I was born poor and unless I do something thoroughly stupid or unless something catastrophic and beyond my control happens, I win die a wealthy man… for whatever that’s worth.
The following is mostly about my life in an obscure part of Maine (it’s not on most maps) called Poland Spring. It’s about what can be done with little money, an understanding of what the public really wants, and a lot of interaction with lady luck. You will find that I am extremely opinionated and in most instances those opinions will not only not agree with all those things that you have been taught to believe and to hold sacred, but often to shock and shake you. My credo is simple. I stole it from an old world economist named Adam Smith. THE WORLD IS NOT WHAT THEY TELL YOU IT IS… and believe me, it is not. I don’t mean that some of the things that you are taught or hear or read are untrue… I mean that none of it is for real.
I was born in the booming year of 1927 to poor Jewish parents who stayed poor, or pretty close to it all of their lives. And so we start. If you are not Jewish you probably think that there is no such thing as a poor Jew. I was, and knew plenty of them
Without too much commotion, the word “ghetto” has been usurped from the Jewish people. Originally it had been a walled city within a city in which European Jews were
segregated. Today, blacks, Puerto Ricans, or any minority group living together, think that they are living in a ghetto. The media apparently took it upon themselves to semantically release Jews from centuries of isolation. No Jewish person that I know has complained about the transference. However, I was brought up in a ghetto. It was an American ghetto but a ghetto nonetheless. It was in the Dorchester section of Boston, Massachusetts. Although it had no walls as such we: were surrounded instead by predominately Irish Catholic neighborhoods. These folks were
somehow of the impression that among their Jewish neighbors were those who abetted in the crucifixion of Christ some two thousand years before. Although Roman soldiers were also implicated in this infamy, there were none easily identifiable in the Dorchester area. Therefore young Jewish kids, preferably walking home at night by themselves, were set upon by gangs of rampaging Irish lads who were bent on settling a rather ancient score. They had learned the tactics of attacking their victims with masses of angry young men as their own forebears detailed the violence of mobs of Boston Yankees attacking the immigrant Irish a scant few decades before. Carrying on the venerable traditions of unreasoning hatred they made growing up in the “ghetto” far less than a pleasant experience.
Another battle cry of our antagonists was that Jews were cowards and could not fight.
The establishment of Israel may have changed some of their minds… but I don’t really think that I could have done any better when at the age of twelve I was beat by a gang of at least ten very large sons of Erin who had decided to seek vengeance for my complicity in the above mentioned crucifixion.
Every now and then when some gray haired Irish gentleman learns that I grew up in Dorchester he will clasp my hand in neighborly friendship. “What part of Dorchester did you
come from?” he will ask. “Around Blue Hill Avenue (theJewish‑ghetto) “I reply. His eyes
almost invariably change from “Hi neighbor!” to “… how’d I miss killing you?” “Oh”… he’ll say
and fade away.
I have grown to know the Irish and if it, is possible, which of course it is not, to love a whole people, I really do love them. Cyndi, my wife, and I have been to Ireland twice so far and
have loved every minute of each trip. We have found the Irish people to be gracious, kind to
strangers and entirely engaging. They even had a Jewish mayor in Dublin some years back.
What happens to some of them when they get to America is hard to fathom I love Irish music and have a vast collection, some of it in Gaelic. I think that Irish women are among the most beautiful in the world. My favorite ethnic weekend at our hotel is our St. Pat’s Day in September. We do not open our hotel in March and rather than miss the music, the food, and the fun, we do it in September. It’s a gala event but sometimes I took into the faces of my guests and wonder if I have met them before.
The Pope in Rome is far more Jewish than I am He wears a little skull cap, he reads the old testament, he goes through many religious services, he prays a lot and lives in a palace that most non‑Jews think is common habitat for Jewish people. My mother and father were Jewish. Not terribly religious Jewish but Jewish enough to observe the more important holidays and to
light candies, on Friday night. They never asked me what religion I would care to practice, if any. My circumcision came as a total surprise, My bar mitzvah was accomplished so as not to break
my mother’s heart. I have managed to forget the few Hebrew words I learned for that event. At that time Hebrew was a dead language and I could see no reason to burden myself with it once I passed my thirteenth birthday. As my grandparents spoke Yiddish, I became fairly fluent with that language. Later I was to team that it was a corruption of German, Polish, Hungarian and a few of the middle European languages that Jewish people had picked up in their travels. A few years ago we spent a few days in Hamburg, Germany and I got along fine speaking my grandmother’s Yiddish. The Germans I spoke with thought it was a strange dialect from some other part of the country. It never occurred to them that I was speaking Yiddish…they thought that they had settled matters with all the Yiddish speakers.
There are a world full of people who call themselves Christians, which I assume means followers of Jesus Christ. Most of those that I run into may be following but at a remarkably vast distance. I have read both the old and the new testaments (great literature) several times and my favorite writing is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, Chapter 5. If this is how Christians are supposed to live, I’d like to know where they are living! All of the world’s religions teach love,
and kindness, and tolerance, and yet in its name boundless oceans of human blood has flowed and continues to this day. The world is not what they tell you it is.
In and around Boston in the 1930’s and early 1940’s it was just about impossible for a
Jewish person (whether he practiced it or not) to find employment in a non Jewish owned
company. The big corporations, banks, public service companies and the like wouldn’t waste application paper on you once they heard your name. There was nothing subtle about the
rejection. “We don’t hire Jews” they said… maybe a neat sign reading “Jew need not apply”, would have spared everyone a bit of embarrassment.
My first job, at 25 cents an hour was in a drugstore owned by, Hyman Bronstein. I was 14 years old and preparing for a career in pharmacy. I was still in junior high school but looking toward the future. The pharmacy business wasn’t bad. The hours were, long but you got to eat all the ice cream you wanted. W. Bronstein would encourage this initially as he believed that sooner or later ice cream would lose it’s appeal In my case he was wrong. I easily supplemented my hourly salary with at least another dollar a day worth of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge with personally crushed cashews from the warm nut machine. Mr. Bronstein never complained. He just waited for the day when I would have my fill. It never came. It still hasn’t.
By the time I was sixteen I was making 40 cents an hour and had a steady girlfriend. Her mother showed me a slip of paper on which she had estimated that when I got to 50 cents an hour I could afford to marry her daughter. During this time, I was going to Solomon Lewenberg Jr. High School (You even had to go, to schools with Jewish names!). It was a nice school. Something like a convent school. All of the teachers were single and Irish Catholic. All of the students, of course, were Jewish. There was great rapport. I remember one of those days when a teacher asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. One of the boys said that he wanted to
go into some kind of a business. “Don’t you think that there are enough Jews in business now?” asked Miss Scanlon without rancor. It just seemed to her that the field was overcrowded. I loved history, but never got enough of it. I liked to write compositions but hated to get up and read them, although Miss Driscoll said I was doing fine. Grammar and I were almost complete
strangers as I felt that the purpose of writing was to communicate ideas, even if it was only what I did on my summer vacation. Miss Driscoll liked my writing so much that she never noted that I couldn’t parse sentences, or whatever they call that stuff. I thought of algebra as a complete
waste of time… and I was right. In the next half century I was to encounter only one algebraic problem of a practical nature and I had it solved for me by a passing teenager.
In 1943 I entered, what was then considered one of the finest schools in Boston, English High School. It was a sewer built in a toilet. No longer did we have nice Irish ladies to teach us things we would never use in a lifetime. The faculty now consisted of dissolute and depressed Irish men. They couldn’t care less if you came to school or not. They were waiting for their pensions and whatever happened in between was of little or no consequence. They dressed up all the boys (it was an all boys school) in World War I uniforms, puttees and all, and gave us all
wooden guns. We were instructed to learn drills and to walk around the streets of Boston and march in interminable parades. They even invented a torture they called trigonometry. Never in my lifetime have I ever met anyone who had any use for such knowledge, if that’s what it was. A war was raging in Europe and in the Pacific. I was now earning 45 cents every hour… and I had a girlfriend in Chelsea who wanted to get married. Why in the world was I wasting my time at English High School? My mother was shocked. My father was horrified. They both had their high school diplomas tacked up in the reception hall wall (just over the green wicker sofa and across from the gigantic Eveready Radio). That’s where mine was supposed to go, over the radio. I left school in my junior year. I never regretted it for one second. My mother hung a picture called “The Age of Innocence” over the radio. Her eyes always teared up when Dr. Kildaire came on. She had wanted me to be at least a doctor… she would have settled for a pharmacist.
Twenty years seems like a long time, except when you’re living it, It was a month before my nineteenth birthday when I got married in April of 1946. Looking back, the two decades that were to follow saw Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson as presidents of the United States. No one knew where Korea was and most people had never heard of Vietnam. They called it French Indo China in those days. Television was a dream about to be realized. It took an entire building to house a computer. Pot was something you cooked in and grass something you mowed. Gay meant happy, and you never called a Negro black. There was no need of reminding him of his color. As those twenty years limped by in my life I was to become involved in the birth of two children. One of each kind. They were making the other kind then too, but no one spoke about it. I was working my way up to the lower middle class. In l950 I got to own my first car, used. In l956 I got to own my first new car. A two tone Dodge with enormous fins. I remember reading at the time that Dodge cars had the most appeal to family oriented people. I didn’t understand why, but somehow I found that disturbing. I had a nice wife, two typical children, a small house with a large mortgage and a fairly steady job. What else could one want in the 1950’s? I was to find out in the 1960’s.
I was studying pharmacy nights and working in a drug store days. The law in Massachusetts at the time only required a certain‑ amount of practical experience and the ability to pass a pharmaceutical test. I studied diligently. Paid a week’s pay for Materia Medica and the US Pharmacopea… and they suddenly changed the law. It was now required that to become a pharmacist that you attended day school for four years. That abruptly ended my pharmaceutical career. No more free hot fudge sundaes, but the world would probably become a safer place without my administering to its medical needs.
My mother, realizing that I was not destined for a medical career, staked me to tuition at a college of accounting. As soon as I teamed the difference between a debit and a credit, it took me about three nights, I resigned the courses and found myself a job as Jr. Accountant with a firm of CPA’S. At $17.00 a week, my first mission was to do the personal income taxes of factory workers which my firm did the general accounting. Each person paid $2.00 for their completed tax form and were assured that an “expert” was handling their affairs. That was me on my second day of work and my first introduction to the federal tax form I got pretty good at it. I could easily churn out forty returns in an eight hour day. When the tax season was over, I was detailed to check the work of full charge bookkeepers and run trial balances on their books. By this time, I had almost a full months experience as a junior accountant. My boss suggested that I go to night‑ school and become a CPA He promised to raise my salary to $20.00 per week to help with my tuition. Somehow my experience with pharmacy schools had soured me on “higher
education.” At about that time one of our clients was having trouble with his cash flow. (That’s a new phrase too… at the time it was referred to as not having enough money to pay the help.) Using the three nights experience at accounting school and several months with my CPA, I determined that his cash flow problem had something to do, with the fact that most of the people to whom he extended credit weren’t paying him He thought that I was a very bright boy and hired me as credit manager at the salary of $25.00 weekly. It turned out that I was a whiz at writing collection letters that scared the living daylights out of recalcitrant debtors. Before long I was working for a larger retail furniture store and earning $100.00 a week. I was ecstatic, until I learned that the salesmen who worked half as hard as I did, took almost no abuse, and never had to threaten anyone, were making twice the pay I received. And so our hero became a salesman and shortly thereafter store manager, and by the time the 1950’s came to an end I was earning the princely sum (for 1959) of $300.00 a week… and getting ready to buy another Dodge car.
There was a sexual revolution going on… and I was still buying Dodge cars! In 1961, I grew a beard. It was a neat little thing. Nothing that would cover the neckties to which I was still devoted. Hard to believe today, but people actually stopped in the streets to view my beard and little children scampered behind their mother’s skirts. The only other American they were familiar with who had a beard was Abraham Lincoln. In 1962, 1 stopped wearing undershirts and got rid of 11 pair of pajamas. In 1963, 1 threw out all of the suits I had carefully collected through the years at Filenes’s Basement and began affecting sport coats, slacks, and shoes without laces. The handwriting was all over the walls. It read, Melvin is getting restless… my wife read it… but she didn’t like it.
Among the myriad of stupid laws inflicted upon the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one that says that if a couple, or part thereof wishes to divorce they must seek
counseling. What a mistake. Anyone can get married for $2.00 with no questions asked but
when a mature decision is‑ reached after trying this arrangement for a number of years, the state think you need counseling. They should counsel you first and save everyone a good deal of time and expense.
