Friday, September 02, 2005

Post Industrial Maine

I had no idea these things were lurking 100 yards from my door

I don't normally care for the local papers in my part of Maine. I think it is a factor of age; I spent 8 years intimately involved in the politics and personalities of Mount Desert Island by virtue of my work in local government then broadcasting, my relationship with MDI local acceptance gatekeeper Country Mouse, and the cheek-by-jowl nature of life on a Maine island (even one the size of MDI). I was so involved in reporting, satirizing, or yelling about often nasty controversies that when we moved 80 miles south to Camden I took the conscious decision not to take any more notice than necessary in the local politics. It's exhausting and in the end alas, some variation on the same bastard gets to run the shop. Local papers are full of council fights and infuriating business deals; I have no desire to get worked up to the point of scarfing Rolaids all the time over the politics of this town.

I used to take four local newspapers; I now don't regularly buy a single one (I read the thrice-weekly at work but only to see if my press releases made it in). I'll read the Boston Globe for world news and sports (sorry Baumer), Jim Baumer at Write for You for Maine updates (see, I made it up to you), and various websites and blogs for other ephemera. However, when one of the local rags not only does a half-decent job (as opposed to their usual breathless and error-ridden copy) but reports on a story that is happening about 100 yards from my house, I'll admit to sitting up and paying attention.

Camden, Maine is now a rather chintzy bastion of the yachting rich but up to about 30 years ago the town that portrayed Peyton Place was as famous for its woollen mills that provided everything from blankets to batting for paper mill rollers. Over the decades of course the woollen mills have been converted into multi-use buildings filled with boutiques, here today gone tomorrow credit card companies, restaurants, and other reminders of our tertiary economy. Apparently the last holdout for the old industrial ways was the mill down the street from me, which converted from mill to tannery to ruin during the last 20 years.

A couple of weeks ago the inevitable demolition began. The building has essentially been off the tax rolls for a while and there was no prospect of any form of manufacturing concern taking the place on, so now the shabby green wreck across the way will be replaced with condos for white flight yuppies from Massachusetts, companies that offer "solutions" rather than products, or some other prestige project that will have absolutely no relevance to my blue collar neighbors and me. No chance of a neighborhood pub, barbers, and junk shop occupying three storefronts on the ground floor I suppose.

But back to the main point of this post: Village Soup reporter Holly Anderson has written a really interesting article on the guts of the old mill/tannery and its demolition here:
Tannery Demolition Begins

I don't bemoan the end of the old, polluting industries that used to scar Maine (who would want a tannery on their block?) but I do despair for this state as jobs that allowed a person to hold their head high are being replaced with service industry jobs (mostly in tourism) where your success hinges on how well you can bear the inconsiderate behavior of tourists. I'll watch the tannery slowly disappear and wait with a degree of trepedation to see what rises in its place.


Bowles said...

Did I ever tell about the time I got drunk in an old mill/ tannery? What a mess!

weasel said...

That's actually pretty funny.