Friday, May 13, 2022

Insight: Party like it’s 1975

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Next week marks an anniversary for me as 47 years ago I wrote my first published professional article for a newspaper. On May 16, 1975, I was assigned by United Press International to cover the world heavyweight championship fight in Las Vegas, Nevada between the challenger, Ron Lyle, and the champion, Muhammad Ali.

It seems like an eternity ago as so much has happened in my life and career since then but celebrating 47 years as a print journalist is certainly a milestone that not many are able to reach. I attribute my career longevity to lots of luck, some wonderful mentors, and having been blessed with an opportunity to tell some exceptional stories through the years.

In celebrating my career anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of the news, events and newsmakers taking place during this week in May 1975 at the start of my career.

Gasoline was selling across America for 57 cents a gallon. Electronics manufacturer Sony announced the creation of a new video cassette recording system it called Betamax.

The game show Wheel of Fortune made its debut as part of the NBC daytime television lineup.

The top movies of May 1975 are “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” with Ellen Burstyn, “Breakout” with Charlles Bronson, and the Academy Award winner “The Godfather Part II” with Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. On television, the top-rated show is “All in the Family” followed by the ABC miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man,” and “Laverne and Shirley.” 

The pull tab ring for aluminum cans is discontinued by American manufacturers after a series of injuries and deaths caused by people who swallowed the metal tabs. Gerald Ford was serving as the U.S. president.

Newly released products on the market included the Mood Ring, a jewelry item which contains a thermochromic element or a mood stone that changes colors based upon the temperature of the finger it’s worn on, and the Ford F-150 pickup truck.

For three consecutive weeks, the song “He Don’t’ Love You (Like I Love You)” by Tony Orlando and Dawn tops the popular American music charts in May 1975. The top country song during that same time period is the crossover hit “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by B.J. Thomas.

The top bestselling novel of May 1975 is “Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow and the first issue of “Soldier of Fortune” magazine is on sale at newsstands across the U.S.

Gourmet jellybeans are introduced in America by the Herman Goelitz Corporation. Original flavors are licorice, lemon, grape, root beer, cream soda, green apple, tangerine and very cherry. The company was rebranded in 2001 as “Jelly Belly.”

The “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” jingle is introduced to the American public in a television commercial for McDonalds in May 1975. The minimum wage for American workers was $2.10 an hour.

Milk was priced at $1.57 a gallon in May 1975, while eggs cost 70 cents for a dozen and ground beef was 99 cents per pound. A 1.05-ounce Hershey’s chocolate bar was 15 cents, and a 12-ounce box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was 45 cents.

Pillsbury acquires Totino's frozen pizza for $20 million in May 1975 while Wally Amos introduces his “Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies” for the first time to American consumers. A Kentucky Fried Chicken “Family Bucket” meal containing 15 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and six rolls was selling for $4.90.

The U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez and its crew were seized by the Kymer Rouge Cambodian forces and held for three days before being freed during a daring rescue by U.S. Marines.

The Milwaukee Brewers held first place in the American League East baseball standings on May 16, 1975, leading the eventual A.L. champion that year, the Boston Red Sox, by four games. The Los Angeles Dodgers were in first place in the National League West standings by five games over the Atlanta Braves and 5.5 games ahead of the eventual N.L. and 1975 World Series champion, the Cincinnati Reds.

The top selling automobiles in America in May 1975 are the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the Ford Granada, the Chevrolet Chevelle, the Chevrolet Nova and Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the AMC Pacer.

The theme park Busch Gardens officially opened in Williamsburg, Virginia with television personality Ed McMahon on hand for the dedication ceremony.

In women’s fashion, platform sandals, mini dresses and turtlenecks for layering were the top trends, while men were wearing bell-bottom and wide-leg pants, platform shoes, vests, long collared shirts, turtleneck sweaters, and leisure suits. For full disclosure, I wore a new brown plaid leisure suit when I interviewed Muhammad Ali before his knockout of Ron Lyle in Las Vegas.