So they sent me to a counselor. He was really a very nice chap and almost listened to me. When I told him that I wanted a new life he asked how my wife felt about my metamorphosis. I told him that she was very unhappy about this turn of events and as a matter of fact, I truly felt
bad about leaving her and the kids. I told him that a man couldn’t want a better wife and that the truth of the matter was that I was experiencing extreme guilt. ‘Don’t worry about it.” he said calmly, “You’ll get over it. After all, you are a person too.” I liked that man. I liked his counsel and I even liked his beard.
Freedom, although I had traded it for a mess of porridge or a warm body to sleep next to, I never gave up the quest. If there is anything unshakable in my personal beliefs, it is the love of liberty and the search for personal freedom. All of this is guaranteed in one way or another in our constitution but its attainment is another matter. In the 1960’s a lot of people became aware that they were living lives of quiet desperation and what they thought was true happiness was merely chains that bound them to old traditions and questionable commitments. I was close to forty. I was too old to become a flower child and too young to be a guru. I just wanted my freedom.
The events of the middle sixties paved the road that was to lead me to Poland Spring. I had lunch one day with a banker who told me that his hobby was developing land in northern New England for vacation sites. All of his properties were built around lakes or ponds and although he had a trained crew of salesmen he would lose a few each year because there was no work for them after the fall season. I asked him why it was not possible to develop that type of land for year round use. He told me that he had never been able to find a good body of water far enough north to be in ski country and close enough to the markets of southern New England. I was still selling furniture and mentally preparing for the new life that I knew lay ahead. When he
suggested that I go to work for him and that my first job would be to find such a property, I wasted no time in hesitation. My furniture selling days were over before the Indian pudding arrived.
With a company car and a generous expense account, I began to roam the highways and byways, mostly byways, of northern New England. Considering that I had never been out in the woods for any length of time, I was somewhat ill equipped for my new career. I was soon to discover that woods are full of nasty crawly things and that tree branches have a way of snapping into ones face. I discovered that ice on a lake was no guarantee that you could walk on it and
that when near icy water reached your vital and intimate parts, you wish that you were in a nice warm furniture emporium inhaling the soothing vapors of polish and scratch remover.
After several weeks of searching, my woodsman’s eye sighted exactly the right terrain, ponds, and mountains. It was in Conway, New Hampshire. It contained over a thousand acres of land, plus three ponds. These were not enormous bodies of water but they would do… and the ski country of North Conway lay less than ten miles to the north. It was truly a beautiful place and I became sales manager for the entire enterprise. The Sound of Music was very big at the time and we had our own mountain that looked almost like the one in the movie. I named it Eidelweiss, slipping in an ‘I’ between the E and the D to make it more pronounceable. We had beautiful ski patches made, signs bearing a very impressive logo, and began subdividing lots and cutting roads. We built a magnificent cantilevered swimming pool at the top of the mountain overlooking the entire valley. The combination of summer and winter facilities had never before been achieved in New England and it was an immediate success. Before long the din of hammers and saws broke the peace as chalets began to sprout from the Mountainside and the valley below.
I was thoroughly immersed in this new adventure that made my recent separation from my family easier to handle.. and then as they say in the songs.. she came along. You knew she would. Her name was (and still is) Suzanne. She was an attractive blonde who came up to Eidelweiss to inspect the property. Over a cocktail before dinner she confided to me that she couldn’t afford to buy property but loved to ski and if someday she should strike it rich she would surely keep us in mind. She went on to tell me that she was twenty years old, had left her home because of disagreement with her parents and had secured a job as governess to a pack of children whose mother had recently died. She hated the job… hated the kids… but at least she was out of the house. We had dinner together and I found her to be a bright young woman with a great
sense of humor. Pretty well built too. Before she left, she asked for my card so that if she ever could afford to buy a chalet she would see me first.
It was about this time that I moved into what they used to call a “pad” on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. It was a nice apartment but my work in New Hampshire limited my time
there. A few days after meeting Suzanne I received a phone call from her at our Boston office. She had just quit her job and was looking for a place to “crash”. “To what?” I asked, still
somewhat innocent of the new English. “Crash” she said, “you know, sleep.” ‘I only have one
bed,” I replied. I never said that I was smart in the ways of women. “So?” was her simple response. So… as Suzanne was to say… she moved in. There I was in the middle of the sexual
revolution, age 40, with a 20 year old roommate… blonde… a whole new career… and a red convertible car.
Suzanne had given me the impression that she was a bona fide hippie. She and her friends all smoked pot, drank too much, swore like marine drill sergeants, dressed in old clothes, disregarded all undergarments, grew long hair under their arms and on their legs, ate nothing that did not have its origins in a fast food store, used the closets for record albums and the floor for clothing, and disdained the institution of marriage. As I was determined to remain a single person
I was willing to accept all of the former inflictions to insure the latter benefits. Most of our new friends came from just across the river in Cambridge. Many were Mensa people. If you haven’t run into them yet, they are an organization made up of people with extraordinarily high IQ’s. To the men, (it was hard to tell the men from the women) they outdid the new crop of hippies in both intelligence and the consumption of marijuana. Many of them either taught or matriculated at Harvard University. By and large they were bizarre folks but very interesting. They were nothing like the friends I had developed in my former marriage… and that was OK too.
Eidelweiss had become a huge success and I made many friends there as well. Most of whom were quite wealthy. I wasn’t aware of it but all of the pieces were beginning to fall into place that would eventually lead to Poland Spring… and then came the omen.
After, some six months of cohabitation Suzanne dropped the disguise that had enticed me into our relationship and insisted that we get married. Although I vehemently rejected the idea there was just enough middle class morality left in me to go as far as discussing the possibilities
rather than deliver her and her wrinkled garments to the center strip on Commonwealth Avenue.
A few weeks and several tubs of tears later she advised me that she could not face her parents as an unwed person living in sin… and of course she loved her parents dearly and would do nothing’
to hurt or embarrass them These by the way were the same parents from whom she escaped into a life of drudgery a few months before I had met her. After another deluge of tears I suggested that we just tell her parents that we were quietly married on one our weekly trips to Eidelweiss, in New Hampshire As she could not immediately think of any way of assailing this ruse she agreed. “Where shall we tell them we got married?” she asked. I suggested that we just get a map, close our eyes and ‑stick a pin, in it and both make sure that we would remember the name of the town to which fate would direct our hand. We had a large map of northern New England and after a champagne (I think it was a Budweiser) toast we closed our eyes and plunged a pin into our map. When we opened our eyes we discovered in our enthusiasm we had missed the entire state of New Hampshire and had somehow gotten into Maine, piercing a town called Poland Spring. It wasn’t New Hampshire but we had both seen bottles of Poland Spring Water around Boston and agreed that it was a name that we could easily remember. Someday, we thought wistfully we should stop by there.
The company that owned Eidelweiss was called the Great Northern Land Company. The owner was a dear friend and somewhat distant relative. He had allowed me to do anything I had wanted to do to make Eideleweiss a winner and a winner it was. I liked my job, I liked my perks, and I liked my life. I never did achieve a fondness for the great outdoors but I had reached a state of toleration. My salesman wandered through the thickets and I stayed inside and wrote the contracts. Occasionally I would point out of a window at an attractive site. We were already talking about our next project and my flame seemed assured in the land development business. I wasn’t getting rich… only owners get rich …. but they saw that I had anything that I wanted
including frequent vacations. It was a good deal and I wasn’t planning any changes…. But lady
luck disguised herself as a witch and was about to change my life.
Eidelweiss was doing so well that my friend the banker decided to take it public. Representatives of a New York stock brokerage spent a weekend at Eidelweiss. They concluded that it was possible to go public with the company, but that my position was too strong in both
the marketing and sales to take a chance on a huge investment with the possibility of my deciding to leave the company. They also suggested that a new president (I was the president at the time.) be brought in who was better known to the financial community. They broke the news to me a few days later. I was to receive a raise in pay but would relinquish the office of president to an attorney who at the time was serving on the board of directors of what was then called the MTA. They explained that he would be in our general offices but only as a figurehead, and that I was still the boss… although he would be the president. It stunk like yesterdays fish in the Miami
sunshine. I quit.
Most of the sales force came with me. I formed a new company called Image, Inc. with the purpose of selling vacation properties and specialized advertising. The new president came into Great Northern Land and recruited a new sales force. At the end of that month sales were zero and my friend the banker was willing to capitulate. No, I would not go back to work for him but my sales crew would and I would handle all of the advertising for which I would get paid, plus commissions from the various media. It was a sweet deal. I wrote it myself. I hired a brilliant woman as art director, I wrote the copy, and directed the salesmen and marketing plans. It was 1970 and I was actually able to open a bank account and save. Some money every week.. Lady luck had upset my life and scared the hell out of me with her witch disguise, but before I knew what was happening she was once again embracing me. I thought that this was as good as it was going to get, but the old girl had a few surprises left under her petticoat.
We were at a Mensa meeting. There were ten or twelve of us sitting on the floor in someone’s third floor flat. A roach crossed the center carpet but no one noticed. They had been talking for hours but as the grass smoke thickened the conversations changed to occasional grunts and long silences. Suzanne had collapsed against the sofa and was in a dream world of her own. Only me and one man sitting next to me were still completely upright and reasonably straight. “Let’s go out on the porch and get a little air,” he said. “I think that the conversation is over for tonight”.
I think it’s time for another, “The World Is Not What They Tell You It Is” chapter. When I was a kid I had heard of jazz musicians smoking something that was called marijuana. Until I was forty years old I never (I think) knew anyone who smoked the stuff: I had seen a movie called Reefer Madness ‘where some nice innocent kids turned into friends at the first puff. No one ever offered me any and I’m not sure if I would have risked friend hood to give it a try. Suzanne insisted that it was part of my initiation into the ’60’s that I take a couple of “hits”. I smoked grass for the next two years. Never outside my home. I found it not only relaxing but as an agent to prompt my imagination. Being “stoned” never made me want to get up, go anywhere, rob grocery stores, or attack my fellow citizens. On the contrary it made me sleepy, lazy, and hungry for pizza. Hardly what was depicted in Reefer Madness. Everyone that I knew that was smoking grass, and that was just about everyone, reacted in the same way. Some of us were more
amorous than others but it was a loving amour rather than a violent one. It never fried my brains, nor anyone else’s I ever knew nor did it prompt anyone to move on to “stronger stuff”. As to
addiction, the day I decided to stop I never even thought about it until this very moment. If the
addiction to cigarettes could be as easily broken there would be a lot of very happy people around.
If it was so much fun why did I want to stop? Although I have somewhat derided the people I was associated with during that period, I must say that they were among the most intelligent and innovative human beings I have ever known. The hours spent in just conversation was the joy of my life. It has been said that small minds concern themselves with people… larger minds with events and great minds with ideas. Ideas made up 95% of all our conversations but the use of pot would eventually make even the brightest nod off and after a while I realized that
the smoking was not worth missing one syllable of dialogue. Most, if not all of them eventually came to this understanding. To my knowledge, none has had any lasting effect and remember those days and those meetings with great fondness… if not perfect recollection.
Back to the porch at the Mensa meeting. The man who I accompanied was an ex Methodist minister. His name was John. Upon becoming disillusioned with his church, he resigned his ministry and found that the outside world was far different than he had though it was. He couldn’t find work that he enjoyed nor the automatic acceptance afforded to the clergy. He had been at loose ends for several years and he was to gradually discover that there were many others in similar situations. There were many ministers, nuns, and priests who had left the womb of their religion, and were out in the cold world. They began to have meetings at his home and eventually formed a discussion group. Once the word was out he was inundated with ex clergy who were having trouble making their way. He formed several more groups and began making a small charge to each participants He now had a thriving business with over twenty groups going in the Boston area. Would I be interested in seeing one in action? Of course I would… I was like the girl who couldn’t say no.
I found it fascinating After attending—several sessions he asked me if I would like to lead a group of laymen. I took to it like the proverbial duck to water. People in my group wanted to bring others but we had limited each group to ten. We started new groups. After a month or so we had no place to put all the people I suggested we rent or buy a building and operate this like
a real business. He was shocked. “This is not a business, it’s a labor of love”, he reminded me in his Methodist minister tone. “What about all of the people we can’t help because of the crowded space we have to work with ?” I asked. “We’ll open a church!” he declared, religious light burning in his eyes. “You just got out of a church!” I screamed.
Eventually he came around. We had both learned that most people live and die with more than 90% of their true potential untapped and unused. We decided to call our new venture the Institute for Human Potential. Neither of us knew that a human potential movement was sweeping the country. We thought we had discovered the whole thing by ourselves.
