Friday, April 26, 2024

Insight: Flaming chickens and angry bees

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

When you work as a journalist in Florida for any length of time, as I did, it’s a certainty that you will write more than your fair share of strange articles about some of the weirdest activities and events.

Not to say odd things don’t happen elsewhere, but Florida for me was a hotbed of unusual stories not commonly reported by newspapers in other states. There were articles published about Skunk Apes (a sort of cousin of Bigfoot with an odd odor), a guy in Miami high on bath salts who chewed off part of another man’s face, or a state law prohibiting singing while wearing a swimsuit.

Here are a few of many offbeat and peculiar stories I can recall from my time working for a newspaper there…

Late one night in 1995, a semi-truck driving south down I-95 near Viera suddenly jack-knifed and overturned when a passenger car swerved into its lane, spilling the contents it was hauling and leaking gasoline for a quarter mile onto the roadway surface. Following close behind, a second tractor-trailer truck also crashed at the site trying to avoid the first crash and spilling bales of freshly cut hay onto I-95.

A spark from the first truck sliding and scraping the asphalt caught the entire stretch of I-95 on fire and when news crews arrived on scene, it was reminiscent of what the inside of a malfunctioning oven might look like at KFC. There were thousands of whole frozen flaming chickens and ignited bales of hay burning to the bewilderment of Florida Highway Patrol officers who had barricaded traffic along the interstate.

Believe it or not, this was not the first such accident on a Florida thoroughfare involving the spillage of frozen chickens. Similar accidents involving trucks carrying frozen chickens have been reported through the years in Brandon, Jacksonville, and Escambia County.

About a mile or so south of where that crash occurred on I-95, I got to report on a different accident on the interstate and it created quite a buzz in the community in 2003.

I was driving north on I-95 to cover a high school tennis match when I received a phone call from an editor at the newspaper. She informed me that a truck with an open-bed trailer hauling eight beehives had overturned and traffic north on the interstate was at a standstill. She said a highway cleanup was underway and that they were letting traffic through on one lane, but she wanted me to stop at the accident scene and take photos for the newspaper.

After more than 20 minutes sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic approaching the accident site, I was able to pull over and take some photos of highway workers wearing Hazmat suits as they were removing broken beehives from I-95. A police officer told me that a swarm of more than 5,000 angry bees had left the scene when they escaped from the beehives following the accident.

The next day, I heard that the bees had traveled more than five miles to an apartment complex and residents living there were afraid as the angry bees divebombed them as they swarmed in the rafters of the apartment’s parking structure. Emergency crews had to evacuate people in those apartments, and some were forced to go to a motel for several days while the bees were captured and extracted from the apartment complex. And I later learned that one of those apartment residents forced to evacuate because of the bee invasion happened to be an ex-girlfriend of mine who was allergic to bee stings.

Around 2007, an unusual robbery and arrest was reported in Palm Bay, Florida. Apparently, a man entered a convenience store there, put a six pack of beer on the counter and asked the clerk for a pack of cigarettes. The clerk asked for the man’s ID to verify that he was over the age of 21 to buy the beer and cigarettes. As the clerk looked at the ID card, the customer pulled a gun and demanded that the clerk give him money from the cash register.

The robber was handed $40 by the clerk and fled the store carrying his six pack of beer. This was before video surveillance was widely used for convenience stores there. About 45 minutes had passed and police were at the convenience store investigating the robbery when the telephone rang behind the counter and a caller asked the clerk if he had found an ID card that he might have lost at the store.

Police suspected it was the robber and told the clerk to tell the caller to come by and pick it up before the store closed that evening. They moved their police cruiser behind the store and hid in the back room waiting for the caller to return and pick up the ID.

Within 15 minutes, the same fellow who had robbed the store walked in and wanted his ID back. On his way out of the store, he was arrested for armed robbery. You can’t make up stories like this and it’s only a small sample of what a typical news day is like there.

Andy Young: What I did on my vacation

By Andy Young

I attended public school for 13 years, then spent another six at a state university, and more recently have been teaching high school English for 22 more. All that experience qualifies me to state without fear of contradiction that students look forward to their April vacation almost as much as their school staff and teachers do.

Maybe that’s why the one-day mid-vacation course I took last Monday was so challenging for me.

Fairfield Prep, Don Bosco Prep, and St. John’s Prep are probably fine private schools, but they can’t be any tougher than Colonoscopy Prep.

