Today's History Highlights Archive

Maine Swords, Steakhouses and Carousels in Today’s HIstory Highlights

What would a Civil War soldier make of today’s weapons of war? When you walk any Civil War battlefield, one of the most intriguing features is how close the opposing armies were to each other. There was very little hiding and seeking. Because of the limits of technology, the battles involved mainly close-in shooting with astonishing numbers of casualties. But anything else would have been a waste of ammunition. And when the bullets ran low, the bayonets and swords were put to use. The Bangor Historical Society has put together an online display its collection of Civil War swords, and though many were never used in combat, the images can’t help but raise the thought, what good would a sword be to today’s drone-firing combatants tucked away in an office park in the center of the country? Other than for ceremonial purposes, we have laid down our swords, though not in the spirit in which that saying is usually intended.

Portland Maine History 1786 to Present reminds us of that comforting feature of New England’s landscape during the 1960s – Valle’s Steakhouse.  “When traveling through New England, Make Valle’s A Must!” implores a 1963 newspaper advertisement. Then, the family-owned restaurant chain charged $2.95 for a sirloin steak, a T-bone steak or two Maine lobsters. We learn from Facebook that Donald Valle, an Italian immigrant, began Valle’s as a 12-seat café in Portland in 1933. It was a success, allowing him to buy a larger restaurant in Portland, then a nightclub in Scarborough in 1936. By the ‘60s, the Valle’s empire had expanded to Massachusetts – Newton, Saugus and Braintree – and by 1970 to Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Each restaurant seated between 800 and 1,400 customers, and the chain served 40,000 lobsters a week. The gas crisis, poor economy and changing dining habits did Valle’s in, and the last restaurant closed in 2000.

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As we pack away the beach towels and coolers for one more year, today’s Flashback Photo from the Boston Public Library Collections gives us a last taste of summer from Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, R.I. It’s a postcard painting of the Atlantic Beach Park from around 1935. The star of the show, of course, is the oceanside Herschell-Spillman carousel dating from 1915. It still operates today and the park is open for a bit longer, should you have the time and inclination.

When you think of the Mormon Church, what states come to mind? Utah, of course, and then perhaps upstate New York, where founder Joseph Smith was visited with his prophecies. And then perhaps Vermont, birthplace of both Smith and Brigham Young, who took the reins of the church after Smith was killed by an angry mob. Connecticut, however, has a long history with the Church of Latter Day Saints. The church’s fourth president hailed from the state, as did Smith’s maternal ancestors. The state is finally getting its due recognition with the groundbreaking for a new cathedral in Farmington.

Flashback Photo...

Atlantic Beach Park, Westerly, R.I.

Atlantic Beach Park, Westerly, R.I. (Boston Public Library Collections)

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  1. Pingback: 16 restaurant chains you once loved that you'll likely never be able to eat at again | Interesting and funny

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