Swan's Island Vacations

Rentals on a Maine Island

Electricity, Anyone?

 

To have a successful household on Swan's Island, one should be ready for an electrical outage at any moment. One can do this by laying in a supply of candles, keeping the lanterns dusted, and remember that many parts of the world don't have any electricity to go out. This will be an attempt to keep your good humor. Oh, and keep a fresh jug of water handy.

 

It is a good lesson, I think, to have this modern adversity: complacent American could do well to think on how he is dependent on a process of nature fed to him by a complicated maze of wire and people. If you have never had the power out at your home, think now on how your house works, and imagine the power is off on morning.

 

Most likely there will be no water. That means no showers. That means no flushing either. It also means there will be no morning coffee, (no water, no stove). It means you can't make toast. It means you can't watch TV to catch the weather. It means that you can't do the wash, (and it is the first time in days that the sun has been out!). It means you'll have to do some things "by hand. It means that you'll have to resort to peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Can't go to the restaurant, ...that's right, they don't have electricity either! It means that the grocery store might have the doors locked because it is can't run registers and the aisles are dark anyway. The list gets to be pretty long... and then you try to go back to the sink for a drink, and whoops! no water. You just can't remember that the house works on electricity and that it is electricity that hauls the water from the well and makes the whole place work. It seems like you are wired in to the system somehow.

 

Swan's Islanders are sort of new to the electricity business, but being islanders, they know how to cope. Electricity came to the island in the early 50's and a lot of people remember the "good 'ole days" pretty well and they get by fine with maybe a kerosene end-burner and patience when the power is out.

 

Some would say that the summer months have been plagued with inconveniences: out of the ordinary heat in June was replaced by almost three weeks of fog in July which was followed by more HEAT and the ferry breaking down and shrinking. And some thought it was too funny that the electricity went out during the annual Electric Cooperative's meeting (no, it wasn't a joke). It wasn't at all funny when they returned to darkened homes where they couldn't bathe or brush their teeth for a good night's sleep I would say that there is a certain beauty to bathing with one jug of water and cooking with one jug of water and going to bed without listening to the sink drip or the whir of the electric meter ticking off the kilowatts. August, 1988

 

 

The End of Summer 1988.

 

The Libby has been sailing with a steady stream of summer people bound away to their winter lives. Every day there are long waves of good-bye as friends disappear around Fir Point headed for Bass Harbor, and the world beyond. Some of us heave a sigh of relief, but some of us are already longing for the summer of '89.

 

The island school children waited sadly for their first bus ride to school on September 6th, but later in the day the school yard was alive with happy faces. The kids broke in new sets of school clothes, while mothers got out the season's first patches at home. It will be an exciting year for the island's school, because plans for a new school are literally on the drawing board in Ellsworth and the selectmen are looking for a suitable site of 5 to 10 acres. A new school will be built in perhaps two years, but there is a lot of planning to do now. The teachers are excited to think that they might actually have room to put things, not to mention the "large " student body of three years from now which is expected to be 60. The Planning Board and others are already hoping to use the "old" school house for offices and meetings.

 

The fishermen, always quiet about their work, are subdued after the wildly wonderful season of last summer. This year they set about the work of paying for the new boats, cars and trucks they bought with last year's profits. The -Fisherman's Cooperative, which invested heavily in new buildings that included an icehouse, has been busily hatching a plan to bring more work onto the island, but the manager refuses to discuss plans with me. There have been meetings for all concerned, but I've always been at other meetings, so you'll have to stayed tuned to see just what the fishy mystery is...

 

The end of summer crashed headlong into fall in a rush with trees blazing red here and there and with cold night winds demanding that flannel nightgowns come out of the lower bureau drawers. A sense of urgency fills the air: there are water systems to close down or guard against the winter winds and storm windows should be repainted, a supply of precious sand and salt is stored for the Town roads, winter clothes should be examined for repairs and boots should be as well...these are the jobs that somehow were put off, and will be again until the last possible moment, when it will almost be too late. Never mind. The seasons come and go with or without us and whether we are ready for them or not. It will be winter soon and we can revel in the certain play of light on the harbor water that is not seen in any other season. Like Steve Harriman says, he doesn't wish time away, he likes all the seasons. I always mark the occasion of the first snow-fall as well as the first time the lawns are mowed. I miss my summer friends, but I relish the winter fire. September, 1988

 

 

Seaside Hall Museum

 

The museum began its summer season on July 2 and expects to welcome hundreds of visitors to its exhibits. New in collections are two glass butter churns for the kitchen area and a collection of photos from the 20's from the Mohler family of their first summers on Swan's Island.

 

One of the museum's first visitors of the season was Lester Staples who confirmed stories told on the island about him: Lester is famous for his love of dogs and when he was young, he would bring his dog Rover with him to school where the dog would sit beside him at his desk. Lester brought lunch for the two of them and one day ate Rover's sandwich by mistake!

 

Older folks remember bringing potatoes to cook in coffee cans on the woodstove during the winter months at the Minturn school. There are several photos on display of the schools in Atlantic, Minturn and Swan's Island and these never fail to amuse relatives and friends who discover some familiar face in a group of little children from way back when.

 

Also new on display this year is an album of photos put together by the Swan's Island Consolidated School under an Innovative Grant from the state. The school was able to purchase a video camera, three 35mm cameras and two tape recorders with the grant money. During the course of the school year, K-8th grade took photos of what they thought were important island buildings and places as well as workers who were building a summer house during the winter. The children also conducted interviews of island workers as well as some of the elderly. Their work has been donated to the museum which now has the album of their photos on display. The museum is now looking for a donor to contribute a television and VCR that would be used to view the videos the children put together and which would be put to good use during the winter months at the library.

 

The museum continues to solicit items of interest to add to its collection. A special call has been put out for older items relating to lobster fishing. The museum will also start a collection of buoys from all the island fishermen fishing in 1989.

 

Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, from 12:00 to 3:00.

SWAN'S ISLAND EDUCATIONAL SOCIETY, SWAN'S ISLAND'S LIBRARY AND MUSEUM CONGRATULATES ISLESBORO ON ITS BICENTENNIAL! HAVE A WONDERFUL CELEBRATION! July, 1989

 

The Glorious 4th on Swan's Island

 

When Melita Staples found out that the Odd Fellow's had not planned a 4th of July picnic this year, she took it upon herself to organize an island picnic through the Methodist Church. On short notice, she solicited funds and the baking of cookies and other goodies for sale at a games and hot dog party at the Recreation Hall in Atlantic.

 

For days she worried about the weather, and on the 4th the day proved''iffy", but good enough for a few hundred islanders and friends to turn out for the fun. Games of tug-of-war were got up...men against the women and kids against the adults and real fair and square tugs too! The egg toss and baseball kept a lot of people happy that day.

 

The fireworks had been shot off a few days earlier when it was judged that the weather cooperating. Sure enough, the night was almost perfect. A few pleasure boats and working fishermen from other ports came over to Burnt Coat to catch the show. Though the beautiful bombardment lasted a very few minutes, most everyone enjoyed the excitement of it.

 

Melita Staples enjoyed herself that night too and on the night of the 4th, I'm sure she slept soundly, satisfied that the island had had an all around good holiday. July, 1989

 

 

Swan's Island Water Committee

 

Robert Gerber, a private hydrologist whose company is in southern Maine, met with the Water Committee (WC) on July 14 and a small group of interested citizens. Gerber had reviewed the WC data base and was impressed with the three years of work that the WC had done gathering information on well levels and water quality. Gerber explained his work and how other towns in Maine have used the information to plan for development.The WC will consider mapping certain high-risk areas so that land owners and Town planners will have better information in the future. July, 1989

 

 

Swans Island Electric Coop Buys Heating Oil Business

 

Notice of a special meeting of the Board of Trustees of the S.I. Electric Coop, (EC), went out in Septembers electric bills and called members to the Odd Fellow's Hall on the night of September 14 for the purpose of voting on the question of whether the Electric Coop should buy Kent's Wharfs heating oil business.

