Rural mail delivery: full of challenges (and a few aches and pains)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeg Fields had heard there was an opening for an associate rural mail carrier for St. George’s southern route—basically a position that provides back-up for the full-time carrier, Rebecca Barrows—so she applied. “I decided to do it on a lark,” she admits.

The basic qualifications for the job had been easy to meet: She had to be a U.S. citizen, provide her own vehicle (Fields’ is a Honda Element), possess a clean driving record and have no criminal history.

But mastering the procedures and logistics of her new role, Fields soon found out, proved to be more challenging than she had expected. “There were several levels of difficulty to overcome,” she acknowledges with a wry laugh.

Her training began in late August, when she spent six days learning the ropes from veteran carrier George Nye, who had ended his full-time contract with R.L. Trucking (a firm based in Medina, Ohio that provides rural mail delivery services to the USPS), but had stayed on as a back-up carrier.

The first challenge involved learning how to sort and arrange the mail for delivery. In full season, Fields’ route contains 290 active mailboxes, involving first-class mail, magazines and flyers. She was amazed, she says, when she found that “there can be a stack of magazines five feet high to sort!”

Each carrier’s method of sorting and arranging things, Fields quickly realized, was different, so she had to figure out what would work best for her. “Some people focus on road numbers and some focus on names as they sort. It can be tricky keeping things straight—for example, there are four to six 15-somethings on my route and several 8-somethings.” The carrier also needs to keep in mind the ever-changing list of whose mail is on hold each day.

The next degree of difficulty, Field says, was learning how to load her vehicle most efficiently, given that she would be distributing the mail out of her passenger-side window while driving with her left hand and left foot. “There’s a lot of bending and twisting, because there are also packages and flyers to contend with,” she points out. Some carriers put the mail trays under the driver’s wheel, but Fields says she found it easier to put them by the window. Forms that might need to be filled out, along with a scanner, also needed to be handy. “All packages have to be scanned to show they were delivered,” Fields explains.

Completing her 20-mile route, including sorting time, in the five-and-a-half hours allotted by R.L. Trucking was the next challenge. “My first two official days of delivering the mail took me 11 hours each,” she acknowledges with a laugh. “But in about two weeks you’re good to go. No matter what, you have to get back to the post office by 4pm with any mail you’ve collected. So if you’re not done with your route you have to break off, go back, and then come back to resume delivering.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough there are many aches and pains that accompany the physical contortions required by the job—“I’m keeping Tiger Balm in business”—Fields says she’s noticed a benefit, too. “Doing this is better than luminosity.com! It’s about pattern learning and identification. After a week or two my short-term memory was getting better. And although you get terrible gas mileage, it is a beautiful route to drive and you get to meet people. There are also roads I never really knew existed.”

Another side effect of Fields’ rural mail delivery experience has been her sharpened awareness of what attributes are most desirable in a mailbox. “I would like them to have clear numbers, to have doors that work, and for them to be upright—putting mail into boxes that lean is really difficult,” she says. “And I LOVE plastic mailboxes because they don’t scratch my car!”

Fields’ foray into the rural mail delivery world has also impressed her in another way. “It has been a real eye-opener into the realm of the U.S. Postal Service,” she says. “It is amazing how many rules there are.” After a pause she marvels, “Like you are never supposed to back up.” —JW

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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Yuletide in St. George, Nov. 28-29

Now in its 11th year, ‘Yuletide in St. George,’ held the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 28-29, 10am-4pm), has become a favorite way to launch the holiday shopping season for St. George residents and visitors alike. The festive, somewhat old-fashioned feel of this down-home event—it’s an occasion, really—makes for a fun, neighborly atmosphere in which to browse the diverse array of specialty merchandise, first-rate handcrafts, unique ornaments, fine art and vintage collectibles on offer at the 12 locations on the Yuletide map. While the holiday fair on Saturday at the historic Ocean View Grange in Martinsville is always a big draw, every venue has its own flavor, making Yuletide a very appealing and rich experience. Here’s the full list of participating locations:

Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum (Marshall Point, Port Clyde)—Scenic lighthouse location featuring St. George’s maritime history; museum shop.

Mars Hall Gallery (621 Port Clyde Rd. Martinsville)—Generous range of work in all media, vintage goods, jewelry.

Hedgerow (cor. Route 131 and Ridge Rd., Martinsville)—Nature- and farm-inspired gifts  in a rustic setting. Special Green Bean treats.

