Millinocket Historical Society

Preserving Millinocket’s heritage, one story at a time.

Month: February 2019

Millinocket Opera House Coming Attractions

James Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda are movie star names many readers remember. These three had long careers, but in the late 1930’s they were just becoming headliners and had films showing at the Millinocket Opera House. A scrapbook in the museum’s collection revealed seven of the small coming attractions handouts from July-August 1938-1939. Stewart was starring in “Shopworn Angel” while Fonda was the headliner in “Blockade.” Hepburn, with co-star Cary Grant, was the star of “Bringing Up Baby.” Along with the daily feature films, most nights there was a cartoon, a short feature and Metro or Movietown News. During this run in July and August, each viewing contained a chapter in a serial story “Lone Ranger.”
The Opera House had a long history. Originally built by Charles Rush in 1908, the building was used by the Modern Woodmen of America as a lodge room and had a large auditorium for public use. In 1912, it was destroyed by fire and Rush immediately constructed a new building, the Opera House, for community use. This theater opened with 692 seats. Many variety shows, concerts by famous names, town meetings, graduations and dances took place there before silent movies became available. In 1929, the first talking movie was shown. In the early 30’s, another fire caused damage. The beautiful front entrance was gone (early museum photos show it was used for many photo ops). The owner, a man named Kurson, had repairs done including a new entrance situated at the corner of the building.
By 1939, Millinocket had three operating theaters (Opera House, Millinocket Theater, Four-Star), but only the Opera House was allowed to show major films like those mentioned above. In 1971, the Opera House was sold and the new owners closed it. It was torn down in 1977. (Note: much of this information on the Opera House is from local newspaper interviews with Glen Wheaton, long time manager of the Millinocket Theater and member of MHS before his death.)
A recent mention on Facebook of Dorothy Bowler Laverty’s second book So You Live in Millinocket brought questions whether it was a follow-up to her original history of Millinocket. It is not a history, but it does discuss the different styles of architecture found in Millinocket. She tells of the houses with the stained glass windows, the two-story hip roof houses and the boarding houses. She spends several pages on the house at 4 Hill Street where she lived with her family growing up. She tells of the Eastland Ave. area, the “new” development expansion and the “amazing” mobile home. This book is at the museum store (Hardcover $15.00 and softcover $10.00, some signed, new).

***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
3. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
4. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
5. 2019 MHS Calendars, “Sports for All Ages”- $10.00 ($5.00 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form;
…and more.
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM weather permitting.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or trudy18@beeline-online.net. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.

Millinocket 1903

Millinocket is often referred to as the “Magic City.” Dorothy Laverty used this term in the title of her 1973 book, Millinocket, Magic City of Maine’s Wilderness. There is no reference available as to when this term first came into use, but it seems appropriate.
In 1899, there was a farm house, a barn and several outbuildings, with a few acres of land, all located within the bounds of what became the town of Millinocket. The Bangor and Aroostook Railroad tracks did pass nearby, but otherwise it was wilderness. However, by 1903 there were about 3000 inhabitants. A report filed by the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Statistics for the State of Maine gives this information and a great deal more and is a very interesting read. Much of the report is about the development and growth of GNP, but some tells of the town itself.
In 1903, Millinocket was one of only four incorporated towns in northern Penobscot County. The others were Medway, Patten and Mount Chase. The report states, “the town has large, neat and comfortable dwelling houses, and many of them, in architectural beauty, would do credit to any town or city in the state. It has one hardware store or firm that carries on plumbing in all its branches, one tin smith and plumber, two drug stores, thee grocery, meat and provision stores, one general store, one bakery, one boot and shoe store, five clothing stores, two dry goods stores with millinery connected, one jewelry store, three confectionery and fruit stores, one department store, one furniture store, three barbers’ shops, three hotels, several boarding houses, one restaurant and three livery stables. There is also a good photographer, and his fine views taken during the development of the plant, a good idea of the progress made in the building of the town.” An interesting project would be to identify and map out these businesses. The museum has some newspapers from that time period and the advertisements would give clues. It would be a good student project or a task for anyone else interested!
Recently, a Bangor middle school student (with Millinocket ties) visited for information for a class project. Also, the museum has just been contacted by a Maryland college teacher who is coming to the area doing research. Historical societies, along with libraries, are the go-to places for historical and genealogical research.
The museum is sending out its annual fundraising letters. If you did not yet receive a letter and wish to donate to help preserve Millinocket’s history, see contact information below. Thank you!

***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
3. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
4. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
5. 2019 MHS Calendars, “Sports for All Ages”- $10.00 ($5.00 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form;
…and more.
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM weather permitting.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or trudy18@beeline-online.net. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.

