SMALL WONDER: A HISTORY OF SMALL POINT by Tom Hinkle; Arcadia Publishing, 2020; 112 pages, $23.99.


Of small towns, irreverent comic Lenny Bruce (1925-1966) once joked: “I hate small towns because once you’ve seen the cannon in the park there’s nothing else to do.” Well, Small Point, Maine doesn’t even have a cannon, and there’s still not much to do there, at least not enough to attract tourists.

Small Point, however, does have an interesting history as a little-known summer colony in Phippsburg, located at the end of a 15-mile long peninsula on the coast. “Small Wonder” is Tom Hinkle’s detailed history of Small Point. He is an artist, historian and resident of Small Point, delighted to report that if Small Point isn’t your destination, there’s no reason to go there. In fact, he relates that in the 1880s summer residents didn’t want any directional road signs pointing people to Small Point.

Although far overpriced for a slim, soft-cover book, “Small Wonder” is rich with details of early history, development (very little), industry (not much), famous families, architecture and furnishings of summer “cottages,” and the lively summer social life. Early history includes Sir Humphrey Gilbert anchoring his ship in the harbor in 1583. No battles were ever fought at Small Point, but Indians did burn the fort in 1714.

Best, however, are Hinkle’s stories of summer cottage construction and occupation by well-known Maine family names like Bodwell, Manley, Cony, Patten, Hyde and Sewall. He also tells of early real estate development (both flops), and the creation of the Small Point Club where members could enjoy adult alcoholic beverages in a state that went dry in 1853. Rum punch was a popular choice. Apparently, the sheriff was not a member.

By the way, the Small Point anthem is reportedly the Navy Hymn. Figure that one out.



GO BY BOAT: STORIES OF A MAINE ISLAND DOCTOR by Dr. Chuck Radis; Down East Books, 2021; 185 pages, $24.95.

In the 1980s, year-round Casco Bay islanders did not have access to a doctor until Dr. Chuck Radis set up an island practice through the National Health Services Corps. He served as the only doctor for the tourists and year-round residents of four islands: Peaks, Long, Cliff and Chebeague. And “Go By Boat” is his memoir of those remarkable years.

Dr. Radis is an award-winning physician, general practitioner, specialist in rheumatology and a talented writer and storyteller. This is a gritty, unvarnished memoir, warts and all, sometimes funny, more often grimly sad and tragic.

Having just finished his medical training, he moved with his young family to Peaks Island to run the Peaks Island Health Center. His first challenge was convincing skeptical islanders that he was a real doctor. He is a DO, a doctor of osteopathy, not an MD, but MD is what islanders understood. Winning the trust and confidence of people was not easy.

He saw patients at the clinic, but he also made 100 house calls each year, traveling by boat from island to island, in good weather and bad. His practice consisted of clinic visits, house calls (their house), and home visits (his house on Peaks). He tells of treating patients for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, infections, pulmonary disease, alcohol and drug abuse, and anemia, as well as lacerations and broken bones. The descriptions of diagnoses, procedures and treatments are graphic, gruesome and unsettling, especially with patients who refuse to follow his advice or comply with treatment regimens.

Stories include the always exciting transfer of patients from the islands to Portland hospitals by ferry, police boat or fire boat, even in winter. But, Dr. Radis never lost sight of his purpose: “to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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