Chebeague Island’s transfer station was temporarily closed last week. All seven giant dumpsters were full. Replacements weren’t due to arrive by barge for days. And summer has just started.

The crocheted gloves that Pip Ross bought from the auction of the props from the 1987 movie “The Whales of August,” with an eye toward opening an antique shop. Photo courtesy Susan Q. Stranahan

Getting rid of stuff on an island has always been problematic. That’s been compounded by today’s propensity to replace and not reuse. What is being lost is the proud island tradition of hanging on to things – in case someday they might be useful, or even valuable.

Which brings us to the story of Bette Davis’ gloves.

First, let’s meet Priscilla “Pip” Ross, for whom “someday it might be useful” was gospel. Pip and her husband, Poochie (christened Richard but never called that), were lifelong Chebeaguers. He was a fisherman; she dreamed of one day opening an antiques store in the bungalow next to their house. Over the years, Pip collected all sorts of treasures, items she was certain would one day be valuable, or at least useful.

Then, in 1986, Hollywood arrived. Suddenly, Pip’s prospects soared.

That year a crew filming the movie “The Whales of August” descended on nearby Cliff Island. The stars included Bette Davis, Lillian Gish and Vincent Price. Davis and Gish played two aged sisters returning to the cottage where they had spent their summers since childhood.


According to published accounts, none of the cast was happy to be billeted on Cliff, which, Price claimed, was “surrounded by wind and wet.” Finding suitable island housing was another challenge. Given the age of the stars. (Davis was 78; Gish, 93, and Price, 75), the prerequisite, a crew member explained, was locating three island houses with bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor. And heat.

Davis, irascible throughout her career no matter where she worked, but especially difficult on Cliff, entertained herself by knitting and crocheting. Photos of her working on knitting projects, both on- and off-camera, are numerous. Knitting maintained her sanity, she explained. She often wore her own creations.

When the film’s costume department assembled wardrobes for the cast, it seemed fitting that Davis, portraying a proper elderly lady, be provided with a pair of crocheted gloves. Were they Davis’ own handiwork? That fact is lost to history.

Also among the props were a parasol carried by Gish and a walking stick for Price.

When Hollywood decamped from Cliff, the props were auctioned off. Pip Ross’ moment had come. Bette Davis’ gloves? Lillian Gish’s parasol? Vincent Price’s walking stick? Perfect additions for her long-planned antiques business. At auction, Pip snagged the gloves and parasol.

Then, as with many well-laid plans, fate intervened. Pip’s dreams of an antiques shop faded as her health declined. She died in 2016 at age 78. Her beloved Poochie died last year at age 93.

Recently, as Pip’s daughter was cleaning out the remnants of her parents’ lifetime in their home and bungalow, she found the crocheted gloves that Pip bought nearly 40 years ago. Bette Davis’ gloves.

An internet search produced some surprises. Although Davis died in 1989, interest among collectors remains high. A pair of Davis’ crocheted gloves recently sold online for more than $500. No one can certify that Pip’s gloves are Davis’ handiwork, or even if Davis ever wore them. But their connection to the actress and Cliff Island’s moment of Hollywood fame is undisputed.

So, Pip Ross’ tradition of hanging on to something in hopes that “someday” it becomes useful lives on. She’d be proud to know that soon the donated gloves will once again be auctioned – this time to benefit Chebeague’s seven-bed assisted living facility, Island Commons. No doubt: They were too valuable to be thrown away.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.