The Universal Notebook: Betwixt and between Brunswick, Yarmouth

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Come Labor Day it will be one year since we moved from Yarmouth to Brunswick, and I have concluded over the intervening months that we did not move far enough.

I constantly find myself caught betwixt and between the two towns.

I now do my grocery shopping at Hannaford in Brunswick, though it feels a bit cramped and dated after the newly renovated Yarmouth supermarket.

But my church, doctor and dentist are still in Yarmouth. We keep meaning to attend a worship service at First Parish Congregational Church in Brunswick (which I tend to refer to as the Church of the Holy Rotary), but as I am still a deacon at the First Parish Congregational Church in Yarmouth, I feel I owe my diminishing church attendance to Yarmouth.

Both Yarmouth and Brunswick are progressive communities, so I am just as comfortable having folks like Mattie Daughtry, Ralph Tucker and Stan Gerzofsky representing me in Augusta as I was or would be with Dick Woodbury, Janice Cooper and Cathy Breen in Yarmouth.

But being a recent arrival/deserter, I’m not sure whether and where I should take a stand on local issues.

In Brunswick, the Downeaster train barn proposed for downtown seems entirely unnecessary and badly misplaced, but the project has been railroaded through so I guess we’ll just learn to live with it.

In Yarmouth, for no good reason I can imagine, they are toying with the idea of tearing down the bridge that carries Route 1 over Main Street. I guess if you’re looking to create traffic jams, that’s not a bad idea, but the overpass bridge works just fine and is a local landmark, so I guess I’d vote to keep it. If I still had a vote.

I miss my Yarmouth neighbors, but I get to see folks at church and when I stop at Rosemont Market for good baguettes, something hard to come by in Brunswick. Wild Oats has great sweets, but I prefer Rosemont breads.

We have gotten to know our near neighbors in Brunswick, which Carolyn was concerned might be harder to do, as we don’t have kids in the schools and don’t attend the local church. But we already knew plenty of folks in Brunswick and I just learned yesterday that old friends from Yarmouth are buying a house three blocks from here.

Yarmouth (pop. 8,000, 22 square miles) is a suburban bedroom community with great schools and intact village center. Brunswick (pop. 20,000, 54 square miles) is the eighth largest municipality in Maine, larger than most Maine “cities,” but it has the feel of a small town that just happens to have a vibrant downtown, a lot of parks and open space and more than its fair share of good restaurants. Yarmouth has pizza. Brunswick has Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, German, Mexican, Irish, you name it.

Brunswick also has a wonderful public library, though I’d call swapping Merrill Memorial in Yarmouth for Curtis Memorial pretty much a wash. Great service, facilities and collections at both.

I do miss the Yarmouth dump (transfer station), which is cheaper and more convenient to use than the Brunswick dump (landfill), but Brunswick does have curbside pickup, so I guess I’ll call public works a draw, too.

Brunswick, of course, also offers all the amenities of Bowdoin College. My father was a senior at Bowdoin in 1949 when I was born, so in a certain sense Brunswick is my hometown. The first place I lived was an apartment in what is now the Elks Lodge on the town green.

I thought living within walking distance of the Bowdoin campus might elevate my cultural life to new heights with lectures, performances, exhibitions and sporting events, but I confess that, other than viewing a couple of art shows at the museum and attending a single hockey game, the college has thus far proved to be mostly a very elegant dog park.

Just about the only thing I don’t really like about living in Brunswick is that I have to cross a busy street every day to fetch the mail from the mailbox. Home delivery stops four or five houses down the street. If I could change one thing, that would be it: home delivery the length of the street.

The betwixt-and-between phenomenon may come into play in a more serious way if and when I ever fail to make it safely back and forth across the street for the mail.

What hospital do I go to now? I was born at Maine Medical Center in Portland. All my medical records are in Portland. But should my bumper sticker read “Take me to Maine Med,” “Take me to Parkview” or “Take me to Mid Coast?”

Sidebar Elements

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • David Craig

    Edgar, I always enjoy The Universal Notebook and we miss you here in Yarmouth. I want to offer one correction. Yarmouth is NOT “toying with the idea of tearing down the bridge that carries Route 1 over Main Street”. That option was considered months ago and soundly rejected by the town council after hearing much spirited input from both sides (the majority agreeing with you and the council). Instead, a volunteer committee is working with town staff, the council, and the MDOT to make the best bridge project possible. The MDOT will have the final say (it’s their bridge), but the town wants to give input into creating an appealing and useful bridge for the next 100 years, while minimizing the disruptions to traffic and business during the construction period.

    • EABeem

      Thanks. I’m obviously already some months out of date on Yarmouth public affairs.

  • truther

    I know, I know, it’s beating a dead horse, but since the issue has been brought up again — that bridge absolutely should have been taken down. I don’t say that to try to change anyone’s mind. Ed, however, says he can’t imagine any good reason why the bridge would be removed. For what it’s worth, I can imagine tons of good reasons. I think the town would have been better off without it. C’est la vie.

  • Bob Rossi

    I’m sure you’ve lived in Brunswick long enough now to have discovered the breads at Morning Glory Natural Foods. I assume they still carry Black Crow breads, which are outstanding. And although Black Crow doesn’t make baguettes (or at least doesn’t sell them at any places I’ve been), last time I was in Morning Glory they still carried Standard Baking baguettes, which are probably the best in Maine. And there’s also Bisson’s over in Topsham, which has fantastic raw milk butter as well as heavy cream.

    • EABeem

      Just back from a Bisson’s run for hamburger, bacon and chicken thighs. I have a daughter who gets the raw milk. I am aware of the Standard Baking baguettes at Morning Glory, it’s just that more often than not they are gone before I get there. Wild Oats seems to make sweet, cake-y breads rather than chewy, sourdough breads. But man does not live by, etc, etc. I won’t starve in Brunswick.