Artifact: Photo of Senator George Mitchell, 1989

Description: In 1989, Carl Little, his wife Peggy Beaulac, and their two children, Emily and James, moved into an apartment at the back of Little’s mother’s house. Little’s mother, Juliana Patience von Kienbusch Little, rented the main part of the house to Senator George Mitchell and his wife, MacLachlan, and Little and his family found themselves living next door to one of America’s most esteemed politicians. Photo taken in July 1994 in Somesville.

 

 

 

Oral History:

Oral History Transcription:

MF: This is Michael Fournier (MF) interviewing History Harvest participant Carl Little (CL) at the Sound Schoolhouse on August 7, 2018 as part of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society’s History Harvest trial run. Thanks for coming in today. It seems you’ve brought a photo in. Let’s start up by you telling us a little bit about the photo and we’ll go from there.

CL: The photo shows Senator George Mitchell seated on a raised herb garden that was in the backyard of my mother’s house on Oak Hill Rd. in Somesville and to either side of him are my daughter Emily and my son James. Senator Mitchell was renting my mother’s house one summer and we lived next door to him. My mother still lived in New York City. She had rented the front part of the house to Senator Mitchell and his wife Heather and my wife and I and our kids lived in an attached apartment in the back of the house. It was kind of exciting to be living next door to such an esteemed figure in American history, recent American history. Senator Mitchell had been active in the Ireland Irish peace accord. He had been the majority speaker and just done some amazing things. So one day we saw each other in passing, and I asked if it would be okay if I photographed him with my children. He said sure so we sat down on this raised herb garden that actually was designed by an MDI landscape designer named Dennis Percale. So I took this picture of them and for me it just brings back all kinds of memories. I mean, I can tell from what my kids were wearing where they were at. My son James was a great Seattle Mariners fan at that time. Couple years later we would be at a game at Fenway where the Red Sox were playing the Mariners and he was there rooting for the Mariners. That day, Pedro Martinez threw his thousandth strikeout and the Red Sox won and he became a Red Sox fan thereafter. And Emily with her wonderful outfit. She was already involved in dance and all kinds of arts things. And then the Senator in a relaxed mode in the middle.

MF: Carl, do you know roughly when this photo was taken?

CL: Yeah I do actually, it was 1995 and I brought in, along with the photo, a short piece that I wrote for Maine Times (I wrote for them occasionally these sort of “shouts and murmurs” type of articles) and this is a piece about Senator Mitchell living next door to us and it’s actually kind of a humor piece. It ends up being a humor piece. The second summer he was there, the summer after this photo was taken, he had left his voicemail on my mother’s phone and so the piece was sort of prompted by calling my mother one day and getting his voice on the phone and it was kind of fun and bizarre because he had left his voice message on her phone.

MF: So this predated him having a house on the island?

CL: It did – this was his first foray. This is his first summer on Mount Desert Island. I think maybe it was two years later that he acquired the property from the Rockefeller family and became a regular summer resident. This is also before he had children. He and Heather ended up having two children. I’ve spoken to the Senator more recently, and you know my mother I think was hoping that he would actually buy the house because the house is for sale at that point. He told me that he and Heather worried a little bit because there was sort of a blind curve on the road where the driveway came up. Something that hadn’t really ever concerned us, but I could see how he could feel that way because he was hoping to start a family and so he decided against it and then of course a wonderful opportunity came up with the Rockefeller’s in Seal Harbor.

MF: So before this photo had been taken, had you ever interacted with Senator Mitchell?

CL: Yes, I had actually – I started working at College of Atlantic in 1993 and he came to several events at the college. He came to the opening of the Gates center, which was a big deal for COA. That happened the year I arrived – 1993. The opening of the Blum gallery. Then he also was commencement speaker one year but I couldn’t tell you what year that was, whether it was after this photo or before, but I had had encounters with him prior to this and was just a great admirer of him, especially his work in conservation, The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were so key to Maine and to America. Then you know, sort of after that, being called on to resolve the conflict in a country that it seemed unresolvable and then later he was asked to do the same thing in the Middle East with not the same success but with every intention of trying to figure out the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

MF: Do you remember if Emily or James knew the significance of this moment, or who they were sitting next to?

