Category Archives: Volume 6

A renovation ‘to improve flow, to have it not be cramped, and to improve the standard of care’

Glenn Yovino stands by the new dental work station at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital.

The staff isn’t parking on the grass to make room for client vehicles in the parking lot and construction crews are no longer taking care to keep clear of four-legged patients and people with pet carriers awkwardly navigating their way to the entrance. Even the faux log-cabin siding is gone. It’s been a long seven months, but only the final landscaping—which will happen in the spring—is missing from the newly renovated Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital on Route 131 just north of the St. George town line in South Thomaston.

“This project has been a couple of years in the planning,” says Harbor Road owner/vet Glen Yovino, noting that actual construction began last June. “The hard part was that we had to keep working because it was the beginning of our busy season.” So St. George builder David Miller (of J.D. Miller Construction) and his crew had to stage their work so that Yovino’s staff were able to keep up with the practice’s work load through a busy summer, while the hospital’s staff had to make sure Miller’s crew had maneuvering room.

Yovino, who for the previous five years had been working in a Rockland veterinary practice, had bought the building in 1995. “The building was two years old at the time. It had been designed as a vet hospital for a staff of three vets, an office manager and five or six employees. It was the nicest vet hospital in the area when I bought it.”

Early on, Yovino worked alone. “It was just me. Then we had a part-time vet and she eventually became full time and then we hired another vet. We’ve got 15 employees now. We’re a much, much busier practice than anyone would have predicted based on our location [part way down a peninsula].”

But being on the St. George peninsula was exactly what Yovino hoped for from the first. Although he didn’t grow up in St. George, his mother was from Port Clyde. “My parents and my grandparents owned the Port Clyde store in the late 1960s and while my parents didn’t live here year round, my grandparents lived here and ran the store. So we were here a lot.”

A couple of years out of veterinary school, when Yovino took the veterinary job in Rockland, he and his wife Bethany moved to St. George. “I like my practice’s location. I’m on the peninsula but not too far from St. George. My kids went to school in St. George and at George’s Valley. I practice here because I like the people. We’ve got people’s kids who now bring their animals in. I like that side of it and I like that people know me and call me by my first name. Part of the appeal of being here was to be the vet in the local area.”

The decision to expand and renovate the facility, Yovino explains, was prompted by practicality. “I needed to remodel. The roof, the siding, the windows—they all needed to be fixed. When we started planning the project I was 55 and I figured I was going to be here for at least another 10 years. The idea was that I wanted a nice place to work, not to expand the business. We are still seasonal, although it’s less seasonal than it used to be. The idea was to improve flow, to have it not be cramped and to improve the standard of care. The idea is that pet owners aren’t going to be spoken to in the lobby, that we have the ability to spread out.”

Yovino ticks off just how cramped and difficult things had become: With only two exam rooms, all three vets couldn’t see appointments at the same time. With no other space available for treating dental and non-surgical patients, the hospital’s surgery was pressed into service for procedures beyond its intended purpose. A single small office served the needs of three full-time vets and an office manager. Lab equipment and pharmaceutical supplies were confined to a small space inhospitable to multiple users. The laundry was inconveniently in the basement.

“We now have five areas where we can work on animals, including a whole little wing just for dentistry, as opposed to one surgery and so we can now more easily keep the surgery clean and sterile,” Yovino says with clear satisfaction. A spacious corridor at the back of the building efficiently linking the hospital’s vets and staff to the three exam rooms also provides an ergonomic work space for laboratory equipment and for storing and dispensing pharmaceuticals.

Many of the details Yovino likes best about the renovation have been suggested by Michael Steitzer of MSA Architect in Topsham. Steitzer’s wife is a vet, which has led him to develop a specialty in designing veterinary facilities. “Mike gets so many of the little things,” Yovino says with evident appreciation. “We pointed out that in the old scheme we couldn’t use our microscope if the centrifuge was on and he came up with a simple way to separate the two so that the vibration of the centrifuge didn’t affect the microscope. There were lots of things like that.”

Yovino also took care to include the staff in decisions that might affect them. “I told the staff, ‘I’d love your opinion,’ and there were a lot of opinions. I just didn’t want to hear about things they didn’t like after the fact. I also told them, ‘We’re probably going to lose one of you during this project’ because of the stress of trying to work during the construction process, but we didn’t lose anyone.”