Yes, May 1975 turned out to be a memorable month for me that I will not ever forget. That was truly a different world than the one we live in today and in many ways a simpler and less complicated way of life.

In looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now, but I wouldn’t change a thing about how my life or career turned out. <

Andy Young: Survey says...

By Andy Young

It’s unsurprising that I view certain things differently than many students in the high school English classes I teach do. I’m more than three times as old as any of them, so it’s only natural we have differing opinions on a variety of issues.

Some of those differences are directly attributable to our respective ages. For example, I’m mystified by the attraction many young folks have to tattoos, reality TV, vaping, and various social media platforms, the vast majority of which I probably still haven’t heard of.

But not all of our differences are generational. This is prom weekend at my high school, and I’ll freely admit I don’t understand why so many people consider it such a big deal. But I didn’t get it when I was a high school senior, either. What I did comprehend back then was that attending the event would have set me back more than two weeks’ worth of take-home pay from my 40-hour-per-week summer job doing manual labor at a local apple orchard, and I just didn’t see how putting on an uncomfortable outfit and carefully eating an overpriced meal (so as to not get any stains on said rented ensemble, which I would be sporting for perhaps three hours) would be worth the investment.

My views on the prom weren't shared by many of my high school classmates at the time, and thanks to a voluntary, three-question survey I constructed and distributed to students in my Grade 12 English classes late last month I now know for a fact that my prom-related opinion isn’t the prevailing one today either, since 50 of the 59 Kennebunk High School seniors who returned the questionnaire intend to attend this year’s event.

I also wondered about the future of print-edition high school yearbooks, given that nearly every young person today is more than capable of preserving virtually every visual and oral high school memory on some sort of electronic device. But there’s good news on that front for the companies that publish such things: only seven of the responding seniors said they wouldn’t be buying this year’s yearbook, as opposed to 50 yeses and two “I don’t knows.”

But not every established adolescent practice lasts forever. Class rings, another tradition that I don’t understand today any more than I did when I was in high school, are apparently going the way of sundials, quill pens, and buckboards. Three students responding to the survey said they had bought a class ring, but nearly all of the 56 “No!”s were resounding ones. “They’re ugly,” “Not worth the money,” and “500 bucks for a ring you’ll wear five times and then stick in a sock drawer? No thank you!” were three of the milder responses from those asked to elaborate on their decision to forego school-related jewelry.

Most of today’s teens aren’t any more rebellious, lazy, disrespectful or reckless than we were at their age. It’s indisputably true they’re attracted to instant gratification, but so were the rest of us as high schoolers. One obvious difference, though: thanks to cell phones and other societal changes, instant gratification is far more readily available today than it was four-plus decades ago, and thus potentially more addictive.

At their core kids today are just the same as they were half a century ago: they’re in a hurry to become adults, or to become what their perception of an adult is. More accurately, they’d like to have adult privileges without any adult responsibilities.

Which, come to think of it, sounds pretty darn attractive to many longtime actual adults (including this one) as well! <

Friday, May 6, 2022

Insight: Acceptance can lead to resilience

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Like many others, for a good part of my life I have tried to fit into a mold or attempted to be someone that I am not. Realizing that fact and accepting my strengths, weaknesses and limitations has always led to personal growth for me and a better understanding about what makes me happy.

I’ll share a few examples to illustrate my point.

When I was sent to Germany while serving in the military in the 1970s, I was the lowest rank that a U.S. Air Force enlistee could be, an E-1 Airman Basic without a single stripe on my uniform. Assigned to a unit where the lowest ranking person other than myself was an E-4 Sergeant, my name kept coming up for the tasks nobody else wanted.

I removed and dumped waste from Port-A-Potties, cleaned and scrubbed toilets, walked the flightline picking up trash in the heat, mopped and waxed floors, and shoveled piles snow and ice from walkways during blizzards.

