Newcastle — Although I’ve lived in Newcastle only since 1996, I’ve been summering in South Bristol, ME since 1940, and have had the opportunity to watch its evolution. Our summer cottage (shown in the accompanying image) facing Witch Island has changed very little in the intervening years. Most everything else has changed a lot.
In those early days of WW II and shortly thereafter, the landscape was far more rustic and tranquil. Many of the lobstermen rowed to their traps, the outboard motor not yet available. Our Boothbay One Design sailboat (wood) was the only vessel moored in front of the cottage. Occasionally cruising yachts would anchor there. Now there are moorings everywhere; boats galore, mostly pleasure, with a few floats heaped with unsightly fishing gear. (Something to do with taxes. This summer a float piled with traps has even invaded the small passage between Witch and Rutherford Islands.) Farther down the cove, Henry Jones kept a string of yellow dories that glowed in the summer evening like an Impressionist scene painted at Arles. The bay was regularly populated with fish nets, supported by floats of real cork, herring being still available. The town had a grocery store (Nat’s I think it was) and we rowed to the town landing to shop there. Gas for the infernal combustion engine was rationed then (wish it still were).
Not everything was idyllic, of course. We were definitely not environmentally conscientious. One of my several (demeaning) nicknames was “Mr. Garbage,” because it was my job to haul waste to the float and heave it overboard. Our sewage emptied directly, and untreated, into the cove. Litter covered the shoreline. In this aspect things have improved. Witch Island, bought by Jane Sewall because my father was slow to make my offer, has been donated as a land trust and thereby saved from the fate of Rutherford. In those bygone days there was not a single mansion lining the shore of John’s Bay short of Christmas Cove.
Why am I rambling with an old man’s nostalgia? Also shown in the accompanying figure is a structure mounted on Camel Rock, the end of the reef extending from Witch towards Gem Island, beyond which lies the channel to the gut. Mounted atop the rock is a chair with a teddy bear. It appeared perhaps a decade ago.
I learned from Mike Nyboe, owner of Bittersweet Landing, that the chair was mounted in memory of Phillip Page, So. Bristol lobsterman. In the last years of his life Phillip spent most waking hours sitting in this chair at the South Bristol Co-Op. Anyone using it on his entrance was quick to defer. After Phillip’s death Mike fashioned the chair frame, loaded generator, torch and hammer drill onto his Boston Whaler and established the “memorial.” The teddy bear was a later addition. It apparently belonged to Wayne Eugley’s daughter who died of cancer.
All this was long ago, and while the monument was a novel and even poignant gesture, I feel it has outlasted its purpose. Furthermore, a moldy upholstered chair supporting a guano-soaked teddy is hardly an asset to the landscape. (I also wonder what are the rules for erecting a quasi-permanent structure on a public rock? I would sincerely appreciate a barrister’s explaining this to me. I would even promise to suspend, temporarily, my hectoring of that profession.)
Camel Rock is an old favorite of mine, prominent in the view from the cottage. I remember pictures of me or my sisters standing atop it, walking on water, when it was submerged at high tide. (That was a rare event in my youth. Now it happens with every tide, clear evidence of the rise in sea level.) It would like to see that rock denuded; restored to its natural state.
Perhaps we could have a “decommissioning” celebration to put this issue to rest. As a memorial it doesn’t serve much of a purpose as few people have any knowledge of why the bear/chair is there. I would be more than happy to bear any expense involved with the removal. Let’s do it.