Asked if he believes the renovations at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital are “state of the art,” he gives a positive nod, adding, “The only thing we’ve spared is architectural extravagance. We were working with an existing structure and I didn’t want to blow it all up. The fact that everything has to be ADA [Americans with Disability Act] compliant added a lot of expense. So we’ve tried to make things look nice and I like it, but we’ve been conservative in our extras.”

The chief one of these, he says with a laugh, is that he now has his very own own 8’ x 9’ office. “I just couldn’t be here for another 10 years and have everybody working around me and dealing with every [random] question coming in.” The relief he feels of being able to occasionally shut the door and work quietly at his desk is evident. “It was a long process of getting to this point,” he admits, “but I’m drained.” Luckily, he adds, “At this time of year things get quiet and I like that.” ­—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Pardon the irruption

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Common Redpoll

As if winter weren’t “cool” enough, there’ a sweet migration pattern that can supply any winter season with a unique make-up of avian species and associated population dynamics. Instead of a regular, yearly movement that many species follow (spring-and-fall songbird migration for example), the key to this flavor of migration is that it’s not repeated annually. Instead of decreasing day length and hormones inspiring an exodus, the motivating factor in these non-annual cases is a crash in food availability. A substantial drop in resources to the north can result in a southern invasion of huge numbers of any affected bird species. When occurring, this pattern is (lovingly) referred to as an “irruption,” and irruptive species in these cases can be either predators or seed-eaters.

Snowy Owl

Raptor species such as Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls irrupt on somewhat regular cycles that are connected to population cycles of grassland/field rodents (four-to-five-year cycles) and snowshoe hares (10-year cycles). These are the irruptions you can count on, and are much appreciated accordingly.

On the other hand (or wing), seed-eating songbirds that feast all winter on conifer cones, catkins and fruit will all irrupt on an irregular and unpredictable basis depending on seed crop failures. “Winter finches” (Common and Hoary Redpoll, Evening and Pine Grosbeak, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin and White-winged and Red Crossbills) are a group that irrupts under these circumstances and may show up in big numbers that light up forests and feeder stations with energy and color.

Evening Grosbeaks

The McConochie feeder system off the Turkey Cove Road in Tenants Harbor recently played host to about 50-plus Evening Grosbeaks! About the size of a robin, Evening Grosbeaks bring a striking pattern of bold yellows and black-with-white wing patches with a honkin’ seed crackin’ bill to boot! The McConochies report that they’d never seen Evening Grosbeaks on their property before and that after a week of gradually diminishing numbers the birds finally cleared out, taking their irruptive ways to new grounds.

And Evenings were not the only grosbeaks that found their way to St. George after the cold stretches and snows in the last third of autumn. Small numbers of Pine Grosbeak have been sprinkled throughout peninsula forests as well, and their calls add an alternative to the sound of a cold breeze! American Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, Red Crossbill and Pine Siskin have also been observed on the peninsula as of late, providing views of some seriously hardcore song birds (ones that regularly overwinter well north of mid-coast Maine). It’s also a glimpse into what can be assumed is a winter food shortage further north. Minor giddypation for the rest of our finchy winter and whatever else may work their way down the peninsula. But with the irregularity of it all, technically this could be it already for the winter finches. Only time will tell, and winter’s only starting today!

Pine Siskin

Another winter-fruit-reliant species with irruptive tendencies observed recently on the peninsula is the Bohemian Waxwing. While Cedar Waxwings are a common species and sight in St. George during the summer months, their northerly cousins tend to stay at upper latitudes unless encouraged (prodded) south by a lack of food. Keep an eye on local plants that hold berries and fruit into the winter, or may even be leaking tree sap for these medium-sized songbirds to feast on. Bohemians will even join Cedar Waxwing flocks that may be overwintering in neighborhoods. Picking apart a flock of Waxwings often turns up a Bohemian treasure or two this season!

When these irruptive songbirds invade an area in numbers, it’s not surprising that predator species may irrupt as well and follow the songbirds south. The Northern Shrike is a predatory songbird that makes occasional irruptions depending on both songbird and small-mammal population abundance to the north. These killers–nicknamed “butcher birds” for their habit of impaling prey on thorns and barbed wire–can send winter finches darting for their lives with fast chases and aerial pursuits. It’s a predator/prey relationship that migrates, part of a northern ecosystem that sometime visits us for the winter!

