The Pie Social is a delicious slice of Maine life
After driving up and over a few hills, around a few turns, the young forest opens ahead and the white steepled Washburn-Norlands Living History Center Meeting House appears. The closer we get we see how badly the Meeting House needs painting. From steeple top to skirtboard, window frames, doors, exterior decorations — the last applied coat of white paint is cracking, peeling, or missing. Patches of gray sun-bleached clapboard are everywhere.
Eileen parks the GMC in a grassy barnyard section. We are at the Washburn-Norlands Annual Pie Social. Danny Ueblacker is with us. He is an old family friend who one year ago sold his home on Long Island, NY and moved to Portland, ME. Long Island is 118 miles long, 23 miles at its widest, with a population of 2,360 people per square mile. Maine has 41 people per square mile. Most of Maine is still brand new to Danny.
We make our way across the barnyard. A short middle-aged woman ahead of us closes her car trunk, hurrying toward the Pie Social entryway pulling two odd-shaped cases strapped to a small wheeled hand truck.
Eileen, Danny, and I each pay the $5 entrance fee to a pleasant woman wearing a mid-19th century dress and bonnet. Most of the Washburn-Norlands event volunteers dress in character and often act as if it really is 1852, not 2018.
After a quick walk through of the Washburn barn, rebuilt within the last ten years after fire destroyed the original barn, we make our way to the pie table. Covered with red-and-white checkerboard tablecloths, the pie table has more than a dozen homemade pies displayed. We can vouch for a few pies: cherry, apple, raspberry-peach, blueberry cream, and apple-caramel. The pie-makers donated their finest in hopes of winning the Pie Social contest, and to help Washburn-Norlands raise funds for, and public awareness of, the Living History Center.
We move to another table to enjoy our pie, while three ladies step from the Washburn house porch onto the lawn. I recognize one as the lady hauling cases on her hand truck. Collectively this group is “The Maine Squeeze.” Two of the ladies walk with accordions strapped to their bodies. Janine Blatt plays a red accordion, Nancy 3. Hoffman (sic) plays a blue accordion. Nancy also sings lead through a microphone headset wired to a small “HoneyTone” p.a. speaker attached to her accordion.
Nancy introduces Barbara Truex, wearing a stainless steel washboard as, “The hardest working percussionist east of the Mississippi River.”
With the first notes of their opening tune, “Good Old Summertime,” we know these are good musicians. Wandering the grounds, Nancy announces, “We take requests,” and the trio moves through Greek songs, Italian songs, waltzes, standards, and “real summer songs” like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Barbara scrapes and taps her washboard with the round backsides of two metal serving spoons. “I just noticed that after 15 years these spoons are finally getting worn on the back,” she says between songs to Janine and Nancy.
“What kind of spoons are they?” I ask.
“Goodwill stainless steel specials,” Barbara laughs.
Later Barbara tells me she usually plays “fretted instruments.” I’m not surprised. In the wrong hands, metal spoons against a corrugated metal sheet can sound lethal. But Barbara’s rhythmic accompaniment was always musical.
Our day ended in Mrs. Howard’s one-room schoolhouse classroom. She is truly a State treasure, so convincing as a mid-19th century schoolmistress. Howard is the type of teacher I responded to very well during my checkered schooldays: smart, tough, a razor sharp wit, a big heart, with a keen sense of justice,
Thank you for one more great Central Maine summer day.
Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.