and pieces.”

Sam W. Alexander, a member of the Bicentennial Committee whose family has been at Harpswell for nearly 300 years, has written a chapter on fellowship organizations. Landscape architect Deane Van Dusen wrote a chapter on architecture. Becky Gallery, who volunteers with the Harpswell Garden Club, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Harpswell Invasive Plant Partnership and Elijah Kellogg Church, has written a chapter on volunteering.

Dick Moseley turned a chapter on business history, which he summarized at the launch of the book with pragmatic brevity: “Work in the woods, farm, fish, feed and shelter.

And, of course, there are these personal stories.

Ed Johnson, 93, recounts the day he was wounded in battle in Korea in 1952 and how he received his Purple Heart 60 years later. At the Grange last Sunday, Johnson visited friends, family and neighbors in his Korean veteran hat. His daughter Laurie Smith purchased five copies of the book: one for each of Johnson’s grandchildren.

“We were all born here,” Smith said. “Here we go back five generations. As each generation dies we lose stories, so having them recorded like that is a real treasure. I want them to have a piece of this story.

Copies are available for $ 18.20 at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Pammy’s Ice Cream on Harpswell Neck, Holbrook’s Store in Cundy’s Harbor, Island Candy Company on Orr’s Island and at the Harpswell Historical Society on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. .

“Every penny goes to the town of Harpswell with the profits shared between the historical society and the Barn,” said Ott. “The response has been quite positive with very strong sales, so we’re already talking about a second impression. “

Amy Paradysz is a Scarborough-based freelance writer and photographer. She can be reached at [email protected]

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