Gardiner Public Library will be closed Thursday, November 23rd thru Sunday, November 26th. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your families and friends!

Latest Additions to the Archives!

Recent donation by a life-long Gardiner, Maine resident to the Gardiner Public Library, Gardiner, Maine.

We have received an amazing donation of more than 50 historic, Gardiner-centric scrapbooks:

 

 

These gems were kept by a life-long Gardiner resident and encompass primarily local happenings (along with some regional and national highlights) from the early 1930s all the way through the 1990s & early 2000s.  The detail is impeccable and many of the clippings are entirely new to our collection.

They are a treasure that we are delighted to preserve and make accessible to researchers, generations to come, and anyone interested NOW!  They contain SO much that we have only just begun to fathom their depths — so, in the meantime, here’s a (tiny) sampling of highlights for your enjoyment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We couldn’t be more delighted with this new donation of such an historic treasure.  These samples do not remotely represent the tip of the iceberg of just how much these scrapbooks contain…..  We invite and encourage you to stop by the Archives to pay this new collection a visit in person — and absolutely promise that you will not be disappointed!

– Dawn Thistle
Community Archives Room

A 1 Diner

In 2006 a local publisher, Tilbury House, published a book by Sarah Rolph that celebrated a local diner, the A 1 Diner.  The book gives a history of the diner featuring both those who work behind the counter and those in the kitchen.  Many recipes that have become customer favorites are revealed in the book.  Below is one of them.  For more of these wonderful recipes and to enjoy the history of this local institution, visit the library to borrow the book, A 1 Diner: real food, recipes, and recollections by Sarah Rolph.

Hazel Newell’s Squash Custard Pie:
This pie is unusual in that it separates during cooking into a squash layer and a custard layer.
5 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup canned squash puree (fresh squash has too much moisture)
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1  9 inch pie shell, uncooked (bottom only)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the eggs and the sugar with a whisk.
Add the squash, the milk, the cream, and the vanilla, and mix, but do not beat.
Pour into the large pie shell and bake for 60-60 minutes until just set.  Chill before serving.

One hundred years ago, a letter arrived in Gardiner….

Written from Columbia University, the letter congratulated a Gardiner author on winning the Pulitzer Prize for biography.  The author, who compiled scrapbooks of her family life and day-to-day goings on, dutifully pasted the letter on the next available page in her Family Log and moved right along….

Neither she nor the letter made note of the fact that that she and her sister were the first women to win a Pulitzer.  In fact, as 1917 was the inaugural year of the most celebrated prize for literature, the event made little more than a tiny ripple in Laura E. Richard’s daily life.  No one yet understood just how monumental a moment it was  — nor just how often Gardiner and the Kennebec Valley region would come to celebrate future prizes and commendations for authors who called it home.

 

This week, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize, we are proud to be kicking off a six-event program celebrating our place – in history, in geography, and (especially) in literature.

Join us in celebrating our region through the eyes of Pulitzer Prize winners Laura E. Richards, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Robert P. Tristram Coffin.  Explore how history, family, and community stimulate great works of literature today.

Come hear the stories of how local authors — Pulitzer-Prize winner Barbara Walsh, Maine Literary Award winner Deborah Gould, and historical author, Representative Gay Grant — have come to create compelling works that transport readers through time and place.

See how place and history can enrich creative works.  Explore your own voice in putting words to the page at a full-day writing workshop and/or join us for the finale of our series.
See all the events explained below:

 

We look forward to welcoming you to any or all of the events.  Call us at 582-6890 if you have any questions.

We will also have some wonderful artifacts and photographs on display in the Hazzard Reading Room for the coming weeks — here’s are a few teasers:

L.E.R. compiled over a dozen Family/Home Logs covering half a century of life in Gardiner.  They include personal notes, local newspaper clippings, family photos, items of national relevance (e.g., a letter of congratulations from the Pulitzer Prize Commission, invitations to the White House from President Roosevelt, celebrations of Julia Ward Howe (L.E.R.’s mother)), and historical touchstones including WWI and Women’s Suffrage, among much else.
We will have some on display and others on hand for reference, research, and reverence.

 

 

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) grew up and created his first poetical works in Gardiner, Maine.  He self-published his first work, The Torrent & The Night Before, in 1896 (an original is shown here and will be on display).  He went on to earn three Pulitzer Prizes in poetry.

 

Being Mrs. Claus for a day!

I was honored this year to be Mrs. Claus for the city of Gardiner in their Christmas Parade.  I was not sure what I was in for.  The fun began with co-workers and friends offering ideas for my costume.  Being a thrifty person, I looked for things that I had on hand to wear.  Thank goodness, I knew someone who works with theater students and had a perfect wig, apron and white gloves.  Oh, the endless blessing of friends.

