I was all set to inform readers about Executive Order No. 27-A-FY20/21, detailing the cancellation of this year’s Town Meeting and the resultant consequences regarding the budget, taxes and such things. Instead, I think the human element of this significant event is much more interesting and I thank Gwen May for sharing her thoughts and memories with us:
“I’m asked what’s on my mind . . . this is the first time in the history of Swan’s Island and even before it was a town, when it was a plantation, that there has not been Town Meeting. I don’t know when it was decided to hold the meetings on the first Monday in March, but it has been over a century, I believe. This year there is no need to prepare a voting list, no budget to work up, no reports from committee heads, no ballots to make up and my to-do list is dormant for now. Lists of things to be done ahead of time; lists of things to take. The selectmen are not preparing speeches and having explanations for expected questions, dragging out the PA system, town reports, tablets, papers, microphones to take to the school. Setting up seats and tables and the PA system to be sure it works, getting the podium ready for the moderator, chairs for the selectmen, ballot clerk’s and the town clerk.
So, of course, I think back. Back to the Odd Fellows Hall and the excitement of Town Meeting even when I was in grade school. Excited to be walking to the hall, no matter what the weather, all in a single line, to get our hot lunch made by the women of the island and served by Mary, Marguerite, Nellie, Mallye, Agnes and many, many other dedicated souls over the years. Smelling the baked beans that dad had cooking on the stove overnight, sampling Agnes’ best macaroni and cheese and a piece of pie or cake for dessert. Listening to the muffled voices of the moderator, selectmen, and various residents before a vote was taken, then the sound of shuffling feet as everyone cast their ballot in the box up front.
The excitement my eighth-grade year when we were allowed to attend Town Meeting and take notes was such a highlight. Getting into our best clothes and sitting at a table up front with all the classmates was serious business to me. Some of the articles made no sense but it was fun to listen to the reasons for voting a certain way, listening to the pros and cons from the audience, trying to take notes on it all while watching faces and taking it in, and my grandfather, Herman Staples, opening the meeting as town clerk.
Then there was the super excitement of the evening ahead when we, the family, would get “dolled up” and head back to the hall for a dance. Watching Harriet and Norman and Russell and Alice gliding so beautifully and effortlessly around the parameters of the room to the old music played by Ray Stinson, Dick and Maxine Holmes, Bob Holmes and others over the years. “Let me Call You Sweetheart,” “Tennessee Waltz,” and many more songs of the time. Johnny Martin ‘dusting’ the floor if it got too difficult to glide. Watching Nellie Ranquist and Marguerite Batcheler as they danced and enjoyed themselves. The floor was always full. The concession booth was open for snacks and Kool-Aid and kids would slide their feet along as they went for a drink during intermission. The young danced with the old while others sat along the sidelines and just enjoyed listening, maybe hoping to be asked to dance but happy to sit and visit and tap their feet to the beat. The smell of the hall always intrigued me. It was very distinct, one of a dusty, dirty 50- to 60–year–old hall. The stage curtain was closed during the day but lifted for the musicians to tune up their instruments to entertain us. People sitting or standing near the old wood stove if they were cold in between dances. People smoking and putting their butts in the sand that was in the box surrounding the stove. These are the thoughts running through my head as I relax this year and March 1 rolls on by with no Town Meeting. How fortunate I have been to be part of what I loved so much as a child.“
Happy birthday to Gwen J. May, Stefanie Kowalczyk, Paul Gott, Bernita Joyce Pelkey, Billie Jo Riedel, Clara Estelle Riedel, Gary Rainford, Noah Tamulonis and Emily Banks.
If you have news to share, please email or call me by Sunday noon if you need it to be included in the following edition. Email me at [email protected] or call me at (207) 526-4488.