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Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff
by Tim Sample and Steve Bither
The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CN - ISBN 0-7627-0941-3


Maine CuriositiesH.L. Mencken supposedly once quipped, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." Tim Sample notes in Maine Curiosities that the ability to tell the folks back home that, while on vacation in Maine, you stopped to visit a "nut house" has got to be right up there with flatulence jokes in terms of timeless appeal. He’s speaking, of course, of Perry’s Tropical Nut House on Route 1 in Belfast, Maine.

Perry’s Nut House is just one of hundreds of offbeat and sometimes downright weird stuff that Sample and co-author Steve Bither bring to light in their new book, Maine Curiosities.

Take the Belt Sander Races in Bath. Now let’s get real. Sample says that the reason this exciting new sport would just naturally have to have been created in Maine is the state’s really long winter when there just isn’t a whole lot "goin’" on. And then there’s the Desert of Maine, the Down East Museum of Natural History, The Wilhelm Reich Museum or the House that Orgasms Built, and Lenny the 2000-pound Chocolate Moose. The authors also point out such oddities as a large pink dinosaur named "Floyd."

Many people probably think the fad of wearing jeans slung low on the butt belongs to mall rats and rap artists. No so, say the authors. Mainers have been on the "dropping edge" of haute couture for years. It seems Maine clam diggers had perfected the technique of butt exposure long before today’s teens. They even have a name for it–"flashin’ the Deer Isle Smile."

Creating truly memorable roadside attractions outrageous enough to induce the road-weary driver to pull over and visit seems to be something Mainers are really good at. And there’s more to be seen than slicker-clad seamen and oversized arachnids. Unsuspecting motorists cruising along Route 1 east of Ellsworth in Hancock are usually surprised to see a huge red lobster making its way toward an old-fashioned open-air lobster cooker. "Wilbur the Lobster, " as he’s known, looks as if "he’s heading for a soak in the hot tub after pumping iron at the Arachnid Gym."

Then there’s the big Indian of Freeport. This gargantuan statue has been around since the 1950s when it was built to advertise the Casco Bay Trading Post, which sold moccasins Indian belts, and decoys, among other souvenir paraphernalia. These larger-than-life advertising symbols from the days of Brylcreme and doo-wop are all that remain from before Maine outlawed such outdoor advertising.

This book is hilarious–and even more so since I’ve actually visited many of these sights. And until I read this book I didn’t know that earmuffs were invented in Maine. Maybe it’s time for me to get a life!

Buy this book...


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