A couple of weeks ago we circulated a copy of the obituary of Dick Stacey, the former owner of The Stable Inn, now the Calais Motor Inn. Stacey made a brief but spectacular appearance on the local scene when he bought the Stable Inn at the corner of Main and South Streets in 1978. The owner of several businesses in the Bangor area Stacey was also a showman and impresario who was most famous as the owner and producer of Dick Stacey’s Country Jamboree which Stacey sometimes broadcast live from the Stable Inn. The show was equally loved and reviled by Downeasters and folks in New Brunswick. It may well have been that Stacey bought the Stable Inn to serve his large New Brunswick audience and provide them an opportunity to attend live first-rate country acts and the Jamboree which, according to the Bangor Daily, “to some was camp, to others entertainment and to some sheer agony and embarrassment.” Fans wrote the Bangor Daily pleading with Bangor’s WEMT which produced the show to cancel the Jamboree before too many people watched it and got the impression Bangor was “a city of fools or worse of ignorant rubes.” Stacey pled guilty to the charges but noted “You can turn on the television anytime day or night and see a Hollywood production. But this-this is unique.” No one could argue with that.
George Gardner House Corner of Main and South Streets early 1900s
The corner of South Street and Main on which the Calais Motor Inn is now located was the site of the enormous Victorian mansion shown above. The grounds were spacious and deeply wooded, extending far back from Main Street. The house may not look large for its era but the main part of the building extended up South Street where there was a second entrance. In the 1850s it belonged to Frederick Pike, a Calais man who in 1868 as a U.S. Senator made a national name for himself during the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. It later was purchased by Judge George Gardner who made it his home until the Depression. Jack McMorran who grew up in Calais during the Depression recalls the house and Gardner’s fate as follows:
On Main Street, between South and Barker, stood the homes of Judge George Gardner and Dr. Samuel Webber. The Calais Motor Inn fills that block today. Judge Gardner’s house was a big, dark Victorian mansion, surrounded by a high fence and shrubbery. When the depression struck in the 30’s, the Gardners found themselves financially ruined and they had to go live with her mother in a modest house on Winter Street. Many residents felt that Judge Gardner, as trustee of the local bank, was in large part responsible for its failure and there was no sympathy for his reversal of circumstances.
The Vickers converted the Gardner House into an Inn
Sometimes in the 1940’s the property was purchased by Maynard and Edna Vickers. Edna was an Averill from Princeton, but we do not know much about Maynard. While he is listed as a veteran of World War Two on the Calais American Legion records, there is no record of him living in Calais prior to 1945.
The elegant old house became the Two Acres Inn as early as 1945 as a newspaper account mentions guests staying at the Inn when visiting friends in Calais. In 1948 the mansion burned to the ground. The Advertiser reported:
Mrs. Edna Greenlaw, proprietor of the Inn, her family and several lodgers hurriedly escaped the racing flames which completely gutted the large structure which was one of the City’s showplaces when it was the home of the late Judge George Gardner. Nothing was saved from the building.”
Mrs. Greenlaw is described as a relative of Maynard Vickers.
At the time of the 1948 fire some but not all of the cabins were on the property and the Vickers may have added additional cabins after the fire destroyed the Inn in 1948. The Vickers built the restaurant in the early 50’s.
During the 1950s and 60’s the Two Acres continued to operate the cabins and restaurant and in 1962 the Vickers built a six-unit motel where the restaurant had been located. There were still 12 cabins on the property which remained a wooded oasis on an increasingly built up Main Street. In 1960 the Vickers purchased the adjoining Dr. Webber property on Barker Street. James Clark, Class of 1967 recalled working for the Vickers.
Maynard Vickers lived in a big 4 story house on the corner of Main St. and Barker St. next lot to the cabins. When I was 12 yrs. old, I used to mow his lawn and rake up all the apples from the trees. When he moved he gave me his German Shepherd named Smokey
The Stable Inn 1970s Ted Hill Sunoco
We don’t know why or when Maynard Vickers moved but he disappeared from Calais history in the early 1970s. His wife Edna died in 1971 and is buried in Princeton so he may have left the area after her death. Maynard Vickers sold the Two Acres property to John Moffitt who owned and operated it for a couple of years before he bought the Wickachee. John sold the property to Forrest Grant, Edward Hughes and William Hughes of Bangor, principals of GHN, Inc. who in 1974 built the Stable Inn. The photo above shows the Stable Inn when fairly new. Note the Two Acre motel units built a few years earlier are still being rented and Steve Hill’s Sunoco is selling gas and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The Grand opening of the Stable Inn was quite an event.
