MEMORIAL DAY Weekend – 28 MAY 2023

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY 2023 — and I finally got back out to explore a tad, but I still owe you my report from my last Erie Canal adventure – well, “on the list.” Besides having something to accomplish every couple days around home, there is a reason I have not been out and about. My spinal stenosis has been advancing making it not fun to walk a great distance. I have another appointment with my spine doctors this week, and hope to find a solution to avoid a third back surgery and lumbar fusion. As my Dad taught me, “there is always someone worse off,” – not even mentioning the lives lost that we are remembering this holiday. It doesn’t make it better, but you need to be thankful for what you have. And, as you have heard me say, after losing Cathy, “accept and adjust.” More on that at the end.

This Friday, Saturday, and today Sunday, was the 47th Bernardston Gas Engine Show, Flea Market & Craft Fair, in Bernardston, Massachusetts, and I learned that the “a” is silent. BLUE BELLE does not need a reason to back out of her garage, but it helps to have a journey in mind. Our 75-mile loop today was down River Road (do take that route) crossing over to US 5 at Brattleboro, Vermont, and south to Bernardston. Returning home I cut back across the Connecticut River picking up Route 63 in Northfield, Massachusetts, and then sliding on that route all the way home. You have heard me before – both great roads to experience.

The show’s big day was yesterday, and I will share below why I did not go on Saturday, but I arrived today about 10:30 AM, and toured the flea market, without parting with a dime, and then sat under a tent. Soon it was announced the tractor parade would begin, and I was in the perfect spot near the commentator. Circling the field, arriving first was the UCC Church’s bell clanging to signal the parade. It is this church that has sponsored the event.

I wish I could remember all that was related, but I will give you some of what I fortunately learned and remembered. I was intrigued by this massive rig from the distance, and learned its huge Diesel engine has a gasoline engine to turn it over to start.

Not all tractors are the ubiquitous John Deere green. Here is a young lady driving a red Farmall (note the weights on the front wheels to hold it down when pulling a big load); followed by a nice early black tractor.

See the large treads on the back wheels above? It was not until the 1930s that rubber tires were on the rear of tractors – instead they had large iron wheels with metal treads. That is because a way to keep the deep ribbed treads on the tires had not yet been discovered. But, once the large rubber treads were possible, the switch over was made, and tractors were able to pull better without the slipping iron wheels did. And, now you also know.

Having seen this tractor from the distance, I could not wait for it to arrive. Most tractors, as work vehicles, had minimal extra metal and styling – but this “streamlined” OLIVER is so reminiscent of the 1930s.

Most of the “hit ‘n miss” engines on display had probably left after the big day on Saturday, but I did get to enjoy this display.

I bought lunch at the church’s booth, then it was back up US 5 a short ways, right turn to cross over to Northfield, and Route 63 home. About a 3 1/2 hour outing, and very enjoyable on this amazing day, and a good ride to get me back out again.

But Ray, “you said more at the end.” Well, if you made it to the end of my ramblings, let me ramble along more to catch you up on my thoughts and projects. I did not go to the show on Saturday because friends and I were scouting Vermont Architectural Salvage. The back story – for the past five to six weeks I have been attempting to move a small barn/large shed to my back yard to serve as a rustic retreat overlooking trees and Vermont sunsets. Too big for the small guys, and two small for the big movers – by the way folks, have the courtesy to at least send an email back, or return a call saying “go away.” Finally found someone, but his method was iffy, and border line (I will stop there). Dreading breaking the news to my friend, I finally did so last Saturday that I was not going to accomplish the task.  But, by the next morning her email said, “she-shed.” Plans developed, and she and our builder friend had a great time in White River Junction, and found just the correct windows for the “she-shed.” My retreat plans in the back now are morphing into something son, Gary, and I talked about – a porch off the back of the bookshop. It will have the same wooded, private view I want, and a plan is in the works with our builder friend. 

“Why a retreat in the back,” I hear you asking. Well, that back story started at the vintage camper shows I went to, COVID, purchasing my Airstream, replacing that with my 1959 FAN Sportsman’s Friend “canned ham” which I did camp out in the back last summer – albeit facing civilization.

So, for sale (and soon to be advertised worldwide) is LADYRABIII – my 1959 FAN Sportsman’s Friend. Restored, spare tire, cover, and new outside awning I had made. Ready for summer at a reasonable price of $8,500.

And, she is happy in the garage, but BLACK BEAUTY would like to hit the road with more opportunity than I can offer. So, she could be purchased, at a discount from what I have invested, but still some money — well, half or a third of a new car purchase.

Well, about it to share – but remember I write for myself to remember, and often to help solidify my thoughts and decisions. I have an amazing adventure coming up which hopefully will not be a problem walking wise, and listening to the train whistles from my porch, I need to head off on Amtrak again. Watch out Scott – there is a stop (or two) at Glacier. As always, luv, RAY

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As you know, on the way back from Buffalo in May 2019, I stumbled upon the PORT BYRON OLD ERIE CANAL HERITAGE PARK, learned of the Canal Society of New York State, joined the society, and have enjoyed their field trips since then. It was now time to head to Auburn, NY, for the Spring 2023 Field Trip. Not starting until Sunday at 1PM, I left early Saturday the 22nd to have a day and a half to explore.

Route 9 across Vermont through Bennington, I headed west on NY 7 until reaching NY 22 where I turned right to see Hoosick Falls. Never been there before – and I advise you make that turn as well to see the old Town. Then joining with Route 67, I headed west. through Ballston Spa (stopping at the antique center to score with a purchase of four books) and in Amsterdam I cheated and jumped on the super-slab, stopping again at this “rest area.”

the apparent “bridge to nowhere” is more noticeable off season when the water is drained from the canal.

in season the gates would be lowered, raising the level of the Mohawk River so the lock may be used. Hopefully this panel will help explain.

Exiting in Utica, I headed west on NY 5 into Chittenango where the canal was located. My third time passing through, in November 2019, I was able to visit the canal museum, closed this trip, but here is the museum from the trail parking lot, and also looking back east.

continuing west, I stopped at the Camillus Erie Canal Park, and found it open Saturday afternoon in “off season.” YEAH. The museum is in the Sims’ Store Museum.

by now you should know I love 19th and early 20th century Country Stores, and have my bookshop looking like one with my collections. Here is what I saw upon entry.

The small but interesting museum is on two floors. The important feature of this location is the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct. To the east, I did not walk down to see the restoration last time through.

There are/were many aqueducts on the Erie Canal facilitating the canal to cross over rivers and valleys. I have had a hard time understanding their construction, but this model helped — in this post (and the next post) – I hope to give you an appreciation of that construction and their function.

at the top of the image above you see the towpath, then a canal boat in a trough holding the water of the canal. The lower side of the image you see the support structures, and the river the canal is crossing flows underneath.

