There’s plenty of characters in Maine, and Frank Anicetti was certainly one of them. For reasons that were not completely clear to me, the variety store owner developed a real passion for Moxie, the soft drink, and that passion led to one of Maine’s most unusual summer festivals, Moxie Days. I spent an afternoon with Frank at his store, Kennebec Fruit, back in the late 1980s, and this story resulted.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
LISBON FALLS, Maine (UPI) — It’s easy to see that Frank Anicetti has plenty of Moxie. It’s stuck to the ashtrays, sewn on the stocking caps and printed on the t-shirts that crowd his tiny variety store in a tired old mill town.
Anicetti, 46, may be the world’s biggest drum-beater for Moxie, the slightly bitter soft drink that has been a New England institution for more than 100 years. His Kennebec Fruit Store is lined with memorabilia, Moxie displays and Moxie signs from previous eras.
Even the modern political signs in the in the windows have a decidedly Moxie influence.
Being the only Moxie booster in Lisbon Falls may be a lonely mission. But all that changes next weekend, when Moxie madcaps from all over converge on the town for the annual Moxie Days celebration, a series of barbecues, parades, beauty pageants and other summer goings-on.
Several hundred Moxie guzzlers showed up last year to bask in the glow of their favorite beverage, and Anicetti thinks this year’s celebration will be bigger than ever.
The festival owes it all to Anicetti and to Moxie, a soft drink that was not inspired, invented or bottled in Lisbon Falls.
If that doesn’t seem logical, it all makes perfect sense to Anicetti. Moxie needed a place for a festival, he realized, while Lisbon Falls needed an excuse for one.
“Old home days come and go,” Anicetti said, “but Moxie has staying power.”
The festival’s beginnings were humble enough. In 1981, Anicetti hosted an autograph party for Frank Potter, another Moxie fanatic who had written a book about the soft drink’s history.
“In 1984, when moxie was 100 years old, I called Potter and said, ‘Let’s have a birthday party for Moxie,’” Anicetti said. They’ve hosted one each year since.
“They’re pitching right in now,” he said. “The Fire Department has got a fireman’s muster planned, and we’re expecting fire departments from all over Maine and even outside the state to come in.”
“And it looks like the parade is going to be about two hours long, much bigger than last year,” he said.
Anicetti has only fuzzy memories of the beginnings of the Moxie influence at his store, which was founded by his grandfather in 1914. But Moxie has been a big item for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always enjoyed it, we always drank it and we always had a clientele who came through who like it, too,” Anicetti said.
The worst days for Moxie, he said, were in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Moxie decided to change its formula to make the beverage more appealing to a bigger market.
The move was a disaster, Anicetti said. New drinkers didn’t like it any better than the original, and the small but loyal Moxie vanguard couldn’t stand the new sweet taste.
But even through the darkest days, Kennebec Fruit remained loyal.
“Even when Moxie was dying during the 1950s and 1960s, we still kept it going,” Anicetti said. “Two years later they went back to the old formula.”
Perhaps the strangest part of Anicetti’s love affair with an obscure soft drink is that he’s never been to a bottling plant, and the Moxie company has never acknowledged, or even contacted, the Kennebec Fruit Store.
Georgiana Taylor, head of franchise sales for Monarch Co. of Atlanta, owner of Moxie, said she had never heard of Anicetti or the Moxie Days festival.
“I’m not familiar with it, I don’t know anything about it,” she said. “But people up there really do get into Moxie.”
The more I delve back into the stories I wrote 25 or 35 years ago, the more I find parallels to today’s issues. In this case, the very conservative Christian Civic League of Maine was up in arms about a gay awareness program that was being sponsored by a rural Maine high school. Much of this story from around 1990 seems to reflect the conservative positions and concerns that we see today. I must say that Civic League President Jasper Wyman and his predecessor, Rev. Benjamin Bubar, were in my office frequently about one issue or another, and they were always friendly and polite while fighting their battles, which were often very uphill to say the least.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
READFIELD, Maine (UPI) – The conservative Christian Civic League of Maine wants equal time at a local high school’s “Teen Issues Week” because of fears that an appearance by a group of homosexuals might be seen by students as an endorsement of a gay lifestyle.
For the second year in a row, Maranacook Community High School has incorporated a visit by a group of young gays, who are slated to speak March 20 about homophobia, a hatred or fear of homosexuals, and about the problems faced by young gay people.
The gay teenagers are members of Outright, a support group for gay and lesbian adolescents in Portland, Maine’s largest city, situated about 75 miles south of the rural community of Readfield.
Jasper Wyman, head of the 93-year-old conservative organization, said students should have an opportunity to hear from people who believe that homosexuality is wrong. Wyman said he hoped a league representative would be allowed to take part in the program to explain the group’s belief that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle.
But so far, Principal Ronald D. Jenkins has refused to invite Wyman to attend the event.
Wyman said the Christian Civic League had no objection to teaching students about homosexuality.