March 22 1974
On March 22, 1974, the Stable Inn opened. Calais had never seen anything quite like the Stable Inn with its modern décor, sunken bar lined with bar stools on all sides, balconies, bands, exciting lighting and no end of crowds from both sides of the border. The Stable Inn certainly seemed to be a gold mine so why GHN sold it to Dick Stacey only four years later in 1978 is a mystery. Perhaps he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Dick Stacey spent freely to provide quality country and western entertainment at the Stacey’s Motor Inn but could not seem to make the business work financially. Even with entertainers like Chubby Checker and Johnny Paycheck, Stacey could not balance the books. In 1981 he installed a pool and advertised “New Deluxe Poolside Rooms” but by 1983 he was in default on several loans and upkeep on the building was being neglected..
From the Calais Advertiser 1983
According to the Bangor Daily News:
September 23, 1983
Merrill Trust Co Mortgage on motel foreclosed in Calais
CALAIS — Stacey’s Calais Motor Inn a popular entertainment spot for people from Maine and the Maritimes has had its mortgage foreclosed by the Merrill Trustee.
Merrill holds a $500000 first mortgage on the property. A second mortgage Is held by First National Bank of Bar Harbor. A third and fourth financial position is held by GHN Inc.
A mortgagee’s sale of real estate statement was received by lien holders and printed in the local newspaper this week signed by Merrill Senior Vice President Robert C. Ells Jr.
Dick Stacey owner of Stacey’s Plats Motel in Brewer could not be reached Thursday for comment. A unit of connected motel rooms on the corner of Main and South streets had its windows boarded up Thursday and the words Stacey’s Calais Motor inn have been removed from the large sign at the front of the establishment The remainder of the inn’s motel rooms remained open and other Stacey’s departments including a restaurant and lounge featuring live entertainment remained open Thursday.
The business was slated for approval of liquor and special amusement permits at the Calais City Council meeting Thursday.
According to Calais tax books Stacey’s tax but due Oct 1 will be approximately $24000. None of that has been paid.
The business has become a Mecca for country music enthusiasts from New England and the Maritimes and has featured other types of music as well. Stacey’s has hosted appearances of famous entertainers including the recent performances of Johnny Paycheck and Chubby Checker. Several years ago, additional motel space was constructed, and an outdoor swimming pool built.
Forrest Grant, one of the original owners, bought the property at the sale and with John Marchese as manager brought it back to life. John later purchased the property from Mr. Grant and continues to operate the business with a good deal of success.
As to Dick Stacy the setback was not fatal. Being the showman he was, he went back to promoting himself and his businesses in the Bangor area. The Bangor Daily published a bio of Dick Stacey a few months after the Calais debacle.
June 28, 1984, Bangor Daily News
“No charge!” Ask anyone in eastern Maine who is best known for these words and you’ll probably get the answer Dick Stacey and another quote like “See these hands they smell gassy!” or “By golly!” or “See ya!” To anyone who has seen “Stacey’s Country Jamboree” these phrases need little introduction. His elementary school classmates in the Monroe schools probably knew him as Richard Stacey.
When the Brewer native (he was born on Wilson Street in 1936) attended Bangor High School in the 1950s he had begun tempering his managerial and organizational skills as manager of the basketball team. After graduation in 1955 he attended Husson College and then went to work for Coles Express where he remained for 11 years. In 1969 Stacey bought the Fuel Mart on Wilson Street in Brewer and it became known as Stacey’s Fuel Mart. Advertising for the Fuel Mart was the proving ground for various famous Dick Stacey quotes. One is “No charge!” It came about around 1970 when Stacey had to come up with a way around saying “free” when offering a frontend alignment with the purchase of a set of snow tires at his gasoline station called the Fuel Mart. He was prevented from saying “free” so “no charge” was born and it caught on better than ever could have been expected. It was a Madison Avenue ad man’s dream except no slick-talking New Yorker ever had a shot at it. In 1971 Stacey “bought” the “Jamboree” that Saturday night show featuring local talent that often stammered and stumbled through the old favorites.
To some it was camp to others entertainment and to some sheer agony and embarrassment. There were some who wrote to the Bangor Daily News pleading that WEMT cancel the show before too many more people watched it and came to think as reported in the Bangor Daily News in 1975 that “Bangor is a city of fools or worse of ignorant rubes”. Stacey told an ABC network interviewer in 1983 that he never said talent on the show consisted of “excellent singers and musicians You can turn on the television anytime day or night and see a Hollywood production. But this — this is unique”
The Jamboree evolved from “Frankenstein’s Country Jamboree” which had met with limited late-night success. It was the closest thing to public access on television that anyone in the Bangor area had ever seen and to this day that holds true. When approached by WEMT-TV (now WVII) to buy some spots on the Dick Stacey and country music star Porter Waggoner program Stacey said “I won’t buy a spot but I’ll buy the whole show”. He did on a trial 13-week trial basis.
