In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Mount Desert Island: Shaped by Nature

Twentieth-Century Community Life

Bar Harbor and Bar Island, ca. 1930
Bar Harbor and Bar Island, ca. 1930
Bar Harbor, as it appeared in 1930.
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Islanders still fished, but instead of sailing to Labrador, they stayed more local. Foremost, of course, were lobsters, but other fishermen still pursued fin fish. If the island's seagoing tradition had diminished, the summer yachting scene allowed many shipbuilders to continue on a smaller scale. Mariners could continue as yacht captains. Indeed, some islanders even took up sailing for their own pleasure.

There were still sewing circles, where women socialized as they worked, but now fraternal and farmer's groups, such as the Grange, which reached its peak in the early part of the century, created an enlarged social environment for women and for men.

Way Back Ball, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1945
Way Back Ball, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1945

Item Contributed by
Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Neighborhood houses and community halls had popped up in almost every village. They were intended for what was called "amusements of a wholesome nature." Gambling, strong drink and profanity were prohibited. They hosted village suppers and talent shows, as well as the annual Fireman's Ball or Way-Back Ball, where people dressed in clothes from an earlier time. The halls also housed the village basketball teams and intense rivalries developed. To add to the fun, Seal Harbor held an annual Old-Timers basketball game, pitting the village team against the "old-timers" outfitted in long-johns, to raise money to give a wrist watch to each graduating high school senior.

People also started going to the movies. Emily Reynolds and her husband Bill Dolliver built the Pastime Theatre in Northeast Harbor in 1913. In summers the Pastime also hosted plays, offering vaudeville between acts. The Park Theatre opened in Southwest in 1919, and soon, even Somesville was showing movies Thursday evenings at the Masonic Hall. In fact, movies were being shown at most village community halls. In 1932 the Criterion Theatre, with more than 700 seats, opened in Bar Harbor.