Category Archives: January 17

Jackie Metivier: A rich St. George life that began with a summer job

Jackie Metivier (l) and Ann Goldsmith, friends since working at Blueberry Cove Camp together in the early 1950s

by Steve Cartwright

Jacqueline Metivier, known to her friends and neighbors as Jackie, has lived in the former Martinsville Post Office overlooking Mosquito Harbor for more than half a century. Now retired from a career in education, she listens to jazz and enjoys a lively game of Scrabble. She loves her flower gardens and enjoys the constantly changing weather she sees out her windows each day.

Jackie first came to St. George in 1951, when she took a summer job at Blueberry Cove Camp. She was then a student at Plymouth Teachers College in New Hampshire, her home state. The camp, founded by Bess and Henry Haskell, had then been in operation for just three years, believed to be the first interracial summer camp in Maine. Jackie said she was especially touched when Bessie baked her a cake for her 21st birthday that year. “I swear, that was my first birthday cake,” Jackie said, a reference to a childhood in an unstable family.

Ann Goldsmith, former owner-director of Blueberry Cove, was a fellow counselor with Jackie during those early years at the camp. She recalls that Jackie “was an experienced counselor in charge of the swimming program (yes, we went swimming everyday in the frigid water), a bit tough on the kids though always fair. Nobody, adults or children, messed with Jackie, and we all learned a lot from her example. She had a knack for bringing out the best in kids.”

Lionel “Hap” Metivier had the post of head counselor at Blueberry Cove and soon became Jackie’s boyfriend. Their courtship lasted two years, “because we couldn’t afford to get married,” Jackie says. For their honeymoon, they stayed at “Lee Shore,” the farmhouse owned by the Haskells. It’s the same house where I spent childhood summers.

Jackie’s Blueberry Cove experience reinforced her interest in teaching, leading her to apply for a job teaching at St.George High School, which stood where the town office is located today. She recalls that when she asked the local superintendent about the job, he said, “When can you start?”

At the old wooden high school Jackie taught four English classes as well as civics. “I enjoyed teaching,” she says. “And I loved politics. There’s too much emphasis now on math and science, and not enough emphasis on participating in your government. How do we expect them to vote intelligently?”

In those days, high school was about as far as most kids went, Jackie notes. “They [the boys] all wanted to go fishing. The girls married the boys.”

Jackie also remembers my father, also a teacher, coming to talk to her class about his post-war work in India bringing medicine to villages. One pupil, Jimmy Skoglund, she recalls with amusement, wondered why Indian people didn’t speak English. “It’s so much easier,” Jackie remembers Jimmy saying.

While Jackie taught at the St. George High School in the mid-1950s, Hap worked as teaching principal at Rockport elementary school. In those years the couple lived upstairs at the first Jackson Memorial Library on Main Street in Tenants Harbor, and managed the library during the hours it was open.

Jackie recalls a town meeting on establishing the St.George Elementary School, which meant closing Clark Island’s one-room schoolhouse. When someone in the crowd said a teacher could be found for the old school, she describes standing up and saying, “I just graduated from a teachers college and I know a lot of young teachers, and none of them would want to teach at a school where you have to use the back-house!” The crowd’s reaction pleased her. “Everyone stomped and clapped. The vote carried.”

During her time at the high school Jackie took a second job as a waitress at the old Thorndike Hotel in Rockland, where male patrons would touch her in unwanted ways and leave big tips. At one point she and Hap went to Germany. During their time there Jackie bought a bikini. She smiles at the memory and says she believes she may have been the first woman in St.George to wear one.

The couple went on a Fulbright scholarship to Japan in 1956-57, teaching English as a second language in Yamagata. When they returned to the states they attended the University of Michigan, where Jackie earned a master’s degree in library science, and Hap worked on his doctorate in linguistics. She tried teaching school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, and recalled that when she reported a child she thought was being abused at home, officials told her to keep quiet.

In 1960, Hap and Jackie bought the old post office on the shore of Mosquito Harbor for $8,000. People told them they paid too much for the two-story building, which after much remodeling became their home. Now, she says two years’ worth of property taxes comes to about as much as the purchase price.