The office building that housed Image, Inc., had a huge unused attic. I talked the landlord into finishing it for us and soon found that even though I have never turned hippie, I had indeed become a guru.
The human potential movement swept the US with none of the advertising or marketing associated with such a phenomenon. In living rooms, churches, schools, universities, offices, or any place people could gather, they were hugging, holding hands and telling their innermost secrets…. mostly total strangers. There was no IBM of the human potential movement. No one had or would harness its force to produce wealth for its developers or dividends for stockholders.
There was a little money changing hands but nothing that would interest Wall Street. As one of the pioneers, I found myself an instant celebrity. Although I had never seen my name on a high school diploma I was asked to conduct classes and lecture at some of the most prestigious colleges not only in the Boston area but also as far away as Ohio.
Nothing that I had ever done had been as gratifying and fulfilling. The people coming together in the groups that I personally led (only lay groups, John took care of the ex‑clergy) seemed to find new meanings and deeper understanding of themselves and others. I merely guided them but I always knew that I was the true beneficiary of the process that would open people’s hearts and minds to a better world and a better life. It was dynamic and exciting.
While all this was going on I was still operating a growing advertising agency and marketing Eidelweiss. The latter endeavor paid the freight for both the fledging ad agency and the Institute for Human Potential.
In the fall of 1971, a little man came to visit me at Eidelweiss. He said that he had recommended me to a man named Saul Feldman who wanted to sell a large property in Maine. He said that the property had over a thousand acres, a lot of old hotels, and golf course. Mr. Feldman had bought this property in 1962 and try as he did, he could not make it work. He had come to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to teat down the buildings, subdivide the land, and build condominiums surrounding the golf course.
I assumed, incorrectly, that Mr. Feldman wanted to enlist the sales and marketing services of Image, Inc. That wasn’t what he had in mind at all. He wanted out… he wanted to sell the whole damn place! The little man said it was in a town called Poland Spring. The name had a familiar ring to it.
Several weeks later, Suzanne and I crossed over from New Hampshire to Maine and found the old resort. The driveway to what he called the Executive House was deeply pitted and rutted but we made it dodging banks of icy snow. The front stairs had enough ice on them to delight the heart of any tort lawyer. A. slim dark haired woman greeted us at the door. She was Saul’s daughter‑in‑law and constant companion, Tudi Feldman.
The lobby was slightly warmer than the state of Maine that blew its blasts of frigid air against the front door. To the right a fire blazed in the fireplace and ensconced in an easy chair, his lower parts covered by a heavy blanket, sat Mr. Saul Feldman. He was flanked by two huge dogs that bared their yellowed fangs at our approach. Looking quickly around the room I saw other occasional pieces of nondescript furniture, a carpet that had been unmercifully worn, and that the two corridors leading to the first floor rooms had table cloths tacked over them, apparently to keep whatever heat the fireplace produced inside the lobby area.
Saul Feldman was friendly and genial man of about 60 years. Tudi was bout 20 years his junior. Both were drinking Scotch whiskey of a brand not usually seen in better libation parlors. They invited us to approach the warmth of the fireplace and join them in a drink. We advanced
on the source of heat and Suzanne accepted a water tumbler of the whiskey. Saul settled into his chair, lit his pipe, stroked the mangiest of the two dogs with much affection and studied each of us carefully. I think Suzanne was more appealing. She was pretty, blonde, and could slosh her booze with the best of them Saul had an eye for the ladies that was never to diminish. Tudi flashed her black eyes at me, still devastating at forty, and sipped her drink. The fire crackled, the dogs growled quietly, the northwest winds howled outside and Saul sat back with a half smile that one would attribute to a fisherman who though he had the hook set but wasn’t quite sure.
The brief history he offered contained the following information. A family by the name of Ricker had settled here and established a stage coach stop sometime in the 1700’s. Later they were to build a small inn into a sprawling and world famous resort. The building that we had passed on coming up the main driveway from route 26 was known as the Mansion House and built upon the original site of the inn that served overnight guests from the stagecoaches that stopped here. The huge building just beyond the Executive house (the building we were in at the moment) was the Poland Spring House. Built in the late 1800’s this was the largest resort hotel built in the US to that time. It had over 300 rooms and catered to the wealthiest people in the world. Not recently. The Executive House was built by Mr. Feldman in 1963. A carved brick on the fireplace attested to that fact.
The clientele of Poland Spring boasted almost every president of the US, royalty from around the world, and some of the richest and best known (not necessarily the best loved) families in America. Joe Kennedy played golf here as did every well known golfer of the nineteenth and twentieth century. The golf course, he assured me, was magnificent and the fourth tee and fairway was voted the most beautiful in the US, in 1950 something. He didn’t mention by whom In addition there were “thousands” of acres of land ready for development. He wasn’t quite sure where they were but he waved his hands expansively in every direction except straight up. Tudi nodded in agreement and sipped her drink. Suzanne had drained the tumbler and was pouring herself another. I could see that Saul’s affection for her was increasing and that we were likely to see a drinking contest as the night wore one. She refilled Saul’s glass and he smiled on her with unrestrained admiration.
The narration continued with Saul describing, the decline of Poland Spring as a world class resort and spa, explaining how the banks later took over the property and tried to operate it during the 1950’s; and how he had bought the property and tried to re‑open the Poland Spring House in 1962. At one time, the hotel was used to host an Indian guru and several thousand followers and later during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, the property was leased to the Job Corps.
The Job Corps left in 1970 leaving nothing but desolation in their wake. With the exception of the Executive House, every building was ruined. The original Mansion House and the proud Poland Spring House would never be used again. In 1968, Saul, who was allowed to keep the golf course outside of his lease to the government, was also allowed to build a 25 room motel directly on route 26 on which he could accommodate overnight golfers. The Motor Inn was in good condition but too small for anything other than the purpose for which it had been erected. The Executive House was a mess but as it was almost brand new. It was structurally sound and salvageable. Saul had made some money from the project but Poland Spring lay in ruins.
In 1971 he found a professional resort operator and leased the Executive House to him. His first move was to clean up as best he could and order Saul and Tudi never to set foot in the hotel again. There were a lot of bad feelings between the Feldman’s and the operator and although it meant another defeat, they were not sorry to see this man go broke before the 1971 season was half over.
It was at this point that Saul decided to forget about the hotel business, tear down all the buildings, subdivide and build condominiums around the golf course. He found a little man who had asked to find someone with a good reputation for developing land. The little man found me… and here I was shivering in front of a very ineffectual fireplace and watching my second wife working her ninth scotch.
“Now”, said Mr. Feldman, “I want you to understand that I want to sell this whole place, lock stock and barrel I’m not interested in renting, leasing, or anything else short of getting my money and leaving.” A glance at Tudi, the most important glance of the night, sent me a signal that she was in no hurry to leave Poland Spring. Regardless of what he said I had the very strong feeling that Tudi was the key. Although the purchase price had not as yet been uttered I knew that if it was more than $7,000.00 (my life’s savings), I would have to do a lot of maneuvering just to lease this place.
He uttered the price. I stayed as calm as if he had asked for seven thousand dollars. He didn’t. His figure had a lot more zeros behind it. “Well, let’s see what I can do.” I said evenly. “I might need a little financing.” “Don’t expect it from me,” he said smiling. That was a good sign.
I asked for maps and he offered to bring some to my office in Boston within a few days. I was truly excited. Suzanne liked the idea too… she had caught sight of the Pub next to the lobby. I would need two things, I thought. Plenty of money and plenty of expertise. I actually needed three things. The third was the lady who on occasion has smiled on me. I wanted to get into something for myself I knew a lot about selling lots. Feldman was desperate. Now, I had to put it all together. First, I needed seed money with which to hire engineers and land type people. Please remember that although Eidelweiss was my baby, I had very little to do with its physical development, and nothing to do with its capitalization It was a product that I was able to sell Now, I had to create my own product, and raise the money to finance it. The most capital I had ever raised was a $200 loan at the National Shawmut Bank.
I tried to figure how much money it would take to get this place surveyed and find out if it actually could sustain a subdivision of the scope Saul had in mind. I kept coming up with a hundred thousand dollars. I was just $93,000.00 short. I lived in an apartment in Brighton, Massachusetts, my car belonged to the company, and I knew of no one in the world who would bankroll me. My friend, the banker, had that kind of money but I doubted if he would advance me any to go into competition with him. The following weekend I was up at Eidelweiss and ran into a gentleman who was a contractor in Boston. He had purchased a lot from us and subsequently built a rather nice chalet. He was happy with Eidelweiss and convinced that I was a genius among land developers. With nothing to lose I discussed my situation with him “Simple,” he replied, “put together a limited partnership and find yourself ten guys who would be willing to put up $10,000 each.” “Where would I find people like that?” I asked. “You already found one, me… see how simple, Mel?”
Monday morning my accountant explained about limited partnerships. “It goes this way,” he explained, “You are going to be the general partner, because this is your baby. In the
beginning the general partner has all of the experience and the partners have all the money. When it’s all over the general partner has all the money, and the partners have all the experience.”
“You’ve got to be kiddding. “I said. ‘”The world is not what they tell you it is my boy, greed drives the investors, and chauffeurs drive the general partner!” He roared at his own joke. “Who in the world would put up big money like that with so little chance of getting it back?”. I asked. “You know what Barnum said? … he was right, there is one born every minute, but there is more to it than that. First of all the people that will invest with you have plenty of money. You may think ten thousand dollars is all the money in the world but to these guys its peanuts. They’re
gamblers. Every now and then a deal goes through and they make a score. If it dies, as is most often the case, they can always take a tax write-off. Now can I invest $10,000 with you?”
‘What!!!” I screamed. “You heard me,” he continued,” I want to get in on this.”
I was just skimming the surface of big money and was in for a lot more surprises. Before Mr. Feldman showed up with the maps I already had eight partners and I was the General! Saul and Tudi showed up in my Boston office with armloads of maps that were all marked “Hiram Ricker Company” and most of them were made in the 1930’s. The rest were older. Mr. Feldman didn’t know where the property began or where it ended, how much lake frontage was there, nor how many lots where still available around the lake property. Overall, he didn’t know much.
I wonder if Donald Trump is as foresighted a planner as he makes out to be. When I went to see Mr. Feldman I had no plan, no real money, and no idea of how to get any. Suddenly money was coming in the windows and the doors and the whole thing seemed to have a life of its own. You might say that I had laid the foundation with Eidelweiss but the truth was that I was just trying to make a living and do the best I could possibly do. I had no idea where it was going if anywhere. They tell you in ALL the “how to” books to set a goal. Frankly, I had no goal other than survival Fortunately, I had been at the right place at the right time.
I called my friendly banker and told him what was happening. He wasn’t exactly thrilled but I put it to him that it was just another client for Image and would not detract from his properties. He asked me if I had established a team of land planers, geologists, and surveyors to determine the viability of subdividing Poland Spring. I admitted that I hadn’t. I asked for the names of some people who did this kind of work. He suggested Havey Bates who had always done his work. When I asked for his phone number my friend the banker laughed and told me
that Harvey had died a few months ago. With that he wished me luck and still chuckling, hung up the phone.
OK, I needed a land planner.. where do I find one? Boston is loaded with universities and as land planning had become a big deal over the past few years, one of them must have such a department. I picked the most prestigious university in Boston, possibly the entire world and placed a call (I am not going to mention the university by name or the name of the man we eventually go to do the job. He was real fine gentleman and I do not want to embarrass him in any way.) They referred me to the head of the department, a Professor Jones (great fictitious name, huh?) I briefly explained the project and he suggested that I come to see him at his office and bring along whatever plans I had. We met the next morning. I dumped the piles of ancient maps on his table and he studied them at some length. “Interesting,” he finally mused.
“Do you know someone who can handle this Professor?” I asked. ‘Maybe,” he said.
“How to you plan to finance the project?” I outlined the plans for the general partnership. “How much is each investor required to put in?” I told him “Is it too late to get in?” I held onto the arms of the chair. My head started spinning. I wasn’t cool. The Donald would have been ashamed of me. Was he saying what I thought he was saying? My stupefaction appeared to be hesitation. The dazed look in my eyes appeared to be careful consideration. My tongue tied silence appeared to be opposition to whatever he had in mind.
“Look, Mi. Robbins, I’ll make a deal with you.” His obvious desperation prompted me to relax, light a cigarette and listen. ‘Do you have a light?” I asked calmly. The head of the land planning division scampered around his desk while he apologized for not smoking himself but
allowed that he was sure there was a package of matches… ‘in here somewhere’. He found them and lit my cigarette. I swear I noted a slight tremor in his suntanned hand.
