The Working Waterfront

When Chebeague came to Islesboro

Groups that help knit island society together compare notes

Sandy Oliver
Posted 2016-05-23
Last Modified 2016-05-23

We all started out in our respective island kitchens on the morning of May 2, assembling lunches—sandwiches, salads, goodies to go—eight women from Chebeague and about a dozen on Islesboro, when the Chebeague Methodist Church Ladies Aid came for a visit to Islesboro’s Sewing Circle. Initiated by Jane Frizzel, leader of the Chebeague group, the visit made as fine as time as you can imagine.

Bonnie, Marilyn and I met the 10 a.m. boat and took Chebeaguers Bea, Barbara, Jane, Joan, Kitty, Mimi, Nancy and Tina on a tour of the island, up around the head or down to Pendleton Point, through “downtown” Islesboro—that is, where the church, post office, market, town offices and community center are located. We gathered then at our Sewing Circle building, a former school house in Dark Harbor, where our Circle keeps its awesome and creativity-inspiring stash of fabrics, yarns, buttons, thread, embroidery floss, pillow stuffing, UFOs, (unfinished objects donated by friends in town and Circle) plus sewing machines, looms, ironing boards, cutting tables and big plastic tubs full of aprons, potholders, stuffed toys, pillows, casserole carriers, baby sweaters, mittens… all the finished goods awaiting the fair.

Well, you get the picture. I think the modern term for our workshop a “maker space.”

Lest you think we merely sat around swopping notes on thread count or showing off pictures of grandchildren, let it be known that we talked business. How do our respective organizations raise their money, maintain inventories, motivate productivity, and then, importantly, decide how to distribute the proceeds of our respective sales and fairs?

There was plenty of friendly and frank talk about the business of being an old-fashioned kind of organization, in the continuing tradition of the entities that have, for over 150 years, kept roofs on churches, provided safe havens for orphans, and today, plow donations into charitable community efforts. We accept donations, of course, because we are 501(c)3 organizations, but Islesboro and Chebeague women mostly earn their proceeds: Islesboro discovered the benefit of adding a Black Friday sale after Thanksgiving to the annual August fair, and Chebeague astonished itself with the revenue-producing power of home-made fudge.

Go ahead and laugh, but as Molly used to say to Fibber, “T’ain’t funny, McGee.” We are serious, even as we have fun supporting our communities.

As an event, though, the visit to Islesboro was for us full of the intense pleasure that comes from sharing with like-minded folk, enjoying agreeable companionship over our homemade lunches. The Chebeague women brought with them The Chebeague Island Cookbook, a community cookbook they assembled a few years ago, and gave them as gifts to the Islesboro members.

Our Dorea announced that she would have to try the chocolate donuts to see if they were as good as the ones she used to make for her own youngsters. I’m intrigued by the Hunter’s Breakfast and the Clambake in a Kettle (layers of seaweed and clams, lobsters, corn cooked in a kettle over a fire.)

My copy is inscribed by Chebeaguer Mimi Moulton who, I was utterly delighted to discover, is the mother of Dave Tyler, one of my editors a few years ago here at The Working Waterfront! What a small world we live in.

Islesboro provided coffee; someone made Whoopie Pies; Barbara brought a lovely rich apple cake, and our president Pat baked a gorgeous frosted cake of the carrot and pineapple ilk. She brought ice cream, too, even though it was not our usual third-Tuesday birthday celebration when we customarily have cake and ice cream.

As it happened, though, it was someone’s birthday: Kitty from Chebeague turned 90 on May 2! We sang to her and clapped and passed the sweet treats. The Islesboro Circle’s nonagenarian, Charlotte—almost a year older than Kitty, showed up on Tuesday, too, and she and Kitty sat next to each other and chatted. I did not eavesdrop so I cannot report on their conversation.

It might be a little too easy to dismiss our Circle and their Ladies’ Aid as hopelessly quaint or antiquated. But Islesboro’s Circle is a vibrant, forward-thinking, practical and supportive group, and we saw our match in Chebeague’s Society. Of course, there was talk of Islesboro visiting Chebeague. Why not? The boat floats both ways.

Sandy Oliver lives, writes and cooks on Islesboro.