Well I had my costume set until the day came and I started to try things on. I came out of the bedroom with a black skirt on and my hair pulled back.  My grandson looked at me and said “You look just like Mrs. Claus.”  I knew then that what I would wear would work.  Dressing in the truck before the parade was a challenge, but again how often do you do that.  Then it was sit and wait.

 

I checked in at the table for the parade.  Next I stood and waited to be told when the horse-drawn sleigh was ready.  There was a sleigh with tons of lights on a flatbed trailer that I was convinced would be our sleigh.  Later I realized that was not my ride because I had been told it would be a horse-drawn sleigh and there was no horse on that sleigh.  I looked further to the back of the parade and spotted a white horse trailer.  I realized that was where I should be, so I walked to the back of the parade to meet Santa.  Santa and the horse-drawn sleigh stopped to pick up Mrs. Claus.  Needless to say I was a bit nervous having never done this before.  Thank goodness Santa knew just what to do, waving and saying “Merry Christmas”.  I soon learned the ropes.

 

Riding a moving sleigh was a bit of a challenge that I also, got used to.  The crowds were small at first and then we came to the first set of lights for Water Street and the mass of people was unbelievable (which I did not expect).  It was nice to see so many people show up to see the parade and support the city of Gardiner.  It took your breath away and then you say “I will be okay, I can do this, just smile and say “Merry Christmas”.  The children’s and adult’s faces just light up when they see Santa.  It did not matter their belief or age.  Everyone was so excited.  Waving frantically at Santa, hoping to catch a wink of his eye.  It was just amazing to see this happen.  Seeing people I know brought tears to my eyes and I got very emotional at first.  I had fun blowing kisses to my dear friends and one time a friend still did not realize who I was until a family member told her who Mrs. Claus was.  The parade came to an end and I had had a blast.
Now it was on to reading Christmas stories in Lisa’s Legit Burritos to the children (which is something I am very comfortable with) while Santa was visiting with children in Johnson Hall.  And of course Mrs. Claus uses her local library to pick out her stories that she reads to the good little girls and boys.
One of the best comments I got after doing this event was from one of our regular storytime attendees: “Miss Ginni, how do you know Santa?”
I could not have done this event without the support of family, friends and co-workers so I say “Thank you for this opportunity to the whole city of Gardiner”.  The feeling was something I will never forget.  It makes you realize just how special the season of giving is.
 Ginni Nichols a.k.a. Mrs. Claus, YA Librarian

Family History – now’s the time!

Thanksgiving Day is also National Family History Day.  It’s a natural pairing: that time of year when we gather together for family, food, and fun also marks the perfect opportunity to gather family information.

“Why didn’t I ask questions when I had the chance?”

That’s the #1 rhetorical question we get here in the Archives.  Whether trying to fill gaps in a family tree or hoping to recall or confirm stories from long ago, folks are always wishing they had taken the time to ask questions and record information once upon a time.

National Family History Day was actually declared by the Surgeon General after a Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that

  • over 96% of Americans considered knowledge of family history important to their personal health, but
  • less than 30% had ever actively collected family health information.

Wondering why the Surgeon General cares about genealogy?  Well, it’s simple – tracing family illnesses can help predict health risks and encourage preventative action to keep families healthy!  Of course, health questions may not be the easiest ones to address — nor do they necessarily make the best dinner conversation! — but, making an attempt to start talking about family history, asking questions, and recording information might help get the rolling on all fronts.

Here are some quick suggestions for easy ways to record your family history this weekend – or any time you gather together:

  • There’s an app for that!  Few people have tape recorders anymore, but your phone can do the trick instead!  Download a voice recording app such as StoryCorps (read about it in last week’s Wall Street Journal article) or Interviewy.   Have some questions ready (there are tips on the websites & in the article), but you can also just wing it & see where it goes!
  • Bring out old photos to get the conversation started — and while you’re at it, write the names on the back (in pencil or archival, photo-safe ink).
  • Create a Family Health Portrait with the helpful online tool from the Surgeon General’s Office.
  • Keep pencil and paper handy and just write it down!  Every little bit counts!

Need help pulling it together?  Stop by the Community Archives Room and we’ll give you a hand!

We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving – and that you build upon your family history on this weekend — and at every opportunity!

Historic Photo Mystery – Solved in the Archives!

Of all the wonderful reference questions we field in the Community Archives Room, some of the most engaging involve identifying photographs and their subjects, relative to Gardiner history.  Often people bring in photos of family members or local buildings and want to know just where or when or why a photo may have been taken.  We have wonderful historic maps and directories, as well as many already-identified photos that help with picking out clues to solve the mystery.  And, inevitably, every “solve” brings out new and enlightening details of our richly historic town.

