Bethel News October 15, 2013


Grand Opening of Sport Thoma in Mayville


Peter and Nancy Kaileys’ newest enterprise, Bethel’s Sport Thoma, had a glorious grand opening over the Columbus Day weekend. For most of Saturday, the parking lot was full and store was busy with lookers and shoppers. Two main features of the store are its Race Room and Sale Room.  Peter Kailey says that he considers this store to have a larger more comprehensive stock of merchandise for shoppers to choose from.  The Race Room is stocked with clothing and equipment that from the Kaileys’ experience is now in prime demand. The room was busy on Saturday. Nancy wants to make sure that they have plenty of clothing and equipment for kids.


Chris Davenport in from Aspen, Colorado, was guest of honor for the day Saturday. Chris has the distinction of being called one of North America’s top 25 skiers by Skiing Magazine. He is considered one of the world’s most accomplished big mountain skiers. He was the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado’s peaks over 14,000 feet in one year.


The store’s general manager, Leigh Breidenbach, was very much on the job this weekend. Leigh has a mile long resume of ski and ski management experience. She is a member of the Ski Museum of Maine Board of Directors; Univ. of Maine at Farmington, Director of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Collaborative; and for years was ski coach at Sunday River. She created women’s specific ski programs from 1985-2001 and had specialized in children’s programs from 1978 to 1983.


The flooring in the main store, Sale room and Race room is exceptionally eye-catching as it has the appearance of wide, deeply grained thick boards.  Also in the main part of the store, there is a Memorial Window dedicated to Paul Kailey, Peter’s dad, who was long time ski coach at Gould and hands on consultant for the development of Sunday River Skiway.  The display includes one of the skis Paul Kailey used for the first on skis ascent of Barker Mountain in February 1958.


On the south end of the building there is a room for rentals that is being setup and a second large room for ski tuning.


Ron Savage, Savage Contracting, is the man to credit for the excellence reflected in the building’s construction.  Ron was on hand Saturday and pleased the see the crowd of visitors.  Our grandson, Jeremy, was here this weekend to see the new store; he had a chance to meet Ron and the Kaileys as well as seeing the works.


Fall Festival at Sunday River


Jeremy and I also had our first look at the crowd and the contestants in the 2013 Wife Carrying races.  Of course the crowd lined the roped boundaries of the “race course” to cheer on the racers. We couldn’t see the mud pit which was on the far side of the course from where we were but oo’s and laughs when a couple would slip and nosedive into the muck and water we could tell what happened. Some of the unlucky wives also got dumped as their husbands stumbled going over barriers on the course.


To me the best part of the day comes after lunch time with the music by really top notch bands. This year’s band was “Pardon Me, Doug” known as a premier Phish tribute band first organized in Portland. Inside the South Ridge building there were a variety of craft displays. However the wife carrying event seemed to attract most of the crowd.



Discovery Channel - old timbers at the Androscoggin River Bridge


One day last week Alison emailed me from the Citizen with a photo she had taken of five timbers lying on the river bed near the center of the recreational bridge.  These timbers lay on a ridge in the river bed where some other stone debris also lies. The ridge is where the center granite pier for the old covered bridge stood – and after the covered bridge came down in 1927, the pier was reused for the steel girder bridge put up in 1928. When you look at an old photo of the covered bridge taken as it was being torn down, the timbers which supported the roadway seem to be about like the timbers that are still visible from the walking bridge. And why not, just drop them into the water.


Steve Blake paints the old tool shed


Although there was not much visible new work at the airport by week’s end. The Riverside Cemetery Association members will be pleased to see that the tractor/tool shed next to the vault is freshly painted. Steve Blake was just finishing up on Saturday.


Forefathers of the River View – Paul C. Thurston


 Paul C. Thurston (1887–1963) was born in Newry educated in Bethel schools, Gould Academy and Bates College. His father, Jacob A. Thurston was a prominent lumberman, mill owner and operator and merchant at Newry Corner. His mother was Flora Dinsmore Thurston. The Thurston’s moved to Bethel in 1897. Paul graduated from Gould Academy in 1905.


Paul Thurston married Elsie M. Hall on December 25, 1911. They had two children: a daughter, Rosalie, and a son, Murray. Elsie Thurston died in 1924; then Mr. Thurston married Florence H. Park in March 1927; she survived him, living until 1977.


Today’s Bethel residents are probably unaware of the importance of Rumford Falls to Bethel people in the first eight decades of the Twentieth Century.  Rumford was a Mecca for shopping, hospital facilities, and for many work in the paper mill and for the Thurston’s the general Swift River areas of Frye, Roxbury and Hale were prosperous mill sites.  Until the 1936 flood, the Rangeley Lakes and Rumford Falls Railroad provided rail transportation via Rumford Falls to Portland and beyond for mills to get dowels and wood products to market and shipped overseas.


Listening to Eric Wight tell of his grandfather’s activities, you could say Paul Thurston “got around” more than any other business man in Oxford County. He made nine trips across the Atlantic to Europe for both business and pleasure - business being market hunting to sell Thurston dowels and wood products.


After the death of his father in 1917, Paul Thurston became president of the J.A. Thurston Company. The Thurston family lived at the J.A. Thurston farm (now the River View Resort). Thurston was active in state Democratic politics, President of the Rumford Falls Trust Company, President of the Board of Trustees of Gould Academy, trustee of the Bethel Library (1), a member of the executive committee of the Rumford Community Hospital and Chairman of the Maine Turnpike Authority. Besides manufacturing, Thurston was active in dairy farming, raising thoroughbred Guernsey and Holstein cattle at his Thurstonia Farm.

Note 1: He was an active committee member responsible to secure plans for the new Bethel Library building project in 1937.



 In 1932 Paul Thurston was a Democratic Party candidate for governor. His main opponent was Louis Brann of Lewiston. Brann had held several positions in Lewiston government including mayor. Maine’s primary election was scheduled for June 20, 1932. Thurston was expected to win most of the Oxford County votes. In fact, the Oxford County vote was 1,975 votes for Thurston and 177 votes for Brann. But Louis Brann won the primary contest for governor in the Democratic primary- Lewiston returns put Brann ahead. Paul Thurston then became his campaign manager.


In 1933 the Thurston’s attended the first inauguration of FDR in Washington.  After the Depression, Paul Thurston obtained a “bail-out” from William Bingham II to keep the Rumford Savings Bank, later Rumford Falls Trust Company, solvent and operating. Paul Thurston became president of the bank.


David Thurston tells how Eric Wight’s birth in 1941 came when Paul and Murray Thurston were headed for an excursion on the Don from Harpswell to Monhegan Island for a clam bake. The Thurston’s cancelled their trip and saved their lives as the Don sank in Casco Bay and all on board were lost. Some of the Rumford bank employees did go and lost their lives. The Don was never found.


Lastly, Paul Thurston was a serious farmer. He and Eric’s father, Daniel Wight, made many trips to other farms in the northeast and even to Wisconsin to take in their farming practices from which they might benefit. A tragic fire at the Thurston farm in 1944 caused the loss of the farm’s main barn and connected carriage house as well as 32 cattle.  From this grievous loss came the building of a new virtually fireproof barn now part of the River View Resort condo building.


For photos accompanying weekly news see online Bethel Journals -




Peter Kailey and Chris Davenport

Leigh Breidenbach (Right) with customer

Memorial Window dedicated to Paul Kailey

At Sunday River—Wife Carrying race crowd

Steve Blake finishing up with his painting of the Riverside Cemetery tool shed.

Paul Thurston in his early 40’s and an Eva Bean photo of the Thurston home in the 1940-50’s.

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Bethel, Maine 04217