Ocean View Grange (Route 131, Martinsville)—Sat. only. Holiday fair with assorted vendors and benefit luncheon for St. George Fuel Assistance Program. Admission is $1.

Harborside Market (Route 131, between Tenants Harbor and Martinsville)—Wreaths, trees, kissing balls and assorted cards and gifts.

Blue Tulip (cor. Route 131 and Barter Hill Road)—Gift items handcrafted in Maine along with holiday greens, wreaths, ornaments and Dutch chocolate ABC’s.

Pond House Gallery (41 Port Clyde Road)—Art in paper, fiber, glass and stone.

Phoebe Bly Studio (68 Main St., Tenants Harbor)—Paintings, prints, cards and fun animal cutouts in Bly’s distinctive style.

Stonefish (38 Main St., Tenants Harbor)—Apparel, home furnishings and one-of-a-kind handcrafted ornaments.

Real Finds Consignment Shop (13 Mechanic St., Tenants Harbor)—Vintage collectibles.

Eastern Star Craft Fair (Odd Fellows Hall, Watts Ave., Tenants Harbor)—Sat. only. Holiday fair featuring assorted vendors.

First Light Gallery (1174 River Rd., St. George)—Lucinda Talbot’s original paintings, prints, decorative boxes and other gifts.

Yule MAP copy webClick here for a printable PDF of the map.

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Marie H.

Marie H doubleThe Marie H., a 48’ lobster boat, seiner and dragger, was built by Capt. Levi E. Hupper of Port Clyde in 1946. These photos of Hupper and his boat were published in the Atlantic Fisherman in May 1952.

These photographs are from the Atlantic Fisherman Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

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The St. George Civil Rights Team

By Sophia Campbell and Chloe Simmons

The St. George Civil Rights Team

The St. George Civil Rights Team

Seventeen 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at St. George School are members of the St. George School’s Civil Rights team. On Monday mornings our team meets for half an hour to discuss what’s going on, and how we can help make our school a better place. Our mission is to increase the safety of all of the students. We want to reduce bias-motivated behaviors, like harassment; we want to make sure everyone feels safe, and that everyone is treated the same. Bias can be related to race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, physical and mental disability, and gender. When we have our meetings, we think and talk about issues related to bias in our school. We have worked on ideas such as “planting seeds of kindness” and being friendly with everyone. Our school is a pretty nice place, but we can always work on making it a place where everyone feels included. Here is a poem that we wrote about bias:

Bias is gray.
It feels like a punch in the gut.
It smells like burned popcorn.
It tastes like iced tea without sugar.
It looks like ashes from a burned out fire.
It sounds like booing.


Ed. note:  With this story The Dragon is pleased to welcome two new monthly contributors, Chloe Simmons and Sophia Campbell.  We asked them to tell our readers a little about themselves. Here is what they had to say:

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Chloe Simmons

I’m Chloe Simmons and I’m in the 7th grade at St. George School. I live in Port Clyde, and I like playing sports, and being with my friends.

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Sophia Campbell

Hi, I’m Sophia Campbell and I’m in the 7th grade at St. George School. I live in Spruce Head, and I like shopping, playing sports, and being with friends! (;

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Interesting things about holly

hollySMI’m not sure what particular type of holly is planted on either side of our front steps (the steps to the entrance we never use), but they have been possibly the most vigorous hollies in the midcoast. They are very happy right up against the house, with a southern exposure. Since we don’t use those front steps, I’ve ignored these hollies lately, except when in search of greens for Christmas decorating. However, as we are having some much needed repair work done to this side of the house, I’ve had to turn my attention toward taming these shrubs so a ladder can get through.

These are probably ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl’ or potentially ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’ varieties of Ilex x meserveae. The “x” in the nomenclature indicates that these are hybrid crosses. In this case, Katherine Meserve of Long Island, New York is the one who made these crosses shortly after World War II.

The origin of these hybrids is pretty interesting. Mrs. Meserve was a total amateur horticulturalist (she died in 1999 at the age of 93). She evidently decided to try to create an English-style holly (as in “The Holly and the Ivy”) that could survive in the northeast—the decorative English Holly and another variety from the Pacific northwest were too delicate for our harsh winters. Her breakthrough came when she cross-bred Ilex rugosa, a low-growing holly native to Japan, with Ilex aquifolium, the English holly. It worked. Most of what we call hollies in the northeast are from her plants.