 

President Brad Ames explained that because of Swan's Island's size and remoteness, the operation of the EC, "Tends to be expensive and inefficient". Manager David Honey outlined the ways that the EC has tried to utilize their expertise and equipment: rent of the chipper and bucket truck for trimming trees and setting flag poles and the hire of LeMoine and Turner, employees of the EC, to run the equipment, has earned much needed income for the small cooperative's general fund. The EC already has large fuel oil tanks, (that were needed for the old generators), in place on their property near the Town Wharf at Minturn, so a fuel oil business seemed a natural expansion of their services to the community, and a way, "To make money", Mr. Ames said.

 

Discussion from the 82 members present, (with 43 proxies), expressed the concern that because Kent's Wharf was going out of business, there would be only one heating oil business left on the island, and that there was a need for competition in this area. $15,000.00, paid over a three year period for Kent's Wharfs two trucks, would be financed by the owner, William Atwood of Sprucehead. Manager Honey said that separate books would have to be kept and that the EC would have to show its plans to the Rural Electrification Administration and the Public Utilities Commission for their approval.

 

When the question came to a vote, there were 107 votes in favor and 16 against. The second article on a vote, "to see if the members would limit the Trustees and the management to only operating a business strictly related to the purchasing and sale of electricity", produced 10 votes in favor and 114 in the negative. September, 1989

 

 

Save the Seaside Hall!

 

The Seaside Hall museum in Atlantic was kept from sliding into the waters of Mackerel Cove, when Trustee of the Swan's Island Educational Society, Gwen May, sounded the alarm. Mason Daniel Barnes was asked to assess the situation and an emergency meeting was held in mid December. Because the building is owned by the town, the Selectmen were consulted and on January l, Mr. Barnes and his men, Tod Smith and Everett Robert, began the work of cribbing the building. Two days were spent under the structure which was built, literally, on the shore. The work secured the Seaside Hall for the winter; Barnes will submit two proposals for the more permanent work that needs to be done to save the building.

 

The Seaside Hall was built by the Atlantic Improvement Association in 1905 for ''educational and moral purposes". It was used as a gathering place for residents of Atlantic. Dances, plays and suppers were put on, and at onetime, the island library was housed there. In 1986, Swan's Island's bicentennial year, the Swan's Island Educational Society (SIES) installed its museum collections there and has been active in that building ever since. In February, the SIES will launch a drive to fund the work that needs to be done. The last meeting of the Atlantic Improvement Association was held in March of 1980 in which they resolved to give the land and hall to the Town. In 1986, the townspeople expressed their wish that the building, and other old buildings be saved. In 1990, let the Seaside Hall improve! January. 1990

 

 

Decade Review - Swan's Island

 

Ten years is a long time and it is hard to remember what has happened. Unlike Hans Borei, I do no keep records, only sketchy personal files in which I pile letters, stories, poems etc. for my own amusement. Trying to review here for you the past ten years of the town's life, I can only make a short sort of hit list of things that stand out to me. Here goes!

 

Land values rise and islanders find it even more difficult to call home. Summer people tend not to build camps and cottages as in times past, but build real houses with indoor plumbing. The Planning Board finds that the Shoreland land Subdivision Ordinances are being pushed to the limits.

 

Fishermen have some bad years, but these are offset by their conservation measure in the form of a trap limit. In the latter part of the decade, their plan pays off. There are new fiberglass boats in the harbor, new cars and trucks cruising the roads, and new couches in living rooms.

 

The expanded tax base allows the town to "make new" what they had had to ''make do" with: the fire department purchases modern equipment and a new school project was begun. Roads were improved.

 

Though the fisheries expands, one wharf goes out of business.

 

The Selectmen appoint town committees to address the problems of solid waste, water and housing. The temper of the town slowly begins to address the challenges of the changing times.

 

The island's aging stands of spruce and fir begin to come down; every year a new block of sunlight opens in the forest. The deer population increases as open space appears, but by the end of the 80's, many are found dead from starvation in a bitter cold snap. Eagles and osprey become more common. Seagulls become a problem at the Quarry Pond. Eel grass, having disappeared some decades ago, begins growing in limited areas. Rabbits increase.

 

Vital statistics - 1980 to 1989- There were 63 births, 64 deaths and 60 marriages. In 1989 there were 48 dogs registered. January. 1990

 

 

Swan's Island Library-Inherits Atlantic School House

 

The Swan's Island Educational Society learned recently that Minna Geddes, who died in February, left the Atlantic school house and one acre of land to the society. It will be a year before the paper work has been completed and most likely months after before the building can be put in order for use. The Trustees will meet this month to discuss the course of action.

 

The library's growing collections and need for meeting space could be well housed in the old school. There is potential for the housing of a genealogical collection which will grow because of the formation of a regular group Interested in the subject. (The Grace Bischof collection will be the center piece in this area.)

 

The building has two large downstairs rooms, with various hallways, fireplace and bath; upstairs are at least three other rooms, bath and a large open area that Mrs. Geddes used for her painting studio. The Geddes also had a stairway installed to the bell tower from which one can see wonderful views!

 

The Trustees are well aware that a move to the old school will be costly, but well worth the effort! The Atlantic school is one of only three old buildings (excepting churches) left on Island and it would be an interesting venture that would blend the past with the present. April, 1990

 

 

Swan's Island School News

 

Swan's Island school children, parents and friends were invited to write their names in the cement which will be under the stage area of the new Atlantic school. Jamy Lasell, site manager. Instructed the children in safety on the construction site, gave them large nails with which to write, and lead them down to make history. Mr. Lasell told the children that their names would never be seen again, but everyone seemed to enjoy the Importance of the moment.

 

Principal Kim Colbeth took her third, fourth and fifth graders on a tour of the unfinished building. Junior High Teacher Helen Sanborn lingered by the window In her class room-to-be and was thrilled by the space she will have in the future.

 

The three green house windows that were added to the design were of great Interest to all. Donated by a memorial fund for Norman Bailey, each class will be able to have its own Indoor garden project, a project Mr. Bailey would have appreciated.

 

The school children participated in a Bike-a-Thon on May 12 to raise money for St. Jude Children's Hospital. The People Interested In Kids ( PIK) group organized the ride and served hot dogs and treats to the riders. The one and a half mile ride goes around the Atlantic Loop. 29 children participated in the two hour event. Carroll Staples and Fritz Gardener were able to go 13 times around for a total of 19 ½ miles each! There was a small group of five year olds who did two laps and Betsy Wheaton, a special education student, walked In the event.

 

The riders had a rougher time this year because the wind was against them, but they did the best that they could and of course they had a great time! May, 1990

 

 

Prehistoric Swan's Island

One Man's Treasure is Another Man's Trash

 

The Abbe Museum's Field School Week on Swan's Island brought an interesting group of people to City Point in Minturn during the last week in May. A retired MIT engineer, computer technician, housewife, scientist, nurse, among others came together out of a common interest In Maine's prehistoric Indians and for archaeology.

 

The fourteen participants were members of the Abbe Museum of Bar Harbor who answered the call for volunteers to work a midden site, or shell heap, at City Point in Minturn. Dr. Steven Cox, archaeologist with the Center for Northern Studies based in Wolcott, Vermont, and Research Adjunct of the Maine State Museum gave an introductory talk to volunteers on the night before the work was to begin. Dr. Cox would be the dig's resident expert. He outlined the techniques that would be used to work the site, such as mapping and labeling in a methodical way. Some volunteers had done the exacting work before, but for many others this would be their first experience. Also present that night was Bill Cheney who was one of the owners whose land would be excavated over the next five days. Mr. Cheney, and later his wife Kendra, would spend a few hours at the dig. My sister, Kaniaulono Meyer of Cincinnatil was the other owner of the midden site on the shores of Burnt Coat Harbor. Kaniau's house provided shelter for most of the volunteers.

