Covers towns roughly within 50 miles of Augusta.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Holman Francis Day

Holman Francis Day

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro native Holman Francis Day (1865 – 1935) was a well-known and prolific Maine writer. Starting as a newspaperman, he went on to write poetry and novels in verse, novels in prose, a play, non-fiction pieces and movie scripts.

According to Kristin Stred and Robert Bradley (writers of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s 1977 National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Holman Day’s Auburn house), while in high school Day published the Weekly Vassalboro News for two years. He continued newspaper work fresh out of college in 1887 with the Fairfield Journal (a weekly published from 1879 to 1925).

An on-line article in Maine An Encyclopedia says from 1888 to 1892 Day edited the Dexter Gazette, making it “a successful and sprightly country weekly.” (This newspaper became the Eastern Gazette, still published weekly in Dexter and advertising that it serves more than 17,500 households in 42 towns.)

For another two decades, Day was a “special correspondent and columnist” for the Lewiston Evening Journal (a daily published from 1866 to 1989, when it merged with its competitor, the Lewiston Daily Sun, to form today’s Lewiston Sun Journal). He spent a brief time in Portland in 1892, and wrote for newspapers in Boston and New York.

His first book-length work was published in 1900.

Starting in 1918 in Augusta, Day made black-and-white films; sources mention the 1920-21 Holman Day Film Company, which was not a financial success. By 1928, he had moved to California, where he wrote Hollywood scripts as well as novels of Maine life.

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Holman Day was born in Riverside, in southwestern Vassalboro, on Nov. 6, 1865. His father was Captain John Randolph Day (Aug. 1, 1828 – 1889), a Civil War veteran who enlisted in May 1861, was in several major battles and was twice captured by the Confederates, spending time in Libby and Andersonville prisons.

Holman’s mother was Mary A. (Carter) Day (1834-1908), from Etna. The couple named the second of their three sons Holman after a wartime friend of his father, and Francis after John’s brother, Thomas Francis Day.

The Day house was on what is now a section of Old Route 201 named Holman Day Road. Sources differ on the exact location.

The family moved to Wiscasset for six years, returning to Vassalboro about 1874. Sources indicate they lived in at least two different houses in the Getchell’s Corner area of northwestern Vassalboro.

Day graduated from Oak Grove Seminary, in Vassalboro, in the Class of 1881, spent a year at Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, and graduated from Colby College, in Waterville in 1887. At Colby, he was named class poet in his sophomore and senior years, and worked on the Colby Echo, the student-run newspaper. The on-line encyclopedia article says he gained a reputation “as a wit, writer, and drinker.”

While with the Fairfield Journal, Day met Helen Rowell Gerald (1870-1902), only daughter of Amos Fitz and Caroline Wood (Rowell) Gerald. They were married Feb. 6, 1889.

Amos Gerald built the newly-weds a house in Auburn. Stred and Bradley said Day lived and wrote there for 17 years; another source said from 1895 to 1914.

The Holman Day house at 2 Goff Street has been on the National Register of Historic Places since Jan. 17, 1978. It is privately owned and closed to the public.

The Days had two daughters, Ruth, born and died in 1893, and Dorothy, born in Auburn on Feb. 19, 1895. Dorothy married Ralph Burton Drisko, Jr., on March 15, 1918, in Mobile, Alabama, according to Find a Grave (which does not explain why she was in Alabama). He was lost at sea in 1924. On March 14, 1926, Dorothy married again, in Waterville, Maine; her second husband was Roy LeChance Kilner.

Helen Day died July 12, 1902, of heart disease and is buried in Fairfield’s Maplewood Cemetery with her parents and her daughters.

Day’s second wife was Agnes M. (Bearce) (Nevens) (1867-1954), a divorcee, from Lewiston. The City of Auburn report for the municipal year ending Feb. 28, 1906, lists Agnes Bearce as a (new?) teacher at North Auburn Primary School, who had trained at Hebron Academy.

They were divorced in 1927.

Day’s third wife was Florence Levin, from Portland.

