St. George boys take Busline League championship

By Liam O’Neal

The boys St. George middle-level Dragons basketball team was made up of 7th and 8th graders, and we had a very satisfying, exciting season. We had 11 kids on the team, seven 8th graders—Sam Miller, Obie Miller, Kyle Arey, Hunter Rahkonen, Ethan Carballo, Zack Upham, and Logan Putansu—and four 7th graders: Gavin Young, Liam O’Neal, Parker Hilchey, and Matthew Tynan.  Our coach was Mr. Jeff Shaw. Our record was 12 – 2, only losing twice to the Woolwich Wildcats in our regular season. Every other game was a win.

In the playoffs, we beat Nobleboro in the first round for the southern division championship. Our next game was in Wiscasset against against the Lincolnville Lynx, the undefeated north division champions. Their record was 12-0. We knew we were going to have a competition. There were way more St. George fans than Lincolnville fans at the game. Sam Miller said, “It felt pretty wonderful. Having the support from the town was amazing, knowing that they were there cheering for us.”

In the first quarter, the Dragons realized that the Lynx were not the challenge that they thought they were going to be, but we still had to play hard. We took an early lead and kept it through the whole game. The Dragons won 48-31!

On the way home, the Dragons got a surprise police escort from Warren to the St. George School. The fire trucks met us at the town line by Beckett’s and joined the celebration. “It was awesome,” said Hunter Rahkonen, “because it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Zack Upham said, “We deserved it because we made history, being the first time both boys and girls won the championship.” We want to thank Randy Elwell for organizing this escort. Patrick Polky drove the police car. Others drivers were R.J. Polky, Candy Davis, Ben Caron, and others. We appreciated this show of support more than we can say.

(O’Neal is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.)

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For 30 years leading a ‘team effort’ to give the people of St. George the services they have wanted

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen John Falla began his tenure as St. George’s town manager at the end of March in 1987, the office he occupied was in the old school building at the south side of today’s town parking lot. “It was one door in, one door out and one light switch when you entered and left,” Falla recalls. In the old days, he notes, before 1968 when the building was first staffed 40 hours a week, the selectmen came down on Monday nights to open the building. “If anyone had a problem that’s when they could come talk to them.”

Falla’s last day as town manager will be February 1, just shy of 30 years in the job. But in some ways he’s been part of St. George’s town government much longer than that.

Careful to note that he is not a true native of St. George—“One of the older natives once made the comment, when I said I was a native of St. George, that I was NOT a native because I was born in a hospital in Rockland,” he explains, adding with a grin, “My father’s response was, ‘Well, you were conceived in St. George!’”—Falla grew up in St. George in the 1950s, with parents who were always active in the community.

“My father was a selectman. I can remember as a very young kid coming down to the town office with him and playing with the clerk’s seal and stuff like that. I grew up being familiar with town government. My father served on the planning board, on the school board and on different ad hoc committees. He was one of the elders of the town.”

Falla attended elementary school in St. George and Georges Valley High School. He then attended Thomas College in Waterville, spending summers working on the line crew for Down East Airlines at the airport in Owls Head. After graduating from Thomas with a business administration degree and a major in accounting, he returned to St. George.

“After I graduated I was thinking I wanted to come home and didn’t want to go off to any big corporate area. It wasn’t long after that that the owner of Down East Airlines called and asked, ‘Are you coming back to work?” I said, ‘Well I’ve graduated and I’m looking for a job in accounting,’ and he said that that was what he had in mind, that he wanted me to come back. So from 1976 until 1980 I worked there as an accountant.”

Falla then started his own financial business doing accounting, taxes and bookkeeping for a variety of clients. He first began serving as a town official in September of 1983, when he was elected to fill an unexpired term as a selectman. He was elected to another term in 1984. “But after a year I said I couldn’t run a business and be a good father and husband so I decided to resign. So they put me on the finance committee.”

In the fall of 1986 the select board appointed him as interim town manager while they pursued a hiring process to get someone for the position full time. But when it came to making a decision on a candidate the four-member select board came to a draw and reopened their search.

“When the town manager position was reopened for hiring, that was the discussion my wife and I had,” Falla says. “Working for myself, I would get a call in the morning, like at 5:30am, when the taxi company opened up and was looking at the books and then I’d get a call from other business owners who, once they closed at the end of the day and had gone home to have a bite to eat, would begin looking at things and I’d get calls until 9pm at night. So what was the difference between that and working for the town? So what was the benefit? Working for yourself you don’t have any paid vacations and you don’t have and you don’t have. Granted, you can be your own boss working for yourself, but with a young family and everything else it seemed worth giving it a shot and seeing what would happen. As a selectman I had an idea what I was getting into, but I never realized that 30 years later I’d still be here.”

