Trick or Treat
A silly face belied dramatic changes in Maine’s air-travel industry in 1981.
By Joshua F. Moore
© J. Reiter Photography. Courtesy of Maine Memory Network
It doesn’t matter if you’re photographing your grandkids or you’re on assignment for the local newspaper — the best shots are usually the ones you get when people least expect it. For Kennebec Journal photographer Jay Reiter, that meant literally shooting from the hip as he approached Air New England employee Armand Malinowski at the Augusta State Airport back in late October 1981.
Reiter, who would go on to have his work published in Time, Newsweek, and the Washington Post, had been sent to the airport for a story on the decision by Air New England to ground its planes forever on Halloween. Spying the frown on the jack-o-lantern (only later did Reiter learn that the night before employees had redrawn the grin on the pumpkin into a frown when they’d learned they would be laid off), the photographer knew a posed shot wouldn’t fly with his editors. “We were way ahead of our time at the KJ — no set-up pictures, ever,” says Reiter, who is still an active commercial photographer in New Hampshire. “So I had to shoot from the hip because the employee would’ve smiled, which wouldn’t have worked for the story.”
Though the whimsical, seasonal touch was what caused this photograph to be picked up nationwide across the United Press International wire, the termination of six daily departures to Boston was hardly a laughing matter for travelers around Augusta. Deregulation of the flight industry just three years earlier had spelled the death of other commuter airlines, with larger carriers gradually taking over their routes and consolidating in larger airports like Portland and Bangor. Runways in Lewiston-Auburn and Waterville ceased passenger service altogether.
Twenty years after this picture was taken, the events of 9/11 set air travel back yet again, as a trip through security became an hours-long ordeal that involves a fashion show of socks. In recent years, though, the skies in Maine have become a bit more friendly, as commuter service between Augusta and Boston’s Logan Airport has returned. And in Portland this month travelers will experience a dramatic increase in comfort and efficiency with the completion of a $75 million expansion at the jetport that features more direct access to the parking garage, a better baggage-handling and -screening process, and even a geothermal heating and cooling system.
The past thirty years have seen air travel itself become more and more of a nightmare, but these airborne upgrades are a welcome treat indeed.