A group of unidentified University of Maine students enjoy themselves at the 1981 edition of Bumstock, the second-to-last one to be held while the University Cabins were still standing. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine Hidden History Tour

The area adjacent to the Rangeley Road entrance to the University of Maine campus, off Park Street in Orono, is an empty field now.

For nearly 70 years until the 1980s, however, it housed a community of cabins dubbed “Hungry Hollow” by residents and neighbors alike, light-years from the 19 modern, amenity-laden residence halls scattered across campus today.

By the 1960s, Hungry Hollow had become a laid-back counter-cultural hotspot for eastern Maine. It even spawned its own music festival, Bumstock, which lived on in various iterations for more than 30 years after it was first held in 1973.

Back in 1913, the field was owned by local farmer Ernest “Gramps” Littlefield, who that year began allowing students of modest means to live next to campus in structures that were little more than shacks. According to UMaine’s Hidden History Tour, the first building was a converted hen house that two students lived in.

Over the years, Hungry Hollow grew. By the time the Great Depression hit in 1929, unemployed and destitute non-students were also living there, piled into converted trucks and tents, in the kind of itinerant encampment seen in towns and cities across the country. Such settlements were called “Hoovervilles,” named after President Herbert Hoover, under whose watch the Depression hit.

In 1937, UMaine decided they no longer wanted to have a shanty town just off campus. The school bought the property and erected 20-by-30-foot cabins that cost $1.50 per week, per student. Each was modestly outfitted with bunk beds and a wood stove. Students would chop wood and haul their own kerosene for cooking. Some even kept chickens.

An aerial view of the University of Maine cabins from around 1940, which were erected in 1937 to cheaply house low-income UMaine students. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine Hidden History Tour

For the next 45 years, the “Cabineers,” as they were called, created their own kind of DIY campus community. By the dawn of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, it became a kind of hippie paradise in Orono, complete with its own coffee shop and grocery store. It housed musicians and artists, young families, outsiders and, at one time, a young writer named Stephen King, who briefly lived there while a student.

The scene reached its peak in 1973 with the first-ever Bumstock, a music festival inspired by Woodstock. While the first Bumstock attracted a few hundred people, by the mid-1970s, thousands of people from UMaine and from throughout the Bangor area made their way to the campus cabins to listen to music and party. It was mostly Maine bands, and the rumors of free beer, free weed and even free LSD were too much of a draw for some to pass up, even if they were sometimes grossly exaggerated.

A few times, Bumstock had major headliners, such as bluegrass legend Doc Watson in 1986, rock band Godsmack in 1999, ska band Reel Big Fish and rock band Three Doors Down in 2001 and pop punk band Eve 6 in 2004. In 2003 the headliner was scheduled to be rapper Fat Joe, who famously did not show, much to the chagrin of the thousands of people who waited for him.

In an April 2004 file photo, drummer Tony Fagenson and bassist-lead singer Max Collins of the alternative rock band Eve 6 perform while festivalgoers crowd-surf during Bumstock 2004 at the University of Maine campus in Orono. Credit: Kevin Bennett / BDN

From the get-go, Bumstock organizers were in constant battle with UMaine administrators and local police not keen on its hard-partying elements. Despite repeated efforts to kill the event, it managed to keep coming back. But a few major blows made it increasingly difficult to pull off.

The first blow came in 1982, when the University decided to tear down the cabins, putting an end to 45 years of cheap housing. A year’s room and board on campus for a Maine resident today costs around $12,400, or roughly $1,500 per month for about eight months of housing and food. It’s a far cry from $1.50 a week in the 1940s.

Though Bumstock was allowed to continue on the old cabin site for another eight years, administrators told organizers in 1990 they would have to move the event to a site east of the Hilltop dorms. It would stay there for another 15 years, and in the 1990s and early 2000s it managed to attract a who’s-who of New England jam and rock bands. Remember Jiggle the Handle? Deep Banana Blackout? Sam Black Church? Tree?

Sadly, the 2005 edition of Bumstock was its last. Money to put on the event was increasingly hard to come by, and the alcohol-fueled nature of the festival was no longer tolerated by UMaine. Plus, the college wanted to do something year-round with the site — which turned out to be the relocation of the Jordan Planetarium into the new Versant Astronomy Center, which opened in 2014.

It’s hard to imagine that at one point you could live on campus at UMaine for a fraction of today’s cost, and be mostly left alone to chill with your friends in your spartan, no-frills cabin. That you’d also be allowed to host a music festival with free beer and open weed smoking? Even more incredible.

Whether you look back on that time fondly or are glad UMaine has cleaned up its image, it’s a part of campus lore that has yet to be forgotten.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.