Aunt Hattie

Aunt Hattie 1885 to well into the 1950s (She’s a fictional character telling a true story. This is as close as we can come!)

Ferry Beach Park Association is a Unitarian Universalist Conference Center in Saco, Maine. When I first stayed at Ferry Beach as a young teen I fell in love with the place and the people, and never wanted to leave. Later I visited as a young adult and brought my three daughters.  In the past 20 plus years I have attended conferences and gatherings several times each summer. It has become my spiritual home.

Ferry Beach was founded by The Reverend Quillen Shinn, a Universalist minister, in 1901. An idyllic setting of sandy beach, ocean, a hotel and cottages already on location, and a wondrous grove of tall pine trees combined to attract visitors and keep them coming year after year. It is a place that truly reflects the Universalist message of “God is Love.”

During a dinner table conversation a couple of years ago my mind turned to my storytelling and how I might help folks to better know Ferry Beach. What came to mind was an existing chatty, informative book of the history of Ferry Beach covering the years 1901-1944 (Universalists at Ferry Beach, A History, by Katherine Augusta Sutton and Robert F. Needham), published in 1948. Some of the founders were still active in the Association at that time and added to the book’s details.

The Rev. Dr. Quillen Shinn

Why did the Universalists come? How did the buildings get their names? (There’s a building named for Carrie Underwood?) What is the “Ferry Beach Spirit”? And… what, oh what, was the Dummy Train?

The slim dark red history is in the campus library, readily available to all who come. Some pick it up, but… the beach calls, or there’s a campfire in the grove! Do I hear singing? How many ever finish reading the book? And who can tell you later what they read?

As stated and implied elsewhere on this site, I believe that when one sees and hears a story performed the details are more likely to stick. Who would tell such a story after more than 100 years? Well, one day a voice whispered in my ear and said she was there working in the old hotel, and met Quillen Shinn the day he arrived. Over the years she saw and heard it all, and is more than willing to share the story. Thus Aunt Hattie came to life!

And, how many wonderful stories there are – about tenting with skunks, competitions between the campers and those in the dorms, the music, parades, and all the wondrous people. Don’t forget about ‘our Miss Forbes’! She invested her $100 in a third floor room to help to buy the old hotel. Other investors soon sold their rooms back to the Association. Our Miss Forbes “took the northeast corner room on the third floor, occupying it every season from 1904 to 1943 when she moved to the room directly below, formerly used by Mrs. Quillen Shinn.” And there is so much more to tell about Eleanor Forbes and many others.

The Universalists made unusual efforts to acknowledge and include women as well as men in the planning, fundraising and continuation of Ferry Beach. Women did have a voice in this group, and Aunt Hattie is not shy about speaking her mind. She represents all the women who worked at Ferry Beach over the years. (Including me!) She may have been ‘only a chamber maid,’ but don’t forget they made every bed in every room each morning back in the early days… I imagine there is not much that escaped her notice. And just what was in the trunk that required two burly men to carry it to the third floor each time Mrs. Kennedy came to stay?

This story includes a slide show of all the buildings on campus and pictures of many of the early “pioneers” of Ferry Beach. Aunt Hattie is available to speak to groups age 10 and up.  Please be advised that her story is specific to Ferry Beach.

[All of my historic characters are presented in first person, while dressed in appropriate period clothing. This 35-40 minute presentation is told without notes. It differs from a one-women play, in that only the outline of the story is memorized. The story is a bit different with each telling, often in reaction to the audience. That is storytelling.] 


Want a visit from Aunt Hattie?