A colonoscopy is something nearly everyone who doesn’t die in infancy or is run over by a bus as a toddler will be subjected to sooner or later. The idea is to maintain good colorectal health, which is vital for those wishing to avoid dying prematurely of something that’s generally preventable and/or treatable, if it’s discovered early enough. Undergoing the procedure seems daunting but it is far less gruesome than it sounds. However, given that it involves putting an instrument deep inside the undergoer’s body in a place where the sun will never shine, well, that’s a pretty low bar.

Most people find preparing for a colonoscopy unpleasant, although there are a few exceptions. Eccentric individuals who relish the thought of fasting for 24-plus hours, hearing aliens do construction work inside their stomach, and experiencing their own personal combination of the Johnstown Flood and Aug. 6, 1945 in Hiroshima will thoroughly enjoy preparing for a colonoscopy. But for everyone else, drinking a gallon or so of nasty-tasting liquid spiked with something designed to make most of their insides fall out is about as pleasant as shaving with a belt sander.

The procedure itself is utterly painless, thanks largely to anesthesia which removes the patient from reality for as long as necessary, plus another couple of hours. Not surprisingly, a person who has just undergone a colonoscopy must have someone else take them home after the procedure, given the temporarily compromised state of their physical and mental capabilities. An anesthetized person driving a car is potentially every bit as dangerous as a monkey wielding a chainsaw. The only difference: the monkey knows what planet he’s on.

How effective are the drugs I was given prior to undergoing my procedure last week? All I remember is being told to take the elevator (rather than the stairs) as I was leaving, then waking up from a nap in a chair at home a couple of hours later. I don’t recall any of what transpired between those two events, although my chauffeur/son Willie assures me I spoke to him like a reasonably lucid human being, albeit one who asked the same questions three or four times.

While getting ready for a colonoscopy is hardly anyone’s idea of fun, given the importance of staying alive, it’s a small price to pay. In fact, if I could somehow obtain a 100 percent guarantee that undergoing an annual colonoscopy would assure me of good health for the following year, I’d sign up for one every January 1, even though it would take a lot of the fun out of New Year’s Eve.

As a personal aside, I’d like to thank Mary, Lee Ann, Trina, and Cassidy for the role(s) they played during my recent trip to the gastroenterologist. That’s assuming those are their actual names, since as I have alluded to previously, my memory of the events(s) which took place that morning is somewhat foggy.

I’d also like to thank my chauffeur/son Willie for driving me home.

Assuming that’s his actual name. <

Friday, April 19, 2024

Insight: A Decade To Forget

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Someone recently posted on a social media page that I follow about how much better life was in the 1970s. Having lived through that decade myself, I’d much rather be living today than go back to the way it was then.

Ed Pierce visits ancient Indian ruins at Chaco
Canyon in New Mexico in 1975.
First as a financially struggling college student, then launching a career as a journalist, and later as a member of the military, the 1970s for me were not the fun-loving disco dancing days people have come to associate with that decade. There was the Vietnam War, soaring inflation, gasoline shortages, and the minimum wage was just $2.50 an hour.

The 1970s was the decade of the Watergate Scandal, violent international terrorism attacks such as at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, and the introduction of video games to society.

Caller ID and telephone answering machines had not yet been invented. And there were only two ways to make a phone call, either from a landline tethered to the wall at home or in the office, or from pay phones, which were everywhere but have since disappeared in America.

To take a photograph you needed a camera with film to be developed or a Polaroid which could make prints in a matter of minutes.

There were no MP3s or earbuds for listening to music. There were stereo systems with vinyl records or cassette, 8-track, or reel-to-reel tapes. Since there was no Amazon or Spotify in the 1970s, many people visited a record store to purchase music, or they belonged to a mail-order service which shipped albums to them. Cassette tapes would sometimes come loose and needed to be rewound by inserting a pencil into the reel hole and twisting it in the other direction.

Pop-tops for cans of soda pop or beer had not hit the market. To open a can, you had to yank off an aluminum pull tab, which was often discarded as litter and stepped on at the beach as popularized in Jimmy Buffett’s hit song “Margaritaville.”

Television choices were limited to four live broadcast channels of either ABC, NBC, CBS or PBS, not the proliferation of options we have today. If you missed a program, you waited until the summer for it to show up in a rerun. There were no TV remotes back then. To change the channel, you had to get up from the couch and turn the television dial yourself.

Uber did not exist. It was an era where many would consider hitchhiking as a method to get from one place to another.

Fashion trends of the 1970s included platform shoes, leisure suits, flare jeans, mini-skirts, prairie dresses, tie-dyed T-shirts, maxi dresses, wide suit lapels and neckties, wide belts, hot pants, plaids, high waistbands, puka shells and love beads, tube tops, leg warmers, wrap dresses, headbands, safari jackets, go-go boots, large floppy collars, crop tops, halter tops, and the heavy use of synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester in clothing.

