John MacDonald (second from left), shared memories of being a Rumford selectmen 50 years ago during the March 2 meeting. He is pictured with, from left, Selectman Jim Windover, Chairman Jeff Sterling and Town Manager Linda “L-J” Briggs.
The Board of Selectmen had a special guest at their meeting on March 2.
John MacDonald, a Rumford selectmen 50 years ago, had been in Florida and was driving home to Nova Scotia, where he has resided for 45 years.
During the drive, he recalled being elected as selectman in February of 1967and thought it might interesting to drop in on a current selectmen’s meeting here.
MacDonald was welcomed by Chairman Jeff Sterling and the board of selectmen. With Selectman Mark Belanger absent,
MacDonald was invited to sit in his seat and speak about his days as a selectmen a half century ago
MacDonald said the selectmen’s meetings used to be in where the town manager’s office is now, but it was a larger room back then.
“We often met with one guest in the audience. Eugene Boivin attended every meeting that I ever went. Usually he was the
only one, so it’s terrific to see so many people here tonight.”
He gave a thumbnail sketch of what it was like in the late 1960’s.
“Overriding these years was the Vietnam War, which had a significant impact on this town,” said MacDonald. For example, one of the town employees was killed in the war. The son of the Mexico head of selectmen was also killed in Vietnam.
“1967 was significant, not because I was elected, but because, after so many years, the Oxford Paper Co., in the hand of the Chisholm’s, was sold to Ethel Corporation. I reminder being on the board that met with Bill Chisholm, who was the president of Oxford Paper. We were very concerned about what was going to happen. We had a dinner meeting at the Madison Motel where he assured us that everything was going to be fine,” he said.
MacDonald said he recalled “vividly” a selectmen’s meeting on a Thursday night in March of 1968 when someone entered and said, “Martin Luther King has been shot.”
Then on June 4, Bobby Kennedy was killed in Los Angeles.
Following that, MacDonald said something very significant for our town happened at the end of August when Sen. Muskie was nominated as a vice presidential candidate for the Democratic party, “and we, the board, met him at the airport in Portland.”
“The biggest issue of the day was solid waste, and a 3-2 decision was made that we would put a solid waste landfill in
Smithcrossing. Well, you can imagine the uproar. I remember going to a meeting in the Sons of Italy hall where it was totally impetuous, to say the least. Then it was decided to move the solid waste over to Mexico, he said.
MacDonald recalled the board at the time. “I was 24, the next youngest was John Zinck, who was 42. These people were all veterans of the second World War.” There was Albert Carrier, Chairman Phil Mercier, Ed Dean and Darby Beliveau, and the
town manager, Leo Morency.
“We sat around the table, it was a totally different time, everyone was smoking. Leo, the only one who didn’t smoke,
eventually contracted lung cancer and died,” said MacDonald.
Sterling joked that perhaps his longish hair would have been “in vogue” during the late sixties.
MacDonald was a selectmen for just the one term.
After that, he said he ended up in St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he earned a Master’s of school
administration. He became a school administrator, then became president of the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union for several terms.
MacDonald retired 20 years ago.
Sterling tabbed MacDonald as “honorary selectman” and invited him to sit through the meeting with the board. Instead, MacDonald sat in the audience, where he remained for the entire meeting.