 

Though Abbe Museum's director, Diane Kopec, lay sick at my house for a couple of days, the work went well under the direction of Dr. Cox and the more experienced of the volunteers. The site was marked off in five, one meter squares and the sod carefully taken up and set aside for replacement later. The sections were worked with small trowels. Each thin layer was carefully and slowly removed, taken up by dust pan, placed in boxes with wire mesh bottoms which were then shaken so that the black earth fell onto a tarp. The debris from each hole would be replaced in its original square at the end of the project.

 

The untrained eye misses completely the significant jewels revealed on the mesh by this process: tiny pieces of pottery, fish ribs, vertebra, stone flakes, all seem to be amorphous among the millions of pieces of shattered ancient clam shell and dark earth. The nasty weather during the week also made the careful fingering of the debris difficult. Frozen digits picked at the bits in the screen: in the first layers, few finds made the hands even colder! As the worked progressed, patterned shards were found and excitement warmed the group at last.

 

The days went by and the past was peeled away, layer by layer. Dr. Cox noted that the shards that were found seemed to be in a style identified as being about two thousand years old. Pieces from three separate pots were eventually found. Small canine teeth of some animal that had been pierced as for a necklace were also found. A large bone measuring some 14 inches was uncovered. Scores of other bone fragments from various animals and fish were carefully put away in plastic bags along with specifics about location in the site. The larger discoveries were carefully revealed, left in place, mapped and finally released and stored in labeled plastics bags. A large pot fragment was found, but it was almost a shadow of itself; after being carefully measured, photographed and mapped, it disintegrated while being lifted into a container. Stones that were exposed were brushed clean, mapped and then discarded. These may have been fireplace stones or perhaps house foundations. Dr. Cox would make a study of the artifacts, photographs and other data in his lab in Wolcott, Vermont. He would write a paper on the City Point site and finally the materials and results of the study would be housed at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor. While volunteers worked the site, Bettes Swanton kept the home fires burning at my sister's house. Just up the hill from the dig. Warm, wonderful meals were produced for the weary workers. At night, the kitchen was filled with smells of cooking and the sound of happy explorers home from the field.

 

One night, the Swan's Island Library hosted a slide presentation by Dr. Cox on his research of other archaeological sites In Maine, notably the Goddard and Fly Point sites In the Brooklyn area. Cox presented an overview of what is known about habitation by Indians in Maine. Red Paint Indians left dramatic ceremonial spear points in burial sites in Maine, these dating some seven thousand years in the past. Other tribes produced pottery, fish hooks, arrow heads and other tools which the tell scientists how the Indians lived.

 

Dr. Cox noted that some ancient sites dating seven thousand years ago, are now under water. One such site, off of Deer Isle, is twenty-five feet underwater and was discovered by fishermen. Dr. Cox and others made scuba dives at the site, but conditions were very poor and finds hard to come by.

 

Conditions on land can also be poor. Dr. Cox made this point perfectly clear. His audience was stunned by his smooth delivery of a "punch line "in the form of slides taken at our own Roderick's Head where a very large midden has been totally destroyed by artifact seekers. The slide showed. in fact, a broken shovel lying in the midden. (A screen was also found in the woods.) Dr. Cox explained that the importance of the artifact is revealed in its location in the site with regard to strata, which is indicative of era. The appearance of the soils themselves, the stratigraphy, the placement of stones (as for fireplaces), bone fragments, are very important to the study of ancient man. Most amateurs are looking for arrow heads and other tools and simply dig for them, destroying the site in the process. These amateurs miss completely objects of equal value to the archaeologist: bone, small pieces of pottery, different types of stone are discarded in the useless heaps in many areas of Swan's Island, Roderick's Head being a classic example of a plundered site.

 

There has been a kind of tradition on Swan's Island: islanders have always dug in the middens and one hears many stories of the artifacts found on the island over the years. Thirty years ago, an amateur excited island children by telling them that the Indians had been seven feet tall and were cannibals! This man took them on digging expeditions all over the island. (I have been told that his collection was thrown away at the dump after he died.) There are many islanders who have impressive collections stored away in attics: useless mementos now of a race of man who lived thousands of years before us and left tantalizing traces of their living along our shores.

 

Abbe Museum's volunteers, who labored in the cold and damp for five days, had carefully opened the earth at City Point and lovingly examined every particle. Behind them, the ocean danced dark and cold. In and out. Rain fell. Time passed. Another day added on to the past. Standing on the hill, one could imagine the centuries peeled away, the Indians encamped nearby. But here the image is hazy: if only we knew more about them, wouldn't that be wonderful? On the last afternoon, the five pits were empty. Final measurements and photos taken, the soil and shell was tipped back into each hole from whence it came, firmed under foot and its sod replaced. What would our lives look like two thousand years hence after a five day dig.? June 1990

 

 

School News

 

Graduation times are very important rites of passage for islanders. It is most poignant for eighth graders, because going into the next grade sometimes means leaving home for the first time. Such is the case for one of the two graduates this year: Nicole Bishop will be going to Fryeburg Academy in the fall. While the other graduate, Kathleen Dzleyzk, will be going to Mt. Desert High School nearby, she will have to live off island as well. The transition sometimes is hard on students and parents, but there are exciting possibilities too: students can participate in sports and music that they otherwise would have to miss if they commuted daily.

 

This year's ceremonies at the Odd Fellow's Hall should be noted as the last time the hall will be used) for the purpose. By this time next year, the island will be celebrating the first classes to have graduated from the new school in Atlantic. Generations of islanders have graduated in the Odd Fellow's Hall. New traditions are fast assimilated by new generations but for many years to come there will be those who will remember with fondness having graduated in the old Odd Fellow's Hall: "Remember when?"

 

The children graduated on June 6 and on the morning of the 7th, the school picnic was to take place. The skies were gray and threatening when I arrived at school. The Junior high kids were chanting. "No rain! No rain!" A few drops fell, but not seriously. By nine o'clock the decision was made to go ahead as planned and the school erupted with joyous noise.

 

All the kids were put onto the bus, the teachers and I followed in cars, headed for the Fine Sand Beach. The picnic food itself would arrive by lobster boat later. The town had cleared the fallen trees along the path and the children made quick work of the hike into the beach.

By the time I arrived on the sand they were in bathing suits and generally cavorting as if it were high summer. Some of the older kids set to digging an immense hole for the after-lunch game of tug-of-war. Others made castles and moats and collections of beach things. As the hours slipped by, parents with younger siblings arrived through the woods and the food was landed at last.

 

Spencer Joyce's boat. Daily Bread had made a beeline to the beach to save the party from starvation. Fires were not permitted (and will not be allowed this summer in some areas in the north part of the island), so mothers had sent dozens of sandwiches and salads to feed the hungry group. Eventually, the sun came out, but only stayed for awhile: the kids didn't seem to notice as they went about the business of being children. The next day, kids and teachers cleaned up and packed for the move in September, happy to have finished and looking forward to the future. June 1990

 

 

Library Lecture

 

The Swan's Island Library begins Its Lecture Series on July 13 with a slide and music presentation by lver W. Lofving entitled, "Nature and Tyranny in Central America." On July 20 Bud Lyle will present "America Discovers Vinland", an essay in support of Scandinavian discovery. Marvin Mirsky will present "The Bible as Literature: Some Introductory Notes" on July 27.