Also in 1960, the teaching couple moved from Michigan to new jobs in Brockport N.Y. There, they adopted twins, a boy and a girl, Michael and Michelle. Michael now has a home in St.George and Michelle lives in Rockland. Although they remain married, Hap and Jackie have lived apart since 1985. Jackie returned to Maine with the children that year and found her niche as librarian at Hall-Dale High School in Hallowell, living in Farmingdale and spending summers in Martinsville. She happily returned to Martinsville full time when she retired in 1994.

Jackie was a close friend to my mother, Sally, who lived in Tenants Harbor for years. The two of them sailed together in Sally’s 17-foot sloop, “Sea Chip.” They figured out that to get along, Sally did the sailing, Jackie did the cooking.

For many years, Jackie shared her home with a second cousin, Ramona. Now she shares it with Daisy Mae. “A dog is the only unconditional love you can find,” she observes. She’s given up driving and is grateful for the Neighbor to Neighbor program that provides rides for free. She recently had a heart attack but says it hasn’t slowed her down or dampened her spirits.

Her life, she said, has been “quite a challenge. We lived through it, and got stronger.” A spunky person since childhood, Jackie still likes a good laugh. As I stood up to go after our interview, she quipped, “So, can I expect to see this story in Cosmopolitan?”

(Steve Cartwright is retired from print journalism. He continues to write and take pictures. He lives in Tenants Harbor with cats Tang and Seasmoke. He directs the annual Blueberry Cove Camp half marathon and serves on the camp’s board of directors.)

PHOTO: Steve Cartwright

No barreds held

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Barred Owl

Catching a view of an owl is always special. Even if the Great Horned Owl you are mesmerized by is flying away with your cat, chicken or small child (never happened) there is still a burst of “man, that was so cool” that runs through your veins. That’s how cool it is to see one.

In the avian class—“birdies” if you will—owls have the order strigiformes all to their own. The order can be split into two owl families—tytonidae (17 species of “Barn Owls”) and the strigidae (164-ish species of “typical owls”) for a total of 181 owl species worldwide. In North America we have 19 species of owls that breed, representing 11 different genera and both families. Eleven species of owls live in Maine or visit here a portion of the year. With owls being so widespread, it’s no surprise that the St. George peninsula is a destination, a hunting and wintering ground, and a rest area to many owls each year.

For much of winter, the grassy ledges off Marshall Point are good places to scan for Snowy and Short-eared Owls (and Rough-legged Hawks) hunting by perch or on the wing. In some irruptive years Snowies have been so numerous on the peninsula that owls have ended up in St. George yards, perching on rooftops and bird feeders. Small numbers of Saw-whet Owls overwinter in the woods and even smaller numbers (and not necessarily yearly) of Long-eared Owls hunt fields and field edges from perches. With their mostly nocturnal ways, these two species are tricky to observe while a species like the Great Horned Owl can turn up just about anywhere. “Rarity” species like Great Grey, Northern Hawk, and Boreal Owls are not out of the question either, just pretty unlikely to see. And then you have Barred Owls, which might be the most mysterious owl of the bunch.

Based on observations from others, Barred Owls appear to be the most numerous owl seen and heard in St. George. The chatty, year-round residents can be heard hooting their “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call in local woods just about any night of the year, and sometimes during daylight hours as well. They are comfortable hunting when the sun is up and for the most part don’t appear to mind the presence of humans.

Owl pellet

Barred owls also leave sign of their presence in the form of pellets. Most birds eat their food whole, and many species will regurgitate the undigestible parts of what they ingest in the form of “pellets” rather than have them pass through their digestive system. Owl pellets are loaded with bones and fur, and tend to stay intact for a long period of time (months even!). Pellets are a wonderful clue to an owl’s presence and diet, and they are as much fun to take apart as they are to find! Look for “good” perches in areas where you have heard or seen Barred Owls and you are likely to find these balls of fur and bones. In a yard where we previously lived one tree had 12 Barred Owl pellets underneath it! I checked under the tree daily and for a stretch of time I would recognize newly dropped pellets and yet, I never did see the owl.

For all the pellets, all the chatter, and all the habits that can have them active before dark, Barred Owls are hard to observe and there remain a lot of “unknowns” about their behavior. I think their use of tree cavities for nesting and (possibly) resting plays a role in this. Other owls are easy, Barreds tend to confuse. They are literally their own breed of owl.

