Maine riding the storm
We Maine-iacs don’t worry about the Joneses.
We’ve all seen the famous Hussey’s General Store sign, in Windsor, that lists, in order: Guns. Wedding dresses. Cold beer.
With the advent of the Internet and YouTube, their sign has spread around the world. Indeed, years ago, when my son-in-law was stationed in Europe, his group of buddies was laughing about something they saw in the local paper. It was a photo of Hussey’s sign. His buddies didn't believe it when he told them that's where my daughter got her wedding dress. The wedding salon is on the second floor, on the right. On the left are hunting jackets, boots, caps, etc.
Hussey's wedding dresses are famous. They get top designer dresses out of places like California. The designers send out their brand new designs to places like this — a few around the country — to test which will be most popular before they pick models to produce for the coming season. So, you get dresses worth $2,500 up for a few hundred dollars.
People in Maine don't walk around with their noses so high in the air that they don't know a good bargain. If you could get the exact same new Cadillac from a fancy showroom for $50,000 or at a "Hussey’s" for $5,000 where would you go? Yeah, I know, lots of folks would go the fancy showroom for "appearances," but Mainer's never worry about keeping of with the Joneses. That's why Maine is riding out the current economic crash far better than the rest of the country.
One of my sons is a long-hauler. He criss-crosses the country coast to coast, border to border, every week. Indeed, he’s on his way home for some R&R this week for first time in four months. He’s hauling a load from Moss Landing, Calif., which sits on the Pacific shore, to Portland Maine. You can’t get more coast to coast without getting wet.
He’s been "out there" for eight years now. He’s watched the country fall apart, year by year. He’s watched as shopping mall after shopping mall has seen stores close, one by one, until now they are empty decaying hulks with tumbleweeds bouncing through. Two years ago, the number of empty shopping malls was listed at 300. Many more have gone belly up since. Google "empty shopping malls" for a shock.
Ditto, many down-towns are pockmarked with empty shop windows. Roads are a mess. A kidney belt for riding them wouldn’t be a bad bet.
But both he and his companion driver, who’s from the west, remark about when they cross the border into Maine: “It’s like nothing that’s going on in the rest of country is happening here.” The roads are good, the stores are opened, the malls are full.
And back here in Belfast, even store fronts that were empty 3 or 4 years ago, are sporting new businesses. What makes the difference? Certainly our pocketbooks are pinching just like everyone else. Food, gas and heating oil have sky-rocketed. All things the federal government no longer includes in our COLA increases. Why they aren’t considered cost-of-living items is a conundrum — one you won’t get a straight answer about from your so-called representatives.
But Maine folk have traditionally been a frugal lot with a wide streak of independence. Fancy housing developments that sprout up overnight like dandelions around the rest of the country just don’t make it in Maine. We aren’t herd animals, for one thing. And we’re not much for “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Remember that song? “Have you seen the well-to-do/up and down Park Avenue/On that famous thoroughfare/with their noses in the air/Spending every dime/for a wonderful time/Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Native Mainer stock are descended from a long line of hard working folk who cleared forests and the rock-strewn fields with the goal of providing a self-sufficient living to raise a family, instead of chasing the glitter and "Puttin’ on the Ritz." We appreciate a good, honest piece of solid pine over mahogany veneered plywood.
Just maybe, if the downward spiral in the rest of country can get turned around soon, we Maine-iacs can ride out the storm.
Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast. She now lives in Morrill. Her column appears in the Journal every other week.