PORTLAND – Do you remember the dive bars of the Old Port — like Eddie’s Shamrock Cafe, the Balboa and Ralph’s?

How about the Dog Man’s travails after Police Chief Mike Chitwood arrived in town? Or the fate of thousands of rats that lived in the huge Galt Block Warehouse after the building was demolished in 1974?

It’s all right there in “The Portland Encyclopedia,” a Facebook page created by a Portland woman who’s obsessed with documenting the history of the city in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

While the page has become a gathering place for Portland-bred baby boomers to swap tales of their youth, it’s also a lively and expanding resource for young people and newcomers who want to learn about the decades that predate the discovery of Portland as a destination for the hip and trendy.

“It’s not just about nostalgia. I would liken it to a reference tool,” said the site’s creator, Bonnie Blythe, who’s 58.

Blythe began the project in 2006 by interviewing notable people from the era, such as Don Doane, a popular jazz musician, and Richard Julio, who during the 1970s owned the Wax Museum record store on Fore Street.

In 2008, Abraham Schechter, the curator of the Portland Room at the Portland Public Library, suggested that she create a Facebook page.

Now, the page’s 2,000 members have posted 556 photos and created 86 discussion topics.

The topics range from news events, such as the 1972 Tamano oil spill, when a tanker hit a ledge in Hussey Sound and spilled 100,000 gallons into Casco Bay, to the personal, such as one Portlander’s account of his drug-addled experiences during a three-day music festival called Woodstock.

The page features a hodgepodge of posters of disco groups and snapshots of people with big hair, bell-bottoms and polyester suits.

Some of the photos have the quality of art, such as John Duncan’s black-and-white street shots and Andy Graham’s color portraits of people living in housing projects.

Visitors to the Facebook page post comments below the photos, offering identification and often a story. One Duncan photo features a young woman laughing as she sits in a car holding a cigarette.

“I remember Marlene,” writes one poster, Lee Sykes. “She was kind of a free spirit. I always wondered what became of her?”

In the next post, Brad Dickinson replies: “After traveling the world, mainly Europe, she met a guy named Brad Dickinson. They got married and had me, Bradley Chapman Dickinson, in 1990. Now she has a small pottery business called Sacred Vessels and we live in Gloucester, MA. I just finished my freshman year of college.”

Graham, who displayed his 1970s photos in an exhibit at the Zero Station gallery this spring, said he is surprised that so many people are interested in that period.

Rather than dwell on what for some may be a somewhat bleak future, many baby boomers would rather spend their time replaying the past, he said.

“Our past slipped away while we weren’t paying attention,” Graham said. “And while we embrace the Internet and iPhones, we feel nostalgic for that simpler era — the ’70s! Like our parents remembering the ’50s, and our grandparents remembering the ’30s.”

While Facebook is a fun tool for building a virtual community, Blythe said, she hopes one day to put together all the information and photography in print form.

“We are the last generation that will actually appreciate books,” she said. 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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