Monday, January 11, 2010

New Site - The Maine Journey: Experiences in Maine

Original post 1/11/09

For a couple years, I've been working off and on to complete a small side project. Today, I finally finished it up. I utilized the blog format to get it together, but it's not really a blog. Instead, it's more of a conventional web site, with a blog-style Comments section. I've explained why I chose to undertake this piece of history in the Introduction:
This website, The Maine Journey: Experiences in Maine, is a "virtual" reproduction of an actual field trip guide of the same name that was written and published for 7th Grade students from the towns of Etna, Dixmont, Carmel and Levant beginning in 1981. It was based upon the experiences of the students and staff during the 1980 Maine Journey as well as other information. The guide was written by Project Director Suzanne Smith of the Levant Consolidated School and Assistant Project Director Trudy Walo of the Etna-Dixmont school.

I moved to Levant, Maine in 1978 and attended the Levant Consolidated School in 1978/79. At that time, 5th grade students who lived in Levant then went to Caravel Jr. High School (now Caravel Middle School), which took 5th to 8th grade students from Levant and the neighboring town of Carmel (though Carmel had it's own 5th grade, too). Together, Carmel and Levant comprised MSAD (Maine Scholastic Administrative District) #23. The nearby towns of Etna and Dixmont comprised MSAD #38 and also shared a school. Both MSAD's were administered by the same School Superintendent.

Suzanne Smith began teaching at the Levant Consolidated School in September 1963 and was its principal for 30 years. She was not only the prime mover behind the Maine Journey, but also Director of the Levant recreation department. In this role, she did much to help my father obtain uniforms, bats and balls when he coached various youth baseball teams in the town. She cared about all facets of the lives of the kids of Levant and her interest in their lives continued well past the time they spent under her guidance. She was a regular attendee at the 8th grade and High School graduations of her Levant kids. Suzanne Smith passed away in June of 2005 (just a few days before her retirement). Shortly thereafter, I began to try to think of some appropriate way in which I could pay homage to this wonderful lady. That's when serendipity--or a larger force--lent a hand.

Though an engineer, I had always loved history and in 2003 I decided to pursue a Master's Degree in History at Providence College in Rhode Island (the state in which I currently live with my family). Shortly after Suzanne's death--as I was wrapping up my thesis work--I happened to be looking through some history books when I spotted my slightly tattered copy of the Maine Journey Field Trip Guide. Along with a flood of memories came a realization of the nature of the impact that Suzanne had on my life. I realized that her Maine Journey project was one of the significant educational experiences in my life. Further, I believe that the experience of traveling around the state in a school bus to learn about Maine life and history played a part in leading me towards a stint in the Merchant Marine and, eventually, to my going back to school for a history degree. As is so often the case, I never got a chance to thank her. Thus, I offer this small token of appreciation: A "virtual" Maine Journey.

The layout of this site is simple. I have reproduced--in the form of separate posts--the actual text and pictures from the guide as it pertains to a particular place that was visited--or was marked as a potential place to visit--during the Maine Journey. Please note that the original Maine Journey Field Trip Guide was written over 25 years ago and that many of the places visited and described (and prices charged!) back then have changed quite a bit. For instance, the paper industry in Maine has undergone immense change and most (if not all) of the original paper mills and Companies that were visited back in the 1980's have either closed down or have been swallowed up by larger companies. There are many listings with a "*", indicating they were not visited in 1980, which was the year prior to the publication of the guide. However, be assured that students did visit all of these places over the years.

On the right are relevant links to those sites. Some of the places have either undergone name changes or were incorporated into larger museums. Some simply ceased to exist. In general, I've made every effort to provide links to sites that I believe reflect the original places as much as possible. I've also taken the editorial license to remove references to specific people, phone numbers and addresses for points of contact that were originally provided in the Field Trip Guide.

In conclusion, "Thanks" to all of those educators and staff affiliated with the Maine Journey during its years of operation. The impact you had on innumerable students will not be forgotten. So, please feel free to leave a comment about these particular places or anything in general about Maine. Most of all: enjoy and learn.

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