Three kings

By David Grima | Apr 18, 2019

Received the following message Saturday from Fabulous Bob: “David, the peepers are peeping. Spring is here!”

Once upon a time, I used to correspond with several readers each year about the first sound of spring peepers, those squeaky little frogs that emerge from hibernation around this time of year.

Always glad to hear the news. I expect they will be singing again in Rockland, soon, too. Up in the cattails along Thomaston Street, or behind the former JC Penney store at the Maverick Street shopping center, they can usually be relied on.

* * * * *

I think the reconstruction of South Main Street has been rescheduled to begin April 22. The sooner the better.

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There was some interesting information about vaccinations in last week’s newspaper, and in theory it ought to provide some food for thought for the many people who refuse to protect their children from some very nasty childhood diseases.

Not only do these philosophical dissenters not protect their own, but, of course, they put other children at risk, too.

Another casualty is truth over fiction. It was particularly interesting to read about the much-cited medical study that alleged a link between vaccinations and autism. Seems the quack who conducted the study simply faked it, and eventually had his medical license stripped from him.

The real question is whether information such as was provided last week can possibly have any effect on people these days. It seems unlikely, doesn’t it? We seem to have reached a state in the life of the republic when the last thing anybody wants is information. Rather, they only want material that reinforces their existing opinions.

Unfortunately, this observation is a mere commonplace, and no longer even raises eyebrows.

* * * * *

A few weeks ago, on a pleasant afternoon, an SUV emerged from Fulton Street in the South End just as I was driving through its intersection with Suffolk Street, and heading home to the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live.

The normal drill is for vehicles to come to a halt at the Fulton Street stop sign to see if the street is clear, but on this occasion the traditional protocol was overlooked and the other vehicle connected almost perfectly with my driver’s-side door, causing quite a lot of bent and smashed metal, as well as a modest amount of temporary grief for poor me.

To his credit, the driver of the SUV admitted immediately that it was all his fault. Auto insurance companies tend to discourage their policyholders from making such direct statements of responsibility under these circumstances, but in this case the gentleman made a full confession. For this courtesy, I thank him much.

I only tell this minor tale of routine mishap in order to explain why I am driving a rental car at the moment, and I only mention that so I can tell you of my experience at a traffic light about 45 seconds after I picked up the rental. I was hooted at from behind by a pickup truck driver who I think disapproved of the fact that I was not instantly on the gas pedal, off the mark and roaring away.

I am almost never hooted at, even when I commit such modern sins as this; however, there is an interesting variable at play here, and my heart sinks as I wonder if this variable alone explains why the driver hooted at me.

The rental car has Tennessee plates.

Long ago I noted that Mainers rarely lean on the horn to other Mainers, other than after maybe the first five minutes spent waiting behind someone who gets stuck at a traffic light. In the normal run of things, it is people from away who use the horn rather more freely than we do. Possibly the gentleman in the truck figured he’d get in some revenge on this clown from Tennessee, and possibly in response to some slight or insult he had received a couple or three summers back?

Of course, like the anti-vaccination people, I could be completely out to lunch on this subject, and my hypothetical reconstruction of the incident, based only on the few facts I am aware of, could be absolutely wrong. Maybe this guy hoots at everybody, regardless of license plates?

But another lesson I have learned from these Modern Times is that one should never, ever, admit to the possibility of being wrong.

Just as well the fellow who hit my car didn’t play that game, isn’t it?

* * * * *

I received a kind note from a St. George Grange member, after I wrote last week’s piece about how the Grange movement is faring these days. Much appreciated.

* * * * *

Was Rockland native Maxine Elliott a friend of British politician Winston Churchill? It seems likely.

Born Feb. 5, 1868, in a house located where the railroad station is now, I believe, her real name was Jessie Dermott. She prospered in show biz under her stage name, and was apparently quite a star on Broadway. I am under the impression she was the only woman in the States to own her own theater, at one point, and she eventually crossed the Atlantic to work in Britain.

According to the International Movie Data Base, Elliott quit her British acting career during World War I “to outfit and staff a barge as a floating hospital, to nurse wounded soldiers in France.”

She befriended King Edward VII, (he was a few years before Edward VIII, in case you weren’t certain), and the other day I found her mentioned in Andrew Roberts' recent biography, “Churchill: Walking With Destiny,” where she is described as the kind of person whom people of Churchill’s type were not expected to befriend, because of their very different social classes. Despite that, they were friends.

(After all, Churchill’s mother was American. Maybe that helped them get along? It can have done them no harm.)

Elliott apparently died March 5, 1940, in the south of France, just as Europe was about to fall apart in the face of German military aggression. Her death came just a few days before Churchill was asked by King George VI to take over as prime minister.

(Three kings in one column, and it’s not even Christmas!)

Unless my mind is playing its awful tricks on me, I think I read in the Courier that the house where she was born was later removed to Halls Lane, and was demolished within the past year or so, because it had fallen into something worse than mere disrepair.

Which reminds me of the roads in Rockland. Funny how that keeps happening!

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Linda Hillgrove | Apr 20, 2019 09:17

W.T. Grant's department store preceded Penney's. They had a fast food counter with stools as well. Have a movie of husband and toddler (now 51 y.o.) running towards our car after shopping. It also happens too frequently that drivers want our side of the road....scary. sorry about your inconvenience but happy no one was injured/killed.

Linda Hillgrove

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 19, 2019 13:39

Appreciate you sharing your own experiences, David.  Sorry about the car. Thankful Dad taught me to accept responsibility when wrong, pay the price and move on. A few weeks ago was stopped by a Knox county Deputy when attempting to get through a light before it changed. Have absolutely no idea how fast I was going, yet when he came to the door I apologized for speeding and he said that is why he didn't write me a ticket.  I believe that most people will let us move on when we make a mistake.  Robert Kraft has done that graciously and may face the embarrassment of having the video released; yet I believe his integrity remains in the mind of most of us.

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