My First Date — And Carousel

Lea Wait, sharing secrets from my past. I was a late bloomer, at least so far as dating was concerned. In high school I definitely fell into the “nerd” category. I only attended my senior prom in my role as editor of the high school newspaper — and my “date” was the high school junior who was the newspaper photographer. I don’t even remember that we actually danced. 

But during my summers in Maine no one knew I was a nerd. I worked (usually in the box office, but also cueing lines or doing whatever else was needed) at the Boothbay Playhouse, a summer equity theatre, and during one of those years I also worked, during the day, at the Boothbay Register, a weekly newspaper in Boothbay Harbor. (That summer I only worked at the Playhouse at night.)

The summer I was seventeen a young man from the Harbor (he was about twenty) asked me out on a date on one of the two nights of the week the Playhouse was dark. It was for a very special local event. 

In 1955 the film adaptation of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel had been filmed in Boothbay Harbor. The stars, Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, had won the hearts of everyone in the region and had signed autographs for many of them.  Best of all, many residents of the Harbor had gotten jobs as extras in the film. In the 1960s, before cable TV or videos or DVDs made it possible to see any movie at almost any time, the Opera House (aka movie theatre) in Boothbay Harbor would have one showing of Carousel each summer so everyone could come and once again relive the excitement of that filming, and see themselves on the big screen.

My date had been one of those extras. Not, you understand, anyone who could be identified in the film. He’d been one of the many young (and not so young) people hired to sail their boats across the harbor during the scene in which everyone is heading out to the island clambake.

Our date involved joining practically the entire population of Boothbay Harbor (standing room only!) at the Opera House to see Carousel. You couldn’t hear all the words in the movie, since everyone was busily pointing out themselves and their friends, singing along with the cast, talking about where parts of the film were shot, and remembering what Shirley Jones’ favorite ice cream soda flavor had been at the local drugstore and who’d  served her.

It was, I’ll admit, a fun date. More fun than the relationship, which was short-lived. But I loved the movie. I still do.

Today few people remember Carousel, or remember it was shot in Boothbay Harbor. Even Carousel Wharf (see picture), where the song and dance “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” was filmed, which for years was pointed out by tour boats, is now hard to locate. But it’s still there, part of the Carousel Marina, at 125 Atlantic Avenue, a berth for visiting yachts on the east side of the harbor.

I read recently that plans are on the drawing board to re-make Carousel, this time with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in the starring roles.

If that ever happens, it would be wonderful if they’d consider coming back to Boothbay Harbor. Carousel Wharf is still there, and we still do great clambakes. That drugstore Shirley Jones visited is gone. But I’m sure we could find a way to get Round Top Ice Cream in Damariscotta to supply the cast and crew with ice cream sodas. 

Maine is waiting. And in the important ways, it hasn’t changed all that much since 1955.

This entry was posted in Lea's Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My First Date — And Carousel

  1. What a charming -and cool- story! I adore the movie and had no idea where it was filmed. A remake with Hugh Jackman would be terrific. Keep us posted if he shows up in Boothbay Harbor!

  2. Janet McCord says:

    I never knew Carousel was filmed in an actual place! How cool! It must be beautiful there because the film scenes are gorgeous. Carousel has always haunted me and it’s one of my favorites. Like you in high school I was a nerd girl and always “loving from afar” so the song “If I loved you” struck me to the heart in my teenage yearning years. Later, my first husband, although not a “bad boy” like Billy Bigelow, definitely fell into the “What’s the use of wondering” category (also the “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine” from Showboat) and I lived, like Laurie the ache of loving someone with all your heart that you know you shouldn’t. Billy’s remorse and redemption at the end always has me in floods of tears. Love it! Thanks for the memories!

  3. MCWriTers says:

    Ah, sweet memories of summer. The summer I turned fifteen, my best friend, Karin, and I worked at the Pemaquid Writing Seminars as assistants to the cook. Part of the fun of that summer was going to plays at the Boothbay Playhouse. I remember Hedda Gabler and A Thousand Clowns. And NO dates. But we did get to do the once-a-week lobster bake for the guests by ourselves, which was such fun. And once, I baked homemade bread for everyone.

    For us, up in Union, our locally made movie was Peyton Place, filmed in Camden and Rockport. Of course, we weren’t supposed to read the book or see the movie, it was too scandalous.


    • Lea Wait says:

      Very cool, Kate! Maybe our paths crossed at the Boothbay Playhouse — I worked there for seven years, total — and my sister followed me for several. We worked in the box office, ushered, sold refreshments at intermission …. were generally part of the scenery during performances. We could well have rubbed shoulders during those days!

  4. I remember Boothbay as the other place to sail to Monhegan Island (we went from Port Clyde), but I didn’t know Carousel was filmed there. What a fun date! I definitely out-nerd you. I didn’t even go to my senior prom. Went to a friend’s and watched Cosby 🙂

  5. Lea Wait says:

    Ah, well. I babysat during my junior prom, and will admit I was excited going to my senior one — even if it was in a “reporting” capacity. Jenny — aren’t we glad we’re grown up now? And, as that campaign says — things DO get better!

  6. Bob Thomas says:

    Nice post sweetie!
    I, for one, am glad that wanne-be thespian didn’t quite work out for you.


  7. Barb Ross says:

    And now my thirteen year old niece is in many, many Boothbay Playhouse performances as a part of her Y Arts program. Right now she’s in the chorus in UrineTown which Bill and I have told her flat out we won’t attend. Worst musical ever!

  8. lil Gluckstern says:

    I loved the movie, and I stayed in Boothbay Harbor and loved the town. I still get nostalgic for Maine 40 years later. Your posts help a little and remind me how beautiful it was.

Leave a Reply