I came to Star Island by a different route from most other Pelicans. I arrived on island on a foggy day in June of 2006 having never set foot on the island or even seen a picture. Pels who have never been Shoalers are not unheard of – there are a few every year – but I was in a different situation even from them. Though I had never been to the Island in person, I had traveled there for many years through the stories of my mom and aunts, who were Pelicans when they were in college.
The Swope sisters, Priscilla, Nancy, and Linda, were introduced to the Island by a family friend who was a Shoaler who thought it would be the perfect summer job for the girls. During their first week on the island they wrote to their parents saying that they hated it and wanted to come home. By the end of the summer they were hooked.
My cousins and I grew up on stories of magical summers of swimming in the ocean and singing in Pel Shows. I had never been to Star, but I knew what a “waitrae” was and my aunts’ opinions about which island jobs were the best to have. When I applied and was hired to work in the Snack Bar my first year, they R-A-T-S’ed me off over the phone before I began the drive from Ohio to New Hampshire.
The last summer I worked on Star, the three of them came to visit me for Mom’s birthday. They gave me a tour of the island as they had known it. We found Nancy’s tag on the Chamber Closet ceiling and found each of them in the group photos hanging in Pel Hall. We had birthday dinner in the summer house as we watched the sun set.
This summer will be my fourth year as a Pelican. I have found my place in the community and made it my own. I have mastered the fire code and am no longer mystified by the meaning of “Cinaeco” (though I’m still not sure why it’s pronounced the way it is). I am proud of my non-traditional connection to Star Island and I am proud to be able to share this special connection with the women of my family. They left Star unsure when they would ever see it again, but I have been able to make it true: “You will come back.”
—Shawn Roggenkamp, Front Desk Supervisor