The old schoolhouse where Falla's office was located 30 years ago.

The old schoolhouse where Falla’s office was located 30 years ago.

Being a lifelong resident of St. George and having had an unusually long run as town manager, Falla has seen many changes in the town. “I grew up here in the 1950s—that was the smallest the town had been since it had been incorporated in the early 1800s. The granite industry had left and there was no shipping industry. A couple of years after I started in 1987 we spent time gathering information for a comprehensive plan. We talked about how the industries had changed and I remember being a little flip about it, but I said apparently the industry we’re in now is retirement. The Rackliff Island subdivision had been created in the 1970s and more subdivisions began to be developed throughout town in the years that followed. Before that, someone might buy a small piece of land and put a cottage on it and then summer here and maybe winterize it and move up or maybe retire to the area or something like that. But with subdivisions it became more so, with all these finger roads going off Route 131 to the shore.”

If he had to describe St. George to a stranger, Falla says, he would call it a small coastal Maine community. “At this point the town has become more of a bedroom community—there is no industry. Yes, lobstering and fishing are still significant to the town, but I have never thought of them as ‘industries.’  Industries such as shipbuilding and quarries are organized and formal, where lobstering and fishing are independently operated. I feel this independence is what draws people to work in this field, as well as what adds to the mystique for the outsiders looking in. And this independence affects the businesses related to them. The beauty of the area brings people here and the choices we’ve made about local government, the roads, the tax rate have also been a factor. People who have been living here a long time say the taxes keep going up, and the people who move in say the taxes are so cheap.”

Reflecting on whether the “taxes-are-so-cheap” newcomers have changed the town in any significant way, Falla says he believes that, while they have helped make the town more affluent, they haven’t really changed the character of the town. “I was interviewed by someone from a study group eight or 10 years ago who asked if it was difficult working with all the retired middle-level and higher-level executives here who are used to getting what they want. I was a little puzzled because I’ve always treated everyone the same.”

After a pause, he elaborates. “People who move into town and acclimate themselves to the community, who blend in, those are the ones who are successful in becoming part of the community. Those who don’t become part of the community end up moving. If you move here because you like the place, don’t try to create something else, become part of it. A strong part of the attitude of the local community is, ‘I don’t care who you are or where you came from, you put your pants on the same way I do.’ The Wyeth family has always liked the area for that reason. And the other names who are in town are treated the same as anyone else.”

Falla’s love of history, especially local history, goes a long way in explaining his openness to the ever-changing demographics of St. George. “The feeling of them-and-us isn’t really real, it’s more of a perceived thing. Most of the people working in the town office are from away in background. Yes, there is a history and we may identify some properties by their previous owners—such as referring to Hall’s Market when we mean the Tenants Harbor General Store. But it’s always amazed me the melting pot that is St. George and the reasons for it. Often it’s the economic reasons that bring people here.”

By way of example Falla notes that his grandfather came to St. George from the island of Guernsey. He worked in quarries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where Falla’s father was born, before coming to work as a quarryman in St. George. Falla’s mother was a “summer girl” who was born and raised in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her parents, who eventually bought a place and then retired here, spent their honeymoon in Martinsville in 1912, being drawn to this area because of people they had known in Waltham who were from St. George and had migrated to Waltham for work in the Waltham watch factory.

The town office Falla will be leaving on February 1 is a far cry from the old school building where he began his career as town manager. It stands on the site of the old high school that was demolished to make way for a new town office he moved into in July of 1987. The fire station and meeting room expansion was completed in 2003 in time for the town’s bicentennial. To Falla, these are simply outward and visible signs of 30 years of hard effort to provide the basic services that the people of the town have wanted. “Yes, there have been quite a few changes. But these are not my doing alone. This is a team effort that we’ve always had here. It’s the people who support you, the co-workers, the select board and town committee members. Everyone has always been supportive, it’s been a group effort.”—JW

(There will be a reception to honor Falla for his 30 years of service as Town Manager on Saturday, January 28 from 6-8pm at the Odd Fellows Hall on Watts Avenue in Tenants Harbor.)

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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Sending hope to refugee children

group-cBy Laura Olds, Sophia Vigue and Allison Gill

This past December, just in time for Christmas, students at the St. George School packed boxes full of items for children in a refugee camp in Greece. The items we packed seemed like simple things to us—bandaids, little games, toothbrushes, protein bars, etc.—but are very valuable and useful to a child refugee who is away from home. We sent the boxes through a small organization called Operation Refugee Child.