“Mr. Robbins, if you will let me in on this deal I will not only write you a check for the two remaining shares immediately but I will provide all the necessary people to do the actual ground work and evaluation for you… at a very minimal cost.” I knew I was in the driver’s seat. “How minimal?” I asked. He thought a moment. “All you have to do is provide room and board and I’ll provide the people, all the people you can use and I will personally oversee their work.” I still wasn’t ready to ‘let him in”. “Where are you going to get these people?” You see I knew very little about how universities really operated. “Summer program for senior students” he explained. I nodded as though I had expected that all along. I got up, closed my briefcase, gathered my maps, shook his hand briskly, and told him that I would see what I could do. I think I may have winked to give him a little added encouragement but if I didn’t I meant to. Looking back I really think that’s how The Donald would have handled this thing but no one ever heard of him in 1971 and he may have been as naive as I at that time.
I was so elated that I walked two blocks past my car. I had it… I knew I had it. Now, what was I going to do with it? Financing was the key. So far I had nailed down almost the whole $100,000 that I thought I would need. With the Professor as a partner I could probably get a lot more but first I would have to find out how much land I really had and what would be the best use.
I called the professor the next morning and told him that I could let him in for only one of the two remaining shares. He was a little disappointed but he said that he would send his check at once and start lining up students. No sooner did I hang up the phone when I received a call from
one of the best known developer of quality housing in the Boston area. He was a builder and wanted the opportunity to build the condominiums and houses at Poland Spring. I quickly
thought that his name and expertise would meld well with the Professor and other investors and agreed to sell him the last share. I explained to him as I did all of the investors, that the deal hadn’t been set yet with Mr. Feldman and that we would not cash their checks until we had a signed agreement for purchase. I really felt that if it had been this easy to put the seed money together with nothing but my own reputation behind it, it would be a snap to finance the purchase plan with the weight of all my partners and a completed game plan. At this point not only did we not have a plan, we didn’t even have a hold on the property‑
Not five minutes later one of my other “partners” was on the phone. He happened to be an attorney and had taken it upon himself to checkout the credit and veracity of Saul Feldman.
He wasn’t very pleased. He had no specifics but he cautioned me to be very careful.. and to get everything in writing. I had nothing in writing. I also got a funny feeling in the general vicinity of my lower abdomen. I had never been involved with partners. I had always been a free agent,
even though I had worked for others. I was getting the queasy feeling that I was selling myself to nine bosses. My 10% seemed reasonable as I was not required to put up any money… and I would have full control.. maybe??
Sitting in Saul’s small office in the Motor Inn, I told him that I could not buy a pig in a poke. That he had no idea where his property lines where and I would have to bring in a team of surveyor’s to determine their whereabouts. Furthermore, if we were going to subdivide we wanted to know what kind of terrain we would be working with and what kind of water was available to us. I wanted a six month option on all of his properties. He puffed on his pipe and
took another drink. After a few minutes he said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you, Mel. I like you and I like Suzanne (I knew I was in trouble). You give me some good faith money say a
hundred thousand dollars, (how the hell did he know how much I had?… I suppose if he really knew he would have asked for $107,000 and my Omega watch), and I’ll give you a six month exclusive option on everything I own here and if you buy it, I’ll take the full amount off the purchase price.”
My counter offer was $50,000 for the option to be deducted from the purchase price. He didn’t like that as well as the nice round figure that he had mentioned but there was no question that I would need some working capital After several hours of negotiating with neither of us moving from our position, he surprised me by saying, “What do you know about the hotel business?” “Nothing,” I replied with complete candor. “l’ll teach you everything I know.” Saul continued. “What?” I asked. “I’m going to give you a deal you can’t refuse,” he concluded. (I think the movie the Godfather was released that year.)
Later I was to learn that Saul lived for making deals. He would rather make a deal than have a beautiful woman. When I say “deal” you must understand that does not mean simply
selling something for either the asking price or a negotiated price. It means a sale with twists and turns, special reservations and sometimes the inclusion of livestock. The more exotic the better… both the deal and the livestock. For awhile, I had wondered if Saul had any idea that I did not have the kind of purchase money he was asking, or any easy way of getting it. I just acted as though I did and hoped for the best. Suddenly it came to me. He wasn’t interested in just money he was interested in the “deal’. No one who works at legal jobs all of their lives can amass
millions of dollars. He knew that going in. I wasn’t kidding him at all.. and this was the moment‑
that he anticipated. He probably guessed to the dollar how much money I could raise through the people I knew. He would have liked it all, but even better he was in the thick of a “deal’. I was facing a happy man.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do…” he flashed a paternal smile at me, ‘I’ll take $50,000 for an option, you’ll run the Executive House while your people are doing the engineering work. I’ll show you exactly what to do and you can keep every cent you make, except… let’s say 20%, that’s not too much is it? That’s only 20 cents on every dollar, you keep 80 cents. You see Mel, I’m not a greedy man.”
I was delighted to hear that he wasn’t greedy. What I didn’t know was that a hotel in good condition with a good clientele is lucky if it nets 20% after expenses. I thought that I was good at marketing and that was all this place needed. It was a challenge. Little did I know that when I shook his hand I had already lost the battle. The war was yet to come.
We were to spend the next few weekends at Poland Spring. On Friday and Saturday nights the dining room was pretty well filled and three waitresses buzzed along serving food and delivering drinks. A rather good band played for dancing and although most of the guests did not avail themselves of the dance floor they did seem to be enjoying the music. There was a little voice that kept telling me that something was wrong. It was a quiet little voice and it took several weeks for it to surface.
Saul and Tudi were as nice to us as could be. We were their guests at the Executive House and were fed like royalty. Suzanne never suffered an unfilled glass. Even the label on the Scotch bottle changed, although the contents may have‑ remained the same. Now, the bottle from which they all drank bore names like White Label Chivas and J&B.
1 was taking instruction. The first thing I had to do was to hire a staff. His current dining room staff consisted of three local women who came in to help out when he need them (One of them, Irene, her real name, was later to become my dearest friend. She had the sweetest smile and the nicest manner. Every time we came into contact, however, she looked at me as though she knew something that I didn’t know… and she wasn’t telling. It was disturbing.) Saul went on to tell me that I would need a staff of at least fifty and that rather than try to hire the limited amount of people in town that I should concentrate on employing college students from around the country. They liked these kinds of jobs and were in good supply. He suggested that I put them up at the Riccar Inn and charge them $15.00 a week for their rooms. He suggested that I pay them no more than $1 per hour plus tips.
The Riccar Inn was pretty rickety. It had no attention since it was built in 1913. There were approximately 25 rooms on each floor and one communal bathroom on each floor. Saul advised that I separate the sexes by floors so that here would be no hanky panky. That sounded reasonable. As reasonable as keeping the bull away from the cows, in season.
That same night as we sat at a table in the dining room listening to the band, it was Tudi’s turn to help. “Did you ever hear such a great band?” she asked me with almost matemal enthusiasm. “they sound OK to me.” I replied. “OK, they’re terrific! They’re all music majors
at the University of Maine… and I love everyone of them” As I had little interest in her personal affairs, I nodded my assent and agreed that they were lovable. “You’ve got to hire them for the summer. They’re the best. They’ll keep you full every night” she boasted. “How much would they cost me?” I asked. “I’ll get you a special deal (oh, oh!). There are eight of them It will cost you $100 plus room and board.” Saul agreed that was a fine deal and l had to have a reliable
band. What could be more reliable than their living right on the premises. “OK’ I agreed. They both beamed. They still hadn’t told me they meant $100 each, and that I would be required to house and feed their feminine companions as well.
This was my first such venture and there were many things that I did not understand or foresee. The major mistake I had made was agreeing to assume the property by May 15th. When all of the papers were signed neither I nor my attorney realized that no one came to resorts in May and I had hired my staff with the understanding that they would report for work no later than May 20th. It turned out well in the end. I was saddled with an immediate payroll and close to a hundred mouths to feed. I also had plenty of people to help get the hotel into shape. It needed a lot of shaping! I had run ads in most of the big city newspapers and had no problem hiring college seniors. I interviewed them in Boston during March and April and with the exception of some very long haired men and a few bearded women. I hired just about everyone. There was no
chance to check previous employment as most of them had never been employed. If they looked fairly clean and spoke English, I hired them
I also hired a man named David Lock. He was working at the Holiday Inn in Portland and wanted to make a change. He was a desk clerk but he claimed to know everything about front desk operations. David was the only person on my entire staff who had any kind of hotel experience. He was, and is a gem. He became the reservationist, night clerk, day clerk and bookkeeper. What I didn’t know about David was that he was really a show business person. He loved everything about the theater but he was wise enough to know that he couldn’t make a living from his passion. He also had a wife and child that somewhat constrained his natural inclination
to be out to all hours engaged in theaters around the state. He was only with me for several
weeks when he asked if he could live in the hotel. It was beginning to look as though I would have plenty of empty rooms and so I agreed to the arrangement. He went home that night and asked his wife for a divorce. Once again Poland Spring was to change a life. David stayed with us for at least ten years and eventually became the best known theatrical director in Maine. He still can’t make a good living from the theater but he’s a happy man.
Suzanne and I moved into the Executive House on May 15, 1972. There were no guest during the week but we looked forward to the weekend when we expected the dining room to be full the music playing and the bar making money. The music played, but there were no people. Irene was the lone waitress in the dining room “Where are the other girls?” I asked. ‘I sent them home,” she replied. “Why?” I was confused. “You don’t need them. You don’t even need me,” was her response. Where are all the people for dinner?” I continued. “You mean Saul’s friends?” she smiled the same smile she had before.. now I understood. Neither Saul nor Tudi were anywhere to be seen… and the band played on.
As David Lack might say, here is the opening night cast. Most of the names are real but a few are fictitious, either because I don’t want to get sued or I have simply forgotten their names… but not the events and the part they played in the beginning. I must also say that there is something like a magic spell about Poland Spring. For almost two hundred years hardly anyone came here with out having their life changed in some way. Some of the changes were quite subtle. Even they may not have noticed. Others were dramatic and the participants would never forget this small corner of Maine. I wasn’t aware of this in the spring of 1972 but as events unfolded through the years, my own life and those around me changed profoundly.
Suzanne Robbins my second wife: It has been said that couples who jointly operate hotels or motels are more likely to divorce than any other single group. I can readily understand why that is so. Not only do they have the problem of being thrown together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, (a strain on any typical marriage), but unless their dedication to the hotel is strong, and unless their personalities are such that they can settle business difficulties without personal rancor, they find themselves in a constant tug‑of‑war. And, so it was with Suzanne and me. By her twentieth year, Suzanne was already addicted to the consumption of alcohol. It had reached the stage where she would blackout and remember nothing for several days. Sometimes she would disappear for that length of time and remember nothing of her actions or whereabouts. Prior to leaving Boston we spent many an evening with the wonderful, and I truly mean wonderful folks at Alcoholics Anonymous. Although I never drank, I attended dozens of meetings with Suzanne and to this day respect that organization more than any other in the world, including the American Red Cross and the US Congress.
Having ready access to our bar and assuming the post of head hostess of the hotel Suzanne found ample opportunity to avail herself of all the liquor she could drink. It was like bestowing the position of head sampler at the Hershey Company to a diabetic. The result, of course, was disaster.
There were also the internal problems between ourselves. She was determined to take control of the hotel. A ship can only have one captain and I could not convince her that I was it. A typical example was a car for Suzanne. When I came to Poland Spring I was obliged to return the car leased for me by Great Northern Land as part of my arrangement with them. When I.got to Maine, I purchased a 1972 Oldsmobile, brand new for $4,000. This depleted my personal
capital by more than 50% but the hotel needed some sort of vehicle. The nice thing about the Olds was that it had an enormous trunk and it was almost like having a small truck. It was to become the workhorse of the property. It was hardly ever available to either of us but I felt that the hotel came first. Suzanne, decided that she needed her own car. I suggested a station wagon… she wanted an Italian sports car. The last thing that we needed was a tiny Italian
sports car. There was no rest until she got it… and she did. Our relationship was deteriorating by the day.
Cyndi Sievert, (later to become Cyndi Robbins): Cyndi had worked for Saul through her high school years. When Saul leased the property in’71, she went to work for the new people. At 16 she became their best waitress and when they began to fold in August, she was the only employee that was kept on. The first time I saw her working in the dining room I thought that
not only was she the most beautiful girl I had ever seen but I was also more than impressed with her carriage and commanding presence. I was also seriously depressed, for about a half hour, that I was forty five years old.
