Sunday, June 20, 2010

Onward to Canada

June 20, 2010

Jonesport, ME to Fredericton, New Brunswick

It is time to leave Seaview House, where all the pillowcases are hand embroidered and the coat hangers are crocheted—the women of Maine avoid boredom during the very long winter season with this sort of handwork, no doubt. We have enjoyed owner Narda Davis' flowers blooming abundantly in the rock garden out front of the house and in pots and planters indoors and out. And, yes, Seaview House does have a view of the sea--from our perch high on a hill, we look out the picture window in front of the table where we sit at our computers, and we see a little piece of the sea beyond the roofs of the houses below. But not this morning. It is raining, and a thick fog is rolling up the hill from the water.

We head to the only place in town serving breakfast on/Sunday--a combination gas station, DVD rental place and quick mart. A dozen men are sitting around the one table in the place drinking coffee and engaging in a lively debate. A half-assembled jigsaw puzzle sits in the center of the table. This is clearly a neighborhood hang-out, with no room for us to hang out and eat—so we get our coffee and egg and sausage biscuits to go.

After breakfast, we head to Jonesport's Maine Coast Sardine History Museum, owned and operated by Ronnie and Mary Peabody, who live in the house next door. Mary Peabody opened the museum up early just for us, and she followed us around the exhibits, telling us stories of how she and Ronnie found and rescued all of the artifacts of sardine fishing and canning that are on display. It is really Ronnie's museum, but he just had a heart attack last month and is awaiting back surgery, so she takes over and helps when she can, although it is only on weekends, since she works five days a week doing six part-time jobs.

The first sardine cannery opened in Maine in 1876, and domestic sardines proved to be so popular that there were 40 factories by 1898. The last sardine factory in Maine, and the United States, closed this past April 18, taking the tally of sardine factories that had come and gone in this state to over 420.

Sardines are actually small herring, to be technical about it. Mary explained the catching and canning processes to us, showing us the equipment, machinery and tools used every step of the way. A wall dedicated to all the hard working women of the canning factories is full of scissors with the names of the women who used them beneath each pair. The women spent twelve hours a day standing on the line cutting the heads and tails off cold herring, and most brought their own scissors to work because they felt the "loaners" on the floor were inferior or uncomfortable in the hand.

The Sardine Museum as personally curated by Mary is extremely interesting, and we are fascinated by what a resourceful, hard-working and committed person she seems to be. One of her many part time jobs is for the census. She told us she just finished spending two days out on a boat doing census work on islands—"It was the easiest and most enjoyable two days work of my life—just riding around on a boat, snacking and looking at seasonal camps through binoculars." She did actually get off the boat on one island owned by a wealthy Massachusetts family to conduct the census at the three houses of their caretakers on the island.

When she learned that we had been out to see the puffins, she told us that she went to see them, too, nine years ago when she retired early from her government job. Her co-workers took up a collection and gave her $97, and the trip cost $50 back then, so she used over half her retirement gift to go, and it was worth it.

With the last sardine factory in the country closed now, we are grateful that Mary and Ronnie have turned their hobby into such an outstanding museum preserving history of this region that would otherwise be lost as the old processing plants fall into the sea or are cleared to make way for tourist-drawing waterfront developments. Our appreciation may not be widely shared, though--when Dick signs the visitor register, he notes that we are the first visitors here since the museum closed for the season last October.

We continue north up the coast, making a slight detour to Bucks Harbor, where Jasper Beach is famous for its colorful jasper and rhyolite stones tumbled by the ocean. When we get to the beach, we face a dune of stones thirty feet high. We climb to the top, where we can see the colorful smooth stones stretching far out to the low tide ocean. Short on time, I gather a handful, and watch others on the beach filling five gallon buckets with their treasures.

On to Lubec (population 800), the Easternmost town in the country, where we stop in the Water Street Tavern to order a sandwich to go. Chatting with the owner while we wait, we learn that the place has only been open two weeks, and we have the distinction of being the first people to order take-out from the Easternmost tavern in the US.

No time to rest on our laurels, we are on our way to Campobello to see Franklin D. Roosevelt's 34 room Canadian "cottage." Ten days ago we were at FDR's Hyde Park place, which really belonged to his mother Sara, and here we find his mother is responsible for his fancy digs once again. Sara had a house on Campobello, and her next door neighbor, Mrs. Kuhn, had a provision in her will offering Sara the house, furnished, for the deep discount price of $5,000 if she would buy it for Franklin and Eleanor. Sara bought the house for them in 1909, and they enjoyed summers there until 1921, when Franklin got polio. It is quite a lovely spacious place with bedrooms for the family plus the six servants they needed when in residence. It must have been delightful to sit out on the back porch and enjoy the view of their lawn sweeping down to the beach and Passamaquoddy Bay below.

We explore the rest of the island, and photograph what is reputed to be the most photographed light in Canada—the East Quoddy Light. Visitors can walk to the light at low tide, but we are there too late to walk over—at all times other than low tide, the light, erected in 1829, is on an island in the Bay of Fundy, separated from the mainland by a strait of water with swift currents.

Back on the road again, we stop at a stone marker the townspeople of Perry erected in 1896 to mark the point where surveyors determined that the 45th Parallel passed through their town—making them halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.

Our last roadside attraction of the day is
this big fiddle in front of the Harvey Elementary School. It was placed there in honor of Don Messer, an internationally renowned fiddler and composer from the town of Harvey. He hosted a popular Canadian television show, John Messer's Jubilee, that ran from 1959 until his death in 1973.

Tomorrow, we head further north, to see the world's largest breeding colony of gannets.


  1. I'm curious what Mary's 6 part time jobs are; ya'll should write a book!

  2. Those stones look lovely! Don't forget that, in addition to bringing water this year, the UU's are asking for stones to use for Joys and Concerns. There are way too many of both to use candles any longer, so we decided stones would be safer. Collect along the way. They must be smooth and wonderful!

  3. I want to know about the 6 jobs too!