Director’s Notes

Greetings from the Junction

April 2018

Did your parents ever look at you as a kid and say, “Where on earth did you come from?” Did the neighbors think you came from the ‘milkman’? Did you look the spitting image of your great-grandfather on your mother’s side rather than either of your parents? Is there a “black sheep” among the sibs, complete with different physical traits and mannerisms?

As we go about researching family ties, sometimes we see remarkable likenesses — skipped a generation, or two. Often you hear it called a “throwback,” as in, “Well, baby Tootie’s eyes look just like my great uncle Vernon’s!” This sometimes helps in identifying people in multiple generations of the same family in old photos that aren’t labeled.

Or, a throwback could have to do with a person or thing having the characteristics of another time or era, as in, “My, doesn’t he speak like an old Scot?” Or, “She dresses like she’s straight out of the ’60s.”

Another name for it is Atavism, derived in French from the Latin atavus meaning “ancestor.” If you look it up in the dictionary (or Google it), it says atavism refers to instances when an organism possesses traits closer to a more remote ancestor rather than its own parent. Maybe this is nature’s way of maintaining a robust gene pool, with uncountable variations that keep us all healthy, and, well, guessing and surprised.

I remember as a little girl listening to my relatives, who for many generations have lived in the same place, between Wytopitlock and Springfield. Until very recently, this area was pretty well insulated from change. People didn’t move out. People didn’t move in. In countenance, these members of my family hadn’t changed much from that of their ancestors who had settled from across the great sea. The lilt of the Scottish-English throwback was strong, and to me, beautiful. The rhythms of the spoken words dance up and they dance down. Even some of the words hadn’t changed, just used out of habit, but very particular to that region of Maine. I remember my grandfather telling me he had to pick up his ‘purse’ instead of his ‘wallet’ before we walked down to McCafferty’s Store. I always thought ladies carried purses. It looked like a man’s wallet, yet he called it a purse. But a long time ago in England, men carried pouches, or purses. If you look it up, it’s from the Middle English (1100-1500), via Middle Latin meaning bursa, a small bag or pouch for carrying money. Okay, Grampie! All I can think of is the little pouches of hide with a drawstring that some hunters still carry around.

This winter I was assembly pictures of family and came across one that startled me. It was a picture of my aunt on my father’s side. It was her high school graduation picture, so she was 18 yrs. old. In my graduation picture, I look exactly like her. At exactly the same age, we had exactly the same countenance. The set of our eyes, mouth, nose, and chin are like carbon copies. The look in our eyes is exactly alike. It’s unnerving. Our physical traits were not only the same, but it’s as if we are thinking exactly the same thing, in the moment that the camera clicked. Only we are of different times and places. Talk about throwback. Who do you take after?

— Suzanne AuClair

 

 

Greetings from the Junction

January 2018

I never make New Year’s resolutions. They lose hold faster than a New York minute. But, as one year turns into the next, I can’t help but reflect on the outgoing one and catch the promise of the new one. After all, what is there to a brand new year, except the glow of promise? Usually, the promise has something to do with what will catch my imagination, and keep me burning on all four cylinders in the coming months.

Sometimes, what fuels my imagination is a certain photograph that passes across my desk. The photo might have nothing to do with anything I’m working on. I might be looking in our archives for something to put with an exhibit, then stumble across a picture that I can’t get out of my head. I have to use it! I have to enjoy it! I want it in front of me, front and center!

Who’s in the picture? Where are they? What kind of expression is on their face? What year is it? What are they doing? What makes me want to look at that particular picture? What endears me to it? What drives me to want to pull out files and do more research about it, then bring it to you, in the unveiling of a good story about our Moosehead heritage?

That happened last year with an unusual picture of Doc Pritham. We had nothing new on the books for Doc. Then, I ran across this rare, candid photo of a young Doc, sitting on horseback in the middle of the winter, goggles on his face, a driver’s cap on his head. What a world! In that instance, Doc Pritham reached through the hands of time and came calling on me. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. He was not to be ignored. He became my muse. In the end, he was the one ~ young and vibrant and full of Moosehead moxie ~ to invite our members, friends, and neighbors back into the Crafts house, in the soiree we held in Sept. Only he would do. Doc Pritham was our Master of Ceremony.

Another picture that caught my imagination was a candid one of Julia Crafts Sheridan, our benefactor. Again, we had nothing on schedule for her. But the photograph led to a two-page spread in the July 2017 newsletter about the Crafts, both of her father and business partner, Arthur, and of Julia’s long-lasting provenance in the Moosehead region. This photograph is, again, of a younger Julia, unposed, self-possessed, with a finger pressed up against the curve of an ever-so-slight smile, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Not always how many remember her. But, still, very telling about her.

This month I’ve come across a picture that captures me. This one is of George Cripps. I didn’t know anything about him. The picture just grabs my attention. Turns out he is the maternal grandfather of Frances Bigney, a prominent historical family of the Moosehead region. He was born in 1840, died in 1916. He was a guide at the Kineo Hotel. See the photograph and story on page 5.

In this moment of time, George is my muse. The picture excites me. It draws me in. It inspires me. In some way, it sets me free. Maybe it’s the hand on his hip, his back turned away from the camera, the side look over his shoulder. Maybe it’s his being out on the water in a simple boat, his worn boot propped on the gunnel, a man in his element. Maybe it’s the knife in its sheath, hanging off his belt.

For whatever reasons ~ and the reasons aren’t important ~ he captures my imagination. That’s the important part. There’s a promise in the air.

~ Suzanne AuClair

 

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