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Old 03-21-2016, 11:01 AM   #15
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
Wonderful! First hand experience!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
To the PCs, at least for this adventure, only the northwest part is relevant. They have already travelled from Houlton through Port Kent, down to the Saint John Valley, and are primarily concerned now with the tiny towns of Allagash, Dickey and St. Francis, with a slight chance that they might have to drive up to Saint John Plantation again or visit another nearby township in the Valley. They might visit Port Kent again and there is a theoretical chance that their case might take them all the way to Ashland and environs, if they decide that it merits further investigation, but at the moment, they are confined in a snowy bubble to their rented cabin in Allagash (which means that they are effectively also in Dickey, as it's the unincorporated part of Allagash).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
Uninhabited, check. Apart from the ca 4,000 people who live in Port Kent, the rest of the people who live in the adventure area probably number less than 2,000, with Allagash and St. Francis at just under 500 people each and two or three other townships at 100-250 people per, as well as several tiny villages or rural homesteads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
The Duran-Duran/Wham controversy wasn't a thing in North America, as far as I can remember.
I'm shattered. I hope they knew a-ha and the incomparable musical stylings of Rick Astley, at least. Wouldn't be the 80s without them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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).
What other 80s music was popular in Maine?

What was playing in diners or gas stations, if you can remember? Do stereotypical Mainians in this extremely rural part of the state listen to country music? Classic 60s rock?* Stuck-on-a-time-loop Jukebox that offers the flower of the most lily-white music of the 40s, from Glenn Miller and the Andrew Sisters to Bring Crosby? Edith Piaf?

*By the way, exactly when did 60s counter-culture become an acceptable staple of conservative dad-types? By 1988, can a conservative FBI agent in his late 40s listen to the Rolling Stones and be a boring old fogey for doing so, rather than an edgy rebel rocker?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
Yeah, like Allagash and Dickey.

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
The weather started to worsen as the PCs drove from Houlton and has now been pretty worrying for 24 hours. Heavy snowfall, until it got too cold for more snow, at which point there is an eerie stillness and everything is covered in a very thick snow layer. Locals are predicting that the wind will pick up again in the afternoon and by nighttime, they'll have a very bad blizzard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Aroostock County is and was more conservative socially than southern and coastal Maine.
So, in 1988, would you expect open displays of prejudice against alternative lifestyles, for examples?

How would a middle-aged gay couple of New England men who bought a vacation cabin in northern Aroostok County, Maine, be treated in 1988?

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Cellphones weren't a thing but, as a volunteer ambulance dispatcher, one relative had a CB radio at home
How good is the range on those things?

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
Murder She Wrote! I enjoyed that show, I'm glad to hear I can take in a few episodes and work on a Maine drawl.

Don't you hear some sort of Acadian French influence in the accent if you're in the Saint John Valley, i.e. at the border with a part of Canada that's pretty heavily Francophone? The 'biggest' town near my adventure area is Fort Kent and that seems to be a stubbornly French-speaking town, American though it may be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
The close relationship with the border is a feature of the adventure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
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.
Right. That sounds like a lot of the US, actually.
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