 

On August 3, Lynn Herndon will give us, "Readings: Running the Gumat." Lynn will read from Maine authors as well as from others. "James Swan" will be Molly Beard's topic on August 10 and on August 17, Ruth Grierson will give us "Trinidad's Natural History." On the morning of August 23, Bob Kennedy will lead a "Bird Walk". Gary Hoyle of the Maine State Museum will present "Development of a Museum Wildlife Exhibit".

 

The last presentation of the season will be on August 30 with Enrico Bonati with "The Formation of the Ocean Floor." Most lectures are on Friday nights this year and will begin at 7:30. Kennedy's Morning Bird Walk will be on a Thursday as will be Bonati's August 30 lecture. The Library is in great need of donations this year and asks for your support. July, 1990

 

 

Swan's Island Planning Board Denies Building on Gooseberry Island

 

How many of us would love to have a house on a little island off the coast of Maine? Wouldn't it be nice to be the sole inhabitant? You could build a cottage and tuck it up by the spruces and spend the rest of your life exploring the coves and deer paths on your Island.

 

Gooseberry Island is a little island south west of Hockamock Head, but is not the sort of island that would accommodate your fantasy. There are no trees on the windswept landscape and no deer paths either. Gooseberry is one of the many tiny islands in Maine where no one goes because it is hard to make a landing and there really isn't much to see, unless you are a scientist making a study of birds or isolated wild places. The earth there is spongy and wet enough in places for cat-tails and blue flag. Most of the year, the island is washed by sea and wind. For centuries Gooseberry has provided shelter for nesting eiders, gulls and terns. It has been a perfect habitat for them because it is an inhospitable place for man and and beast in 1986, the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife published The Penobscot Bay Conservation Plan, a work of the Endangered and Nongame Wildlife Project that identified important sites used by marine mammals and birds and recommend guidelines for their protection. This study listed Swan's Island's Gooseberry Island as Class C, an area of local significance because of colonial-nesting seabirds, common elder, black-backed gulls, herring gulls and terns. Management guidelines suggest that, "nesting islands must be made available to the birds in an undeveloped and undisturbed state."

 

The Planning Boards has over the years made revisions to its ordinances and in fact has changed zoning in some areas. Every year the board finds that some loophole has opened up or that something has been overlooked. The fact that Gooseberry Island is presently zoned residential came as a shock to islanders who were suddenly confronted with the possibility of a two and one half story house with a thousand square feet of deck, an addition, an accessory building and a pool.

 

"It doesn't make any sense! Why would anyone want to go out there? That place is for the birds! It would be a wanton destruction of nature! What a foolish thing to think of!" These were some of the comments coming from islanders who have spent a life time looking at Gooseebrry from the lighthouse, sailing or fishing by it in all seasons. On November 1 the Planning Board met with the prospective owner to review the application. The party had not yet purchased the island, but rather planned to do so upon approval from the board of their plan. The board noted that the present zoning was a mistake and cited the management guidelines of the Penobscot Bay conservation Plan that should have been taken into account.

 

Several members of the community voiced their grave concerns. Concerns for the island itself were expressed as well as for the people who would try to build. Experienced boaters explained that conditions of the seas would make Gooseberry a very difficult place to land, much less land a vast array of supplies. One selectman said that he fished the waters around the Island and knew that the winds In summer would prevent someone casually sitting on the deck for very long. The selectman also noted that there were many families of duck that used Gooseberry Island.

 

Many examples of practical difficulties were discussed in an attempt to show that certain disaster would result from their efforts. The Board cited the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance Purposes that asks the board to protect birds and their habitat, prevent incompatible land use, control land use, conserve limited resources and significant natural areas, anticipate and respond to impacts of development In shoreland areas.

 

Letters from Regional Wildlife Biologist Thomas L. Schaeffer and Island Institute's Philip Conkling were read. Schaeffer's letters noted that, "While regulatory provisions under the Natural Resources Protection Act are currently in the process of being developed. It is predictably certain that this type of proposal (for Gooseberry Island) would be evaluated as wholly incompatible."

 

In the end the board denied the application because," Gooseberry Island is a significant wildlife habitat designated by the state and should there fore be protected from development which would change the character of the Island."

 

Members of the Planning Board as well as concerned citizens are working on a complete review of Swan's Island zoning with regard to the protection of wildlife and natural areas. They hope that they will have something for the next town meeting In March that will protect the character of Swan's Island. November, 1990

 

 

Christmas Seasonings

 

Christmas time on Swan's Island is much like Christmas in many other small towns across America. Churches have their sales and luncheons to raise funds and to help us with shopping and the school puts on a party and musical where Santa Claus gives out presents. On Swan's Island, though, Santa gives a present to every child from newborn to eighth grade. This tradition was begun by the Maine Seacoast Mission many years ago and continues happily today with the assistance of P.I.K. (People Interested in Kids), Swan's Island's pta. Lotti Keene Is this year's chair for the Christmas project. On December 14, Santa Claus distributed 84 packages: each child got a pair of mittens, a hat, and a toy. (MSM contributes $2 for every P.I.K dollar, as well as the mittens and hats.) The school party began with songs by the nursery school. This was followed by a Christmas play and more singing and the magical appearance of Santa himself. The evening celebration ended with rounds of cookies and ice cream for everyone!

 

Christmas 1990 will be a sad one for many of the friends of Tim and Patsy Wagner. Tim, preacher for the Methodist Baptist Church for seven and a half years, has decided to try his hand at counseling and so will move his family off island In June. The Wagner's eagerly awaited Christmas Open House on Saturday, December 16 was as glorious as an such celebrations in the past Members from all the churches, as well as people from the general public who to sing, go caroling in different groups all over the island at the homes of the elderly. There are also presents for each person visited. After tramping the island and visiting everyone on their lists, the groups returned to the Atlantic parsonage for the best food ever! Patsy and Tim had spent weeks preparing the feast and It was wonderful!

 

Tim, Patsy and their five boys will be hard to replace. The church will have to advertise for a preacher/cook/bicycles to replace Tim and only God knows where we will get another beautiful woman to mow our lawns!! As for the five boys, they will be missed for their energy and smiling faces! I will especially miss the youngest, Jesse, who has been a faithful Story Hour kid. We all wish them good luck and say, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING! December, 1990

 

 

Coyotes on Swan's Island?

 

The quiet of the early winter has been rustling with rumors of strange sounds coming from woods and swamp. The story goes that a fisherman radioed a local fisherman to ask if the Island had coyotes and when the answer came back "no," the reply was, "You do now." This fisherman claimed that he saw a coyote on the shores of the Garden Point vicinity. And so the story grew.

 

Yipping noises were soon resounding all over the Island. At the dump one day, two men claimed to have heard along series of yips coming from the woods. "Never heard anything like it before," they said.

 

"Someone said that So-and-So saw coyotes at her trash can, but when I called her up about it, she said she never heard of such a thing!"

A friend, when I happened to ask her about coyote rumors, couldn't wait to ask me if it was true that I knew there was a family of them near the library but that I didn't want to tell anyone about it because I didn't want them killed. Wow! This rumor sounded just like me, but it was untrue.

Others have been speculating that state wardens put some coyotes here to take care of the deer problem the island has been having for several years. There was even talk that wardens were overheard in Bass Harbor talking about putting coyotes on the islands. It makes a lot of sense to some people.

 

That led me to place a phone call to Swan's Island's Regional Wildlife Biologist, Tom Schaffer. "The department never has and never will have such a program," he said. It is true that coyotes are on Mt. Desert, but they got there naturally. Schaffer said that coyotes came to Maine via Canada in the late 1960s. Coyotes are very resourceful creatures and need no help from man to make their way. Schaffer doubts that they could have made it to Swan's Island without benefit of pack Ice from the mainland to our shores. It Is true that they could find plenty to eat (aside from cats and children, as the gossip goes), to keep them going for a few years, but Schaffer emphasized that it was unlikely that coyotes were here at all.

