Gathering of Secretaries of State

You wouldn’t think of Maine as a place that offered much opportunity to write about national issues, but that wasn’t always the case. Take this story, for example, about a gathering of six former U.S. Secretaries of State at Bates College for a discussion about 1980s-era foreign policy. This event was sponsored by the Muskie Archives, a collection of Edmund Muskie-related papers and artifacts that is housed on the Bates campus in Lewiston, Maine. One thing I remember about this day is that the event did not provide a separate  area for reporters; we had to sit up front in the audience, right in front of the row reserved for the wives of the secretaries. I had to balance my old Radio Shack laptop on my lap and type furiously, and that old machine made quite a lot of noise. I recall that when the event was over, Jane Muskie gave me a pretty good chewing-out for making such a racket. Another thing; I didn’t cover national foreign policy issues every day, so I had to do some intense homework to prepare for it. This took place in October 1989.

 Several former secretaries of state agreed Friday that recent thaws in U.S.-Soviet relations reflect a softening ideology in the Soviet Union rather than abrupt changes in Soviet leaders’ strategic policies or perception of their national interest.

Six former top diplomats — Dean Rusk, Edmund Muskie, Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, Cyrus Vance and Alexander Haig — gathered for a conference sponsored in part by the Muskie Archives at Bates College, Muskie’s alma mater.

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Edmund Muskie

‘Ideologically, communism is in deep trouble,’ Kissinger said. ‘But the Russians have never been able to define their security except through physical domination.

‘We would make a mistake if we thought we could live in a state of conciliation without an understanding on the national interest issue, and not just on the ideological one,’ said Kissinger, who served under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

cyrus vance

Cyrus Vance

Vance, President Jimmy Carter’s first secretary of state, said most recent changes in the Soviet Union have been philosophical rather than territorial.

‘None of the Russian leaders have abandoned the loot collected by their predecessors,’ he said. ‘Little of the Soviet Union’s policies have been abandoned by the present leadership in places like Afghanistan, Cuba and Central America.

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Dean Rusk

‘But, as one who was present at the beginning of the Cold War, I waited a long time to see when the Soviet Union would join the rest of the human race,’ Vance said. ‘With a little luck, this is beginning to happen.’

William P. Rogers, who also served as secretary of state under Nixon, said there has been a recent American reassessment of the Soviets.


Alexander Haig

‘The Cold War was epitomized by the Reagan statement that Russia was an ‘evil empire,’ and that has been the general attitude of the American government and its people for a long time,’ he said. ‘I think recent events have shown that that part of the controversy is just about ended.’

Vance predicted that new arms control agreements could be reached in the near future.

‘I think we are in the process now of beginning to put the pieces in

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William Rogers

place of what may be a substantial reduction in the next so-called START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) agreement, which I think will come perhaps at the next summit,’ he said. ‘It is even possible that in 1990 or thereafter there could be an agreement with respect to conventional weapons.’

The former secretaries discussed foreign policy issues inside the Merrill Gymnasium. The event was moderated by former NBC News announcer Edwin Newman and former New York Times newsman Hedrick Smith.


Henry Kissinger

A group of about 40 people protested outside, waving signs saying ‘Welcome Secretaries of War’ and ‘Dollars Can’t Buy Lives.’ The protest was sponsored by a campus group, the New World Coalition.



Sleeping with sheep

Not exactly sure, but I think Maine’s Department of Agriculture sent me a press release about a new state program that provided state funds as seed to Maine farmers interested in the bed & breakfast business. I called the contact person and asked if he could put me in touch with one of the farmers who had gone into the bed & breakfast business. That resulted in a phone conversation with Anne Gass, who along with her husband Alan owned Moose Crossing Farm, a sheep farm in the western part of the state. Beth and I drove there on a Saturday afternoon and spent the night. I remember it being a bit more primitive than what we now generally think of bed & breakfasts, but it was enjoyable, and the breakfast was plain but very good.


SOUTH PARIS, Maine (UPI) — Alan and Anne Gass bought Moose Crossing Farm in 1985 because they wanted to raise sheep, and they do, but thanks to a state program, they are also in the bed-and-breakfast business.

The main activity at Moose Crossing Farm still is the herd of about 65 sheep that roam the fields of the old 90-acre farmstead, but sometimes guests find their way up Christian Ridge Road and onto the dirt driveway.

The money supplements the Gass’s farm income, and the guests provide company.