Coming back downstairs there was a woman talking to the docent, and I said, “I know you, you are Dan Wiles’ wife, the park’s director.” “Yes,” Lisa replied, and now I will remember her name. Integral to the Erie Canal and its preservation and history, I met Dan in 2008 or 2009 on my first trip after loosing my Cathy. I travelled the Erie Canal for three days with Dan when he owned Mid-Lakes Navigation. Then I had a great adventure with he and Lisa on my first Canal Society adventure in 2019. A great chat (remember timing is everything), Lisa then told me I could drive down to the aqueduct – perfect considering my current walking ability – but since then learning some new P/T tricks am becoming much improved. Off I went on the side road for about a mile to the parking lot, and then the short distance down to the aqueduct.

here are some plaques to read, and then a great drone image I found on line which puts it all into perspective.

The “trunk” of the aqueduct (what holds the water) here is made of wood replicating how it was originally built. I first had a difficult time understanding the construction on the side opposite the tow-path, The supports in the image above carry the towpath on the far side, but nothing on the opposite side. I kept trying to figure out what was supposed to be there, finally understanding nothing. You will see this even clearer in my next post which will include the Richmond Aqueduct we visited Monday on the field trip.

Arriving at the Holiday Inn in Auburn, NY, (not my choice – but clean and institutional – with all extras now eliminated, e.g. no pad of paper and pen, only flimsy plastic cups, soap dispensers which are actually probably wiser for the environment, but saving them money) I checked in, and then figured would have dinner in Weedsport or Port Byron. On the way I stopped at the Centreport Aqueduct, which I also visited in October, 2014. Stopping helped me get a clearer idea of aqueducts – sometimes “I am slow.” The image on the left is the canal “ditch” leading west to the aqueduct supports – remember you may “click” my galleries for larger images.

Sunday morning before the field trip commenced at the Port Byron Canal Center on the turnpike (but there is a pedestrian entrance from Route 31) I had many options for exploration. I finally decided circling down to Ithaca and around the Finger Lakes pushing it, so I headed to again see Seneca Falls, which I enjoyed in September 2013 – scary almost ten years ago.

Part of the Cayuga-Seneca Barge Canal was on the itinerary for Monday, but on my last visit I did not realize there was a double lock system here, so I found them, and can share Locks 2 and 3 on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.

heading back to the village, I again had to share with you IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE BRIDGE, this time from a different angle.

I continued west on Route 20 to Waterloo and stopped at the Memorial Day museum. I visited here also in September 2013. It was  in Waterloo that on May 5, 1866, the first Memorial Day exercises were held honoring those who had lost their lives in the War Between the States. Some quick images.

Then heading west again to Geneva where I turned north on Route 14 towards Lyons (trust you got your paper maps out). I was in Lyons in October 2014, and shared with you (great old movie theater), but here are some new images I took there of the lock. We need to learn about this “Peppermint Capital” claim.

From Lyons, east on Route 31 (which remember essentially follows Clinton’s Ditch) towards Clyde. I have always been extremely cognizant of what is along the side of the road, but would you have spotted this?

On private property (not posted, and I live by New Hampshire laws) this is Enlarged Erie Canal Lock No. 53, built in 1841. A second chamber was added in 1874. Some detail below. 

One hundred and eighty years old – amazing. During the field trip I listened to “Amazing Ted” recount many of his explorations to find original canal locations. Studying maps and records he will pound on doors and ask permission to traipse through the woods to find Erie Canal remains, but here this was right in front of me. You just have to know what you see and be able to identify it. I am still having too much fun.

I arrived at the  PORT BYRON OLD ERIE CANAL HERITAGE PARK about 12:30, ready to partake in another fun society field trip. And, in time I will share the next day and a half with you. I promise, and I hope I am providing both some learning and enjoyment. As always, luv, RAY

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TRAVELING HOME – 24 and 25 APRIL 2023

Hey Ray, don’t you have to go somewhere before you travel home? Yes, true, but sometimes it is hard to start writing about an adventure when there is so much I wish to share – and that is the case with the Canal Society of New York State field trip that I joined on 23 and 24 April. Sadly, looking at the dearth of new adventures I have experienced this year, I am ashamed – there have been very few – but I still have kept busy, have projects “in the works,” and have no idea where the time has gone so far in 2023.

In May 2019, I stumbled upon the PORT BYRON OLD ERIE CANAL HERITAGE PARK, while on my way back from an amazing adventure in Buffalo, New York, and following the Big Ditch – the Erie Canal. Welcomed by Craig at the park, I voted with my dollars and joined the society. Since then I have joined two field trips (interrupted by COVID) – EXPLORING WITH THE CANAL SOCIETY OF NEW YORK STATE – 1-3 NOVEMBER 2019 and the OSWEGO CANAL – 7-10 MAY 2022 – Part I and, Part II.

This field trip ended at 4:30 on Monday the 24th. Yes, I could have headed east from Auburn, New York and home in five hours, but why? There is always exploring to do. In September 2013, I passed the most pristine upscale village, Skaneateles, at the tip of Skaneateles Lake. Before traveling I had checked for a place to stay Monday night, and I found the Sherwood Inn.

Their professional evening image is nicer than mine below taken from where I parked in front on Route 20. Turning around from that point is this view of the lake. Route 20 is between the Inn and the park on the lake.

The Sherwood Inn has several properties nearby. I chose a room in the Arbor House, which ended up being in the adjoined Carriage House. What a treat to not be in a Holiday Inn (where I was the two previous nights). Remember when you see my side by side images they may be clicked to enlarge.

Since 1807 (a year younger than my home), the Sherwood Inn is so much like my favorite The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I forgot to take a first floor image, but here is the top of the stairs on the second floor, and my dining spot.

For $9 added to my room price I received a $50 certificate for dinner. I may drive back just to have dinner – amazing, put it on your list. Here is my Sherwood Salad, Pan-Seared Atlantic Pecan Salmon; and , Crème brûlée.

My plan for Tuesday, 25 April, was to follow the CHERRY VALLEY TURNPIKE – Route 20 from Lafayette east to Duanesburg (the end of the designated turnpike) and then onto Albany, and home crossing through Bennington, Vermont. US Route 20 is the longest highway in the US – 3365 miles coast to coast. This stretch began in 1799 as the first Great Western Turnpike and facilitated settlers moving west. Later it became known as the Cherry Valley Turnpike, and in 1926 it received that designation as part of the highway system. In 2006 it became a New York State Scenic Byway – 108 miles.

I swung into Cardiff hoping to find a marker proclaiming the site where the GIANT was found, but alas, small community, and not even a Town Hall, post office, or a person in sight to ask where the discovery was made. At least I have been now to Cardiff. I stopped in Bouckville (the Brimfield of NY State) but sadly was not able to write a single check at the shops. Continuing east, open farmland, small communities (with little in-between each one), and much of the road is on high land with sweeping panoramas. The original road went through now bypassed Cherry Valley (the village) and of course I took the old route.