1-st grader Miles Bartke

1st-grader Miles Bartke

Ms. Bartke, the Grade 6-8 math teacher, introduced us to Operation Refugee Child, which sends out boxes of supplies that refugee children need in their camps. The boxes are called Hope Boxes. Ms. Bartke’s son, Miles (who is a 1st-grader at our school), started the project off by requesting to pack his own box after learning about the refugee crisis. He brought the idea to his teacher, Ms. Thompson, and the rest of the faculty quickly jumped on board. Teachers sent home lists of needed supplies to everyone in the school from elementary grades to middle-level. We each chose an age and gender and brought in supplies to match. There were a few different categories of stuff to get for teens, girls, mother/baby, and children. We collected things like hats, mittens, soap, sanitary supplies, flashlights and little toys, and then we filled plastic bags up. We made a lot of Hope Boxes (31 in one day). Our bundles are going to California, then on to Greece, where many refugees are. The stuff we sent gets put into backpacks and given directly to children living in refugee camps.

In Ms. Bartke’s math class, we have been finding data and statistics about the refugee crisis happening in Syria and other places around the world. We are tracking how many refugees are in different countries and where they are going. The 7th-grade students made a map showing how many refugees are in a country compared to the country’s wealth and total population. We have learned that over the years, the refugee crisis has gotten worse and worse. Now there are over 65 billion refugees and displaced people worldwide. There are refugee camps all over the world that are supporting refugees until they can find a home.  We certainly hope that our 31 Hope Boxes will arrive in Greece soon and help out a few of these people.

(Olds, Vigue and Gill are 7th-grade students at the St. George School.)

PHOTOS: Ashby Bartke

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St. George VANITZ

Editor’s note: St. George VANITZ is taking the winter off but will return with the rest of the snowbirds in the spring.
“Anonymous” knew Harbor Builders’ plate HB BLDRS in the December 15 issue and donated the free ad to Neighbor to Neighbor.

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It’s seed ordering time

Alliums get a head start in the greenhouse.

Alliums get a head start in the greenhouse.

This is the time of year when I do my seed orders. I still get print catalogs, and I do enjoy sitting with luscious descriptions and sometimes glossy photos and circling all the plants I want to try, dog-earing each page with something in which I am interested. And then I convert this idle musing to on-line ordering work at the computer.

Before I had a greenhouse, I only ordered seeds that I would sow directly in the ground (beans, peas, carrots, kale, and the like), having to forego the seeds of intriguing heirloom tomatoes and Scoville-unit-scorching hot peppers or exotic nigellas and the latest rudbeckia. Those tender plants that need a longer growing season than our outside temperatures allow were things I needed to find from local nurseries and other greenhouses, and so was often unable to find everything I was looking for. Now, however, with a greenhouse, I get to try all of the plants that intrigue me. Needless to say, the greenhouse, which ought to be entirely large enough for me, is way too small for all the experiments I’d like to make.

Here’s my process: (1) I go through the different on-line catalogs. FEDCO and Johnny’s, two Maine companies, are where I start, though I go elsewhere if they don’t have what I am looking for. For instance, I have found Swallowtail Flowers to have the best selection of sweet peas going. (2) I put everything in my shopping cart I want to try this year, indiscriminately. (3) And then I edit. How many hot pepper types do I really need to try? Are those flowers I tried last year really that good for cutting, or are they too floppy and in need of daily cutting or deadheading? Do we use enough pumpkins to warrant the space they take up? Oh, and just how much do I want to spend on seeds (those $2.95 packets do add up)? (4) Then off go the orders.

In the ensuing weeks, little boxes of hope start arriving, and by the end of January I am starting the first seeds. This year I have the added pleasure of trying seeds my neighbor, Angie, saved: some striped marigolds, bachelor buttons from Monticello and Peruvian zinnias. In addition, I’ve been saving some of the seed from my favorite annuals.

Artichokes and alliums go into the soil in the greenhouse first, that much I know from past history. But some of the new experiments will also need a long growing season. So I put together a calendar of when what seeds get started. Most of the catalogs have very good cultural information, so without the greatest effort I can chart my planting path for late winter through spring as I add the new information to prior years’ calendars.

Every year I hope that I have learned what grows well for me and what is something I should just give up on. But then there’s that Pure White Eggplant that might be interesting or the Fireball Cherry Hot Pepper. Everything seems possible and the greenhouse seems empty and large just now. Fretting about how to handle all of the little seedlings that will clamor for space in April is something that will come later.

