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Caribou: 1940

Caribou: 1940

October 1940. "Scenes along U.S. Route 1. Main street in Caribou, Maine." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


Alphie Michaud

I'm guessing it was this guy:

Bold of him to tag his own name in such a public place in a small town. He probably got quite the whoppin' when his father found out!


The 1940 census shows that 23-year-old Alphie Michaud and his 17-year-old brother Freddie were employed as pinsetters at the bowling alley, a low paid part-time job that usually meant working at night. Alphie probably had plenty of time for shenanigans.

Underground utilities

I believe we're watching a crew working on water or sewer lines—the Caribou Water, Light, and Power Co. pickup is something of a clue. It looks like we have a crew of six: the two shovelmen, dude with the crowbar, the guy with the sledge, a swamper, and a crew chief smoking his pipe. As for the literal sidewalk superintendents, when did you ever see a construction project that someone wasn't standing there and enjoying the pleasure of watching someone else have to work?

A long way from nowhere

Kittery, the first town you hit in Maine as you drive north on I-95, is less than halfway between New York City and Caribou. And when you finally arrive in Caribou, you're still another hour and a half from Fort Kent, on the St. John River across from Canada, where US Route 1 begins (or ends, if you started in Key West). Maine is a big state (by Eastern US standards), bigger in acreage than the other five New England states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut) combined.


One thing that's always missing in photos from these eras is the scourge of graffiti. Wondering, however, why there is what looks like someone's name on the roof of the automotive shop?

Oh, what's it all about, Alphie?

The writing is on the ... roof.

Some things don't change

Ten men watching, two men working.


What's it all about, Alphie?

How far north is Caribou?

Start in New York City, and drive north. When you enter Maine, you are still less than halfway to Caribou.

Measure twice, write once

I think Alphie might have had one Rheingold too many before pulling his little stunt.

Instant Nostalgia

If there is anything in this world that makes me long for The Way Things Used to Be, it is the sight of a Rexall sign. There was a time when there was a Rexall drug store everywhere you went, coast to coast and border to border. Every one was a little different, but every one smelled exactly the same. Greatly missed.

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