Bethel July 29
Sundays at 4 p.m. – concert series on the Common starting Aug. 1.
Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13 and 14 – Summer Heritage Festival at the Bethel Historical Society.
Monday, Aug. 16 – at Bingham Hall, Mahoosuc Community Band 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 – Sunday River – Tough Mountain Challenge – a 10-stage race (See Sunday River’s website.)
Needful Things: Along with groceries, gas stations and drug stores, laundromats join this group. A 1962 Citizen ad called the Bethel Laundromat – The Social Club of Bethel - For the Cleanest Wash in Town. As early as 1904 William Garey operated a steam laundry in the building across Main Street from Café DiCocoa. In the 1960s the Baileys opened and operated Bethel Laundromat in the former Hastings Bros. hardware store now the site of Northeast Bank’s 1974 building. In 1970 and '71, Kathy joined the “social club” there with our weekly laundry.
Today if you are traveling, staying a few days or a week in a motel, batching it or live in an apartment without a washer and dryer, Bethel’s Laundramat on Railroad Street is your “needful thing.” 1998’s ice storm with its long-term power outages drove home the value of a laundromat to many in the Bethel area.
Michael Bean has owned the laundromat in Bethel since 1996 when he bought the property from John Witter. Since then Mr. Bean has regularly updated his washing and dryer equipment with the goal of allowing customers to get the best and fastest wash. In a quick tour of his facilities, Mr. Bean stressed the advantages of his Big Boy washers – they can hold the equivalent of five regular loads plus use only the amount of water used in a regular single-size washer. Large dryers hold 45- and 30-pound loads. He estimates that if a party arrives with a super sized load they could be finished, including drying, in about one hour and fifteen or twenty minutes. Folding time would be extra. I would call the building interior very clean.
Last week the laundromat was getting new siding. Plans call for finishing the new wood siding in its natural color. Mr. Bean’s son, Kevin, is looking after the construction work and has the job of laundromat “super” as well.
Drainage and his parking lot pavement are the two main problems Mr. Bean is hoping to sort out in the near future. The sewer opening in his parking lot is where run-off from Main Street, Mechanic Street and the laundry all come together before it is piped under Railroad Street. When heavy rain falls, the opening in his parking lot is flooded with water coming downhill from all the paved area between the drain opening and Mechanic Street. At times like that, laundry wastewater is backed up temporarily. Currently there is no agreement on who owns the sewer lines beneath his property. Gary Inman is scheduled to do a complete property survey soon.
The roadway in front of this property has changed over the years. During the 1940s and '50s there was a large truck-weighing scale on this property that belonged to Grand Trunk Railroad. At this point the northeast corner of the property lives in center of the paved lane which carries traffic from Railroad Street up Main Street. To make matters less than clear Mr. Bean’s deed reads as follows: “Subject to the rights of others, public and private, over and across the property where over the years the highway has passed.” When the lower Main Street sidewalk project was going on, an extension of the sidewalk was laid across the laundry property without notifying the owner. In the end, Mr. Bean wants to find out who legally owns the sewer lines which pass through his property.
Note: Stephen King wrote a horror novel in 1991 titled “Needful Things.” The characters in his novel did not do laundry.
Mt. Zircon Spring Water:
While Moxie still lives although relegated to the sidelines of soft drinks, Mt. Zircon Spring water (Moon Tide Spring Water, no less) named after its source ebbing and flooding with moon phases, died in 1993. Mt. Zircon rises to a peak of 2,204 feet from its base south of the South Rumford Road between Rumford Falls and Rumford Point. Randy Bennett is our authority on Mt. Zircon Spring Water history. In 1997 he published an illustrated history of the business; it is available at the Bethel Historical Society’s museum shop.
The spring’s discovery and development as a publicly available mineral spring water began in 1857. Its most notable year was 1939 when it was chosen as the official spring water of the New York World’s Fair. In 1898 the first carbonated drinks made from Mt. Zircon spring water were put on the market.
And you have never heard of this? During the early 1940s while riding with my Crosby relatives on shopping trips to Rumford they usually returned via the South Rumford Road and would stop at the Mt. Zircon lunch stand for refreshments.