But one day I was handed a push broom and ordered to sweep the street in front of unit headquarters and all the nearby sidewalks. As I swept the asphalt, I asked myself if I was just being told to do something just to keep me busy. The longer I swept, the more I grumbled to myself and bemoaned my fate as the lowest ranking person at the site.

Just minutes after I finished, an Air Force staff car turned the corner and parked in front of the headquarters building. On small flags attached to the front two bumpers of the staff car were stars, indicating that a general was visiting with our unit commander.

After the general had left, the first sergeant sent for me and told me that the general had remarked how nice the unit grounds looked and that our commanding officer was pleased with my sweeping work.

That evening I had an epiphany that changed the arc of my military career. I thought that if I simply accepted that I didn’t have to know everything in advance  and had confidence in my superiors, my job would be a lot easier. I stopped questioning every little thing I was asked to do and soon I became an E-2 Airman, and then an E-3 Airman First Class, an E-4 Senior Airman, E-4 Sergeant and eventually an E-5 Staff Sergeant.

Acceptance played a significant role in my accomplishing that and growing as a person as I assumed greater responsibilities the higher in rank I became.

I once worked at a newspaper as a copy editor for a section editor who severely lacked any resemblance of social skills or empathy for others. Over the span of five years, even though I sat inches away from him at an adjoining desk, not once did he ever say to me “Good Morning, Nice Job, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving Day, Congratulations on getting married,” or even a simple “Hello.”

What I did hear from him was plenty of cursing when things didn’t go his way, how much he despised his job, how he couldn’t wait to retire, and why he deserved every penny of his salary. But instead of complaining about him, I accepted my role, did my job to the best of my ability, and sometimes I had to do his work too when he was gone on vacation.

His desk was always a mess and his leftover lunch bags, stacked-up newspapers and correspondence frequently spilled over onto my neat and tidy workspace, creating an embarrassing situation when a co-worker would stop by my desk to discuss an upcoming page layout or article. I would apologize for the mess and move on.

One day I was called into the department editor’s office and told I was being promoted to that section editor’s position and he was being transferred to another section. That news was surprising but was confirmation that acceptance had helped me gain a promotion. It led to me going on to becoming an editor for another newspaper, and later being chosen to lead several daily and weekly newspapers as their top editor.   

Acceptance can mean many things to many people, but for me, I can say that it assisted me in being comfortable with who I am and knowing that how I feel about my place in the world plays a major part in how happy and resilient I can truly be.

I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes along the way, but I’ve never been afraid to fail. Deep down inside, I’ve always possessed the confidence to believe that no matter what, things will be OK and accepting that inevitability has led to better things for me professionally and personally.

In practicing acceptance, I’ve had to acknowledge many uncomfortable parts of myself, my emotions, my thoughts, and my past. But letting go of all that can be freeing in many ways and ignite a spark in us in ways a lot of us never expected to achieve or accomplish.

Acceptance is about trying to be real rather than trying to be perfect and that’s a great foundation for anyone and for any age. <

Andy Young: I eye bad grammar, thinking May may be the best

By Andy Young

May may be my favorite month of the year.

Hmmm. That doesn’t sound quite right. Have I just inadvertently violated some arcane rule of sentence structure?

I’m not sure where I got the impression that starting an essay (or a sentence, for that matter) by repeating the same word or sound is bad form. Maybe it was from some grammar book, although that’s pretty unlikely, given the number of grammar books I’ve ever read from cover to cover (zero). 

The idea of avoiding beginning a sentence by using the same word twice (or with consecutive homonyms) was most likely planted in the recesses of my still-absorbent brain years ago by some well-intentioned teacher. That information has lain dormant for decades, brought back to life only because of the oddly discordant sound this opus’s opening makes when read aloud.

But why obsess over obscure (and possibly imaginary) grammar rules when there are other issues to resolve? Is May considered a terrific month based solely on its own merits? Or is the general affection for it (at least in the northern hemisphere) based on the anticipation of the months people know for certain are going to follow?

