I have to thank Joseph Owen for all the research he must have done to create his fascinating book, “This Day in Maine,” and also thank all those who encouraged and helped Owen, including the publisher, Islandport Press. This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read.

For every day of the year, Owen, a former copy desk chief for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel who writes the popular “On this date in Maine history” feature for the newspapers, tells us about historic events that happened in Maine on that day.

And he doesn’t just list the events, he tells us a lot about them. For most days, he tells us about several events. Some happened hundreds of years ago, but many happened in my lifetime. And I was there at some of the events he writes about.

For example, on May 24, 1977, Elvis performed at the Augusta Civic Center, just months before he died. And I was there! My sister Edie and I waited hours in line to buy tickets, and we got the last two tickets. I felt bad for the people behind us.

Our seats were at the end of the last row at the back and top of the civic center, and I took my binoculars to get a better look at Elvis, who didn’t arrive until 10:15 p.m. But his performance was magical, something I will never forget. My brother Gordon and his wife Janet sat near us, and Edie remembers Gordon and I standing up and singing with Elvis.

Brother Gordon shows up on page 2, in a Jan. 2, 2019, story about Janet Mills, Maine’s first female governor. In that story, Owen tells about Janet’s hiring Gordon to work on the opioid crisis. He’s still at it, and working very hard.

There are plenty of positive stories, but lots of tragedies too, from entire towns that burned down to ships that sank with everyone on board drowning, from plane crashes to a guy trying to set a speed record on his motorcycle who gets up to 285 miles per hour and crashes and dies.

I want to share some of the events Owen writes about, and I can tell you it was hard to pick these out. There are hundreds of great stories in this book. Here are a few, to whet your appetite.

Jan. 8, 1825. The first issue of the Kennebec Journal is published in Augusta. I’m pretty sure I’ve been writing this column since then.

Jan. 25, 1953. WABI is Maine’s first TV station.

Feb. 13, 2019. More than 1,000 people set a record for the most people calling moose, led by Roger Lambert. Linda and I were part of that crowd.

Feb. 20, 1797. Augusta is carved out of Hallowell by the Massachusetts legislature.

March 3, 1904. The Waterville Morning Sentinel debuts, the 16th newspaper to publish in Waterville. All the others failed.

March 27, 1980. Frustrated with U.S.-Canada trade policies and low potato prices, Maine farmers dump rotting potatoes at nine border crossings, preventing the transfer of goods between the two countries.

April 26, 1983. Ten-year-old Samantha Smith becomes famous after exchanging letters with the Soviet Union’s leader. But in August of 1985, she and her father die in a plane crash. Samantha’s photo is on the cover of this book.

May 17, 2016. Waterville’s Gerry Boyle published his 11th novel.

June 13, 1897. Maine businessman John Curtis, who invented chewing gum, dies.

July 30, 1898. The Rev. Prescott Jernigan is arrested for falsely claiming his factory in Lubec was extracting gold from seawater.

Aug. 19, 1692. George Burroughs of Wells is hanged after being found guilty of witchcraft.

Sept. 10, 1917. The Maine Legislature, consisting of all men, vote by a margin of 2 to 1 against a constitutional amendment allowing women to vote.

Sept. 11, 1922. Dora Pinkham becomes the first woman elected to the legislature.

Sept. 17, 1865. An arsonist starts a fire that burns down most of downtown Augusta.

Oct. 10, 2019. The Kennebec Land Trust dedicates the Howard Hill Historical Park in Augusta, overlooking the capitol.

Oct. 11, 1983. America’s last hand-cranked operator-assisted telephone service ends in Bryant Pond. I remember that telephone service, which I used to talk with friends on the Pond Road in Manchester.

Nov. 25, 1997. Federal officials order dismantling of Augusta’s Edwards Dam over the objections of the owner. I supported the removal of the dam, and as soon as it was removed, I caught lots of fish between Augusta and Waterville. And lots of bald eagles did too!

Dec. 5, 1933. Prohibition ends in U.S., capping an experiment begun in Maine.

Dec. 13, 1947. The Maine Turnpike opens, linking Kittery to Portland.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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