Game Loft News

Life in Norumbega County: The Game Loft's MLK Day Event 2011


This year's Martin Luther King Day event, held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Belfast, Maine, brought out over 100 people from in and around the community. Game Loft participants, volunteers, and community members all came together to enact a mock trial out of the Civil Rights era, involving the draft to Vietnam. This was a pivotal issue and it remains directly tied to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., as he was steadfastedly against the American involvement in the war in Vietnam.

The live action story illustrated at the community event was a culmination of months and months of narrative work by Game Loft participants, involved in a game that was many years in the making by the founders of the Game Loft. Soon after Patricia and Ray Estabrook opened The Game Loft in 1998 they discovered that there are a lot of kids in middle and high school who are not succeeding in school. Some of the problems have to do with family issues or substance abuse, but other issues are just a lack of motivation by the students. One of the most difficult issues for kids is developing a love for the subjects they take in school and developing an intrinsic motivation to succeed. This lack of motivation explains the failure we see so often in otherwise bright kids. In the early 1990’s Ray and Patricia Estabrook studied this problem particularly in the way it relates to the learning of American history. We found that kids are willing to read hundreds of pages of dense type to get at technical facts about Dungeons and Dragons but are not willing to read a few pages with large type and illustrations in American history textbooks. The solution came to Ray as a Eureka moment, take the dungeons and the dragons out of the game and put in American history and you would have something that reluctant learners could embrace.


“Life in Norumbega County” is the product of a role play game and a history lesson. The basic premise is that history is a story. American history is the story of the American people and how they have responded to the challenges and potentials of their time. “Life in Norumbega County” follows mythical families in a mythical place, Norumbega County, Maine. Players become part of a family and make decisions for their characters based on the pressures and potential of their characters and their time period. The moderators create the issues and the players solve them in interactive story form. When completed, “Life in Norumbega County” will be an enrichment history curriculum that will be available to after-school programs, homeschoolers, and other non-traditional teaching venues.


“Life in Norumbega County” helps young people understand history through the coming of age stories of young people in seven historical periods. Each historical unit addresses overarching themes present in Maine and the United States. The 1950’s and ‘60’s unit looks at Cold War culture, conformism and non-conformism, Civil Rights and racism, the impact of television on American culture, increased mobility in American life, and the Viet Nam War. One of the stories in this unit is the rebellion of Henry Jonah Chandler, who provided the focus for this year's MLK event.


Henry Jonah Chandler is the son of Hank and Lucy Chandler. The Chandlers run the run-down auto garage in what used to be known as Chartwell Settlement, a part of Leighton. The Chandlers have had many challenges with their sons over the past few years. Chuck lives in New York City and is, to his father’s way of thinking “a red Commie.” Scott is a folksinger of some renown in New York City and has “radical tendencies.” Jim ran away to Canada last year to avoid the draft and is in his father’s great disfavor. Larry has “redeemed the family honor” by doing two terms of service in Viet Nam. He is now married and living in New Hampshire. The youngest son, Henry Jonah, has always been quiet, passive, and likeable, the “good boy.” The family assumed he would take over the repair station from his father and continue the family business. Last summer he spent some time in New York and California with brother Scott and then all the troubles began.


Scott and Henry Jonah traveled across the country as Scott’s graduation gift to Henry. After a few weeks in Canada Scott went back to New York but Henry stayed on. He became involved with some California radicals and even spent some time in jail for blocking the entrance to a draft induction center. Henry stayed in a commune with Joan Baez and other radicals but spent most of his time fixing their cars.


Henry drifted back home to Maine where his father was incensed by his lack of initiative. Henry moved from house to house in the community, staying a few days or weeks until he wore out his welcome. When his draft notice came he put it on the counter and forgot about it. He was living in New Salem with a friend when he was arrested for defying the draft. When Henry was questioned about why he did not register he just said, “I guess I forgot about it.”


Henry Jonah Chandler was like many uneducated young men in the 1960’s. He ignored problems, lived for the moment, and went along to get along. He was not a hippy, a red neck, an outlaw, or a rebel, he was just a feckless kid. His arrest and imprisonment surprised him. He had no idea that there was an option available to him to become a conscientious objector. His view of war was, “Killing people is not friendly.” The draft, his imprisonment, and the trial were mystifying.


Chuck Chandler hired an attorney for Henry, a Mr. Money I. Steele. Attorney Steele felt that Henry’s only hope was to claim that he was a conscientious objector. Unfortunately Mr. Steele was unable to persuade the jury that Henry was a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam War and to all wars. He was sentenced to a year in jail and two years of full-time alternative service.


In the meantime Henry’s father had a severe heart attack and was unable to work at the garage. Mrs. Chandler has never worked outside the home and has no job skills. The sons will be called upon to take financial responsibility for the Chandlers but it is likely the burden of their support will be on the Rev. Josiah Chandler, Henry’s uncle. The Chandlers may be forced to rely on the “welfare state” that Hank has always decried.


The story of Henry Jonah Chandler is only one of the many stories of coming of age in Norumbega County in the 1960’s. It is our hope that Luke, who played Henry, and the others of the group, will remember the issues of this trial and its outcomes.

The Game Loft's Annual MLK Celebration: Join Us!


