Sawyer Memorial: Tyler Rose, Keeping tradition alive in Greene


GREENE — Starting in the sixth grade, Tyler Rose would help his grandfather at the Sawyer Memorial, vacuuming in the stately old stone building’s auditorium, mowing the lawns outside, painting.

In May, its board voted him president, his grandfather’s successor. Rose, a new college graduate, is the 10th generation in his family to grow up in Greene.

Just 22, he’s tasked with fulfilling a nearly 80-year-old mission statement to entertain people in town with “clean, wholesome pleasures.” It means booking acts and programming the venue’s free, twice-a-month shows with an eye toward what regulars want to see and maybe — slowly — adding a little youth to the schedule.

For the new job, he had to learn to use a typewriter. For thank-you notes.

“It’s still way old-fashioned up here,” said Rose, giving a quick tour of his office. “I kind of like things that way, so that’s fine by me.”

John Marshall Sawyer, a wealthy businessman who made his money out West, built the Araxine Wilkins Sawyer Memorial Building in honor of his mom in 1936, who’d he’d felt raised him right, Rose said. He also wanted to help his community.

Public performances, two Fridays a month at 2 and 7 p.m., are paid for by a foundation and endowment Sawyer established. Capital improvements and general upkeep come from donations.

The auditorium, with antique wagon wheel chandeliers and heavy, dark wood everywhere, seats up to 208 people. 

Sawyer Memorial’s schedule, which runs from April to October, has featured fiddlers, magicians and travelogues, narrated pictures and journeys. There’s an annual children’s performance and Rose has just started experimenting with showing films.

The travelogues were Rose’s favorite as a kid. 

“To be able to see things outside my immediate surroundings is really cool — wildlife, the cities,” he said.

People regularly come from as far as Rangeley for the shows, many surprised to find once they get here that there’s no charge.

In his free time, Rose likes to hike, snowmobile, relax at Allen Pond and travel.

He graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington in May with a degree in secondary education to teach social studies. He plans to substitute teach and might go into teaching someday — for the right job at the right place.

“I love what I do here,” he said. “It all depends on where life takes me.”

He’s the building’s only full-time employee. There’s a time capsule-feel to each of the rooms. A kitchen downstairs, for instance, is filled with floor-to-ceiling cabinets and a rounded, antique International Harvester refrigerator. 

“There’s a ton of work to be done here and sometimes it can be overwhelming,” Rose said. “I’m the accountant, I’m the landscaper, I’m the janitor, and I’m the host when we have a show.”

Rose said he really admires his grandfather, Donald Rose. Doing this now is part of striving to be like him.

“Plus, being your own boss is kind of cool, too,” he said.

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Go and do

Coming up at the Sawyer Memorial in Greene:

All shows are at 2 and 7 p.m.

Sept. 11, Averill and Ralph Lovely, a father-son musical duo playing bluegrass, country and hillbilly swing.

Sept. 25, “African Safari” travelogue with Marlin Darrah. Film explores Tanzania and Kilimanjaro.

Oct. 16, “England’s West Country” with Monty Brown. Film explores English countryside and history.

Oct. 30, “Lewis and Clark” with Gray Warriner. A travelogue/film following the famous explorers’ footsteps, two years in the making.