Henry The First (the chef): Before leaving Boston I worked with our art director at
Image to create a set of menus that would be like no other. Saul had convinced me that Poland Spring should be a fancy first class resort, as it had been in the past. A more experienced eye than
my own assessing the physical condition of the grounds and the hotel would have sent a message to the brain that “first class was a dream and that “ramshackle and time worn” were the realities.
Unfortunately, I was caught up with the abundant legends of Poland Spring and could only see what I imaged the present to be. I devised a menu that would have challenged the Great
Chefs of the World. Each night would feature a different ethnic menu: Italian, German, French,
and more. (In addition the overall plan called for different costumes for the waitresses each night to match the menus. I also arranged to have parts of our band play the appropriate ethnic music with each dinner and other parts of the band for after dinner dancing. WOW! (All of this comes ‑under the heading of “Fools Rush In!’)
In early May, we hired a chef that we shall call Henry The First, as he was our first chef and I believe that his name was Henry. He said that he could cook anything but he blanched a
little when I showed him our menu. At that point there was only Suzanne and me, the Grady’s (more about them later), and David, in residence. Henry agreed to try a different menu every
night for our dinners, and frankly he did very well. The man knew how to cook. He also liked to drink. In no time at all he and Suzanne became drinking buddies. I was to learn that about the worst thing you can have in a kitchen is a drunken chef
The Grady’s: Bob and Sandra Grady had purchased a lot at Eidelweiss and had become our closest friends. Sandra was an “army brat” who had lived all over the world. Bob had come from a suburb of Boston and had met Sandra when he was in the army. She was working for a canteen in Germany as manager/bartender. They hadn’t been married very long when they bought their lot at Eidelweiss and they had somehow attached themselves to us. It was a strange relationship. Sandra and I grew very fond of each other. She was a class act. Bob on the other hand was a little short of downright crude, but he could be charming and engaging in his own very down to earth way. He had perfected “mooning” to almost an art and there was no place or situation that was safe from this practice. One never knew when Bob would drop his pants. Sandra, who looked, acted, and carried herself like a debutante, was madly in love with him. No one understood why… possibly the attraction to opposite poles. Bob was a not too successful insurance salesman at the time we were preparing to come to Poland Spring and Sandra was at
home. When they heard about our new adventure they wanted to come along. Sandra offered to bartend and Bob assured me that he would find some way to help out. Bob was an avid golfer
and the thought of living on a golf course was an ideal that he thought he would never achieve. I was happy to have Sandra with us and felt that Bob could be of some use. At that time, Saul still operated the golf course. I didn’t mind taking a fling at the hotel business but I knw nothing
about the game of golf and at least had the good sense to know that I would have my hands full with the resort operation.
And that was the opening cast. All of our lives were about to become full of Poland Spring and change forever.
Well I had a chastened staff and what they used to call on the old plantations an overseer. They were scared to death of Bob and although I was still a little on the soft side they knew that messing with me would activate Grady. This all came about from several midnight confrontations I had had with the staff when finally Bob stepped in and took charge. At that time, I had learned my first important less in the hotel business… from the most unlikely person I knew. Let them know who’s boss. And, I came a few steps closer to actually being one.
Now all I needed was some customers. There were little things here and there but nothing that looked like it was going to fill all the rooms in the Executive House. We had a weekend and banquet scheduled for the end of June by the Sheriff s Association of New England and that was about it. It was still May and no one was responding to my newspaper ads. If you are going to succeed in the hotel or resort business you’ve got to sell rooms and it just wasn’t happening. We
sold so few rooms that I would have been better off not selling any as the cost of taking care of ten or twenty guests with a payroll of close to a 100 people, was the sure road to early bankruptcy. Our surveyors and geologist began to arrive and we had to feed them too. After a day in the woods they were ravenous and although there were only ten of them, they ate like fifty. I was beginning to worry.
I was watching the Johnny Carson show when the idea came to me. He was interviewing a cute little old man named Dr. Irwin Stillman. Stillman had been a regular on the show for many months. He was the hottest thing in the diet business. Almost everyone was on Dr. Stillman’s famous water diet. His book was selling zillions of copies and he always got great laughs for Johnny. He was a nice grandfatherly type and the nation, especially fat folks, loved him
I reasoned that any overweight person dreaded the summer when he/she would be obliged to expose themselves and their passions of the winter feeding season, in a bathing suit. Would they come to Poland Spring to put themselves into the hands of the world’s most famous diet doctor in early June? You bet they would. All I had to do was to get the good doctor to come here and let the world know that Poland Spring, Dr. Stillman, and a sleek new body awaited them… and the food wouldn’t cost much either.
If you don’t know what chutzpah mean you’re not Jewish. It means a lot of sheer nerve… and the possesion of certain articles that differentiate men from women. The next morning I called NBC and asked for the producer of the Johnny Carson Show, any producer. I asked the man who answered the phone how I could reach Dr. Stillman. He gave me a phone number in Brooklyn, New York. I dialed the number and the familiar croaky voice I had heard a few hours before on my television said “hello.” I told him who I was and what I wanted to do. He asked
me for how long. I said for two weeks. He asked me how much… I asked him how much he wanted… he said a thousand dollars a week… I said OK.. he wanted to know if he could bring his wife… I said OK again.. he wanted to know when I wanted him.. I said three week… he said OK.. and that’s all there was to it.. I had just hired myself a celebrity and I knew I was going to be the genius of the hotel business.
We ran ads all over the country. The headline read: Come to Poland Spring and Give Your Body to Dr. Stillman! We would accept no one for less than two weeks and we promised them nothing except a diet directed by the doctor and his personal attention 24 hours a day. That was enough. They poured in from every comer of the US and several plump folks from Canada.
As I took the hotel under option, Saul sold the bottling works and the name of Poland Spring Water to a company in New Jersey. They had a spring there that was not doing very well and they wanted the famous name of Poland Spring. When they heard we had Dr. Stillman here they sent a team of executives to try to get the doctor to endorse Poland Spring Water. He refused to have any part in it. “Water is water,” he said, “and I don’t want the public to think that only this water will make my diet work.” They kept trying but he was pretty stubborn. As they left he asked them if they would send us a few cases of water to put on the tables. They said that they would be delighted to do that and that they would talk again later. At the time, Poland Spring Water was being bottled in the old bottling plant some three hundred feet from the inn. We were surprised that well into the second week that the water had not arrived. A few days later a huge track showed up from New Jersey loaded with cases of Poland Spring Water. Apparently this was the first time that the water had been north of Jersey but they all bore the label of Poland Spring, Maine. Sometime later they ran afoul of someone and added the’ words, “bottled in New Jersey” in microscopic sized letters, to the label. Subsequently this outfit folded and Perrier came into the pictures… but that’s another story.
Before Dr. Stillman left he thanked us all. He told us that he had had a wonderful time and was sure that he had helped many people. He suggested that we do this again next year. I thought that was a great idea. He promised to contact me in a few months. He passed away a
few weeks later. He had lived most of his life unnoticed. In the last few years celebrity had flung itself upon him. He died a happy man.
We had everything we could do to stay afloat. Everyone worked seven days a week contributing as much as they could. We watched every dollar and if there was anything left over
it was used for paint or lamps or dishes, or any of the thousand items that we did not have or had to replace. It was tough going but there was a spirit that you couldn’t buy for ten times the salary each person was receiving.
Meanwhile, the geology guys were hard pressed to find more than a foot or two of soil above solid rock ledge. The surveyors after studying a hundred and fifty years of maps still couldn’t determine exactly where the property began or ended. Typical references were to old oak trees that no long existed and stone walls that would have run right down the center of Rt.
26. The only thing that they were truly successful at was consuming huge amounts of food. They ate like they were going to the electric chair.
The early survey reports were sent to my partners in Boston. They weren’t happy. They requested another meeting. Another trip to Boston was undertaken to assure them that
everything was being done that could be done.. They were itching to get their condominiums going but none of our people could find any suitable land in the over 1,000 acres we had leased and optioned… but they were still looking. I was not going to accept responsibility for the rocks
being dropped in Maine by some ancient glacier! A certain coolness began to develop between my partners and me.
I had been following Mr. Feldman’s advice almost to the letter.. and matters grew worse daily. I was charging a little less than typical resort rates at that time, about $75.00 per day with two meals. We had phones in all the rooms, bellboys, waiters and waitresses and all the things that most hotels had.
Saul recommended that I hire his grandson, Michael as relief bartender and the young man did very well.. until I discovered that he was only fifteen years old! Mr. Feldman had nodding acquaintance with the law but he never did take it too seriously. My liquor license was in jeopardy for several weeks but fortunately nothing came of it.
I picked up the phone at the reservation desk one day and the following conversation ensued: “Hello, is this the Poland Spring Inn?” “Yes, can we help you?” “Is this the same Poland Spring Water?” “The same as what sir?” ” The same as it used to be.” “Nothing,” I advised him is as it used to be.” He chuckled. “I’d like to make a reservation for this weekend,” he replied. “Fine and when will you be arriving?” “I’ll be there Friday.” I took his name and quoted him the rate.
On Friday, a nattily dressed short man arrived and declared that he was Ben Cohen and had a reservation. As David sought out his papers he studied the lobby, shaking his head in wonder. I was behind the desk and he spoke to me. “What kind of place is this” he asked. “I beg your pardon?” My standard response at the time when I anticipated trouble. ‘This isn’t Poland Spring,” he declared flatly. “Yes, sir, it is. “‘Who are you?” “I’m Mel Robbins.” “What are you doing here… where are the Rickers? You’re not a Ricker.” “No, sir, I’m not.” “Then
what the hell are you doing here?” “I run this place now.” I responded. “You work for the Rickers?” he continued. “No sir, they’re long gone.” “too bad.. nice people.. I haven’t been here in over forty years.. I guess things change.” “Yes, they do Mr. Cohen”
He looked me dead in the eye, “Most of the time for the worst…but I’ll give you a
chance. I’ll stay one night.” He followed the bellboy to his room shaking his head all the way. After dinner, I saw him sitting on a lobby sofa puffing on a small cigar. He was a small
man. I hadn’t quite learned to avoid trouble as yet and so I went over and asked him how he enjoyed dinner. “I guess it was almost fair… but nothing Eke the old days.” He puffed away still studying and shaking. Suddenly a small light flashed in my mind. Mr. Cohen was obviously of
the Jewish persuasion. The 1930’s, the time of his last visit, was a period when Poland Spring did not admit people of that religious bent. Something was very strange here. I had come this far and I was determined to follow it up. “Mr. Cohen, you were here back in the 1930’s?” “Yes,” he replied. “How did you happen to come here?” I asked. “Well, it’s sort of an interesting story.” He invited me to join him on the sofa. “I went to college, to Boston University, and my
roommate was a fellow by the name of Ricker. He told me that his grandfather ran a resort in Poland Spring, Maine, and that some weekend he would take me up there. Well a few weeks later he invited me to drive up with him for the weekend. You should have seen this place then. A driveway like, in the movies, attendants everywhere, and when we got to the main building… not this place but the real Poland Spring House, there were two doormen in full uniform with spotless white gloves. They held the door open for us and ushered us in. It was nothing like this place. Nothing!
“‘Well, I sat down in the lobby and waited for my friend to tell his grandfather that we had arrived. The chair I sat in was covered in tapestry and I believe filled with goose down. What a
chair! What is this sofa, some kind of cheap plastic filled with straw?” He asked as he patted the sofa where we sat. “Anyway, the front desk manager was wearing a long coat and a bow tie, like he was going to a wedding. Bellboys scurried around the lobby. Every one of them looked like that guy Johnnie from Philip Morris. They had these cute little red hats. It was a sight to see. And, they all wore beautiful white gloves, not a spot on them. Shoes shining like a general’s boots. Wonderful, wonderful. And you should have seen the chandelier; my God that was a chandelier.” He looked around the lobby and then back to me, “Not like that piece of junk you got hanging there but covered with crystals, the real stuff from Vienna, I think You could go blind looking at it. The White House in Washington doesn’t have such a chandelier.”
He was silent for a full minute. He carefully crushed his cigar into the ashtray staring intently at its ruins. He continued speaking, still staring into the ashtray and the remains of the devastated cigar. His eyes stayed fixed as he continued in flat quiet tones. “My roommate went to see his grandfather in an office just off the lobby. A few minutes later an old man with a long wicked looking beard stuck his head out the door and looked directly at me. His eyes were like two burning coals. Then, without taking his eyes from me he shouted, “That man is a Jew, get him out of here!” He fell silent again still staring into the ashtray. Another minute later he continued. “The doormen came, two very large men and lifted me up from the chair. They walked me to the door without a word. I looked down and could see those beautiful white gloves on each of my arms. They took me outside and walked me to the end of the driveway. They left me there. I turned around and saw them walking back, laughing, those spotless white gloves flashing in the sunshine. A few minutes later my roommate came by and apologized and drove me to the bus station in Lewiston. Nice people.” He looked up at me his eyes swimming in tears
From the wounds of ancient wrongs. “Eh, you people don’t need white gloves. “He went to his room and left early the next morning. I never saw or heard from him again.