“We talked to Mr. Jenkins and we said we appreciated the idea of Teen Awareness Week, but we told him that it appeared to us that it could turn into a forum for the promotion of the social and political and ethical acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle,” said Wyman, whose group represents 440 Maine families and 230 churches in the state.
Wyman claims even the title of the workshop, “Homophobia and Sexual Bias,” implies that people who object to homosexuality might be labeled homophobes. Jenkins, he said, tried to assure him that the program did not endorse homosexuality.
“I said it seemed (central) to the whole argument that homosexuality should be accepted by society as morally neutral and simply a matter of personal preference, like one selects a preference for colors or flavors, and that there is no ethical or moral or cultural implications,” Wyman said. “It seems what they are saying is that it should be accepted, and that those who do not accept it are engaged in homophobia because they are bigoted. This, I think, promotes acceptance (of homosexuality).”
Jenkins, who said he generally holds conservative views, attended last year’s session and came to believe strongly that the program has value, especially for teens who may be questioning their own sexuality.
“Personally, my own neck is pretty red,” Jenkins said. “But I came out of that session last year feeling pretty sad. Not sad because the kids were gay. I just hope in the 17 years that I taught math that I never treated anyone the way some of those kids described how teachers had treated them.”
“We are not promoting anything,” said Jenkins. “We are not trying to enter into a debate on whether being homosexual is good or bad. We are simply having young people present what it is like to be a homosexual in a heterosexual world.”
Wyman criticizes the program for failing to treat homosexuality as a moral issue.
“We are concerned that this (homosexuality) will be discussed with a pro perspective, and we feel that is biased and unhealthy and plain old wrong,” Wyman said. “I know that is old-fashioned, but we still use (those words) and believe in them. If someone is going to come in and say there is nothing wrong with (homosexuality), then someone else ought to be invited in to say that it is wrong, and why we think it is wrong.”
Shelly Chasse, a Readfield resident and mother of four young children, was one of several Christian Civic League members to bring the Maranacook program to Wyman’s attention. Although she does not have children at the high school, she said she objected to the program, and felt that townspeople and parents had not been given a chance to comment on the plans.
“I think it is a bad example when we bring (homosexuals) in there,” Chasse said. “It is like having the parents say that we accept this lifestyle.”
But Diane Elze, an adult advisor to the Outright group, said the program is really only about helping children and adolescents get through a difficult time, and help them deal with their feelings about their own sexuality.
“People who work with young people are hungry for this information,” she said. “They are working with young people who have questions about their sexuality and their sexual orientation, and they want to do what is best for the kids. This is not an easy topic to talk about, but the bottom line is what do we need to do for kids to have them grow up healthy, happy and whole.”
Back in 1993 I was working for the St. Petersburg TIMES, and I recall spending one October day looking around for a Halloween story. I finally called Rick Chaboudy, who was the director of the Humane Society of North Pinellas. Rick was a very media-savvy guy who could usually be counted on to come up with a good story. I was thinking about whether black cats were more in demand for adoption around Halloween, but he had a much better idea — a story about people who wanted to rent black cats for Halloween parties. So that’s how this story came to be.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
Pet adoptions have been a little slow at the Humane Society of North Pinellas, but the phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from people who want to rent cats for Halloween parties.
But even though the Humane Society has about 50 cats, none of them are for rent, not now and not ever, according to Rick Chaboudy, the Humane Society’s director.
“I think people are getting into more elaborate Halloween parties and they try to think of everything,” Chaboudy said. “We try to explain we don’t do things like that – it would be a tremendous amount of stress on the cat, plus we don’t want to give the impression we approve of activities like that.
“We are here to find permanent homes for our cats, not to rent them out as decorations.”
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of St. Petersburg in Largo has not received any requests for renting cats.
“But we do put restrictions on the adoption of black cats during that week,” said shelter director Beth Lockwood. “We don’t let black cats out the week before Halloween.”
The interest in using the Humane Society of North Pinellas in Clearwater as a sort of Rent-A-Cat agency is a fairly new twist, Chaboudy said.
But calls inquiring about renting cats have been steadily increasing during the past few Octobers. About a half-dozen such calls have come into the Humane Society during the past week, he said.
“It has to be black, and they seem to think if they call early enough they can reserve one,” he said. “And it’s funny – some people feel a little foolish after we turn them down, but others act put out that we won’t accommodate them. They say things like, `Well, we aren’t going to hurt it’ or `We’ll bring it back afterward’ – like we’re wrong in not letting this happen.”
Even if the Humane Society did rent cats, Halloween party-givers probably would be a little disappointed at the present selection. Chaboudy said of the 50 or so cats, none are completely black.
“We do have a few black-and-white cats, but that’s as close as they come,” he said. “If we did have black cats right now, we might not put them out for adoption until Halloween was over.”
Actually, there is a single black cat at the Humane Society, 3040 State Road 590, but she isn’t available for adoption.
“That’s Bonnie, the office cat,” Chaboudy said. “We couldn’t allow her to be adopted. She’s one of our public relations people. Bonnie works for a living.”