It’s good not to take things in life for granted. With the size of some winter irruptions and the associated unpredictable timing pattern they follow, it’s almost impossible to “ho-hum” these species when they arrive at your feeding station or in your neighborhood.
The season is starting off somewhat irruptive already. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open and enjoy it while we’ve got it, because with these species—who knows when we’ll see them again?

PHOTOS: Common Redpoll, Kristen Lindquist; Evening Grosbeaks, John McConochie; Snowy Owl & Pine Siskin, Kirk Gentalen

St. George second graders do ‘school swap’ with West Bath

Isabelle (right) is my friend from West Bath school. She loves her teacher. She said not to use plastic. Isabelle is a great student.
—Madison Staples (left)

The St. George School’s second grade crew spent the fall learning about schools and communities. To foster new relationships and expand our views, we participated in a school swap with the second grade crew at West Bath School, where they were also completing the same unit of study. The entire second grade crew from West Bath School came to St. George School and each student spent the day shadowing a St. George peer. Students interviewed one another to find similarities that connect them and differences that inspire them. Our students then used the information gained in peer interviews to begin exploring paragraph structure and practice a new domain of writing. Below are samples of their work.
—Alison Babb, Grade 2 teacher

Zaden (left) is my best friend at West Bath School. Zaden is eight years old. He takes the bus like me. Zaden is silly. Zaden is a great friend.
—Phoebe Salo (right)

Maggie (center) is a lovely person at West Bath School. She is eight years old. Maggie is nice to me and she loves to learn. Maggie is a great friend.
—Brynn Viles (right)     Baya Healey is pictured at left.

Letter

To the editor:
Over this past fall, the 200-year-old Tenants Harbor Baptist Church has undergone renovations to the church’s steeple. The major repairs have been needed for over a decade and we are pleased to announce that the work, done exceptionally well by J. Richardi Construction Inc., is now complete. The project was made possible by a grant fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

On December 16, we marked the completion of the project with a ceremonial ringing of the church’s bell, located atop the steeple in the belfry. Prior to the renovations, we were unable to ring the bell.

The church, founded in 1842, has been a central figure in Tenants Harbor and the larger St. George Community. With the church sitting high on the hill on Main Street, the steeple has been referred to as the “Lighthouse on the Hill.”

Now that the renovations are complete, we’re excited to have our “Lighthouse on the Hill” back in working order.

—Walter W. Desruisseaux, Sr., Tenants Harbor Baptist Church

A service project aimed at providing some Christmas joy

The 5th grade crew is doing a community service project for the Portland Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. What we are doing is donating books to kids with cancer and other diseases. We wanted to do it around the holiday to give the books to them on Christmas.
We did a Read-A-Thon, which is where you could donate money to the kids in the 5th grade crew for reading books. We got sponsors and got certain amounts of money for how many pages or chapters or minutes or books we read.
We want to make all the kids at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital filled with joy this Christmas. Our class made a goal of how much money we wanted to earn which was $200. We have over $800 now! On December 20, we will go to the hospital and deliver our books and a check. Thank you all for sponsoring us and I really think that the kids at the hospital will love it!
—Karly Putansu, Grade 5

PHOTO: Christine Miller

Meeting the special needs of an older demographic—through yoga

Yoga instructor Toni Small (center first row, wearing black) and the yoga-instructor students who took the “Yoga for Seniors Teacher Training” at the 47 Main Street studio in Tenants Harbor on Columbus Day weekend. The training was offered as an educational module through the 300-hour training level by Shiva Shakti School of Yoga in Union. Additional instructors were Kirshna Perry, Dr. Richard Kahn, Katie Snow, P.T. and Donna Gioia, P.T.

The week after Toni Small’s father, Comstock Small, died in 2007 she drove to Rockland to take a salsa dance class. She was surprised to find that her father’s doctor was also in the class. “That made the second time that week that I had seen him, which I sort of loved.” She realized that both she and he were probably there for the same reason—to lighten up and move as a means of relieving the stress and grief of caregiving and loss.

