|Joan & Eugene Plourd sport their Easter outfits, Old Orchard Beach c. 1938|
|Old Orchard Beach. Courtesy Seashore Trolley Museum|
It's hard to imagine life without cars, but Maine's track record (pun intended) with tourism predates automobiles by decades. Steamship, railroad, and electric trolley routes and terminals encouraged restaurants, hotels, and entertainment to cluster in places of natural beauty like Old Orchard. Often trolley or steamship companies built up the destinations, creating both the means to get there and the services tourists patronized once they arrived.
|Under the pier at Old Orchard Beach. Erikson photo.|
Once I walked down to the beach, I couldn't resist photographing the gangly pier. It still totters above the waves, propping up numerous eateries and shops, although it doesn't jut out over 1800 feet from shore as it once did. Sipping an ice-cold drink while looking down over surf and crowded beach is still a summer rite of passage for me, but that wasn't my mission yesterday. I took advantage of the low tide and ran the two miles from the pier down the flat, honeyed sand to Pine Point and back. The string of modest motels and hotels trailed off when I reached the Scarborough line.
|Grand hotels at Old Orchard Beach. Courtesy Seashore Trolley Museum|
The stately Old Orchard Beach hotels are gone, sadly. It's their beauty, more than anything, that this time traveler misses. They were destroyed, along with more than 100 other buildings, during a 1907 fire. Their wooden construction and close proximity helped the fire to rage out of control when a young girl reportedly knocked over a gas lamp.
With pasty skin crisped by the sun and leg muscles thrashed by running on the malleable, sandy surface, I had exercised my rights as a year-round Mainer; it's likely I'll be suffering from the experience, as well as inspired by it, for days to come.