Day died Feb. 19, 1935, in Mill Valley, California. He is buried in Vassalboro’s Nichols Cemetery, with his parents and Fred Mortimer Day (1870-1938), who your writer assumes was his younger brother.

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In 1898, Stred and Bradley said, Day added to his journalism a daily poetry column, Up in Maine. It “was carried by newspapers across the country” for half a dozen years.

Wikipedia quotes a 1928 article from a Carmel, California, newspaper in which Day said his first poem for the Lewiston Evening Journal resulted in a libel suit against the newspaper that gave his poem a value “never received by the great Longfellow in his palmiest days.”

In 1900, a collection of these poems became Day’s first book, Up in Maine: Stories of Yankee Life Told in Verse. It was followed in 1902 by Pine Tree Ballads: Rhymed Stories of Unplaned Human Natur’ up in Maine; and in 1904 by Kin o’ Ktaadn: Verse Stories of the Plain Folk who are Keeping Bright the Old Home Fires Up in Maine.

Stred and Bradley wrote that these “books of catchy verse…entertained more than 30,000 readers.”

The first poem in Up in Maine, titled Aunt Shaw’s Pet Jug, is about Uncle Elnathan Shaw, “Most regular man you ever saw!” For 30 years, at 4:40 every afternoon he would pick up “the big blue jug from the but’ry shelf” and go down the cellar stairs to draw two quarts of old cider for the evening.

And every afternoon, “Auntie Shaw would yap through her old cross mug” telling him not to fall on the second step and break her favorite jug, inherited from her great-aunt Sue.

One day, Nathan did fall all the way from the second step. He did not break the jug:

And he’d saved the jug; for his last wild thought
Had been of that; he might have caught
At the cellar shelves and saved his fall,
But he kept his hands on the jug through all.

Now, “as he loosed his jealous hug,” his wife’s only concern was “Did ye break my jug?” Enraged at her disregard for his “poor old bones,” Nathan replied, “No, durn yer pelt, but I swow I will” and smashed it against the wall.

The poem titled The Stock in the Tie-Up celebrates life in a well-heated house with a good hot meal on a stormy night and ends with “the stock in the tie-up is warm.” It contrasts the speaker, willing to spend a Sunday doing the extra work to make his barn weather-proof, with his church-going neighbors, who have “cracks in the sides o’ their tie-ups…wide as the door o’ their pew” through which sleet and snow enter.

Day did not approve. He wrote:

And I’ll bet ye that in the Hereafter the men who have stayed on their knees
And let some poor, fuzzy old cattle stand out in a tie-up and freeze,
Will find that the heat o’ the Hot Place is keyed to an extra degree
For the men who forgot to consider that critters have feelin’s same’s we.

One of your writer’s favorite poems is in the third collection, Kin o’ Ktaadn. Titled The Latest Tip from ‘Patent-Right’ Belcher, it invites investment in Patent-Right’s new invention, a two-part device for letting the family cat out the door and back in the window – after the family dog identifies him or her and opens the window – so that people need not get out of warm beds on cold nights.

Day’s first novel, Squire Phin, came out in 1905 and was followed by another 29, plus “300 short stories and poetry,” according to an on-line article about the Auburn house.

Squire Phin opens at the village store in Palermo — a coastal town, not the Kennebec Valley Palermo. Squire Phin has his law office upstairs. The second chapter introduces Squire Phin’s prodigal brother, accompanied by an elephant.

Several sources call King Spruce (1908) Day’s best-known and most popular novel. Stred and Bradley wrote that this book “became a prototype for books about Maine lumbering” – certainly a prototype for many of Day’s later novels, which repeat the dual themes of timber barons’ rivalry and their children’s romances.

King Spruce, according to Stred and Bradley, “firmly established Day’s reputation as a novelist, and delighted President Theodore Roosevelt so much that he invited Day to the White House.”

The novel features a young, college-educated hero named Dwight Wade who deals competently with uneducated, good-hearted woodsmen whose livelihoods depend on city-based lumber companies. Corporate rivalries make life extra hard for the low-level workmen.