Continuing on I was pining to find a classic diner for lunch (well, it was pushing 2 PM). And, then in Princetown/Duanesburg I found the CHUCK WAGON DINER, and swung in.

I took my seat

and received my menu

It was so hard to decide – fantastic lunch choices which included soup and potato salad for $10.99. I asked my server for a recommendation between the Chicken Cordon Blue and Patty Melt. “Go for the Patty Melt,” she said, and I did.

I felt I was back in the 1950s, or at CHEERS — everyone who came in knew each other, and had stopped by to visit. I joined in on some of the conversations, and was welcomed – TOO MUCH FUN. A 26 year old server (she announced she turned 26 the day before) was chatting with Frank in his booth. When he left Chris said, “he did not show up for four days, I was about to call his son in North Carolina, and then he came in today at his usual time.” Yes, a friend and I were concerned about another friend, and I almost broke into her house the other day to check – I did not break a window, but now know where a key is hidden.

Across the Hudson River, through Troy, into Bennington, Vermont, no luck at the one remaining antique shop (just tour with me and I can show you where all the shops used to be), and home. In Ray fashion about eight plus hours for a five hour drive. More coming – I have to get you to Auburn, New York, and then have you join me on the Erie Canal field trip. Catch you soon, as always, luv, RAY

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Opening not quite three months after I was born, you know I have an affectionate affinity for OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE – OSV, and enjoy my visits for special events, or just to stop in when nearby. During CHRISTMAS BY CANDLELIGHT at the village in December, my docent friend Susan said to look for the members’ only announcement for an EVENING OF ILLUMINATION in March. On January 31 the email came in announcing ticket sales, I emailed Emily, she called me back, and guess what? I was the first to book a visit. Surprised? And, at the same time I could experience MAPLE DAYS and SUGAR CAMP – if nothing else, jump below to see what I learned about 1830s sugaring.

From OSV’s website. “How did New England families spend their evenings before the intrusion of texting, telephones, TVs, and computers? Visitors to Old Sturbridge Village will get a rare chance to find out as they tour the historic Village lit only by candles, oil lamps, lanterns, and firelight during Old Sturbridge Village’s “Evening of Illumination.” … Tour the Village Common, where guests can visit select homes and shops to see how early New Englanders spent their evenings in the days before electricity. Visitors will be treated to music and storytelling throughout the tour and will see Village artisans at work by candlelight.”

The sun was almost down at 6:10 when my tour began

In the visitor’s center we were introduced to a number of lighting instruments – candle holders, lanterns, a small oil lamp that sat in a pottery candle holder, but could be removed for use with a candle (small item in center left of table). The crimping on the tin sconces (remember I made two during my Boarding with the Bixbys, and they are proudly hanging on my porch) serves two functions – strengthening of the tin, and additional reflection surfaces to cast light in different directions. The lantern sides on the left in the lower image are made of cow horn instead of glass, or mica as was sometimes used.

It was then a hike to the far end of the Common and the Salem Towne House. Two rooms and the large center hallway were readied. In the hallway you can see from two candles the light amplified by the hanging mirror. We were also told that the varnish on furniture helps the illumination, as does jewelry and silk clothing which have reflective properties. In the dining room the Lustre Ware china also doubles with reflecting the light during mealtime. Just so you know, I never use flash, only available light with my photography.

Back down the Common to the Fitch House to learn about the science of candles and see shadow pictures. Something I have seen here before, but needed the refresher. Candles are solid, and do not burn, heat turns the wax into a liquid, but it is the gases from the liquid wax that feed the flame. I was reminded of The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday, a six part series on YouTube. This time making a note for myself as I exited, and above now is the link for all of us to learn from – enjoy. There must be something strange on my lens causing those strange blue ghosts from the flames.

back around the corner to the “Small House” the couple shared how an evening would be spent reading a paper, thinking of relatives, and making goodies to eat.

Then to the Friends Meeting House. Singing there, now in its twentieth year, were the Old Sturbridge Village singers. Now, more important learning. You should know that OSV, as a living history museum, portrays New England life in the 1830s, but “Did you know that…” (yes my monthly history article in my newspaper starts that way) the song AMERICA dates from 1832? The group concluded singing AMERICA, and as I was leaving I verified what I heard the conductor say so I could make a note to research and share. I learned that based on an “Old English Air” and the tune GOD SAVE THE KING, the words to AMERICA were written by Samuel Francis Smith in Boston, July 4, 1832, for a children’s celebration. AMERICA served as one of the national anthems of the United States before the adoption of THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER as the official U.S. national anthem in 1931. And, now you also know.

Stops next were at the Richardson House where a woman was practicing fortune telling for an upcoming social. Then the tin shop where I “apprenticed” while Boarding with the Bixbys. The evening ended with a light fare, music and dancing in the Bullard Tavern. While enjoying my fare I watched the keeper making flip – a rum drink heated with a 1200 degree poker from the fire. Tasting some, it needs an acquired taste.

And, leaving for the evening, outside lanterns were accumulating from the guides finishing up with their groups.

The evening was nice, and with my current walking condition, group tours I should put on hold. Groups left every ten minutes, each stop was to be eight minutes for a presentation. A fun almost two hours.

But I was “in my element” Saturday, first visitor when the village opened, and I made all the Maple Days stops having excellent docents all to myself for a great exchange of information. Follow along with me now for this new insight into early sugaring.

Always one of my favorite views entering the village – and just as the back roads I travel, a different view each time of the year.

I headed to the “Goods from the Woods” exhibit area, off the beaten track behind the “new, old” cabinet shop. I never before realized it was there. Heading up the hill, I saw the Sugar Camp.

then back to visit with the fellow boiling the sap – all to myself, no rush, and with all the folks I have chatted with in the village, a knowledgeable and personable chap – sorry I never asked his name. It is a process starting with the sap from the trees, right kettle, as some liquid is boiled off the kettle is moved and a new kettle started.

it was early, chilly, but warm fireside

turning around I saw this tap in a tree. My docent explained how they made the wood tap, and work the top grooves so the sap would not freeze. Care had to be taken to get gravity correct for a flow, and to position the tap to shelter as much from the wind as possible so the sap would not miss the wooden trough below. Intuitive science.

I planned my route to follow the process to the end result of “maple sugar.” At the pottery shop I visited with Caitlyn. I met her in the fall when I visited with volunteer friend, Tony. Caitlyn is a fellow at OSV learning the various trades hoping to someday be on the staff. She showed me how they make the sugar molds. When I read about the sugar molds I was thinking I was going to see molds similar to what are decoratively carved for butter. I was totally wrong. The conical pottery mold is like a flower pot. sloping sides and made with a hole at the bottom. She explained the maple syrup is then poured into the cone with a wood plug at the bottom. As it cools molasses sinks to the bottom and the sugar crystallizes at the top. When hardened the plug is pulled and molasses drains. Turning the cone over the sugar slides out. I also was thinking this a cone, more like a triangle but the sides are just conical to a slight degree so that when turned over and the solid sugar just slides out. More on this later. Below is Caitlyn making a mold and showing it to me close up.

