North by East
One Hampden woman has a voice heard around the world, the Wiscasset bypass, and more.
Cartoon by Bill Woodman
Out of the Maine woods comes the voice of the world’s airports and subways.
If you travel, you’ve probably met Carolyn Hopkins, albeit in an ethereal sort of way. Hers is the warm yet authoritative voice that asks you to mind your baggage at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and lets you know that your train is just two stations away in the subway of New York. She nudges you (in English) away from the platform edge of the Paris Métro, and she tells you (also in English) to have your boarding pass ready at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. If her reassuring tone isn’t enough to reduce your travel stress at these and countless other venues, perhaps knowing that the guidance comes from a bucolic village in Maine will.
For nearly half of her twenty-five-year career as a voice-over professional, Hopkins has recorded announcements for train stations, airports, even Disney World, from her home in Hampden, a riverside community of 4,100 people just south of Bangor. She is the ultimate telecommuter, her voice trotting the globe to help people get from point A to point B, which often are places she herself has never been.
“Friendly” is how she describes her voice, adding, “I am blessed with a voice that cuts through noise without being shrill. It’s a voice that has several tones that allow me to be heard well.”
She doesn’t drop her r’s or make affirmations with a salty “ayuh.” Rather, her accent is decidedly Midwestern, with a slight Kentucky twang; however, we think the comity Hopkins brings to her task is pure Maine. “I smile when I do the announcements,” she says. “You have to, because you can hear it if your voice is down and your face is not animated. It makes a huge difference.”
And yes, some Maine commuters do regularly obey the directives of Carolyn Hopkins. Riders on the Amtrak Downeaster hear her upon arrival at Boston’s North Station, and travelers in Portland International Jetport follow her orders too. “But I’m not in Bangor yet, darn it,“ Hopkins says.
Maybe we can help change that: Good afternoon, Bangor International Airport. Carolyn Hopkins, the voice of public transit, is just one town away. Please get your public address system on board.
The effort to build a bypass around Wiscasset has stalled. What were the odds?
Thousands and thousands of words have been written about the effort to reroute Route 1 around Wiscasset village, which in summer produces one of the most frustratingly congested stretches of roadway in the state. This time, we’ll let numbers bring the saga up to date.
53: years since a Route 1 bypass around Wiscasset village was first proposed
39.2: median age of Wiscasset’s 3,500 residents
25: the village speed limit, in miles per hour
15,000: vehicles passing through Wiscasset daily in winter
25,000: vehicles passing through Wiscasset daily during peak summer months
8: weeks that Wiscasset experiences peak summer traffic
5: miles that traffic backs up outside Wiscasset on some summer weekends
52: percent of Wiscasset voters who, in a 2002 referendum, preferred improving the existing roadway to building a bypass
10: months since the Army Corps of Engineers identified the least environmentally damaging route that the Maine Department of Transportation should pursue
10: minimum number of years it will take to complete the bypass if funding, permitting, and property acquisition go smoothly
50: years of useful life remaining for the Donald Davey Bridge, which currently carries Route 1 over the Sheepscot River from Wiscasset to Edgecomb. When it fails, it likely will not be rebuilt if a bypass is constructed.
100 million: number of dollars needed to build the bypass
100: properties that could be taken by eminent domain in order to construct the bypass
4: years since the bald eagle was removed from the Federal List of Endangered Wildlife and Plants
500: pairs of nesting bald eagles in Maine
1: number of bald eagle’s nests found in the pathway of the proposed bypass route one month after the army released its decision
0: bald eagles that have actually used the nest
0: viable options for redrawing the bypass route around the nest
0: amount of money we’re willing to bet that we’ll see a Wiscasset bypass in our lifetime
The Perfect Sword
What does it mean to have Linda Greenlaw’s name on your dinner?
Anytime a chef achieves celebrity status, a host of branded products is sure to follow. Less common are food products bearing the name of the individual who raised or harvested them. Sure, you’ve eaten Frank Perdue poultry, but you didn’t think the tough man slaughtered those tender chickens himself, did you?
That’s what sets Linda Greenlaw Swordfish, marketed fresh for the first time this past fall, apart: buyers know that their dinner was hooked and landed on the Grand Banks and carried to shore by Maine’s most famous fisherman and her crew on the Hannah Boden. The fish was sold by Portland’s Browne Trading Company, whose customers include high-end restaurants from coast to coast, and by Hannaford supermarkets in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Sales were brisk, so the brand is likely to be back next fall, when the three-month North Atlantic swordfish season re-opens.
