'Men of Maple Corner' bare almost all to raise money

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

CALAIS, Vt. -- It's not every day Cornelia Emlen asks more than a dozen men to take off their clothes.

But a worthy cause sometimes calls for a little discomfort.

As a small group of bystanders and bemused fishermen looked on, the men of Calais bared it all -- or almost all of it -- and waded into the chilly waters of Curtis Pond. All for a calendar that will be sold to raise money for the local community center.

They didn't really mind.

"Control yourself, girls," said J.C. Myers, who posed for the November page with his brother, Matt Myers, putting the total number of calendar men at 13.

Calendar organizers at first called their project The Full Vermonty in honor of the British film about an unlikely troupe of male strippers. But the film company 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the name. And even though Fox said the community center could use the name, there were restrictions. For simplicity's sake, the organizers settled on The Men of Maple Corner.

The calendar is an unapologetic takeoff of a popular calendar published in 1999 featuring middle-aged Englishwomen from the Rylestone Alternative Women's Institute. That calendar, called The Ladies of Rylstone, made international news.

Money for bathroom

Nobody expects that kind of success from The Men of Maple Corner, named after the small crossroads in Calais where many of the participants live. But Emlen, a resident who is leading fundraising efforts for the community center, has high hopes that the project will at least raise enough money to install a new bathroom, fire escape and septic system at the century-old community center building.

And the calendar makes a nice change from the bake sales and other annual events that the community center board has used in the past to raise funds.

"We enjoy having fun," she said. "And we wanted to do something that wasn't our standard letter to the community asking for money, or, 'Can you make five dozen cookies to sell?"'

The idea was popular from the start. There were many more volunteers than there were calendar pages. Emlen's own husband didn't want to sign up, but a lot of men did at the urging of their wives, Emlen said.

Each page features a man of Calais seemingly in the buff, posing with a strategically placed sap bucket, chain saw or tool belt to keep the picture G-rated.

As for whether they're really naked, it depends on which page you're looking at, said photographer Craig Line, who also photographed the April page. It features Don Heise, owner of the Reel Vermont boat rental and fishing guide service, on Curtis Pond.

"I'd say three-fourths have done it naked ... and the other one-fourth was three-fourths naked," Line said.

Holding in stomach

Heise kept his shorts on as he sat in a wooden canoe, a fishing line in his hand, paddling to keep the boat steady as a stiff breeze blew across the pond. A pair of fully dressed fishermen looked on in surprise from a nearby outcropping.

Heise said he wasn't cold.

"But I am getting tired of holding my abdominals in," he said.

For the group shot, the men gathered at a fishing launch, knee deep in the water and holding a canoe. All wore their shorts. Lewd puns peppered the conversation.

Emlen has learned a lot about her town through her work with the calendar. For instance, her neighbors are older than she thought. The men in the calendar range in age from their mid-30s to late 70s.

None of the men knows what the impact of the black-and-white calendar will be. It could sell dozens of copies; it could sell millions.

It could turn the men of Maple Corner into cult figures the world over.

If that happens, said David Schutz, who poses on the July page, "then, and only then, will we leave Maple Corner."

The calendar can be ordered online at www. maplecorner.net.

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