Aug. 17, 1994: Paramount Pictures releases the film “Andre” about an orphaned seal in Rockport that grows up in the care of a girl and her father.

The film is based on a real orphaned seal pup named Andre (1961-1986) that was rescued and raised by Rockport’s harbormaster, Harry Goodridge, and that chose to stay with Goodridge rather than return permanently to the wild.

Andre began attracting crowds when Goodridge built a waterfront pen in which the seal could frolic. The New England Aquarium in Boston offered to take Andre in during the winters, and when it released the seal each spring, it swam 150 miles back to Rockport.

Newspapers began covering Andre’s annual trip so comprehensively that in 1979, newly inaugurated Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan complained that his policy proposals were getting too little coverage.

“There should always be a place on the front page for the interesting, bright, human interest story,” he said at a news conference. “But in the end, it won’t affect the progress of our state government, it won’t change your local property tax rate, or the quality of your local fire department one bit if Andre reaches Rockport.”

Brennan’s remark unleashed a firestorm of angry letters from Andre’s fans. The continuing uproar eventually prompted Brennan to say that his criticism of the Andre news coverage “was the worst thing that I’ve done since I’ve been governor.” In the run-up to his 1982 re-election campaign, he went to Rockport and finally met the seal face-to-snout.

The 1994 movie, based on a book by Goodridge and starring Tina Majorino, Keith Carradine and Chelsea Field, earned $16.8 million at the box office worldwide.

Aug. 17, 1995: General Dynamics, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, announces that it will buy Bath Iron Works for $300 million in cash.

The corporation still owns BIW.

BIW, established in 1826 as an iron foundry and reorganized as a shipyard in 1884 by Civil War veteran Thomas Hyde, is Maine’s largest private employer and the oldest private shipyard in the United States.

Its primary business is designing and building vessels for the U.S. Navy.

General Dynamics originated in 1952 as the merger of Electric Boat and Canadair, a Canadian aircraft builder. In New England it is known best for its Electric Boat division, which is headquartered in Groton, Connecticut, and produces and repairs nuclear submarines.

At the time of the 1995 acquisition, BIW had about 8,300 employees. Its peak employment occurred in 1944, the penultimate year of World War II, when 12,000 people worked there.

The frigate USS Oliver Hazard Perry, now out of service, was one of the many ships built at BIW. At its christening and launch ceremony in 1976, the ship did not move immediately after a bottle of champagne was broken over its bow.

Film star John Wayne, who was a board member of one of the subcontractors that worked on the ship, attended the ceremony. Someone suggested that he give the vessel a shove. He stepped up and put his hands on the ship just as it began to move, making it look as though he had launched it using his own strength.

Phish performs during their opening set on Aug. 16 in front of around 75,000 fans at the former Loring Air Force base in Limestone. Press Herald file photo by David A. Rodgers

A sign on a back of this New Hampshire pickup truck on I-295 left no doubt that the occupants were headed to Limestone and the Phish concert on August 14, 1997. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Aug. 17, 1997: The town of Limestone ends its two-day reign as Maine’s largest community as the band Phish concludes The Great Went concert festival at the former Loring Air Force Base, where 75,000 fans were in attendance.

Many concertgoers spent the weekend  sleeping in tents, campers and other vehicles that lined the entire length of the facility’s 800-acre runway.

It was the top-grossing rock concert in the U.S. that summer. The next year, on Aug. 15 and 16, Phish performed at the Lemonwheel festival, also held at Loring, drawing more than 60,000 people.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

 

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