Lance DeRoche of Standish found this handwritten note, tucked in a 45-year-old beer bottle, inside the wall of his house in April. Before the day was over, he'd been contacted by the daughters of the man who emptied it in 1975. Credit: Courtesy of Rebecca DeRoche

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Nearly 45 years have passed since someone wrote a note and put it inside an empty Miller Lite bottle. That message in a bottle, recently found hidden in the wall of a Standish home, made the rounds on social media and gave people a lighthearted snapshot from several decades ago.

“October 15, 1975. This chimney was built by Lawrence Shaw of Sebago,” it reads. “This bottle of beer was drank by the same man. This is his trademark!! May it stand for the next generation to see. Carl Weymouth owned the house at time of erection.”

The note, which current homeowners Rebecca and Lance DeRoche found in April while doing some renovations, also included several observations about life in 1975: Standish was a “growing town,” food prices were “outrageous,” inflation was “very high” and Gerald Ford was president.

After Rebecca DeRoche posted about this entertaining looking glass into the past on Facebook, it eventually found its way to two of Shaw’s daughters, who said he died in 2010.

“I wrote to [Rebecca] and thanked her for sharing it — it was just such a ray of sunshine,” Shaw’s daughter Chrissie Libby said, adding that the note came “at a time when all we’re hearing is such bad news. It was a fun thing to hear.”

Libby was confident that Shaw didn’t write the note himself, with the penmanship not matching her left handed father’s distinctive handwriting.

The message, which BDN reporter and photographer Troy Bennett perfectly described as a “ time traveling note,” gave Shaw’s family another chance to connect with and remember a departed loved one. It also gives everyone who reads it a chance to travel back in time to 1975, long before the current coronavirus crisis, where a couple of buddies could get together to do some work at one of their houses, maybe have a few beers, and not worry about getting each other sick or keeping 6 feet apart.

That ability to be transported to a different time, if only for a moment, is no small thing right now when the tough realities of a global pandemic often feel inescapable. Perhaps that’s why this charming story spread so quickly online.

Libby suspected that the note was meant as a joke, and explained that her father wasn’t a heavy drinker.

“That wasn’t his trademark,” Libby said. “But maybe the guys had one too many and the story got embellished — because his real trademark was helping people.”

If we were to create our own tiny time capsule to give people in the future a sense of what it means to be living through the current pandemic, there would be plenty of headlines of angst and uncertainty that we could include. The most fitting thing to bottle up, however, would be stories of the helpers — the health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees, volunteers checking in on their neighbors, and so many more — who, as Libby recounted about her father, have shown a remarkable commitment to others.

At the house in Standish, the DeRoches said they now plan to seal up their own bottle in the wall for someone else to find. It will describe life in Standish right now the pandemic, and include a photocopy of the original note.

“I hope it brings happiness to whoever finds it,” Rebecca DeRoche said. “We may not be here when it’s found but it’ll be something that’s happy and positive. This house has been good to us.”

Happiness and positivity haven’t always been easy to come by the past few months. It can be a lonely time, as if we’re adrift on our own socially-distant islands. But to lean on the Police and their song “Message in a Bottle,” at least we’re not alone in being alone. The message in a bottle found down in Standish is a fun reminder of the things that connect us, right now and throughout time.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...