Certainly, the fifth month of the year has much to recommend it. For openers, there’s May Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Mother’s Day. And then there’s Memorial Day, which for Americans is both a festive and solemn occasion. 

That three-day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but also serves as a tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that those of us still extant in the 21st century can continue pursuing life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness with minimal interference from those who’d deny us such privileges. 

Teacher Appreciation Week and Nurse Appreciation Week both fall in May, and in my only slightly biased opinion everyone should not only sincerely appreciate people who ply their trades in the fields of education and health care, they should do so every day.

(Full disclosure, this column’s writer is himself a member of one of the two groups of public servants referenced in the preceding paragraph and has availed himself of the services of the other group on numerous occasions.)

May is chock full of other less-known days that are worthy of celebration, like National Endangered Species Day (May 20), National Armed Forces Day (the 21), and Peace Officers Memorial Day (the 15). It’s also fraught with less prominent occasions, like Walnut Day (May 17), Turtle Day (May 23), and the mysterious National Shrimp Day (May 10). Is this intended as a salute to shellfish, or to small people? Perhaps it should be designated to honor both these too-often-underappreciated groups. 

May is historically significant, too. New York’s Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931. Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile on May 6, 1954. Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president on May 10, 1994.

John F. Kennedy was born in May, as were Florence Nightingale, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Sally Ride, Malcolm X, Queen Victoria, Stevie Wonder, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Andre the Giant, Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali, Tina Fey, Rob Gronkowski, Harry Truman, Mr. T, George Carlin, Bono, Pope John Paul II, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, just to name 20.

That repeated word thing is still bothering me, though.

Eight ate at the octagonal table? Bill Bill for the broken window? Our hour of need is now? Fax facts, not lies? Half the milk spilled; what a poor pour?

None of those sound right, either.

May might be my favorite month of the year.

There. That’s better. <

Bill Diamond: Distracted driving puts us all in danger

By Senator Bill Diamond

The pandemic brought with it many surprises. One trend that caught many of us off-guard was the increase in dangerous driving and traffic fatalities, despite the fact that fewer drivers were on the road.  

As I write this, Maine has already seen 39 traffic fatalities this year, up from 29 at this same time last year. While there are many factors at play in these accidents, reckless and distracted driving play a part in too many of the accidents that take someone’s life.

April was Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and I was honored to be invited by AAA to join them at an event to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. 

For a long time, we’ve known that operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol was a threat to the safety of everyone who uses our roads. 

What we’ve come to learn too well in the past 15 years or so is that distracted driving is also responsible for much of the property damage and many of the terrible injuries and deaths on our roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in ten fatal accidents involves distracted driving, and the number is higher for non-fatal crashes that still result in injuries.

In 2009, I sponsored a bill that created 
Maine’s distracted driver law, which added additional penalties for drivers who committed a traffic infraction, drove to endanger or were involved in a car accident while driving distracted. 

Our thinking at the time was that defining distracted driving and adding these penalties would work to make our roadways significantly safer. Unfortunately, it did not.

It quickly became clear that there was one specific activity many drivers were engaging in that took their attention away from the road: Texting while driving. In 2011, I sponsored a bill that 
prohibited texting while driving, but it was difficult for law enforcement to determine when a distracted driver was using their phone for texting or was distracted by their handheld device for other reasons. Drivers pulled over for suspected texting often claimed to be dialing a number to make a call rather than sending a text. Once again, we could see that we had to take additional action.

In 2019, we finally passed a law I sponsored that 
fully prohibited the use of handheld phones and devices while driving. In the years since we first started addressing distracted driving in Maine, our phones had come to occupy much more of our attention than ever before. Our phones allowed us to send and receive emails, update social media accounts, check the weather, watch TV, do our banking, read the news, and much more – any time, any place. For too many drivers, the distraction proved much more than they could handle, and their inattention was putting Maine lives in danger.