Local Books

Some interesting folks have called Millinocket home! A few have been written about and others have written about topics other than themselves. A package arrived in the mail recently for the museum. It contained ten copies of the book No Time for Moss and a note stating that perhaps the museum could sell them as a mini-fundraiser. Published in 2014 and written by Sid McKeen, it is the story of his mother, Verna Thorpe McKeen, born 1910, whose early life was in Millinocket (and many other places). The book states that a family log indicates Verna, her husband and children changed addresses no fewer than sixty times by the time Verna was sixty years old with fourteen of them being in Millinocket. Some of the story is in her own words from the audio cassette tapes and diaries Verna kept and the remainder of the story is memories of some of her children. It’s a good read! The museum has a couple of copies available to look at in the Research/Genealogy Room as well as the copies for sale.
The Research/Genealogy Room has a section with all the books by/about Millinocket people and topics. All are welcome to visit and look at or read these books here at the museum. They include books by Katy Perry, Dorothy Laverty, Marion Whitney Smith, Jane Rideout Jones, Dr. Morey, Rick McAtee, Joel Dearing, Tim Caverly and more. We are looking for more local authors to add to this section.
In the museum store, we have a small selection of used local books for sale. Did you know that in addition to Katahdin Fantasies (tales of the spirits of Katahdin), Marion Whitney Smith wrote two books about Thoreau’s travels in this area plus two works of fiction? The Northern by John McLeod is a great brief history of early GNP.
Availability varies on these used books depending on what becomes available. Books written by Sylvio Caron, Sawtelle’s story of Coach Wentworth, Timber by McCann quickly disappear from the sales shelf. The museum gladly accepts your unwanted copies. Available for purchase (not listed below) include Mike Murphy’s Our Real War and Westrich’s Hiking in Baxter State Park.
Some of you know, there is always a jigsaw puzzle in progress on the back table and we invite visitors to sit and put in a few pieces. A large collection of these are available for purchase (50 cents each). Stop in and take a look!
The museum is sending out its annual fundraising letters. If you did not yet receive a letter and wish to donate to help preserve Millinocket’s history, see contact information below. Thank you!

***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
3. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
4. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
5. 2019 MHS Calendars, “Sports for All Ages”- $10.00 ($5.00 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form;
…and more.
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM weather permitting.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or trudy18@beeline-online.net. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.

Confectioners, Clothiers & Furnishings

Early Millinocket businesses included those that provided millinery, confectionery items, furnishings and clothing. Last week this column told about Rosalie Rush Ryan, local milliner (lady’s hat designer and maker). A confectionery was a store or small shop that sold candy and other sweets that might include cakes and more. The maker of these candies and sweets was called a confectioner. If a store sold clothing particularly for men and boys, the owner was called a clothier. A furniture seller who also provided other household decorative items such as curtains and carpets was said to sell furnishings. Businesses from early years advertised in newspapers, yearbooks and other ways.
The 1928 Stearns HS yearbook includes the following ads. A fruit and confectionery store was run by R.V. Fowler who also sold ice cream. Mrs. J. Simon offered a “quick lunch and confectionery.” Hobb’s advertised a candy kitchen.
Listed as a clothier was H.A.M. Rush. His message to young male students and graduates was “get the fine appearance habit. It will be one of your greatest assets in years to come.” His brother Eugene Rush had a women’s and children’s store next door. His ad does not use the word “clothier” rather it says “ladies’ and children’s furnishings.” Moran’s was a well-known store for men’s wear including the popular 1920’s straw hats for men. Harry Carroll’s business, Carroll the Tailor, could alter, mend and otherwise repair men’s clothing. He also did cleaning and pressing.
Fuller Furniture Company could supply the home owner with many of the needed home furnishings and also sold refrigerators, paint, varnishes and wall papers. They also gave out green stamps. Another milliner in addition to Mrs. Ryan was Blanche Stevens who had a Hat and Art Novelty Shop. She advertised “millinery and fancy work, Butterick patterns and Belding Dress Silks (silks referred to silk sewing threads).
Other local businesses long gone from Penobscot Avenue that have ads in this yearbook are: The S.& S. Bowlerdrome, Mabel Hardy’s gift and baby shop, S.J. Hikel’s pool room and barber shop, Millinocket Bottling Company and Bouchard’s Shoe Hospital. There are many more and all have an interesting history. Help the museum create a file on these businesses and others through the years by providing information and/or photos, items and signs related to these businesses and their owners.
The museum is sending out its annual fundraising letters. If you did not yet receive a letter and wish to donate to help preserve Millinocket’s history and aid in the completion of the 2nd floor display space, see contact information below. Thank you!

***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
3. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
4. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
5. 2019 MHS Calendars, “Sports for All Ages”- $10.00 ($5.00 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form;
…and more.
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM weather permitting.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or trudy18@beeline-online.net. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.

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