Stopping next at the tin shop I saw graters to be used to break down the cones of sugar (and you were thinking syrup was the end product).

Now is the time to share some information I received with OSV emails (you should sign up – and also join OSV at the NARM level).

“Today, when one thinks of maple, they usually think of maple syrup poured over fresh pancakes or waffles, but in the early 19th century, maple sugar was the ultimate goal – not syrup! Syrup would grow mold easily and therefore, most maple sap was boiled down into sugar, which would last much longer. First, the sap was boiled to produce a thick syrup. Then it was left to cool and settle for a short while, after which it was boiled for a second time in order to produce granulated maple sugar. To keep the contents from boiling over, a small piece of butter or fat was sometimes added.” And some fast facts:   The production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in North America that is not a European colonial import. Maples are usually tapped beginning between 30 and 40 years of age. Maples can continue to be tapped for sap until they are more than 100 years old. Once temperatures stop fluctuating between below-freezing at night and above-freezing during the day, the sap stops flowing.

without the crowd from the previous night I was able to see the painted tinware that had been discussed. Never learned of this in the shop before. Below are various graters made. BUT IMPORTANT. A new quest for Ray. At the first stop last night was an amazing hanging tin lamp, that could be taken off the hook, set on the table, and adjusted to a pleasing height standing there. Again there was one in the tin shop – first time I ever have seen it. LOOK above and on the right you will see the weighted inverted funnel shaped stand, the adjustable candles, and the hook at the top. Maybe I can commission the Tin Shop to make me one. Below the graters on exhibit.

Was I in luck, George was there with his team. I always have fun with him and learn a great deal. When we were on the road passing the pottery shop heading toward the Freeman Farm he explained that the roadbed cut into the hillside was for a proposed railroad. The line was never completed because the developer went down with the Titanic. George said there was a book called THE TITANIC RAILROAD. You know me, even though a tad expensive, I found and bought a copy for myself, now due in.

GEORGE – One of the reasons to visit and spend time at OSV.
A wealth of information from this raconteur as you ride.

In the Fitch House this young man was making band boxes and other small items. He pointed out the fireplace insert which I never noticed before.

And then the final stop – The Small House – to see the final step of the process of the maple syrup cooked down into more desirable sugar loaves. Normally this would be done at the Sugar Camp. This was amazing – and again, the end product desired is not syrup as I quoted above from an OSV email.

below is the syrup mold to soon be filled with the syrup – note the wooden plug at the bottom

then time to boil again, rotating often the molds. As the sugar solidifies, molasses settles out to the bottom.

here you see some molasses drippings at the outside bottom of the mold

and some of the final products – the cones.

above are some finished cones – several of these are a couple years old – and some grated granulated sugar. Hopefully upon looking, you are wondering what I had to ask – why the different cone colors?

well, as the season progresses from early to late, the syrup changes color from light to dark. The cone at the rear would have been the last collection most likely as buds were starting to come out on the trees.

A great two and a half hours, and I learned much, and hope I have shown you something you have not seen and experienced. My phone rang, and David, Mari and Alex were almost at the Publick House – our plan to meet for a special lunch. We were seated early and had a leisurely lunch with fun conversation. As I had (left) when David met me here in December, I again had the salmon plate, although our server said they had changed the manner of preparation. Still great, I skipped supper when I got home.

the kids joined me browsing an antique shop before we said goodby – they heading back to Boston and me backroads home – getting a pair of different candlesticks at a shop in Barre. One last thing to share. I found this in my room at the OSV lodges when I arrived. A special treat from Emily.

Well, make sure to visit Old Sturbridge Village – stay safe and well, as always, luv, RAY

and, one final image that Mari took at lunch at the Publick House – me waving out a candle – did not want to get spittle on the lava cake we were sharing.

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Why CHANGE OF SCENERY III ? – well I decided not to title this post CHANGE OF SCENERY REDUX, but this was my third relaxing stay at Rudyard Kipling’s Carriage House in Dummerston, Vermont, following:
CHANGE OF SCENERY – 13-16 JANUARY 2021; and,

Remember “I write to remember,” but also enjoy sharing new experiences. Well, this post is basically for Ray to remember since it was a sedentary “in place” experience without new explorations to share and tempt you. BUT, you may realize that a sedentary escape is also refreshing, and productive, and often needed. My dear Cathy and I always were refreshed from a “day off” out of the shop, or even better “an over-night.” I desire you have two “take aways” from my memories here:
1-treat yourself to a “Change of Scenery” to refresh and refocus and complete some tasks: and,
2-the perfect “Change of Scenery” is one of Landmark Trust USA’s properties – close-by, yet a century away.

I arrived just prior to check in time, again with snow on the ground as with past stays here. Gary and Ilana arrived not long after.

part of the beauty and serenity is looking east back to New Hampshire. Yes, a tad overcast.

I have shared interior views here before, but not the second floor bedrooms. There is something comforting returning to a place that remains the same at a time back in history, and is also impeccably restored, outfitted and maintained. Yes (other than all my collections and businesses) I could easily find myself living at any of Landmark Trust USA’s properties. Touring you below are: the living area, kitchen and dining area, and the bedrooms. Remember you may click these images for larger sizes.

This is the point in my posts where I usually share area explorations to tempt you to experience something new as well. Well, unlike the short drives Gary and I took during the last two stays here, we did not go out but relaxed, read, and “worked.” I had a list of things to “accomplish” that included four cartons of papers to work with, and four books to read (I read half of one).

What was in those cartons that I planned to work with? Well, I will briefly tell you, and maybe that will be another way to share for you to plan a similar “change of scenery.”

1-material to begin research on my next “Did You Know That…” history article
2-all my railroad museum and route information to vicariously travel, but also try to plan the next trip(s)
3-catch up on posts of previous trips I have not yet completed, including: a) getting you to Lake George and cruising Lake George in 2021 (I got this one done); b) complete my Lake – Lock – Long River cruise from Chicago to NYC in 2019. I need to finish the trip down the Hudson River. While organizing those images I got side-tracked (surprised?) in planning new explorations along the Hudson River; and, 3) I did not get to all my paperwork to complete my 2019 cross-country Amtrak train trip – well, excuse (not needed) for another retreat.
4-organize a number of resale items catalogued in my computers to again make available to the world.
5-and, yes, one box had a collection of DVDs (in case) and the projector and DVD player. Portable screen has its own carrying case.

