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