In home décor, shag carpeting was all the rage. Beanbag chairs and avocado or copper-colored appliances were popular choices for homeowners. Many kitchens contained cannisters with a mushroom motif.

Cigarette smoking was permitted on airplanes and in restaurants and passage of the 25th Amendment in 1971 meant adults could register and vote at the age of 18.

Popular 1970s fads included mood rings, pet rocks, streaking, waterbeds, tetherball, CB radios, jogging, roller skates, blacklight posters and lava lamps. Popular dance steps of the 1970s included the Hustle, the Bump, the Funky Chicken, the Robot, the YMCA, and the Bus Stop.

Frequently appearing on the most magazine covers in the 1970s were Farrah Fawcett, Lauren Hutton, David Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Cheryl Tiegs and Michael Jackson.

Streets and highways were filled with AMC Pacers, Hornets and Gremlins, Dodge Chargers, the Chevy Vega, Range Rovers, the Mercury Capri, Ford Mavericks, the Buick Riviera, Volkswagen Golfs, Plymouth Dusters, the Pontiac Trans Am and Datsun 240Zs. New automobiles sold in the 1970s did not come with seatbelts and bench seats were still available in many models.

The movement to create equality for women in pay, housing and credit led to the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 to ensure gender equality across America, but that measure failed to receive ratification by two-thirds of the U.S. states by 1979 and never was enacted. A different type of blow was struck for gender equality though when Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in a televised tennis match billed as “The Battle of the Sexes” in 1973.

Candy sales skyrocketed in 1976 when Pop Rocks were first introduced and the 1970s also marked the debut of Hamburger Helper on supermarket shelves across the U.S. Without the benefit of scanning and barcode technology which came around much later, all items in the grocery store had a price sticker so a cashier could ring you out at the cash register.

As the 1970s began, I was still in high school and by the time the decade ended, I was fully entrenched in a career that continues to this very day.

While the decade of the 1970s proved to be a turning point in my life, I greatly prefer the era we live in today.

Andy Young: An invigorating, infuriating freakin’ walk

By Andy Young

It was the eminent Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) who eloquently said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.”

I agree.

Around here the last piles of winter snow have disappeared. Birds are chirping, plants are sprouting, and hours of daylight are increasing. Going for a walk on a sunny, 50-degree April day is like being reborn.

Maybe the best thing about walking at this time of year is all that’s visible. Naked forests hide little and since few trees will become fully leafed for another several weeks, rural streets, lanes, and paths take on a whole new look when viewed by even moderately observant strollers.

Spring walks reveal things that will be invisible a month from now. Old buildings located deep in the woods which go unseen during the summer come into clear view in late April, as do small animals, blossoming vegetation, and babbling brooks.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to spring walks as well, an all-too-common sight that reveals a troubling slothfulness, narcissism, and disregard for their surroundings on the part of a small but odious portion of the population.

Freakin’ litter.

On a beautiful Saturday morning not long ago, I strode down to the post office to mail a pair of packages, lugging them there in a cloth shopping bag, since that was more convenient than carrying one under each arm for a trek of just over a mile. Once that errand was completed, I tucked my now-empty bag into a jacket pocket and continued down Main Street.

Shortly after passing the library, I spied a discarded bottle, one which had once contained 16 ounces of imported beer. Feeling public-spirited, I grabbed it and deposited it into the cloth bag I extracted from my pocket.

Perhaps 50 yards later. I picked up two more discarded cans. Less than a half-mile further my bag was filled to the brim with bottles, cans, and similar freakin’ rubbish.

Filling a bag with trash in under a mile of walking was disheartening. Even more discouraging: I could have filled four or five more bags with the bottles, cans, and fast-food detritus I didn’t pick up. And since I had only walked on the left side of the road, it’s reasonable to assume a similar amount of refuse had been tossed onto the other side, although since I didn’t feel like dodging traffic going by at 45 mph, I don’t know that for sure.

What exactly is gained by heedlessly scattering debris? I’ve never met any pro-littering advocates. The reason, I suspect: most decent human beings recognize the random strewing of trash for what it is: an act of laziness, selfishness, and freakin’ disrespect.

There are allegedly penalties for this inexcusable offense, but has anyone ever paid a fine for littering? Really; who waits for a law enforcement officer to drive by before tossing the cup containing the remainder of their Big Gulp out the window?

There are currently numerous complex issues facing America and the world for which no easy solutions exist, including immigration, the environment, the economy, education, affordable housing, corruption, human trafficking, cybersecurity, arms control, global health, corporate greed, sourcing affordable energy, and food insecurity, just to name a baker’s dozen.

