Excepts pertaining to Criehaven from:
the Memories of
Willie and Elizabeth Ames
by
Anne Pierter

   Wilmer Ames and his wife, Elizabeth, are of lobstering stock.  In both of their families, fishing as a livelihood strectches back for generations.  Elizabeth calls her husband Wilmer, but down around the wharf he is known as Willie.  They're island people, too.  Willie was raised on Matinicus Island "twenty miles from the mainland oout in Penobscot Bay."  Elizabeth lived on the neighboring island, Criehaven.  "That was a mile across there from Matinicus."
    "We could hear the school bells ringing back and forth on the two islands," Elizabeth said. . . .
                                                                                 (Photo by Anne Pierter)

    Then Willie began to talk about Criehaven's original name, and why it was so aptly named.  "The original name of it was Ragged Island.  Ya and it was  a ragged island.  It was rough."
    "Rough and ragged."
    "There was more wrecks picked up on the back of that island.  More old ships got stoved up there than anywhere else on the coast, I believe.  You run into Matinicus Rock Light, and you'd get caught in there (on Criehaven).  Even the people who lived there didn't know, I don't think, all the ledges there was off of there."
    "No."
    "I livd on the neighboring island, and there were places I didn't dare to go down there, there were so many sunken ledges.  They used to lose a good many ships.  There weren't so many that went on Matinicus, cause they'd get to Ragged Island or Criehaven first. . . .
    Years ago on the islands the tourists were called boarders, and they were taken into the homes of the island families.  "Oh yes, Mother used to take them," Willie recalled.
    "Ya, his mother used to take them.  And on Criehaven they did, too.  And that was possibly the best vacation they could have.  They'd stay with the people for a week or two."
    "Well fed."
    "Well fed is right.  Welcomed right into the family.  And they did everything you did.  Went with you every day."
    "Course I've seen them come out for two weeks and never see the sun all the time I was out there.  That's the chance they took.  That was the only trouble on that island out there in the summer.  If you had a good summer, that was just heaven.  I've seen summers they'd be up there, it was nice clear weather all summer.  But when you got one of those drippy summers all summer long . . . You'd get so sick of the fog.  I went lobstering one summer, and I think it was two weeks that we never saw the sun at all.  We'd be up every morning and go by compass and haul traps.  It just got to be routine.  You didn't notice when the fog came down your ways.
    Willie described Criehaven, and told how the fog would put a damper on his fun.  "Nice little community over there, about as big as Matinicus.  They had a school, church, and a dance hall.  There's recreation in the summer.  You'd have dances from one place to the other.  Oh, I'd get burned up, always what a fog out there.  My father wouldn't let me go across there at nighttime if it come in fog.
    "Sometimes we went over there and got caught in the fog.  And the people on Criehaven would put us up.  Or the other way around if they was up at our place to dance.  If it shut in real thick and it wasn't safe for them to go back, they'd stay over on this island.  We had a lot of fun.  It was our own boys that would play.  They played real good.  Played accordion and violin and guitar -"
    "And drums."
    "They'd play all the dances.  The dances were different then.  There was a square dance and waltz and a two step.
You'd figure they'd play three dances.  Now this dance hall, the one on Matinicus, has been made into a dwelling, and the one on Criehaven has fallen down.
    "During the war was the end of Criehaven 'Cause they couldn't get kids enough to go to school, and they lost the school.  There weren't enough families there to maintain it.  When they lost the school they lost everything."
    Elizabeth added, "And they couldn't get a teacher.  'Cause during the war you couldn't get teachers, and certainly they weren't going to go to an island.
    Willie agreed that there was quite a bit of intermarriage between the island families.  "Yes there was, more or less.  Just three or four different, about that many names there.  You'd get new stock in there once in a while.  They married someone else from away.  Most of the girls left anyhow.  There's nothing for a girl out there.  They go to high school and meet somebody and go away.  And a good part of the boys did.  Just didn't want to go fishing.  A lot of them didn't care about fishing, so they never came back.
    "It seemed rather odd on this island, when I went to school I think there were twenty pupils in school and three girls out of twenty.  There always seemed to be that ratio up there.  We had more boys than there were girls.  That's why when the girls come over, they usually didn't get away."
    As for the ratio on Criehaven, "Well, I think it was about half and half," claimed Elisabeth. . . .

THE SALT BOOK; edited by Pamela Wood; Anchor Books edition, New York,1977.