Small and her mother, Linda, had at Comstock’s request brought him to live out his life in Port Clyde in 2006. Then for the next 18 months the two cared for him at home. “One of the fallouts of caregiving was not moving,” Small says. “During those last months of my father’s life he had become more and more tender, more needy, more fragile, so we felt pretty tethered to the house. And both my health and Linda’s health began to deteriorate to the point that there were diagnoses and symptoms that were obviously from the stress of caregiving. I realized I had also stopped moving. As caregivers we had really suffered. I realized then that for my mental health as well as for my physical health it was really important to keep moving.”

For Small, who before this had “always been a mover” through dance and periodically studying yoga, that salsa class was the beginning of not only reconnecting with what had been an important part of her life, but also of exploring a new sense of vocation that came out of her experience caring for her father.

First, reconnecting with her movement past involved Zumba, with which she became familiar in 2009. “It was a way to move that was fun, was definitely dancelike and fitness oriented.” She began Zumba teacher training soon after and began teaching classes in 2011.

Then, almost as soon as she began teaching Zumba, Small also began training to become a yoga instructor, studying with mentors at the ShivaShakti School of Yoga in Union to become certified. But in addition to her desire to learn how to teach yoga basics, she was also feeling the tug, as her Zumba “Gold” classes were already attesting, to apply the principles of yoga to a “senior” demographic, one that would not only include caregivers, but also people in need of care.

“What I started looking for were yoga programs specifically designed for family caregivers, who are often approaching seniority themselves, and for other seniors dealing with physical limitations, whatever the cause.” Eventually she discovered the work being done by Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at the Yoga for Seniors program offered at Duke Integrative Medicine. The two women had developed an eight-day training program for Western yoga instructors in how to adapt yoga practice to the needs of older people, people “whose breathing, mobility, strength, flexibility, balance, joy, and overall peace of mind may feel impinged upon by our aging, by pain, or simply by the effort to avoid feeling lost in the midst of an ever-accelerating Western civilization,” as Duke Professor of Medicine/Cardiology Michael Krucoff notes.

Small journeyed to North Carolina in November of 2014 to take the Carson/Krucoff training, which included not only senior-appropriate yoga practices but also a rigorous program of lectures from Duke’s medical staff about physiological and other factors relevant to seniors that instructors should bear in mind. When she got back to St. George she began integrating what she learned at Duke into her classes at the 47 Main Street studio in Tenants Harbor. This past Columbus Day weekend, she took the step of holding her first workshop for other yoga instructors on a ‘Yoga for Seniors Teacher Training’ in association with Union’s ShivaShakti School of Yoga.

“Here in the West, the focus of many yoga classes is on posture practice,” Small explains. “Basically yoga has been about sport, about fitness. But there is more to it than that—it’s the breath work, the mindfulness work, meditation as well. As [Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff] point out, if reaching a peak pose equates with spiritual enlightenment, we have a problem.”

Small goes on to explain that there are now yoga instructors who have been teaching for 30 or 40 years or more who themselves have repetitive movement injuries and are getting hip replacements, which is causing them to question whether their focus on head stands and forward-folding postures makes sense for every student.

“So there’s a way the yoga-teaching community is growing up,” Small says with a wry smile. “For me, the beauty of focusing on the ‘senior’ demographic is you can meet the needs of a wider range of people, a demographic that has special needs. Some people have said I’m teaching ‘permissive yoga,’ that I’m letting students do what they want. But what I’m trying to do is to give a program that moves students through balance, strength and flexibility but at the same time that asks them to pay attention to what is working for them. Yoga is about learning how to take care of yourself, so that a student learns, ‘I have the resources to take care of myself, I know what to do to invigorate myself when I’m feeling sluggish, what to do to calm myself when I am stressed.’”

So Small tells her students that they are in class “to be present in your own body and to take on the discipline of doing your own practice.” Moreover, she says, “mindfulness on the mat leads you to practice that in every other realm—yoga is about heart, body and mind. It is about approaching life in a balanced way.” In this respect, she adds, “If I had been doing yoga when I was caring for my father, I think I could have coped better. In our Western culture we deal with poor health by saying here’s the pill, the surgery, the diagnosis. But I think we have more power than that.”

Referring specifically to the older demographic she is trying to serve, Small reflects, “Just because we are winding down doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be dancing and moving. We have so much more capacity than we give ourselves credit for. We can invite ourselves to challenge what aging means.”—JW

[For more information on Toni Small’s classes go to oryxworx.com. For more information on the yoga-for-seniors program pioneered by Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at Duke Integrative Medicine see their publication, Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief, New Harbinger Publications, Inc.]