Did it all get done? Of course not. And, I have no idea where the time went, but the two full days were full. During the day we all sort of “did our own things.” Evening meals prolonged with conversation and laughs included: Sunday, lentil loaf Ilana brought; Monday, Indian from down the road (you are isolated here, but close to the other world); and, Tuesday night Gary made chili. From my selection of DVDs Sunday was the all time best ITS A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD from 1963. A favorite of mine and Gary, but Ilana had never seen it – she now knows what is great and contributes to how Gary and I “tick.” Monday night’s movie that they found on Prime impressed me so much that I cannot remember the title, but I was there with them, and Tuesday we got back to Hogan’s Heroes from our last visit.

Time too fast, but wonderful, and let the planning begin for the next adventure. I have now written about eight stays at Landmark properties – have had nine stays, but one stay for some reason I did not write about (too busy with friends at Naulakha December 2021), but my pretty good records and posts now document eight of nine, and you may wish to revisit as well. I had driven past Naulakha in Blue Belle first in 2015, went to the Rhododendron open house in 2019 – and that was the beginning.

Thus – RAY RECOMMENDS, you attend an upcoming Landmark open house, and you have two to choose from to get you hooked as well. – Catch you soon, and maybe I will see you at one of the open house events – luv, RAY

 The Sugarhouse Open House will be held April 1. And the perennially popular Naulakha Estate & Rhododendron Tour  will be June 4-5. 

You should visit the LandmarkTrustUSA website and sign up for notifications of their events, and those at Scott Farm.

Rudyard Kipling’s Naulakha
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A POST LONG OVERDUE. I reported my return trip home from Lake George back on 1 September 2021, but I never got you to Lake George for my adventure there and on the water. So while relaxing at Kipling’s Carriage House in February 2023, and wanting to relive this trip to probably repeat, I will finally share as well.

While originally writing about this adventure I decided there was so much to share that I wrote of the return trip home on 1 September 2021 as a separate post, which I did on 9 September that year. On this trip during those three days I retraced routes I had not been on for awhile, and found new routes I will repeat and recommend. The focus of this trip was boarding the last six-hour cruise on all of Lake George for the summer. Lets get started heading to Manchester, Vermont. On this map are the roads traveled on these days. You can click it for a larger size.

I did truncate the map to the east. Arriving in Manchester, Vermont, I headed north on Route 30, and turned left on 315 toward Rupert. I stumbled into Rupert 9 August 2014 by accident, and just in time for a parade. I was sure I had not been to West Rupert, so I headed past the few buildings (one the closed country store) and the fairgrounds. Along the way was a rail trail. In West Rupert I stopped at the country store, and the young lady made me a sandwich.

I asked her about the rail trail, and learned it was the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) that ran through the area. Asking further she told me the station was at the end of Mill Street, next door, and the old mill building was the station (I am not so sure). I headed down to the trail, enjoyed my sandwich, and am impressed with the condition of the trail. The girl at Sherman’ General Store told me the trail is so good, and challenging in spots, that bicyclists come from all around to practice for major races. Take the time to visit.

I then headed back to Rupert to turn north on Route 153 to Route 30 and on to Poultney. Along the way a saw the Rupert station, passed through West Pawlet that I found on that previous trip (the D&H travelled right though, a dilapidated freight building remains), and once in Poultney I walked around the station and freight building.

I had delayed this trip because of the cost of staying in Lake George. First of all it has become “honky-tonk” and crowded, and sleeping accommodations very dear. I finally booked my cruise on Lake George, and continued my search for a room. The perfect place materialized – a train station – in Granville, New York, It was also on the D&H, and I had never been there.

Station House B&B – Granville, New York

Forty minutes to Lake George, but the cleanest B&B I have stated at, and extremely well decorated, you may wish to plan a stay here at the Station House B&B. My room, with a sitting deck, is on the left of the building. Linda and George are great hosts. Below is the main room, and then my room. Did I say I like Victorian?

A forty minute drive west to Lake George, but not wanting to “miss the boat” at 10AM, Linda fed me a tad early, and I headed on NY 22 to US 4 to Route 9, and into Lake George, arriving at the Lake George Steamboat Company dock in plenty of time for my “six hour tour” (six, not three, and without Mary Ann) covering 32 miles – south to north and back – on the entire lake. Below the dock on Lake George.

The history of the lake is so fascinating that I have pulled four books from my personal library to read in detail. Why haven’t I read them before? Well at least having them I learn by osmosis. The lake also played an important part during the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. Up to almost 200 feet deep, receding glaciers carved the valley between mountains, and upon melting deposited debris at the south and north ends, thus creating the lake. The lake is 341 feet above sea level and flows north into Lake Champlain at Ticonderoga which is but 90 feet above sea level. Fort Ticonderoga was built for control of this water route. My boat – the Mohigan – pulled away on time.

it started out as the perfect weather day. Here is another image to “hook you.”

We passed the Sagamore Hotel resort on the west shore north of the village in Bolton Landing (where Franz Boas once had a home). I have walked around there in the past, had lunch on the porch, and should just save my pennies and stay.

below is the dock at the hotel – they have their own tour boat as well.

below looking north.

swinging back to the east side of the lake there is an inlet and route between the mainland and this island. The gallery below the first image (which can be clicked for larger views) is traversing this narrow passage, and ending up back on the lake.

Below is the dock, and stop, at the northern end of the lake on the west shore. it is at this point the lake flows north, dropping 226 feet, into the Hudson at Ticonderoga.

heading back south, this happy group of vacationers were happy to see us.

below, looking north, almost back to the beginning point.

another view of the western shore.

another tour boat.

tied up, and debarked and done — until another time, yes, should do it again in 2023 as well as find tours on Lake Champlain.

I then climbed the hill to Fort William Henry which had its beginnings with the French and Indian Wars. After an important siege and battle it was burned. The site remained untouched for two centuries until in the 1950s a group wishing to preserve the site bought it building the replica below. I toured it years ago (pre-shunpiking writing days) and need to tour again. This time I just visited the gift shop.

Walking back out to head down the slope to the parking lot, I captured this view, which I was happy to capture.

Heading back to my train station B&B I did some antiquing. WOW there in a showcase was the Airstream by the Japanese company Bandai in the 1980s. In November 2020, I had purchased my 1965 Airstream, so had to have this – we agreed on a $200 price for the set, which I have subsequently discovered was a “good deal” for me.

If you have followed some of my recently writings you may know that I have, since late October 2022, been aggressively seeking and collecting vintage camper toys, preferably in the “canned ham” style. I had three once I bought the above set – but, today (6 February 2023) I have over thirty, and three “new” ones will soon be arriving at “Camp 44.” I urge you to look at my vintage camper toy page – AND – if you see something I don’t have – let me know. In case you forget to look, you may also click on the SSS Toys of Japan patio set below.

