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Earlan B. Campbell Memorial Ride and Pioneers Reunion

 

MAINE ATTRACTION

Reliving The Trail-Blazing days In Maine's Allagash Wilderness

Reprinted from Snow Goer Magazine

November 1984

Text by Dorothy Deer

      It was a celebration, a birthday party, and a grand reunion all rolled into one weekend at Millinocket, Maine last February called the Earlan B. Campbell Memorial Ride and Pioneers Reunion, a hearty group paused to recall the early days of snowmobiling when the sport was young and trails were, well, not invented yet.

      The event was sponsored by the Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile club. Robert Brodeur, serving as chairman, conceived the idea of bringing together those individuals who participated in testing Polaris snowmobiles on expeditions "up the Allagash" in the 1960's. Thirty of the 80 Pioneers showed up to celebrate.

      The weekend honored the late Earlan B. Campbell, a Polaris dealer in Millinocket who was integrally involved in organizing the early expeditions into the wilderness of north central Maine. two framed proclamations were presented to his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell. One came from Rodney Daigle from the Town of Millinocket and a second was presented by Rep. Herbert Clark from the Maine legislature. Campbell's three sons, Wayne, Reid, and Steve, stood with her in accepting both presentations. Each of the sons participated in one or more of the trips. Earlan Campbell died on December 17, 1971.

      The snowmobiling expeditions were annual events throughout the 1960's. Robert Morrill, a Polaris distributor Yarmouth at the time, was looking for a way to promote the new Polaris Sno Travler. It didn't much to interest Campbell in helping with such a trip. It was the kind of thing he enjoyed - a different experience, a challenge to mind and body, and the trips were in the Maine wilderness he loved. Morrill also thought Polaris might be interested in testing snowmobiles in Maine and invited the company to come out and give the Maine snow a try.

      As Wayne Campbell put it, "The project snowballed. Dad was merely one interested individual when it began in 1961. But by the time the group left Millinocket that first year, he was co-chairing the trip. After a couple of years, Morrill stopped coming and Dad continued to run the trips with Polaris. Allen Hetteen quickly learned Maine snow and discovered it was productive to try his prototypes there. These excursions became annual test trips for the machines.

      "Minnesota didn't offer much in the way of deep snow to test those old Rangers. Out there they had windswept hardpack. But this was a totally different experience. Here he (Hetteen) had a chance to really test his machines capabilities, often traveling over several feet of sugary snow. There were many hills and lakes to cross, often with alot of slush."

      Wayne went on,"Allen Hetteen said to me more than once, "As far as snow travel goes, if our sleds can go in the sugary snows of the MT. Katahdin area , they'll go anywhere in the world". (Towering 5,268 feet, MT. Katahdin is the highest point in Maine.)

      Hall Wendall, president of Polaris Industries, attended the reunion with two founders of the company - Edgar Hetteen and David Johnson. Allen Hetteen, Edgar's brother, who actually brought the Polaris snowmobiles to Maine for these test trips, is deceased. Johnson, however was in charge of getting the prototypes ready for the trips and quickly recognized many names of the pioneers who came to the reunion.

      "I remember Allen talking about Earlan Campbell many times," said Johnson. And I recognize the names of many of the other here as Allen talked about many of them when he got back from each trip."

      Frank Blake of the Millinocket Chamber of Commerce presented Wendall and David Johnson with welcome plaques. Daigle gave Hetteen the "Key to the Magic City of Millinocket".

      Then came the big surprise - a Polaris 30th Anniversary Cake. The Polaris representatives were speechless. It took Wendall a few minutes to gather his thoughts, and then he said "This is a very, very, very pleasant surprise. It's the first surprise anniversary that I ever had. Usually being 30 years old is considered to be quiet young, but in the snowmobile business hat makes us the granddaddy of them all,eh Edgar?

      Hall turned the cake cutting over to Hetteen and Johnson. As Johnson was performing the slicing honors, Hetteen quipped, "I don't know if we know how to cut a cake, but we can probably weld it back together!"

      Saturday morning, February 25th, was devoted to snowmobiling throughout the gorgeous scenery of the MT. Katahdin area. Part of the ride traversed the actual route used by the pioneer expeditions. Now well groomed and maintained, its marked and designated: Earlan B. Campbell Memorial Trail."

      The rides ended at the Northern Timber Cruisers clubhouse where snowmobilers enjoyed a cookout and display of about 15 antique snowmobiles, several of which traveled on this expedition. Owners of the operational sleds demonstrated on the nearby trails.

      The most unique sled on display was a Bull Moose triple tracker, a one-of-a kind prototype that ran on the 1963 expedition. It's now owned by Ray Doucette of Milan, New Hampshire.

      The Campbell brothers own nine of the sleds that were on display. Wayne owns the original Scout prototype that went on the first trip and a 1964 Voyager that made at least two trips.

      Steve had restored the Allagash Bull Cat for Hazen Blanchard. this big prototype came with a sixteen horsepower Onan engine, but Earlan Campbell talked Blanchard. into letting him convert it to a Volkswagon engine, which is what it is equipped with now. After the weekend was over, Blanchard surprised him by giving him the sled.

      Ralph Stevens brought his old 1966 Mustang, which made several of the trips. Unrestored, its a workhorse for Ralph and still takes him ice fishing every winter.

      The 30 pioneers who had actually been on those early expeditions reminisced all weekend - sharing movies, pictures, scrapbooks and clippings from the trips. At the Sunday evening banquet, each pioneer received a gold medallion commemorating the occasion.

      Looking back on the weekend, which drew about 500 snowmobilers, Brodeur's eyes sparkled, Yes the weekend was a success. Everyone had a good time and certainly the pioneers enjoyed being there together. Many of them hadn't seen each other for 20 years.

    

 

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