By midsummer it was pretty well determined that his property would not support a condominium community. They were still measuring and digging holes. Each report was less encouraging than the one before. Their appetites had not abated but their enthusiasm had. All of the surveyors were having a grand time and they all loved Maine. One of them got religion and joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses where he lives to this day. He happened to be Jewish. Poland Spring has changed many lives.
We were always about half full or half empty depending on your degree of optimism or pessimism The guests that we did have seemed happy and we made a few friends. I was not aware that we were losing money hand over fist. Two of my partners were a team of accountants and although they checked the books in the beginning of August they did not alert me to any
sense of fiscal danger. They enjoyed their meals, they liked their rooms, all free of course, and left patting me on the back. They never told me how bad off we were, considering that their own money was involved. I kept paying Saul his 20% and he seemed happy. The guest were happy, the remaining staff was happy… what did I have to worry about?
We managed to pay most of our bills in 30 days but the food bills never stopped and began mounting to enormous proportions. The people to whom Saul had leased this property the previous year had left town owing huge bills. When we began to slow down in mid August we started getting “friendly” phone calls from our creditors. I was also unaware that due to their previous experience with Poland Spring that they were all watching me like hawks. I was still unaware of many things.
For the Labor Day weekend we had sold three rooms to three couples from New York. In addition a travel agent from Boston had booked a bus, coming up on Saturday. The three couples from New York arrived on Friday and although they were somewhat surprised to find themselves alone in the hotel they seemed to be good sports and were very sympathetic to my troubles when we chatted later that evening. Most of our college kids had left by that time and a skeleton crew of local people was helping out. Considering the number of guest we had, they were more than sufficient. The three couples reveled in all of the personal service that they were receiving and before the night was out we mentioned the bus coming up the next day with forty guests, and they offered to help in anyway that they could. I knew that this weekend was another loser but at least the guests were nice. Very nice. It rained all Friday and into Saturday. My friends didn’t seem to be bothered and busied themselves indoors. On several occasions they asked me what they could do to help when the bus arrived.
It was still raking when the bus got in just before dinner. My friends from New York had seated themselves near the front windows to greet the new guests upon their arrival When the bus arrived the rain had slowed enough so that we could see through the bus windows. Our guests were all black.
I picked up an umbrella at the front desk and hurried down the porch steps to help them in. They all seemed to be friendly and delightful people. They laughed and joked as the rain splattered their clothing. Despite the miserable weather they were in great spirits and I looked forward to a pleasant weekend with them
When I returned to the lobby my six people from New York greeted me at the front desk, suitcases in hand. “It’s nice that you take Negroes in (they still called black people Negroes in
1972)” smiled one of my departing guests, “most places won’t. Well, good‑bye.” And, they all left.
My new guests were all great people and even though it rained steadily for the rest of the weekend they were great fun. On Monday morning they reboarded the bus and at the exact moment that the bus door closed, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I shall never forget the sight of all those faces pressed against the window for a brief view of a lovely sun‑filled Maine morning.
We had few reservations for the fall none for the winter and the money was running out. The surveyors had gone back to Boston, except for the Jewish Jehovah Witness, and their final report suggested that we forget about developing Poland Spring.
All of the college kids were gone. David, the Grady’s and two local girls stayed on. I was overstaffed. I also had no idea how I was going to pay even these few people or what I should do next. There would be no development at Poland Spring and it had become obvious that I was no threat to the Hiltons.
Suzanne’s disappearances had become more frequent throughout the summer and she now was quite desolate without her servants. She continued to disappear in her little Italian sports car for several days at a time. I really didn’t miss her. During the summer, Cyndi and I had become very friendly.
In September of that year, Cyndi was enrolled at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham She hated it. She was unhappy, lonely and missed the excitement of the hotel. Her greatest joy came on the weekends when she could work as a waitress in our dining room. She’d
come to work, give me a big hug, and just about run the place even though she was the youngest of the waitresses.
I had listened to Saul. I had done what he had told me to do. I had not taken into consideration that his experience at Poland Spring had already been marked by failure. I tried to analyze what had happened. We were charging normal rates but 20% off the top was going to Saul, another 5% to the credit card companies (almost everyone used them). Wages, taxes, etc., for an army of help and I suspected pretty hefty prices from my untrusting suppliers. Add to this an astronomical phone bill, the cost of around the clock switchboard people and a night auditor to the list the charges of the day. There were more, but nausea overcomes me as I write.
I got out a pencil and paper… I didn’t want to use any more electricity than needed. What if I got rid of all the phones, the switchboard operators, the credit cards (could a hotel that didn’t accept credit cards still exist?)… the bellboys, the waiters, the uniforms, the normal baloney that was attendant to all hotels and resorts? If it could be done, I could reduce my rates for $75.00 a day to as little as… hard to believe..$12.50 a day and make a decent profit after paying the initial 20% to Saul. I reworked the figures and they kept coming out the same way. There were a number of variables that still had to be considered but if I closed during the week and stayed open for the weekends… and filled every room.. it appeared that it would work, maybe. This was 1972, no one could offer a weekend with meals for $25.00. If my numbers were right, I could.
All the company money was gone. I had several large food bills with no way of paying them unless I got more money from my partners, which was not very likely. There was a meeting planned and I suspected that they were more in the mood to apply tar and feathers than give me
more money. All I had left personally was $3,000 – far less than the company bill and less than a pittance with which to run a hotel
I went to the meeting in Boston. I could smell the tar boiling but I outlined my plan to them. They listened quietly. I would need another ten thousand to get my new plan off the ground. That was only one thousand for each of them. They were already disappointed that Poland Spring would not be condominium city and they really didn’t want any other involvement with me. Just a few short months ago they would have given me their daughter, if I was single, which I rarely am
All of these guys were in high income tax brackets and each knew that a tax write off would be more valuable then taking further chances with me. I suspected as much and had a document drawn releasing them all as partners, and from any further liability or profits. They all signed eagerly, and I was in business for myself
Upon my return to Poland Spring after meeting with my partners I devised a plan of action. If what was left of my staff would go along with it I figured we had about one chance in a hundred of getting through the winter. I explained my new strategy for conquering the resort business. We would cut costs to the bone… everybody would work for half pay plus room and board… everybody would do everything needed to run the place. We would be open on the weekends only, and bring in a few extra people for those days. They were David Lock, the Grady’s, a little girl named Virginia May, and a wild hippie girl who regularly dosed herself with something called petulia oil. The nice thing about her was that you could always tell exactly where in the building she was or had recently been. Everyone agreed to give it a shot… and the $25.00 weekend was launched. Cyndi showed up a few days later and offered to join our merry
band. Anything was better than the dorm at the University, and she moved into room 617. The fickle finger that fate is famous for was moving, again.
Communal living wasn’t quite Suzanne’s cup of tea and her mysterious trips grew more frequent and longer in duration. We settled down into a routine of cleaning and preparing during the week for the weekends business. Everyone pitched in with the bed making and toilet cleaning. The most important part of my job was procuring food for the weekend guests. We had decided to serve everything buffet style to eliminate the cost of serving people and so our menu was flexible. Whatever was on sale at the A&P. I also made up my mind that I would not run up food bills and I quickly found out that I could buy everything much cheaper at the supermarket, if I went and got it rather than wait for a suppliers track.
Fortunately, I had a huge green Oldsmobile with a trunk the size of an average car today. I would spend almost everyday looking for bargains in the various supermarkets in the area. Once I caught a sale at the local A&P on roast beef at 49 cents a pound, but there was a three pound limit. I explained to the butcher that I operated a home for orphan children and that they hadn’t seen beef for at least several years. By the time I got through explaining their plight the teary
eyed butcher agreed to sell me as much beef as I wanted, “and take a little extra to put in your freezer for Christmas.” I bought fish off the docks for 29 cents a pound and chicken from a chicken processing plant for 33 cents a pound. Eventually the chicken and fish juice burned a hole in the trunk and we had to get rid of the Olds. Deposits were coming in heavily and I used some to buy a 1973 Chevy Station wagon, $3,500 in 1972.
I gave Cyndi the job of food procurer and turned the new Chevy over to her. On the first day out she forgot to close a door when making a stop and it got banged‑up a bit. She came
home in fear and tears having no idea how I would react. How would I react to the girl I secretly loved and knew that I never could have? Naturally I forgave her at once, wiped away her tears, and praised her for her good works. The smile that lights up the world came to her face and all was right again.
Saul Feldman said it couldn’t be done. “If you can’t make it charging $150 for a weekend, how long will you last charging $25.00?” “Volume” I replied. “At $25.00 I can keep this place full and even operate the Motor Inn “(which he still controlled along with the golf course). Through my experience of the past summer I had learned a very important fact of business life. Overhead was everything. If you could keep your costs down you could sell your product far below that of your competitors. With a lower price you were almost certain to increase your volume as long as you could still deliver an acceptable product to the public. Resort rates during this period started at about $100.00 a day. Was there a market for people who wanted to pay only $12.50 a day? I suspect that there was and they would be willing to forgo some of the expensive conveniences that were foisted upon them at resorts everywhere in the world.
Does this appeal to everyone? Of course not. The person who needs the constant use of a telephone, handy fax machine or computer wouldn’t be happy at Poland Spring. Although we are a great nation of imitators, no one to my knowledge has duplicated this operation. It is not traditional It is not what they teach you at hotel school but it started working almost from the beginning. THE $25.OO WEEKENDS ARE BACK!… read our newspaper ads. The biggest problem we had is that many people simply would not believe it! It was when we started asking our guests to bring their own soap that they began to catch on. The more astute realized what we were doing and could smell the bargain that we offered.
In the beginning Saul Feldman was most generous to me. His generosity was somewhat prompted by the fact that he had no one else to sell the property to and at least I would keep the place alive until as he predicted, I went broke.
He was still holding $50,000 of my option money and agreed to allow me to work that off my 20% payments to him. That was a great help in the early years. We also negotiated a ten year contract that was a complete lease of all the properties with an option to purchase. In the event I exercised the purchase option the contract called for a down payment of three hundred thousand dollars. Saul did not expect me to get through the winter with my radical scheme and he knew that I could never earn $300,000 after paying him 20% off the top. I didn’t think so either.
I spent the last of my personal saving to pay off the summer food bills and as our volume increased to a point where we could no longer buy from the supermarkets I approached our suppliers with a unique proposal. I told them that I didn’t want credit in any form I insisted that all our food orders would be delivered COD and at the lowest prices. They back up their truck and we give them the cash. They liked the idea. We got the best of everything including service at prices far lower than we had paid the previous summer.
The winter of 1972‑1973 brought more snow than Maine had seen in a generation. Snow was piled on the golf course in huge mountains of white. We always feared that guests would not be able to make it through the snow on some Friday (check‑in night) or be able to get home on Sunday. All we could do was hold our breath that the guest would make it. We were on very thin financial ice and a lost weekend could be disastrous. In the event that they couldn’t get out on Sunday, we stored cases of baked beans and other canned goods in the basement. Every guest made it in and every guest was able to leave on Sunday. We sold every available room at the Maine Inn (we stopped calling it the Executive House for obvious reason) every weekend and
started sending the overflow to the Motor Inn. The staff of close to 100 had dwindled to less than 10. We actually started showing a profit.
In the spring of 1973 1 was completely sold on the concept of the $25.00 weekend. I also liked seeing all of the rooms filled with people. As the summer of 1973 approached, I was reluctant to do anything but stay open on the weekends. I wondered if this concept could be sustained on a seven day basis and at what rate. After a little doodling I ascertained that if nothing changed I could rent rooms for as little as ten to twelve dollars a day, and include meals as well. It was just stretching the $25.00 weekend idea into a full week. I would offer a seven
day package for $70.00. Saul who couldn’t believe that we had survived the winter asked me what size straightjacket I wore.
My friend the banker in Boston had suggested that I open an account at the Depositors Trust in Lewiston, when I first came to Maine. Their president was a member of my friend’s board of directors and he assured me that they would be of help to me if I was ever able to buy the property. Dutifully, I opened our original account in his bank and the president even phoned welcoming me to Maine and wishing me well. I thought it was a good idea to call him now that we were really rolling. After I explained what was happening and what the potential of Poland Spring was, his exact words to me were: “Mel, I wouldn’t put a nickel into Poland Spring.” Although I closed out my accounts at his bank the very next day, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. One of the reasons we were able to offer rates as low as we did, and do, is because we have never had any debt. We were paying all of our food bills COD and although I was paying Saul a pretty stiff price, I had no mortgage or interest payments of any kind.