But solving the littering problem is easy, all it requires is having each individual to properly pick up after him, her, or their self.

Hippocrates was right; walking is the best medicine. But effective medicine is needed now more than ever, because given the state of Earth’s perpetually deteriorating environment, littering (of all kinds) is arguably one of mankind’s deadliest poisons.

Oh, and one more thing.

Happy freakin’ Earth Day. <

Friday, April 12, 2024

Insight: Unforgettable friends and memories

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Growing up in the 1960s, I learned the invaluable lessons of friendship and the benefits of positive role models from an older couple that we would go to visit every Friday evening.

Marge and Bob Bartlett were close to our family and after supper at the start of each weekend, my father would drive us to their home, and we’d spend several hours with them. My mother first met Marge when she became a babysitter for their oldest son Jimmy and through the years their friendship grew. My sister was the same age as Marge and Bob’s youngest son, Kenny, and visits to their home became sort of a ritual for us on Friday nights.

Bob Bartlett worked as a glassblower for Eastman Kodak Company and had a garage he converted into a workshop behind their home. Sometimes during the summer months, he would take my brother and me out there as he made glass paperweights or Christmas tree ornaments. Once, he helped me make a glass bird with a long neck that would dip its head as the temperature changed.

Bob had a silly sense of humor and was able to pull off the best impression of Yogi Bear I have ever heard. To this day I can still hear him imitating Sergeant Schultz from television’s “Hogan’s Heroes” or comedian Bill Dana’s classic line “My name is Jose Jimenez.”

Marge was a devoted mother to her two boys and inspired them both to attend college and to follow their dreams. Both sons were successful as Jimmy became a broadcaster working in radio in Boston for a station owned by sportscaster Curt Gowdy and then a television anchor for WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire. Kenny obtained a real estate license and eventually owned his own company in Texas before retiring.

A visit to the Bartlett home was always the highlight of my week. Each of them would ask me questions about what I was learning about in school, how my favorite sports teams were doing, what I was reading, or what I wanted to be when I grew up. Bob would always seem to have a roll of Lifesavers candy in his pocket, or he’d pass me a piece of Bit O’ Honey as we watched television in their living room.

Upon arriving each time at their home, Marge would bring our family into her kitchen and offer us a piece of cake she had just baked which was sitting on the counter. My favorite was her frosted orange cake and what I wouldn’t give today for a slice of it again.

After we finished eating the cake, Marge would point to the refrigerator freezer and ask if we wanted a Borden’s ice cream cup. They were small servings of vanilla ice cream with either chocolate sauce or strawberry jam on the bottom. They even came with their own wooden disposable serving spoons.

Year after year, my brother and me would sit in front of the Bartletts’ RCA console television set watching episodes of Rawhide at 7:30 p.m. followed by Route 66. When both of those programs were canceled, we would watch “The Wild Wild West” at 7:30 and “Hogan’s Heroes” at 8:30 p.m.

As my brother and I sat and watched television, we were always joined by Marge and Bob’s overweight beagle named Thumper. He waddled from side to side when he walked and had a distinctive yelp when somebody knocked on the door.

My mother and father would sit in the kitchen with the Bartletts during our visits and drink coffee and talk or have some of the cake that Marge would have on hand every week. They were usually joined by Marge’s widowed mother, Sue Coleman, who lived in an addition that Bob had built off the back of their home.

It was always fun, always positive, and always an enjoyable experience to visit with such uplifting people who genuinely cared about us.

While I was serving in the Air Force in Arizona in 1982, my mother called to let me know that Bob Bartlett had suffered a massive heart attack and had died at the age of 55. Not long thereafter, Jimmy Bartlett also died of heart disease at an early age.

In 2001, I was going to fly from Florida to Rochester, New York to attend my 30th high school reunion. Kenny Bartlett called and asked if I would stop and visit his mother Marge and encourage her to move into assisted living. She was in her 90s and was hard of hearing. He was worried because during a fire at a home behind her, she slept through it and didn’t hear the fire trucks.

I did visit her, and she declined to enter assisted living. She said she had lived in her home for 65 years and wasn’t going anywhere. She also offered me an ice cream cup from her freezer. Three years later, Marge flew to Texas for the wedding of her granddaughter and passed away in her sleep there.

We become the people we are because of significant influences in our lives, and I was blessed to have such wonderful friends while growing up.

Andy Young - Enough already; I confess!

By Andy Young

I owe northern New England an apology.

I’m the one responsible for the recent power outages, the sore snow-shoveling muscles, the non-working phones, the absent internet, the spoiled frozen (and refrigerated) food, and related misfortune(s).