The whole Ilex genus is dioecious, which means that staminate and pistillate flowers occur on separate plants, labeled as male and female. The female plants have the bright red berries, but there must be a male plant that blooms at the same time nearby for the berries to occur.

I’ve learned some things about gardening with these evergreen hollies. One hard lesson I learned is that in harsh, snowy winters deer in search of anything green could care less about the spiney-ness of the leaves and will nibble the plants to nubs. A second cautionary note is that, as with all broad-leaved evergreens, hollies resent winter winds—these burn the leaves, causing them to turn black and fall off.

A great thing about these hollies, though, is that they have adventitious buds, so after pruning, exposed to sunlight for the first time, these buds sprout and form new branches and leaves to replace those that have been lost. I am counting on these adventitious buds to help my two plants recover after their current, ill-timed pruning.

We do have some native members of the Ilex family growing wild all over the midcoast area: These are the winterberries, Ilex verticillata, with their thickets of bright red berries, visible when they lose their leaves in the late autumn.

—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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Ready to sell, but still giving new ideas a try

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sign attached to the large “specials” chalkboard out front reads, “For Sale by Owner”—which has year-round and summer locals a bit worried. But Donna and Dick Dearborn of Harborside Market in the section of Route 131 between Tenants Harbor and Martinsville sometimes known as Barter’s Flats, are pressing on with ordering stock and planning for the holidays with their usual energy and wry humor. Next spring will mark the couple’s 30th year in business here, and people are nervous that a new owner could never be as devoted to making things hum as the Dearborns have been. Even the delivery guys are concerned. “She’s a wonderful woman,” one shouts on his way out. Grinning, Donna acknowledges the compliment with a wave, noting, “We feed our vendors free—I get the best service!”

It doesn’t seem possible, but “Donna’s,” as most everyone calls the business, began with a card table in the front yard laden with fresh-picked strawberries. This was soon after the Dearborns first moved into their home here in May of 1985.

“We had been looking for a house where I could have my mother,” Donna, a native of Owls Head, explains. “She was in a wheelchair, so the master bedroom suite on the ground floor of this place was just right for her. We also had my two daughters at home.”

Dearborn’s caregiving and mothering responsibilities led her to begin looking for home-based work. “So the first thing Dick and I did was to drive to Dresden to pick strawberries. After that, people began asking for vegetables, so we would go to Beth’s farm market in Warren and bring back produce and put that out on the card table. I also began making muffins. And the muffins led to pies.”

Up until this point Donna had been cooking hot lunches for School Administrative District (SAD) 5 (covering Rockland, Owls Head and So. Thomaston) and working as a florist, most notably for Andrus Flower Market and at one point for Floral Expressions. Husband Dick, a native of Appleton, was driving a school bus for SAD 5, something he did for 18 years until an accident sidelined him for a while at the end of the 1990s. After that, in 2000, he became a postal delivery contractor with a St. George route, retiring in 2013.

DONNA STAND 2SMThe Dearborns eventually replaced the front-yard card table with a yellow wooden farm stand that the couple bought from a cousin. Donna’s pies became a specialty. “I used to start baking pies at 2am,” she recalls, noting that, in addition to cooking for her own business, for many years she supplied an abundance of pies to Miller’s Wharf.

After about 15 years of running the seasonal farm stand—and drawing on Donna’s experience as a florist—the Dearborns gambled that a year-round florist shop could be a good next step, so in 2000 the couple built one to the side of and back from the house. “I had greeting cards, balloons, wrapping paper and gift items in addition to the flowers,” Donna says. “That’s when we officially became Harborside Market.”

The Dearborns moved the farm stand beneath a canopy at the front of the new building, along with two refrigerators, “one for vegetables and one for the pies.” Eventually they replaced the canopy with a simple barnlike structure. In addition to summer vegetables and lobsters supplied by local fishermen, during the holidays this building was filled with wreaths—something Donna had begun decorating for the farm stand—and some Christmas trees.