 

In the meantime, there are those who claim to be hunting them. Schaffer says that coyotes may be hunted all year round with a Maine state hunting license for small game. However, one must not hunt on Sundays or before or after hunting hours. He also noted that the department has a program for the control of problem animals. Including coyotes. Certified hunters and trappers are called to dispatch specific animals that have damaged crops or domestic animals.

 

Hunting phantom coyotes is a good excuse to take a walk I suppose, but couldn't you simply take a walk and watch birds instead? Oh yes, it would also be a relief to rest your tongue for awhile. January/February, 1991

 

 

Reed's Store Burns in Bass Harbor

 

A local landmark burned to the ground in Bass Harbor on January 2. Gone is Swan's Island's last stop before home. The store stood since 1907 and is In the memory of many an old-timer who made a quick stop for a bag of lime for the outhouse or a bottle of forbidden wine to ease the ferry run homeward. You could always depend, if one had time, on a nice short walk up to Reed's to look for something you didn't have time to get in Ellsworth or Southwest Harbor. what with the pressure of getting back In time for the last afternoon ferry!

 

The remains of the building have been cleaned up and the space looks almost as If nothing had ever been there. Did you know that the Bass Harbor Post Office was next to Reed's? The post office now stands alone near the corner, slightly singed by the fiery death of a place that we will miss. January/February, 1991

 

 

Swan's Island Summer Resorters

 

The earth must have thousands of enchanted places like this where Being is the substance of music and poetry that makes one cry to have to leave. Swan's Island has become an obsession to those who come to summer.

 

The rusticators came in the late 1800's and sat on the porches of the big island hotels. They sat up there on their white summer clothes and some islanders still remember them that way. The Mohlers, Stephens, and Dodds, were among the first to populate the Ponceanna and the Ocean View. Eventually, they built their own summer homes or bought up old houses. All those years ago, fishermen had large parcels of land solely for the purpose of hauling out fishing gear or to secure access to a weir. When the fishing business went, many sold their useless lots because of taxes. They didn't consider that in the future, their hold on the land would be lost forever to the strangers who used the land for two months a year and left nothing but dilemma for their descendents. Islanders always assumed that the land would be there, free to take a picnic anywhere on the shore and free to walk on. More and more is being lost to the summer people, with fewer islanders owning the shore. But, the newer rusticators do not feel this very much, and they live sublimely in the island summer. Some leave behind beastly hot states like the Carolinas or Maryland, and that is reason plain enough. Others come for a simple change of scene that clears vision and somehow rests them so they feel strong enough to face the Other Reality. Some are returning to the place where they were born but left for work or marriage. And always there are those traditional summer folk who have come now for generations, like monarchs.

 

VIGNETTES

A few used to summer on other islands like Gotts and Sutton. Lack of rents and the difficulty of getting back and forth to the mainland finally forced them to Swan's which had ferry service and possibilities. Nancy Hart is one of those and she has come now for thirteen summers. She raised her grandson here. Together they explored every trail, went fishing and she taught him how to row. Especially valuable was not having a TV, so they did a lot of reading. Nancy's father had taught her to love the water and she wanted her children and grandchildren to have the same opportunity.

 

Suzie and Toby lszard first saw their island summer spot in 1969. It was in the fog and at low tide, but they fell in love. They were here the first to buy a lot in the new development at Island Retreat. For years their family had camped on Mt. Desert and they had visited all the islands they could. The lszard teenagers didn't want to come here at first, feeling that it would keep them from the things they wanted to do, but the island became an important part of their lives and now, as grown ups, they return with their own families. Parents value the chance to expand the lives of their children, and youngsters learn that independence and interdependence are important aspects of being a human being.

 

Peter and Carol Petraitis came from Philadelphia because Peter is a scientist who studies periwinkles and other mudflat characters. They have come now for five years and greatly value the safe environment for their two boys. It takes a lot to dampen the spirits of these four: months of rain and fog hasn't kept them from walks and lots of lovely dinners with friends. Philadelphia, to which they must return soon, looks like hell to them, even from wet City Point. As summer people they have learned to put up with all sorts of inconvenience, (little realizing that inconvenience is a way of life on an island). The roof goes unrepaired for years on end and because the faucet leaks, part of the daily routine is to empty the pan under the sink. Carol and Peter would be happy with the most humble spot, as long as that spot was on Swan's Island.

 

On modern Swan's Island the power goes out two or three times a summer. Sandy Johnson and Judy Monroe out on Fir Point aren't even phased in those emergencies because they don't have electricity. That isn't strictly true anymore, but their step towards the 80's was only tentative... literally, to a tent. Judy is a writer and is addicted to her word processor, so last year a platform was built in the woods near the powerline, a cable laid in and a Moss tent put up. This year she added a cuisinart. For Sandy the encroachment is a narrow escape. Her place on the island is her pride and they live so well with an outhouse, hand pump and solar shower, that scads of off island company never even notices. It is Sandy's flesh and blood to have the summer the way it has been for her for many years. Elaine Herndon, originally from Massachusetts, is living out a childhood remembrance here in her island home. As a child she summered on Great Diamond and only rediscovered her love for islands four years ago by a chance encounter when a displaced Swan's Islander was walking by her house in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The moment she came, she knew this was her destiny. Now in her very own island house, she happily crochets, walks her dog, reads and adds to her collection of objects that remind her of islands in Penobscot Bay. She wouldn't care ever to see another place on earth; she would rather live the rest of her life on an island.

 

In 1968 Charles and Ernestine King started their summers in what had been Andrew Smith's store. A retired chemist and curator, the couple has worked faithfully on their island home restoring a classic island house. Ernestine's special pleasure has been documenting some of the sixteen layers of wallpaper she peeled from the dining room. She discovered that an old island neighbor, Basil Joyce and his mother before him had applied some of the layers, in fact Basil recalls putting up layer thirteen in 1922! The Kings take their pleasures simply and are rather like islanders of forty years ago in that they know very little about Minturn or Swan's Island village: they live quietly and happily in Atlantic, Maine.

 

It may be a primal urge that sends us, like nomads, to other pastures with the change of season. Modern American life has forced many things on us, but some people have not yet evolved that need out of their genes. October, 1988

 

 

Swan's Island Story Hour

 

All winter the Story Hour kids came. They waded through snow and braved some really nasty mornings. On good days they came on bikes, but mostly they walked together to the Library - Museum in Atlantic to hear a story or two, or three. They leave Saturday morning cartoons at home to hear something different, like Pavarotti sing "La Donna E Mobile", or find the eggs and jelly beans hidden in the stacks on Easter and then hide them again and again, or to hear just how grim Grimm can get!

 

The smallest book lover is just learning her alphabet and the big kids don't at all mind reading every ABC book in the library. They all love to hear new things, but never tire of McClosky or E.B. White. The ten or so children love books and many of them are on the honor roll at school.

 

On a rare occasion, Story Hour has entertained only one, but that one is usually Christal and she loves to listen to poetry. An hour with her rosy, brown cheeks, long braids and beautiful smile, is an hour of reward as great as if every child or the island came that day. What better work can a library do? October, 1988

 

 

Water, Water, Everywhere?

 

When my family first came back to the island in the 60's, our house on City Point had no electricity. Our water came from the cistern in the cellar which we pumped up to the kitchen with a hand pump. The cistern was filled with wash water at the beginning of the season by Richard LeMoine who was the Fire Chief in those days. He brought the load of water in the fire truck. Drinking water was lugged in milk cans. Since the fire truck load did not last all summer, my father set up a gasoline driven pump to propel water up the hill, 500 feet to our house. We still did not drink the water in the cistern, but saved it for washing purposes only. (I remember my mother fishing out dead snakes and mice and throwing in bleach.)

