MOUNT DESERT — The First Friday Coffeehouse will return to the Northeast Harbor Library with a program of verbal art on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. Dennis Damon will be the featured artist, with stories from his Northeast Harbor youth, stories from Ruth Moore and humor.
The evening begins with an open mic session with Blue Gene as master of ceremonies. All performing artists are welcome, usually having about 10 minutes at the mic. Jokes from the audience also are welcome. The featured program begins at 8 p.m. and should last about an hour.
Damon grew up in Northeast Harbor, where his father, Lou Damon, was a fisherman. Growing up in the 1950s, there were fewer distractions than there are now. After supper, the family would retire to the living room and sit and listen to the radio, to shows like the “Inner Sanctum” and “Just Plain Bill.” He and his sister, ready for bed in their pyjamas, would snuggle up to the big floor-model radio. As he got sleepy eyed, his mother would send him “up the golden stairs” to bed, and one or the other of his parents would come and tell him a story about growing up in Deer Isle or Penobscot.
These were life stories, retelling events in the lives of Damon’s relatives. He said “how less rich I would be if I didn’t know these stories of my relatives. I never met two grandfathers and a grandmother—my only knowledge of them was these stories.” These were oral tales, not stories from a book. Damon doesn’t remember someone reading a story to him; it was always verbal communication.
When Damon went to Stetson School, the old Northeast Harbor elementary school, he used to come down the hill to the Northeast Harbor Library for storytelling. It was a program where students from the high school told stories they had memorized. They didn’t read stories, they told them. Damon said it was enthralling and a big influence on him. He also credits some of his teachers, Sue Wood, Miss Herrick, Mr. Larson, Miss Backman, from Mount Desert High School, then across from the library, for helping him appreciate language.
Damon went on to college, to teaching college, to becoming a successful businessman, to serving eight years in the state legislature. When he spoke in the legislature, he would speak without a written text. At the coffeehouse, he might engage the audience in conversation about how different Northeast Harbor is now compared to when he was growing up.
The First Friday Coffeehouse is free of charge, though donations are gratefully accepted. Refreshments in support of the MDES greenhouse will be on sale throughout the evening.