4F944F6A71‘The farm is wonderful, but with the sheep you can’t ever get too far away from home,’ Ann Gass said as she prepared bacon, scrambled eggs and homemade popovers one recent Sunday morning in the big farm kitchen. ‘I enjoy people, and the bed-and-breakfast helps in that regard.’

The state Department of Agriculture, ever on the alert to find ways for farmers to generate new income, came up with the farm bed-and-breakfast idea about three years ago. Now, 20 Maine farms offer rooms and a real farm experience. More are expected to join the program in the coming months.

Maine’s popular coastal areas have been dotted with bed-and-breakfasts for many years. But Department of Agriculture officials believed at least some of the thousands of tourists who flood the state every year might be ready for something a little different.

‘We saw an opportunity at the department four years ago,’ said Chaitanya York, a marketing specialist who started the program. ‘We dealt with the hypothesis that there was a growing interest among vacationers in staying at farm bed-and-breakfasts.

‘We also worked on the assumption that there was a willingness among some farmers to have bed-and-breakfast operations,’ he said. ‘We saw it as a real possibility for some farmers to have another source of income that could help them to continue farming.’

York and his associates studied similar programs in other states and in New Brunswick, Canada.

The department sponsors the annual Maine Agricultural Trade Show, and three years ago York presided over a seminar on the operation of bed-and-breakfasts.

‘We got it on the program, publicized it, and reserved a room that could hold 70 people,’ York said. ‘Way over 100 people showed up.’

One reason for the success of the program so far, York said, is that all the farms that take part in the Maine Farm Vacation B&B Association must meet very strict operating standards.

‘The farms must be inspected and must meet guidelines,’ York said. ‘And every farm must have some sort of farming activity going on. You can’t just have a set of farm buildings.’

The Maine participants all offer something different, York said.

Moose Crossing has its sheep; Piper Mountain Farm in Dixmont grows Christmas trees; Squire Tarbox Farm in Wiscasset has a herd of dairy goats; SealCove Farm on Mount Desert Island raises goats and sheep and produces several varieties of cheese.

Arnold Sturtevant, president of the Maine Farm Vacation B&B Association, said his Home-Nest Farm in the town of Fayette attracts guests through a variety of sources.

‘They find us through articles, through bed-and-breakfast guidebooks, and a bed-and-breakfast reservation service lists us,’ Sturtevant said. ‘They also find us through the Maine Publicity Bureau, and through the state information centers (on the Maine Turnpike). We also have our own brochure.’

Sturtevant’s 200-acre farm, which has been in his family for seven generations, features a main farmhouse as well as a smaller cottage and an old schoolhouse. All offer space that can be rented by the night or for longer periods. Some families, he said, spend several weeks on the farm each summer, and skiing and snowmobiling is offered during the winter months.

For Jim and Marcia Cope and their young daughter, from Columbus, Ohio, who have stayed at Home-Nest Farm during the past three summers, the vacation provides some much-needed tranquility.

‘This is pretty hard-core inner city, with lots of noise and crack use and confusion,’ said Cope, a Luthern minister who serves in Columbus’ inner city, in a telephone interview. ‘I really look forward to getting away to a quiet setting. I grew up on a farm, and this sounded like the kind of thing I was looking for.’

For Cope, staying on a farm B&B, which generally costs $40-$60 a night, provides an alternative to the popular coast of Maine.

‘The costs have gotten so high, and the Maine coast is so rocky and so much of it is owned privately that it isn’t easy to find a place overlooking the ocean at a reasonable price,’ he said.


Is position lure enough for Curtis?

Ken Curtis was governor of Maine when I first arrived there in 1973 to cover, among other things, government and politics for United Press International. By 1977, he was out of office and had founded a new law firm in Portland with several partners, but it seemed obvious to those of us who had covered his administration that he would like another bite of the apple if the right job came along. In 1977 Jimmy Carter had been elected president, and it seemed likely that Carter, a good friend of Curtis, would offer him a job. He did, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. At the point this story was written, in January 1977, Curtis was being a bit coy, but he soon accepted the job. FULL DISCLOSURE DEPARTMENT: I was interested in becoming press secretary to the DNC under Curtis, and there were a couple of discussions about it, but it didn’t happen. A few months later, I found myself in Washington anyway, as press secretary to Sen. William D. Hathaway, another Democrat.


PORTLAND, Maine (UPI) – Kenneth Curtis has been pretty sure that the Carter administration would offer him some kind of job. The only question was whether the position would be attractive enough for him to leave Maine.

President-elect Jimmy Carter, in telegrams to all members of the Democratic National Committee, today recommended Curtis as chairman of the committee. Carter’s endorsement makes the choice almost inevitable.

