New England

It Takes a Village to Unstick a Trunk

A Maine man finds a small problem leads to a message he will remember.

By Mel Allen

Sep 11 2023

Mark Kallick

Mark Kallick, pictured wearing his pink rainbow hat in his car.

Photo Credit : Courtesy of Mark Kallick

Sometimes when scanning newspapers for nuggets that shed light on not only New England, but also New Englanders, I find anecdotes tucked away in letters to the editor or unexpected columns, far from the front pages filled with the news of the day. This is one of those.

In the Ellsworth (Maine) American, I came across an account of a stuck car trunk written by a man named Mark Kallick, who spends summers in the lovely coastal village of Corea with his husband. When I called Mark to ask permission to excerpt his story, he told me the experience made him feel how welcoming the people of Maine could be — something I have found to be true so often in the state where I once lived.

– Mel Allen, Editor of YankeeMagazine

It Takes a Village to Unstick a Trunk

Written by Mark Kallick

Every summer, the Seaside Grange of Corea holds a popular rummage and bake sale. For weeks we and our neighbors dig through closets and garages to find treasures to donate. My husband, David, and I gathered books, clothing, decorative plates and colorful trinkets. Every time I thought I’d found every possible item to contribute, I’d find something else.

The last bits were two wonderful pillows. I put them in the tiny trunk of my two-seater Mercedes roadster convertible, shut the trunk and set off for the Grange. My dashboard light displayed a warning that the trunk was still open. I stopped to close it, but found it was stuck. I tried over and over to close it. Why hadn’t I taken the time to push those pillows in so that they didn’t catch on the latch?

I put on my pink rainbow baseball cap and set out for Milbridge for help. The first stop was Parritts Auto Repair in Steuben. Unfortunately, they were closed. Next was H.C. Rolfe and Sons in Milbridge. June Rolfe (co-owner) asked a mechanic to stop his work and help me. He tried again and again. No success. I thanked everyone and set off for NAPA Auto Parts in Milbridge. A helpful young man tried hard to open the trunk. He even went back into the store and opened up a tool kit he thought might help. No luck. I offered to pay for the tool kit, but he said no charge and wished me luck in my quest.

A man leaving the NAPA store asked if he could help. We tried again. Nothing budged. The gentleman then decided to call a Mercedes-Benz dealer in Richmond, VA. They offered helpful suggestions. Nothing seemed to work. I stopped for gasoline before leaving Milbridge. A clerk listened to my trunk troubles. On the way home I noticed American Iron Restoration Co., an eclectic garage along Route 1 in Steuben that always has a noteworthy array of dusty, antique cars. The owner offered to help and enlisted two young employees. They were reluctant to put their grease-stained hands on my white car. No worries, I said. We all bounced up and down on the trunk lid. Nothing.

As I was thanking the owner and his helpers, the trunk popped open! I thanked them all profusely. They had performed, I said, a true ‘mitzvah,’ which is Yiddish for a heartfelt good deed. And, this made them ‘mensches,’ which means a most generous person. When I got home, I recounted my adventures to David. I took off my rainbow baseball hat and realized that my pink hat had announced my Queer identity to each of these kind, Downeast souls. When I delivered the pillows to the Corea Grange, I explained to people helping organize the rummage sale that each person I encountered just saw a neighbor who needed help.