Looking Back


Jan. 12, 1994

Westbrook aldermen voted Monday to set the election of Westbrook’s mayor for June 14, the day of Maine’s primary elections. That will leave City Council President Kenneth Lefrebvre as acting mayor for 5½ months and through most of the city and school budgets.

Patrick Rossi and a co-worker from the E.G. Oleson saw-sharpening shop were sitting in a pickup truck in Riverbank Park in Westbrook on their coffee break yesterday morning when they suddenly saw “this big monster bird” flying up the river, unmistakably a bald eagle. The bird had a “wicked” wingspan, said Rossi. It was flying a few hundred feet above the river. Both are taking some ribbing at work from those who don’t believe them, but both are sure of what they saw.

Gorham is one of three communities in the United States participating in a new program that hopes to change the present educational system. Two years ago, Gorham was selected to help implement educational reforms. ATLAS (Authentic Teaching, Learning for All Students) is a partnership among Gorham, four education think tanks and the school systems of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Norfork, Virginia. In Gorham, ATLAS is paying the salaries of six teacher leaders, buying office supplies and paying for seminars. Superintendent Timothy McCormack stressed that while financial and professional help comes from outside Gorham, “control of our schools remains in the hands of the community and the School Committee.”

Jan. 14, 2004

Westbrook city officials have received a deluge of calls from residents since Wal-Mart announced plans to build a 24-hour superstore on Saunders Bros. property. Some residents were angry they weren’t notified of a meeting held at Saunders Bros. Other are worried about increased traffic on Forest Street. “The point we want to emphasize is, it’s not a done deal,” Jerre Bryant, Westbrook’s administrative assistant, told the American Journal. He said the project – a 203,000-square-foot store – would produce about $300,000 in property taxes for the city and employ about 450 people. But, he said, residents will have plenty of opportunity to express concerns publicly.

A wildlife photographer in Gorham has the proverbial patience of Job. Erni Roberts recently spent four hours a day of a 10-day vacation, beginning at 6 a.m., perched behind his camera tripod in the freezing cold somewhere in Gorham woods, waiting for an opportune deer shot. He never snapped the shutter, although he spotted 87 deer. Hoping for a photo of a buck with a big rack, an image popular with customers, Roberts didn’t get the shot he wanted because a pair of wary bucks wouldn’t pop out into the open from nature’s cover.

A former Westbrook man, who was a survivor of the Meuse-Argonne battle in World War I, died Jan. 7 in Florida at the age of 108. Alfred R. Pugh was the country’s oldest living combat-wounded veteran. Pugh grew up in Westbrook and lived on East Valentine Street. He was a mailman in Cumberland Mills for years. He died 10 days before his 109th birthday.

For 30 years, Explorer Post 50 has been training young Westbrook firefighters, but it has never had a female reach the highest rank in the post – captain – until last week. Jen Blanche, 16, was sworn in as the post’s new captain last week. Blanche got interested in firefighting because of her older brothers’ involvement in it. Both are Westbrook firefighters. “It’s just amazing. I can barely describe it,” Blanche said of the honor.

Lewis W. Edwards operated a dry goods store at this building on Main Street at Bridge Street. A meeting room on the second floor was known as Small’s Hall. Edwards replaced the wooden structure with a two-story brick building in 1891. He eventually closed his business and F.W. Woolworth occupied the building prior to Warren Furniture Company purchasing it. The Westbrook Telephone Exchange was located on the second floor from 1907-17. Warren Furniture Company went out of business in 2005 and the building was sold. Portland Pie Company now occupies the first floor.