DaytonaDemon t1_jeauutj wrote

The coloring contest that changed my father’s life, and didn’t

By Liz Brown

In the summer of 1955, when my father was 8 years old, he won 5 acres of lakefront property in a Davy Crockett cartoon coloring contest.

The contest was sponsored by Hood Milk and the now defunct Boston Post and was open to children ages 13 and under. Weekly winners, announced throughout the summer, were offered a variety of smaller prizes, including flannel shirts and Little Golden Books. Second place was a set of dinnerware by “unusual ceramicist” Sacha Barton, and third was an 8mm camera. The grand prize was the land on Lake Mooselookmeguntick in Rangeley, Maine, and it came with a prefabricated Davy Crockett cabin and playhouse to be delivered to the property by flatbed truck.

My grandmother, a visual artist with a degree in painting and drawing from Boston University, had reportedly frowned at my father’s entry, saying it was too plain and not flashy enough to catch the judges’ eyes. “Some kids put glitter on theirs,” my father said, recalling his competitors’ desperate moves. “Davy Crockett didn’t wear glitter.”

Upon hearing the news of my father’s impressive win, a neighbor offered $50 for the property — or about $485 today. My father said no.

At such a young age, my father already knew what it meant to own a piece of property — and what it meant not to.

His family had no home. His father, whom I never met, had left my father, his older brother, and my grandmother when my father was an infant, fleeing to California to start a new family. My father and his mother and brother moved into my grandparents’ three-bedroom house in West Roxbury in 1948.

That was where he plotted his future — he would become a soldier, like Davy Crockett, until he retired to his cabin in the woods. The Army would be his family, stable and structured, with clear-cut rules and chains of command. The Army was a family that would never break apart.

I don’t remember when I first started hearing about “the land,” but we went to visit it when I was around 8 years old myself. Lot 13 was on a dirt road in thick woods, and it was pure, untouched woodland. There was no path to the water, so we crept over fallen branches and wild brush to get to the small piece of lakefront. The water was choppy and rough, but the shore was covered with smooth rocks. I picked one up to keep with me and lost it in one of the many moves we made for Dad’s career in the military.

For reasons no one can quite remember, my grandmother never followed up on the other prize, the prefab cabin and playhouse.

“She really blew it not getting that cabin up there,” my father often said when I was growing up. “It’s too late now.”

Throughout his life, Dad toyed with realtors, checking in on the property’s estimated sale price every couple of years and then slamming down the phone in a rage over an inadequate offer.

In 1994, a few years after he separated from my mother, he moved to a tiny cabin on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It made no sense to me then, but when I look at a map now, I see that it was a direct drive to the lake in Maine. He was trying to get closer to the land.

When I was 26 years old and living in Los Angeles, my mother called, frantic. I needed to fly home immediately, she said. My father was surely dying, and I had to say my goodbyes. He had suffered a massive hematoma. Doctors were unsure if it was due to an old head injury he’d suffered from a rocket-propelled grenade in Vietnam or if he had fallen while hiking alone and had forgotten about it.

It was the day before Christmas Eve. I purchased an outrageously expensive plane ticket and was at his bedside the next morning. He was conscious but altered, shaking his head from side to side. The first thing he said to me was “Lizzie . . . no less than $300,000.”

I knew what he meant right away. The land was at the forefront of his mind even on his presumed death bed. His price was triple what others in the neighborhood were asking for their land, but I just said, “OK, Dad.”

“It’s lakefront,” he said, before drifting off for the briefest of sleeps.

My father didn’t die that day.

He worked for months in physical therapy and seemed mostly recovered a year later, but his fantasy of building his own cabin on the land faded. He was broke. He moved back in with my mother, taking over the living room couch.

In late 2019, a few months before COVID-19 hit, Dad was diagnosed with Agent Orange lymphoma. Nearly two years of chemotherapy didn’t help. “Time is short,” the doctors told my parents.

My mother, who rarely spoke up about anything, was concerned — both of my grandmothers had lost all they had to the state when they went into nursing facilities. “You better sign that land over to the girls right now,” she warned my father.