1-Write about your adventures so you can relive your adventures. And, when you share you may provide the impetus to someone to also get out and explore that path.
2-And, even if a year (or more) afterward, pull out those notes and write for your own memory, and for others to hopefully enjoy.
3-Passionately collect something, and have fun — and then passionately collect something else.
4-COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS and make the most of every day.
5-Stay safe and well.
As always, luv, RAY

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It was time for me to have a break. Just a day away, or overnight, helps me refocus and actually accomplish more when I return. But I was perplexed. Where do I go, and I thought and thought before remembering The Old Mill Inn in Hatfield, Massachusetts, that I had stumbled upon on-line, and filed away in my mind. That will be it for this escape. Their on-line booking was easy, and I booked the Waterfall Room for Monday 16 January. Why? You may not know that when moving to Walpole twenty years ago, my late-Cathy and I traded our shop and home atop a thirty foot waterfall in New Preston, Connecticut, for the sound of church bells here on the Common.

Former home and book shop of Ray Boas, Bookseller, in New Preston, Connecticut, from 1995-2002.

Why Hatfield, and where is it? Actually unless you plan to go to Hatfield, you will not just stumble through. Next door to Northamption, sandwiched between the Connecticut River and I-91 and US 5 and Route 10, you have to plan to go there. Close, yet remote. And once there you are experiencing fantastic architecture and river side flat land that has supported tobacco, onions and potatoes for ages. I am usually very good at planning my trips, and thought I had everything figured out. Ends up restaurants I wished to visit are now closed Monday nights, and many of my scouting stops (even though advertised as open) were closed. But “adapt and adjust” and I had a great time, and bought enough books for a profitable trip, and two Pullman Railway Car books for my own enjoyment.

Unlike Vermont and New Hampshire maps that are distributed everywhere to encourage tourism, Massachusetts maps are impossible to find. In fact, my last two I had to request from the Massachusetts DOT, and they mailed them to me. So, I just ordered another so I can mark up a map to show you my route on this adventure. I have been on all these roads before (except into Hatfield) but winter is different, you can see more, and I went in the opposite directions than I usually go in. So, here we go heading down Route 10 from Keene to Winchester, cross the state line, pick up Route 63 through Northfield, and into Millers Falls.

stopping in a shop in Millers Falls, I asked, and learned that Town of Montague includes: Turners Falls, Montague Center, Millers Falls, Lake Pleasant and Montague City. This is an interesting area, and worthy of further exploration. I arrived for lunch, as planned, at the Lady Killigrew Cafe at The Montague Bookmill which is in an 1834 grist mill — see a pattern to my explorations?

From this mill I headed down Route 47 to Sunderland, then looped up US 5 to scout, turning around to visit Yankee Candle’s massive store. Had not been there in years, and fun to walk through. Almost out the door I saw this Airstream cooler – let it stay there for $550. But I have been sharing my Vintage Camper Toy collection on various vintage camper Facebook pages, and shared this. The response was amazing.

You also may wish to browse the page of my collection – Ray’s  “VINTAGE CAMPER TOYS” – and you are encouraged to do so. If you find one I do not have, let me know. Below one of my “treasures.”

Then back to Sunderland, south on River Road on the west side of the Connecticut River, onto Main Street then over to The Old Mill Inn.

I had booked the Waterfall Room — left corner top floor, three windows each side out from the corner. I will return.

and, looking out my window – sorry about the screen, but you get the idea. The roaring sound was so wonderful.

and, at night

on the porch looking across the river to an old metal bridge, closed and deteriorating. A vision of the past.

Marsha and Shannon run a great little cafe in the Inn, open from about 8 to 11 AM. Great breakfast sandwiches. So, the plan for daytime scouting and exploring escapes in BB1 or BB2 come springtime on the loop on the map above will be to stop here, get a bite to eat, and sit at a table on the porch.

And, below is the Inn as you enter the parking lot. A group of ladies had gotten their sandwiches, and were at a table off to the right, chilly but warmed by the sun.

After enjoying my breakfast sandwich in front of the pellet stove in the Inn’s common room, and chatting with folks, I headed off to Northampton for some shops. And, alas, just like I failed with restaurants on Monday night, my planned stops were either no longer there, or not open as advertised. But I continued west on MA 9 through Williamsburg to Goshen where I turned north on Route 112

I shared Williamsburg with you in August 2021, during a wonderful stay atop Mount Greylock. That trip (that pattern again) included mills at Hancock Shaker Village and in Williamsburg. I love revisiting and traveling my posts – and you also may enjoy again – BACK TO MOUNT GREYLOCK and WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS – 18-20 AUGUST 2021

Once on the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) I circled through Shelburne Falls, down to scout in Greenfield, and then home on the super slab. And, then it has taken me with all my other work almost six days to get to completing this journey to share.

1-Look at my map above, great territory to explore, get out there for a day trip. On the way home stop at the Whately Inn or Deerfield Inn for dinner.
2-Go out of the way – it is not really, but just remote – and see Hatfield. Great architecture, old farm land and tobacco barns (hope you know how to identify one).
3-Subscribe to many area history and travel email sources – I get many ideas this way
4-Stay safe and well

As always, luv, RAY

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ANOTHER YEARLY TRANSITION — 2022 to 2023 — 31 December 2022

My last post relating memories and adventures for the year 2022, and hopefully posted before “the ball drops.” Starting off, and truthful, I am not as thrilled as usual with my images and tales, but as always would like to “remember and share.” Four different segments here since 18 December – 13 days ago. The best part if you wish, jump to the end for my time yesterday at Hildene in Manchester, Vermont. Or, simply go to THE TWELVE DAYS OF “VINTAGE CAMPER TOYS” which I began sharing on various vintage trailer websites since the “first day of Christmas,” December 26. But again that will be at the end.

I receive many notices of events. From STRAWBERY BANKE MUSEUM in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I learned of the event – Candlelight Stroll during which visitors call on the many families who once lived in the Puddle Dock neighborhood. I have enjoyed this museum several times, particularly in 2017 when I visited for the Thanksgiving Holiday Preparations – it was great. I thought I would experience something similar for Christmas, but the Candlelight Stroll, was essentially an outside experience, with crowds, damp and wet walk walks providing me a still lingering cough and nose blowing.

there were minimal holiday decorations in the homes – but if representing the time period correctly, that can be expected. Remember images in my galleries may be clicked for a larger view.

to warm up a couple times I went and enjoyed hot cider listening to this Boston based band.

tempting me to attend was the themed diner (separate ticket) in the Pitt Tavern. On the third floor is a Masonic Lodge (since inception of the Tavern) and Masonic Museum. Not usually open, it was a treat to see.

this is the original Lodge Hall meeting room (albeit restored), still in use.

amazing history, and a good number of US Presidents were Masons, including Truman seen in this small statue.

and then it was time for me to join the party in the tavern to eat…

and be entertained…

Sadly it had been too long since dinner at The Castle in Proctorsville, Vermont, thus the next “holiday outing” with friends. I always enjoy (and take a picture of) the wreath outside, and the Christmas decorations.

