Rodney “Bunny” Kimball’s West Bethel Antiques Emporium
Antiques stoves may be his chief eye-catcher for the hundreds of drivers going east and west by his West Bethel place, but there is much, much more. Mr. Kimball told Ashton and me during our visit last Friday that he has sold 343 stoves. When I asked him if he knew what his buyers were going to do with their stoves he said over 90 percent use them for heating.
For many years I have meant to stop and get a close-up look at what he had to offer. But I had no idea of the extent of his antiques and collectibles display in the house and stored in five old school buses behind the house and barn.
In a December 1980 Advertiser Democrat story about the original stoves, Mr. Kimball tells the reporter that his wife Jeannette using an “original stove” can cook a steak faster than using a microwave oven. Also the article summarizes the Kimball stove history: In the 1930s the Kimball aunts and uncles started collecting these “original” stoves when most people thought that they didn’t need them anymore.
According to the Kimballs the secret in old stoves is the method used by the old stove makers – made of cast iron obtained directly from pig iron the stove distributes its heat extremely well – “wood heat is penetrating like the sun.” Many of the old stoves were made with decorative moldings cast into the stoves sections – adding a lot to their present day appeal. The Kimballs claim that the old stoves attracted over 200,000 people the first five years they had stoves displayed in yard sale fashion – people from as far away as Florida, California and Canada were stopping. A couple from Ontario was browsing through a room of collectibles while we were there.
Since Route 2 was rebuilt a few years ago it is much more difficult for the casual traveler to stop as they cannot just pull over to the side of the road and park. We parked in the Kimball driveway but the number of cars able to just pull over is down to only one or two.
More there than just stoves too – one room had a sideboard like one my parents had; this one was loaded with glass ware and bottles. I saw some milk bottles but none from Riverside Farms. In one of the old buses, there is a sizable collection of old telephone wire insulators. Another class of goodies that one sees is furniture – bookcases, sideboards, tables, and on – most of what I saw came from the era of my grandparents – the old time classics.
In sum, Kimball’s Antiques is one of the most interesting places to browse in the town of Bethel – may be a best kept secret.
Maine makes it into The Economist
Maine gets a full page in the Aug. 31 issue of The Economist magazine. Headline reads “Front page LePage” – The reign in Maine of a man who speaks plain.
Overall the article is very objective. “Mr. LePage hopes his doggedness can entice more private investors into a state that does poorly in rankings of business climate.”
“His forceful personality and peppery tongue have served him well.”
Special visitors at the Bethel Historical Society
Thursday two descendants of Joshua G Rich (1820-1897), Richard Wright and his daughter, Sharon Wright, both of Lisbon, visited at the Moses Mason House. J. G. Rich was Mr. Wright’s great, grandfather. Mr. Rich was one of the truly memorable residents of the Bethel and Greenwood area during the last two decades of the 19th Century. His Maine experiences are unique.
In one of his newspaper columns, he wrote,” “Now I am more than seventy years old, it makes me tremble as I think of the narrow escapes and great perils I have been through – I never heard of a family in this state so isolated as we were. All the food and necessaries of life, excepting fish and wild meat, had to be carried on my back twenty miles in winter on snow shoes, over mountains, and only by blazed trees.”
He was born in New Sharon in April 1820 and was educated in common schools and Farmington high school. Dissatisfied with country life he went to sea for five years and “roamed half the world over.” When he was 22 he married Mary N. Day while living in Roxbury, Mass. After their first son was born in Roxbury, “they left their home and traveled far into the wilderness of the Maine woods, and made a little home by the lakeside twenty miles from any human habitation where they lived for many years, Mr. Rich hunted, trapped and guided.” They had fourteen children. They built and kept the first public house in the lake region, “Angler’s Retreat” at Middle Dam.
In the later years Mr. Rich lived on a farm in Greenwood, and then came to Bethel, where he lived for a number of years. He served as Trial Justice and ran the Bethel Pension Agency. Mrs. Rich died in 1884 and two years later Mr. Rich married Mrs. H.N. Gore who survived him. He was correspondent for several newspapers and wrote quite largely for publication of his adventures and of the Maine woods. In the 1890s he raised rabbits and reported his sale of rabbits in his weekly columns.
In May 1893, Rich wrote in his column, “Something much needed in Bethel is a sidewalk from the Hill to the station. We trust our village fathers will not think it beneath them to undertake the job. We are sure the present generations will bless the man that starts it.” His house was on Spring Street then where he also officiated at marriages.
Sharon Wright is a fly tyer and designer and names her work Moondancer Designs. She lives at 1 Farnsworth Street in Lisbon. I asked her which flies would be best for fishing our part of the Androscoggin. She showed me one of her original designs called the State of Maine Streamer.
More airport news
Last Thursday the small hangar at the east end of Bethel Airport’s hangar row, known to some as the “Clukey” hangar, was taken down. This raised the question as to will that site be the location of the soon to be built new terminal building. Answer is No.
Checking with the Airport Authority, Mr. Jodrey described the new site as just west of the cemetery’s lot line which is easily identified by the boundary where trees end and the cleared field begins under the power line serving airport. A compete new road will be laid into a new parking lot for the public. The building will be set in the present fence line.
As noted in last week’s news, Harold Clukey who passed away Dec. 14, 2010 had a very long association with airport operations and flying. In 1975 he took over supply and selling of aviation fuel. For photos of the project area and Mr. Clukey see this week’s Bethel Journals news.
Other news this week
At Gould Academy: Rain drove the Head of School’s reception into Ordway Hall. All the usual suspects attended. The crowd is always pleased to see the wonderful spreads of food and drink laid out for these receptions – dinner for two on Gould. Thanks for inviting us.
Hammers and nails: Out our way the new Kailey Sport Thoma building is rapidly taking shape; it is currently getting sided and roofed. What passersby do not see are the two new house projects going up in Birch Wood – one has a new foundation ready for the carpenters to take over. Three Savage Contracting and Excavation jobs are going on at full speed.
And on High Street, Schiavi Homes landed a new house on the foundation poured only a week before. Also if you have not been up Paradise Road recently there is a new house standing on the corner of Eden Lane and Paradise. So Bethel is keeping some builders busy.