The steps we’ve taken to make our roads safer have been critical, but even with these laws, it’s still every driver’s responsibility to keep their attention on the road while driving. Over the ten-year span that I’ve worked on distracted driving legislation, I have spoken with many survivors of distracted driving accidents, as well as the families and friends of victims who sadly did not survive their encounters with distracted drivers. 

Innocent people – adults and children – are tragically killed and injured every year due to distracted drivers. When these tragedies occur, the person responsible – the distracted driver, if they were lucky enough to survive the accident as well – regrets their actions and wishes they could take it all back. But it’s too late.

Driving a car is one of the most dangerous activities many of us will ever engage in, yet we do it every day without a second thought. Today, I ask you to remember the serious responsibility we all have as drivers to drive safely. It’s important we remind each other – just as we did with the seatbelt law decades ago – to put the phone down and pay attention. 

And, as anyone who has driven with a child knows well, if we teach our children today that driving hands free is very important, they will remind us tenfold – that way, we all win, and the next generation is even safer.

As always, I’m here to help however I can. You can send me an email at 
diamondhollyd@aol.com or call my office at 207-287-1515. You can also sign up for my regular e-newsletter by visiting www.mainesenate.org. <

Friday, April 29, 2022

Insight: Expressing gratitude not always easy

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

While I’m always grateful when someone does something nice for me, a recent attempt at doing a good deed at our home was more than a little perplexing. 

With my wife at school during the day teaching and myself at the newspaper putting together a recent edition on a production day, my stepson dropped by our house after getting off work to let our dog out in the backyard.

Spending a few minutes there, he decided that the yard needed raking after the long winter months and so he found a rake in the garage and quickly amassed five large piles of leaves and branches.

I had been waiting for a warmer day to do that task myself, so when I got home from work that afternoon, I was surprised to see some piles of leaves and twigs sitting in the yard.

Entering the kitchen, my wife Nancy proceeded to tell me about the piles and that I probably wouldn’t be happy with what he had done while raking.

She led me to the window looking out on the backyard and beyond into the neighbor’s yard and pointed out a pile of leaves and sticks sitting on the other side of the fence.

Apparently, he had decided to rake up a large pile of leaves, twigs, and branches and then toss them over the fence to show his displeasure at having to perform the task. We do not have any trees in our yard, and he figured that the leaves that had fallen onto our property came from the neighbors’ trees near the fence and that they should be responsible for picking them up. 

I went out to survey the situation up close and was horrified to see the huge pile of leaves that he had thrown there. If there was one thing that I was grateful for though, it was that he had told his mother that he had done that, and she had brought it immediately to my attention.

In my opinion, we somehow had to make the situation right, and it had to be done sooner than later.

I sent my wife over to the neighbor’s home to knock on their door and to let them know what had happened. As I began to rake the leaves into a manageable pile to transport back to our property, both of our neighbors came outside into their yard to talk with us.

Despite our utter embarrassment, they told us that they had so many leaves themselves it was hard to keep up with them, and that they had noticed the large pile when they had arrived home a few hours earlier that afternoon. They told us it was no big deal and to just let the pile go and they then laughed about what had transpired.

We apologized to them and I proceeded to drag the pile through a gate and into our back yard. By this time, it was nearing suppertime and Nancy and I decided to let the piles of leaves go until we could find the time to put them into bags for transport to the transfer station for disposal.

Turns out we had to go out of state that weekend for a funeral and the piles of leaves and branches sat in the back yard for a week.

On Sunday evening, my wife and I were able to bag up six large bags of leaves and extract them from the yard.

She reminded me that no matter what had happened, being grateful is about something someone has done for you and then expressing thanks for it.

Although my stepson was wrong to throw a large quantity of leaves over the fence, I texted him to thank him for his work in collecting and raking up the leaves in the first place.