Day explained that the term King Spruce stood for an unseen tyrant, a “vast association of timber interests,” visible only in the form of local officers who worked from headquarters in Maine mill towns. Most of his sympathy was with the loggers; but at times he sounded as though he would like the woods left alone, with references to “destruction” by logging and “slaughter” of deer and moose.

In addition to relations among loggers and logging companies, Day introduced several independent, opinionated, stubborn and attractive young women who added love stories to the already-complicated plot.

After many adventures, the villains were defeated, dead or had experienced changes of heart; the loggers had a better deal; and the central pair of lovers rode away together in a pony-drawn carriage.

These themes recur in later novels, like The Rider of the King Log (1919) and Joan of Arc of the North Woods (1922). Day even wrote a North Woods novel for young readers: The Rainy Day Railroad War (1906) was first serialized in The Youth’s Companion magazine. It lacks a romantic subplot.

Some of Day’s novels are unabashed romances, like The Red Lane a Romance of the Border (1912) and Blow the Man Down: A Romance of the Coast (1916). The Skipper and the Skipped (1911) and The Landloper (1915) are examples of more varied themes.

Stred and Bradley commented that Day “had an eye for unusual Maine characters, and an ear for their unique dialect. He then wove stories around the personalities and exploits of the woodsmen and seafarers he had observed and with whose ways he was familiar.”

The historians called his writings “an important part of the literary heritage of Maine.”

Holman’s work can be seen at Vassalboro Historical Society

The Vassalboro Historical Society owns Holman Day memorabilia, including, president Janice Clowes said, his books, movies made from his books and a movie about him, movie posters, newspaper clippings and other items.

The society’s Holman Day files include a biography, written as a master’s thesis at the University of Maine at Orono in 1942.

The museum is located in the former East Vassalboro schoolhouse, on the east side of Route 32 on the south edge of East Vassalboro Village, close to the outlet of China Lake and the boat landing. Hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the second and fourth Sundays of each month from 1 to 4 p.m.

Main sources

Day, Holman various writings.
Stred, Kristin (student assistant), and Robert L. Bradley, National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form Holman Day House, June 1977.
Vassalboro Historical Society files.

Websites, miscellaneous.

PHOTO: Aurora Borealis

Philip Mazoki photographed this spectacular view of the Aurora Borealis – The Northern Lights – over Wilson Pond, in Wilton, last week.

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s premiere tradeshow to be held May 21, 2024

Central Maine’s largest tradeshow, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s Business to Business Showcase, has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, noon to 6 p.m., at Thomas College Field House, West River Road, Waterville.

Reservations for booths at the showcase are still available to Mid-Maine Chamber member businesses only. For the most current list of exhibitors, please visit www.midmainechamber.com The showcase features nearly 100 exhibitors, free attendance and parking, cash bar, as well as a drawing for a $1,000 cash prize.

“The connections at the Showcase are unparalleled for a one-day event. If you are looking to get the word out about your business and network with other professionals, the Business-to-Business Showcase is really an unmatched opportunity for our region. Job-seekers will also find that many businesses are also hiring, offering the chance to speak directly to decision makers all under one roof,” said Cindy Stevens, Program Director for Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

The Business-to-Business Showcase event is made possible by major sponsors Allen Insurance & Financial, Brookfield Renewable US, Central Maine Motors Auto Group, Central Maine Power, Colby College, Kennebec Savings Bank, Maine Technology Group, Maine State Credit Union and Northern Light Homecare & Hospice. Other sponsors include Kennebec Valley Community College and Northern Light Inland Hospital.

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and advocating for business prosperity and regional economic improvement. Its region includes the towns of Albion, Belgrade, Belgrade Lakes, Benton, Branch Mills, Burnham, China, Clinton, Fairfield, Hinckley, Norridgewock, Oakland, Rome, Shawmut, Sidney, Thorndike, Unity, Vassalboro, Waterville, Weeks Mills and Winslow. For more information on the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, including how to become a member, call (207) 873-3315 or visit www.midmainechamber.com.