I realize I’m putting myself at great personal risk by revealing my culpability. But if I take credit for everything I’ve accomplished so far in my life, like winning the Academy Award, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Olympic Decathlon gold medal, well, it’s only fair that when I’m at fault for something, I own up to it.

I have a friend in Arizona who cannot understand how anyone can live year-round in frigid Maine, which he and his equally ignorant friends refer to as “East Alaska.” But that’s okay; I don’t understand how anyone can live year-round in a parched, oven-like state which my equally ignorant friends and I refer to as “North Hell.”

I gleefully called him a month ago to boast about our incredibly mild, just concluded (or so I thought) Maine winter. Generally, he’s the one calling me sometime in early March, right after I’ve shoveled another foot of snow off the driveway at 4 a.m. so I can get to work on time. And when he does, he really lays it on thick, describing the difficulty of enduring their frigid, humidity-free 55-degree nights.

But he knows he’d better razz me while he can, because come summer, which arrives around May Day down there, I’ll be giving as good as I got. I’ll tell him about needing a sweatshirt to stay warm on our chilly, humidity-free 55-degree evenings, and how difficult tolerating daytime temperatures that sometimes rise to a stratospheric 75 degrees can be. I imagine him, sweating like a bear, gritting his teeth during our summer chats the same way I do when he calls in mid-February to inform me that he’s outdoors wearing a red tank top for Valentine’s Day.

But this year’s unusually mild winter gave me the chance to get the jump on our annual climate-related conversations. I called to let him know that all the snow, including what always accumulates at the bottom of the driveway thanks to the town plow and my endless shoveling, was completely gone on March 12! Not only that, the only three times I used the shovels all winter was for pushing broom-style, rather than for any actual lifting and throwing. I also alluded, none-so-subtly, to the coming six-month heatwave looming for him and his fellow knuckleheads in the Valley of the Sun.

Apparently, that’s where I went wrong. I’d offended the Karma gods before, but on those occasions the only person whose backside got bitten due to my indiscretion was me.

But evidently, I went too far this time, and we’ve all seen the results. We’ve lost power in my neighborhood on three consecutive weekends, and it’s likely the last of the snow piles at the end of the driveway won’t disappear before May 1. And just in case I hadn’t figured out it was my crowing about our mild winter that was responsible for all the recent weather-related misfortune, I got irrefutable confirmation last Thursday when, during one of its multiple runs up and down our street, the town snowplow knocked over just one mailbox.


I can’t undo the damage I’ve done, but I’m determined to signal the karma gods that I’ll never displease them again. I’m just trying to figure out how to get their attention. I’d try waving a white flag, but given all the snow still on the ground, I doubt they’d be able to see it. <

Friday, April 5, 2024

The Rookie Mama: A rolling milestone gathers no moss

By Michelle Cote

As technology evolves at full speed, it’s challenging at times to occasionally tap brakes, regroup, and consider what we’re dropping from existence as we gather new tech nuggets at the fastest possible pace, especially as we compare our kiddos’ day-to-day experiences to the lives we led at their age.

It’s a little different, right?

I mean, I learned about a googol in my classroom, and that was the extent of my Google Classroom.

But I digress.

There’s beauty in the quick share of a snapshot via social media or text message in the moment for the moment’s sake, but truly how great a job are we collectively doing to document our family’s lives and progress meaningfully in a way that’s captured for future generations to appreciate?

I can appreciate contextualizing the hairdos, clothing styles, and décor of my grandparents’ generation because I’ve seen photos to accompany the stories and traditions – finest crystal stemware at Christmas laid out on TV trays so all the relatives could gather and tuck in tight. The pink double oven peeping out in the background by the avocado fridge in the kitchen. I’ve seen it in living color.

We’re ages past 8mm film reels, VHS, and Polaroids, but they’re tangible, albeit fading in a corner pocket bin of your basement. They still exist for our appreciative purposes now.

My own childhood milestones were spared the social media audience commentary, but they exist in all their ‘80s and ‘90s neon scrunchie glory in carefully assembled photo albums, some lucky to be labeled by year. Tangible.

But it appears my own uniquely unidentified generation – sometimes we’re called ‘young Gen X’ or ‘elder millennial’; we’re really the early ‘80s-born group with an analog childhood and digital adulthood – may be the last one to have physical photo albums, unedited, unplugged, not kept alive by some remote server.

So therein lies the need for continued meaningful documentation.

And I’m not trying to start an archival rival; digital and print photos can –and should – co-exist.

About a decade ago, when my first two boys were babies, my husband and I felt it was important that they each have tactile photo albums of their own beyond a baby book with day-of-birth news clippings, first haircut golden locks, and hospital bracelets.