November snow

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Beaver dam

A November forecast calling for five inches of snow brings excitement. I was pumped for some early-season snow lessons, coming down with a severe cases of giddypation and, in the end, I was not disappointed.

The first snow stopped on a late-afternoon and so the next morning I covered myself in orange and headed to the Tenants Harbor marsh. I got out before sunrise. When possible, It’s good to observe tracks at their “freshest” and that is before the sun starts its track-altering ways. There hadn’t been a significant November snow event so far in my time in St. George, and thusly my giddypation made it easy to get up and out and to see what lessons might be available in the frozen precipitation.

The thing that grabbed my attention first was the obvious disturbance in the snow on top of the local beaver lodge. Where one may have expected a clean, snow covered pile of sticks, fresh mud and trails told stories of a busy night. The beaver(s) had been patching, fixing and adding to the roof of their winter accommodations! Once winter and cold temps truly set in, beaver activity is largely confined to within the lodge and small excursions to eat food and branches stored under (and in) the ice. These types of winter outings rarely bring beaver into the snow, and so I had not seen beaver trails and sign captured like this before. It was November work that the beaver would have done anyway, but without the snow and the trails it captured, observation and awareness of this night work would have been tricky. Instead it was easy as pumpkin pie!

Otter slide

The main goal, however and “as always,” was to see if the local river otter where out and about overnight. When searching for river otter trails it can be helpful to start at culverts, beaver dams, and other places where bodies of water bottleneck. The beaver dams in the marsh support this generalization (thank you beaver dam). After a day of 32-degree snow, the water levels in the marsh were high and the associated overflow cascaded forcefully over and down the dam. A rock in the midst of, but rising above, the overflow preserved a single patch of snow that held tracks where an otter had paused for a momentary view of the lower marsh. Ah-ha! There was some otter activity in the marsh overnight.

Subsequent visits to a few locally prominent (and favorite) otter latrines found they held even more sign of otter visitation from the night before. Mounds, scrapes and fresh spraint—consisting of either fish scales or crab exoskeleton–were in healthy supply. Apparently all three local otters—Moe, Larry and Curley—had visited the latrine since the snow had stopped. The latrines and marking areas were great for finding fresh tracks and claw marks. Otters are creatures of habit and routinely visit latrines and marking areas. We like that.

Otter scrape and slide

The ice was too thin to support humans (other than the tiniest of sorts, who probably shouldn’t be out there by themselves). It was, however, crisscrossed with tracks and trails of belly slides and bounds left behind by river otter. The trails connected otter latrines to openings in the ice and the access to fishing and food below. The thin ice provided a unique view of otter behavior and decision-making from the night before, views that were available only through the use of ice, snow and slush. Man, I can get used to November snows!

As if that weren’t enough, the snow in the woods surrounding the marsh was full of animal sign as well! Over the course of this single night, deer had created “highways” in the snow and multiple spruce-cone stash spots were dug up by red squirrels. Snowshoe hare were also present, but left the impression that they were not too numerous. One might say the prey species came across as a little cautious heading out into the snowy world. Felt a little vulnerable (maybe) and rightly so.

Coyote track

Where there are deer trails there are also coyote trails, and in sections of the woods I found tracks and trails representing multiple coyote in the snow. Two coyote even ventured out onto the ice, and while their trails don’t show them breaking through they retreated back to the safety of shore very quickly. Might have been the ones who visit my yard. Time may tell.

 

Otter track

November snows are a luxury. An “off-season” view into the tracks, trails and behavior of St. George wildlife with the relative comfort of November temperatures. Can’t always count on them, but I’ll gladly learn from November snows when they fall. A wise man down the road likes to say “use it before you lose it.” I agree, but would like to add “use it when you got it,” and what we got was winter in November!

A sewing machine that went to sea

The great-granddaughter of Capt. Henry Giles, Sylvia Keene of Nobleboro, recently donated the sewing machine shown here to the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. She said that it had gone on board several seafaring vessels captained by her great-grandfather and had been passed on down through the family.

