A walk in Mayor Baxter Woods

Recently, my husband and I enjoyed a walk in the woods between Portland’s Stevens Avenue and Forest Avenue. This is a 29-acre woodland park managed by the Portland Parks & Recreation Department. Historically, it was the site of a woodland estate owned by F.O.C. Smith and later by the Baxter family.

There are many interesting papers on a large bulletin board on the Stevens Avenue end of the park, telling many facts about the property. One of the papers said, “In witness whereof, I the said Percival Proctor Baxter, being unmarried, hereby set my hand and seal this eighth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and forty-six. The above described premises shall forever be retained and used by the people of Portland as a Municipal Forest and Park and for public recreation and educational purposes, the same forever to be known as ‘Mayor Baxter Woods.'” Yet the large sign reads, “Baxter’s Woods.” Percival Baxter also specified that “Any trees that shall fall or that may become a menace to life may be removed, but no other trees therein shall be taken down.”

There are many narrow trails leading off from the wide trail we followed. The trees are tall and beautiful. I intend to start from the Forest Avenue end soon. We met a lady walking her dog there, as well as an older couple starting the walk.

Earle Shettleworth, president of the Maine Historical Preservation Commission, also had a statement on the bulletin board, saying that “What James Phinney Baxter did for the city, Percival did for the state.”

We also read that “Portland Mayor James Phinney Baxter gave us Baxter boulevard, the Portland Public Library, the Trelawney building, larger Eastern and Western promenades, with drives; a larger Deering Oaks, the Portland Society of Art, invaluable and impeccable works on the history of the city, and the Portland Associated Charities, a forerunner of the United Way. As mayor, he single-handedly saved the Eastern Promenade from private development.”

James Phinney Baxter died in 1921, at age 90, at his home on Deering Street.

His son, Maine’s Gov. Percival Proctor Baxter, gave us Mayor Baxter Woods, Baxter State Park (including beautiful Mt. Katahdin), the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, Mackworth Island and the Baxter School for the Deaf there.

We also read on the bulletin board a description of the trees in Mayor Baxter Woods. “Forest species include White Oak, Red Oak, White Ash, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, American Beech, Yellow Birch, Red Pine, White Pine, Hemlock and Northern White Cedar. Unique in Portland are the stands of Hemlock, Beech and Yellow Birch. The Red Pine plantation planted along Stevens Avenue is an example of a planned forest, set out in rows around 1949.”

These woods and the delightful walk there make those who hike there proud to have all that wooded area preserved.

‘Enemies In the Heat Of Battle, Friends for 60 Years’

This headline in the June 20, 2004, New York Times article by James Brooks is under a four-column picture of John Rich Jr. and Takeo Sato, on the island of Saipan, where the 60th anniversary of the battle there was observed.

In the Winter of 2005 edition of the Bowdoin (College) Magazine is this brief account, in the Class of 1939 news (John’s graduation class), “John Rich, former president of the Foreign correspondents Club of Japan (Tokyo), returned to the Media Lounge in Tokyo for a reception with his wife, Doris Lee Rich, and their grandson, Dylan, last June. Jim Brooke laid the groundwork for the evening by writing in the N.Y. Times of Rich’s visit earlier in June to Saipan, where 60 years ago as a Marine language officer, he interrogated captured Japanese and helped pull Japanese navy officer Takeo Sato from the ruins of a sniper cave. Rich and Sato renewed their friendship after World War II when Rich was a Tokyo-based correspondent for the International News Service.” (From a Tokyo Press Club magazine article June 2004).

Brooke’s article says that armed with photographs and the home addresses of six of “my POWs.”

John wangled a jeep and, one by one, visited their family homes. Rich recalled that two little girls in wooden clogs led him up a little alley to Takeo’s house. His mother and kid brother, a college boy, were there. His picture was draped in black. They had his posthumous Buddhist name. They thought he was dead.

That news of the son’s survival provided the bond for a family friendship that has lasted a lifetime. “Takeo is a great guy, one of my best friends,” said John. “Wars end. People can get along right, if you treat them right.”

It is a beautiful story, that this friendship has developed and continued. Relatives of Sato have visited John and D. Lee at their Cape Elizabeth home.

Recipe

Before I give you Polly Spencer’s recipe for Blueberry Dessert, I want to mention what good cooks we have at Presumpscot Grange. At last week’s potluck supper, preceding our first meeting each month, we had a great selection. Ginny Elwell made meat balls and gravy; Pearl Mitchell brought a corn chowder, very welcome on a cool, rainy night; Marlene Moore made her delicious Pistachio Pudding; Anne Foote made an easy casserole, with tuna, a can of mushroom soup, and crushed potato chips; and Betty Huff brought a potato salad, plus the delicious dessert.

Blueberry dessert

A small carton of Cool Whip

A small pkg. of cream cheese

Graham cracker crumbs (Polly buys a box of crushed graham crackers). She adds a little butter to them.

A box of blueberries (soon you can pick your own).

Let the cream cheese soften up at room temperature, and then add to the Cool Whip. The dessert is made in layers, in an 8×8 or 9×11 (small) pan. The layers, in order, are cracker crumbs then blueberries, next more cracker crumbs, then the whipped mixture, more berries, and more crumbs as the top layer.

It was a popular dessert.

I have a pint box of frozen berries to use when I make this recipe.


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