Down East 2013 ©
Ever since the Age of Sail, Mainers have wandered far and wide across the globe — and often managed to get in some free publicity for their home state along the way. Still, visitors to the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., earlier this year may have wondered about a sign in the Antarctic exploration exhibit plugging a family-owned grocery store in northern Maine.
The exhibit, which ran through June, featured a post full of signs erected outside the United States base near the South Pole, the Amundsen-Scott Station. The signs had been put up by station personnel to point the way to their hometowns, and prominent among them was one that read “Babin’s Grocery Outlet, St. Agatha, Maine, ‘We Specialize in Meats,’ 9,464 miles.”
“Wow, does that bring back memories,” says Dana Babin, a former U.S. Navy photographer who did three tours in the Antarctic. Babin put the sign up in 1979 during a stint at the station and was amused during subsequent visits to see that other people had added their own markers. He assumes the navy brought the entire pole back — and subsequently loaned it to the museum — years later when the U.S. Coast Guard took over the station.
Now a film editor in Los Angeles, Babin still returns periodically to the family grocery store, which today is owned by his brother, Gary. So far as either of them know, the sign didn’t generate any extra business for the store, east of Fort Kent, but “you can bet a lot of people know the name,” Dana Babin says.
(Published September 2000)