In response to the stellar success of last year's MLK re-enactment, the Game Loft has decided to continue it as an annual tradition. This year, the commemorative event will include a new chapter of the segment called “Issues on Trial.” Last year Issues on Trial debated the Fugitive Slave Law of the 1850’s. This year the event is part of The Game Loft’s study of the 1950’s and 1960’s in its Eureka Learning Program. In this event Jonah Chandler, played by Luke Merrithew of Belfast, will face the consequences of refusing to register for the draft in the 1960’s. He will be defended by attorney Orrin Brown of Belfast with the prosecutor being played by Bangor attorney, Jim Munch. This issue has particular resonance for Martin Luther King Day because in 1967 Dr. King denounced the Viet Nam War in his speech, “A Time to Break Silence.” This event will give participants and audience members a look at the turbulent ‘60’s and their impact on the lives of average Americans.

 Issues on Trial will be held on January 17, 2011 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast on 37 Miller Street. The doors open to the public at 1:00 pm with the trial running from 1:45 until 4:00 pm. Light refreshments will be served. The public is invited to watch or participate in this live courtroom event. The event will be covered live by BC-TV2. Vietnam protest musician, Vince Gabriel, recently showcased on National Pubic Radio’s Soundprints, will be on hand to perform his original music. Audience members may also volunteer to sit on the jury. This free event is funded in part by: The Maine Community Foundation, the Maine Humanities Council, the Maine Commission for Community Service, and the AmeriCorps*VISTA program.

For more information please contact: Patricia Estabrook at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1968: Belfast's Best Summer Event 2010


The Game Loft's 1968: Gone But Not Forgotten event was an unparalleled success! Citizens of Waldo County as well as visitors from as far away as out of state gathered to participate in this innovative collaboration between the Game Loft and the supporting community.

Events during the day included documentary film footage at the Belfast Library, hula-hoop instructions, a fashion show, a long hair contest, and a Beatles look-alike contest. Sunshine Garcia, a volunteer coming to Belfast all the way from Portland (and the daughter of Spurwink's wonderful publicity expert Sonia Garcia), taught the hula-hoop lessons and proved that she could teach anyone to do it - but no one could top her amazing skill!

Another skilled performer was a street performer who juggled everything that could be juggled - and then demonstrated his awesome skills with balance, even balancing an enormous ladder on his chin!

Long hair competition categories and victors included the following:

"Most like a Roman sunset" (Tierra Johnson)

"Most likely to stop traffic" (Ellen Marlow) 

"Most aggressive" (Chris Johnson)

"Silkiest" (young gamer Madryn)

Beatles competition categories and victors included the following:

"Most likely to be misunderstood by parents" (Travis Reynolds)

"Most likely to be trampled by 1,000 screaming fans" (Stephen Colby)

"Looks as though when they play the guitar, it will begin to gently weep" (Chris Johnson)

The day's events centered upon the narrative of budding high school senior musician Jake, and his bandmates, and dealing with the draft. The boys went before a draft board to appeal for an exception based upon the impending success of their musical career. Jake's request was officially denied, and lead singer Jake had to make a decision: should he concientiously object, and go to jail? Should he defect to Canada to dodge the draft? Or should he follow the government's decision, postpone his musical ambitions, and risk his life fighting a war he knew nothing about?

Following Jake and his band's stellar performance to the Belfast crowd (preceded by several other extremely talented Belfast musicians, performing covers of popular songs from 1968), Jake ultimately chose to defect to Canada. His dramatic dive into his girlfriend's car and the speedy getaway that followed offered a dramatic conclusion to an awesome day. Belfast's Main Street parking spaces, filled with gorgeous vintage autos, provided the perfect backdrop for the passionate performance.

The Game Loft is excited to report that the photo gallery of the day's events is now posted. Review these groovy photos for yourself in the photo gallery section of the website, and check back for in-depth news coverage of the day Belfast went back to 1968!

2010 End of the Year Party - A Game Loft Wonderland!


Saturday, June 19th - Game Loft members and staff gathered at Steamboat Landing in Belfast for an Alice in Wonderland themed end of the year party. Tea, crumpets, and watermelon were on the menu, along with many other scrumptious offerings by parents and staff. Attendees played the familiar and much beloved Live Chess, and then learned to play Flamingo Croquet. Participants divided up into two teams, with one member of each team donning the flamingo costume, accompanied by a blindfold. In this nonsensical (and fantastical!) version of croquet, team members had to guide their blind flamingo to kick the balls through all of the hoops embedded in the grass. Teams took turns, and organized chaos ensued!

Participants also had the pleasure of joining the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, an altered version of musical chairs that also offered refreshment. The day was gorgeous, despite being hot for mid-June. A wonderful time was had by all! Check the Game Loft's web photo album for pictures!

Saturday, August 28th Schedule of Events: The Game Loft Brings 1968 to Belfast

Noon           clock_noon Event Headquarters opens                     Abbott Room @ Belfast Free Library

1:30            draftJake at the Draft Board                        Belfast Free Library Courtyard

2:00            doubledutch Learn to Double Dutch Jump rope    Belfast Free Library Courtyard

2:30                              Double Dutch Jump rope Competition     Belfast Free Library Courtyard

3:00            1968firebird  Vintage Autos arrive                Lower Main Street

3:30            guitars Jake and his friends                       The node on Lower Main Street

4:00            hippielonghair Long-Hair Judging Contest                       The Node on Lower Main Street

4:30            musicbrain Jake and his band prepare                             Corner of High and Main

5:00            Beatles Beatles look-alike contest                Corner of High and Main

5:00            High Street closed off for festival; Event Headquarters relocated to street

5:00            jugglerJuggler and street performer       High Street Event area (bring your own chair)

6:00            sixtiesfashion Sixties Fashion Show  High Street Event area

6:30-8:30 Sixties Street Festival

  • Scott and Heather MacDonald perform Folk Music of the Sixties
  • Animal Magnetism
  • The Jake Watson Band
  • Jake’s choice
  • Finale

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