I started this blog on June 27, 2008. There was a serious lack of local news coverage for Munjoy Hill from the local press. Originally, when this blog was started, this waterfront community on the eastern end of Portland wasn’t getting much positive news coverage. Having been recently retired and looking for something to do, I decided to start an on-line news blog. My goal was to recognize people on the Hill for their interesting lifestyles, start-up businesses and community news in general. Since that time, the focus has changed so much because the Hill has changed so much – as everyone knows. From a very small vision, mhn.com has grown much larger than I ever anticipated it would.
While local coverage of the Hill has dramatically increased, I plan on writing about it for a long time to come. The iconic, politician Tip O’Neil once said: “All politics is local.” I’ve come to believe that applies to news as well. Judging by the interest in this blog, I’m a believer that a lot of news is local as well. Neighbors really do want to know what is happening down the street from them. Who is building what? When and why?
It’s important for me to point out that I am a blogger. I am not a professional journalist, a reporter, author nor am I a writer. Someone recently called me the Munjoy Hill scribe. I like that. Journalists are paid big bucks and receive benefits galore! This blogger does not earn a paycheck from anyone. In fact, I value my independence very much. I’m not beholding to advertisers, like the real estate industry! Very often bloggers show their bias, intentionally or not. For this blogger, a second opinion, although it may differ from what city officials want published is a healthy expression of Freedom of the Press. Often a second opinion is a good thing. Just ask a cancer survivor!
Years ago I earned a BA in psychology from George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. I retired to Portland from Alexandria, Va. where I lived for many years. I worked in Washington, D.C. for both the government on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. It was a fascinating time in our nation’s history for which I am grateful to have experienced. But when I reached retirement age, I knew just where I wanted to be – Maine!
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but when I turned 3, my family moved to White Plains, New York to care for my ailing grandmother Ella Harding Peffer. White Plains is home. But, I consider myself so fortunate to have spent my summer vacations from school and later on many vacations from work at my grandparents summer cottage near Augusta – Coopers Mills on Clary Lake. They were carefree days of swimming and boating in Clary Lake and blueberrying in the adjoining fields. Both my aunt, Nancy Peffer Brown and my grandmother, Ella Harding Peffer, were born here in Portland. A widowed Aunt Nancy became a field director for the Kennebec Girl Scout Council, based in Portland – oh so many years ago. To her credit, she was responsible for setting up several Girl Scout summer camps.
My grandmother, Ella Harding Peffer, was an opera singer for the Redpath Chautauqua of New York and New England circuit, a/k/a culture under tents. My grandfather, Crawford A. Peffer, of Covode, Pennsylvania, was the founder and manager of this nationally beloved institution for its duration. Chautauqua brought political speakers, theatre and other cultural events to small town America. There were seven towns in Maine on the Chautauqua Circuit, from Kennebunk to Skowhegan. Most of the New England Chautauqua towns were in New York State, many along the Hudson River Valley. Raised in a village, west of Pittsburgh, Grandfather knew well the isolation and limitations of small town American life. That life was part of his motivation to make “culture under tents” the success it was.
There was not a sexist bone in grandfather’s body. As a self-proclaimed progressive, he believed that all women should receive educations that would enable them to support themselves should they need to – just like Aunt Nancy did when she was unexpectedly widowed – with a young son to care for. My grandparents are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, in Portland.
Following grandmother’s retirement from performing with Chautauqua because of the birth of her two daughters, she started a girls camp on Clary Lake in Coopers Mills. It was named Katharine Ridgeway Camp for Girls. The Camp was named for the most popular elocutionist on the circuit – back when public speaking was given a higher priority than it is today. She died prematurely in 1945 of ALS when I was 4 years old. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never had the opportunity to hear her sing. The local newspaper described her soprano voice to be of “unusual quality.” She studied voice in Germany, before Julliard was established. So, while I’ll always be “from away,” I do have deep roots here that I cherish. I feel so fortunate to be back here in Maine, once again!
“Because I love my neighborhood, Munjoy Hill, and the city it sits at the end of, and because my work takes me out of town for much of a year, I find that the Munjoy Hill News keeps me connected to the notion of home. Going to the site and simply viewing photos of Portland and the Hill, not to mention the news writing, is enough to mitigate the discomfort of being away. I check in every few days.”
Tony Award Winner of the 2005 Best Lighting Design in a Musical for
The Light in the Piazza. Chris won his second Tony Award in 2017 for Best Lighting Design for “Indecent.” Munjoy Hill is so proud to call him a resident of the Hill.