A view of Mackerel Cove from Sinnett’s store. (Photo courtesy Nancy Orr Johnson Jensen)
My mother, Virginia Johnson, lived in an 1850s home on Lowell’s Cove, Bailey Island, with my father, Linwood, from the 1930s to around 2000. There they raised five children from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Those days were very hard times, money-wise, so my mother worked at various places on the island. However, she did take the time to write many poems of the island folks.
I am enclosing one of my favorites, about Sinnett’s store, owned by Everett Sinnett, a native islander. The building housed the grocery store and the post office. There were benches outside the building where islanders would sit and gossip while waiting for the mail to be sorted.
The steamboat Aucocisco would come in from Portland every day, bringing mail and tourists.
This poem, “Sinnett’s Store,” was written by Virginia in the ’50s.
A group of islanders waits for the mail on Bailey Island. (Photo courtesy Nancy Orr Johnson Jensen)
At Sinnett’s, the old country store,
The men sit around just as before.
The pot-bellied stove is long gone by,
But memories of men will never die.
If you go there when they’re all “in,”
You’ll find you’re in the midst of a din.
They’re all talking ’bout a different thing;
Before very long your ears’ll ring.
Discoursing freely you will see
Arthur and Peter on Frank’s settee.
Prices will be their subject great
Of laths, and nails, and even bait.
Standing apart, you’ll see Stan and Jess,
Ready for work, you can tell by their dress;
But, thinking and talking of hunting skill;
Their longing for ducks they’ll never fill.
You’ll hear the oldsters tell of trips
They have taken in sailing ships;
Of seas and winds they had to withstand,
With plenty of courage ready at hand.
There’s Washie and Frank and Billy Black,
Believe me, those old blades had the knack.
Nowadays the young ones stand in awe
Of all the oldsters heard and saw.
They’re never bored with the same old tales,
The same old ships, the same old sails,
The same big fish that got away,
And the one they caught the very next day.
All this goes on when ladies are there;
These are the stories they can share.
But if they are absent or out of sight,
Then other things come to light.
According to all the men I know,
The woman is the “so-and-so.”
But, let me tell you something new
Men who don’t gossip are mighty few.
(Author’s note: The islanders mentioned in the poem are Arthur York, Peter Rogers, Frank Doughty, Stan Johnson, Jess Johnson, Washie Doughty, Frank Doughty, and Billy Black.)
Nancy Orr Johnson Jensen is the author of “Bailey Island Memoirs and Lore” and “Helen, Ethel and the Crazy Quilt.” She grew up on Bailey Island.