The rest is history. Stacey’s Country Jamboree ran until early this January when it rode into the sunset thus ending a format “Frankenstein’s” began in 1965. Stacey expanded his gasoline sales empire in 1975 by purchasing a service station in Ellsworth on High Street ( now the location of Willey’s new store) and a station in Harrington (since sold to AD Small) all the while using the “Jamboree” as an advertising outlet. It is this program that made him well known in eastern Maine and even more so in the Maritimes (The mayor of Saint John New Brunswick on June 6, 1981, presented him with a plaque proclaiming him an ambassador of good will).
Stacey’s dissatisfaction with advertising done for him steered him to taping his own commercials and from these commercials came his now famous quotes The “by golly” is certainly not an original quote. Stacey borrowed the use of it from a disc jockey for WABI radio by the name of Jim Winters who used the expression frequently. It fills about a second of air space though and gives him a chance to ad lib on the air.
“See these hands” and “See ya!” were born in commercials. “See ya” was the only planned expression that became associated with Stacey. He said the people running the production boards at the studio had to have an idea when to cue-in jingle music “See ya” was that cue Stacey said. Stacey bought the Calais Motor Inn (formerly the Stable Inn) in 1978 and operated it through 1983 when financial troubles forced him to sell out. In 1983 Stacey turned his efforts to organizing a three-day Labor Day country music festival — “Stacey’s Country Music Festival” Although not a financial success it was a big enough hit for the city of Brewer to consider support of another festival this year. The “Jamboree” has faded into the sunset now, but Stacey is not content to remain out of the television eye. He has begun a Sunday afternoon program “Stacey’s Country” featuring a weekly talent contest a well-known guest performer and videotape productions by country music artists Dick Stacey and his country jamboree needed no introduction ‘by golly!’
By Jeff Strout Of the NEWS Staff
We’ll end with a 1994 Bangor Daily article about the legality of nude dancing in Calais. The Motor Inn is only mentioned tangentially but you’ll surely recognize some of the main characters. Diana Graettinger was one of the best writers ever to grace the pages of any newspaper.
Bangor Daily News
December 3, 1994:
Down East Ordinance unsullied by dancing
By Diana Graettinger The NEWS Staff CALAIS —
It was “Ohio or Bust” for four women who could be described as “exotic dancers” who performed in Calais last week. In a variation on ‘singing for their supper” the women danced so they could raise enough money to get home Cracker Barrel owner John Sprague where the show allegedly was held last week denied it took place but South Street resident James Carpenter said he was there and watched it. Carpenter said he had seen more skin on the beaches in Florida than he saw at the Cracker Barrel show.
Police Sgt Mark Silk said he had seen posters in the city announcing the event. Police Chief Michael Milburn said the Police Department had learned that a Calais business had held a nude dancing show but he said his department did not investigate the “mammalian escapade” because no laws had been broken.
“The point is a local business had nude or exotic dancers but to my knowledge there was no violation of a city ordinance or state law” he said. State law allows exotic dancing but there are limits to what the performers can do. “They can’t be totally nude. That would be a violation of the law, ‘ Milburn said. A reporter for a Calais weekly newspaper asked the chief if wearing socks could have gotten around the totally nude concept. The chief would say only “They had the appropriate clothing they use to be an exotic dancer”.
Sgt Ralph Bridges said there had been exotic dancing in Calais off and on for years. He said the Calais Motor Inn in the past held an “All Male Revue” but he said he never “had the urge to go to an all-male review”. Asked if a strip or exotic dance show had been performed at the Cracker Barrel Sprague responded “No not to my knowledge”.
Calais City Solicitor Francis Brown said there was no city ordinance that applied to theatrical performances of that nature. Any law enforcement he said would have to rely on the state indecency law. “There are in that state law some rather specific no-nos. For instance totally nude dancing is out but it requires you to be a student of anatomy to interpret the law. It is highly specific and that came about because of cases that went to the US Supreme Court. They said not realizing they might be making a bad pun you can’t make the law overbroad” he said. Although the city cannot prohibit such activity it can regulate it “That would have to be pretty carefully thought-out so that they won’t say you are indirectly trying to do what you can’t do directly” the city solicitor said.
It is not clear how the dancers arrived in Calais. Carpenter said he had heard that the women’s vehicle either broke down or was in an accident while returning from Canada. He said they were stranded in Calais and needed money to buy another vehicle. Carpenter said the women danced in shorts and tops and by the end of the evening had removed their tops.