The governor’s hole in the ground

Every state probably has one of these — a specially built and fortified emergency shelter in case somebody drops the big one on the State House. I found that Maine had such a bunker under the State Office Building, where the governor could take shelter in case of a natural disaster or A-bomb attack. The atomic bomb thing seems strange in distant Augusta, Maine, but the shelter WAS built to exacting atomic shelter specifications. It all seems a bit weird, but there it was … and is. I tried to find a picture of it, but couldn’t.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) – Gov. James B. Longley’s office is warm and paneled and carpeted, with a broad desk and an ornate state seal hanging on the wall. But he has another office, little-known and stark, with a tiny desk pressed against a white cement wall.

This other office is the governor’s emergency quarters, buried in the sub-basement of the state office building, which was built in the late 1950s, at the height of the atomic bomb scares.

The office is in the center of the basement, next to a radio room.

There are no windows to the outside and the interior windows are of Plexiglas. The basement, headquarters for the state Office of Civil Emergency Preparedness (CEP), has a 1,000 rating against atomic fallout, the highest rating possible.

William F. Crowley, assistant public information officer for the CEP, said the basement could shelter the governor and 49 other people for two weeks. It could provide food, air and power without any contact with the outside.

“This place is virtually immune to any type of natural disaster,” Crowley said. “This whole basement can take care of 50 people for 14 days. We can generate electricity, we have our own water, food and dormitory space.”

“It is completely self-sufficient.”

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Politics and divorce

I had forgotten about this story, but I found it deep in my clips file. I remember being assigned this story and not really wanting to do it. I didn’t like the idea of calling up these politicians and asking them to talk about their divorces. Sure enough, none of them wanted to talk. I do remember that this story got pretty good play around the country — this clip came from the Tampa Tribune. 

Divorce no bar in Maine politics

AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) — Top-level politics is no family matter in Maine, where the state’s two U.S. senators recently filed for divorce and the last two governors are among the ranks of the formerly married.

At a time when the public has focused on Gary Hart’s marital situation, the old adage that one must be stably married to succeed in politics has been thrown out the window in the Pine Tree State.

Gov. John McKernan has been divorced since 1978.  Democratic Rep. Joseph Brennan, who swapped jobs in January with former GOP congressman McKernan, was divorced in 1976. And when GOP Sen. William S. Cohen and Democratic Sen. George Mitchell announced within the past six months they were seeking divorces after marriages of 25 and 28 years, respectively, it raised more eyebrows in Washington than in Bangor or Portland.

Rep. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the state’s other member of Congress, has been a widow since 1973. She and McKernan are good friends and say they have dated.

“The people in Maine think nothing of it,” said James Russell Wiggins, former editor of the Washington Post, who moved to coastal Maine in 1969 to publish the weekly Ellsworth American newspaper. “I don’t think anybody ever raised divorce as an issue with Brennan’s election or McKernan’s, and you don’t hear about it with Cohen or Mitchell, either.”

Some political analysts say the state may have so many divorced politicians because Maine voters stress Yankee independence over conventional morals.

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The governor’s Lincoln

I remember feeling a huge sense of delight over this story about Maine Gov. James Longley’s Lincoln Continental. Why? Because reporters love to catch politicians in this sort of delicious paradox. Here’s the back story: Longley ran as an independent and said throughout his campaign that the state spent way too much money on just about everything. But Longley also loved his wealth and his privileges, both as a businessman and later as governor.  And he REALLY wanted this Lincoln. But he didn’t know how to get it without appearing to violate his pledges of state cost-cutting. That’s why he put a “hold” on this Lincoln contract rather than simply cancelling it. Ultimately, once attention to all this died down, he got his Lincoln.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) — Gov.-elect James B. Longley may be driven around the state during his term in a brand-new Lincoln Continental Mark IV.

A lease contract has been signed for the luxury car, but it was learned Monday that Longley has ordered a hold in the contract “until we can review the lease,” according to Col. Donald Nichols, chief of the state police.

Longley aide Jim McGregor at first said he didn’t know of any contract for a Lincoln, and said a decision on a new executive car might not be made for up to 90 days. Later, however, he said he had been the one to tell Nichols to hold up on the Lincoln contract.

“We haven’t reached a decision on a state car,” McGregor said early Monday.

“We might not decide for 30, 60 or 90 days. think a recommendation was made on a Lincoln by Col. Nichols, but I’m not sure of the particulars. We’re not sure now so we are not committing ourselves.”

76cont[1]Nichols said he had urged Longley to trade the Plymouth now used by Gov. Kenneth Curtis for a Lincoln.

“About a month ago he asked me for a recommendation, and I recommended that he get a heavier car,”Nichols said. “I’m familiar with the operation of the governor’s office, so I recommended a Lincoln.”

“As of this time, we’re holding on it to determine how the cost compares with that of the present car that’s under lease to Curtis, a Plymouth Fury,” he said. “On the surface, it appears that the Lincoln would be more expensive, but after checking it seems the Lincoln lease provides more.”

Nichols said the basic lease price would be $2,000 per year. “That seems to be a good deal for the taxpayers,” he said.

Nichols said Lincoln gives a low lease to many government officials, and said the Lincoln would be a safer car for the governor.

“I recommended that he get away from the lighter car,” Nichols said. “It’s going to be doing a lot of traveling and it makes sense from a safety standpoint.”

Later, McGregor said he knew that Nichols had recommended the Continental, and said he had been the one, at Longley’s direction, to tell Nichols to put a hold on the lease contract.

The contract had been signed by state purchasing agent Linwood Rods.

McGregor added that Longley would only use one state car, instead of the present two. One car is now used by Gov. Curtis, and a three-year-old Plymouth is kept at the Blaine House for use by the governor’s family.