On 3 November 1999 the POW’s Cabin on Hurricane Island, Maine burned to the ground. A worker from Gaston’s house was staying there without permission, got the Franklin stove too hot, and set the wall afire. Luckily he escaped. The Vinalhaven Fire Department responded, but by the time they got there, there wasn’t anything to be done.
Below are thoughts and memories from people who knew the cabin.
Bridget Balthrop Morton
I first heard of the loss of POW’s cabin from my daughter Sarah. She’d had a call or an email and heard the news and called me immediately, knowing I would be as shaken and affected as she. We talked for a while but it wasn’t in the words. An important piece of our history had just been erased and we both knew it. I have been struggling with putting the meaning of it into words since. It’s still not in the words.
Why does this feel like such a loss? It was just a building. It’s not like death or disease or divorce. It must be that it is a symbol of something more for me. I guess that’s so for others, too, or Langley wouldn’t have re-opened this web-site. So I offer these words for me and for Sarah and for Strats (who would know better than I what to say) and for all of us who were present in those early years and who felt the energy and the magic that Peter and Betty Willauer and their remarkable family built and nurtured on Hurricane Island.
Part of it for me is the lack of history at HIOBS. Each course shows like a meteor in the sky and is gone, leaving us wondering if it really happened. We used to have an official photograph of each watch at the start of the course, but somehow that went by the boards in the ’70’s, probably when we started doing the overlapping courses. Each student of each watch used to sign in and sign out of the logbook, but that ended shortly after POW had to give up starting each course. It is a comfort that Pen is still working for HIOBS, because he is a link to those times.
My memory is not what it used to be (we are not that strength which in the old days moved earth and heaven), but I know we were privileged to be part of an extraordinary creation in a remarkable time. We still explore the Maine coast in small boats with primitive equipment and we still do great courses, one day at a time, and for this I am grateful. But in those early days we knew we were doing something more than that: we were engaged in nothing less than healing the world by inventing a new paradigm of teaching and learning and treating each other. That this lofty task demanded everything we could give was unquestionable. Even the Brits with scores of Outward Bound courses under their keels knew and accepted that something new under the sun was occurring at Hurricane Island.
I do not mean to say that all was wonderful in the old days and somehow diminished now. I think that the apprentice system of learning the craft of Outward Bound is working and that in a sense that POW and Ralph and Lance and Strats would approve, much of the art of Outward Bound has passed from generation to generation and grown stronger and richer in the process. I am amazed at the skill and care of young instructors today creating their courses, one student at a time. It is still wonderful to be in the field, but it is not what it was in the ’60’s and early ’70’s. Nor should it be.
But those of us who were there, either because we were employed as staff or because they were born into it, like the Willauer boys, know that we were lucky enough to be part of a glorious time that has past and shall not come again. And I think that because there is no record of that time save in our fading memories, I count too much on things like the Willauer cabin to be a repository of my feelings for all we did and endured together in those early years. And when it burns, it feels as though something were taken from me and from us all.
But of course, it hasn’t. Nothing can take away what we achieved in those years. I feel blessed and grateful to have been a part of them.
I worked in a production a few years ago with Joseph Bruchac, the Native American storyteller. At the end of the show he gathered us all in a circle and walked around it twice, meeting each of our eyes as he walked. When he had finished, he turned and addressed us all, saying simply, “You are remembered.”
And so I would say to each of you who shared those times: you are remembered.
With love and light,
(a.k.a. The Deep Draft Man)
I had my first yoga workshop in the Willaur cabin, with Betty as teacher and guide.
Betty gave Daniel his first ice cream on the porch one summer afternoon. She laughed slyly at my chagrin (he was seven months old) and then uproariously at Daniel’s newfound passion.
Sometimes I imagine myself on a writer’s retreat at Hurricane. I’m not in the Willauer cabin (I never aspired to such greatness...) but a fire crackles nearby. Heron Neck sings through the fog, and children play in the apple trees. I know peace there, as I've rarely found it elsewhere.
I remember the intensity of the sunlight in our bedroom in the early morning.
I remember Betty’s yogurt bar (14 flavors) that she ran out of the kitchen.
I remember several Thanksgivings, the five of us camping out.
I remember POW’s big key chain that hung on a hook by the door (“every lock on the island”).
I remember Betty and I poking our heads in the door last summer, knowing it would be her last time there.
I remember every rock and root on the path from the Mess Hall up the hill
I remember playing on the rug with the big basket of wooden lobster boats Ken Hatch and POW used to make for us on the band saw.
I remember the annual midnight ritual of POW trying to catch a bat with a butterfly net, while Mom shrieked from the bed.
I remember the large stuffed alligator that Charlie and a friend won at the Union Fair during a rare mainland excursion.
I remember, vividly, the particular smell of a spruce-wood fire in the Franklin fireplace.
I remember how Mom would redo the settee cover every couple of years, and how sun-bleached the old covers would be.
I remember our first KLH stereo and taking turns picking the music we’d go to sleep by (Roger Williams (“Born Free”) for Langley; Peter, Paul and Mary for Dowzer; and Simon and Garfunkel for Chasbo?)
I remember the Penobscot Bay chart decorated in water color by Jamien Moorehouse (or was it Mary Macy?)
I remember a boot print and a sneaker print on the boards that made the ceiling of our bedroom.
I remember the eerie silence and carnage after a young bald eagle decimated the chicken flock.
I remember Phoebe Miner teaching me about photography.
I remember the lights and sound from my bed of the M/V Hurricane arriving late at night.
I remember lots of foggy days, where you couldn’t see the water.
I remember having water fights with the fire extinguisher.
I remember the eclectic library over the living room settee.
I remember trimming spruce trees with POW to preserve the view up Hurricane Sound.
I remember observing a gray bird with a black cap on the path down the hill, and running back up to the cabin to have Mom tell me that it was a catbird, thus beginning a lifetime of watching birds.
I remember deciding who would get which dresser drawers for the summer.
I remember rainy days, playing the card game “war”, and one of us being “Red China” and another being “Russia”.
But mostly I remember a parade of the most remarkable people in the world: HIOBS staff, trustees, world travellers, and family friends, sharing countless evenings together.
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