52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 17: Favorite Place
Prompt: So many records that we use (and memories that we have) are tied to a place. What is a favorite place to research? What is a favorite ancestral home? Feel free to interpret this theme in your own way!
While this assignment was “due” two weeks ago, it turns out my tardiness was serendipitous.
From a few years before I met him until his death, my father-in-law, Sherman David Spector (1927-2008), lived in New Haven, Connecticut. He was always quick to point out, however, that he hailed from Portland, Maine.
His father’s work as a traveling salesman necessitated the family relocating on numerous occasions, but at least some of his childhood and his undergraduate years of college were spent in Maine: his favorite place.
His sister, Shirley Spector (1922-2018)--his only sibling, remained in the Portland area and married a Portland native, Sidney Isaac Levine (1912-1999). Shirley and Sidney’s two children currently reside in the Portland area.
Having been fully vaccinated for over a month, my husband and I recently set out for Maine and some other New England states. We liked the safety of traveling by car, and we welcomed the opportunity for each of us to check off some Bucket List items: Presidents’ graves for him; states for me.
Prior to this trip, with the exception of three states, I had been in all fifty of the United States. This trip secured for me States Number Forty-Eight and Forty-Nine when my husband and I drove through and enjoyed Vermont and New Hampshire, respectively. Driving east on State Highway 1 in New Hampshire, once we crossed the Piscataqua River, I entered Maine for the first time.
My Bucket List goal had been met!
My only regret is that I did not have the chance to experience Maine with my father-in-law as a companion nor talk to him about my introduction to his favorite place At least my husband was able to say, “Dad is smiling right now,” as I gushed over the lush landscape, slobbered over delicious lobsters available seemingly everywhere, and was suitably impressed with the Disneyland-like L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport.
With regard to the latter, my father-in-law often talked about this store. Having received their catalogs for years but not being an outdoor enthusiast, I have to admit that I wondered if this store would live up to his “hype.”
I am happy to say that it most certainly did!
When one walks up the stairs to the large, sprawling store, the sounds of a waterfall greet visitors. An oversized water-proof boot vehicle is parked outside, and one is afforded a view through a plate glass window of not one moose but two!
As you can read in the description below, the moose on display had perished as a result of their large antlers getting entangled. In other words, they were not killed for sport, thank goodness. Much as I had hoped to see a live moose, those pictured below are the closest I got to seeing a moose in Maine.
Speaking of shopping, my father-in-law-law loved to shop: for clothes, luggage, travel items—anything! My husband and I walked in his footsteps, stopping at the fine outlet stores in Kittery which he apparently frequented.
He would have loved visiting the Stonewall Kitchen Company Store “campus” located nearby in York, Maine.
My family has long enjoyed items from this manufacturer, stocked in the more upscale grocery stores in our area. But visiting the flagship store/cooking school/café would have brought my father-in-law an enormous amount of pleasure, I think. It was a large, spacious store, beautifully laid out with entire sections devoted to its jams, its sauces, its mustards, its syrups, and all of its other delicious and staggering offerings.
Besides shopping, my father-in-law loved eating! And he would have been proud of my delight in what is probably Stonewall Kitchen’s most well-known item: its Wild Maine Blueberry Jam. I’ll bet he would have also loved the peanut butter maple bacon sandwich with Vermont maple syrup that I enjoyed at the café there before our departure!
When my husband and I were first married, we lived in separate places. I had an apartment in Manhattan; he had a condo in Northern Virginia. The first few months of our marriage were spent at his home. Driving around the area, I was astonished by all of the roadside markers pertaining to events during the Civil War and the many roadways named for members of the Confederacy. (That may have changed since that time.)
This piqued my curiosity, and I did a lot of reading that summer and thereafter on the Civil War. I visited nearby Manassas, and my husband and I went to Gettysburg as well.
I mention this because my father-in-law–a retired professor of Russian history at Russel Sage College–loved history as much as I do. When he got word of what I call my “Civil War period”, he proudly reminded me that Joshua Chamberlain–the Civil War Union Brigadier General who distinguished himself leading the 20th Maine Regiment at Little Round Top at Gettysburg–was not only from Maine but that he was a graduate of Bowdoin: his alma mater. (He was also a Governor of Maine.) My father-in-law nurtured my interest and shared his passion for his favorite place by buying me numerous books on this Union general.
Unfortunately, time did not afford my husband and me a trip to Joshua Chamberlain’s gravesite in Brunswick, Maine, this past week. Another disappointment was the fact that, due to Covid, the Winslow Homer Studio--normally a place that one is able to tour through the auspices of the Portland Museum of Art–was closed. I had so wanted to see this place where the American regionalist worked and lived for the last fifteen years or so of his life.
I will return to Maine some day. I still want to see Joshua Chamberlain’s grave and Homer’s studio–on Prouts Neck–a peninsula off the coast of Scarborough, Maine.
And I still want to see a live moose.