Nearly 30 years ago (where have the years gone?) I was a young man in the United States Navy, ready to serve my country and save the world. After I completed basic training at the old Recruit Training Command (RTC) in Orlando, Florida, I went to school in Pensacola, Florida, for nearly a year before being assigned to a follow-on school in Winter Harbor, Maine.
I remember the drive to Winter Harbor. I had never been that far north or to any part of New England. Everything was an adventure, and I was so excited about it all.
As I drove north from Boston along I-95, I realized how far I was traveling. Once I passed Portland, I was in a different environment. When I arrived in Bangor, or Ban-aware as the locals called it, I felt like I was in another country, but I still had a way to go before I reached Winter Harbor (or Wintah Haabaah as the locals called it.
I left I-95 at Bangor and proceeded to the town of Ellsworth along US 1A. I didn’t know it then, but Ellsworth would soon seem like the big city.
From Ellsworth, it was another trip along US-1 through some beautiful, rugged country towards the coast. Eventually, I turned on to 186 and proceeded to Winter Harbor. When I got there, the town looked like a Rockwell pairing come to life. There were fishing boats in the harbor right where the road made a sharp left. I continued for several more miles until I reached Acadia National Park. The base was inside the park. A twisting one-way road eventually brought me to the base’s front gate. Here I was greeted by what looked like a castle
The command building was associated with the Rockefeller family. Sadly, I cannot find a picture of the enlisted quarters and the galley, demolished after the base was closed.
Winter Harbor was very remote. When I was there you didn’t have cell phone service, and landline phones still had pulse/rotary dialing, and you only had to dial the last 4 numbers for the base and the entire town.
The best story that illustrates how isolated the base was happened when a Subway restaurant opened in the town of Ellsworth, about 25 miles away. People from the base drive in caravans to buy Subway sandwiches in bulk because it felt like civilization had finally discovered us.
I made some friends Ike I was there, but military friendships are often temporary and transitory. I’m no longer in touch with any of them.
I left Winter Harbor and went on to my next duty station. If the mood hits, I’ll write about that one as well.