When Maine Is Not an Idyll

by Jay Nordlinger

Yesterday in the Corner, I published some mail about Maine. Here is some more mail, which relates to Part II of my “Maine Journal,” published today (here). There are many facets of Maine. As I’ve said, it ain’t all lobster rolls and refreshing swims.

I grew up in Lewiston: a mill town built on a river with a giant canal to run the machinery. In my years, the mills were closing and the town was basically failing. Lots of unemployment and poverty everywhere. I’d guess about a third of my giant regional high school was on some form of relief.

When I was dating my wife, I met her folks and her mother exclaimed something like, “Oh, you’re from Maine. I love Maine! I went to camp in Maine — it’s so beautiful!” I explained that I wasn’t from that Maine. I was from the uglier, polluted-canal, failing-mill-town part of Maine.

She now refers to the pretty woods and lakes as “My Maine” and to the poverty and social problems as “Your Maine.”

By the way, I like the use of that old-fashioned word “relief,” for welfare or government aid. Discussing the problem of welfare-as-lifestyle, Reagan often said, “They used to call it ‘relief.’” (And boy is it necessary, when it’s necessary.)