 

Our bathroom was a luxurious three hole outhouse that was really indoors and next to the woodshed. It was a short walk through what had been the summer kitchen in the days of my ancestors going back seven generations. We lighted our nights with kerosene lamps and Alladins (I can hear the pure hiss of the Alladin now!). When we bathed, my mother heated large pots of water on a kerosene stove. When I was small I could stand in the sink to take a bath, but later, we each would have the kitchen all to ourselves as we bathed in a big basin with the glow of yellow light playing in the warm room. Once a week, when we needed to wash our hair, we would walk to the Quarry Pond with shampoo and extra towel in hand. Many us used to bathe there in the summer; there was nothing like having the largest bathtub in the world at our disposal!

 

It has been almost thirty years now. The family house is still in the family, but has electricity and running water. Many old houses have been modernized in this way and are contributing to what could be a problem. In the old days water was not squandered, as it was too hard to come by. It had to be hauled or hand pumped. In modern times, water is used for more things than our great grandparents dreamed of: flushing toilets, washing dishes automatically, heating the house, cleaning teeth with waterpics, showering, washing clothes automatically... The availability of water is taken for-granted and an average household uses about 300 gallons a day. But, that may have to change and a return to a more thoughtful and cautious use of water may be in order.

 

After 1987's Town Meeting, a Water Cornmittee was formed to study the is-land's water situation. Carol Loehr was made chairperson and was joined by others. Water quality at the Quarry Pond and the general island water supply have been their concerns. The committee was also charged with the investigating the extent of radon; the island once had a granite industry.

 

The Water Committee waded right in, and by that summer had completed a series of tests at the Quarry Pond. They found that the pond was safe for swimming, but the number of coliform bacteria steadily rose during the summer months. The bacteria is fed by great flocks of seagulls which gather in fresh water to rid themselves of parasites and defecate, and by swimming children who naturally urinate in the water.

 

The Water Committee's 1988 study of the Quarry Pond shows rising levels of coliform bacteria and fecal streptococcus in the summer months. Under the direction of Hans Borei, a retired University of Pennsylvania marine biologist who was also instrumental in the 1987 work, tests have been performed at the Quarry Pond and the Goose Pond, which was used as a control. This summer Mr. Borei and his assistants, Mike Camber and lver Lofving, made an informal count of seagulls at the Quarry Pond. On the first occasion the count was 250, and on the second, the count was 500 gulls! Because of the availability of food at the dump, the gull population has soared in recent years. More people are discovering Swan's Island and the Quarry Pond; the rise in fecal streptococcus is in direct relation to these factors. Although the bacteria count indicates that the water is safe for swimming, this is contradicted by the effect swimming in the Quarry Pond has had on some individuals: there have been reports of serious ear infections and the notorious "swimmer's itch."

 

The island's water supply was evaluated last year by State hydrologist John Williams, director of the Hydrology Division. He found that the island could support moderate growth, but also noted that his calculations should be, "interpreted with great caution." The water committee put together a map delineating the wells and population density, as well as history of water supply. Wells at the Minturn Loop and the Village of Swan's Island are apt-to go dry. These two areas have a concentration of houses and tap into a limited water resource.

 

Island water, which comes to us as rain and snow, does not settle in a common aquifer, but in isolated "recharge areas," of which there are 16 of major importance on Swan's Island. The water migrates into fractures in the bedrock.

 

A University of New Hampshire graduate student, Richard Bursaw, has been studying these fractures for his master's thesis. He has walked the circumference of the island to find where basalt and granite come together indicative of the fractures made by the moving of the earth's plates. This fall he has begun looking overland, seeking straight features to complete his mapping of the island's fractures. With this information, the Water Committee may be able to offer advice to the Town when work begins again on a new Comprehensive Plan.

 

Radon testing has been performed in a few households and at the school. Some sites show high concentrations, but tests must be replicated to confirm the first results.

 

Radon is a gas which occurs naturally in granite and is measured in one-trillionth parts called picocuries. Radon slowly escapes to the surface and thence into the atmosphere. In the decomposition process, radon breaks down into "daughter" molecules. These daughters cling to dust particles and smoke and can be dangerous when breathed over a long period of time. They stick to lung cells and their radiation then causes cancer. Radon escapes into the air all around us, but is primarily dangerous to those who live in modern air-tight houses. Then there is no chance for the gas to escape harmlessly into the air, but rather into the house itself where it accumulates. The gas enters cellars, even through cracks in concrete floors. Many of our old houses thankfully leak like sieves and radon there is less dangerous. Summer residents may not be in their homes long enough to be banned by a long-term exposure to radon's daughters. Not enough is known about the extent of radon on Swan's Island yet but the Water Committee is aware of the problems and will inform the people when its extent is known.

 

The work of the Water Committee has been recognized by the State, which praised it for the thorough job it has done. The well data was entered into the state-wide data base. The body of the Water Committee's data is growing: every month new information on more than 200 wells is added. Dr. Borei and others continue to take measurements in test wells around the island and to monitor water quality. Results from radon testing are being noted as well. Perhaps our for- bears could not imagine a picocurie or a waterpic, but in today's world a citizen has to know what is acceptable. October, 1988

 

 

Aground!

 

The morning of the new moon, September 10th, dawned in a fog in Burnt Coat, but by noon, the dampness began to clear. My friends went off to do some painting on Long Cove, and I to my duties at the library and after, to my job at Garden Point at the northwestern end of Swan's Island. I arrived at 4 to see a stranger leaving the house and walk off down the deserted road and cut into the woods. I asked my employer who this was and he told me that if I cared to step outdoors. I'd see a ship aground. I walked back to my car where I grabbed my camera and walked to the summit of Sunset Rock and saw the horrible sight of a yacht completely out of water and resting on her starboard side. I walked closer, took photos and watched as two small tenders floated just beyond the ledges, apparently working at some task. I walked over seaweed and rocks and then over vast stretches of ledge, white with barnacles. As I came at the boat from this angle, I could see far out in Casco Passage another ship aground on Long Ledge! This seemed too ridiculous to be true! But, there she was, red hull bright against the sky and listing on her port side with nothing but the sea around. I could not imagine what these sailors must be doing to save themselves! Two boats came to misfortune on the same falling tide within sight of each other.

 

Two men were walking around the vessel and as I approached I called, "Hello!" I picked out the older man as the captain of the unfortunate boat and I introduced myself. "I'm Maili Bailey. I'm on the Swan's Island Planning Board. Do you have a shipwreck permit?" A small cloud drifted over his face, but he smiled and we discussed the fine kettle he was in. His son was in their tender trying to pull up the anchor they had dumped overboard in the confusing moments of the disaster. The anchor chain had tangled in the prop and they feared shaft dam-age. They were assisted by sailors from a boat at anchor in nearby Buckle Harbor.

 

The amiable Mr. Hutchinson told me how he had given the bearings to the man I had seen at my employer's house, and so acknowledged that the fault was his own. They were under power in the fog and the mistake of one degree sent them on a trip to Swan's Island they never planned. "Le Garage" seemed to be in good shape, her steel keel merely skun on the barnacles. Now her weight was held by a few bumpers and life jackets. The Coast Guard informed them that they would be along around 9 PM; the tide would be high about 10 PM.

 

Mr. Hutchinson asked me about the current and I explained it ran between Orono Island and Garden Point, running to Garden Point. They had nothing to do now but set their anchor, wait for the tide and plan their safe escape. I said good bye to them, wished them good luck and walked back to the house, still marveling at the sight of a ship out of her element, and of the other, so far out in Casco Passage that I was a raid to think of her.

