Candy Tibbetts meets President Eisenhower June 27, 1955
A Tribute to Candace Tibbetts Cottrell, (1942-2017)

In the early 1950s, at the corner of Main Street and Pond Street, Candy Tibbetts lived in the apartment over the family-owned Tibbetts’ Hardware store (later Scribner’s, more recently Forks in the Air) with her mom and dad, Gertrude and Verd. My family moved to Pond Street in Rangeley from Orgonon sometime in 1952. Candy and I quickly became good friends and remained in touch regularly over the years until her death. During more recent visits, I took some notes on life in Rangeley seventy years ago.

Sometime in there, ’53, ’54, Verd Tibbetts announced that he had acquired a Television set and one evening we gathered around a darkened room in the basement and gawked at snow (static/interference that blurred the image with what looked like snow).  Soon though, Verd picked up a better signal and Candy and I watched some early dramas, through a lot less snow. There wasn’t much in the airwaves then; I remember spinning the radio dial and picking up, loud and clear, Ici Radio Canada. Sometimes we’d pick up Mt Washington Radio or WCSH in Portland.  Serious TV signals from WMTW didn’t arrive in Rangeley until 1955 as TV penetration was slow.

Verd was quite the fisherman, and Candy told stories of Ted Williams and Curt Gowdy driving up from Boston for fishing trips with Verd. Candy recalled that Ted Willams invited Verd and Candy down to the Boston Sportsmens’ Show where Williams was demonstrating fly-casting.  To Candy’s amazement,  “The Splendid Splinter” invited her up to the stand and allowed her to flick the bamboo rod in front of the crowd.

After Verd died in 1954, Gertrude and Candy moved down Main Street to the building up by Stubby’s, the current location of ENS Associates.  Gertrude often spoke of her older daughter Pat and her husband Rod McConkey, a career officer in the Air Force.

Candy and I stayed in touch over the years after her marriage to John Cottrell, and during their many years living in Portland.  During one visit, Candy talked about politics.  Candy said when she went to register to vote, Ray Harnden handed her a Republican ballot and said “That’s the way we vote in this town.”  The only Democrat she knew of, said Candy, was Vance Oakes, and maybe Joey McLafferty.

And it was Candy who told me the whole  story of Earl “Shag” Frazier. We all knew he was a Bata’an Death March survivor  which is why the town revered its postmaster and all World War II veterans — and the dead — with such awe.  But it was Candy who filled me in on the longer story of Shag building the Redwood Cross which now fills the Episcopal Church with such light.

Another time, Candy, John and I started on Main Street at the sluiceway from Haley Pond and “walked” and talked our way up Main Street:  who owned the shops and for how long; what changed and what didn’t. Clayton Armstrong’s Barber shop (later Pete Durrell’s), Mrs.Giles’ Mercantile, Roger Paige’s, Ray Harnden’s men’s store, Chet Johnson’s (market?) prior to the IGA.  We stopped talking there, and Candy died few months later, before we had a chance to visit again, cross Pond Street and finish reminiscing.

On one of those last visits, Candy reminded me of her meeting with President Eisenhower during his fishing trip to Rangeley, June 27, 1955. The town had chosen someone with a distinguished historic lineage to greet the President and present him with a fawn: thirteen year-old Candy Tibbetts.  Candy was the great- great-grand-daughter of the first white woman born in the Rangeley Lakes, Lucinda Hoar, who married Timothy Tibbetts.  These Tibbetts descendants went on to produce the famous Rangeley Boat.

National Archives, Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, Kansas

As Candy told it, she and Ike were up on Main Street with the crowd, for the formal greeting and presentation.  The crowd of locals, young and old,  and out-of-town members of the press looked on as Ike flashed his famous grin and took Candy’s hand in his.  Candy’s role was to recite some lines declaring this fawn to be a gift from the children of Rangeley to the Washington Zoo.  When the time came for her to utter the words in front of the crowds and the cameras, she froze.  She froze for what seemed a very long time.  And then, very calmly, The President of the United States leaned over and whispered in her ear:  “on behalf of the children of Rangeley…” — and she took over from there.

About the author: Peter Reich attended Kindergarten through fourth grade at Rangeley Elementary School.  A Vietnam-Era Army veteran, Peter completed his education at Bates College and Boston University School of Public Health and worked for 30 years as a faculty and staff member at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.  Peter’s parents first came to Rangeley during the war-torn summer of 1940, and purchased Orgonon in 1942.  Peter has been a yearly Rangeley regular for all of his 77 years and, since 1971, with wife, children and grandchildren.







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