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

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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A fun holiday tradition rooted in a lifetime of working with horses

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach holiday season Camden’s “Christmas by the Sea” weekend and Rockland’s “Festival of Lights” celebrations get a fun boost from the free carriage rides provided by Duke Ellis and his trusty 12-year-old Percherons, Eclipse and Jack. Ellis has been operating in the midcoast area as St. George Carriage Company since moving to Dennison Road in St. George with his wife, Susie, in 1993. For 26 years before that he had made a career of shoeing horses, along with training—and racing— sulky horses on the side.

“I bought a draft horse just before we came here,” Ellis says. “I figured I had worked for horses and now the horses could work for me.”

He began by offering carriage rides at Beauchamp Point in Camden. “That was a great place to take people for a ride, but it didn’t really work out—charging for the rides was a problem.” Eventually Ellis recruited people and businesses to sponsor free rides for an hour or an afternoon—mostly in Rockland and Camden—which worked much better. Adding a vis-a-vis (or face-to-face) carriage made by Amish carriage makers in Kentucky for weddings and other special events broadened his offerings as well. “I used to do eight to ten weddings a summer,” he notes. “Once I did a winter wedding in a blinding January blizzard  at the Finish church.”

Ellis got his start working with horses as a boy growing up in Rangeley—he was one of five children, four boys and one girl. “My uncle always had a few horses around,” he says. “When I was little he bought horses that were already broke for us to ride and then when we cousins got a little too big for the ponies he said he was going to buy horses that weren’t broke and that we could break them now that we knew how to ride. He’d buy them for peanuts and then once we got them broke they’d disappear—he’d sell them on for whatever more.”

Then Ellis’ uncle bought a yearling palomino filly. He said the cousins couldn’t ride her for a year, but they could teach her to drive. “So that is what I did, I taught her to drive,” Ellis says. “I used to drive her all over the place. I’d walk behind her five miles a day most days and some days 10 miles. Some days when I was bored I’d go all the way to town and back, that would be 3 or 4 miles, and then I’d go up around the woods roads and stuff. I’d had her so broke that when it was time to hook her to a buggy we just drove off. She never cared. Then we started riding her. She was never, ever bothered. She was just so used to being worked around. We used her with the buggy in the summer some and with the sleigh in the winter. And that was all fun. That was the beginning of my horse stuff—I always knew I was going to have horses one day.”

Ellis first got involved with shoeing at the end of earning his four-year forestry degree at the University of Maine Orono. “I said, ‘You know, if I move back to Rangeley all the blacksmiths are dead, so I better learn how to shoe horses if I’m ever going to have horses of my own.’ I took a four-week course put on by the livestock specialist at Orono who had noticed the same thing. He had an old blacksmith up in Le Grange who would come down and demonstrate.”

Then, on the advice of another veteran blacksmith, Ellis asked to apprentice with a horse-shoer in Windsor who was getting ready to get out of the business due to poor health. “He said he couldn’t pay me, but I could go to all the racetracks and do shoeing there when there were races. So wherever they were racing I would go. I did that for about three years. It was one of the smartest things I did. I got introduced to all the horsemen and they got to know me. Most people don’t trust someone to shoe their horses if they don’t know them.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVery quickly Ellis had a flourishing career shoeing all sorts of horses. “When I started out I would shoe everything and anything. I shoed a draft horse that began winning races, so after that all the draft horses started coming to me. Lewiston was my close training track. I’d go there and spend half a day training horses for speed to see what they were ready for. I had some pretty good luck training. I trained a few horses that people had given up on and a couple of them made a lot of money. So I had a reputation for bringing back horses.”

Once he moved to midcoast Maine, in addition to providing carriage rides, Ellis began using his draft horse for logging and haying. But a broken knee in 2004 put an end to that—and made the hydraulic power of a good tractor very attractive. He began working with George Carey doing woods work and other projects all over St. George. After Carey died in 2013, Ellis inherited Carey’s client list, which continues to keep him busy year round.

As for his carriage business, Duke, who is now in his mid-60s, is considering his options. “I’ve planned on doing this carriage business until I’m 75, which is about nine more years. The harnesses are heavy and while the old guys would use pulleys to get them on and off their horses, my barn isn’t tall enough.” After a short reflective pause, he notes, “But there’s a guy who is working on harnesses that can be taken apart into three pieces, so that might be a solution.”

