Yankee Magazine Editor Mel Allen received the key to Bucksport in recognition of his 2018 article “The Town That Refused To Die” at a ceremony honoring the former Verso Paper mill’s workforce during the Bucksport Bay Festival. PHOTO COURTESY STILL MILL PROJECT

Remembering the mill

BUCKSPORT — On Sunday, July 21, amidst the heat and bustle of the annual Bucksport Bay Festival, a crowd of former Verso Paper mill employees, their families and friends gathered at the Alamo Theatre to share thoughts, feelings, memorabilia and sounds of the mill and those who labored there.

A collaboration between Wednesday On Main, Main Street Bucksport, Still Mill Project and the Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, and generously supported by grants from The Maine Community Foundation and The Maine Humanities Council, this event was created to honor and acknowledge the community and citizens who were part of the labor force and the supporting families and businesses that defined Bucksport during 80 years of papermaking.

Drawing from Patricia Smith Ranzoni’s anthology “Still Mill: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine 1930-2014,” a group of 23 authors and musicians, from age 38 to 98, read, sang and played their compositions. They were joined by Ranzoni, Bucksport’s poet laureate, and special guest Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s fifth poet laureate and “Still Mill” contributor.

Kestenbaum, host of Maine Public’s “Poems from Here” program, read meaningfully from his new book, “How to Start Over.” The stories, thoughts and revelations of these writings gave a powerful voice to the good and the hard of life in a factory town — a mirror of lives throughout the country during the Industrial Age and its evolution into the age of automation.

The program was facilitated by Yankee Magazine editor Mel Allen, who introduced the participants individually and led an audience discussion. Allen’s in-depth article on Bucksport — “The Town That Refused To Die” — published in the magazine’s November 2018 issue — earned him the Key to the Town and declaration as Bucksport’s story laureate presented by Town Manager Sue Lessard in the spirit of the afternoon, which was of remembrance and respect, gratitude and pride.

Surrounded by music, student art curated by Melissa LaLonde, and carefully selected artifacts rescued from the paper mill, the crowd enjoyed refreshments from MacLeod’s Restaurant, which fed papermakers for 35 years, and a book signing by Ranzoni. Guests also enjoyed the fellowship of papermakers once more — perhaps for the last time in this way.

“Still Mill: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine 1930-2014” (North Country Press) is available at BookStacks, Main Street, Bucksport, and all profits from sales are dedicated to the preservation of paper making history by the Bucksport Historical Society.

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