A Tale of Three Town Meetings
(Why We Chose to Live in Maine)
By Paulette Oboyski
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
While we lived and worked in Manhattan, Vic and I had vacationed quite often on the very pretty island of Martha’s Vineyard. The beaches are beautiful, the water in the summer is warmish, and there are plenty of picturesque bike paths. We finally bought a vacation house which we stayed at when we could and rented when we were not there. It was in Lambert’s Cove near a beautiful beach and the adorable Blackwater Hollow Farm. After three years of taking the longish car ride from NYC to the ferry in Woods Hole, Mass and then the hour-long ferry to the island, we decided not to retire there.
What helped expedite our decision to retire somewhere else, was when we attended a town meeting with the managers of the island ferry. We were upset that they had decided to put very stringent regulations on the ferry which would hamper our travels to the island and hamper our summer renter’s arrival at our house. There were no microphones in the room. When Vic raised his hand and objected to the decision that the town managers had made without our consent, the moderator told him that if he did not lower his voice, they would have to ask him to leave the meeting. Wow! They obviously did not like us “off-islanders” and did not make us feel welcome. The snobbishness of the islanders, inconvenience of the ferry ride, and lack of good medical care were some of the reasons for our decision to not retire on Martha’s Vineyard.
Brooklyn, New York
Rough and Ready!
In the mid 1990’s, a few years before we planned to retire, the rent in our Manhattan high-rise apartment was going up so we decided to move back to my childhood neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We found a great apartment with very reasonable rent just 2 blocks away from my parents’ apartment building. We were located just a short walk from the East River, which had great views of Manhattan. It was a noisy neighborhood with a mix of all kinds of people. People congregated on their stoops during the day and in the evenings the bars and restaurants were hopping with all the locals. We even had a marching band pass our place during one Fat Tuesday evening at about 11 PM.
All of us neighborhood people found out about a very disagreeable plan that the local town councilors were hatching. They wanted to develop a garbage transfer station on the East River right down the block from us. It would obscure our city view and create smelly havoc with trucks full of garbage riding down our streets.
A meeting about this transfer station proposal was called at the local Eli Whitney High School auditorium. The room was packed with about 300 neighborhood people who were totally opposed to this transfer station. It appeared that the councilors were trying to convince all of us to vote for it. When the councilors, who were sitting at a dais in the front of the room, tried to talk it up, Vic called out, “Bullshit!” In true rough and ready Brooklyn fashion, the whole auditorium joined in the chorus and chanted, “Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit!” along with him. The transfer station was voted down. Presently, that Northside, Williamsburg waterfront has been developed into charming parks and luxury apartment buildings.
In July 1999, three days after Vic retired from the US Marshals, we moved to an 1840, thirteen room farmhouse on 75-acres in Washington, Maine. The house was big enough to have plenty of visits from our family (including Vic’s adult kids, Steven and Diane) and friends and even have some of our family come live with us eventually. He was 51 and I was 46. The year before, I asked for and received a buyout from NBC, after working there for 20 years. So, I studied horticulture at the NY Botanic Gardens for one year in preparation for our farm living. We were both ready for country life! We got huge Leonberger dogs, 2 mini donkeys and 7 mini goats and worked and played on our “gentleman farm”.
Washington is a small and rural mid-coast town which had a population of about 1200 people at the time that we moved there. The annual Town Meeting is held at the end of February after a long, cold winter. During our first meeting we did not yet know many people and had no idea about what occurred during a Maine Town Meeting. We were given a town report ahead of time by one of the three selectmen who ran the town together. The report had information about town citizens who paid their taxes and still owed taxes, reports from all the departments like the fire department, library, Town Works, and elementary school. It seemed like a Playbill that you got when you went to the theater.
When we got to the meeting, we sat down and were immediately flanked by the local Postmaster, Kathy and the richest landowner’s daughter, Sue. Tom, the Fire Chief headed right for Vic, introduced himself and asked Vic to join the fire department, which he did. The President of the Gibbs Library in town, Ray, came over to me and asked me to be a librarian, and I did.
During the meeting, everyone walked us through the procedures, which involved voting for a new Selectman and discussing and approving item by item of the town budget. During the break, we were introduced to practically everyone who attended the meeting. We never felt so welcomed as we did from mostly everyone there.
As the years went by, we got to know just about everyone in town and always looked forward to Town Meeting after the long winters of not seeing everyone. My mother, and two nieces, Brooke and Casey, moved in with us because we had so much room. Vic’s father moved close by at Harbor Hill, a great assisted living facility in Belfast. My mother and our niece, Casey even attended a town meeting with us during Casey’s Goth days – dog collar and all! Everyone welcomed them too!
Vic had joined the Masons in town and at times the Masons served a pre-meeting breakfast, which Vic helped cook and serve. Besides volunteering at the library, I joined the Fire Department Auxiliary. During the Town Meeting breaks, I would help sell t-shirts and hats for the Fire Department and we both bought cookies from the Girl Scouts and sandwiches from the Evening Star Grange. One year at the meeting, we had won the award for citizens of the year because we had volunteered so much time for practically every group in town!
Twilight Zone meets Leave it to Beaver
Our family grew small again after our parents passed and our two nieces earned their cosmetology licenses and moved back to NYC to become stylists. So, after 15 years of farm living, we decided to move to a more manageable arrangement. We sold our farm, which Vic’s father called “our private park”, and moved to the college town of Brunswick, Maine. We have a cozy 4-bedroom, 3-bath home on 1/2 acre in a friendly suburban setting. Our neighbors welcomed us with cupcakes and parties. We borrow cups of sugar and other baking needs from each other and exchange plants from our flower-filled gardens. Vic and I placed colorful and comfortable chairs under the trees on our front lawn and it almost seems like sitting on our stoop in Brooklyn. The neighbors stop by, and we even have occasional cocktail parties. Who knew that life could really be like the lives we saw on the old TV show, Leave it to Beaver! Vic says it seems so unreal that maybe we might really be living in The Twilight Zone.