Monday, January 21, 2008

Mister Rogers, Beverly Hall & Me

I first came upon Beverly Hall's photography unwittingly; an iconic photo of Mister Rogers and local character Millie Jewett (aka Madaket Millie) hangs in the bedroom of West Wind, my mother's tiny rental next door to The Rogers' Crooked House.

Millie, like Mister Rogers, is a local legend on Nantucket. She was born and lived most of her 82 years on Nantucket, many of which were spent in a modest cottage on the edge of Hither Creek. The Nantucket Independent remembers her thusly:

Millie tried to enlist in the service when World War II broke out, but was turned down because of poor eyesight. Undaunted, she took to training dogs for military service, something she had an incredible talent for and the only part of her life in which she finally announced she took pride. Millie was not one to boast, as history attests.

In early January, 1947, the Coast Guard decommissioned and closed its Madaket station, established in 1891, for what was considered a lack of need for the outpost. But Millie, who had already taken an avid interest in the goings and comings of boats, discovered on that same day (which differs in records from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9) a freighter named Kotar went aground off Sheep Pond Road.

Its captain, disoriented in the fog, sent his distress signal as being 40 miles southeast of the island. When Millie saw the ship’s lights, she immediately alerted Coast Guard Station Brant Point. The incident, to her, was proof that a lookout was still necessary on Nantucket’s western end, and from that day on she maintained her vigil.


Two years ago, my mother gave me a book of Nantucket photography: beautiful, foggy black and whites shot largely on the West End. Until a few weeks ago, though, I hadn't really connected the dots. When I began researching coverage (that is, b-roll and photography), though, I came across Miss Hall's work and though, "Aha!"

So I emailed her.

She called on Friday, just as I was packing for a long weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. We had a terrific conversations. She's full of energy, enthusiasm, and, after 25 years in Madaket, is brimming with stories.

And so, between screenings, panels and red carpets, I booked Chris and I flights to Nantucket. We leave Friday night, and return Saturday evening.

I'm not sure where to fit Miss Hall's segment in the film. Were I a better producer/writer/director, I would have connected the dots earlier, we would have interviewed her over the summer and avoided any major continuity issues. (Thus far, none of our footage was shot in the winter). But, if this film (or at least this process) is some sort of hero's journey, then I need to follow the road and see where it takes me.

Friday night, all roads lead to Madaket.

1 comment:

Martine McBubbles said...

I'm sure you know by now that "..You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." I'm amazed to see how the dots have fallen into play for you. Woo for magic. Be well!
Martine