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Things were different in the old Maine. Back then homes in Maine were heated by wood. It was hard work cutting, splitting and drying 8-10 cords of firewood. It then had to be hauled into the house and burned in the kitchen or parlor stove. Once burned, the ashes had to be hauled back outside.
Eventually people began heating their homes with coal, which was also time-consuming and very dirty. In these enlightened times we have modern oil heat, but at our place we still burn about two cords of wood in the Jotol each winter.
Our grandparents used to go to Boston by packet, which was time-consuming and often dangerous. Now we speed toward Boston on modern highways like (5, 128 and 495. Come to think of it, they're time-consuming and dangerous, too, so there was little change there.
One hundred years ago indoor plumbing was unheard of in many parts of Maine and people had to endure the inconvenience of chamber pots and outhouses. Now we have to endure the inconvenience frozen pipes, leaks and septic systems, but no one wants to go back to chamber pot/outhouse days.
As things have changed here in Maine we've always managed to adapt and go on with our lives. But there now exists something that could threaten our cherished way of life; a technology that could obliterate our Down East culture.
What says “Maine” more than a sprawling, tacky, traffic-stopping over-priced yard sale? I have done my best to record my observations of this Maine institution, this definition of free, unregulated enterprise.
Ever since the invention of the Sunday drive and the rotary lawnmower we discovered that we have nice roads to drive on and lush green yards to drive by. From all this the yard sale blossomed and has been the cornerstone of Maine’s economy. When other industries failed us - shipbuilding, shoes, paper - the yard sale industry was often the only thing our families had. But the yard sale - like most everything else - is changing. What brought about this change? An cyber enterprise called eBay, which is virtually, literally, nothing more than a big, online yard sale. The folks at eBay could change virtually everything we love about our venerable Down East yard sales.
We are now in the process of recognizing these changes and showing the world that we in Maine are nothing if not adaptable. We will do this by abolishing the simple phrase “yard sale” for the more contemporary “Down eastBay sale.” Once the name is officially changed we can change the outdated yard sale to match the reality.
Mainers who think outside the yard have already begun to change. Our Down eastBay pioneers are way ahead of the rest of us. Tired of standing in their yards and haggling with tight-fisted neighbors over some innocuous item, these innovators have started putting these choice items on eBay. They have also started using eBay to shop for items to restock their never-ending sales.
Sometime soon, “summer complaints” will be able to experience virtual Down East yard sales - or Down eastBay sales - without clogging our highways to do it. They won't ever have to leave New Jersey.
Finally, a change that most will agree is for the best.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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