Greenlaw shot to fame after being declared “one of the best swordboat captains, period, on the East Coast” by Sebastian Junger in his best-selling book The Perfect Storm. She has since written seven bestsellers of her own and starred in The Discovery Channel’s Swords: Life on the Line. She even earned a little notoriety after being arrested for straying into Canadian waters during the reality show’s filming.
So what is the value in having Linda Greenlaw’s name on your swordfish? “People want to know where the products come from and who’s behind them,” says Browne Trading Company president Rod Mitchell, who conceived of the branding scheme and handpicks the fish from the Hannah Boden. “Our chefs trust us. Linda adds to that reputation because of the way she catches fish. It’s all about sustainability.”
Ten years ago, swordfish fans may recall, many chefs took the meaty fish off their menus at the urging of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Give Swordfish A Break campaign. Thanks to subsequent quota restrictions and the closure of U.S. swordfish nursery areas, the North Atlantic swordfish population went from the brink of collapse to healthy levels within a few years. “In theory,” Greenlaw asserts, “you could fish at this level forever and you’d always have swordfish.”
In addition, American longline swordfishermen are now required to use more environmentally responsible methods. Gone are the j-hooks that tended to gut-hook swordfish and any other animals, such as seabirds and sea turtles, that went for the bait. “Quite often the fish was dead when you brought it to the side of the boat,” Greenlaw says. “Now we’re harvesting with circle hooks, and 99 percent of the fish are hooked in the corner of the mouth. They’re alive when they come to the side of the boat, and if you catch a small fish or sea turtle, it’s easy to pop the hook out and release it.” Swordfish that are landed alive happen to taste better, too.
U.S. Seafood Watch, a sustainable seafood advisory program, concurs that U.S. longline-caught swordfish is a good choice. The best, however, is harpooned swordfish because it has none of the bycatch that is inherent to longline fishing with its miles and miles of multi-hooked and baited lines. Most harpooned swordfish comes from Nova Scotia.
When it comes to fishing practices, then, Linda Greenlaw Swordfish is not different from any other legally caught U.S. swordfish, but it’s hard to deny the kick that comes with knowing that the famous captain caught your dinner.
The latest chapter to close had plenty of active members.
Granges all over Maine have been dissolving due to declining membership, so news that the curtain had fallen on one of the state’s more robust clubs piqued our interest. Turns out the fifty-member Bunker Hill Grange in Jefferson has not disappeared. It has been reborn.
“We surrendered our charter because some of us who are newer members didn’t want to perform all the rituals and ceremonies that being in the Grange requires,” explains Ken Anderson, the former Grange master of what is now the Bunker Hill Community Club. “But we all want to continue to do good and have fun doing it.” (“Newer member” is a relative term in the Grange: Anderson has been a member for fifteen years. Some veterans go back more than fifty years.)
Founded in 1867, the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry aims to be a social center for rural communities and to advocate for farmers in Washington, D.C. With the decline in small farms and social and cultural changes, the Grange has seen a dramatic drop in membership, and Maine is no exception. The state counted 55,000 Grangers in the early 1900s; now there are just 5,500. Bunker Hill is the first chapter to cut ties over the fraternal organization’s rituals, which are modeled after those of Freemasonry. It will, Anderson says, keep doing all the things it always did and more — activities like purchasing Christmas gifts for needy area children, holding a community picnic in July, and partnering on service projects with other charitable groups.
Some of Bunker Hill’s long-timers struggled with dropping the elaborate governing structure, membership degrees, and passwords, Anderson said, but ultimately the vote was unanimous. In fact, the chapter had been running a more relaxed ship as a so-called Action Grange for the last several years, and it was that practice that led to the identity crisis in the first place.
The Action Grange program, introduced by the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry in 2001, allowed chapters to forego some of the formalities and create new ways to serve their communities. Unbeknownst to Bunker Hill Grange, however, the program no longer exists. “It was an experiment in building membership that ended a few years ago,” says James Owens, master of the Maine State Grange, which informed Bunker Hill of its rules violation. “It was decided that we need a standardized way of conducting business.”
That may be true, but the departure of the Bunker Hill chapter (which Anderson emphasizes was amicable) suggests the Grange will be debating the relevance of its traditions for some time to come.