In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Sociography of Maine, 1948

In the summer of 1948, twenty-seven students took a Sociography of Maine class based at Gorham State Teachers College (now the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine). It was taught by Errol Dearborn, then President of Farmington State Teachers College, and Charles Preble, instructor of Physical Science and Geography at Farmington. Deering High School History teacher Elizabeth Ring was also a part of the faculty.

The course was state-wide tour of Maine to explore the “physical, cultural, economical, and geological aspects” of the state. A record of the class travels, in the form of a typed diary, was created by the students. It included details about the places visited, along with drawings and humorous stories. Two students even composed song lyrics that referenced some of the highlights of their tour.

Sociography circus drawing

Class began with students forming committees to handle various aspects of the class work. Responsibilities included statistics, attendance, photography, publicity, library, bulletin board, exhibits, diary, and lunch. According to the diary, the initial start of the class was almost delayed because “Mr. Stowell, our all-important lone male student, had in a rash moment spent three dollars of his allowance for ticket to the Barnum-Bailey Circus.” The students viewed the Technicolor film prepared by the first Sociography group in 1947 as an initiation into the course.

Settling In...

The majority of the students stayed in a dormitory on the Gorham campus. They had the option of "the arctic room in the cellar or the tropical one in the attic." They chose to "develop ballerina legs rather than arthritic joints." The students living on campus could make their own meals in the kitchen for day trips and were provided with the equivalent in funds ($12 a day) to cover food and lodging for overnight trips. Students not staying on campus had to pay for their own meals and lodging.

During overnight stays, the group was housed at other colleges or schools, including the Castine Maritime Academy, Washington State Normal School in Machias, Aroostook State Normal School in Fort Kent and the Greenville Consolidated School.

Some time was spent in lectures designed to prepare the students for their outings. Topics included the papermaking process, history of the tourist industry in Maine, history of Portland and other cities or regions to be visited on the trip, and introductions to agriculture, geography, forestry and conservation in Maine.

On The Road...

The group traveled by bus and the first outing was a trip to York, with “Miss Ring in a folding seat by the driver, ready to direct him to all the wrong route numbers.” The bus itself was a challenge, as the engine was located under the back seat and students sitting there got a burst of hot air every time the bus hit a bump. Said “hot seat” was given a new asbestos lining to repair the problem, but eventually they got a new bus with air-conditioning -- an improvement the students greatly appreciated as they continued their travels on hot summer days.

Sociography drawing of a lobster

In addition to visiting many historic and scenic places of interest throughout Maine, highlights of the class included tours of significant economic industries in Maine: the paper mill in Westbrook, a textile mill in Biddeford, an apple orchard and an egg farm in Limington (whose owner was “appropriately confined to his home with the chicken pox”), a dairy farm, the state fish hatchery in Gray, the state game preserve, a Lobster Rearing Station in Boothbay Harbor, Perham’s Maine Mineral Store, Bass Shoe Factory, a sardine factory, a potato chip factory in Fort Fairfield, a fertilizer plant, Portland-Monson Slate Quarry, Wyman Station power plant, and the site were a new naval air base was being built in Limestone.

The students visited several state offices and the state capital building in Augusta, the Shakers of Sabbath Day Lake, the Maine Historical Society, Portland Headlight, Portland Observatory, and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. They also saw a play at Lakewood Theater, took a fishing trip in Camden to catch some cod (and dogfish, which they threw back), and enjoyed a cruise on Moosehead Lake. They even traveled across the border into Canada a few times while touring in Washington and Aroostook Counties, although they were disappointed not to have to show their birth certificates to prove their U.S. citizenship.

Throughout their travels, many in the group collected souvenirs along the way. They also occasionally stopped for brief visits with some of the former faculty of the college, including Miss Katherine Abbott, Miss Virginia Porter, and Miss Carolyn Stone.

The final assignment was a term paper. Students were to write about “one special thing,” explain how they would use the information they learned throughout the class, and describe how they had personally benefited from the course.

By the time their class was done, they had traveled 2,965.5 miles of highways and 66 miles on water for a total of 3,031.5 miles. They also consumed 486 sandwiches and 36 gallons of punch and coffee while on their travels.

Our Travels Together Are Over

Source: Sociography - 1948: Diary of the 1948 Sociography Class, Farmington State Teachers College.