It will be five years ago in March that, prompted by the partial winter shutdown of the general store in Port Clyde, the Dearborns made a leap of faith and finished off the barn structure and converted an adjacent garage into a commercial kitchen, creating a single year-round building where customers could get a selection of groceries and cooked-on-the-spot soups and sandwiches in addition to the floral arrangements, cards and gifts. A new hoop house provided the space for the Christmas trees and the more than 500 holiday wreaths Donna now decorates for sale each season—and for hanging flower baskets in the spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year, it seems, customers find new offerings at Harborside. Two years ago, it became an agency liquor store (wine had been available for several years). Then came the deli stocked with high-quality meat from family-owned Capital Candy in Vermont (“I shop around for the best,” Donna notes). High-end beers, wines and coffee now rub shoulders with two Slush Puppie machines, one Blue Raspberry, the other Cherry. There’s an ATM and, Donna points out, “I now have lots of car stuff. We’re also getting more into hardware.” Outside, there’s a recently added liquid propane tank refilling station (not a tank exchange, Donna stresses).

Trade shows are a big source of ideas. “If we see something that we like and think might work,” Donna explains, “we give it a try.”

The hours the couple keeps, Donna admits, are long, with few breaks, and it would be nice to slow down. When asked if she and Dick have created a bit of a retail monster, Donna rolls her eyes and laughs. “The only thing I wanted was a florist and gift shop,” she says, then adds with a shrug, “It just kept snowballing.”

Her customers, who might recognize that the couple deserves to retire, have also liked it that way. —JW

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman and Harborside Market

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Technology is vital part of JML

IMG_1863SMA number of years ago, when computers began appearing everywhere, including in schools and homes, there were predictions that public libraries would become a thing of the past. But it turns out that libraries are now still every bit as relevant as they used to be, but in new and exciting ways. In the case of St. George’s Jackson Memorial Library, what began with the acquisition of a computer around 2005 has led to a technologically advanced library of the 21st century. With 10 public-use computers and a variety of e-readers and tablets, JML is able to provide virtual access to the world—for free—to everyone in town who wants it.

“Last year, we got a grant that included money for technology,” says Library Director Yvonne Gloede. “With that money, we were able to add new computers and iPads for people to use in the building, and we bought two Kindle Fire devices that people can check out.” These e-readers are pre-loaded with books that make it easy for people to take on trips, rather than having to carry heavy books in their bags. The Kindle Fires also enable users to watch movies or listen to audiobooks.

The library’s computers are loaded with a variety of software, including word processing programs, photo editing software and games. Headphones are available for in-library listening to audio on any computer or device. In addition to being able to print documents, patrons can also scan photos or documents to create digital files that can be emailed or saved on the user’s flash drive.

All this technology, of course, means that the library’s staff needs to be able to help patrons use it. So they have become adept at fielding questions about things like iPads, Windows 8, e-book downloading and even smart phones. “I’ve worked with all kinds of skill levels,” says staff member Alane Kennedy with a smile, “but sometimes new users need a little help to get over the first hurdles. They can be so scared of ‘breaking something’, I have to tell them to just go ahead and push that button!”

Kennedy holds a special “tech help” session on Thursdays at noon at which she fields all kinds of questions, whether about the user’s own devices, or about particular programs. She helps people learn to synchronize multiple devices, set up email, and how to use Facebook and LinkedIn.  On Thursday, November 13 at 11am, she will do a special group tutorial on how to use iPhones or iPad Calendars.

“The library serves two groups of people as far as technology goes,” Gloede notes. “Our year-round population really makes use of the equipment we have in-house. The four computers on the lower level are in a quiet area. The teens have their own computers in the Teen Room, and there are two laptops in the St. George room. Summer visitors, on the other hand, tend to come with their own laptops and iPads in order to connect to the free Wifi.”
So while books and magazines are still the heart of the library, the building is no longer simply a warehouse to hold the collection.  These days, the technology to which it offers access has helped make it a vital part of the St. George community.

— Betsy Welch (Welch is president of the Jackson Memorial Library Board of Trustees.)

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Poem

Prime Time

On this grey November morning, my kitchen
window sparkles like a plate of cut glass.

Outside a Cardinal and a Jay dart up
and down the naked Maple, foraging
for daily bread.

Inside, I sit at table, meditating
in solidarity with the foragers,
birds and beasts, men and
women darting hither
and yon, on the hunt
for provisions.

My mind, adrift in solidarity, then
settles down, content to rest in
the quiet, to merely send
blessings

to my children, to all children
and to each of us,
winging our way
into the day.

—Janet Shea

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Fort Point

Fort Point historic photoSMThis photograph is from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

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