In reflecting back upon the entire incident, I determined that gratitude for me was more than just expressing thanks for his help in cleaning up our yard. And I thought that gratitude doesn’t always come easy for me, especially when people do things that I didn’t ask them to do.

Expressing gratitude about incidents like this and similar ones that have happened over the years is truly about something that leads to a more sustainable form of happiness. Because I did not dwell on my unhappiness and embarrassment at having to retrieve the leaves from my neighbors’ yard and apologize for something someone else had done and then not yelling at or chewing out the culprit, I let it go and discovered a tangible peace of mind.

When all was said and done, Nancy and I laughed about the entire disconcerting episode, and she told me that she was happy that I chose to be grateful about the work her son had done for us rather than share my unhappiness with him for throwing the leaves over the fence in the first place and then arguing with him about it.

In my opinion, practicing gratitude shifted my mindset to a better place, created an opportunity to meet neighbors, clean up our yard and bring us all closer together. What could be better than that? <


Andy Young: The Price of Driving

By Andy Young

Late last year the Maine Turnpike Authority announced it needed to collect more revenue (AKA money) on Interstate 95 (AKA the Maine Turnpike), and as a result the toll rate was going to be adjusted (AKA raised). 

While the reasons given for the escalation were understandable (continued cost of road maintenance and a COVID-related decline in toll revenue, among other things), the bottom line was that the increase was going to hit five-morning-per-week turnpike drivers right in our already-slender wallets.

It could have been worse. I travel south on the turnpike each day to my place of employment, but for those northbound folks who enter near where the York Toll Plaza used to be, the cost of getting on I-95 jumped to $4 dollars, a 33 percent boost. The hike for us southbounders wasn’t quite that steep, but still, an increase is an increase.

One of my north-in-the-AM co-workers began taking U. S. Route 1 (a toll-free path which runs parallel to the turnpike) each morning, and suggested I do the same. Ordinarily I’d have dismissed that proposal out of hand since the portion of the road I’d need to travel contains 39 traffic lights between Scarborough (where I’d get on) and Kennebunk (my destination). However, there’s not much traffic to compete with when I customarily hit the road. At that hour (around 5 a.m.) most of the signals are either blinking yellow or can be beaten by carefully slowing one’s approach to a red light, then prudently accelerating the moment it turns green.

Taking the toll-free route was a good plan, until the very day it wasn’t. One morning while zipping through Saco I saw blue lights in my rearview mirror. Compliantly giving way so the officer could continue pursuing whatever dangerous menace to society was on the loose, I was stunned when, after obediently pulling over, I discovered I was his quarry! 

The uniformed public servant approached my car and asked if I knew how fast I was going. The truth: of course I did, since there had been a big “49” displayed on my digital dashboard when I first saw the blue lights. But my (apparently involuntary) response was, “Ummmm, I think I was going 48, sir.” 

Fortunately, it was too dark for the officer to see my almost-immediate shame. Not only had I fibbed, but I had done so by one (1) mile per hour. Who lies by one mile per hour? And what good does it do?

Then he asked if I knew I was in a 35 mph zone, and I truthfully responded I did not. He took my license and registration, leaving me stewing over the irony and stupidity of getting a $200 speeding ticket because of a flawed effort to dodge a two-dollar toll. 

But providence smiled on me; the officer returned, presumably after ascertaining no warrants for my arrest existed, and told me kindly but firmly to please drive safely, which I pledged sincerely to do.

Lesson learned. 

Or perhaps not.

Early in the a.m. less than two weeks later I was motoring through Saco on Route 1 at what seemed like a snail’s pace when once again I saw blue in my rearview mirror. This time I was clocked at 47 mph. But once again I wasn’t ticketed, just cautioned (by a different, though slightly less friendly officer) to please slow down.

Is the old saying about the third time being the charm true? I for one do not intend to find out. Since that second encounter with the police, I’ve taken the turnpike (and grudgingly paid the toll) every morning. <