Celebrating ‘Fireside Chats’ at Left Bank Books

Feb 04, 2019

Belfast — The downtown Left Bank Books invites the public to welcome writer Jeff Shula and historian Megan Pinette, who will discuss the recently published “Fireside Chats: Conversations that Reveal the Character – and Characters – of Waldo County’s Colorful Past,” Sunday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. at the shop, 109 Church St.

Almost 30 years ago, Shula was a staff writer for the Waldo Independent, a weekly newspaper published in Belfast. Also at the paper was photographer Peggy McKenna. Together, the two produced a series of interviews with and photographs of some of Waldo County’s oldest and most colorful “characters” that ran weekly in the winters of 1990 and 1991. Eighteen of those interviews and accompanying photographs have been compiled into a beautiful black-and-white book.

In his Foreword, Shula shares fascinating behind-the-scenes tales of how the series made it from concept to print including the “rule” that the subjects “had to be old – Boston Post Cane material or close to it – and had to be a good storyteller. That pretty much came with the territory if you lived in Maine from the early 1900s through most of the century.”

Indeed, if the 18 people featured in Fireside Chats share anything in common, it’s their storytelling ability. Vivacious Vivian Dow opines on drugs, divorce, education and the environment, while Milo Blood gives a blow-by-blow account of the time he killed a deer with a jackknife. These Waldo County characters include a Bowdoin graduate who majored in classical Greek; a two-time state champion woodchopper; a Monroe man who liked to ascend rooftops and balance on chimneys on one foot; and an 85-year-old who got her master’s degree at age 50 and still wants “to know things.”

Each insightful interview is accompany by McKenna’s black-and-white photographs that, as Daniel Rowland writes in his Introduction, reflect her “intense and obviously sincere interest that she took in each subject and his or her life. The resulting mysterious chemistry is evident in each of her images.”

“Fireside Chats” was published in memory of McKenna, who died in 2014. The book was a collaborative project involving dozens of volunteers and several local organizations including the Penobscot Marine Museum, the Belfast Historical Society (of which Pinette is president), the Maine Community Foundation and Belfast Free Library.

Reservations are strongly encouraged for this free talk and book signing. Seating is limited, but standing room is not. To reserve a seat or pre-order copies, call 338-9009 or email leftbank@myfairpoint.net. Left Bank Books is located in the historic opera house building. There is ample parking in front of the store and in an adjacent public parking lot.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.