Capt. Henry Giles was born in 1828 in St. George and went to sea at an early age. The first sailing vessel he captained was the two-masted schooner Boyne in 1847. Other sailing vessels on which he served as captain were the brig John A. Taylor, schooner Almira Ann, schooner Levi Hart, schooner Clara W. Elwell, and the ships Baring Brothers and Sarah Newman. The Downeaster Baring Brothers was the last vessel he captained, leaving the sea in the 1880s. He retired to his hometown of St. George and lived in the house that is now known as the East Wind Inn Meeting House Annex on Mechanic Street in Tenants Harbor. The sailing vessels John A. Taylor, Levi Hart and Clara W. Elwell were all built in St. George.

One of the other great-granddaughters of Capt. Giles, Laura Cliff, amassed quite a collection of family history and upon her death it was left to the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Included in the collection are several journals and diaries of family members who accompanied Capt. Giles on some of his voyages. These papers are available for viewing at the library in Searsport and some of the material will be copied and placed with the sewing machine in the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. It will give a great understanding of the day-to-day life on a sailing vessel.

The treadle sewing machine dates to the mid-1800s and is amazingly heavy. It would be interesting to find out how they fastened it so it wouldn’t move with the motions of the sea. The journals mention sewing to pass the time and the effort to have certain items done by the time they returned to port.—John Falla

Letter

To the editor:
I’m writing to thank everyone involved in the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner ath the Town Office on Sunday November 18th. It was so delicious and plentiful and the tables very pretty. It was great to see such a wonderful attendance. Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Sylvia Armstrong Murphy

Eighth graders reflect on their recent experience at Camp Kieve

At the end of October, the 8th grade class spent a week at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, Maine. Our experience at Camp Kieve was amazing, influential, and most of all, one to remember. It was hard for me to accept all of the different opinions brought up [during class discussions] at Kieve. I learned that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to opinions and that everyone has different opinions and that is ok. —Willow McConochie

At Camp Kieve, we did lots of team-building activities that brought us closer together. We learned that we had to trust each other, that it’s okay to ask for help, and that if even just one person doesn’t work with everyone else as a team, the entire team won’t reach their goal.—Maggie Gill

We learned that collaboration is good and it is an important skill to have in the real world. At first I was challenged by collaboration but it didn’t take me long to get over that. I learned to ask for help if you need it because that can be a major thing to life because everybody needs some help every now and then. —Shaun Hopkins

Many things happened that week that helped us grow as people and discover how it feels to really work in a group with trust, knowing that everyone will have your back. This experience will help us in life by using the many skills that we learned there such as collaboration, listening, and to always treat others with kindness and respect.—Lydia Myers

We really enjoyed climbing and all of the rope courses because we got the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and try new things. We also had a really fun time doing team challenges and silly games. What challenged me the most was speaking up in front of everyone. I learned a lot more about my classmates. I also learned that I can have more trust in other people in my class that I hadn’t had before. This will help me step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there sometimes.—Gwen Miller

Overall, we had a very enjoyable and life-changing time. The things I learned I will try to carry with me for as long as possible. I want to remember everything that I learned, felt, and did, and I want it to affect the rest of my life through high school and beyond. —Grace Yanz

For nearly 40 years, working to keep the town’s history ‘in the public focus’

On October 25 Jim Skoglund stepped down from serving as president of the St. George Historical Society after nearly 37 years in that position. The society selected John Falla to be the group’s new president, but Skoglund will continue to serve as vice-president and as a trustee. Although this was a seemingly modest shift in leadership, it was not lost on any of the society’s members at that October gathering that a tremendous sea change had occurred during Skoglund’s watch—over these past several decades St. George had gone from being a community where there was little public recognition that the town’s history was a valuable community resource, to a place which celebrates and safeguards its heritage proudly.

The idea behind founding a historical society in St. George began with an old gun, Skoglund says. “One of my neighbors [in Wiley’s Corner] had died and he had in his possession an antique gun that we always marveled over—he used to fire it occasionally. And it was probably left to someone, but it kind of disappeared so I was left talking to one of my friends, Bradley Beckett, who lived in Cushing but was also descended from St. George families, and we decided there should be a place in town where people could leave things so everything didn’t get dispersed or sold.”

So the new historical society, which Skoglund, Beckett and five others—Albert Smalley, Steven Sullivan, Ed Hilt, Bernard Rackliff and Ralph Cline, Jr.—founded in 1981, was the first step in publicly flagging that there was an organization in town devoted to safeguarding St. George’s historical heritage.