In recommending Curtis, Carter said, “I know he shares my strong belief that the Democratic Party must belong to the people and not just the political figures.”

“Maine is beautiful, a great place to live,” Curtis said recently in an interview. “I don’t know whether I’ll want to leave it.”

ken curtisCurtis graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy and served in the Korean War and on several merchant ships before earning his law degree in 1959. He later served as Maine’s secretary of state before becoming governor in 1967.

His re-election bid four years later succeeded, but only barely because he had been the first governor in Maine’s history to institute an income tax.

Curtis met Jimmy Carter when both men were still governors. Carter and his wife Rosalynn were guests of Curtis and his wife Polly several times, and it was Curtis who urged the state Democratic Party to invite Carter to address the party’s 1974 convention.

Carter came to Bangor that year for the convention, and delivered what was later to be known as his “love speech,” which Carter gave many times during his campaign for president.

When Curtis left office at the end of 1974, he said repeatedly that he was looking forward to private life and practicing law. He, his wife Polly and their daughter Angel moved back to their home in Cape Elizabeth. Another daughter, Susan, died while Curtis was governor.

Curtis admitted he still was enthralled by politics, but couldn’t see an office he wanted to run for.

“I’d like to run for the Senate, I suppose,” Curtis said. “But Sen. (Edmund) Muskie and Sen. (William) Hathaway are fellow Democrats and friends, and I wouldn’t run against them.”


Vallee remembered as ‘a real darling’

When singer and movie star Rudy Vallee died in 1986, his remains were shipped to Maine, the state where he was born and raised. His old family home was still owned by family members in Westbrook, and that’s where friends and family gathered to mourn his passing. I was invited to cover that gathering, so I was in attendance on that summer day.


WESTBROOK, Maine (UPI) — Ashes of crooner Rudy Vallee were buried in a family cemetery near the home where he grew up, in accordance with his wishes and his widow’s belief ‘the people of Maine would take good care of him.’

About 200 people, many of them elderly, surrounded the family plot at St. Hyacinth’s Cemetery Monday as the Rev. Brian Kelleher, Vallee’s nephew, led mourners in the 23rd Psalm.

rudy valleeVallee, 84, died July 3 at his California home while watching the Statue of Liberty festivities on television. A funeral mass was held in California and his remains were cremated.

But Vallee had asked that his ashes be interred at the Westbrook cemetery in the family plot that contains his parents, his brother William and two other siblings who died in infancy.

‘He always spoke of that,’ said Vallee’s widow, Eleanor. ‘We felt that the people of Maine would take good care of him.’

Vallee served in the Coast Guard during World War II, and the academy provided a color guard and bugler. The service ended with a 21-gun salute.

‘Rudy, by his special gifts, brought many hours of joy to many people,’ Kelleher said. ‘It is therefore fitting and appropriate to ask God to grant him joy in return.’

Among the spectators was Mildred Jordan, 87, a Westbrook resident who worked at the University of Maine at Orono when Vallee was a student band leader there in the 1920s.

‘I worked in the office and Rudy had a band, and he used to play for our girls’ club every week,’ said Jordan, who watched the services from a lawn chair next to a granite monument. ‘He was loveable, a real darling.’

Following the service, the family and a few guests gathered at the old home where Vallee was raised. The home is now occupied by Dorothy Vallee, the widow of Vallee’s brother.

A large picture of Vallee in his prime was propped up on a chair in the front hall, and letters and telegrams of condolence were on the mantle, including a telegram from President Reagan and a note from Frank Sinatra.

Eleanor Vallee clutched a single red rose in the living room and asked someone to put one of Vallee’s records on the stereo.

‘Turn it up loud,’ she said as Vallee’s voice filled the room with the song, ‘You Took Me Out of This World.’



Americans, Soviets eulogize Samantha Smith

Back in the mid-1980s, a young Maine schoolgirl, Samantha Smith, wrote a letter to Soviet President Yuri Andropov, expressing her worries about a possible war between the USSR and the U.S. He invited her to visit the Soviet Union, and she did, attracting worldwide media attention. A year or so later, Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash in Auburn, Maine. She was just 13. I was rousted out of bed at around midnight on that night and told to go and cover the plane crash scene. I wrote this story a few days later, following her funeral service in 1985.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) — Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl who traveled to Russia on a mission of peace two years ago, was mourned by 1,000 friends and dignitaries and eulogized by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as an ambassador of ‘good will, friendship and love.’

