Kids, Cameras, and Postwar Waterfronts
In Memory of Don Merchant, 1934-2021
A remembrance from Maynard:
“My lifelong friend Don Merchant died on Labor Day, ironically in the same building in which we were both born, two days apart, in Rockland. Formerly the Knox County Hospital, it’s presently the Hospice center in which Don spent his final days.
As youngsters, Don and I were totally nuts about boats and spent every spare minute roaming the waterfront and taking photos of what was there. Even though our paths crossed less often as we matured, we never lost touch with each other nor lost our passion for boats. I’ll really miss him.”
Don Merchant and Maynard Bray, born in Rockland two days apart, became fast friends as sixth graders. Boats became their shared passion, and each went on to make a career of maritime pursuits—Don by shipping out as an engineer (worldwide with Isthmian Lines, then locally with the Maine State Ferry Service) after graduating from Maine Maritime Academy, followed by establishing Merchant’s Landing on Spruce Head Island with his wife Sally; and Maynard, first in shipbuilding as a marine engineer, then with Mystic Seaport, and finally as an editor, writer, and boatbuilder in Brooklin.Don’s interest in picture taking came from his stepfather, Sid Cullen, who was the Courier-Gazette’s staff photographer (and, ultimately, its owner). Maynard was also inspired by Cullen, as well as his cousin Elmer Montgomery whose collection of photos, like Don’s and Maynard’s, is now at Penobscot Marine Museum.
Don’s camera was a Kodak Duoflex and Maynard’s was (mostly) his mother’s folding Jiffy Kodak. They processed their own films and printed their own pictures.
Although each continued to take pictures into their advanced years, those shown here cover only the postwar years from 1946 to 1949 when the two considered the local waterfronts their playground.
This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Bert Snow.
In addition to his emergence in the 1940s as a de facto mentor to a pair of boat-loving teenage photographers (who went on to maritime careers of their own), Bert was a naval architect and boatbuilder, Rockland, Maine’s Harbormaster and Chief of Police, and author of the monumental 2005 book The Main Beam, a history of shipbuilding in Rockland.
Bert died in January 2015 at age 91.