Over the last month or so I have heard of more than eight reports of Barreds turning up in yards around the peninsula­—with more observations undoubtedly occurring. Are young dispersing? Is it a migration from the north or local owls hitting up rodent-loaded areas? Are Barreds more likely to hunt in the day when it gets cold? Unanswered questions that lead to more unanswered questions. So it goes.

And while we always feel lucky to have crossed paths with owls, there is the understanding that at least a chunk of the time when we see owls it is because they are stressed or hurting. A Long-eared Owl hunting in the afternoon is hungry. Hungry enough to break its “strictly nocturnal” label because survival is on the line. Not saying we should release mice in our yards to provide meals for owls, but if you do find a compromised owl the folks at Avian Haven in Freedom ((207) 382–6761) do a great job “fixing them up and getting them back out there”.

See you out there!

PHOTOS: Top, John Meyer, below, Kirk Gentalen

What is a makerspace?

by Cecil White

Seventh graders Cecil White and Chase Jansen (with Leilani Myers photobombing) created Star Wars fighters in the makerspace at St. George School.

A makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing, innovation, or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge. St. George School has had a makerspace for about three years, thanks to the generous support of the Perloff Family Foundation, Wick Skinner and the Maine Community Foundation, as well as the enthusiastic support of school staff, students and community.

Mr. Meinersmann is in charge of the makerspace at St. George School. He helps kids program machines and build things. The most challenging and fun part of his job is “to prove that kids can do anything and helping them prove that to themselves.”

Before the makerspace became what it is today, Mr. Meinersmann’s title was the Technology Director. In that role, he helped make sure the phone system was reliable and made sure the kids had working laptops for school work. He still has that title and those responsibilities, plus now he gets to use a whole bunch of fun equipment in the makerspace.

There are many tools in the makerspace, such as seven 3D printers, a CNC machine (CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control), laser cutter, soldering station, plus some older tools from when St. George School had “shop” or Industrial Arts and “home ec” or Family and Consumer Science.

Ms. Palmer also works in the makerspace, “and beyond, to bring a ‘maker’ mindset into classrooms.” She solves problems and creates with the younger students, focusing on hands-on projects. Fifth graders have programmed with Spheros. Fourth graders have made ornaments using the laser cutter, and have built and wired model houses using the 3D printer. Second graders have learned to code and solve engineering problems. Not all the projects depend on the new machines. First graders have made syrup by tapping trees and experimented with light and sound. Kindergarteners have made pumpkin pie using garden squash and played with forces and motion.

Ms. Palmer and Mr. Meinersmann both lead two after-school programs: the Lego Robotics Team and the 3-5 grade STEAM club. Lego Robotics is a group of kids who collaborate to solve world-wide problems and they use Legos and programming to help solve them. The STEAM club focuses on technology skills, especially programming.

Bryson Mattox (grade 7) working on his salinity device

There are lots of cool things you can do in the makerspace. Up in the makerspace people like me can learn how to program, build things like robot cars, or learn how to design things on CAD (Computer Assisted Design) websites. Some ideas of things you can build are chess pieces, board games, statues and a whole lot more. For example, at Christmas I made some personalized ornaments for my family. Recently, some classmates in seventh grade made a 3D laser-cut scene from a book they read, and others are designing a Monopoly-type game board with places from the setting of their book. A classmate, Bryson Mattox, is constructing a device to measure the salinity in the marsh as part of the alewife restoration project in Mrs. England’s science class.

In the future, we hope that all community members could have access to our space and the training to use the equipment so everyone can design and make their inventions.

As a seventh grader, I am very grateful that we have this space. I like the makerspace because it gives me time to myself to do something else other than traditional school work. It’s a relaxing environment where I can be creative and proud of my work.

PHOTOS: Paul Meinersmann

Kitchen garden talk: Where do you get your seeds?

In France they call them “potages” and in Scotland “kaleyards,” but here in St. George we know them as kitchen or vegetable gardens. In any event, eating out of one’s garden is not a new thing on this peninsula, where residents have been growing their own food since settlement, mostly out of a need for self sufficiency and thriftiness. These days the satisfaction that comes with eating out of a home garden not only continues that tradition, but also has a lot to do with gastronomic pleasure—nothing tastes so good as a freshly picked tomato or head of lettuce—not to mention the satisfaction that comes from doing right by our families (giving them whole food), and our planet (walking out to harvest from the garden doesn’t leave much of a carbon footprint).

