Saturday, September 1, 2012

Eat Here & Get Gas

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Labor Day holiday weekend.

OK, this is not the most original advertising come-on.  I have seen it posted on various gas station-general store signs across the width and breadth of the United States.  Yet, when I think of it, only one place comes immediately to mind - Buddy’s Store, on Sabbathday Road right here in New Gloucester, Maine.  For years it was the closest store to our lakeside cottage where we frequently stopped for milk or bread, soda or beer, toilet paper or maybe a whoopie pie.  More importantly, it was a place where I came in the early morning for that first cuppa joe and perhaps a hot breakfast while I listened to the local regulars solve the problems of the world over their mugs of coffee.  Each year it was the same guys sitting at the same table.  Only difference was the problems they were solving.  I just listened and soaked it all in.

Unfortunately those days are long gone.  That was back when Buddy’s was still located on State Route 26, one of the main highways running north from Portland through the hills of western Maine to the New Hampshire border and beyond, passing through Dixville Notch on the way to Colebrook, New Hampshire.   Route 26 has long been a major route for Canadian beach traffic in the summer being the most direct route from Montréal to Old Orchard Beach, south of Portland.  It is also popular with the autumn leaf peepers heading into the Oxford Hills and the foothills of the White Mountains, as well as with skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts on their way north from Portland and Boston to the Sunday River ski area near Bethel.  Thousands of car would pass by Buddy’s daily, and it was a convenient rest stop for gas and treats.

Route 26 still carries much of the traffic between Portland and Montréal, but it no longer passes by Buddy’s Store, the result of a three mile long by-pass and realignment opened in early 2004.  Consequently, Buddy’s is no longer the rural highway mecca it use to be as this old section of the highway, full of narrow S-curves, is now Sabbathday Road operated by the town of New Gloucester and used mostly by those with homes and cottages here on Sabbathday Lake.

Buddy’s is still there with its sign beckoning travelers to stop for “gas,” yet very few people do these days.  Frequently when I drive past there is no one around save the person running the small take-out pizza joint that now occupies most of the space.  Gone are most of the assorted canned good, bread, household goods, automotive supplies, fishing tackle, and the few tables where I use to eat breakfast and catch upon the local goings on.  Now there is small shelf with a very few items and the wall coolers still offer beer and soda, eggs and bacon, milk and cheese, and nightcrawlers.  Otherwise, all that was once Buddy’s is now gone and I drive by saddened by the fact that only the name and a few fading memories are left.

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