I first ran into Paul in 1977 as I was wheeling a truck load of sound equipment into the parking lot of the Bangor Auditorium in Bangor, Maine. I was on the Black Oak Arkansas Tour. You can just see the auditorium in the background. It is actually one of the few venues still standing I visited regularly when I was hauling Rock n Roll bands. Most of them have been replaced. Bands loved going to Bangor. The crowds were always appreciative and never rioted. Just smoked their pot and drank their wine and grooved on whatever music was in front of them.
Imagine my surprise at seeing this thirty foot tall man standing guard with ax in hand. I remember it well. I had been driving all night and the sight of this silly statue made me chuckle through the rest of the morning. I even took the time to take a picture or two. They have been lost as so much of those years back then have been lost, but my memory of that first meeting still makes me smile.
I also remember asking some stage hand who spoke with just a hint of a French accent about who the Hell the statue was supposed to be. He looked at me like I was from another planet. "You don recognize Paul?" And shaking his head he walked away. Hell, I thought Paul was from Michigan or Minnesota. That's what Walt Disney indicated with his one hour animated extravaganza on "The Wide World of Color" when I was younger. I had to imagine the color part though. We were still just a Black & White household. My dad would not build that first color TV for a few more years yet.
Okay. Why the Hell am I posting about Paul Bunyan? Of the many reasons possible, it would seem that the memory of smiling as I drove into the parking lot is enough to get me fired up. What triggered this memory is the Maine Paul just turned 50 years old. So of course, a date this important in local circles has all the tongues wagging from here to "the county". We may not harvest as much wood as we used to, but timber still rules in the lore and history of my state. The guy who designed Paul was interviewed. The controversy over where he was really born was objectively looked at by local reporters and again they proved Minnesota is full of shit with their claim on Paul's heritage. I decided to find out on my own what I could about this American icon to real manhood.
I had no idea the man was a real person. While dozens of communities from Michigan, Minnesota, and even Oregon claim to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, the Mayor of Bangor points out, "We are the only town that has his birth certificate on the wall." And In keeping with the myth, the birth certificate is the size of a large 2'x3' poster. Well, that seals the deal for me.
So there you have it you pretenders further West. We have the largest statue, the birth certificate, and I am sure the most honest and forthright caretakers of the legend out there.
Odd how one image or story can hook you up to a memory from the past. And when reliving that memory, it expands like a balloon to encompass a whole slew of other memories. Memories you did not know existed anymore. Paul's 50th birthday begot the memory of driving into Bangor in 1977 with Black Oak Arkansas. Black Oak Arkansas begot .........
..........My one and only visit to Disney World in Florida. I forget where we were. Orlando, Tampa? Anyway, we had a day off between gigs with no pressure to be traveling. The band manager bought tickets for everyone to visit Walt's new playground in central Florida. My only real memories of that day involve sharing some joints with the band and crew on the monorail/cable car(my memory is hazy about what it was, just that we were up and above everything). As we flew over the top of the incomplete Disney World, we looked down on construction going on everywhere. Once we exited the monorail/cable car, our visit to Walt Disney World was cut short when soon after departing the car, we were escorted to the exits by security guys. Apparently smoking pot on the monorail/cable car was frowned upon. We all went and got drunk and sloppy at some cheap honky tonk down the road. What a great day.
OH YEAH! I just had to add this because well, I am still laughing. Found it while trying to find out if I was still banned from Disney World after 32 years. Apparently they take a dim view on interpretive expressions of Minnie and Mickey. This mother and daughter duo were banned for life for this.