And so, after 67 years of holding on, he let the land go. Word spread that the coloring contest kid had given up his land. The pandemic real estate boom had already reached rural Maine. Three months after he signed the land over to my sister and me, a real estate agent called about a buyer. We all had expenses. My parents’ house was in need of repair. I was raising a disabled child in an expensive city. My sister was on the verge of making her own art business profitable and needed help getting over the hump. We negotiated a price, exchanged paperwork and signatures, and it was gone.

I look at the photo of my father, his mother, and brother beaming with joy back in 1955 at the coloring contest awards ceremony. I want to hold on to this moment where they all look so happy, even though I know the rest of the story. We’ve all known plenty of loss. It’s nice to look back and see us win.


DaytonaDemon t1_jdngj33 wrote

14,000 years ago, this would've been correct.

>About 25,000 years ago when the state was covered during the ice age, the weight of the ice compressed the ground underneath. The ice receded about 14,000 years ago, and the ocean flooded the area up to what is now Medway.
>“The walruses would probably have been living on the ice margins the way they do now in the Arctic,” Jacobson said. “That walrus either died and ended up deposited there, or died on ice and ended up dropping into the water. It had to be an environment the walruses live in, and that would have been the only time [in what is now Maine].”
>Spiess agreed with Jacobson that walruses were in Maine as the ice age was waning.



DaytonaDemon t1_j6fo10x wrote

Fuck VIP. Paid them to put a new battery in my car, I come home, pop the hood — nope, still the same old battery. Called and was told the service writer had made "an error."

That was only months after I went for an oil change and VIP overtightened the oil plug and I ended up with a nasty leak.

They corrected the problem both times but I'm done with that outfit.


DaytonaDemon t1_j32pbch wrote

No link to your art, no explanation of "Skrintch," no information on how to transact, no word on cost, size, method of delivery, turnaround... how come? We're sympathetic to all you're going through but why make this so much more difficult than it has to be?


DaytonaDemon t1_j2eb6c4 wrote

Reply to comment by wmansir in Feel safe by Kazbob48

>A weak battery isn't going to cause a running car to break down on the side of the road.

Exactly this. That was my thinking. There's no proper/legal place to park on either side of the road where I live, so I knew that he hadn't parked the car, visited a neighbor for a few hours, and came back to a dead battery.


DaytonaDemon t1_j2cv67s wrote

Reply to comment by DidDunMegasploded in Feel safe by Kazbob48

>Even if they come in the form of "needing a car jumpstarted at 1am but really they're going to abduct you".

Happened to me about four, five years ago. Mount Desert Island, super-frigid winter night. It's something like 3:30 a.m. and I've fallen asleep on the couch while watching TV. There's a sudden knock on my front door. Bro says his battery died, would I give him a jump start? He points to his car over on the other side of the road.

I'm groggy but have just enough presence of mind to notice that his blinkers are on. So, not a dead battery then. Hmm.

I ask him to hold on while I pretend to get dressed but I'm already on the phone with the cops. They arrive four or five minutes later (I'm impressed), and ask him some questions and detain him. I watch them remove a long gun from his car.

Later I learn he had a handgun that the police also confiscated.

Who knows what his intention were. Maybe he was harmless and it was all some misunderstanding, but yeah, it spooked me a little. Not enough to barricade my doors or even lock my cars. It's absolutely true that Maine is a comparatively super-safe state, and I love that. Still: stay alert people, and stay safe.


DaytonaDemon t1_ix9bsgb wrote

It was a little joke, but OK, if you want to get serious:

At one time, anything you found was the property of the National Trust and they could, and did, take found artifacts from the finder without compensation. Then one treasure hunter found a silver, jewel-encrusted chalice buried in a farmer’s field. The news of this treasure hunter finding the valuable chalice was printed in some British newspapers, and shortly thereafter, the National Trust knocked on the treasure hunter’s door and demanded possession of the item...offering no compensation. The treasure hunter took the National Trust to court charging that the National Trust exceeds its authority when it confiscates an item without compensation. The court agreed. Its decision was that the National Trust has the right to confiscate a found item that it deems to be of national historic value but that the organization is now required to pay the finder for the fair market value of the item.