 

Later, Kevin, the man who has been at the helm, came to the house to ask if someone could help with the anchor, as they could not pull more than halfway. I made a few calls to fishermen I knew might be on Mackerel Cove, and discovered David Joyce was just finishing his day's haul. His wife said that he would come, as soon as he could. The fisherman knew of the accident, but the yachtsmen had not called for help. In less than 20 minutes, Mr. Joyce was headed for "Le Garage." I ran to Sunset Rock again and took photos of the rescue of the anchor. The last time I saw them, I delivered a message that Horatio could not come until Monday: Mr. Hutchmson was dismayed that he should I have to stay in Buckle Harbor to wait for his tow, and I suppose worry about his craft through another night. Since I was almost out of gas, I dared not venture out again to Garden Cove to listen to their adventure in the night I could imagine the anxiety and wished not to intrude, as I could be of no help to them. I knew that David Joyce had promised to go back to them when the tide was right. They were afloat and safe by the time he arrived. He towed them into Buckle Harbor and left them at anchor. As for the other boat, I suppose she is safe too, but I will never know for sure. All that perished were hundreds of barnacles, and perhaps a bit of Mr. Hutchinson's ease at sea. It is best to keep your respect for the sea well dusted, as you never know when you will need it. October, 1988

 

 

Summer Flush

 

Summer comes slowly to the island. Even after several days of real warmth, the winter is never far from remembering. There are times when I can't really believe that winter is over, It is remarkable that the grass gets green, (wasn't there one ton of snow there a moment ago?). Suddenly, islanders are digging dandelion greens for supper and mowing lawns that mysteriously have grown to incredible heights seemingly overnight.

 

The harbor is busy now at an early hour. The men start for their fishing grounds before daybreak. Their day will be long, but there will still be light for most of them on their return. The afternoon's busy sounds are now in harmony with the Fishermen's Co-op's new ice machine as it makes thin shreds to pack the fishermen's catch for shipment Frenchboro fishermen off load here too, but now the fishermen are outnumbered by the tourists waiting for their lobsters. They haul off their prizes with eager faces.

 

Elsewhere on the island, houses are being built way down dirt roads. The work picked up when winter forgot to come back. Now the carpenters work with hands that can actually feel tools and wood. But some of us know that winter is already on the way... it'll be here any minute, and it's a race. If you watch wild flowers grow and flower and seed, you know about the race. But, back to summer. Picnics and friends and blue skies and boats; it seems extra good to be alive in the summer, even with winter coming on. July, 1988

 

 

The Light at Hockamock Head

 

Lighthouses in Maine have been in the media regularly, but little has been said about the light at Burnt Coat Harbor. In 1986, the Swan's Island Educational Society (SIES) made an unsuccessful attempt to secure the keeper's house for use as a museum. The Coast Guard at Southwest Harbor proposed to use the facility for rest and recreational purposes and sent volunteer guardsmen to gut the building and make repairs.

 

The gutting was a shock to the society, but even after calls to Boston headquarters, who knew nothing of the work being done on Swan's Island, and to the commander at Southwest Harbor, nothing could be done to stop it; indeed the gutting was complete before it was discovered. In the past two years, the Coast Guard has been under pressure to close facilities. So it was confusing that the Coast Guard would continue its work here.

 

In 1986 the selectmen, in conjunction with the SIES sent a letter to Coast Guard headquarters stating that the town would be interested in acquiring the property should that become a possibility.

 

In the meantime. The roof was repaired after the new shingles put on last year were ripped off in last winter's storm. The Coast guard affixed wire over the windows to secure the house against vandals and they periodically quietly perform maintenance chores.

 

The townspeople look on the light as part of their heritage and it would be a great loss to everyone should the light go to "the outside." July, 1988

Who Needs Affordable Housing?

 

Fifty years ago you could buy an Island house for $500 or thereabouts. People worked long and hard to save up for a house and land. Over the years prices oozed on up to $5,000 and then to well over $200,000 for what used to be great granddad's place down on the shore.

 

We all have heard those stories about how "cheap" things were back then, forgetting about the relativity of the cost of living. What we haven't realized so much is that sometimes land was sold because some fisherman or widow couldn't afford to pay taxes on land that they weren't using, and hundreds of acres fell Into the hands of off islanders who could afford it. After awhile, families had no land left to pass on to children and grandchildren.

 

Many islanders today have been caught In this "lost inheritance effect" and are basically homeless. Some lucky enough to find a rental most often must relocated during the summer season so that owners may benefit from weekly rental rates with which they pay taxes and some upkeep.

Grown children and new couples live with parents while waiting for some opportunity for something better. Young families have had to live In less than favorable conditions for years before finding a better trailer or a piece of land they could call their own.

 

These problems are not unique to Swan's Island: what may be different, is that the town explored the possibilities of "affordable housing" and won a grant and a low Interest loan to accomplish a project. On the face of it, the plan seems a good one: developed land would be made available to members of the community who qualify. But the process has been confused with the addition of another idea: a Community Development Block Grant which would incorporate a fish processing plant to be built by the town for Mariculture Products, Ltd. The two are somehow tied together and there is excitement of all sorts on Island.

 

While some fail to see the beauty of the plan of the town building a specialized building for private enterprise, the idea of producing affordable housing and jobs at the same time is very attractive. The details are being worked on by a limited edition of the Affordable Housing Committee and consultant, Jim Hatch. The town will be asked to vote on the issues at the end of May.

 

So, who needs housing? While the issues are being debated at weekly meetings, the people who would populate the lots in Atlantic (tentatively known as Duck Brook) anxiously hope for a good outcome. Kathy Martin Cook and her niece Billie Jo May Riedel, their husbands and families have put their names on the list of those interested in Duck Brook. Lottie Belle Staples Keene, an Affordable Housing Committee member, is interested in the project partly because her grandmother Amy Staples gave the land to the town years ago. The three women have spent most of their lives on the island, but have struggled with the decision to stay. Lotti, Kathy and Billie Jo talked with me about living on the island and about staying too.

 

Kathy, 24, lives in a trailer with her husband Millard Cook and two children, ages 9 and 6, on family land where there are three trailers and a house. The small piece of land is owned by a complicated troika of relatives with no clear boundaries between the living quarters on it. Sometimes the tension erupts into family feuds. "I would like to be off by myself because it is too crowded here. I would like something to call my own." With their third, child about to be born this month, their decision to stay on Swan's Island will have to be carefully considered. "We could add on to the trailer here, but the land isn't ours and we don't know what will happen. We could do what we want on our own land. We could move it (to Duck Brook) and add on to make it like a double wide and shingle it like a house." But the future is uncertain. Millard is a good auto mechanic but is working for someone else doing carpentry, and the work has not shaped up for the season. It may be that they would have to seek work off Island. "Millard gets sea sick so he can't go fishing or work for Mariculture." Living and working on Swan's Island can sometimes be tenuous.

 

19-year-old Billie Jo Riedel, husband Thomas and year-old son. have just moved out of their winter rental and into a small trailer at Stockbridge Hill. They had lived in another trailer before the winter house, but had to move. "We had a struggle this winter because Thomas didn't have work. But he got some odd jobs and now has work with Mariculture." Billie Jo would like to stay even though the island doesn't have things like movies and department stores. But their future on the island will depend on jobs. Thomas was trained as a boat builder but the industry has undergone a slowdown in the state. He is considering returning to school to study diesel mechanics. With the uncertainty of the job situation in the future, the decision to remain on Swan's Island is not an easy one for the Riedels either. Their future on Swan's Island would make more sense to them if they could put themselves into their own land and not have to live like Gypsies.

