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I saw an ad in a newspaper the other day advertising a house I’ve known all my life. It was not a fancy place, just a good, solid Maine-built house on a large lot overlooking the quiet harbor I knew well as a child.
When my eyes dropped down to the place in the ad that gave the asking price for the modest house I was - of course - stunned. How can that place be worth anywhere near that much money? I asked myself. I guess the only answer is: Maine is changing and will never be the same.
After reading a few more real estate ads I put down the paper and began to think of that beautiful harbor of my youth that was now worth so money.
Before long I was remembering Captain Hupper.
Capt. Hupper was a retired sea captain who lived with his wife Thelma in a big old house behind a stand of pines on the harbor’s lea shore. His full name was Capt. Lowell B. Hupper and for years he had been the town’s harbor master. Many in town considered him colorful‚ but everyone agreed he was a great storyteller.
Capt. Hupper used to say that he first went to sea in 1890 as a cabin boy. He was 12 years old, all done school and so a family member got him a job on the three-masted vessel Hanna Strout out of Searsport.
In various stories he was either 13, 14 or 16, 18 when he first shipped out. Most listeners to his stories - like me - didn’t care much about those minor inconsistencies. We just wanted to listen to Capt. Hupper’s stories.
By the time he was 26 Capt. Hupper said he had achieved the title “Ship’s Master” and eventually became part owner of several large vessels.
When Capt. Hupper retired from the sea he was said to be quite well-off‚ but said he went into real estate and insurance “to keep me out of mischief.”
He sold my father the house our family lived in for $6,500 and was also our family’s insurance man. When father had insurance business to discuss he would sometimes let me ride with him over to Capt. Hupper’s place. I’d sit quietly in a rocker on his sprawling porch as father and Capt. Hupper discussed one important thing or another.
Once they finished talking business Capt. Hupper would often move on to telling stories about what the town was like when he was younger.
“Years ago, when I was your age, Johnny, this harbor was so different. None of those trees along the Lea Shore Road was here and us folks on this side of the harbor could see clear to the village.”
He said folks back then had tall flag poles in their yards and would signal each other with maritime flags.
Folks on the island would signal friends on shore about one thing or another and folks on this side of the harbor would send messages to the folks across the harbor in the village.
In fact, we had a bustling village on this side of the harbor, too. For a time it was where most of the business in town took place.
Capt. Hupper would point to the meadow across the road where invisible summer crickets were making a racket and say, “Right where that field is now there used to be a row of stores; a dance hall, livery stable and saloon stretched along along the front there.”
I’d stare across the road in disbelief, blinking my eyes and trying to imagine what it must have been like. A dance hall, right in that field. Wow!
“What happened to all those businesses?” my father would ask.
“When the quarry opened in Long Cove all the activity switched to the other side of the harbor. Almost overnight there were hotels, rooming houses, stores, saloons.
Just like that people stopped coming over here to trade and a lot of good places went out of business and the folks who owned them moved away - some to places like Ohio or Indiana.
For a while back then you could have bought this whole side of the harbor for $100 and the people who owned it would have been glad to get it.”
The place I recently saw advertised for such a stunning price was on that side of the harbor.
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