Looking back on New Year’s Eve and looking ahead to New Year’s Day

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Looking back — and looking ahead. That’s what New Year’s celebrations are all about. It’s only been 15 years since this century arrived with all kinds of Y2K hoopla.

The Sun Journal’s front page for Dec. 31, 1999, carried a huge “This is it” goodbye, and the next day’s headline declared, “The future is here.” The paper was filled with articles reviewing L-A’s peaks and valleys of the previous 100 years.

Almost pushed off the left side of that day’s front page was an announcement that Boris Yeltsin had resigned as president of Russia, and there was speculation that a “popular politician” named Vladimir Putin would succeed him. Much more space was devoted to the possibility that Y2K programming bugs would cripple the world’s computers.

Do you remember how you observed that New Year’s Eve? There were lots of options in the Twin Cities that night. If you were not at one of the countless private parties, you may have spent a festive evening at The Coliseum on Center Street in Auburn with an all-night buffet, DJ dancing and champagne toasts at midnight. Or maybe you went to the movies to see “Toy Story 2,” “The Green Mile” or “Bicentennial Man.”

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If you had been around a hundred years prior, where might you have been as residents of the Twin Cities said goodbye to 1899 and welcomed the year 1900? New Year’s Eve was on a Sunday and, most likely, your notice of the new millennium was little more than a family dinner and a normal day of work on Monday, Jan. 1. In fact, the Lewiston Daily Sun had very little to say about the observance in Lewiston and Auburn except to note in the local news column that “The Auburn Public Library will be closed on New Year’s Day.”

There were no special dances on the social calendar to mark the date, but another big event was coming up within a few days.

“Arrangements are rapidly nearing completion for the third annual ball to be given at City Hall, Lewiston, Thursday evening, January 4, by the Lewiston Firemen’s Relief association,” the Sun reported. “All seem to be taking a great interest in the ball, and a delightful time is assured.”

In between the years 1900 and 2000, the style of local New Year’s observances underwent some makeovers.

The Lewiston Evening Journal’s entertainment page on Dec. 31, 1949, had dozens of ads for New Year’s Eve fun.

“GALA NEW YEAR’S WEEKEND CELEBRATION,” proclaimed one large advertisement. Tony Brown and his Orchestra was scheduled for New Year’s Eve at the Lewiston Armory and the following night, Lloyd Rafnell and his Orchestra played from midnight to 4 a.m. for a dance at Lewiston City Hall.

Elm Hotel in Auburn offered “RKO Variety Stars” in a floor show, Stevens Mills Grange presented Carroll Poulin and his Orchestra for New Year’s Eve dancing, Cumberland Hotel advertised a gala party with Diane Barry’s song and piano act, and Joy Inn on Lisbon Street, Lewiston, had dining and dancing with Bill Hodgman at the piano.

Other options were Conant’s Barn with Judkins’ Orchestra at Paris Hill, Claude Noel’s Band at Marvin’s Hotel, the Sprague Club’s party with Emery’s Orchestra at Abou Ben Adhem Hall in Auburn or a special New Year’s Eve dinner at the DeWitt Hotel in Lewiston.

If a movie was your holiday choice of entertainment, you might see “Adam’s Rib” with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn at the Empire. The weekend features at the Ritz Theater in Lewiston (now The Public Theatre) were Disney’s “So Dear To My Heart” or Abbott and Costello in “Africa Screams.” Other local movie houses were the Auburn Theater, the Empire, the Strand, the Priscilla, the Community Theater in Auburn, the Gull in Winthrop and theaters in Lisbon and Mechanic Falls.

In 1959, the advertised options for New Year’s partying had dwindled considerably. Don Roberts, a popular local disk jockey, was hosting a “Giant Record Hop” at Lewiston City Hall (admission 50 cents), and there was a New Year’s Eve record hop at the Lisbon Roller Rink. Dances were held at the West Minot Grange Hall and at the Legion Home, Pleasant Street, Auburn with the Jones Orchestra.

It would be fun to revisit those past New Year’s celebrations, but whatever your plans may be for 2015, have a very Happy New Year.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending an email to davidsargent607@gmail.com.

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