Cities on the Saco has written one of the few excellent local/regional American histories. As a genre, much local historiography is tedious and sans idèes: but Downs wants his readers to think, not merely reminisce, and illustrations are excellent. Should you decide to read the great Franco-American writers, you could start with Clark Blaise (fiction, memoir) and David Rivard (poetry). The list is long, and of course Jack (Ti-Jean) Kerouac has a honored place on it.
The Autoliterate notion is to run a "Biddeford" series of posts. If you follow the blog, you know AL is interested in the morphology of North American towns, and very curious about vernacular architecture, and landscape, and the way we live now--or lived then.
Today's post focuses on the mills which were Biddeford's raison d'être. They occupy both banks of the Saco River--in Biddeford, and across the river in the town of Saco; as well as on Saco Island.
Other post in the series will look at houses; commercial buildings; the peculiarities of the town of Saco (mill towns were usually on a river, and rivers were often the boundaries of different & fiercely independent New England townships, which was convenient for purposes of social segregation. If the mill 'hands' could be kept on one side of the river, the managers could occupy on the other, with separate school systems, etc.
There's something about getting out and walking the streets of a town you have known all your life--as an outsider--that is exhilarating and inspiring. Biddeford has certainly seen more than its share of hard times. Thousands of workers invested blood, sweat and tears in this place, and maybe many of them never got much to show for it, or nowhere near as much as they deserved.