The crowd, including her TV co-star Robert Wagner and a Soviet diplomat carrying a message from Gorbachev, filled St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church for Wednesday’s memorial service for Samantha and her father, Arthur. Scores of other mourners lined up outside, some watching the services on a television placed on the lawn.

‘This little girl did things that governments don’t have the power or the will to do,’ her school adviser told the throng.

samantha smithSamantha, 13, and her father, 45, were among eight people killed Sunday night when a Bar Harbor Airlines plane crashed about a half-mile short of an airport in Auburn.

Samantha’s mother, Jane, leaned heavily on the arm of Wagner, who flew to Maine from Switzerland to attend the services. Wagner and Samantha were to star in a new ABC television series called ‘Lime Street.’

Samantha and her father were returning from London, where scenes for the show were being taped, when the plane crashed.

The Smiths’ bodies will be cremated at a later date.

The bereft family sat in the front row of the church, located several miles from Samantha’s hometown of Manchester. Wagner sat directly behind Mrs. Smith.

A children’s choir sang ‘We Are The World,’ and the church organist played the hymns ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’ and ‘Let There be Peace on Earth.’

Gorbachev sent a personal emissary, Vladimir Kulagin, first secretary for cultural affairs at the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

Reading a statement from Gorbachev, Kulagin said, ‘You should know millions of mothers and fathers and kids back in Russia share this tragic loss.’

‘The best thing would be if we continued what they (Samantha and her father) started, with good will, friendship and love,’ he said.

President Reagan earlier sent condolences to Mrs. Smith, saying ‘millions of people … will cherish and remember Samantha, her smile, her idealism and unaffected sweetness of spirit.’

When Samantha was 10, she wrote a letter to Soviet President Yuri Andropov, telling him of her fears about nuclear war. Andropov responded by inviting her for a two-week tour of his country in July 1983.

William Prebble, Samantha’s adviser at Maranacook Community School, said from the pulpit that he and a group of students met to talk about Samantha’s life and death.

‘We made a list of things we would want to do before we died,’ he told the mourners. ‘We decided we’d like to travel and that we’d like to meet many people. We would want to make some contribution, and if we were successful at that, we wouldn’t want to be stuck up or conceited.

‘We agreed that Samantha had accomplished many of those things,’ he said.

Other speakers were Gov. Joseph E. Brennan, the head of Manchester’s governing Board of Selectmen and several family friends.



The man who invented earmuffs


FARMINGTON, Maine (UPI) — Townsfolk are warming up for their annual Chester Greenwood Day, a festival dedicated to a local boy who turned an inventive mind and a pair of cold ears into a lifetime career by inventing the earmuff.

And while the people of Farmington slap earmuffs on everything from local police cruisers to neighborhood dogs for the Dec. 21 parade marking the first day of winter, there are signs the earmuff industry nationwide is riding a modest revival.

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Chester Greenwood, sporting a pair of his earmuffs

Chester Greenwood wasn’t thinking about business during that cold Farmington winter more than 100 years ago; he simply wanted to do something that would keep his ears warm when he skated.

When he returned home from a local pond one day, the 15-year-old Chester rummaged around in a shed and came up with a piece of stiff wire. He bent the wire so that it would fit over his head, and asked his grandmother to sew some cloth covers at either end.

The invention worked. Chester’s ears were no longer cold, and the young man managed to make a comfortable living throughout his life by manufacturing and selling Greenwood’s Champion Ear Protectors.

Greenwood died in 1937, and the company that once employed as many as 50 people in the central Maine town is no more.

But the industry spawned by Greenwood’s invention is still churning out earmuffs, and signs indicate the domestic earmuff business, moribund for years due to foreign imports, is ready for a modest comeback.

Marilyn Becker, managing director of L&G Manufacturing Co. of Boston, a leading earmuff maker, said business is better this year after several years of being battered by the cheap imports.

Becker said the company her father founded 55 years ago will turn out about 50,000 earmuffs this year, up considerably from the production of the past five years when the company was buffeted by earmuffs from Asia.

‘For several years it was rather slow, but this year has been good,’ Becker said. ‘I think there is not quite so much from Taiwan this year, and the dollar is not quite so strong now.’

Business has also been helped by the fact that earmuffs have remained in fashion through the 1980s.

‘They have been in fashion the last seven or eight years,’ Becker said. ‘When you walk around the streets of New York on a windy day, it seems that everyone is wearing earmuffs.’

The owner of another earmuff company, Nathan Hanover of The Earmuff Shop of New York City, said sales ‘go up and they go down.’

