ALLAGASH – This town, nestled among the Allagash and St. John rivers and two townships of trees, may be one of the tiniest towns in Maine populationwise because its young and not-so-young people have had to leave, moving away to make a living at some point in their lives.
Allagash, population 277 in the 2000 census, seems to carve itself in the hearts and minds of its children. They have stories about their lives there and the haunting feeling of returning one day.
It was those feelings that launched Faye Hafford’s idea for a book. Hafford, the heart and soul of the town’s library, would receive notes from former residents about their feelings. With the help of her undaunted library volunteers, she put those sentiments together in a 90-page book.
“You Can Go Home Again” is the title of the collection of stories, memories and yearnings about Allagash. Funds from the sale will be used to assist the library, which is housed in the former Allagash School.
“The stories are from all over the country, the world,” she said. “It’s by people connected to the Allagash, their feelings and memories.”
“I have always been fascinated by the strong attachment that so many people feel about living in the Allagash, or working away and getting back here,” she wrote in the introduction of the book. “The feeling is so strong that the folks who had to leave for various reasons have been very miserable at times, because they are lonesome for the Allagash.”
The book has 50 stories. Hafford has more for a sequel, she said Wednesday.
“We did it for the library,” Hafford said.
The stories come from people such as Norma Kelly, who is now in Africa, where she works for and with a church. There’s also one from award-winning author Cathie Pelletier about when she was young and memories of her hometown.
A few of the 50 stories are from residents still in the Allagash, but the vast majority are from Allagashers, affectionately known as Moosetowners, who have had to move.
“Most of these people call this place home,” Hafford said when contacted at the library. Three basic themes are found in the stories as natives remember the humor, the rivers and their religious background.
“It’s a strange thing,” Hafford said. “I am still getting these notes, anecdotes.”
She said one person talked of the smells in the Allagash: the trees, the strawberries, things the person has clung to possibly while walking through the woods near the two rivers.
Some stories are from people who taught school in the Allagash, and some were from former schoolchildren. Hafford said some are sad, but still nice.
Bryan and Randi Jandreau did a lot of the makeup for the book, including the cover. The 300 available copies were published by County Qwik Print at Caribou.
The book is available for $15, plus $2 for shipping, from Hafford at 398-3159, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at the Allagash Public Library, 894 Allagash Road, Allagash 04774.