Kennebec Tales

October 17, 2013

Sex offenders, group homes, crime? Augusta is better today than it was in the ‘good old days’

By Maureen Milliken
News Editor

One night in the late 1970s, my brother Billy was taking a shower in our second-floor bathroom on Green Street in Augusta when he heard a noise that didn’t sound right.

When he pulled back the curtain and looked, he saw a hand pressed against the window. Someone was on the back porch roof outside, trying to get in.

By the time he got outside, the only sign someone had been there was a ladder against the porch.

Recent stories in this newspaper, including last week’s citing the fact Augusta has more registered sex offenders per capita than any other municipality in the state, have spurred comments from readers that Augusta isn’t the nice place it used to be.

My brother’s bathroom visitor is just one of the stories that come to mind when I hear that. Here’s what life was like in Augusta in the good old days:

In 1973, I had a paper route that wound through the rabbit warren of alleys and lanes surrounded by State, Winthrop and Laurel streets.

One cold Sunday afternoon while I was collecting, a customer on Crosby Place asked me to come inside while he got his money. He was creepy, but I was cold and 12 years old. So I stepped inside.

Forty years later I still vividly remember it was too hot, dark, smelled of cigarettes and rotting garbage. He disappeared down a hallway.

After a couple minutes, I realized he was standing at the end of the hall — it was very dark — doing something with his hand where his pants should be. I wasn’t sure what it was and I didn’t stick around to find out.

I still delivered his paper, just didn’t collect his money anymore.

I didn’t tell a parent or anyone in authority. Not because I was scared or embarrassed, but because it was 1973. Creepy things happened and we were disgusted, scared, laughed about it with our friends, but we accepted that’s the way things were.

Two years later, I had a new paper route in the Capitol Street, Western Avenue area. Many mornings a guy would follow me. Not right behind me, but every time I looked, he was there, leaning against a telephone pole or sitting on a curb, smoking a cigarette and watching me.

The solution? I carried a dime — in case he bothered me I’d go to the nearest phone booth and call home.

A few years later, my sister, Nicki, 12 at the time, and her friend had a paper route. One morning while they were picking up their papers at a gas station near the Hartford fire station, a man in a window at a boarding house across the street waved. They waved back. He motioned for them to come up and they giggled.

“Then he showed himself in the window and he was naked, holding himself,” she recalled this week. “We ran away.”

When it happened again the next day, they went to the fire station and reported it. A cop interviewed them the following day. My sister went to court to testify, “but I guess the guy didn’t show or pleaded out,” she said. No one ever told her or my parents what the outcome was.

A few years earlier, she and another sister, Becky, both preteens, were sleeping on cots on our enclosed Green Street front porch on a hot summer night. Becky awoke to find what she thought was “a midget” grabbing her arms. Her screams woke my parents, who made them come in and sleep upstairs.

The story didn’t make sense — no one had heard the balky porch door slam and it was tightly shut.

(Continued on page 2)

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