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Old 03-21-2016, 10:05 AM   #8
Join Date: Sep 2011
Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

I used to visit a couple of my aunts and some cousins who lived in Aroostock County at that time. While my memories are a bit fuzzy, i.e. I didn't pay a lot of attention to specifics, I can perhaps give some general impressions. First, Aroostock County is big, not only by Maine's standards but by New Brunswick standards as well, it's as large as Connecticut and Rhode Island combined and it has a low population. It's peak population was about 104,000 in the 1960s, mostly as a result of Loring Air Force Base near Limestone. The population was in decline from the 1960s on. By 1990, the population would reach the levels it had in the 1930s. One of the big issues in Aroostock, and Maine more generally, was youth leaving for work elsewhere.

Aroostock County is close to uninhabited in the northwest, roughly west of State Road 11. Interstate 95 is a divided highway with a wide, natural median strip; two lanes of traffic in each direction; cloverleaf bypasses of communities; and a 60 mph speed limit (most U.S. highways were 55 mph at the time, IIRC). U.S. 1 which runs north from Houlton, is an undivided highway with one lane of traffic in each direction, no passing areas (where the road widens briefly to three lanes to allow passing [if you're fast and on your toes]) and does run through communities, so the speed limit frequently drops from 55 mph to 30 mph. Calculating travel times if you're not taking the interstate can be deceiving. Going to Caribou from Perth-Andover took close to twice as long as I figured based on the posted speed limit, though some of that was getting behind a slowpoke on the highway.

The Duran-Duran/Wham controversy wasn't a thing in North America, as far as I can remember. My aunt's grandchildren were far more taken at the time by Weird Al Yankovitch and they loved the Dancing in the Streets video (which in 1988 was still being shown occasionally in theatres as filler while waiting for the movies to start).

Some side effects of the low population are worth noting. The only two cities in Aroostock, Caribou and Presque Isle, have populations of less than 10,000 each and are both bigger than the county seat of Houlton, a town of about 8,500. Other towns are smaller than that and some towns run together. For example, one home in Island Falls is next door to a home in Crystal.

Most residential buildings have wood, as opposed to brick, facades. Although no really bad blizzards (bad blizzards drop enough snow to make exiting the house by the second story window on snowshoes both practical and necessary [and yes, I've seen photos from blizzards in the area that were exactly that bad]) occurred during the years I was there, they do happen and people went about equipping their houses accordingly. One of my cousin's had recently had a wood stove installed in one room as an emergency shelter in the event her home should suddenly find itself without power. For similar reasons, half of my aunt's gas range could also operate as a wood stove.

Aroostock County is and was more conservative socially than southern and coastal Maine.

Cellphones weren't a thing but, as a volunteer ambulance dispatcher, one relative had a CB radio at home.

You might want to work on cultivating a Maine accent and drawl. Sheriff Amos Tupper's accent in Murder She Wrote is spot on. One phrase that was popular at the time, though more commonly heard in Calais [about an hour south of Aroostock], was "It's wicked decent," for emphatically good.

Another thing to note is that border towns on both sides of the line have a lot of intermarriage and consequently a lot of visiting back and forth. It's not unusual on either side to hear border towns referred to as a single entity, such as St. Stephen-Calais or Woodstock-Houlton. Americans would reverse the order though.

Given the distances involved, long-distance drives were common and not thought of as big deals. My aunt used to drive an hour from Island Falls to Houlton, once a week to play cards and visit with one of her cousins.
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