The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or onbangordailynews.com.
In 1869, businessman Oliver Frost predicted that the time may soon arrive when the three great cities of North America Bangor, New York, and San Francisco shall be representatives of the wealth, population, intelligence, and enterprise of the eastern, central and western divisions of our country.
Bangor and San Francisco have not easily been confused since then, with a notable and entertaining exception.
News of German brewery worker Erwin Kreuz, who accidentally had a two-week layover in Bangor on what was supposed to be a visit to San Francisco, made the wayward traveler an almost immediate local celebrity in October of 1977. The Bangor Daily News first reported about his trip, and how Kreuz initially spent several days in Bangor thinking he was in the San Francisco area after disembarking his plane during a refueling stop, mistakenly thinking he was at his final destination. The realization that he wasnt where he meant to be, and the way Kreuz and this city embraced each other, became a national story and part of Bangor legend.
As far as travel mistakes go, this one turned out rather well. Kreuz was given the key to the city, became an honorary member of the Penobscot Nation and the Old Town Rotary Club, met Gov. James Longley and Andre the Seal, and had his birthday party at the venue of his choice (McDonalds). He might as well have been king of the Queen City.
If Kennedy can say I am a Berliner, then I can say, I am a Bangor, Kreuz said after returning to Germany, in praise of his new American friends. A third and final trip to Bangor didnt result in the employment opportunities Kreuz was hoping for, but a BDN report at the time said he will always carry with him the warm memories of friends he made in Bangor, Maine.
This is one of those feel-good stories with staying power. The BDN has revisited it several times over the years, including last fall. Across the country, in Kreuzs intended destination that he eventually made it to, San Francisco publication SFGATE also had a recent retelling of Kreuzs journey.
I think people really bought into the fun of it, and they didnt make fun of him. They really embraced him, Bangor historian Richard Shaw told the BDN in October of 2020. I think it says a lot about Mainers. He took to us, and we took to him.
He took to us, and we took to him.
This is a fun story, and when we started writing this editorial, we intended to keep it strictly fun, too. That changed, however, with the disturbing news out of Portland on Tuesday that a man allegedly harassed a woman and damaged her vehicle because she is of Asian descent. Disgusting attacks like this have been happening around the country.
According to police, the victim said the man yelled at her to go back to where she came from (for all we know, she may have spent her whole life in Maine) before he kicked and broke her driver side mirror. Her children were in the vehicle.
The man has been charged with criminal mischief and police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. Portland Police Chief Frank Clark said the attack cuts directly against everything we stand for in the city of Portland. That should be the reaction across the state.
As far as were aware, people didnt tell Kreuz to go back to where he came from. Instead, they gave him the key to the city. Mainers today can hold off on all that pomp and circumstance, but lets treat our neighbors and visitors with the same welcoming spirit that Kreuz experienced.
Call it a Kreuz Rule, under which we embrace people who are different from us and welcome them with open arms, like we would a lost German tourist. This shouldnt apply only to endearing folk heroes who find themselves here by accident, but also to the people who make a decision to come here and be part of Maines future, and to the people who are already here but might not look like many other Mainers in one of Americas whitest states.
If we can welcome the German brewery worker who came here by accident, surely we can continue to welcome the Congolese refugee or the Filipino immigrant who came here on purpose. And surely we can treat our neighbors of color with basic respect and dignity.
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