A College Girl's Maine Requirement

WHEN Julia, the No. 1 granddaughter, left last fall to resume her college studies in Massachusetts, I dropped her a loving note, and for want of brownies I tucked a $20 bill into the envelope and sealed it with a kiss. I have a thank-you from Julie, and she says she used the money to buy some drinking water. ``The water here is awful!'' she writes. Here at home the University of Maine is asking for a $36.8 million state bond issue to upgrade its educational facilities (including physical culture and recreation) and I am pleased to see the proposal hasn't one word about improving the drinking water. This isn't a burning educational issue with us, whereas in her much higher-priced educational environment Julie needs bottled water in her dorm room.

Which means I am not necessarily the doting grandfather lavishing his largess on his pretty descendant, but am, rather, something like a bond issue taking up the slack for a college that needs a new well.

One of the better bits of Maine history has to do with the gushing spring of pure water on Ricker Hill in the town of Poland, around which the Ricker family built a huge resort hotel. In the late 1700s a couple of travelers came to the Ricker place, and although the new house was far from finished, they were given suppers and beds, and fed well in the morning before they walked along.

This gave the Rickers the idea of keeping an inn, and the new home was called the ``Mansion House'' and became the start of a resort hotel complex that was famous the world over. It was to be quite a few years before the Poland Spring Water became a part of the business.

The spring had been no more than a watering place in the Ricker pasture - not unlike many other springs in that area of Maine. They are fed by subterranean veins from the eastern slope of the White Mountains, and have a purity that excels.

The first bottle fetched 15 cents, and within a year shipments were measured by the hundreds of barrels. The big Poland Spring Hotel, just about covering the top of the hill, burned flat on July 4, 1975, and brought an end to the resort business, but spring water is still shipped all over the world.

Here at home, Julie lives within a couple of long stones' throws of famous Poland Spring. Thus it is.

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