He said the earmuff market has shifted many times during the 20 years he has made them, adding, ‘There are now a lot of imports from Korea and Hong Kong.’

When Greenwood died at age 79, he held more than 100 patents including one for the earmuff. The Smithsonian Institution once named Greenwood one of America’s 15 outstanding inventors.

But in spite of Greenwood’s successes, the people of Farmington had pretty much forgotten him until the 1970s, when the owner of a local magazine shop decided that Greenwood’s life should be memorialized.

Mike Maguire took his idea to his local legislators, who sponsored a bill making Dec. 21 Chester Greenwood Day in Maine. The bill sparked spirited debate, with one representative calling the idea ‘an unfortunate misuse of the legislative process.’

But in 1977, the measure finally passed, and Chester Greenwood Day was born in the sleepy town of 6,700 people. Since then, an annual parade has been held in Farmington, and some occasionally daffy events have been held as well.

There was the Greenwood Derby, a reverse-dogsled race in which teams of children pulled sleds which carried local dogs as passengers.

Then there was the contest in which children tried to sculpt likenesses of Greenwood out of soft ice cream.

And last year witnessed an unsuccessful attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, when 350 earmuff-clad local residents showed up at the Town Square in hopes of setting a record for the most people to wear earmuffs in the same place at the same time.

Guinness officials said thanks, but no thanks.

Soviet TV reporter baptized in Maine’s Russian community

In 1990, a group of about 20 Russians came to Maine for a tour. One of the places they wanted to visit was the town of Richmond, a Russian enclave that had attracted Russians from New York and the West Coast.  I accompanied them for several days. Another thing they wanted to see was a U.S. supermarket. They were taken to a store in Portland. Many of them refused to believe it was anything more that some sort of display store — they couldn’t believe that everyday Americans actually shopped in such a place. One thing that really amazed them was the dog and cat food aisle.

RICHMOND, Maine (UPI) — Serguey Souponev lives in Moscow, but he found a spiritual home in Maine when he was baptized earlier this week in a Russian Orthodox Church in a community of Russian immigrants.

Souponev, 27, a reporter with the General Department of Children’s Television, is in Maine taping a documentary on the Samantha Smith Center’s World Peace Camp in Poland Spring. He said Wednesday he was baptized Sunday while visiting St. Alexander Nevsky Church, one of Richmond’s two Russian Orthodox churches.

st alexander nevsky church

Richmond, Maine’s St. Alexander Nevsky Church

The ceremony was conducted by Father Chad Williams, a Russian Orthodox priest, and was witnessed by a few Soviet companions and by members of the local Russian community. His producer, Mikhail Shilov, served as godfather, and a local woman, Galena Frish, agreed to act as godmother.

‘I dreamed about it for three years, and now my dream is fulfilled,’ Souponev said Tuesday.

Souponev said he asked about baptism on the spur of the moment, and was worried the ceremony might not be possible because of his age.

‘I asked if it was possible and they say, ‘Why not?” he said. ‘I say I am pretty old, but they say it can be done.’

Souponev said he was moved by the Russian residents of Richmond, a colony that is rapidly aging and dying out. About 500 families moved to Richmond in the 1950s and 1960s, attracted by ads in Russian-language newspapers in New York and San Francisco, but the colony is now down to fewer than 200 people.

St. Alexander Nevsky Church, sided with grey asphalt shingles and topped with a tin roof, was converted from a barn years ago. But Souponev described the baptism as warm and colorful.

‘It took two hours and a half, and it was fantastic,’ he said. ‘There were thousands of candles, and I was (immersed) three times in a great (baptistery), and there were I believe 500 liters of very cold water. When it was done the first time, I gasped.’

Several elderly women from the town sang orthodox hymns during the ceremony, he said, and their presence meant that Souponev had to keep his trousers on during the immersion.

I didn’t want to offend them, and then I realized that I had nothing dry to put on,’ he said. ‘One of the women went to her house and brought me dry clothing that belonged to her son. I put them on and everything was alright.’

Baptism in the Soviet Union is possible, he said, especially in recent times, but he said it is still not easy to accomplish.

‘It is not impossible, but it is still difficult,’ Souponev said. ‘But my people want to do it because of (the) lack of faith (among the Soviets.) (They need) something to believe in (now that things) are getting more normal.’

While religion has been frowned upon in his native land — Souponev has never formally practiced a religion — he said he still holds a strong belief in God.

‘I believe in something that runs everything,’ he said.