Part of the reason the town’s history wasn’t widely known, Skoglund says, was that most records were not accessible. “Town records were kept in private homes,” he notes, adding by way of example, “For years I had in my own selfish possession the records of the old town poor farm and records of deeds because I was afraid someone would throw them away.” At that time, Skoglund explains, town officials were not particularly interested in keeping old documents, sometimes throwing them out. But after launching their new organization, Skoglund and the society’s history-minded members began focusing on changing that situation.

A major opportunity arose when the fate of the lighthouse keeper’s residence at Marshall Point became a question of community debate. While the lighthouse had been automated in 1971, the keeper’s house had continued in use as a LORAN station until 1980, when the building was boarded up and abandoned. Private development was floated as a possibility, but in 1986 the town, which had been leasing the lighthouse site to keep it available to the public, decided to ask the St. George Historical Society to take responsibility for restoring the keeper’s house for use as a museum, with a rental apartment upstairs for both income and security.

The society accepted the request and set up a subcommittee to raise the needed funds and oversee the restoration, which began in 1988. Because of the massive effort put into the project by people like Grethe Goodwin and Dana Smith, the museum was ready to open in 1990, swiftly becoming a popular town attraction as well as a repository of artifacts and materials documenting the history not only of the lighthouse property, but also of the town and its villages.

At this same time, two developments at the Town Office also proved helpful to the historical society’s efforts “to raise awareness of the richness of the historical significance of the town that wasn’t here before,” says Skoglund. First, the town hired John Falla, coincidentally an enthusiastic student of St. George history, to be its new town manager. And second, the town was planning to build a new Town Office, which opened the possibility for including a space that could be devoted to archiving historical documents, something Falla highly favored. Then, when the fire department addition was built a few years later, a long-term vault was added downstairs. Funding from the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum made it possible to get expert archival help and advice in managing existing and future historic holdings.

Since then materials germane to St. George’s history have continued to make their way into the Lighthouse Museum and the archive at the Town Office. “It’s amazing how much comes in from out of state,” Skogland observes. “Recently a woman from Colorado sent a package that contained a receipt from 1798 for my great, great, great grandfather’s tax bill. Imagine that coming back! Her aunt and uncle had lived in Wallston in the 1940s and 1950s and had collected stuff and couldn’t part with it. That stuff eventually came to her and she sent lots of it back.”

In 2002 the historical society was the grateful recipient of the historic 1805 Andrew Robinson House in Wiley’s Corner, the oldest documented house in that part of town, from the estate of Ruth Hazleton, whose mother was a Robinson. Along with the keeper’s house at Marshall Point, the Robinson House has become another highly visible reminder of the town’s historical roots. Regular programs on a wide range of aspects of St. George’s history—from the granite and shipbuilding industries to baseball and schools—along with facilitating the work of such researchers as Steven Sullivan and Robert Welsch (“Cemetery Inscriptions and Burial Sites of St. George, Maine and Nearby Islands”) and Marlene Groves (“Vital Records of St. George,” Maine Genealogical Society Special Publication No. 43) have been other ways Skoglund and his historical society partners have “helped keep the town’s history in the public focus,” as Skoglund puts it. In addition, the group worked in partnership with the town’s Conservation Commission to provide access to both Fort Point and to a portion of the trail going to Jones Brook.

While Skoglund, whose love of local history led him to pursue a 27-year career teaching geography and history to middle school students in Thomaston, believes that every aspect of St. George’s history is important, it is the Wiley’s Corner area of town—to him and most everyone who lives there this is the real “St. George”—about which he is especially knowledgeable and devoted.

As Skoglund explains, “You can only know with any depth [the history of] where you were brought up. So a person’s understanding of an area, a thorough understanding, is limited to a mile of where you live. I know this area—I was born here, brought up here, went to school here. And still within a mile of the Andrew Robinson house there are at least 20 households, including mine, descended from the person that lived in that particular house.” He then adds reflectively, “Everything about St. George history is of interest, but the names of the individuals [who lived elsewhere in town] I don’t remember very well. You remember the names of people you’ve heard many times. You don’t know the place if you haven’t roamed it as a child, burrowed around, pestered all the neighbors, listened to the stories.”

Perhaps, then, it is not so surprising that the idea behind starting an organization devoted to preserving and highlighting this town’s history began with a local man’s curiosity about a lost antique gun owned by a neighbor. —JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman