What’s new in Harpswell?
“What’s new?” asked my visitor. I was minding the office at the Harpswell Historical Society during the Memorial Day Parade. Dave Hackett was out officiating, directing traffic, introducing speakers and pulling the horse-drawn hearse out of the barn. Harpswell natives are multi-taskers and Dave comes by his skills honestly. But, he can’t be in two places at the same time so it fell to me to keep an eye on our relics and stuffed birds. I was a little surprised by the question.
“Nothing,” I said. “This is a historical society. Everything is old.” Everything was also dead, stuffed or lacquered I could have added. I didn’t. If I’d given it more thought, which isn’t my strongest suit, I’d have come to it that “new” in a historical society is a relative term. “New” could mean “in my lifetime.” Harpswell has a 300 year recorded history…more if you count arrow heads and shell mounds. “New” could mean since the ice age. I looked up at my visitor; tall man, mid-forties, smooth hands, LL Bean vest and all (or most, I didn’t look that carefully) of his teeth. He probably knew how to Skype and Twitter so “new” probably meant “since last summer when I came in and asked the same question.” I should have had a better answer. We had a new coat of paint on the street side of the building. Dave scored a ship’s sextant from a supporter’s attic. We have a fresh (to us) set of Klansman sheets from the 1920’s and a dough boy’s uniform that looks like it might have been worn by a twelve-year-old. It’s all new if you haven’t seen it before.
This coming Memorial Day I hope to be manning the office again and selling copies of Richard Wescott’s History of Harpswell published cooperatively by the historical society and Curtis Library in 2010. Two thousand ten….how’s that for new!