To the Editor,
I am a resident of Chebeague Island, somewhat active in the community and a proud volunteer member of the Cumberland Fire Department on Chebeague.
My wife was born on Chebeague, but grew up in Massachusetts. I met her at college. As we talked of marriage, it became very clear that marriage was not going to happen if I did not like this "Chebeague Island". Well, I loved it, and have enjoyed 45 years of marriage - and Chebeague Island. While raising children, as soon as school ended for the summer, my wife and children headed for the Island - and I commuted back and forth each weekend. We pushed the seasons on each end - Spring and Fall, and even into the Winter. Although the house was not winterized, Thanksgiving became a regular trip. I was able to retire to the Island in 1999. We are wedded to the Island. Our cemetery lots are there. We have land set aside for our children to build there.
My 88 year old mother-in-law, who leads the residents of the Island Commons (our home for the elderly) in exercises two days a week (She is trying to ensure that she has scored enough points to ensure a place at the Commons when the time comes.) has to be dragged off of the Island. When she leaves the Island for an occasional shopping trip or doctor's appointment, her greatest concern is getting the next boat back. She first came to the Island as a six year old, loves the place, and will never leave.
People who know me realize that I am somewhat conservative. And, I came to support secession rather slowly. I did not sign the petition. I personally felt that Bill Shane well recognized that we were, in fact, part of the Town, and Steve Moriarity was very helpful in addressing some of our difficulties. I also fretted about the school issue. I attended a meeting - and Leon Hamilton, one of our boat captains, said, "Folks, the issue is, 'It's a way of life.'" He was right, and I was hooked!
I could present you with a hundred anecdotes to illustrate
that way of life:
We have only one gasoline pump on the Island which is so old that it cannot handle the current per gallon price of gas
Our "Island cars" traverse our roads legally, but have no license plates
Your whole life revolves around a boat schedule
As Cumberland has progressed from a farming community to a suburban community, we have remained a boating/fishing community
I will relate this story to illustrate how misunderstood that way of life is. A constant problem of automobile parking exists at our Stone Pier. While working on solutions, a non-Islander suggested that we might solve the problem by switching to golf carts instead of automobiles. I was stumped - and then it dawned on me.that the character of the Island is totally misunderstood by those who do not reside here. We are a year round working community. Picture for yourself my 88 year old mother-in-law going to the Stone Pier to take the boat in winter in a golf cart. Few homes are summer McMansions. I live in a 70 year old, wood framed Cape, that we recently jacked up out of the mud to give it new life for my wife and I, and for my children to some day enjoy.
I would like to close by quoting excerpts from a poem written by Rachael Field who summered on an island off Southwest Harbor in the 1920's and 30's.
If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same,
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name.
Oh! You won't know why and you can't say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You'll never be quite the same.
It bothers me that she, Rachael Field, had it all figured out 80 years ago, and it took me so long to get it. We are an endangered island community. It is a different way of life. It is the responsibility of the residents of Chebeague Island to preserve their way of life. To do that we must control our own destiny by seceding from the Town of Cumberland, with both Chebeague and Cumberland continuing amicably down their diverging paths.
Malcolm S. Rice