Because we think St. George’s large gardening community has a lot to share about growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, with this issue of the St. George Dragon we are launching “Kitchen garden talk,” a regular feature that we expect to be both useful and enlightening. The“talk” we are after is of the sort that regularly takes place as fellow gardeners stroll among one another’s vegetable beds. The topics will be familiar, but no less engaging for that—ranging from favorite crops and plant varieties to how best to meet the challenges presented by weather and pests. In each issue we’ll pose a question aimed at eliciting “garden talk” from our gardener readers. In the following issue we’ll publish as many of the responses we get as space makes possible.
Since January is when kitchen gardeners begin thinking about what they’d like their gardens to produce during the coming growing season, we have primed the pump by asking some of the kitchen gardeners we know about where they go to get their seeds and why. Here are their answers:

Bethany Yovino, Wallston: Typically I buy most of my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine—the locavore in me likes to shop local, plus the quality of their products is always top notch and they have such an extensive selection of both organic and nonorganic. I love nothing better than perusing the Johnny’s catalogue on a cold winter day in front of my wood stove! I also support FEDCO Seeds in Clinton, Maine [with a mailing address in Waterville] as they have a good selection of seeds that work well in our colder climate. Renee’s Garden is also a company I like. I was initially attracted to their attractive packaging but have since learned they are a company that donates seeds to a wide variety of organizations and educational programs worldwide. You have to love a company with a social conscience. Their products are all free of GMOs.

Jane Bracy, Hart’s Neck: The gardeners at Blueberry Cove Camp are getting together this month to plan out the garden for the upcoming season. At this meeting we’ll talk about what worked last season and what didn’t. We get input from the cook and assistant cook to see what they need and would like.
We buy organic seeds, mostly from Johnny’s and FEDCO. We are also going to try some seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont this year. We start some of our seeds in the main building at the camp as there are great windows facing west. We also have a very little greenhouse that we can put things in as it warms up a little. We get potatoes from the Maine Potato Lady.

Susan Carey, Tenants Harbor: My two main sources for seeds are FEDCO and Johnny’s. They are both Maine seed providers and understand the nature of our climate. Their catalogues are also fun to read, particularly FEDCO, whose honesty extends to listing one heritage tomato as looking “like roadkill.” After one use, I toss all onion and parsley seeds since their germination drops dramatically after year one but store all others in the freezer and (using a germination chart) continue to use them until their period of viability dwindles.

I currently have a heated glass greenhouse off the kitchen, but before the greenhouse, I started seeds in the attic under shop lights fitted with one standard bulb and one greenhouse bulb. I banged my head on the slanted eaves, occasionally lost seedlings to predatory mice and loved the plants I grew. Then as now I started allium seeds at the end of February, setting the pots on bottom-heating pads until the weather warmed. By the end of March the greenhouse is crowded with seedlings and I harden my heart to my least favorite chore—thinning the leeks.

Patty Cole, Martinsville: Seed selection is very much a process for me. The process takes place early January in my bathtub each year, candles lit. I thumb through every catalogue (this may take a few nights). I end up choosing Johnny’s Selected Seeds for most of my seeds. Very excellent customer service and I like that they are employee-owned. But I love ALL of the catalogs … winter dreaming!

Next issue: Our question for the February 14, 2019 issue has to do with favorite varieties of vegetables—pick any vegetable(s) you plan to grow and tell us what your favorite variety is and why. Send your response by February 4 to julie@stgeorgedragon.com or drop a note at Julie Wortman, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. Please supply your name or initials and where you live in St. George (i.e., Martinsville, Port Clyde, Clark Island, etc.). Thanks!

Reminder

A reminder to all St. George households, especially those of federal employees impacted by the government shutdown, that the St. George Community Cupboard, located at 47 Main Street in Tenants Harbor, offers support to all St. George residents. Stop by any Thursday from 2 pm to 7 pm to learn more about local assistance or give us a call at 207-372-2193.