Monday, January 20, 2020

207, 603, 802 Vacations

There was a New Yorker cartoon in the 1980's of one telephone operator telling another "We're going to vacation in 802, 603, and 207 this year." LL Bean missed a trick back then when they didn't start with a line of shirts that had "207" to replace the Izod alligator or the Polo player. Alternatively, they could have had the numbers running down the sleeve.  It would be a minor in joke that people could wear outside of New England, with only those in the know getting the reference.  They could have broken out a new one every year or so, adding 802, then moving on to 603. After that it would have gotten more debatable.  You could have 508 and 413 (Cape Cod and the Berkshires) in Massachusetts, but even though there are some legit New England boatsy places in 978 - Gloucester, Cape Ann - or 781- Scituate, Hingham - the entirety of those areas would not be very LL Bean in image. They would be very LL Bean in market, though. You could get away with 401, Rhode Island, I think. Maybe it should harm the brand, but it wouldn't have. After a long wait and making them suffer for it, they could have let Connecticut, 203, into the club. 518 because of the Adirondacks?  Maybe.

Along the way they could have gone for a real inside reference by coming out with 709, then 902, then 506 emblems on the shirts.  These are the original area codes of the Canadian Maritimes, reinforcing Maine's otherness and connection to them.  I would have loved to have had a shirt with a little 902 over the breast, watching people squint and scowl trying to figure that one out.  I would have bought them for the whole family. When the boys went south to go to college, new 603 shirts would have to be packed. 418, the original area code for eastern Quebec could have been used, but none of the others in that province.  Mainers wouldn't want to hurt their feelings though, as half of Quebec drives down to vacation at York Beach every summer, and they need the money. That would have to be the end of it.  The authorities in Freeport would have to freeze the list at that point.

Yes we do have beaches along that small stretch, and quite important to us because there are only a few miles of good sand.  But the water is cold, cold, even in August.  No one (well, Canadians, but please) comes to NH or Maine for the beaches.  To get warmer water and a lot of beach you have to get to the southern side of Cape Cod. That's not what LL Bean is selling. They do sell "swimwear," but it's not the tanning and eye-catching variety. This follows their marketing pattern.  They also sell underwear, but the category is called "base layers."

Vacationing in northern New England is almost year 'round, leaving out April and May, but there are differences that stretch back over a century which are still influences.  All three have skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skating and ice fishing. NH gets the bulk of winter climbers and ice climbers, but Maine and Vermont have them also. All of those activities support breakfast restaurants, and you can still get baked beans at a lot of them.* That's all very similar. But Vermont has Inns, New Hampshire has grand hotels, Maine has remote hunting camps and big summer houses along the rocky coast. Those are very different flavors. Lakes houses took off in all three after the war, yet still haven't made everything the same. The big hotels had full restaurants, with wine lists and 3-5 courses, and many still operate.  The Vermont Inns had smaller dining rooms and menus, even fixed menus until recently, when that would be unsustainable. The Maine coastal mansions had their own kitchens and even servants to make the meals.  Restaurants would still spring up around town, because not everyone was going to entertain for twelve, but these were lunchier, beachier affairs. Lobster rolls, clams, hot dogs.  For remote hunting camps, those big spenders were hiring pilots, guides, and cooks.  Those places needed a fair number of maintenance men as well.  Each of those different summer and fall vacations provides a different array of jobs for the locals. Outsiders bring in money, but it's different money.

*Baked beans are traditional since colonial days. That's what "pease porridge" was, nine days old. But they were also a staple of logging camps, where workers could burn through 9000 calories a day.  The theory was that the flapjacks and syrup were good for immediate energy, eggs started to feed you in the late morning, meat got you through most of the afternoon, and the slow-digesting beans were needed to keep you on your feet in the late afternoon. Hikers will still order them. If you are up here visiting, you should have the beans for breakfast at least once, just for bragging.

8 comments:

james said...

So, aside from the historical sites of 617, what is there to see/do in New England that doesn't involve camping? (or, I'm afraid, extensive hiking)

RichardJohnson said...

Your bringing up area code 802 reminded me of this "old" video.802 Music Video.

james said...

BTW, that's an awful lot of vacations: more than a couple of years worth for the USA, according to AAA

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Lots of the scenery is visible in the car. There are the other activities I mentioned, which are outdoors but don't necessarily involve hiking: skiing, boating, fishing, etc. Just about every town has a small museum of some sort, and most towns have histories of their own, which you can have as much or as little of as you want. We're big on historical markers, covered bridges, and restaurants having local history printed on the menu. We are almost up to 400 years of history, and if you like Indians, we've kept track of them and remember their stuff better than they do and can go back further than that, so you can go for days on that alone. There are towns in each state that pretty much define "picturesque," enough so that you get tired of them. A large concentration of small but prestigious colleges that are fun to walk around on or go to their concerts.

When we first went to England and Scotland in 1997, we were mad for castles at first, but on the drive back to London wouldn't go five miles out of our way to see one recommended by Fodor's. We'd seen plenty. We are easily spoiled.

We've got the world in miniature here. There are bigger mountains, better museums, and better beaches elsewhere but we've got them. Mill cities, rural poor and rural charm, back roads, historic roads, and great highways, all packed together. We don't tend to have Big Things here, like Disney or famous boroughs. Even though we've got the ocean, it's sort of an out-of-the-way part. Though if you like learning about sea=trade, we're all over that.

Grim said...

The breakfast beans were among my favorite things about New Hampshire. I very much approve of beans for breakfast.

james said...

Sounds like a good place for a semi-planned vacation.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Maybe. We all want people to like our home state or country, but one also has to recognise that not everyone is going to be pleased with what we have. I love dramatic scenery, but we have only a little of that. There are a few ways to have adventure vacations here, but not so many as other places. Northern New England has plenty of small cities, but no big ones.

Uncle Bill said...

I live in West Virgina. "304" shirts are popular here, usually with the "0" replaced by the outline of the state. Also, "WEST, by God, Virginia." It is amazing how many folks do not realize that West Virginia is a separate state.