The last day of December 1960, a Saturday, seemed destined to be a different sort of New Year’s Eve, according to the pages of the Bangor Daily News.
The front page on Dec. 30 carried a firm reminder from Col. Richard Marx, chief of the Maine State Police: “All year, we’ve been warning that people who drink shouldn’t drive and that people who drive shouldn’t drink; this weekend we’re going to check closely to see how well our warning has been taken.”
Marx was outlining plans for an all-out crackdown on drunken driving New Year’s Eve and New Year’s morning. In addition to his own 220 patrolmen, Marx was supported by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which offered the services of 120 uniformed wardens.
Another issue was the ancient Sunday “blue laws,” as detailed on the front page of the BDN.
Earlier that week, the Maine Liquor Commission announced that the sale of liquor on licensed premises throughout the state must cease at 11:45 p.m. Saturday. State law also forbid public dancing after midnight.
Operators of both the Bijou Theater and the Opera House in Bangor canceled their midnight shows without comment after police warned that the performances would be contrary to state statutes.
But in the end, it was Mother Nature that inhibited New Year’s festivities.
As reported on the Monday, Jan. 2, 1961, front page of the BDN in an article by reporter Velton Peabody: “Maine was laboring [Jan. 1] to overcome the effects of a paralyzing New Year’s Day storm which left much of the state under a foot or more of snow and coastal areas in the threat of gale-force winds and potential sleet damage.
“The Northeast storm moved into the state in full force Sunday morning and was believed past its peak by mid-evening, after dumping more than a foot of snow on Greenville and other inland portions of the state.
“It appeared the coastal area might bear the brunt of the damage when winds reached gale-force and temperatures dropped during the evening, turning snow into driven sleet.
“Several sections of Washington County were hit by power failures as gusty winds off the coast hit 55 miles per hour.
“[Bangor-area] streets were considered to be extremely hazardous for driving. The Orono barracks of the Maine State Police issued a warning to motorists that all highways in central and eastern Maine were snow-covered.”
Drivers must have heeded those warnings.
The BDN reported that unlike Christmas weekend 1960, when there had been six fatalities, no highway deaths were reported from 6 p.m. Dec. 30 to 9 p.m. Jan. 1.
Looking back, it’s impossible to say what impact the impending storm had on revelers that New Year’s Eve.
The BDN estimated “hundreds of Bangor residents and Dow Air Force Base personnel celebrated the arrival of 1961 at both club and private parties throughout the city. Holiday dress ranging from formal attire to colorful square dance ensembles were the order for the festivities.”
And the first Bangor-area baby of 1961?
It was baby boy Laurence David Gray, the first child of Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Gray of 142 Pine St., who arrived at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1 at Eastern Maine General Hospital.