Churchill Elangwe-Preston speaker at KVCC commencement

Churchill Elangwe-Preston

Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) will celebrate the conferral of associate degrees and academic certificates for a total of 427 graduates in the class of 2024. Over 250 graduates will take part in commencement exercises on Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m., at the Augusta Civic Center.

Churchill Elangwe-Preston, of Waterville, will deliver the keynote address.

Churchill Elangwe-Preston’s journey from growing up on coffee and cocoa farms in Limbe, Cameroon, to founding Mbingo Mountain Coffee, in Waterville, is a story of passion, innovation, and commitment to community. His deep roots in agriculture, combined with a solid education in electrical technology from KVCC and electrical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), have uniquely positioned him to make a significant impact.

Mbingo Mountain Coffee is more than just a business venture for Churchill; it is a fulfillment of a lifelong aspiration to contribute positively to the coffee industry, enhance the coffee drinking experience in central Maine and the United States, and give back to the farming community. His journey underscores the importance of embracing one’s roots, pursuing one’s passions, and the impact of lifelong learning. Churchill’s story is a testament to how diverse experiences and a commitment to quality and community can lead to innovative and meaningful entrepreneurial endeavors.

Cindy Stevens to receive distinguished alumnus award

Cindy Stevens

Cindy (Davis) Stevens will be presented the KVCC Distinguished Alumnus Award. Born in the small town of New Vineyard, with a population of only 400, Cindy attended Roosevelt Grammar School, a local two-room schoolhouse, and graduated from Mt. Blue High School, in Farmington, in 1975. She graduated from KVCC in 1977 with a diploma in marketing, and from the University of Maine at Augusta with Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in business and marketing in 1979. She holds a master’s degree in management/marketing from Thomas College, in Waterville.

She has served 40 years in sales, marketing, human resources, finance and management roles with the Waterville Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, in Augusta, completing her career as regional advertising director for both newspapers. Cindy was a former member of the founding board of directors of Waterville Main Street and is currently employed as the program director at Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, in Waterville.

Kennebec Valley Community College offers more than 30 associate degree programs and certificates. KVCC provides a bridge to a brighter future with small class sizes, excellent support services, and flexible scheduling. KVCC has the lowest tuition in New England and offers recent high school graduates the opportunity to attend community college for free. In addition, the development of short-term trainings through Workforce Development provides a path for individuals looking to reskill in a new career or as a pathway into an academic program.

New Dimensions FCU announces 2024 scholarship winners

Brayden Perry (left), Gavin Lunt (right)

New Dimensions Federal Credit Union (NDFCU) is proud to announce the recipients of its highly esteemed 2024 Scholarship Program.

Among the outstanding individuals selected for this prestigious honor are Gavin Lunt and Brayden Perry, who have demonstrated exceptional academic achievements, community involvement, and remarkable dedication.

A promising student, Gavin Lunt, will pursue Actuarial Science at the University of Maine at Farmington this fall. His impressive academic successes and active engagement within his community have rightfully earned him a place among the 2024 Scholarship Program winners.

Brayden Perry, another deserving recipient of the NDFCU scholarship, will embark on a path toward Nursing, at Merrimack College, in North Andover, Massachusetts. Brayden’s application stood out for its excellence in academics and exemplary volunteerism, qualities that reflect the spirit of the NDFCU Scholarship Program.

Ryan Poulin, CEO of NDFCU, expressed his pride in the scholarship winners, emphasizing the importance of supporting educational aspirations within the community. Poulin encouraged all aspiring scholars to consider participating in the NDFCU Scholarship Program, highlighting it as a meaningful way to invest in future generations.

For more information about NDFCU’s scholarship program, please contact us at (800) 326-6190 or visit www.newdimensionsfcu.com.

EVENTS: MCCS, JMG launch new summer academy program

Young Mainers looking for help navigating their next step have a new opportunity to take free four- to six-week classes at Maine’s community colleges this summer under a new “Summer Academy” program offered by the colleges and nonprofit education partner JMG.