In the early spring of 1973 Suzanne and I agreed to disagree. We were divorced a few months later in a simple ceremony. The bride wore a nasty look and the groom an expression of relief. Cyndi and I became even friendlier.
The summer of ’73 was a smashing success. For the winter season I had purchased ten snowmobiles and ten toboggans. We were full all winter and our guests loved the added features. The winter crowd was also more rowdy than the summer people, but they were paying the bills. I had pretty much controlled most of our costs except one. Electricity! The cost of heating two buildings with electricity just about wiped out our winter profits… but there were profits and I began to look toward the Poland Spring House for the possibility of creating more rooms. I was still leasing the property I had no way of financing this enormous project but it stayed a dream for several years. Opened in 1876, it was one of the best known, and most beautiful of the Victorian hotels. It had been pretty well destroyed by the Job Corps but I felt that it was still salvageable. We still had a long way to go but Poland Spring was coming back and that lovely lady, Luck, seemed to be riding my shoulders.
During the time that followed, we were open year round and each season brought its own problems. In the early spring not only was the weather in Maine wet and cold but the grounds turned into a sea of mud. Summer brought us business but also regiments of children who seemed determined to destroy the hotel and everything and everyone in it. I had created this particular problem with my low rates. At $10 a day our guests not only brought along their own children but several from the neighborhood as well. It was much cheaper to come to Poland Spring then to send them to camp. Many families and friends, stayed the entire summer as they discovered that they couldn’t live at home as cheaply as they could here. The kids took over the hotel. They terrorized the new kids and led raids on our property worthy of the Apache Indians on a rampage.
then a feminine giggle would break the harmony of the guitar and the semidarkness of the firelight and the abandonment that comes with isolation from the rest of the world. There was no thought of further drinking… they were grooving on each other and the strains of music of the night. Two hours later the electricity returned and in the full glare of the lobby lights all of them sat up abruptly as if on a signal. They looked about them and their partners they had chosen at random to give them warmth. They began to move apart, adjust their clothing, and drift off to the bar or the restrooms. It was eerie as no one spoke. Whether it was embarrassment or the desire to hold on to the last few seconds of their intimacy, was difficult to deterrmine. There was no further dancing. No laughter. Slowly each regained their official partner, wife, husband, girl or
boyfriend, and returned to their rooms. I thought seriously of “staging” this event every Saturday night.
I had been married twice and had no intention of doing it again… but it’s hard not to love Cyndi.. and once in love ones thoughts turn blithely toward marriage. Cyndi knew exactly how I felt about additional matrimonies but she was wise enough not to bring up the subject or to push me into that direction. I was perfectly happy with our arrangement and she pretended to be.
It was all my idea… I think. One afternoon in April of 1975, sitting alone and thinking about nothing in particular, the notion of marriage popped into my mind. For the first time I entertained it as a welcome guest and in a few minutes planned the wedding in my mind. I invited her to take a walk with me. We strolled over to the old Poland Spring House and walked through the wreckage of it’s dining room I not only asked her to marry me but in a few short sentences laid out my plans for the wedding,. It would take place in the dining room of the Maine Inn. We would each invite as many family and friends as we wished. We would also invite some of the guests to whom we had grown very close to through the years. We would have Bob Bedard and
his band play at the wedding and reception and as neither of us had any religious bent we would ask our attorney and friend, Irving Isaacson to perform the wedding. We would have our accountant, at the time, who lived in Boston, bring up tons of Chinese food from the best restaurant in the city. All she could manage to say was, “When?” “May 4th, that’s my birthday, and I never want to forget any of our anniversaries.” I replied. “Do you mean this May 4th… that’s only two weeks away! ” she exclaimed. “So?” She didn’t argue. Cyndi rarely argues. One of the reasons I love her so.
The bride’s family normally pays for the wedding. When we explained the plan to the Sieverts, Cyndi’s parents, Bill was so relieved that his daughter’s wedding would be at no cost to him that neither he nor Margaret tried to impose their own ideas of what a wedding should be like. Everything went off as I had conceived it in a few minutes of solitude, rare in the hotel business.
Irving Isaacson came prepared to marry us in front of two witnesses and was nonplussed to find a company of over two hundred people. All of our relatives were gathered from distant places and all were present. Two of our oldest guests and dearest friends, the Bezanson’s, witnessed our marriage contract. We met at Poland Spring, we fell in love at Poland Spring, we married at Poland Spring, and expect to spend our lives together here. Once again, the magic of Poland Spring changed two more lives.
Fate was to play one of its little games again exactly two months later. When Hiram Riccar dedicated the Poland Spring House on the 4th of July 1876, he swore that it “would stand on this ground for 100 years.” It was to burn to the ground at 1:a.m on July 4, 1975… exactly 99
years to the day! Whoever or whatever guides the fortunes at Poland Spring, they or it do not care to abide by mortal predictions.
Many people thought that Saul had burned down the Poland Spring House for the insurance. I knew for a fact that as the building was uninhabited that he was unable to get any kind of insurance. Furthermore, I was still trying to arrange some kind of financing to restore the building and it would have been to his advantage if I was successful. No, he did not burn the building down for the insurance, but he did burn the building down by mistake.
Saul was still operating the golf course. Although the original pro shop had been in the lower level of the Poland Spring House, he had moved it to the Motor Inn during the Job Corps years and it remained there until we took that building over for the extra rooms we needed. When we did that he moved the pro shop to it’s original location. He moved his merchandise and somewhat refurnished the area with whatever pieces of furniture he could find. He ran into a problem in furnishing the coffee shop. He needed a fryolator and did not have one. We did, in the kitchen of the Maine Inn. I had learned enough about that piece of equipment to know that in itself it was not dangerous but that unless it was property cleaned and maintained it could be a bomb. Loaded with grease and oil, all it needed was someone to forget to turn it off and if the thermostat was not working properly, it could easily burst into flames. The one we found in the Maine Inn kitchen had a defective thermostat. I didn’t want it in a building where people were sleeping. We threw it out to be carried to the town dump. Saul found it in our backyard and decided to install it in the new pro shop. I personally warned him about the thermostat and he said that he would have it replaced. I had tried this and found that the model was so old that a
replacement part was not easy to come by. I strongly suspect that the thermostat was never replaced.
At 8 pm on July 3rd, I was running a disco in the old dining room of the Motor Inn. Casually looking out of the window as a record was playing I saw flames below the porch of the Poland Spring House. It was exactly where Saul’s pro shop was located. As it began to lap its way up to the wooden porch other guests noticed as well and left the building and started across the golf course. I got in my car and raced up the road and to a position about thirty feet from the Poland Spring House. By this time the entire side porch was engulfed in flames. As I got out of my car the heat of the fire was like stepping into a furnace. I moved my car back and at that moment Cyndi arrive. She had seen the fire, called the fire department, and ran through the Maine Inn knocking on doors to make sure that no one was asleep in our building. The Poland Spring House was obviously doomed but the larger danger was that flying embers would ignite the Maine Inn.
Fire engines arrived and in a few minutes drained the main water tower of hundred of thousands of gallons of water. They then hooked their hoses into the lake but to no avail Hundreds of townspeople came onto our lawn. The fire could be seen for at least twenty miles. Some stood there in sheer wonderment while others wept openly. They had lived with this magnificent building (they called it “The Castle”) all of their lives, as had their parents and grandparents, and now it was a mass of flames. Truly the end of an era.
Channel 13 sent a helicopter from Portland and had the event on the air within a half hour of its beginning. Channel 8, whose studios were on the grounds at the Riccar Inn did not notice until after 10 p.m when most of the building was down. One of their cameramen happened to go out on the front porch for a smoke when he looked up and saw the massive conflagration. He
went inside and had the help of two men in moving the heavy studio camera to the porch. When they were at last ready to go on the air they found that their electrical plug wouldn’t reach any of the outlets and someone was dispatched to find an extension cord. This took another half hour and they did not get on the air until the fire was almost over. In the meantime, Channel 13 was broadcasting throughout New England and it was picked up by CBS, their network affiliate.
Back at the Maine Inn those guest who were not milling around the lawn were seated on the front porch evidently enjoying the excitement. Whatta Fourth of July!! One of them happened to go into the Pub to replenish his drink and looking up and saw the fire on TV. He rushed to the door shouting “Hey, the fire’s on TV!” Half the people on the porch and those that heard him on the lawn rushed in to watch the remainder of the fire on television. A sad commentary.
The ballroom was on the far end of the building. As the fire progressed down the corridors and through the basement we saw a sight that none of us who where there that night will never forget. Before the ballroom was engulfed in flame, smoke rose from the basement portion and filtered through the floorboards. The wind made them appear as ghostly dancers doing their last cavort in the dimly lit room. Flames danced against the walls and the eerie smoke figures moved amid the crackling music played by an invisible orchestra. There was complete silence everywhere as the shadow dancers pranced and dipped. Suddenly the ceiling collapsed and they were all gone. As if from one throat… with one voice.. came a gasp of horror that would bum itself into our memories, forever.
All that was left standing was a rusty fire escape. It reached up two stories from a mountain of debris. The area was strewn with thousands of hand wrought nails that joined this building for almost a century.
The destruction of the Poland Spring House changed all of our plans. I had already come to the conclusion our overall strategy would work but I needed the rooms to meet the volume requirements that our low rate dictated. The most beautiful of all the hotels was now reduced to ash.
Saul almost always guessed wrong. He thought that with the Poland Spring House gone that I would lose my interest in Poland Spring. Instead I asked for a new lease that would
embody all of what we had before plus the golf course. Frankly, I wanted no part of the golf course. Never having held a golf club in my life, I had no knowledge or feeling for the sport… but Bob Grady did. Bob was working as a bartender but his true love was golf and there was hardly a conversation between us when he did not ask when I would take over the course. The new lease seemed the perfect time. Bob had been a great help to me and if that would make him happy… so be it.
Every year seemed to be a year of change and a year of crisis.. but 1976 was the true turning point for everything that we had so far tried to accomplish at Poland Spring.
During the previous summer the children had been allowed to run wild by their parents. It culminated in the complete wreckage of the children’s game room I decided… no more kids! During the winter of ’75, the guests had been particularly troublesome as well. Most brought their own liquor (brownbagggers) and our bars could not make a profit. Along with the outrageous cost for electricity the loss of additional income was devastating. We soon learned
that no matter how cheap we made staying here for people… some of them could “outcheap” us! We made the decision not to open in the winter starting in ’76. Saul went wild! He couldn’t care less if we kept losing money as long as he got his 20%. At one point we offered to stay
open for the winter if he would cut his percentage for that season. He refused. I tried to explain
that something was better than nothing, but he didn’t subscribe to that theory. Instead he started by cajoling and then spent the next six years bullying us. Our reasonably pleasant relationship was to deteriorate throughout the years when we were to be bombarded with letters from both Saul and his attorneys. Eviction notices were to follow for what he considered breaches of our lease. Banning children and closing in the winter where the fuses that would ignite Mr. Feldman’s wrath over the next six years.
During 1976 Saul was to sell nine lots of land and one large parcel on the lake (to become Range Pond State Park). We held an option on all of that property. My response was that he would settle with us if we ever bought the property. In the meantime he felt free to sell off whatever he could.
We had notified our guests with children that we could not honor their reservations. We explained our position as best we could and advised them that we were turning the children’s
game room into a library and asked those guest who would be joining us in 1976 to bring along as many hardcover books as they could. Whatever deficiency we had in numbers was made up by people, as I had hoped, who wanted to go to a resort free of children… and to show their gratitude they brought books… ten thousand books that first year!
In September, a small mole on Cyndi’s left arm turned a strange color. She thought she should have it checked out. They did a biopsy and pronounced that she had a melanoma, one of the most deadly forms of cancer. I never had a great deal of faith in the medical profession and often wondered why with the oceans of money that had gone into cancer research, nothing much had changed in this century. I was assured by one doctor that if such a melanoma had been detected a very few years before, the accepted practice was to remove the entire limb. Now they
only excised the lymph nodes and cut out the infected part. “Was this change due to some new discovery?” I had asked, hoping that at least a few dollars thrown down the endless pit of research had done some good. “No,” he replied, “We just decided to do it this way and see what happens. The death rate is about the same either way.” My faith was even further shaken as I thought of all of those people who had had arms and legs lopped off before this option had occurred to the medical boys.