A little bit of a high five and fist bump to my future daughters-in-law, if you will, so they have a bit more to our boys’ origin story than a hairy baby book to show for it.

My husband and I were thrilled to learn that physical photo albums – you remember, the leathery-looking binder ones with magnetic sheets – still, in fact, exist and are super easy to order online.

And although young adults today don’t know the agony of sending out film overnight and taking a gamble whether that 24-shot roll is worth ponying up for the duplicates, one can still print photos to their heart’s content at many places, easily.

And so, we began a tradition of scrapbooking with our kids at each summer’s end – Each boy has a photo album with clean, blank sheets and is given a big ol’ stack of printed photos reproduced from uploading digital snaps.

We give them scrapbook scissors to make crafty edges for prints, paper, and markers to illustrate favorite memories and quotes of summer, ticket stubs, bits of maps, and over-the-top supervision by us.

Did I mention there’s scissors and precious photos involved?

Theoretically, we sprang into this tradition so the boys could have some autonomy into their own photographic journeys over time.

What we didn’t expect was their intermittent nostalgia for occasionally pulling albums off the shelf to flip through, laughing and reflecting fondly at past summer core memories.

Because my kids aren’t on social media, they can’t swipe through old memories the way we adults do.

How will they document their memories to share with their own future humans if we don’t facilitate this?

How will they memorialize people, events, their own versions of the pink and avocado color schemes and crystal stemware on TV trays, 21st century version?

We want them to remember.

Everyone should have the opportunity to really remember these milestones that took place as they rolled on by.

So put it in print.

Keep documentation in mind as you plan your next family adventure with your camera ready at the quick draw.

Enjoy this scrapbooking activity that’s inclusive, generally frugal, endlessly crafty, and strengthens memories and family bonds.

The neon scrunchies are optional.

What story will your kids tell?

­­– Michelle Cote lives in southern Maine with her husband and four sons, and enjoys camping, distance running, biking, gardening, road trips to new regions, arts and crafts, soccer, and singing to musical showtunes – often several or more at the same time!

Insight: A dream come chew

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I can’t remember the last time that I purchased chewing gum and it’s not surprising to me that many popular gum brands from when I was a child are no longer sold.

Fruit Stripe chewing gum will
no longer be made after more 
than 60 years n the market in
Back then, every time our family would go to the grocery store, I’d ask my parents to buy me a package of Mini Chicklets, Dentyne or Bazooka bubble gum from the section displayed near the checkout register. I never kept the tiny Bazooka Joe comics included with the gum, but I imagine they would be worth more now than the pennies I paid for the bubble gum pieces way back when.

No one in our family bought chewing gum on a regular basis, but occasionally a pack of Wrigley’s Juicyfruit, Spearmint or Doublemint gum would find its way into my mother’s purse, and she’d hand my brother and I a stick to chew in the car during a Sunday excursion to visit relatives.

Most of the chewing gum I see now are tiny pieces of Dubble Bubble gum in neighborhood children’s Halloween bags, but decades ago, chewing gum was everywhere and a thriving industry in America with commercials promoting gum products on television, in magazines and on radio.

Recently I read an announcement from the Ferrara Candy Company that after 60 years, it was discontinuing production of one of my childhood favorites, Fruit Stripe gum. Originally introduced in the early 1960s by Beechnut, Fruit Stripe gum was colorful and offered zebra-striped wrappers for orange-striped, cherry-striped, lemon-striped, lime-striped, and blueberry-striped gum.

Marketed in distinctive red and white packaging, Dentyne contained eight small pieces of gum that supposedly was created to sweeten your breath and keep teeth white. It was always a sponsor of American Bandstand on Saturday afternoons as host Dick Clark would hawk the product to teenagers looking to enhance their appeal to the opposite sex. Now Dentyne is sold in Fire, Ice, and Sugar-Free flavors and the original flavor hasn’t been made since 2019.

Part of the appeal of chewing gum for me was always to cram as many pieces into my mouth as possible. I can recall driving on a two-lane highway between Phoenix, Arizona and Socorro, New Mexico when I was in the U.S. Force and chewing two entire packs of Big Red gum in my mouth at the same time.

Another time I remember putting the entire package of shredded Big League Chew grape-flavored bubble gum in my mouth while playing right field in a league softball game in the 1980s. When a towering fly ball was hit in my direction, I removed the wad of gum and threw it into the grassy field beyond the outfield’s chainlink fence. It probably is still there and resembles a used softball some 40 years later.

