North Yarmouth Historical held our annual Soup & Cider Day yesterday at beautiful Skyline Farm. About 150 cider lovers were in attendance! The cider was plentiful, the soup and sweets and breads delicious, and the weather was … well … PERFECT.
NYHS started the annual cider pressing tradition close to 50 years ago. Mary Miles attended the pressing yesterday, and she remembered bringing her 4-year-old to the event back in 1976, at Old Town House’s location on Memorial Highway. (And that little tyke is now in his 50s!)
The cider press we used back then was probably not ours. Liza Chandler remembered that NYHS borrowed one from Maine Audubon in those early years. And we broke it. Whoops.
Somebody in NYHS contacted David Marstaller of Freeport, who in turn sent us to Bath Industrial Sales in West Bath. The press was repaired there and returned to Maine Audubon; they were thankful to get it back but after that little escapade they weren’t exactly anxious to lend it out again.
So what to do? Resourceful Liza asked around and discovered that the Sagadahoc chapter of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association had an old cider press that needed a new home. Liza borrowed her father-in-law’s pickup and drove up to Noreen and Bill Blaiklock’s place in Arrowsic, where it was stored, and moved it to North Yarmouth.
The press was heavy as could be (still is), but what a treasure! Embossed on one of its parts was the date of 1874, and it looked as though all parts were original—which turned out to be a problem as the years passed. Eventually, the wooden frame seriously started to go to wrack and ruin.
Luckily, Andrew Kressbach of Brunswick showed up in 1999 with stalwart NYHS volunteers Joyce and Richard Gilbert, who thought he should come see what Soup & Cider was all about. Andrew took one look at the press and offered to get it back in shape. He heroically carted it back to his home workshop and restored it to perfection, replacing the supporting pieces with beautifully oiled hardwood members and new nuts and bolts.
More love was administered through the years. In 2013 resident David Kennedy repaired the wooden casks that slide under the press. In 2017 Bob Sessums used his machinist skills to re-tool the cylindrical “bales” that masticate the apples in preparation for pressing; Steve Barr sewed new burlap presscloths for us that year, too. In 2022 and this year, Gay Peterson stepped in to re-create the cloths. With literally thousands of apples that get chopped up and pressed through the years, that burlap doesn’t last long!
There are a lot of new-fangled, shiny bright cider presses on the market these days, as people have re-discovered the delicious-ness of cider … both sweet and hard. But we stand by our venerable 19th c. press and will continue to use it and upgrade it as necessary—just as we have done with Old Town House.
As Richard Moe, former president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has said, “Preservation is simply having the good sense to hold on to things that are well designed, that link us with our past in a meaningful way, and that have plenty of good use left in them.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Thanks to the 30+ volunteers who made Soup & Cider Day happen yesterday, and to all those who came to enjoy this community event—this year, and throughout its almost 50-year history!