CHRISTMAS EVE, and for 47 years (except some COVID cancellations and one bad rain) a live Nativity has been presented on the Common in front of my home. You know the story, and it is related along with appropriate musical accompaniment. A cold evening, still a nice crowd, and yes, that is “44” in the center rear of the first image (with my “major award” in the center window on the second floor).

and, then there was yesterday – 30 December. In my accumulation of holiday events was Christmas at Hildene in Manchester, Vermont. Hildene is the home built by Robert Todd Lincoln, the 16th President’s Son. I have made many visits, but not at the holiday time, and with my NARM membership – entrance free, so just less than an hour away, off I finally went. What I thought would be an hour plus visit ended up almost three hours – but that happening related at the end. Passing through the visitor center I walked up the path.

and first saw this tree in the entrance area.

Below is the dining room. The portrait depicts Robert at the age of 62 about the time the home was constructed. The table was often set for six people. Robert’s daughters, Mamie, also had a summer home in Manchester, and Jesse were frequent visitors to Hildene. Jesse often visited with her two children

This is the staff dining room. I think I related most to this room as being festive for the holidays in a simple way. The Lincolns had a staff of 15 who took care of their needs during the summer months. Nine of the staff members traveled with the Lincoln family during the winter months. The remaining staff members stayed to maintain the estate year-round.

These dolls were having a party.

Below is the grandchildren’s room. This room is now set up to show what it might have looked like when Linc, Peggy, or Bud visited their grandparents.

This is one of President Lincoln’s stovepipe hats. In chatting with one of the docents I learned the provenance of this hat which was given to a previous owner of the nearby Dorset Inn, where it was exhibited for a number of years. When the inn was sold the hat was ultimately given to Hildene with all of its documentation. The mirror you see here is Lincoln’s White House dressing room mirror. The President very likely saw the last reflection of himelf in this mirror before leaving for an evening at Ford’s theater. Interesting reflection in the mirror at this time.

and, heading back outside overlooking the front lawn.

On my previous visits the Sunbeam – A Pullman Parlor Car – either was not open, or I did not have time. So, a tad over an hour into my visit I headed off to the car for what ended up being almost another two hours. Why a Pullman Car you ask. Robert Todd Lincoln became George Pullman’s attorney, and it was Pullman’s company that made these railroad cars. Following Pullman’s death, Lincoln took the helm of the firm for an interim year, which became fourteen years. This is how he made his money.

I toured the car, but then sat and visited with an outstanding docent, Gary, learning history from him and sharing our love and knowledge of local Vermont area history. Yes, I know enough to stop when a group arrives so a docent can do what they are there for, but then we can pick back up. All the docents I chatted with in the home were great, but Gary made my day. Here is the Sunbeam as you approach (with the “real McCoy” brakes underneath), and then some interior views of this exceptionally well done restoration of one of the six remaining wooden Pullman cars.

I think instead of trying to relate all I learned about this car, and the home, you just had better visit. You have heard me say that I “vote with my dollars,” and even though I can visit at no cost with my NARM membership through OSV, I told Gary I would become a Hildene member to help support the museum. But, in reading an article about Mary Todd Lincoln earlier today on the Ohio State University website, it gave me second thoughts because of the way Robert treated his mother. I linked that fascinating article above, and encourage you to read it. He was not nice, and even with some of his Pullman dealings, but I will not fault the museum, and still will send a check.

Alright — now I love to share. and late this fall went full throttle collecting toy camping trailers. Arranging a holiday display in my dining room a thought came to me to share them along with my bottle brush trees and develop THE TWELVE DAYS OF “VINTAGE CAMPER TOYS.” The Twelve Days of Christmas begins on December 26, so beginning that day I began sharing my collection each day on various Facebook vintage camper pages and groups. I have also assembled a page on Shunpiking With Ray, and here is the link to what I am sharing. – THE TWELVE DAYS OF “VINTAGE CAMPER TOYS” – and an example of what you will see, or click on this image,

I made it. Yes, I have this last post of 2022 done, and will be able to post as planned in 2022 with less than three hours to spare (East Coast Time). Nothing else on this evening’s “plate” but to reflect and thank God for all my blessings. May you have a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year, love, RAY

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THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and at “44” there are now over one hundred Christmas Trees, the majority are vintage bottle brush trees.

The 1918 edition of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS to the left was given to my mother in 1927 “from Elsie.” A large format, the color illustrations are amazing. I will have to reproduce for you next year.

You have seen many of my trees in the past, but some have been transplanted in new spots, and there are more. So, let’s begin the tour.

I live in a little New England Village where we do not use front doors. Coming through my “mud room” into the kitchen one is first greeted with this forest which has grown much this year.

in front of the fireplace there are a few new additions this year. I started to get “blow mold fever” but have settled on the 1978 Empire Plastics on the left, and another you will see later. The great camper and station wagon are new, and more on that collection later below. The mantle has not changed, with one of my favorites with ceramic fruit second from the right.

On my Pennsylvania Dutch Pie Safe is a chalkware Santa I found in November – a bargain price. In his hollow sack a previous owner put pieces of coal – too much fun.

I changed out the kitchen table from years past – more about “Me and Santa” (the red folder) later on.

Even my computer table in the kitchen has trees (and many others in the kitchen and elsewhere I decided not to overload you with this year.)

out on the porch you find an Airstream in a small forest, and two groups paying homage to Louise Penny’s “Three Pines.”

I have collected old wooden boxes for fun for years. One never knows what you can stuff inside and try to keep inside.

On the kitchen table you saw some red dinner ware I found this year – just beautiful, and considering $12 for 20 pieces, Salvation Army Stores are now on my list of stops. Below in the dining room is the classic German Christmas Tree dinner set I have enjoyed for years. No, I have no idea why I collect these trees, and have a good number out all year long.

I unpacked my Putz Houses for almost the first time ever. You can see them above. More on those next year. Below the side table, and then part of the cabinet top in front of the side windows.

You had better be curious about my toy “canned hams” above, and before you email and ask, just click this link to learn more about them in my tale, THE TWELVE DAYS OF “VINTAGE CAMPER TOYS

You may have other things to do on this NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, so enough of my trees. Yes, adorning three more rooms, but little changed from previous years – I just like those arrangements.

But before you go, I found something misplaced for well over twenty years a couple months ago in a box that had been unopened almost forever. But I had a vivid memory of my photo with Santa at Macy’s in White Plains, New York, probably in 1955. I asked him for a Western Town. That Christmas it was not under the tree, but my father exclaimed, “what is that over in entrance hallway?” Santa had remembered, but with a little teasing. Of course I found and acquired another for memory sake a number of years ago with most of the accessories.

You are never too old for Santa. I visited with him at Santa’s Land in Putney, Vermont, in 2015 and 2017.

I mentioned to you I curbed becoming obsessed with hoarding “blow molds,” but on the way home from Old Sturbridge Village two weeks ago this 40 inch Santa begged to come home with me to protect the Common. Here he is taking a break from that task.

and, what is Christmas without a “Major Award?” If the “old man” can have one, so can I. And, proudly displayed out the center window upstairs is MY “Major Award.”