CL: Maybe a little bit, but I think they were probably a little too young, 1995, James would’ve been seven and Emily was 11. We had had interactions with him but just really in passing and then they knew from us from, their parents, that this is a very important figure in American history and current American history, but I think they were just “okay, dad, yeah we’ll sit down with the senator and, you know, take our picture.” They went along with it, and so did the Senator, which was nice.

MF: I can see how this photo brings back some wonderful memories of your children being that age, and your mother’s home, and having the Senator front and center in the photo.

CL: It was a special home, too. We had moved there in January 1989, and I had been up Thanksgiving of 1988 to deliver some furniture for my mother who had bought the house and I didn’t really know where the house was and I remember coming into – you know, where the historical society is – their little branch there on the selectmen’s building in downtown Somesville, and looking up at this house and going “Oh my God, my mother bought that house – you know the ones that’s just over the little Somesville Bridge. And here we were moving in the middle of winter, moving lock stock and barrel from New York City, and realizing that this is a whole new life for us and the kids at that point were three and one, more or less. My mother was living in New York City and wasn’t really ready to come up to Maine and I remember calling from Maine that Thanksgiving and saying to my wife, “We should move out of the city. We should move here. It’s a big house and my mother went along with it and said fine. We had two young children in New York City and we didn’t know if that was going to work out so this was this wonderful opportunity. We literally, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, packed up everything and moved out.

MF: So your mother had roots prior to you moving here?

CL: Not really, no. Her brother, my uncle William King Bush, was a painter. He had a home on Great Cranberry Island and he had passed away in 1980 and he had left his house on Great Cranberry Island to my brother David and me. That’s when we first started coming to Maine and my mother, subsequently after her brother’s death, wanted to sort of be in the same part of the world that her brother had been, so for the first few years she had rented a cottage at the Claremont Hotel and then eventually decided that she wanted something more permanent and bought this house, working with Danielle Davis, a wonderful local real estate agent. Then I came up and delivered the furniture and went, “Oh my God. You know what, we need to do this.” My wife became the director of the Mount Desert Island Visiting Nurse Service in Northeast Harbor. That was her first position so she was sort of the way that we were going to make the job move, and I (the first couple of years) was a home father, taking care of the kids, walking my daughter every morning across that little bridge in Somesville to the Montessori school up the road and just generally reveling in this new world, and I eventually got the position at College of Atlantic and now I’m at the Maine Community Foundation.

MF: What do you know about this home now?

CL: This is another sort of a curious twist. It eventually was sold to Hank and Cindy Schmeltzer, Cindy Livingston and Hank Schmeltzer, and Hank became my boss at the Maine Community Foundation and he had bought the land behind it and had plans to build his own house and then there was just issues related to that. When my mother put the house on the market, he said “we’re going to buy it,” so he added that, and he and Cindy moved into it. We had moved out since then and built our own house at the Northern neck, northern end of Echo Lake where we live today. Yeah it was wonderful for us to be able to stay there rent-free and have a chance to sort of find a place for our own home. We lived in that house for about seven years, for two summers of that seven years, Senator Mitchell was next door.

MF: Wild story. Carl, is there anything before we wrap up that we may have missed in particular?

CL: I don’t think so. I mean another thing in the photo is the Dodge Caravan, which was a must for us at that time. That was our car for many years.

MF: Many great people succumb to the mini van. Yeah.

CL: And then it fell on hard times and we took it out to Great Cranberry and basically gave it to a resident out there. Every time we go out there, we get to see it still driving down the road.

MF: Carl, thank you so much for coming in today, and sharing both your writing as well as this great photo of your family and Senator Mitchell. It’s been a real treat.

CL: Great, thank you.

Resourceful Links:

Click Here to Download the Photo in High Resolution

Click Here to Download the Essay in High Resolution 

Little Oral History Transcription.pdf