He saw crowds of folks coming on weekends to a sort of Brown's Mill fair. He had, in the spring of 1978, a sort of five-year plan , and now it was four years later.A postcard arrived from Brown's Mill a week or so ago, showing an aerial view of the restored complex. A letter accompanied the postcard, reporting that the hydroelectric station ''generates almost all the electric power needed'' by Dover-Foxcroft.Our particular destination was Brown's Mill, an old red-brick structure with twelve-by-twelve beams, dating back to 1867.What did this grand relic, standing in the sunshine on the bank of the Piscataquis River, have to do with the concrete-and-glass high-technology industries we had passed on Route 128, shrouded in Boston mist, just a few hours before? Mac Arthur -- who had lured us nearly 300 miles to look at Brown's Mill - possibly regard this ancient complex (and not Route 128 high-tech) as the model of the future? You can't expect standard buttoned-down ideas from a man who once soared over the Arctic Circle in a balloon of his own design.In another part of this mill that had produced everything from wool to tanned leather in its first 100 years, African violets grew in an improvised greenhouse while a family of kittens played in the potting soil.Yankee ingenuity was in the air, and Utopian visions in Charley Mac Arthur's eyes. Charley Mac Arthur had seen the future, and it was small and it was beautiful and it was without OPEC.When the route moved away from the coast, the mist finally broke, like a curtain parting, and suddenly there stood the green of Maine countryside in the bright sunshine of late May.
The State Department has written up Brown's Mill as an example of American free enterprise.It has been four years, but we can still see Charley Mac Arthur looking at the battered dam of Brown's Mill and seeing a restored hydroelectric plant, looking at the empty floor space in the mill itself and seeing an ''imaginative business hatchery for starting second careers,'' as one of his ads read in the Maine Times.Already, back then, a cabinetmaker had rented a corner for a day, sawing and milling his own wood and using an adapted chicken incubator to dry it.Just about four years ago we drove north to a Maine town with an intriguing double identity -- Dover-Foxcroft, as if one name were not quite adequate to cover 4,100 inhabitants.Fog hung over the road until we were well out of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.