 

Lotti Belle Staples Keene, 30, returned to Swan's Island in 1989 after living and working off island for a few years. Her work experience included working with her mother running a summer camp for girls, babysitting, odd jobs, and shift manager for Burger King in Ellsworth and Rockland where she was able to make her restaurant one of the top ten in New England in ten months. She was married in 1985, had several small jobs and then worked for a bank in Bar Harbor while living in Trenton. After the birth of her son, now 3. she decided that home on Swan's Island was the only place to raise him. She moved back in 1989 with husband Roger, and lived in a trailer on her brother-in-law land on Stockbridge' Hill. The trailer was in poor condition. "No running water, outhouse, and doors that wouldn't close." Later, they moved into her grandparents' house, but her mother and aunts owned it and have it for sale. This house had problems too: the doors closed, but water had to be carried in and they take showers at her sister's or parents' houses. When her father inherited land, he set aside some acreage for her. They were able to put in a road last year. again with the help of her father who is an island contractor, and are in hopes that they will be able to build this year.

 

As a member of the Affordable Housing Committee, Lotti has been frustrated by the functioning of the committee. Important decisions have been made without the full input of the committee. She feels, and others feel as she does, that the addition of the fish processing plant to the equation may complicate the essential issue of affordable housing so much that both may fall at a town vote which will come up at the end of the month. But Lotti has an insight into the problems that confront Islanders without land or hope of a place of their own and hopes that the issues will be resolved and made workable so that her neighbors can have homes on their own land. Roads and wells will go in this fall if the town approves the plan. May, 1991

 

 

Ferry Blues

 

Swan's Island was mobilized Into action upon the receipt of a letter from the Department of Transportation's Deputy Commissioner Russell W. Spinney late in May. Spinney's letter informed the selectmen that the town of North Haven had requested that the DOT permanently reassign the Everett Libby to their run, therefore leaving Swan's Island with an eight car ferry until sometime in the future when the new vessel under construction is delivered.

 

The months prior to the receipt of this information had been fraught with frustration to say the least. Swan's Island has been busy with the comings and goings of the island's salmon business and the building of summer homes in all parts of the island. The normal business of islanders requires that we go off island to get the goods and services not to be had on Island. The ordeal of attempting to take yourself and your long list of things to do off island has become almost impossible with everyone else trying to do the same and trying to squeeze in between the trucks of industry. "If we get stuck with the eight car ferry this summer there will be a war zone down there!" Comments along those lines could be heard from all quarters.

 

The selectmen quickly mobilized a counter-request in the form of a petition which by the end of the day had 280 signatures. "Anyone irritated by the ferry," had signed the petition said Gwen May, wife of selectman Roger May. Planning Board chairman, Norman Staples, sent a letter to Spinney to express his personal concerns and those if the Planning Board. Phone cells were made to Augusta by mainland companies who do business with Swan's Island. At the selectmen's meeting on June 13th, Sonny Sprague announced that the concerted effort had paid off: the Libby would be returned as soon as possible. Islanders realized that it feels bad to have to "fight" against another island, but they also realize that they have to do the best they can with available resources, as usual. June 1991

 

 

Swan's Island Electric Cooperative Meeting

 

The annual meeting of the Swan's Island Electric Cooperative was held without incident this year. Last year the Co-op was embarrassed by several power failures during the meeting. This year's gathering was blessed by Father Charles Riepe. the island's resident summer priest, who got the evening's first round of applause for his prayer in which he asked God to forgive utterance when the power goes out. Evidently the Power heard, for all went smoothly. The fish dinner, meeting guest speaker and the awarding of prizes were completed Just before nine o'clock, post meridiem.

 

The Cooperative reported that the installation of its substation at the Crossroads had begun. Manager David Honey said that the new transformers had just arrived at Bass Harbor and that he hoped the project could be completed In September, concrete pads are in place and other earth work has been performed in preparation. The completed system will increase capacity by 33% and should be sufficient for the future growth of Swan's Island and Frenchboro. At present the Cooperative has 410 members and reads 453 meters.

 

The Cooperative will have to turn off the power during different stages of the project and will inform the public when this needs to be done. A planned outage still cannot be planned for by the homeowner and seasonal renter. The electricity was off for about three hours on July 16 and some found themselves without water pumps for several hours after that. The situation was complicated because drought conditions may have emptied wells at just that moment, (you know how things go!) There were anxious hours before things were in order once again and switches reset.

 

While several ladles knitted during the meeting, three members were elected to the Board of Trustees from a field of six. lver E. Lofving, Annette Joyce and Kenneth LeMoine, Jr. were reelected to their three year positions. After the last door prize, a large box of light bulbs, was awarded to Arthur Gefvert, the meeting was adjourned until the same time next year. July, 1991

 

 

Swan's Island's July 4 Festivities

 

This year's holiday week around the Fourth of July was jammed packed with exciting doings. Friends and family gathered at the Atlantic ball field for a picnic sponsored by the Methodist Church ladles who grilled hot dogs and sold watermelon and dessert, crabrolls, soft drinks and Ice cream cones. Games were organized by Buzzy Keene and kids of all ages were included in tug-of-war contest. egg tosses and the like.

 

On the fifth of July, the Swan's Island Educational Society produced the Virgil Geddes play, I Have Seen Myself Before, at the Odd Fellows Hall. The hall was packed full and chairs had to be brought from other parts of the building to accommodate the audience. The more than 200 playgoers were rewarded by the wonderful performances of the cast.

 

Starring were Robert Horton, as George Emery Blum, an out-of-work undertaker, and as his wife Edith, Betty Carlson. lver W. Lofving played Bert Cardway, Blum's ex-employee in the undertaking trade and friend and his wife Carlotta was played by Monica Cease. Dwayne Kent and Lotti Keene played Peter and Matilda Cobb, special dinner guests at the Blum residence one evening in the 1930's.

 

In the play's plot, George Blum has been unemployed for some time and his friend Bert Cardway has the idea that a dinner party might get him a job with an important business man in town, Peter Cobb. The Blums have very little and so decide to kill their pet hen Grace, who has lived in their kitchen for two years, and serve her at their dinner for six that evening.

 

That night, when all the guests have assembled, Blum can't keep himself from telling everyone that Grace is the main course. The idea of eating a pet startles and upsets the ladies but interests the gentlemen. The evening conversation ends with Matilda Cobb leaving the Blum residence in a flurry of excitement and revulsion. Peter Cobb is intrigued by George Blum and promises his friendship before he exits.

 

The promise of friendship taken an interesting twist in the next scenes when Peter Cobb returns to tell Blum and Cardway that after their dinner together, he followed his wife home where he had drowned his wife's adored pet dog in a haze of anxiety over the fact he and his wife do not communicate; Matilda, it seems, has been talking instead with the dog.

 

The Geddes characters, played by islanders and locals, and directed by Eugene Jellison, gave the audience a fine night out and-the hall rang with laughter and applause for a job well done. The night's receipts went to the library for its plan to renovate the old Atlantic School that Minna Geddes, the playwright's wife, left to the Society in 1990. An encore performance is planned for August 1, 1991 at the Odd Fellows Hall at eight o'clock.

 

The week's celebration continued as fireworks were set off on Saturday July 6. This year's show was funded by private donations and parties were planned around the harbor to take advantage of the show. Boats came from Frenchboro, Mt. Desert and Stonington and showed their appreciation at the end with a long horn blast that echoed over the water and down the little coves and inlets of the harbor to where folks and stayed home out of the way of so much commotion.

 

But there was yet one more thing to do before the week was out; an Odd Fellows Breakfast. It was well attended by those who appreciate all you can eat bacon. eggs, blueberry pancakes, home-fries and coffee and more. They love to turn out between seven and nine in the morning for the now famous meal. Breakfast, of course, is a time when the family should be able to get together to talk over what they will do that day. It is great fun to meet friends and relatives at these affairs and not have to wash one single greasy frying pan! We appreciate these every other Sunday breakfasts and dread the end of summer only because then so too will end the Odd Fellows Breakfasts. July, 1991