As a baseball card collector growing up, I never liked the residue left on baseball cards by the hard-as-a-rock piece of bubble gum included with the packages of players depicted on the cardboard cards. Years later, that residue is still evident nationwide on many cards remaining from the 1960s and 1970s, significantly lowering their potential value.

When I asked my father how animal trainers made the mouth of the horse move on the TV show “Mr. Ed” or the chimps on “Lancelot Link, Secret Agent,” he said they gave them bubble gum to chew.

Nostalgic trips examining the old-fashioned candy display at Cracker Barrel usually turns up 5-stick packages of D.L. Clark’s Teaberry, Black Jack, Clove, and Beemans chewing gum flavors. Teaberry gum was promoted extensively in the mid-1960s with commercials featuring my father’s favorite Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, who performed the song “The Teaberry Shuffle.”

Along with the demise of Fruit Stripe gum, longtime best-selling brands such as Beechnut gum and Freshen-Up gum have been discontinued in the past decade, and my lack of gum purchasing may be an example of a larger trend worldwide. As more people try to limit sugar or artificial sweetening intake for health reasons, chewing gum sales are slipping.

That’s probably welcome news for school janitors and anyone who cleans movie theaters, picnic tables, handrails, and escalators. Years ago, the underside of school desks was the preferred disposal site for a wad of chewing gum when teachers would ask for it to be removed during classes. And the floors and armrests of darkened theaters no longer seemed to be mined with sticky spit-out used chewing gum.

Lately the trend for gum manufacturers seems to be selling slow-release flavored gums with brands such as Extra, Orbit and Ice Breakers dominating national sales. Orbit commercials have recently featured a British-accented woman promoting the product as something in stylish packaging to “get rid of dirty mouth.” And sales are expected to rise this week for the appropriately named Eclipse gum, which comes in four flavors including Peppermint, Spearmint, and sugar-free flavors of Winterfresh and Polar Ice.

Researchers say that chewing gum sales in America fell dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic and demand by consumers has yet to resurface. Last year gum sales only rose 1.2 percent and the chewing gum market worldwide remains down more than a third of pre-pandemic days.

Perhaps makers of chewing gum just need to stick to it.

Andy Young: Eclipsing the big event

By Andy Young

Every so often, an impending happening catches the imagination of the public because of its extreme rarity. And just such an occurrence, which has a large swath of America quivering with anticipation, is scheduled to take place this coming week.

From left, actors Gene Hackman, Shelley Duvall and  Kurt 
Russell were all born on a Perfect Multiple Day.
Of course I’m referring to this Saturday, because it’s one of the rarest of rarities: a Perfect Multiple Day (PMD)!

April 6, 2024, when abbreviated in numeric shorthand, is 4-6-24. This Saturday the number of the month (4) multiplied by the number of the date (6) yields a product that is the last two numbers of the year (24). It goes without saying that this sort of situation doesn’t arise every day. It hasn’t happened since way back, well, last month, on March 8. But before that it hadn’t occurred since … February 12. And one other time this year, on January 24.

Currently a first glance at PMDs may seem somewhat underwhelming, particularly since there will be three more such days this year, on June 4, August 3, and December 2. But those pooh-poohing the significance of PMDs should acknowledge that 2024 is the only 21st century year that will contain as many as seven such days. In fact, only six other years contain even a half-dozen of them: 2012, 2030, 2036, 2048, 2060, and 2072.

Now consider that 23 of the 21st-century years have just one PMD in them (2098, 2095, 2093, 2092, 2091, 2087, 2085, 2076, 2069, 2068, 2065, 2057, 2051, 2049, 2046, 2039, 2038, 2034, 2029, 2023, 2019, 2017, 2013), and 21 more (2037, 2041, 2043, 2047, 2053, 2058, 2059, 2061, 2062, 2067, 2071, 2073, 2074, 2079, 2082, 2083, 2086, 2089, 2094, 2097 and 2100) contain none at all!

The 21st century will ultimately encompass 36,524 days, but only 211 of them are PMDs. That’s just 0.57770233271 percent of the century’s days. PMDs might not be as rare as Detroit Lions Super Bowl appearances, but they’re certainly close.

Actors Gene Hackman (Jan. 30, 1930), Shelley Duvall (July 7, 1949), and Kurt Russell (March 17, 1951) were all born on a PMD. So were accomplished musicians Toni Tennille (May 8, 1940) and Neil Sedaka (March 13, 1939), as well as former Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte (Aug. 8, 1964).