It is certain that, among those in Rockland and Camden who have come to enjoy a free horse-drawn carriage ride at holiday time, fingers will be crossed that a good solution is exactly what it will be.—JW

For more information on Duke Ellis’ St. George Carriage Company call 596-6569 or find the company’s page on Facebook.
PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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Creating an old-fashioned Yuletide village for the imagination to enjoy

20161205_121439-smStarting the last Saturday of October, Dawn and Craig Gauthier begin working in earnest on creating a miniature snow-covered village worthy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker in time for Thanksgiving and the advent of the holiday season.

Dawn began the annual ritual of conjuring an old-fashioned Yuletide environment 24 years ago, using four or five small-scale buildings in an old-world style on a shelf about three feet wide. Today the Gauthier’s village, seen against a start-studded backdrop, occupies a board five feet by eight feet in size and includes a variety of homes, two churches, shops selling candy, groceries and toys, a ballroom, tavern, hotel and lighthouse—not to mention all manner of  towns people on holiday errands. A model train runs continuously from its station, through a mountain tunnel, around the town and back again.

“In my mind this is a Victorian-era village,” Dawn Gauthier says. “I like the oldness of it. I don’t want any cars or modern elements. Maybe that’s because I always feel like I was born in the wrong era, that I should have been born in the 1800s. I read a lot of books from that era and I relate to it a lot.”

The village sits in a space adjacent to the Gauthier’s living room in their home on the Ponderosa Road off of the Wallston Road. “A lot of times I’ll just come in here and stare at it, looking to see what to change, where things should go, what to add. I’ll also bring a chair and read by it, just enjoying the atmosphere.”

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Dawn Gauthier

But the village is not just for private enjoyment. Although friends and family get a chance to enjoy the village during Thanksgiving visits—a favorite pastime involves surreptitiously moving a moose from place to unexpected place—the children who attend Dawn’s home-based Ponderosa Playland daycare center are huge fans of the magical scene. “They are very good about looking with their eyes, not their hands,” Dawn notes. Some of the younger ones clap every time the train goes by.

During the recent Yuletide in St. George event, the public was invited to come and see the village, with the St. George Girl Scouts—Dawn is one of their leaders—providing food and crafts. “The girls really got into choosing which house they’d like to live in and which figures walking the streets might be them or a family member,” Dawn says with a pleased smile, adding, “I really like it when people come in and spend the time to see the details because there are so many.”

Dawn’s husband, Craig, became involved in the annual process of creating the village about six years ago when he and Dawn celebrated their first Christmas together. “He already had some pieces of his own to contribute,” Dawn notes. “He loves it. He now puts more work into it than I do. He especially likes the lights. Last year he added the stars in the sky and this year he knew we needed better streetlights.” Craig is also responsible for taking pieces that run on batteries and hard-wiring them so that everything turns off and on using the same switch. Santa Claus flying over the village in his sleigh is also a new touch added by Craig this year.

Dawn says she seldom hunts for specific elements to add to the village. “If I see something while I’m out shopping and think it might work, I’ll get it. But we do try to add something new every year. It’s something we totally love.”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Dawn Gauthier, bottom, Julie Wortman

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Leaps of Imagination

Artist Cindy McGuirl demonstrates printmaking techniques to Librarian Sharon Moskowitz and the students.

Artist Cindy McGuirl demonstrates printmaking techniques to Librarian Sharon Moskowitz and the students.

by Laura Olds and Sophia Mathieson

Leaps Of Imagination is an art program focused around 4th grade students. It started in March 2014. The first program was at Lura Libby School in Thomaston. Last year, the program leaders came to St. George to work with the 4th graders as well. Mrs. MacCaffray, the 4th grade teacher, said that this year they wanted to take the art that they do with the kids and take it a step higher. She said that they’re doing high school level art.

The students go down to the Jackson Memorial Library on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9-11am to do activities with the people who work with the program. The art and studies they do are based around nature. Nancy Frolich, the director of Leaps Of Imagination, has the kids write in journals. She writes back to them. They also write different kinds of poetry about nature.
The program has five different artists with different specialties. Alexis Lammarino, Sarah Rogers, Dee Peppe, and Cindy McGuirl. At the moment the students are printmaking. Natalie Gill says, “My favorite part so far is the print-making and using the brayer with the pretty colored ink.”

Mrs. MacCaffray says that her favorite thing about this program is how all the students are doing very well with it and that she could tell how much they enjoy it. She says she loves to watch the students’ creativity spark and watch how much they persevere.

The students recommend the program to anyone and would definitely do it again. Check out the Leaps Of Imagination blog at leapsofimagination.wordpress.com.

Olds and Mathieson are 7th grade students at the St. George School.

Families attend the final celebration and show.

Families attend the final celebration and show.

PHOTOS: Betsy Welch

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