Editor’s Note by Kathleen Fleury
I’ve never set foot inside Big Al’s on Route 1 in Wiscasset, at least not that I can remember. Still, I was enthusiastic about pursuing a profile of this wacky character who looms large in my childhood memories. I figured if I was curious about this iconic Mainer based only on television ads, surely some of you are as well.
Big Al is only one of the TV personalities who’ve defined Maine pop culture. There’s also the lawyerly looking actor Robert Vaughn, advising people who’ve been injured in an accident to “tell them you mean business” by calling actual lawyer Joe Bornstein. As a teenager, I thought Vaughn, with his hauntingly angular face, acerbic tone, and forceful delivery, was Bornstein himself, and so Bornstein became an almost ominous figure in my imagination. (True story: law firms around the country used the very same Vaughn commercials, dubbing their names in the crucial sentence.) I still feel his presence whenever I’m on I-295 in Portland and “Call Joe” pops up on the Time and Temperature Building’s rooftop sign.
Then there was the aptly nicknamed “Jolly John” Pulsifer, whose corny, high-energy car commercials always ended with the line “I’m not jolly unless you’re happy!” I remember Jolly John, who passed away in 2011, as a buoyantly happy bobblehead floating in mid-air. Few living in southern Maine in the 1980s escaped his reach.
Back to Big Al: “Big Al’s Is Huge!!!”, written by Ron Currie and photographed by Michael D. Wilson, not only captures the character I remember, but also offers a glimpse of the admirable guy behind that made-for-TV personality. “Queen of the Kennebec”, meanwhile, is senior editor Virginia M. Wright and photographer Tony Luong’s look at the fascinating life of rafting guide Suzie Hockmeyer and the industry she pioneered in Maine. These features illustrate why the profile is my favorite magazine genre: in all of 20 minutes of reading, you gain an intimate understanding of a person who has helped shape Maine’s unique culture. And that, in turn, deepens your own connection to the state.
Among the Puffins
From windswept islands in a warming Gulf of Maine, one photographer documents the state’s puffin colonies in intimate, dazzling detail.
Photos by Derrick Z. Jackson
Big Al’s Is Huge!!!
You’ve seen the ads. You’ve seen the suspenders. Now get to know the discount king of Route 1.
By Ron Currie
Maine whitewater pioneer Suzie Hockmeyer has had a pretty wild ride.
By Virginia M. Wright
We live in one of the country’s least homicidal, most neighborly states. So why all the crime fiction?
By Jaed Coffin
North by East
Opinions, Advisories, and Musings from the Length and Breadth of Maine
Down East Dispatches
News You May Have Missed
Festival for the Birds
Everybody’s Flocking to Acadia
Rockport’s Freaky Mind Lab
Living the Maine Life
Making It in Maine
Room With a View
What to Do in Maine This Month
Rockport’s 18 Central
Special Ad Section: Moving to Maine
From Our Archives
On the cover: Atlantic puffin on Eastern Egg Rock, by Derrick Z. Jackson
Additional photos: Doug Van Kampen; Michael D. Wilson; Douglas Merriam