The Friends of Evergreen Cemetery has announced plans for its tenth annual Memorial Day Walking Tour. It begins at 10 am on Monday, May 31st at the cemetery office on Stevens Avnue. “Seafaring Portlanders” is the theme of this year’s talk narrated by Janet Morelli.
Over the past ten years, this annual tour and others through-out the year have sought to educate the public about the people buried in the historic Evergreen Cemetery and the affect they had on the lives of Portland and New England generally. “Public education” is one of the goals written into the comprehensive plan prepared by the non-profit back in the 90s when the group was established said Janet yesterday afternoon on the telephone. In the pricey book, “Bold Vision,” 1999, Peter F. Morelli, in Chapter 4 on Evergreen Cemetery says: “…it is the power of retelling a community’s history to motivate it again…”
Unfortunately, the Friends has ignored a splendid opportunity to educate the public about a major, nation-wide cultural movement that took place in Maine between 1913 until to 1933 – and across the U.S. for a shorter period of time. Theodore Roosevelt called the movement – “the most American thing in America.” Others called it ‘culture under tents’. Every spring huge, brown tents sprung up in Niagara Falls, NY and brought the best available in political speakers, theater, music and much more to very small towns across America – ending here in Maine in Waterville around Labor Day. It was a community event in which women played a major organizing role. “Redpath Chautauqua of New York and (northern) New England was instrumental in making the education of women acceptable. The founder of this circuit and one of its performers are buried side-by-side at Evergreen.
Admittedly, MHN.com does have a personal interest in the subject! My grandparents who are not household names like John Calvin Stevens, etc. were directly involved in the northern New England movements. My grandfather founded and managed this circuit for its duration. My grandmother, born and raised on Cumberland Avenue, behind the city hall, was a soprano on the circuit. Their marriage was reported in the “Portland Evening Express” the forerunner of the “Portland Press Herald” reported back in 1910 in Falmouth Foreside at the family cottage. Their legacy is immeasurable.
It’s regrettable that the sellf-appointed caretakers of this public land have repeatedly ignored an opportunity to educate the public about a historical cultural movement that had such a positive impact on the lives of people in this State and across the nation. It’s ironic alright and very frustrating for their only granddaughter!