Conventional wisdom, the AMA, and Blue Cross holds that one should get a second opinion before major surgery. Try it sometime. I contacted a half dozen oncologists and surgeons and each told me that if the pathology was correct that there was no other alternative. How was I to know if the pathology report was correct? I went down another road looking for a pathologist to study the earlier report. Three of the pathologists that I spoke with, from various parts of the US told me that they had gone to school with the pathologist that issued the original report and that he had been the head of his class. They assured me that I would be wasting precious time to pursue the matter further. All I could find was that they had determined that Cyndi had a Clark 4 melanoma. My search led me to a Dr. Clark in Virginia and sure enough he had developed the standard … but he was in Europe and would not return for several months. In the meantime, we were being pressured by the local doctor and plastic surgeon to have the operation performed immediately. If it was me I probably would have waited until more evidence was in. You can’t do that with someone else’s life, especially someone you love. Reluctantly I ended my quest and allowed the doctors to have their way.
Fortunately, the surgeon, Dr. McAphee was among the best in the country. The plastic surgeon left much to be desired. Shortly after Cyndi was released from the hospital the oncologist
insisted that she immediately start a course of chemotherapy. I have always felt that pouring poison into the bloodstream of an already weakened patient, made no sense at all, but that was the accepted practice as had been the removal of limbs just a few years before.
We went to Dr. McAphee and put the matter before him. I liked him. He was overweight and smoked cigarettes. I knew that he couldn’t be all that bad. It was his opinion that chemotherapy would make no difference one way or the other. He felt that he had removed all of the cancerous tissue as well as the lymph nodes in her left armpit. The treatment would be long and painful (what doctor’s like to call “uncomfortable”.) Dr. McAphee had simply described it as painful – I told you I liked the man. “You mean that chemo will make no difference in her survival?” I asked. “Not one little bit,” was his response. We were both convinced that we had found an honest and pragmatic doctor and we went home hoping for the best.
I put together almost all the money I had and took Cyndi to Europe that winter. On the surface she seemed to be having a grand time, but as I was to find out some time later, she was convinced that I had taken her on this trip because she was about to die. I was sure that she would live and had planned the vacation so that both of us could escape the stress we had been under.
We had our new clubhouse and were making plans to launch the NEW Poland Spring Country Club the following season. Now that the golf season had come to an end, Bob decided that his work was done for the year. As he still expected to get paid each week, I couldn’t bring myself to agree with him. We discussed the matter rather rationally, I thought, but the next day the Grady’s packed up and left Poland Spring. I knew nothing about a golf course except that it was the big green thing out there. Without Bob, I had no intentions of going on with that part of the resort. Cyndi talked me out of or rather into, continuing with the course. “What did you know about the hotel business before you came here?” she asked. Granted I knew nothing about hotels but I had stayed in them occasionally. I had never seen a golf course before. My first impression after my first trip around the course was that it would make a beautiful park once we filled up all the holes… but Cyndi in her own delicate and delightful way, had her way, and we decided to give it a try.
We had revived the Poland Spring Resort using low prices and unique merchandising. Now it was time to restore the golf course. Happily, most of Saul’s members had left us and we had almost a clean slate. We had moved one of the original buildings over to the Poland Spring House site and built a new pro shop on the ground level exactly where the original pro shop had been. We built a bright, cheery restaurant on the second level with a balcony overlooking the original first tee. The restaurant was designed so that guests would be accorded the same view of the golf course as though they had been seated in the main dining room of the old Poland Spring House.
The following season, Henry the 3rd, left us leaving us with his two teenage assistants. They did a good job and Cyndi began to spend time in the kitchen. It wasn’t long before her natural curiosity and creativeness took hold as she began to take charge. Although Cyndi had never been allowed in her mother’s kitchen while growing up and had no formal teaching, she was a natural. She immediately demonstrated the ability of seasoning vast amounts of food in such a manner that would lead one to believe that she was cooking for two rather than two or four hundred. She loved cooking and the guests loved her food.
It was hard to imagine how the relationship between Saul and I could get any worse but it did. He was now on a campaign of total harassment. I received angry letters from his attorney
on a monthly basis regarding matters I had no responsibility for. He was doing so well in disposing of the property that I had optioned that sooner or later he was bound to make a mistake, and he did. My maintenance man, Jim Ashley, came to see me one day and told me that a bottling plant was being built on land that he had leased and optioned. We checked our maps and sure enough he was right. The plant, which was a multimillion dollar project, was better than half complete before Jim became suspicious. The land was at the far end of the property in an area that was rarely visited.
It was one thing to try to rid myself of Saul’s tenants and renters that had once occupied several cottages on the property. It was another to buck the nonprofit organization to which he had bestowed the State of Maine Building and the All Souls Chapel, but now we had him! The Perrier Corporation to whom he had sold our property was not going to be happy.
By this time we had learned to live with his petty annoyances and legal disposition of what was to be part of our property. However, there were two major issues with which we could not live. The first was the operation of the water system. In my innocence I became involved with what he claimed was a simple operation. It was far from simple and extremely costly. Pumps and parts were constantly breaking down and no one who worked for me was capable of coping with such a system. Every time it broke down, which was more than merely frequent, we paid thousands of dollars in bill for its repair. I wanted the water system off my hands and operated by the water bottling company who had a plethora of engineers to accomplish what I was trying to do with a single maintenance man.
Second, I wanted the Riccar Inn modernized so that I could rent its’ room. Both the Poland Spring House and the Mansion House (Saul had sold it to a salvage organization who had
taken it apart piece by piece.) were gone and if I was to stay with the policy I had developed I would need to increase the volume. I couldn’t afford to build another building and the most apparent solution was the restoring of the Riccar Inn. Saul had refused to do this for me, and frankly without those rooms our rates would have to be raised to a point where the essence of what we were trying to accomplish would be lost.
There were negotiations between Saul, Perrier, and me. Finally we hammered out a deal whereby Perrier would take over the water system and bill us 50% of the cost of operation. This seemed fair as we did expect to pay for water and the projected cost would be much, much, less than what it had cost us to run the system ourselves. Saul agreed to rebuild the Riccar Inn to
our specifications with the understanding that if we did buy the property we would reimburse him for the cost. We closed the deal in 1979. The harassment continued unabated.
Saul still sold whatever property he could. Eviction notices for imagined breaches of contract piled up on my desk as regularly as snow in Maine in February. At one point his grandson, Michael told some of our people that they had better seek new jobs as I would be gone by the following year.
Saul was pretty secure in his estimate that I would never be able to raise the required down payment to actually buy the property. This was a conclusion fixed in his mind from the very beginning. During the early years he could have been right… but matters changed when our income was increased by the opening of what we called the Presidential Inn, and the decrease in overhead with the transference of the water system
By 1981, Mr. Saul Feldman was in a frenzy. We had been able to stop him at every turn and with the addition of the Presidential Inn, we had turned the corner on profitability. He was determined to retake the Poland Spring complex
We had been very frugal with any income from the property. Most of the profits were plugged back into improvements and repairs. We had through the years developed a loyal
clientele who returned in a regular basis. This cut our advertising cost drastically and also helped to improve the bottom line. The golf course was beginning to pay off and we expanded our gift shop operation and offered entertainment on a regular basis.
We were also fortunate never having to pay one cent in interest. We paid cash for everything as we had an excellent cash flow. All of our business was done on a cash basis. We accepted no credit cards, everyone paid in advance and checks were only accepted if there was plenty of time for them to clear. We had no high salaried people. Cyndi and I took a very token salary. We had no partners either in this country or Japan… and interest rates were very high on bank CD’s where we kept our profits. Interest on this money became another source of income for us. In addition many of our guests insisted on reserving into the following year. Although this too would be a good source of income it became a nightmare of bookkeeping… until we bought our first computer. At that time we not only were able to easily keep track of advance reservation and had no qualms about accepting them but we now encouraged and promoted the practice by freezing their rates and allowing selection of specific room. The addition of a computer opened the floodgates of an entirely new source of income.
In the spring of 1982, we advised him that we were ready to exercise our option and buy the property. We asked for an accounting of all parcels sold during the option period. We agreed
to pay for the renovations for the Presidential Inn and were given a briefcase full of scraps of paper that totaled in excess of two hundred thousand dollars. Practically nothing was substantiated. In addition, Saul kept insisting that we owed him an additional twelve thousand dollars for the freeze up of water pipes several years before. This was not going to be an easy closing.
There was a gathering of lawyers. Although Saul’s dearest wish was to regain the now booming property, his attorneys eventually disabused him of that idea. After much haggling, debating, accusing, and negotiating, the sale closed on July 12, 1982. Saul wanted to take back the mortgage and as our original agreement was that it would be at the going local rate for real estate, which in 1982 was 8%, we were glad to accommodate him As interest rates rose in the next few years, so did his blood pressure. We were free at last!
From the time of the purchase, Saul and I were almost friends. There was no further rancor. He bought a shoe factory in Santo Domingo and busied himself with trying to return colonialism to Central America. He continued to live in the big house near the tennis courts. Part of the purchase arrangement was that the house would belong to us but through his lifetime and that of Tudi’s they could live there rent free. I believe that this helped closed the purchase a bit more expeditiously as Saul just loved getting something for nothing.
In the winter of 1990 Saul Feldmam left Poland Spring, never to return. In his 80th year his health had deteriorated and he went to Florida to spend his last days with his daughter. He died there and was buried in his family plot in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The local newspaper published a ten line obituary. About thirty people came to his home in Poland Spring a few days later for a memorial service.
His daughter in law, Tudi Feldman, remains in the large brooding Victorian home, accompanied only by a caretaker. Saul Feldman never belonged at or to Poland Spring. Tudi did. Saul saw Poland Spring as a money cow to be milked as often as possible and fed as little as would sustain it. Tudi was the romantic who reveled in its history and squirreled away as much memorabilia and antiques as the vast cellars and attics of the Victorian house would hold.
Once we were no longer open year round, David Lock had to leave us as an employee. He not only remains a close friend but his love for the theater had kindled a spark in me. I had always loved the theater, and had always enjoyed writing. It had never occurred to me to put the two together. In a short time, David became a top notch director in amateur theatricals. Although David is a very talented guy he had the same thing working for him that had helped me. The state of Maine, forgetting its vast land areas to the north, is actually a “little pond”. It doesn’t take
very much to be “a big fish”. I may not have done very well if I was in New York and up against the Hiltons and the Trumps. David may not have been a flash on Broadway, but he was one of the most sought after directors in Maine. For a few seasons he directed plays for us and the guests enjoyed them immensely. For the most part, they were old chestnuts that were readily available and he was able to supply the actors from the various little theatre groups. I wasn’t entirely satisfied and decided to try my hand at playwriting. I had all the raw material at hand plus a fairly captive audience. I also had a good ear for dialogue. Almost immediately I found that the words flowed faster than I would get them down on paper. My characters came alive and almost told me the story. Sometimes it was frightening to find that a basic plot would veer off in a totally unplanned direction. There were many times I followed the directions that the characters chose for themselves. It was more like reading than writing.
The first play of mine that we produced was about a middle aged couple who hired a young French girl as a live in maid. The son, who lived elsewhere, was enamored of the young lady but she found his father far more interesting. An affair between the maid and good old dad was to ensue. I called the play, A Bed of Sixty Cubits. The quotation, which came from the Talmud was, “When love is new two people can sleep on the edge of a sword’s blade, but as it grows older a bed of sixty cubits is not large enough to contain two people.”
The part of the father required a middle aged actor and as none was available I volunteered to play the part. I had never been on the stage before, nor since. I got double the pleasure of seeing and hearing the audience react to the lines that I had written and then gales of laughter as I personally delivered my own character’s lines. It was a marvelous experience and the play was a great success.
Prompted by an overheard conversation between a number of nurses who worked in a nursing home relative to the sexual proclivities of the aged, I later wrote the comedy, Harry, and several others that were all well received. The Poland Spring Summer Theatre was well established and an eagerly awaited event.
Earlier on I referred to the fact that most of us live and die without using a fraction of our actual potential. Owning this resort is the perfect case in point. I was never trained for any of the things that I would do here but drew from my own experiences and hereto for unknown talents. Having Cyndi by my side and encouraging any flight of fancy that occurred to me was the catalyst for all we were able to accomplish.
Poland Spring is a vast stage. The land and the buildings they are on have no interest in who the current owner may be. We who come to Poland Spring, and our many guests, play our
roles then move on. Cyndi and I will be buried in the earth of Poland Spring when the time
comes. We will share that ground with the founding family… and hope to be as well remembered.