Summer Academy is open to JMG students ranging from high school seniors up to age 24 who do not have immediate plans to work or go to college. Students pay no tuition and select an area of study, including, but not limited to, cybersecurity, welding, criminal justice, phlebotomy, manufacturing technology, and emergency medical services.

Students who complete the program earn a JMG Career Exploration Badge and $500, and for certain programs, students earn an industry recognized credential of value.

“We saw incredible success with last year’s pilot project, said Dan Belyea, chief workforce development officer for the Maine Community College System (MCCS).

The Summer Academy is a collaboration between JMG and the MCCS’ Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce, which oversees short-time workforce training programs at Maine’s community colleges. It will serve 500 JMG students over the next two years.

According to Maine Department of Education data, 43 percent of Maine high school graduates in 2022 did not plan to go to college. The Summer Academy gives the students an immersive, guided experience to quickly upskill and become qualified for some of Maine’s most in-demand occupations.

To learn more about the Summer Academy, contact Octavie Nkama at onkama@mccs.me.edu.

KVYSO is a place of growing for these five seniors

by Eric W. Austin

For these five high school seniors, the Kennebec Valley Youth Symphony Orchestras have been a place to grow, to build friendships, and to nurture their passion for music. This Spring, they are preparing for their final concert before heading off to college, on Mothers Day, May 12, 5 p.m., at the South Parish Church, in Augusta.

“I was such a rascal,” says Sophia Scheck with a rueful grin. “I didn’t just learn music, I learned to make friends, and sometimes how to lose them, and that’s okay.”
– Waterville High School senior Sophia Scheck

Sophia Scheck

“I was such a rascal,” says Sophia Scheck with a rueful grin. Scheck, a senior at Waterville High School, plays the viola (which is similar to a violin but a little bigger with slightly different strings). “Pineland Suzuki (school) has affected my life in so many ways,” she says. “I didn’t just learn music, I learned to make friends, and sometimes how to lose them, and that’s okay.” Scheck hopes to head for the Boston Conservatory next year to major in viola performance.

Carolyn Phelps Scholz

Carolyn Phelps Scholtz, a senior at the Ecology Learning Center, a public charter high school in Unity, plays the fiddle and has found her musical experience incredibly rewarding. “I’m still playing music with people that I started playing with when I was four,” she says. “We’ve grown up together, as people and musicians, and we’ll always have that.”

Diana Estes

Diana Estes is a homeschooler and has spent her life playing music and singing with her parents and six siblings. In her sixth year playing the cello, she sat as principal cellist in the Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra and now holds that place in the Kennebec Valley Youth Symphony. In 2023, she won the Anna Bereziuk and Lindley Wood Prize for Ensemble Endeavors in the Bay Chamber Prizewinner’s Competition. Outside of music, she is a devoted student, book enthusiast and soccer player. She has been accepted to Cedarville Univ­ersity, in Ohio, as a cello performance major, where she plans to double-major in biology before heading to medical school on her way to becoming a chiropractor. “I almost gave up playing cello in August 2021,” she admits. “I was prepared to sell my instrument, but my parents encouraged me to continue for just one more week, so I did. Three years later I’m on my way to college for cello, something I used to not like! The community and friendships built during my time at Pineland Suzuki School have been invaluable to me.”

Eben Buck

Silas Bartol

Eben Buck, who attends Cony High School, in Augusta, and Silas Bartol, from Maranacook High school, the remaining seniors in the orchestra, have been friends since childhood. “I still laugh about the “time Silas Bartol stuck his finger in Eben’s ear on stage during a rehearsal,” says Buck’s mother. “Eben calmly took Silas’ finger out of his ear and stuck Silas’ hand in his own pocket. They were four or five years old.”

The KV Youth Symphony Orchestras are a nonprofit initiative spearheaded by the Pineland Suzuki School of Music, in Manchester, with the aim of bringing the string musicians of the Suzuki school together with other local students of wind, brass and percussion instruments for a complete orchestral experience. Their May concert will feature music selections from Mozart’s Violin Concerto #3, Brahms’ Variations on a theme by Haydn, Bizet’s L’Arlesian Suite #2, among other pieces.