Some no-longer-extant notables born on a PMD include former United States Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig (Dec. 2, 1924), Baseball Hall of Fame member Ernie Banks (Jan. 31, 1931); authors Leon Uris (Aug. 3, 1924), Arthur Hailey (April 5, 1920) and Peter Benchley (May 8, 1940); actors Dennis Weaver (June 4, 1924), and DeForest Kelley (Jan. 20, 1920); singer Ricky Nelson (yet another May 8, 1940 baby), and lawyer/sire of celebrities who are famous for being famous Robert Kardashian (Feb. 22, 1944).

I for one feel awfully lucky to be alive during the most PMD-heavy year of the 21st century. And even if these dates do occur slightly more often than other relatively rare events, there’s no doubt that PMDs are a lot more exciting than other commonplace, more ordinary things people make a big deal over every so often.

So, what is there to learn from doing all this research into PMDs? Not much, aside from the fact that if one wished to bear a child that would become accomplished in their field(s) of choice, May 8, 1940 was a good day to do it. (And for those looking ahead, the same will likely apply to May 8, 2040.)

But by now any sensible person should admit that PMDs are far more interesting than mundane occurrences like Halley’s Comet sightings, worldwide pandemics, or solar eclipses. <

Barbara Bagshaw: BEP takes a U-turn on EV

By State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw

Extremists trying to turn Maine into California suffered a major setback this past week when the Board of Environmental Protection reversed its initial vote to adopt the electric vehicle sales mandate known as the “California Rule” and voted 4-2 to cease rulemaking on the controversial measure.

State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw
Had it been adopted by the seven-member, unelected board, the mandate would have required that 51 percent of new car sales in Maine be comprised of EVs by model year 2028 and 82 percent by model year 2032. This despite only one percent of consumers currently choosing to buy electric cars.

I am not against electric vehicles, it should be a consumer choice, not a government mandate that regulates lower cost, gas-powered vehicles out of existence.

Legislators are now in the process of closing the statutory loophole that allowed 150 extremists to initiate adoption of devastating rule of this kind by the BEP without a vote from the legislature.

Bill to Require Legislative Approval for New Motor Vehicle Emissions Rules Passes Committee

Following the 4-2 vote by Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection turning down a proposed electric vehicle mandate, a bill to require legislative approval for such changes was passed unanimously out of Committee. LD 2261 will require that rules regarding new motor vehicle emission standards, including rules to establish zero-emission requirements, are “major substantive” and must be approved by Maine’s Legislature.

I am hopeful this bill will become law. Major decisions of this kind need to include the public directly, or through their elected representatives.

Maine’s voice in presidential elections may be reduced

The Electoral College is a constitutional provision that ensures that small states, like Maine, have a voice in selecting the President of the United States. Because of that provision, Maine has received attention from presidential candidates. A move to circumvent the Constitution by surrendering Maine’s voice through an interstate compact is underway.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, if approved by Maine lawmakers, would award the state’s four electoral votes to whichever candidate garners the most popular votes nationwide, irrespective of who the majority of Mainers voted for at the ballot box.

That means that if Mainers voted for a different candidate than the candidate winning the national popular vote state electors would be bound to vote for the popular vote winner. The votes of large states with major cities like California and New York would dominate at the expense of smaller, rural states.

This proposal has the potential to create national chaos in our court system, especially if there is a recount in any of the states.

Dismantling the genius architecture of the Constitution one piece at a time should not be supported at the expense of Maine or our country. As your legislator I am bound to protect the interests of all Maine voters and I pledge to do all I can to stop the erosion of our rights and constitutional protections. I have been contacted by many scholars, friends, and constituents who feel strongly about this. The legislature must carefully consider protecting Maine’s 4 electoral votes from theft by large, urban states.

Participate in the Maine State Legislature’s Honorary Page Program

One of the legislative responsibilities that I enjoy the most is the opportunity to expose citizens, especially young people, to the history and beauty of our state capitol.

If you know of someone that is interested in touring the State House, please let me know. We also have a Maine State Legislature’s Honorary Page Program!

When the House is in Session, the Honorary Page Program provides students an opportunity to participate in the legislative process and to interact with legislators. Students from elementary through high school are invited to serve in the House Chamber as Honorary Pages.

Under the supervision of the Sergeant-At-Arms and Chamber Staff, Honorary Pages have the opportunity to see what it is like to work on the floor of the house. Pages perform such duties as delivering messages to Legislators and distributing Amendments and Communications in the chamber. For more information, please call my office at 207-287-1440.

Help become the change Maine needs

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, if you feel that government serves every interest but yours, I urge you to get involved at the local, state, or national level. The Maine way of life is under assault and I do not want to see our kind, beautiful state lose its character.

Representing part of Windham in the Legislature is an honor. If there is any way that I can be of assistance, please contact me at .My office phone number is 207-287-1440. You can find me on Facebook at To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at <