Ah … “Hometown” … such a powerful topic! Now I say that knowing that some people have very little connection to the town they grew up in. Yes, they have moved on and may not have had that great an experience growing up anyway. Not the case for me! I loved Stonington! But here’s the thing. Stonington, Maine, is actually not my “hometown,” either, in some ways. The story is that my family emigrated from Larvik, Norway, after World War II and we settled in Stonington because my dad was a stonecutter and there was a prominent granite quarry there.

Growing up in the small coastal community of Stonington, where there were only 27 students in her graduating class, offered “a sense of community you just can’t find in cities or larger towns,” Karin Olsen Gamache writes. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer, File

My twin brother, Svend, and I were 4; my sister, Grethe, was 6; and my older brother, Bjorn, was 10. Larvik was our “hometown,” but the Germans occupied it during the war, and my mom and dad felt it was time to make a new home in America. Yes, Stonington was our “adopted” hometown during those tender growing-up years. I love going back to visit. I love walking through the town, feeling the fresh, clear, cool air and taking in the “eye-candy” coastline.

It’s almost magical as I think of this beautiful island community. Memories of the “good times” just flow, like water down a quiet stream. Ah, that brings me to the smelting stream we went to after the prom, such simple silly things like that we did. Our high school was small, only 27 in our graduating class. We shared the building with grades K-6, while the junior high was in the “new” building with the gym and stage. We had it all.

It was a simpler time, not just because it was in the ’50s and ’60s, but because it was a small island community. As youngsters, we played outside most of the time. Hide-and-seek, kick the can and red rover were favorites. When it was raining, Monopoly kept us going all afternoon. We swam in the cold, icy ocean, picnicked on the rocky shore, ate gum off the trees and camped on a blanket under the stars.

In the summers through high school and college, I worked in the Harbor Lights Restaurant. While we took pride in being less commercialized than Bar Harbor, we still did get quite an influx of tourists in the summer, and they all landed at the Harbor Lights at some point. Living in Stonington in the summertime was quite the experience, one that I will always treasure.

As I think about my hometown, I am filled with nostalgia and pride. Growing up in a small coastal town gives one an opportunity to develop a true sense of identity. There’s space and time to try new things and to think about who you are. There is also such a nice feeling of being a part of something good. Small-town people care and take care of each other. There’s a sense of community you just can’t find in cities or larger towns. How blessed my family and I were to settle in such a special place as Stonington, Maine.

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