Spruce Mountain film to be shown on Maine Public television

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Oil painting of the original Spruce Mountain c. 1959. Artist: Fonnie Austin.

By Barry Matulaitis, Staff Editor

TRI-TOWN — A film about the history of Spruce Mountain Ski Area has taken on a life of its own since it came out a year or two ago.

The film, “A Town that Moved a Mountain (and then forgot they did it)”, is scheduled to be shown on Maine Public television on Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 11 a.m. Filmmaker Rick Groleau said he was excited to have the opportunity to have his work showcased on Maine Public.

“I knew that Maine Public TV had a Community Films series and that last year they had aired another film that was about small ski areas,” he said in an email. “I thought my film had a chance of being accepted, so I went to their website, downloaded some forms and submitted it.”

Groleau, a 1977 Livermore Falls High School graduate, grew up skiing at Spruce Mountain. At the time he started skiing when he was 13 years old, he was looking over a road map in search for a label identifying Spruce Mountain.

“It wasn’t there, but off in the distance, closer to Wilton, I noticed there was a Spruce Mountain with an elevation of 1,100 feet,” he recalled. “I thought, maybe that’s a mistake? Maybe that label should be across the river from the Otis Mill?”

Groleau quickly forgot all about it. Then, a few years later, he was in Spruce Mountain’s base lodge, “The Barn”, looking at a beautiful painting in there. Someone came to him and said something about that being the “old” Spruce Mountain.

“And that was the first time anyone had alluded to me anything about the old Spruce Mountain,” he said.

No one seemed to know anything about it, though.

Years later, Groleau made the connection between the painting and his discovery on the road map. Two or three years later on a summer day, he searched for the base of the original Spruce Mountain with his girlfriend.

Oil painting of the original Spruce Mountain c. 1959. Artist: Fonnie Austin.

“I’m not sure how we found it,” he said. “We discovered a trail off of Davis Road that led up to the base and didn’t drive up Spruce Mountain Road. Once at the base, we saw the old warm up hut, which was even then, in the late 70’s, falling in on itself. And we hiked up the mountain and saw several telephone poles with metal rims still attached at the top. Mystery solved!”

Decades later, Groleau began work on the film, which was completed in late 2016. The first interviews were shot two years before the film was completed. Due to his full-time job, Groleau had to balance his time with the film, working on it nights and weekends and during a two-week vacation.

He mentioned that the Dion family were very helpful in providing photos of the “new” Spruce Mountain during its early days. “Bill Mitchell was also very helpful,” he said. “Not only did he provide about 50 Kodachrome slides of the original Spruce Mountain (also beautiful), but he directed me to all of the other members of the ski club who were still alive: Arnold and Leda Sturtevant, Dick Brophy, George Morrill, and Clayton Wagner.”

Current Spruce Mountain manager Max Couture and Jessie Mitaly also provided assistance. The Maine Ski Museum provided old photos of Sugarloaf to help with the project.

An interesting side note is well before Groleau shot the first interview, he knew he wanted to title the film “The Town that Moved a Mountain (and then forgot they did it)”. However, he didn’t tell anyone, because he didn’t want potential interviewees to figure out from the title that there was a different Spruce Mountain. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have captured on camera their bewilderment when they found out!”

Groleau said the most enjoyable thing about making the film was meeting and talking to those who built the original Spruce Mountain.

“I feel that our community owes a lot to this group, and I knew that I, for one, am grateful for the work they did,” he said. “It was also nice to reconnect with old friends, including Barry Wight, Mike and Janet Ventrella, Barbara and Brenda Mitchell, Mike Simoneau, and Jeff Meserve.”

For more information about the film, including a trailer, go to http://pickedwiss.com/thetown/

bmatulaitis@sunmediagroup.net

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