For more information about their upcoming concert or to find out how to enroll a student in the program, please visit their website at www.kvyso.org.

National prescription drug take back day is April 27, 2024

On Saturday, April 27, Northern Light Health asks those in our community to join in the national effort to dispose of prescription drugs in a safe, convenient manner while also reducing the risk of medications getting into the wrong hands and causing harm or potential substance abuse.

Dennis Wood, PharmD, director of Pharmacy for Northern Light Pharmacy, shares, “Statistically, a large majority of people who use prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes obtain that medication from a friend or family member. We are joining others across the nation in encouraging people to clean out medicine cabinets, drawers, and other locations of unneeded or expired medication and dropping it off at a designated prescription drug take back location.”

Northern Light Pharmacy offers convenient and easy prescription medication drop off at any of its pharmacies every day. Many law enforcement locations also offer local prescription drug drop off sites. Additional locations can be found on the United States Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration website.

“The proper disposal of medication is very important,” adds Dr. Wood. “If they are thrown in the trash, they not only may be taken by a person they were not intended for, but they may also have harmful environmental effects as well. Improper disposal of medications in the trash, down the drain, or toilet can leach into water systems threatening both humans and marine ecosystems.”

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Adminis­tration, as of October 28, 2023, 17.9 million of unneeded medications have been safely removed from communities across the nation as part of National Prescription Take Back Day.

Theresa Gagne turns 105 years old

Theresa Wilson Gagne, with her family, at her 105th birthday party. Inset, 105-year-old Theresa Gagne. (photo by Missy Brown, Central Maine Photography)

Theresa Gagne (photo by Missy Brown, Central Maine Photography)

Irma Richard and Andrew Wilson gave birth to their daughter Theresa on April 18, 1919, in Brunswick. Theresa was one of eleven children. Theresa continued to live in Brunswick until moving to Waterville when she married the love of her life, Emile Gagne, on October 3, 1942.

Emile and Theresa have three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Joan (George) Meier, of Oakland, Lorraine Landry, of Waterville and Bob (Patti) Gagne, of Waterville. Michael Meier and Debbie Meier, both of Oakland, Carrie (Nick) Peterson, of South Carolina, Mindy Landry, of Augusta, Randi Burns and Renee Slaney, both of Waterville.

Emile and Theresa celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary just a few months before Emile passed away at the age of 90. Throughout the years, Theresa worked in several mills before retiring in 1977 from Bates Manufacturing, in Augusta. Theresa enjoyed several hobbies such as needlepoint, working with stained glass, quilting and jewelry making. Theresa still enjoys gardening, cooking, gambling, entertaining and spending time with family and friends.

Theresa continues to live on her own without any assistance.

Family and friends gathered for lunch at Front and Main, in Waterville, on Thursday, April 18, to celebrate Theresa’s 105th birthday, and cake and ice cream followed at Theresa’s home.

EVENTS: Kennebec Performing Arts Co. to present pops concert

Kennebec Performing Arts Company will present its annual Spring Pops Concerts, on Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m., at Winthrop Performing Arts Center, 211 Rambler Road, Winthrop, and Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m., at the William and Elsie Viles Auditorium, Cony High School, Pierce Dr. Augusta.

The performances will feature the KPAC chorus, Wind ensemble and jazz band under interim conductors Jason Giacomazzo, Dean Paquette and John Reeves. Enjoy an evening of selections performed by KPAC’s talented community members, including:

Chorus – Ordinary Miracle from Charlotte’s Web; The Gift to Be Simple – traditional Shaker Tune; Distant Land – A Prayer for Freedom, by John Rutter

Wind Ensemble – National Emblem March; Eric Clapton On Stage; Works by Eric Whitacre and Robert W. Smith

Jazz Band – Georgia on My Mind, by Hoagy Carmichael; The Jazz Police, by Gordon Goodwin; Bluebird Land, Maynard Ferguson’s theme

This free event is supported in part by a grant from the Onion Foundation.