A week ago on the 17th, in preparation, I wrote and posted HOLIDAY TRADITIONS AND RITUALS – 2022. If you missed it, click on the link above for that tale, and A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX – one of the funniest renditions you will ever hear.

And, speaking of traditions, on Christmas Eve 2020 I compiled a post of my Christmas Season Festivities and traditions going back to 2013. this summary linked below has links to the full stories which you may also enjoy. Please click below and enjoy —



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With less than two weeks left of this year it is a time to look back and reflect. On December 3rd, the New York Times morning email edition began saying, “Rituals make the season meaningful for many of you.” They are correct. We have our must watch movies: “Its a Wonderful Life;” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation;” and, “A Christmas Story,” just to name a few that I will be watching again even though I know the story lines, dialogue and endings. The article enumerated traditions that many readers shared. The special cookies, parties, family gatherings, decorations, and some silly odd traditions.

In my own way I have some traditions including: Candles in my windows, setting out my bottle brush trees (many of which I leave out all year since they bring me joy – why I have no idea), my special holiday red dinnerware out and ready for a gathering, the Live-Nativity recreation on the Common in front of my home on Christmas Eve every year. And, I am sure there are some other meaningful fun things I just do without thinking. I again will soon be sharing with you in a post my “tree arrangements” around my home (now a tradition), but I just thought I would start a “new tradition” (remember I write for myself to remember, but love to share) and share with you the history of candles in windows that I published in 2019, and A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX that I first shared last year. Hard to decide which to give you first, but think the history article first, and then encourage you to sit back with many drinks for A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX. If you must, and it is alright, just scroll down for a radio play you will never forget.


I share a tidbit of history each month in THE WALPOLE CLARION in my “column,” DID YOU KNOW THAT…?  In the December, 2019, issue I explored the background behind placing candles in windows. Since then this post has become the top Google answer to the question “candles in windows history.,” with 22,302 views on line as of December 17, 2022 – over 10,000 just the calendar year. Below are the “candles in the windows” of my 1806 Colonial on a quintessential New England Village Common.


… the tradition of lighting candles in the windows of homes during Christmas, dating to colonial times, was brought to America by the Irish? Candles in windows have always been considered a sign of welcome to others. In early America, when homes were often miles apart, the sight of a distant candle in a window was a sign of “welcome” to those wishing to visit.

Religious practices and persecution have a long and complicated history in Ireland. As early as 1171, King Henry II’s invasion of Ireland began persecution against the Irish. Pagan solstice celebrations were replaced by Christmas celebrations. Protestantism attempted to replace Catholicism. The British Government, between 1691 and 1778, perfected their oppressive Penal Laws, targeting Catholics in an attempt to squash the religion. Catholic priests were not allowed to practice their faith. Ordered to leave the country, the priests instead went into hiding. The Irish were forced to obey British Rule.

During Christmastime, faithful Irish Catholics would, in darkness, light a candle in the window and leave the door unlocked. This was a sign to priests it was safe to slip into their home to say Mass. In return they offered hospitality to the priest. The British, questioning the Irish about the candles, were told it was their way to welcome Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus as they sought shelter. On immigrating to the United States, the Irish brought this holiday practice with them.

The tradition of the lit candle in the window in colonial America has been interpreted in many ways. It has been seen as a beacon of hope for any passerby during the holiday season, and signaled strangers that there would be food and shelter there, should they ask.  Candles also showed hope that Mary and other saints would pass by their home and bless it. The candle’s welcome was part silent prayer for the safe return of an absent person, and part sign there is someone waiting and tending the fire. Other interpretations say the candle would be sending a message – a child had been born or a family had received a blessing of some nature. Often the candles would be commemorating a community event or celebration. Inns (and now bed and breakfasts) used candles announcing rooms were available, and leading travelers to the door. The key being the sense of welcome.

CANDLE IN THE WINDOW — FENNO HOUSE c 1725 — Old Sturbridge Village, November 17, 2019 

When Colonial Williamsburg was established, they were unsure how Christmas should be represented. Remember, it was not much of a holiday in colonial America. They hung colored lights on ten evergreen trees in 1934, continuing to search for decorations representative of the period. The landscape architect remembered his family’s practice of placing a candle in their Boston window in 1893. With that idea, the next year a single lighted candle was placed in the windows of the four buildings open to the public. The candles were lit from 5 to 10 PM between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Worried of fire, four janitors were paid $1.00 each to light the candles and guard against fires.

Electric candles solved the concern with fire. Colonial Williamsburg visitors liked what they saw, and wanted candles to take back home. In 1941, Williamsburg department stores sold their entire stock of 600 electric candles by Christmas Eve. Today, having candles in the windows is even easier. My candles take batteries, and are remotely controlled.


More traditions, and more candles — I invite you to visit, read, and view 134 FLICKERING FLAMES – A TWO YEAR REDUX – 3 DECEMBER 2019, which is an update of a previous story.


(Like You Have Never Heard Before)

From December 21 to 26, 2010, I attended a program – Fête de Noël: Christmas in Québec City. It was great, and the tour leader was the gentleman who taught all the tour leaders in Quebec City for their licenses. Could not get any better. Besides the history there was Christmas Eve Dinner at the Hotel Frontenac (below), and a carriage ride in the snow around the city on Christmas Day.

Heading home on Autoroute 20, the afternoon of the 26th, I was dial switching on the radio. Now, you may recall that from 2008 through 2014, I produced, as a benefit for local food shelves, my own adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Having completed performances before I left for Canada, this tale of redemption as Scrooge faced three separate ghosts, was fresh in my mind. Landing on the CBC I heard that A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX, narrated by Russell Thomas, was about to begin. “Now I want to hear that,” I said to myself, and it soon began with a kazoo prelude.

Now it will help if you know the basic plot before you spend 54 minutes listening to this REDUX production, but not necessary. I was soon laughing hard, tears of laughter were streaming down my cheeks, and I feared that the car seat was not waterproof in case my bladder lost control. Fortunately I saw a rest area, and pulled in, parked, and listened to the radio. I had to find a copy to share.

I found part of the show on-line about six years ago, and then forgot about it. But the thought resurfaced in November 2021, and I went searching. AND I FOUND IT. But how to share it? I enlisted son Gary, and he went to work. It took some time, but he was able to complete the task. 

So, now I invite you to the party. Pour some non-dairy eggnog, or glasses of wine, get some dry underwear in case, put your feet up and turn out the lights and close your eyes. Click the audio link below Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball. But my disclaimer – the show is irreverent, often politically incorrect, raunchy at times, and hysterical – ENJOY!


And, speaking of traditions, on Christmas Eve 2020 I compiled a post of my Christmas Season Festivities and traditions going back to 2013. this summary has links to the full stories which you may also enjoy. Please click below and enjoy —



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