Joe Brennan, his jacket removed and his shirtsleeves rolled up, stood within whiffing distance of the Washington Channel in 90-degree smoggy weather yesterday and observed that "a lot of us would like to feel that cool salt spray of the Maine coast right now."
But he did the next best thing. Joe--more formally, Gov. Joseph E. Brennan of Maine--had flown in from Augusta to dedicate a Maine Lobsterman statue that has been put on more or less permanent loan, through the National Park Service, to the nation's capital. It's off Maine Avenue--where else?--near the Gangplank Restaurant, just west of Seventh Street SW.
Seven feet high, although it doesn't seem so, the statue on its granite base is an antidote to the stuffy equestrian and heroic sculptures that dot our town. It depicts a real Maine lobsterman, the late H. Elroy Johnson of Harpswell, stooped and putting a peg into a lobster's claw.
The statue was done by Victor Kahill, a Lebanese immigrant, and in its original plaster version was exhibited at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair where it was seen by a young law school graduate, Edmund S. Muskie, of whom more later.
In 1979, Camp Fire (in the old days we called them Camp Fire Girls) of Cundys Harbor--what a perfect Down East name!--decided the statue should be in Washington. Led by Camp Fire leader Ruth Heiser, now 74 and an Ohio transplant, the unit raised $30,000 in large and tiny donations to get the statue down to us.
About 15 Camp Fire members from Cundys Harbor were part of the ceremony. So were Gov. Brennan, Sens. William Cohen (R) and George Mitchell (D) and Reps. John R. McKernan Jr. (R) and Olympia J. Snowe (R), and Muskie, who served as Maine's governor, U.S. senator and secretary of state. He gave the main address and joined Maine lobbyist Don Larrabee in an off-key rendering--not singing, but rendering--of the Maine state song. Which, legend aside, has to do with pine trees, not beer steins.
If this item is overlong, let's admit a personal bias: Had this ceremony taken place 50 years ago, my late father-in-law, Rep. John Gregg Utterback (D-Maine) would have been in the seat occupied yesterday by Rep. Snowe.