Carolyn Small, the Cumberland/North Yarmouth Lions Club’s citizen of the year for 2019, stands in the recently-emptied Cumberland Historical Society building. The 1853 former schoolhouse is due next month to be relocated to the Prince Memorial Library site. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

CUMBERLAND — Carolyn Small glanced around the barren former one-room schoolhouse. For three decades the building has been home to the Cumberland Historical Society, and since it was built in 1853 it’s sat at the corner of Blanchard Road and Main Street.

For Small, it was a bittersweet moment.

“I came up a little early because I wanted to bond with the old girl before she moved,” she said during an Oct. 2 interview. The building will be relocated 0.2 miles down Main Street to the site of Prince Memorial Library early next month, and be incorporated into a future expansion of that structure.

The schoolhouse has its own special story, as does Small, who joked that they both are “two old, decrepit ladies.” The Cumberland/North Yarmouth Lions Club honored Small’s story this year in naming her its 2019 citizen of the year, lauding her decades of service to the history, culture and education of the community. The organization also tapped A.H. Grover, Inc. as its business of the year.

“There are so many people in both towns that they could have selected,” Small said. “But I guess it was my turn. I’m honored, I’m humbled; I’m not speechless.”

A Lions Club committee chaired by Darla Hamlin nominated Small.

“It is obvious to all that meet her that Carolyn is very passionate about preserving history, has strong connections to Cumberland and North Yarmouth, and is admired by all who meet her,” Hamlin said. “Carolyn has enriched our community in a multitude of ways.”

A self-proclaimed “Navy brat,” Small was 15 when her family moved to North Yarmouth in 1959. She “nabbed myself a good-looking red-headed townie” – husband and former Fire Chief George Small – and built a home on Tuttle Road, where they’ve spent 54 years.

She started helping out at the Cumberland Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall in 1960, and became its superintendent in 1994.

Small began her 35-year career in education in 1975 as a teacher’s aide at the original North Yarmouth Memorial School, when her youngest son – and future Cumberland fire chief – Dan started kindergarten there.

“And then they decided that we needed to have a more elevated title, so we became educational technicians,” Small said dryly. “It didn’t increase our pay a heck of a lot.”

When fire destroyed that building the following year, school operations shifted temporarily to Wescustogo Hall, which burned down in 2013.

“We put on one heck of an American history (play),” she recalled. “I spent a lot of time bringing my Singer sewing machine and sewing costumes. It was a wonderful experience; we made the best of a bad situation, for sure.”

Small spent most of the ensuing years at the Mabel I. Wilson elementary school, teaching nearly 1,000 students during that time. “I started out working for two teachers; at the end of my career I was working for 28,” she said. “It kept me busy.”

Small chose to remain an education technician, because “I’m not nice enough to be teacher,” she said. “I’m not diplomatic enough.”

She founded Maple Sugar Days at the Wilson school, through which she led tours at the historical society. Small has introduced Cumberland’s history to more than 600 students.

Joining the society in 1988, she served as its president for 14 years and recently became the curator.

Small looks forward to the added exposure the new location should give the building, which has been emptied for the impending move. All of its relics – including a passport for and genealogy of a Jersey cow – are in storage until next spring.

“The town has just got such great things,” Small said. Which, as evidenced by the Lions Club award, include her.

“I try to downplay it a little because I try not to be boastful, but I am so proud of that,” Small said of the honor.

The plaque the club gave her “will go in the casket with me,” she added with a smile. “Hopefully not tomorrow, ’cause I’ve got too much to do.”

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