What’s in a Picture?

Collections of Boston Public Library, courtesy, item #66317
From the September 2017 issue of Down East magazine 
Before the YMCA in Boothbay was a YMCA, it was gymnast Walter Buzzell’s so-called health farm. Buzzell was the early-20th-century version of a wellness guru. Wanting to offer “healthful recreation amid the most beautiful surroundings on the rock-bound coast,” he installed a gym, tea garden, tennis and volleyball courts, and solarium, charging a 40-cent daily admission. Promo material, emphatically uppercased, billed the facility as “A place for wholesome Recreation. Dedicated to the Health and Happiness of the American Family.” The most striking feature of this gym-rat Disneyland was a saltwater pool built right into the rocky shoreline — pictured here on a sunny day circa 1938 — with scenic decks, a springboard, and a high-dive platform. In fact, diving contests became popular affairs, with excited spectators cramming the shore. But in the ’50s, Buzzell turned over the keys to the Y, which has since relocated closer to town — keeping the healthful recreation but forfeiting the beauty of the rock-bound coast. — Will Grunewald