19th-century conditions

By David Grima | Feb 28, 2019

There is nothing quite so attractive to the gothic mind as the idea of an old reclusive man living in a decaying castle.

For a change I am not talking about myself and the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live.

Rather, I mean the old artist, the late Indiana Jones, who fled society in 1978, lived on Vinalhaven, died last spring, and left his estate to create a museum out of the crumbling old pile where he used to live, the Star of Hope hall.

According to a report in the Tribune online, plans for the museum are being made even at this very moment. The planners seem to have their work cut out for them.

Certainly there are some juicy elements in the story, mostly to do with a lawsuit that alleges the old boy was thoroughly taken advantage of by his caretaker.

No doubt the case will wind through courts in the manner of the case in Charles Dickens’ novel “Bleak House,” and as the more practical work of fixing up the old barn will certainly need a lot of money, we should hope it does not all go the way of Dickens’ fictional lawsuit, Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, in which the plaintiff finally won, but the legal costs used up every last penny he had hoped to gain.

The Indiana case is set for trial in New York this October, says the Tribune. The Unity Foundation has been asked to set up a board of directors for the museum.

“When Indiana died at 89 in May, there was a hole in the roof and pigeons living inside,” the Tribune reported earlier this week. The report also called the Star of Hope “dilapidated,” and I must say I find the whole setup very attractive.

“The Star of Hope is only a shell of it what it once was’” the Tribune explains. “The front windows are boarded up. Clapboards are peeling. There’s no electricity or heat. The foundation plans to enlist architects and engineers but reconstruction will not begin until the conclusion of the lawsuit.”

* * * * *

Speaking of gothic structures needing repair, it is nice to see that work has sort of begun on the Suffolk Street house in the South End where there was a fire last year. I saw workers giving the place the once-over earlier this month, although I think the cold weather this week would disincline anyone from doing much outdoor work at the moment.

* * * * *

Speaking of the neighborhood, I have received a cryptic message from the South End office of the Pinkerton Agency, after last week’s magnificent column appeared in print.

It turns out the people of whom I denied all knowledge last week are actually other residents of the neighborhood.

I only mentioned them in the first place because some defective website, claiming to know all about all of us, named these unfortunate people as my relatives. It never occurred to me they could simply be innocent people who live nearby.

* * * * *

Earlier in February I met a gentleman at the Park Street Laundromat who was patiently searching through a bag of lost-and-found clothing items, hoping to discover a missing sock, one of a pair to which I think he was quite attached.

He tells me he has since found it, and I think it must have emerged at last from the Black Vortex in space where all such things tend to go.

* * * * *

A certain fellow who used to live in Knox County is currently in the middle of his annual winter tour of warmer states, sleeping on a box spring and mattress that he was able to fit into the back of his van. According to reports, the southern parts are not as warm as he had hoped this year. Temperatures in the 50 have been fairly common in certain places, I hear.

One leg of his trip took him through the Florida panhandle, which apparently is still a complete mess after that bad storm last year. Even 50 miles inland, he saw trees still resting on ruined houses, for example.

* * * * *

We hear that Rockland Ford plans to remove itself to another site on Route 1, and rename itself Yankee Ford.

Certainly it is true that Rockland Ford was never in Rockland, although nobody can be blamed for thinking the whole stretch of Route 1 between the cement plant and Wal-Mart is in Rockland, although it has always been part of Thomaston.

Of course, until the middle of the 19th century, all of Rockland was part of Thomaston.

* * * * *

There has been much talk lately about the reappearance of certain diseases against which most of our parents had the sense to have us vaccinated back in the '50s and '60s.

But more recent generations of parents have apparently been boycotting the vaccinations, by which I mean many have refused to have their own children vaccinated. Hence the recurrence of measles, etc.

The Mayo Clinic lists diphtheria, measles, polio and whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, as the big reasons for childhood vaccinations.

It is even alleged that a child recently sued his parents to force them to get him vaccinated, although unfortunately I can no longer cite the reference for that. So it may or may not be something I dreamed up.

I found myself wondering what sort of parents would come to the conclusion that vaccinations to protect their children against potentially fatal diseases are a bad thing, and I could only come up with two general categories: right-wing conspiracy theorists, and left-wing “hippie” conspiracy theorists.

But there is another angle to consider. A public radio call-in show recently heard from a caller who declared that parents who decline to immunize their children deserve to have a sheriff and a social worker show up on their doorsteps, and that these parents should immediately be hauled away to jail while the social worker takes the kids away in a van.

You cannot make this up. And if he represents anything close to a standard response to all this, then it suggests there is a whole fresh category of bloody fools involved.

Are we really willing to risk slipping back into 19th-century conditions, with their brutal social realities for the poor, their frightening rates of infant mortality and Rockland still part of Thomaston?

Many think this is indeed where we are headed, for all kinds of reasons.

Charles Dickens would not be pleased.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Donald Herrick | Mar 02, 2019 16:30

david you should do a little research, rockland ford used to be on main street in rockland near the ferry terminal

Posted by: Eric Thurston | Feb 28, 2019 16:08

Your neighbors are probably not innocent - but guilty by association. Also, my son's book explains where missing socks go. https://www.amazon.com/Missing-Sock-Jason-Thurston/dp/1477463097/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=missing+sock&qid=1551387946&s=books&sr=1-3

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