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Lisa Feldman, Mark LaFond, Mary Beth (Argentieri) O’Connor, & Greg Boardman
For several decades, one of the most popular entertainment venues in the Bangor area was a place called the Auto Rest Park located on Rt. 2 in Carmel.
Reid Hand: I had played for dances no less, just chords on the piano, for a long time before I went to work [at the Auto Rest Park]. They used to have band concerts there; that was really something in those days. This fellow had come out there and built it up.
Class: What was his name?
Hand: Harry Wise. He used to have band concerts, and I used to strum on the guitar, play chords on the piano, and all that stuff. One night they said, “Sunday night, why don’t get up and sing some of those crazy songs you sing?” I said, “Alright.” So I did that for fifteen years. That was an amusement park; he had a full-time caretaker for just the animals. It was a beautiful place, made up well, and he also had probably the first large arcade there was in this area. It was a large, well, I used to spend the biggest part of my time taking care of the machines in there. Then, of course, Prohibition was [over] and in May we opened up a big tent, a dance tent. And from then on it was amusement of all kinds, even to a circus in there, bringing in just a two-ring circus. Oh, I can tell you he made money! We worked, oh, I was on the payroll four nights a week if necessary. Saturday night I was free. I was, just as this picture here, someone, they gave them a season’s ticket to all the Friday night dances, the person that named me the “Deacon.” They used to give me all kinds of names, some I wouldn’t mention in here…
Hand: I had my own band, too, that I worked. [Conversation about the band's name, "Deacon Hand's Orchestra."] Oh, no dancing Sunday nights. In those days you didn’t do that! No, you didn’t sing “X” songs [Conversation about what he meant by this.] I’ll never forget when we had a program on the radio, and this song was published, the name of it was “[Lydia] The Tattooed Lady,” and it was, there was nothing in there; you could make up your own mind, as you say. [Aside about others who sang this song.] We used to get more requests to sing it than any song, or almost any, and they used to, if I happened to get going on that on the air, they’d cut it off. Same as they do it on TV.
Class: Did they ever broadcast from the Auto Rest Park?
Hand: Oh, yeah. Sure, we had a direct line right into WABI in Bangor.
Auto Rest Park, Reid Hand, Deacon Hand, Lisa Feldman, Mark LaFond, Mary Beth O’Connor, Greg Boardman, Carmel, Maine, WABI, WLBZ, radio, television, censorship, Brady Gang, Lydia the Tattooed Lady, Groucho Marx, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, live broadcast
Visit the MPBN site to watch a special that features the Auto Rest Park "Things That Aren't There Anymore: Ride the rails into both Union Stations and take a break at Auto Rest Park." The segment about the Auto Rest Park starts shortly after the halfway mark; look for the mentions of Deacon Hand!
Folklore | Oral History
Hand, Reid. 1975. “The Auto Rest Park.” NA867, CD571.1. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Raymond H. Fogler Special Collections Department, University of Maine.