"At our best"

This past summer season our Maine Publicity Bureau has been calling itself the "new" MPB, notification of a change in command, but out peanut sales during Friendship Sloop Days were off about 35 pounds. This may have been because the new MPB didn't whoop us up, but spent television money instead to push the Maine Seafood Festival, thereby diverting attention from the charitable purposes of our peanut caper. Youngsters sandbag the folks who come to see out sloops race, and peanut proceeds are added to the principal of our scholarship fund, from which Friendship scholars are helped if they go beyond high school. We aren't sure if our crowds were smaller this time, or if the hot weather diminished the public zeal for peanuts and learning, when there was no television to attract attention.

In the old Maine Development Commission we had a few able hucksters who sat around agood deal with their feet on their desks, and every once in a while they would unlimber their recumbency and uncork some wild-eyed scheme intended to attract paying customers to the State of Maine. My favorite of these thinker-uppers was Earle Doucette -- we called him the Earl of Doucette -- but it was often difficult to tell just which part of a scheme was Earle's, since the other jokers were in cahoots. I think the bucksaw contest was Earle's all the way.

Earle engineered a world's championship bucksaw contest, to be well covered by the press and the Fox Movietone News, and various regional champions from around the world entered one by one with cumulative publicity. I'm not sure if the contest was held at the New York or the Boston sportsman's show, but the first one was such a success it was repeated year after year in a good many places. The regional champion from Minnesota may or may not have been a bona fide Minnesotan, but releases from Augusta (Maine) quoted him accurately as saying, "Ay tank Ay ban going to win." After preliminaries that lasted several weeks, Earle introduced the Maine entrant: Perry Greene.

Perry was a broad-shouldered woodsman who guided and doubled as one of Earle's "characters," and the papers had pictures of Perry "in training." Perry not only won the bucksaw contest, but he won it handily and as Queen Victoria was told, "There is no second." Earle smiled and smiled and put his feet back up on his desk.

The secret of Perry's championship lay not only in the sturdy muscles of his manly physique, but in the way his saw was filed. The "set" was extreme, and the teeth outraked the competition. Nobody, not even Perry Greene, could saw all day with teeth so set, but for the 15 or 20 strokes Perry took to whale through the log, he was done before his challengers had fairly begun.

It was back in the prohibition days when "gangsters" were taking over that Earle solved the crime problem in New York City. The New York police were baffled as gangsterism raged, and there seemed no way to cope. Then one morning three registered Maine guides got off the train at Grand Central Terminal and inquired at the information bureau for the nearest police station. They had pack baskets and bedrolls, frypans tied to their belts, black-and-red checked woodsman's shirts, and each carried the identifying .30-30 lever-action Winchester rifle. They explained that they had heard of the gangster problem in New York, and had come down to offer their help to the city police. The afternoon papers front-paged this invasion, and editions of the next morning followed up. Earle always bragged that wages and train fare for this stunt cadged almost a million dollars' worth of free publicity for Maine's hunting and fishing business.

Earle also used Charley Miller a good deal. Charley, out of Bangor, was a natural publicity hound, and guided people like Jack Dempsey with ample newspaper coverage. And he gratuitously dubbed himself the world's champion outdoor cook, now and then cooking a ten-course meal over a campfire if photographers chanced to be around. Earle would set Charley up so he would be there some morning in some place like Central Park or Boston Common, and the police would come and arrest him just about the time he was removing the hashbrowns. Charley grabbed a lot of space for Maine. But this year out peanuts were off.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.