For today’s commentary, I was going to tell you what I was doing on the first of January 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 years ago – to see if I could wring a tear of nostalgia from your eyes. But I gave up because when I read through my diaries, most New Year’s Eves were about the same. For many, many years, I was on a bandstand playing for a dance, got home half froze [sic] to death at 2 in the morning and slept until 10.

Thirty years ago today I played in Brunswick with Brad Terry, Muriel the Midcoast Monster and Randy Bean. About every year before his untimely death in 1988, I played for a dance with Dick Cash. Everyone had a gig for New Year’s Eve and good musicians were booked a year ahead.

I remember one year in particular at the Shrine Club in Belfast. People worked up a sweat dancing, so someone opened a door to let in a bit of January first relief. Those of us on the bandstand were only moving our fingers and, being a wimp who likes his creature comforts, I put on my snowmobile suit. A man who danced by oozing celebration took offense and told me to take it off. I wouldn’t. I was evicted and waited outside in the car until the others packed up and left.

Compared to Washington County, people in our area of the Maine coast are relatively civilized. Unless my memory fails me, it was 70 years ago that my buddy Red Minzy had his two front teeth knocked out by just stepping into a Dennysville dance hall.

It might even be difficult for a resident of Cape Elizabeth to believe a young man could do that – unless they have skunkholed and ventured ashore down Pembroke way.

Sixty years ago we went to local gigs in one car. Drums, string bass, horns and four or five of us would all manage to fit into one vehicle. We earned our 10 bucks.

My mother played piano on many gigs in the ’60s. One New Year’s Eve she was walking down into the basement to the ladies powder room and met a woman crawling up the stairs. The woman squinted up at her with one eye and, with the “I don’t get it” face of an eighth-grade girl, croaked, “Happy New Year.”

If you never kept a diary, you’re not missing a thing. I heard that my neighbor Gladys Hocking, who lived to be almost 100, read hers and immediately burned them. A great loss, as it would be fun to know who was doing what to whom in St. George, Maine, in 1921.

Anyone who has read a diary that they wrote in 1955 can tell you that some of the good old days are best forgotten. If you never kept a diary, you are lucky because most of your memories look like Norman Rockwell’s paintings.

Any young person who might be all alone New Year’s Eve and wondering why love and a happy marriage have eluded them should not despair. (My diary tells me that one night on the bandstand, I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see all the people hugging at midnight.) Many of us survived an eternity of lonely nights. It is not until years later, when you see your friends’ children doing prison time, that you thank Mother Nature that you had very bad breath until you were 30.

Because I have a written record of many lonesome January firsts, I can tell lonesome young people to consider an alternative: Get married when you’re in high school and have three kids, bang bang bang, with a spouse who you soon learn to dislike immensely. While either one of them is changing a diaper, ask what they would give to be lonesome for just two days. If you really want to wallow in New Year Cheer, talk to a person whose once-happy home has been commandeered by recently evicted relatives.

I don’t mind leaving my diaries behind with all their good, bad and ugly. My wife, Marsha, the old school marm, says that the present generation is not being taught to read handwriting.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:
www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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