Today I was working up on the third floor of our barn preparing for what we hope will be the last garage sale. This one may be the biggest. I opened a suitcase and found Thompson family pictures. There were my baby proofs -- the poses not chosen and perhaps my favorite picture. I am often asked how I got into the Lost Trotting Parks Project. Years ago, my cousin Clark and I were playing in the rock pile beyond the hay field across the road from his house. Somehow we decided that when we got old enough we would move to Texas and run a horse farm. Clark and I never made it to Texas. Clark did act on his passion for horses. At one time he owned a trotting horse and actually drove his trotter in a race at the Northern Maine Fair. Clark got me involved with his Waterville based research tied to the horse Nelson and the fairgrounds of the North Kennebec Agricultural Society. We never made it to Texas. However, we do share this passion tied to the age of "When the Horse was King." The following storyboard best describes my passionate awakening!
Thursday, September 30, 2010
In this post, I share a bit of my family history. These photos were taken in Limestone, Maine between 1920 and 1935. My grandfather, Arthur Leroy Thompson, known as Roy Thompson, originally owned a farm that was located on what is now the former Loring Air Force Base. My grandmother, not liking the location, encouraged my grandfather to trade farms with the farmer who owned a farm overlooking Limestone. This farm was also located just up the road from her childhood home. The trade arrangement worked and Roy and Laila built their home "up on the hill." The farm buildings still exist.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Last night Bob Knowles, owner of the Unity Raceway from 1960 to 1980 met me prior to the Lost Trotting Parks Presentation at the Unity Historical Society. He provided the images for the following storyboards. Ed Knowles hosted the Unity Fair in 1951. If you examine these photos closely you will see many of the buildings associated with the Unity Trotting Park. A large house was located across from the trotting park. The barns were used to house some of the trotting horses. The long el attached to the house across the street was once used as a dance hall.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Earlier today Nancy Nason called and gave me Bob Knowles' telephone number in Unity. I called Bob. Bob's father Ed purchased the Unity Trotting Park from a Mr. MacIntosh. According to Bob, after the Unity Trotting Park ceased operation it was purchased by a Mr. MacIntosh as a training track. For a period the property was controlled by the Legion. Bob's father purchased the track and operated a raceway. Eventually, Bob took over the raceway which he sold to the Nasons in 1980.
Monday, September 27, 2010
After we left the Common Ground Fair, Dennis St. Pierre and I decided to go and take another look at the Unity Raceway. The races were held yesterday and the cleanup crew was there working. I spoke with one of the crew members. I was directed to a store across from the track. The store owner, Nancy Nason was also the owner of the raceway. Nancy and her husband purchased the raceway from Robert Knowles. Robert's father Ed may have the purchaser of the trotting park who converted the track for cars. We are currently attempting to contact Robert Knowles.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
When people became more interested in cars than they were in horses, the old trotting park quickly moved on to cars. According to Robert Winship, harness racing ended at the Unity Trotting Park in the late 1930's. Racing with cars became the rage!
The second photo from the left on the bottom row shows a dirt road that may have been part of the original trotting track.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
When speaking with my cousin, Clark Thompson, the other day I mentioned that we had limited images to use in Unity's Lost Trotting Parks storyboards. Clark informed me that the Vickery Collection at the Special Collections Library at U. Maine's Fogler Library had an original 1875 Poster of the Grand Opening of the Unity Trotting Park. I contacted Elaine Smith at the Special Collections Library and she located the poster. My friend, Dennis St. Pierre, who is a graduate student at Orono, made time to take a digital photo of the poster. So my thanks to all! I believe the effort was worthwhile.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
This Sunday at 2:00 PM, Stephen Thompson will speak at the Livestock Speaker's Area at the Commonground Fair. Thompson's presentation will focus on the history of horses in Kennebec County, the story of Nelson, Maine's World Trotting Stallion, and Maine's Lost Trotting Parks.
On Tuesday, September 28, 2010, at 7:00 PM Stephen will present Maine's Lost Trotting Parks at the Unity Historical Society. The Unity Park Association will be featured. We are still looking for photographs of trotting in Unity. Harness racing ended in Unity in the late 1930's. If your family was in any way connected to trotting in Unity, please check your old photos to see if you might have an image of the Unity Trotting Park (also known as the Stevens Trotting Park.
In 1875 the Maine legislature empowered the Unity Park Association in Unity, Maine to raise funds for the development of a trotting park. The trotting park is now Unity Raceway. According to Robert Winship harness racing occurred at the park into the late 1930's. His grandfather owned a 1/3 interest in the park. After his graduation from high school in 1935, Robert worked at the trotting park. He dragged the track after each race.
We are still searching for photographs, newspaper clippings, and programs from the Unity Park Association. If you are a harness racing memorabilia collector and have an items related to Unity, please call Stephen Thompson at 207-242-7774 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
On Friday Peter Stowell and landowner Vernon Packard joined me once again in the search for the grandstand at Merrill's Park. This time armed with a handheld GPS we walked to the coordinates on the pathway that were close to the grandstand location. With our limited time, our latest attempt failed. Yesterday I visited Google Earth and created this storyboard. Hopefully, this storyboard along with more GPS coordinates will help us find the cement posts that supported the grandstand.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Chris Cart is one of Maine's most talented artists. His work both as an artist and graphic designer are superior. In 2007, I commissioned Chris to do a painting that I have titled, Fathers and Sons. It is a painting that depicts a family fishing trip of fathers and sons to Lake Berry Mountain in the Gaspe.
His talents would be put to good effort painting historic and current scenes of harness racing in the State of Maine.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Following this title page are eleven posts that include 39 storyboards. These storyboards present racing results for many of Maine's lost trotting parks and existing trotting parks. Best times for each track are listed. The text sections are copied from Google Book scans of the Harness Racing Guide.