New England Vacation – Part 2

Returning from a day trip during our Maine vacation, we noticed a small take-out by the side of Route 1, in Wiscasset. The line outside the unpretentious building stretched down the sidewalk and around the corner.

We decided to check the place out and came by the following afternoon. The line was shorter, but then we noticed that the last woman in it was dragging behind her a folding chair with a sign saying that no more orders were being taken for the day.

Rejection—and appetite—only sharpened our determination to see what drew so many folks to the little shack. Next afternoon we joined the very long waiting line that led to a place called Red’s Eats. For 81 years Red’s has been serving up its signature lobster roll, plus a variety of other seafood items. When it comes to ingredients, the watchword of Red’s Eats is “fresh” and “local.”

From mid-April to mid-October, Red’s serves approximately 14.5 tons of fresh lobster meat in its lobster rolls; 4-6 gallons of fresh, shucked Maine clams per day; 12-14 pounds of fresh crabmeat daily; 20-25 pounds of deep fried or grilled haddock daily; and deep fries about 200 pounds of onion rings per week.

Red’s Eats is proud to source everything on its menu from Maine producers. The same holds true for their branded apparel (T-shirts, hats, aprons). Red’s is a great corporate citizen, sponsoring everything from cheerleading squads, to race car drivers and tractor pullers. The business also contributes to a wide range of charitable causes, plus libraries and school programs.

During the two hours it took for us to reach the ordering window, we encountered not just New Englanders but people hailing from all over the country. While being stuck in a line can bring out the worst in human beings, at Red’s Eats that was anything but the case. Repeat customers waxed eloquent over their prior gustatory experiences, and newbies talked about how they heard about Red’s, and what they planned on eating.

The convivial conversations helped the time go by a smidgen quicker than it might have otherwise. At last, we stood before the window, where a friendly staffer wrote up our orders and took our payment. Whilst waiting I’d purchased a bright red Red’s Eats ball cap, which resulted in my scoring a free order of onion rings.

Was the time spent in line and the wad of cash we shelled out worth it? The answer: an unequivocal yes. The Maine lobster piled high on the soft, butter-soaked open roll was fragrant and succulent. Best of all, our stomachs were full for the balance of the day.

No doubt there are many places in The Lone Pine State where one can buy a fine meal of fresh, locally harvested seafood. But we think Red’s Eats is hard to beat.

New England Vacation – Part 1

Having been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 we decided to travel somewhere that we’ve always said we wanted to go: Maine! We’d been to Vermont a couple of times, but our journeys to New England had never taken us all the way to The Pine Tree State.

With the ability to enter Canada, let alone to re-enter the U.S., up in the air, our drive to Maine took a skosh longer than if we had gone through Ontario and New York State, and from thence into New England. That wasn’t really a problem, though, as the weather and roads were wonderful.

“Home base” was an AB&B in the state capital of Portland. We were fortunate to find a small, but very nice apartment attached to a home. I admit, it was of a square footage, and had the amenities that I would find acceptable in a tiny home. The first photo shows how the sleeping area-kitchen-dining area was arranged.

The bed, separated from the door by a half wall, was just the right size.

Like the rest of the apartment’s decor, the bathroom had a rustic look, with a lot of reclaimed wood for its walls. It had a sliding barn door, which was a real space-saver, too.

Our interactions with the owner were limited, as our schedule and the family’s didn’t mesh much. We did have one nice conversation with the man whose family lived in the house. During the course of speaking with him, we discovered that his brother resides in our home town! The proverbial small world . . .

There’s a lot more to share regarding our great vacation, so stay tuned!

Re-modeling 2.0 – Part 10

I have finished assembling the Volkssturm squad that will populate my second diorama. I enjoyed individualizing the figures, in terms of positioning their arms, selecting the colors of their clothing, and choosing the weapons they would bear. You may recall that, on account of shortages experienced as World War II came to its end, the German authorities had to equip these “volunteers” with whatever came to hand. Thus, Volkssturm carried German weapons from both world wars, along with those captured from the Russians.

As was the case when I worked up my first diorama (refer to blog posts entitled “Re-modeling”), this time around I also didn’t give much thought to placing the figures on the diorama base. It was only after I had completed the barn and truck, and the base’s layout, that I really did so.

This photo displays my initial conceptualization of the figures’ positions, other than that of the shirker who’s already hanging from the barn! My first diorama featured a trio of “vignettes” wherein pairs of soldiers were shown interacting: I intend to follow that example in this diorama, too.

It is possible that I’ll change my mind when it comes to the troops’ final locations. However, that won’t occur until after I have done some more work on the landscape, and have put the vehicle where I want it.

I hope you continue to find my modeling of interest. Please send me any comments or questions you might have regarding my efforts.

The Federal Writers’ Project

I trust most readers of this post will recognize the high-profile New Deal programs devised by the Roosevelt Administration to help Americans rise out of the depths of the Depression. Consider the Civilian Conservation Corps, Tennessee Valley Authority and Works Progress Administration. The Federal Writers’ Project, a division of the WPA, may be less familiar.

In 1935 the Works Progress Administration decided to employ thousands of unemployed writers, with the goal of publishing guidebooks for each of the then-48 states, along with a voluminous collection of additional publications dedicated to regions, cities, and towns. In time volumes were published for Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, but not for Hawai’i.

Scott Borchert’s book Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021) is a fascinating account of how the government employed over 6,000 once-bestselling novelists, acclaimed poets and people of dubious talent to chronicle the history, folklore and recipes of the Union. The guidebooks feature a general review of a state’s history, culture, ethnic groups, and natural resources. Next there’s a review of key cities. Finally, there’s a series of auto tours that conduct readers to points of interest, plus a map and a section of black-and-white photographs.

The Guide Book Series’ development didn’t take place in a social and political vacuum. Borchert details how its administrators and authors struggled with racial issues, writers’ radical politics, and conservative politicians who found the program’s fidelity to American values to be suspect. (Indeed, the FWP was eventually disbanded by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.) The Guides experienced fair success as a publishing venture, and some of them were updated in the years following their initial appearance. In addition to purchases by individuals the books found places on the shelves of libraries around the country. (Those I own were withdrawn from libraries.)

John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley: “If there had been room in Rocinante [Steinbeck’s camper] I would have packed the W.P.A. Guides to the States, all forty-eight volumes of them . . . The complete set comprises the most comprehensive account of the United States ever got together, and nothing since has approached it.”

Reading Republic of Detours inspired me to find out whether any of the Guides remained. I was surprised at how many copies of them were available online. I subsequently bought the volumes for Pennsylvania (my birth state) and Michigan (where I’ve lived most of my life), at reasonable prices. Ironically, they both were published by Oxford University Press USA, my employer for a decade!

I recommend Scott Borchert’s book and invite you to consider investing in the American Guide for your favorite state. The kinds of books into which one dips at leisure rather than reading straight through, they provide unique snapshots of America, at a crucial period in the nation’s history.