Red truck, white truck, blueberry pie

By Eva Murray | Jul 09, 2011
Photo by: Eva Murray Juggler at the parade, Tom Ulichny driving.

The 4th of July parade on Matinicus is already becoming a tradition worth cultivating in honor of art, hilarity, second-hand firefighting apparatus and every islander’s well-honed skill in mechanical improvisation.



Welcome to summer. At my house we’re into bakery season now, and my kitchen is completely monopolized by piles of flour and sugar in 50-lb. bags and similar bulk commodities of a singularly unhealthy nature. A tall pile of 25-lb. boxes full of chocolate chips is the stuff of fantasy for some, but for two months every summer it is my reality, along with doughnut “scrids” every morning for breakfast and more flour under my fingernails than some people eat in a given day. By Labor Day I don’t ever want to see another whoopie pie, State of Maine official dessert or not. In my freezer are five 30-lb. boxes of flash-frozen blueberries (OK, they’re good for you,) purchased a bit farther east and driven to Owls Head in great haste and flown out to the island by the air service (tourists ask: do you go around the island and pick all the berries for your bakery? One hardly knows where to begin.)

On the 3rd of July, because (typical of Matinicus) that’s when people could get here--and it being a Sunday the fishermen were obligated to dry land—the 4th of July parade was scheduled for 11 a.m.  Determined to get done with the baking in time I pulled an oven full of blueberry pies out just in time, squirmed quickly out of the Common Ground Fair first-aid team T-shirt because it was not of a patriotic enough hue, grabbed the first red T-shirt I could lay a hand on (that being an old Radio Bates College shirt from 1982, rather faded,) and scrambled up overhead in the shop to find the cymbals. My intention this year was to be a spectator and take photos for our kids, who being of an age to have to support Subarus find themselves employed on the mainland. Outside, my little neighbors Owen and Abby were being piled aboard a small vehicle which need not be elaborated upon in print, with plans to be part of the parade. I gave Owen my cymbals.

Paul had some American flags on sticks left from when he’d got a whole bunch for the cemetery one year, and managing to locate them from under a pile of tools in time, he and I piled into one of the four white telephone company and ex-telephone company utility body trucks which ring this yard like mushrooms after a rainstorm.  “Where would you like to park?” We stopped the truck at the recycling sheds, dropped the tailgate, attached a couple of the flags to the ladder rack (I had rummaged around in the truck and found some hose clamps for the job but Paul pulled a roll electrical tape out of his pocket instead). Across the road, Sam did the same with his flag-blue pickup so we had appropriately colored viewing stands on both sides. Before long, a couple dozen other people wandering up from the south end of the island congregated at the recycling area to watch the parade--Prices and Booths and Tarklesons and Sears and renters from the A-frame and all kinds of assorted friends and relatives, not to mention numerous dogs. Most everybody wore red white and blue, or daisies in their hair, or something purposefully silly. Similar crowds gathered at the school, and the four-way intersection, and the church.

The parade proceeded from up by the island church roughly a half a mile south to the cemetery and back again, along the main road on the ridge of the island. First came small children and the brass section, that being two trombone players (Ellie and Tom, playing “Yankee Doodle”). Then Donna and Charlie on their four wheeler, covered with balloons and flags and throwing candy, and Owen and Abby riding very safely with their mom Sarah and the cymbals. A golf-cart pirate ship laden with college-age sound-end hooligans almost had a small maritime incident with the parade float upon which the See You Next Tuesday women’s drinking, ahem, I mean benevolent society gathered around several boxes of wine. Then, Jerm and his four-wheeler pulled the enormous Mardi Gras float (“Happy July 3rd! the kids shouted, throwing Mardi Gras beads and wearing purple, green and gold masks). Walt drove a bright red pickup truck filled with nicely kitted-out toddlers in sailor suits waving flags, while simultaneously firing confetti charges out of a PVC pipe cannon (Walt, not the little kids). He was followed by Maury’s star-spangled red pickup sporting 4x8’ plywood American flag sideboards. Perhaps the most amazing was Tom’s jeep, buried in random junk and enormous pieces of driftwood, trailing a vacuum cleaner and topped off with a burn barrel (…uh, did I say burn barrel? Of course not. Merely an artifact from days gone by) with some buddy of Tom’s  who happened to be out visiting the island up there juggling Indian clubs on the roof of the vehicle. Boy, could that man juggle! Even our severely bombed-out dirt roads didn’t make him miss a beat. Whoever he is, we hope he comes back next year.

Finally, the fire trucks paraded, and if there is one thing Matinicus Island has it is fire trucks. Sam had mentioned as we set up our tailgate bleachers that he’d got “his” truck, acquired out of Uncle Henry’s when he was on the board of assessors--and which is still lettered up “Boothbay” --started that morning but unfortunately he’d lost the power steering immediately. A man would probably want power steering to get a fire truck up out of the harbor-side roadhead known as the “flakeyard.” The guys had more success with the Vinalhaven truck, driven by town fire warden Robert in his Uncle Sam hat, accompanied by Rex the dog, the neon green Mount Vernon truck, driven by Clayton and Yoda the white dog, the Appleton truck (which we actually got from the town of Hope) driven by Nick, and the Union utility truck, driven by Calvin –and Titan, the enormous pseudo-Dalmation, he being a “harlequin Great Dane” and larger than a small ox. The Vassalboro civil defense truck and the Sullivan truck (which made such a huge difference pumping salt water when this town battled the post office fire a few years ago) did not make the parade this year.

Yes, each of these trucks is still lettered with the town from which we got it. Herewith, a salute to all of them.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.