Trolley expert to give talk in Brewer

Posted Sept. 11, 2011, at 7:29 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — It was 66 years ago that LeForest “Lee” Mathews III “got bit” by a trolley in Bangor.

He’s not talking about an electrical shock, but rather how much he loved driving the trolley along a portion of Ohio Street, thanks to the kindness of the regular operator, “a guy named Mallory.”

Lee Mathews was just 14, and he still loves driving trolleys.

In fact, he’s a licensed trolley operator for the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport.

Mathews has lots to share, including a cherished photo of the Bangor Trolley coming down Main Street that his daughter Sally gave him. He will give a talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the meeting of the Brewer Historical Society at First United Methodist Church, 40 South Main St.

What was a big deal to Mathews as a youth was getting to use his dad’s weekly pass on Saturdays.

“The pass ended on Saturday night at midnight,” Mathews recalled. “You had to buy a new one on Sunday morning.”

Penobscot Transportation Co. issued the weekly pass for $1, each one giving the beginning and end dates for the week covered. The ticket bore the name of Edward M. Graham, president of Globe Ticket Co. in Boston.

Riding the trolley was a memorable experience, especially for those who didn’t get to do it regularly. The Bangor Daily News reported a century ago, on July 28, 1911:

“Through the kindness of the Bangor Railway and Electric Co., some 700 children from Bangor and Orono enjoyed an excursion to Riverside Park in Hampden. Eight [trolley] cars were needed to transport the little ones. City Missionary Mrs. Johnson was the chaperone and the Orono delegation was in the charge of the Rev. John M. Harrington. Patrolmen Gehigan and Rogan were the guardians of the children and made so much of a hit with the youngsters that they are booked for president — both of them.

“Mrs. Johnson expressed thanks to those who contributed: T.R. Savage Co., peanuts; Thurston and Kingsbury, lollipops; Fred Crowell, peanuts; Staples and Griffin, ginger-snaps; D.F. Snow, ginger-snaps; J. Frank Boyd, confectionery; Tea White, confectionery; Helson’s Bakery, cookies; Boston Cooking School, cookies; W.H. Stacy, sandwiches, bananas and cookies; Rice and Miller, bat; O. Crosby Bean, ball; R.B. Dunning and Co., baskets.”

The trolley ran to other communities as well, including Veazie, Orono, Old Town, Glenburn, Kenduskeag, Corinth and Charleston.

But the trolleys came to an end. Edward M. Graham himself turned off the electric power to the generator on Dec. 31, 1945, at the Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. substation at the top of Park Street Hill in Bangor.

Watching as Graham threw the switch were Charles H. Johnson, superintendent of transportation; Gordon D. Briggs, lawyer; Ernest W. Brown, operating engineer; Frank G. Usher, utility man; and Millard F. Brown, operator.

Motorman Thomas Davis was pictured in the Bangor Daily News the next day, standing in old car 40 on Exchange Street.

Guy Webster, the last of the men who ran the open-air trolleys to Old Town and Hampden, drove buses until 1955, when he stepped down to return to work for Bangor Hydro.