'The Children's Corner' digs into past of Belfast cemetery
Belfast — Stephen Hemenway has taken his audiences on many adventures in the years since he first conceived the idea for his locally produced show titled "The Children's Corner," but in his latest episode he'll show families the historic move of the city's graveyard.
Hemenway said he's been creating the show, which originated from his series of children's learning books called "Slouch in the Couch," back in 1994 when he was living in Chino Hills, Calif. The series of books all take place in the Land of the Magical Couch, said Hemenway, where the characters he created lead children on a variety of adventures with The Sheriff (played by Hemenway) and a supporting cast that includes names like "Black Bart," "Gutless George" and the cantankerous "Mr. Dill" the angry pickle.
But the latest episode, titled "Sleepy Creepy," will not feature the adventures of Black Bart as has been the case with past shows.
"'Sleepy Creepy' is all Belfast," said Hemenway.
Hemenway said the episode opens with his main character, the sheriff, sleeping in the middle of the night. He is awakened suddenly when the phone rings, and soon the sheriff is setting out on a late night trip back to the 1800s with Belfast Ghost Walk Guide Ted Guerry, who is dressed in period attire and toting an oil lantern to light the way.
Hemenway said the sheriff first meets his guide at the grave of Captain Isaac Miller Boardman (Guerry resides in the historic home where Boardman once resided).
"In the old days they were next to a church, and that's what makes it a graveyard," said Hemenway of the difference between the term "cemetery" and "graveyard."
The show tells the story of how the graveyard got to its current Main Street location after there was no more room in the graveyard that once lined Church Street.
"They dug up all the bones and put them in a mass grave," said Hemenway. "It took about two years."
Remnants of the move are still visible in and around the historic homes that still stand where the graveyard was once located.
"In the basements in the old homes, a lot of them have the old gravestones built into the foundations," he said. Hemenway has seen as many as 30 headstones in one foundation.
Sometimes, Hemenway said, homeowners are still surprised to find bones while working in their gardens.
While it is primarily a children's program, Hemenway said he hopes it will offer a little something to viewers of all ages.
"I want to get the adults and their children together," he said.
A show was born
Hemenway had a band in the mid 1990s, the members of which recorded his original song "A Chino Hills Christmas," along with a collection of classic holiday songs to complete the album.
When that project went well, Hemenway said he decided to get his musician friends together again to provide the music for a series of video clips that would eventually become the theme song and opening scene for "The Children's Corner." With the help of a youth singing class, a local videographer and permits to use a park as the backdrop, Hemenway was on his way to creating the show Belfast area kids see today — whether he knew it then or not.
Fast forward to last February, when Hemenway and his wife retired from their careers with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where Hemenway worked for 32 years. They built their home in Northport with building plans that Hemenway said included two garages.
"I wanted one to be my studio," said Hemenway. "That's where I shoot 'The Children's Corner.'"
After moving to the Midcoast, Hemenway said it didn't take long for others to share his vision for a locally produced kids program. When he sought a local chef to assist in a segment of the show he calls "The Alphabet Chef," where kids learn how different types of dishes are made, a chef from the cafe at Point Lookout agreed to help out with several episodes.
Before Hemenway knew it, the world he'd created all those years ago was coming to life as more volunteered to join him in the fictional plane of existence he calls the world of the magical couch. The cast now includes a fellow law enforcement officer friend he met prior to retiring, as well.
"We're all just a bunch of goofballs," said Hemenway with a chuckle. "We're having a great time."
"Sleepy Creepy," will air on Belfast Community Television Channel 2 beginning Sunday, Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. In total, the episode will air nine times up until the final showing scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. Episodes may also be viewed at YouTube on the Slouchman channel.
207-338-3333 ext. 109
Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.
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