I started this blog on June 27, 2008. At the time, there was little coverage of Munjoy Hill from the press. That’s because it was known as Portland’s “armpit.” It was a downtrodden community burdened by drug and drinking problems. But suddenly people noticed that it was a waterfront community. That opened up all kinds of possibilities.. Having been recently retired and looking for a hobby, I decided to start an on-line news blog. My goal was to recognize people on the Hill for their lifestyles, start-up businesses and community news in general. Coverage was limited in scope. Since that time, the focus has changed. It has grown from a small vision to a much larger one. Mhn.com has worked to keep pace with that expanded vision.
I’m a blogger. I am not a journalist, a reporter, an author nor am I a writer. But I do have close family members who were writers and editors for two different national publications. If you are reading this, then you are familiar with these prominent publications. I inherited a tiny, tiny bit of their DNA. I’m grateful to them for that. Someone called me the Munjoy Hill scribe. That works. Journalists are paid big bucks and receive benefits galore! This blogger does not earn a paycheck from anyone. Rather, I value my independence. In other words, I don’t want to be dependent on the ups and downs of the real estate market or the tourism business for my financial success. Very often bloggers show their bias, intentionally or not. For this blogger, a second opinion, although it may differ from yours 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. Following that, I lived in Alexandria, Virginia for many years. In the 70s and beyond. I worked in Washington, D.C. for both the government on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. That employment included a stint with a US Senator from the northeast as well as employment at a highly regarded D.C. law firm. 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!
My experience living in Alexandria was so much more valuable than I realized at the time. I constantly met people with a much larger vision than just their own insular world. The City Council was responsive to renters trying to survive during a time of gentrification. So different from the Portland City Council that could not be more indifferent if they tried. Portland’s city hall functions as though this were the 1800s – and retreating back further every opporunity it gets!
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 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 mostly in D.C. at my grandparents summer cottage near Augusta – Coopers Mills on Clary Lake. They were carefree days of swimming and boating in Clary Lake and blue berrying in the adjoining fields. Both my aunt, Nancy Peffer Brown and my grandmother, Ella Harding Peffer, were born 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 establishing several Girl Scout summer camps that still exist today. One was Camp Pondicherry, in Bridgton.
My grandmother, Ella Harding Peffer, was an opera singer for Redpath Chautauqua of New York and New England. a/k/a culture under tents. My grandfather, Crawford A. Peffer, of Covode, Pennsylvania, was the founder and manager of the northeast circuit of this nationally beloved institution for its duration. Chautauqua brought political speakers, theater, music 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 of them were along the Hudson River Valley. This cultural movement was not connected to the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State. The only similarity was in the name. Raised on a small family farm, west of Pittsburgh, Grandfather knew too well the limitations of small town life. That life was part of his motivation to make “culture under tents” the esteemed success it was.
There was not a sexist bone in grandfather’s body. As a proud progressive, he believed that all women should receive educations to enable them to support themselves should they need to or want to – just like Aunt Nancy did when she was unexpectedly widowed – with a young son, Peter, to raise. Grandfather’s funeral was held at Wilde Chapel at Evergreen Cemetery, Portland in 1961. He was born in 1878. My grandparents are buried in unpretentious spaces there.
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. Grandmother died too soon in 1945 of ALS when I was 4 years old. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never heard her sing. The defunct “Portland Evening Express” once described her soprano voice to be of “unusual quality.” She was born in Portland in 1887. 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!