Looking Back


Sept. 29, 1993

Westbrook councilors have decided that city residents will vote Nov. 2 whether to tear down the old high school at 765 Main St. Voters will choose between two options: maintaining the school in its present condition for potential future restoration, or demolishing the part of the school that is vacant. Council sentiment seems to favor keeping the building, though some are uncomfortable budgeting $20,000 a year for maintenance.

Elmer Dodge, 87, has resigned from the Gorham School Committee for health reasons. When elected at age 85, he was said to be the second oldest person ever elected to any office in Maine. He previously served on the committee from 1958-1966 and 1970-1972, including three years as chairman. Superintendent Timothy McCormack said the committee is leaning toward appointing someone to serve in Dodge’s place until March’s election.

George Oenslager, a man nobody in Westbrook seems to remember, made out his will in 1953 and named the Walker Memorial Library to get part of his estate. This month the library got word of his will and his bequest of $25,472.02. The word came from a bank in Medina, Ohio. Oenslager’s money stayed in trust until his wife, Ruth, died last year. She was 99. Franziska Fritsche-Jensen of the library’s board told the City Council about the windfall Monday. She said it is believed Oenslager was born in Westbrook in 1892 or 1893.

Bob Porter, 54, of Westbrook was not born to be a champion bicycle racer. Over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds, he does not fit the prototype of the small and lean racer. Nonetheless, after Bob joined the cycling group Casco Bay Club, he discovered a passion. The rides became longer and more arduous and soon bike tours were being completed. He has participated in tours in Canada as well as the U.S. In 1992 and 1993, he won gold medals at the Senior Games and qualified for the National Senior Games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He didn’t win there but is confident he will at the next Nationals, in San Antonio, Texas, in 1995.

Oct. 1, 2003

The owner of 40 acres next to the Calpine power plant has proposed developing an industrial park with up to 10 buildings that would have a total of 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of space and be valued at about $11 million. It could also attract one or two large employers. However, nearby residents are concerned the project would add more traffic to Saco Street. Administrative Assistant Jerre Bryant, Mayor Don Esty and Ray Boivin, who owns the property with his two sisters, met with nearby residents last week to listen to their concerns before the project goes to the Planning Board. The field is the only undeveloped land remaining of his parents’ 200-acre farm. One of the oldest in Westbrook, the farm was once owned by the Trickey family and dates back to the 18th century.

The Suburban News of Windham has been purchased by Current Publishing, publishers of the American Journal of Westbrook and the Current of Scarborough. The Suburban, a 12-year-old weekly owned by a group of investors, including former Secretary of State Bill Diamond, will be merged into a new Lakes Region weekly paper being launched by Current Publishing. The new merged paper will debut Oct. 16.

From the Westbrook Police Notes: A Merrill Road man reported Sept. 19 that he captured a bat in a juice bottle. A Rock Hill Road woman reported Sept. 20 that a raccoon with quills stuck in it was trying to get into her house. The raccoon was gone when police arrived. They told her to call Dave Sparks at Sparks Ark Animal Emergency Services if the raccoon returned.

The original Haunted Hayrides of Gorham, on Rust Road, just off Route 25, will open Oct. 4, and then be open Oct. 10-13, 16-19, 23-26 and 30 and 31.

Organizers of Westbrook’s Riverwalk Fine Arts Festival said the festival drew almost as many people as last year despite the rainy weather. Tim Driscoll, chairman of the organizing committee, said there were fewer artists participating. This year there were 67, with 16 student artists. Last year the festival featured about 100 artists and 17 students. The top awards went to Irene Duplissis, first; Scott Hunter, second; and Rob Gauvin, third. Top awards for students went to Kara Borelli, first; Kate Delaney, second; and Keith Chretien, third.

A black Angus steer raised by Marie Smith, 15, of Gorham, won Grand Champion in the baby beef competition last week at the 132nd annual Cumberland Fair. Her year-old steer, named Stewart, weighed 1,145 pounds and brought $1,717.50 in the auction. A sophomore at Gorham High School, Smith, daughter of David and Holly Smith of Mighty Street, caught Stewart in the calf scramble at Cumberland Fair last year. She is putting the money toward college.

Harvey A. Lewis owned and operated Lewis Garage at 231 Spring St. for many years. When he died in the early 1960s, his widow, Fern Lewis, took over the business. The business closed in 1966 and the building was eventually demolished. The parking lot for the Spring Hill Gospel Hall occupies part of the lot where the building once stood. To see more historical photos and artifacts, visit the Westbrook Historical Society at the Fred C. Wescott Building, 426 Bridge St. It is open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon, and the first Wednesday of each month at 1:30 p.m., September-June. Inquiries can be emailed to [email protected] The website is www.westbrookhistoricalsociety.org.