A northbound motorist along Maine’s Route One can find many quaint and charming diversions. From Kittery to Calais to Fort Kent, Frommer’s travel website describes the road as “the route to the best of Maine” and “…a trip along Route 1—especially between Bath and Bucksport—is an idyllic way to experience the best the state has to offer.”
Bath is a pleasant destination, one of a constellation of towns in my local orbit. Several trips to Bath have begun as quests for kitchen tools we couldn’t wait for Amazon to deliver. “Let’s go to ‘Now You’re Cooking’ in Bath” is how the trip starts.
One Friday in December, while looking for a new oven thermometer, we arrived just in time for the “Downtown Bath Open House” (part of Bath’s “Old Fashioned Christmas”) and got swept along the cobblestone streets behind a band of merry carolers. The town’s interesting and eclectic mix of shops flung doors open wide, food and drink was offered, and our trip for a tool turned into a memorable holiday experience.
Not just a trendy tourist destination, Bath even has an IGA on its main thoroughfare (called Front Street). Brackett’s Market, with a “Handy-approved” meat department, adds to the town’s walkable charm.
A similar quest brought me to Bath once again on Saturday, New Year’s Eve Day. After I found my kitchen tool, I poked around the sale merchandise at House of Logan. Needing nothing, I walked back out onto Front Street and ran into a congregating cluster of men and women. A cheerful woman handed me a single sheet of paper with words on both sides.
“Would you like to join us for the bell ringing?”
I didn’t know Bath had a Paul Revere bell and they ring it at noon on New Year’s Eve day. The bell, originally hung in 1803, now resides atop the city hall.
I checked my watch and figured I could spare a quarter-hour for this rare occasion and once again, I was swept along in Bath. We sang “The Twelve Days of a Bath Christmas” which ended something like this:
“On the twelfth day of Christmas, Bath, Maine gave to me:
12 trees a-twinking,
The Maritime Museum,
Longreach Club a-swimming,
9 counselors counseling,
8 Skate Park Skaters,
7 Bed & Breakfasts,
6 ships a-sailing,
5 Morse class rings,
Main Street Bath,
2 looming cranes,
And a Cantilever Balanced Bath Bridge.”
There was a proclamation read by a town notable and then all 75 or so assembled sang “Auld Lang Syne” with special words included to remember the Paul Revere bell’s history. Then the bell rang solemnly. Before weather puppets, Facebook, and Google, ringing bells were how a town’s citizens knew what was trending.
It was a lovely cup of spontaneous kindness in Bath, Maine, a nostalgic way to shoo out the old year and usher in the new. If the fates allow, they’ll ring Bath’s Paul Revere bell again at noon on New Year’s Eve Day, 2017.
“And a cantilever balanced Bath Bridge!”
Ah, they don’t write ’em like that anymore.