In 2000 the last bottling plant at the Mt. Zircon property was demolished.
In 1886 conversations on Main Street frequently went, “We want a mill” (to attract more people to come to Bethel). We want families to rent my houses – Samuel Philbrook. We want people to shop at my store – Ceylon Rowe.
During the NTL years from 1948 to 1985, there were no rental agencies in town – NTL pretty much did their own searching and arranging. In 1980 there were only two real estate advertisements in the Citizen: Crane Associates – John Gasser, and Strout Realty – Ted Tracy.
Owners with apartments or houses to rent advertised in the Classified columns. Out-of- town owners made rental deals through friends, family and referrals. Change came to the rental outlook after Les Otten started building condos at Sunday River. Local people bought Sunday River condos to gain rental income from them. However, Sunday River was their rental agent in the same way as the Bethel Inn was their condo owners’ rental agent. But, increasingly ski families were looking for a house to rent seasonally or for vacation weeks. The chamber of commerce received enough rental inquiries to convince the chamber board to open a rental desk which would also produce income from commissions. Rangeley and Sugarloaf’s chambers followed suit, although Rangeley’s prime market was summer camps and snowmobilers.
In 1989 Bethel Town Manager Rodney Lynch in his annual report wrote, “the recreation, tourism and service industries and the educational sectors of our economy have made tremendous gains and we are rapidly becoming dependent on them as the mainstay of the area’s economy.”
Seasonal rentals have caused the more or less invisible “service industry” revenue to noticeably grow. This has happened in four areas: commission income, cleaning, maintenance and security. In other words, we see the rental office and we see the office staff but we don’t see the people hired to clean houses, mow lawns, plow snow, etc. Mountain River Property Management is one of a few visible commercial businesses that advertise in the Citizen. Many other small property service providers work behind the scenes taking care of jobs passed to them by the real estate or rental office staff. For instance, Mahoosuc Rentals has a partnership arrangement with Northern Home Care of Andover for all property services including cleaning, maintenance and even property upgrades. Businesses like these are the ones which substantiate Mr. Lynch’s views of 21 years ago.
BitterSweet, Al Barth and the Dig:
Down by the old mill stream – these days almost any construction project along the Androscoggin has to wait for an archaeological dig/survey to be completed. Only after a survey finding of no findings can local authorities sign a permit to dig.
Learning how to dig is what this story is about. BitterSweet magazine published an article by Sally Clay in 1978 about “nine intrepid diggers and their leader.” The diggers were Gould students and faculty member Al Barth was the leader. Their digging target was the old upper dam site on Mill Brook.
Unlike today’s digs near the big river, this dig yielded a pot full of historically identifiable buried specimens. Francis (Hi) Berry, who very recently passed away, pointed out the site as a good place to dig. Berry lived in the house opposite the dig site that had at one time been home to mill owner Eber Clough.
Professor Barth ensured that his students carried out their dig according to strict archaeological standards and procedures – charting, recording and preserving. BitterSweet’s article described how the artifacts that students found told a story of the many uses the site had seen – starching, corn canning and novelty making.
Bruce Day and Dave Gilpatrick, owners of Western Maine Graphics, were BitterSweet’s founders. In 1978 Sandy and Michael Wilhelm were editor and publisher respectively. Sally Clay who wrote the article listed herself as writer/editor for the Oxford Hills Publishing Co. Following her stint in Oxford, she had a very active, varied career, continued to write and became a peer consultant. She moved to Florida where she lives in Lake Placid. In 1980 the Lewiston Sun printed an article telling about BitterSweet’s beginnings – Sandy Wilhelm said she composed complete editions in her Buckfield kitchen. Her goal was to keep BitterSweet’s scope to one of local Oxford County interests. If you are not familiar with the magazine it was similar to Yankee with a touch of the Maine Times.
Later, Al Barth was president of the Bethel Historical Society, Bethel Selectman from 1999 to 2004 and Representative to the Maine Legislature. He has retired to Paris, Maine with the title of Honorable Alvin Barth.
For photos that accompany this week’s Bethel column go to – www.thebetheljournals.info – and click Weekly News.