Recently, a  mystery came our way electronically.  Someone had noticed an image for sale by auction on eBay and it struck up lively conversation on Facebook, with folks wondering just where in Gardiner the photograph had been taken.  The auction has since ended, but the image is still view-able online (simply Google: Gardiner bridge 1904 eBay, or click this link: http://goo.gl/dazhU8). The photo shows a young woman standing on a bridge, alongside intricate metal balustrades and a tall railing, with many wooden buildings on the waterfront behind her; writing on the back noted that it was taken September 1904 on the Gardner [sic] Bridge in Maine.

The photo offers some wonderful close-up details, but was taken from a perspective rarely seen in our collection and was not instantly identifiable.  It was not surprising that questions and discussions arose about the location, as Gardiner has at had least four to six bridges that have changed architecturally over time (Gardiner-Randolph, Bridge Street, Winter Street, New Mills, as well as those on Maine Avenue crossing both the Cobbossee and the Causeway).  Only by following each clue and connecting the right dots, could the location be pinpointed.

Many still recall the old Gardiner-Randolph Bridge (c.1933) with concrete railings and balustrades at either end.

 

New Mills Bridge (with trolley arriving, c.1910) was one of Gardiner’s metal bridges for decades, but also lacked the intricate details shown in the mystery photo.

 

Commonwealth Shoe factory, along the Kennebec, c. 1910.  The Causeway bridge in the foreground has the same metalwork and balustrades as in the mystery photo, but has different buildings in its vicinity.

Close inspection of the mystery photo shows small rosettes in the ironwork.  Many will recall similar rosettes that were removed and sold as souvenirs when the old Gardiner-Randolph Bridge was dismantled in 1980.  According to the details in the photo above (if you really zoom in), they also ran along Maine Avenue.

 

Sometimes it takes finding just the right image, taken at the right time of year (e.g., after the protective wooden sidings of winter are taken down) and, of course, in the right year (e.g., after 1896 when the 1850s bridge washed and was replaced, but before the concrete sidings were changed in the late 1920s-early 1930s) to make the solve. The image below was contemporary with the mystery photo and it showed ironwork matching the 1904 railings.

An older photo of the Gardiner-Randolph Bridge, c.1905, showing the metal balustrades and railing that match those in the photo, as well as background buildings that appear to be on the Randolph side of the bridge.

The final clue came by matching the above photo with a period map of Randolph.  The buildings on the north side of the bridge match those in the background of the mystery photo.  By 1910 (not shown), some of the buildings in question were already gone.

1903 Sanborn Map detail of Randolph, including the wooden buildings on the north side of the bridge, matching the those in the mystery photo.

At last, it was safe to conclude, without a doubt, that the mystery photo was taken on the northern Randolph side of the Gardiner-Randolph Bridge.  Although the process sounds a little tedious and drawn out, our marvelous collection led to an answer in under 15 minutes!

Of course, in true form to all our research discoveries here in the Archives, no sooner is a mystery solved than a new and exciting detail — or further mystery — crops up!  A few days later, when browsing microfilm of Gardiner newspapers to pursue a completely different question, a note about the Gardiner-Randolph bridge caught my eye in the July 20, 1906, Weekly Reporter Journal caught my eye:

Apparently some of those small details were not so small after all!

Of course, we still don’t know who the lady is.  If you have any idea — or if you have more Gardiner photos (mysterious or otherwise) — please share them with us!!  We love a good Gardiner mystery!

Ladies Literary Overnight

Recently we had our second annual Ladies Literary Sleepover in the library – yes, we did it a second time!
Eighteen women had fun in the library, after hours.  We talked, we ate, we laughed, we ate, we played games, we talked, we visited, we ate, we slept (a little) and we got up and did it all again!
The ladies began arriving around 7:00, munchies and sleeping bags in hand.  We set up our buffet of yummies in the Young Adult Room, and YUMMIES they were!  We had blueberries, chips, fruit, salad, pizza, eggs, soda and chocolate (it’s not a party without chocolate!!!).
Dawn Thistle, our Archives Librarian, had an historic Gardiner scavenger hunt.  Everyone gathered in the Reading Room, for this interactive trip through the area – from the 1800s forward.  What a fascinating way to learn about where we live.

 

After munching, and chatting some more, folks migrated to various areas of the library – some for games, Scrabble and Hugger Mugger in particular, some for reading of books, some for reading of tarot cards, and some for more visiting.
Eventually, we chose our various sleeping spots – several in the Children’s Room – on the stage, in the puppet area, as well as surrounding the train.  The rest of us slept on the main level of the library – one person opted to sleep in the stacks among the biographies, but the majority spread out in the Reading Room.
Sunday morning we were up early – coffee, fruit and Frosty’s donuts were on the menu – can I just say YUM!!!  We all gathered our various and sundry belongings, checked the stacks one last time, and headed home to our regularly scheduled Sunday events.
Will we do this next year???  Watch the calendar and check with staff for a sleepover next Summer!