2014-09-26 / Community

A Window on the Past

Earle R. Angell
By Craig Skelton
South Portland Historical Society


Earle R. Angell Earle R. Angell I read an old newspaper account dating back to the mid-1960s of Earle R. Angell’s involvement with the local historical society. Earle spoke of his growing interest in history and how it is in a way like piecing together a puzzle. He had been doing some genealogy research to determine if in fact his ancestor, Capt. Samuel B. Angell, was a pirate.

It got me thinking that many of us involved with the historical society are, in a way, modern pirates because we are in search of treasure. That treasure might not be valuable to some, from a dollar and cents point of view, yet like piecing together a puzzle like Earle said, any bit of treasure we find adds another piece to the puzzle making up the picture of South Portland’s past.

Many faithful readers have helped us along the way, and your assistance has resulted in more than a few of the 400-plus Window on the Past articles making it to publication because information or an old picture was discovered and donated to the society. Not long ago, Kathy DiPhilippo told me that photos of the Jump-A-Rama Trampoline Center in Mill Creek were a pleasant surprise, making that article possible, and many of my own articles are based on photos we have come across by chance. We depend upon your support and assistance in uncovering this treasure.

Earle served as the city historian starting in the 1960s, back when there was such a post, and he was appointed to that position by former city manager Bernal Allen, who was impressed with Earle’s historical research efforts. Earle was recognized for compiling burial records for Mount Pleasant Cemetery and is recorded as cofounder of the South Portland Historical Society. Earle was also credited with bringing together the city parks and recreation department and the Osewantha Garden Club that landscapes and maintains what is believed to be the city’s oldest landmark, the Old Settlers Cemetery, on the grounds of Southern Maine Community College.

Earle and his wife Sylvia were known for collecting photographs that depicted life in this area around the turn of the last century. Their son, Ed Angell, tells me that much of his father’s earlier work was inspired by the discovery of boxes filled with glass plate negatives thrown out at the dump on Highland Avenue. Earle took a particular interest in trying to figure out who many of the prominent people in the pictures were. Earle wasn’t bashful and, according to Ed, his father found other treasures over the years in people’s homes, sheds and abandoned homes. I’m guessing his involvement with the fire department opened the door for discoveries made in abandoned homes.

The discovery of historical treasure is sometimes maddeningly slow and frustrating, yet in the end, the puzzle picture becomes so much clearer. If you have old photographs or other pieces of South Portland history, please contact the historical society at 55 Bug Light Park, by phone at 767-7299, or message us on Facebook at South Portland Historical Society.

Craig Skelton is a guest columnist and member of South Portland Historical Society.

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