Update – 16 May 2018 from Santa
Season Opening – June 22, 2018

I first visited Santa’s Land when moving to New Hampshire in 2002 – I love classic early Roadside Americana. When it came up for sale my late-wife and I even toyed with the idea of purchasing it. It changed hands. I visited with my grandson in July, 2013, and published a post on my travel site – Shunpiking with Ray. That post (click on this link to see it) has had about over 5,200 page views, and actually many more (about 20,000) with the images people have opened up. Since that time I have documented the demise of Santa’s Land, and happily beginning in May, 2017, told everyone of its rebirth. I have been communicating with the new owner, and updating my post, and sharing on Facebook. Those posts resulted in over 1,000 “shares” and more views on my travel blog. TODAY WAS RE-OPENING DAY — and I had

I arrived early, and was first in line.

to be “first,” and I was. So, here is a photo documentary of what I experienced in 2 1/2 hours. I have never seen more people there, and David (the new owner) promises to give me the attendance figures. It was hundreds, if not a thousand folks, and I hope it continues. Open now on weekends through Christmas 2017.

What was most rewarding were the smiles, and I am still hurting from smiling. I talked with folks who had come decades ago, a family with four generations working here, I saw friends who brought their daughter and granddaughter (they last came 60 years ago). Here is a tradition in Vermont that must continue and is amazing – visit soon and often to go back in time to a simpler way of life.

About ten minutes before opening time – 10 AM – there were at least 30 people in line and in the parking lot.

The door opened – I am a gentleman, so let the couple who were in the parking lot before me get the first tickets, which meant I could get this image of the BEGINNING, and first sale.

but, look at the time on my ticket – opening day – (ignore the age thing, only a number)

And, they come pouring in

to journey into the magical entrance to this magical place

here is Santa’s new map of his Land — and you can click on it to open a large image – and even print it out.

I let this young lady and her family move in front of me – I wanted to share in her enthusiasm.

She told Santa above what she wanted (upon prompting from her family), and again to the real Santa who was greeting everyone on the grounds. What did she want? “I want a new toothbrush.” You cannot make this up. Bless her.

crossing the bridge, there was still ice on the pond. The slide (see my earlier post for a video of my grandson enjoying it) will be open in the spring.

I guess being “first” is important when something means so much to you. I ran up to the train station just as the train was pulling out with the couple that I “let” buy the first tickets. “Hey, wait for me.” Engineer Bill stopped, and I hopped on.

Here are two views from the train — now, remember, whenever you see a “gallery” of grouped pictures, just click on one to see larger images.


let me now tour you around even more.


and, the school where you may mail a letter to Santa.

Years ago I believe this building was a gift shop — on Santa’s new map it is Bear Mountain. And, if for no other reason, visit to see the mechanicals Santa (aka David) has installed inside (remember to open the gallery below for full size images)

The Iceberg Slide (now repaired – it had been closed under the previous ownership)

Fresh paint (over 700 gallons) everywhere

and inside Santa’s home.

Iconic “picture op”

Besides the three kiddie rides in the original location there is this merry-go-round that was packed the whole time I was there (I only took one ride)

and now the other rides with young riders.

looking back at the packed parking lot from the kiddie ride area. I was so thrilled to see this.

The train had a problem early on – actually the track. By now you should know I enjoy chatting with people and learning. Bill, the locomotive engineer, told me that a chipmunk (or some rodent) had dug under the track and a spike popped allowing the track to spread. A repair crew was called in (David I bet was nervous all day with happenings like this, but those are the events you solve and then recall as memories and laugh). I was ready as Engineer Bill brought the train back to the station.

and I took another ride

When I got off (had to give others a chance to ride) I waited for the train to finish another look and took a movie. Enjoy

It was (sadly) time to head along, but I noted that Rudolph was extremely pleased with all that was going on.

I got back into the gift shop/entrance, and found a line of people buying memories from the shop.

keeping warm by the fire.

My friends know, and if you have read enough of my posts, you have learned that I have unbelievable timing, or fortunate luck. I opened the door to leave, and there was David (aka Santa – the owner). We chatted, promised to stay in touch. I told him with a chill running up and down my spine how wonderful a job he had done, and the absolute pleasure I saw everyone having. GOD BLESS YOU DAVID, and keep going. Remember folks, “vote with your dollars” – visit and start (or continue) your traditions at SANTA’S LAND, PUTNEY VERMONT

Thank you, yours, RAY

Click this link to read the history of Santa’s Land

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This post is to help you “get in the spirit” – it did for me. Without having a December theatrical production to worry about, for the first time in nine years I have been able to review and decide on Christmas events throughout New England that I would like to experience. I created a list (PDF available, just ask), and the research is what I enjoy prior to execution. I stumbled on 300 Years of Thanksgiving – 90 minute weekend guided tours at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth. What a great way to start my holiday excursions – a plan was hatched, even though usually “I do not do weekends away.” But then this is New Hampshire off season.

I bought my ticket on-line for 1PM Sunday the 19th, booked a room, and headed across Antique Alley to the coast – Route 4 for those of you “not in the know.” Bought 11 books at the third stop on the way. On the way home found 12 more books at two locations. Profit once sold pays for this trip and another – darn, I am good at what I do.

The tour covered three centuries, starting at the Pitt Tavern with Thanksgiving in 1777. There were five in my group, that is not counting the 6 week babe in arms. There have been harvest celebrations for eons, this day in 1777 folks were also celebrating the recent victory at Saratoga. The interpreter greeted us in the keeping room.

and then took is into a front tavern room to make a “harvest craft” – a corn husk doll. The dolls would be played with throughout the winter (mine did not come out well), and then buried in gardens for good growing luck.

by now you should know me and shadows and reflections.

Next stop was 1870 at the Goodwin Mansion. This former governor’s home was moved a short distance to Strawbery Banke (make sure you learn the history of this early living history museum that is in situ). Before President Lincoln established a date for Thanksgiving Day in 1863 it was celebrated at different times in different states. If I recall correctly Governor Ichabod Goodwin, prior to Lincoln, unified the day of Thanksgiving between Maine (a stone’s throw away) and New Hampshire. Here is the Goodwin’s Thanksgiving table set.

The buildings at Strawbery Banke are interpreted to a certain time and resident. We next visited the Shapiro House in 1919. Mrs. Shapiro, recently arriving in the US from the Ukraine, wonderfully related her life and attempts to understand American traditions (she was great).

and the 1919 table set in the Shapiro House

Finally our guide took us into the Abbot-Store House during World War II in 1943. Actually this is one of the original homes from about 1720, but much changed. You know I enjoy old country stores, even the 1940s stores are fascinating, so here are some views.

I first enjoyed Strawbery Banke in 2009 and do have to get back. This tour is run to garner some additional revenue for the museum during its closed season. The tour was nice, but I was a tad disappointed not seeing more festive decorations. BUT, in my research I learned of Festival of Trees at The Urban Forestry Center, a fundraiser for the Portsmouth Garden Club. After I checked into my hotel, off I went.

There were outdoor and indoor displays with trees, miniature trees, wreaths and the like. Here is the path up the hill to the buildings.

and some exhibits in the historic Cape house, built about 1840. (remember to click an image for a larger gallery view)

Now, here is an idea for your yard. Some birch logs, knit caps, and various noses.

A closeup to help you get started

I entered the next building with larger displays. So much festive eye candy, here is just some of what I saw.

A table display

the display below was to the side of the above table. You see these mirrored window frames in repurposed stores, but here it has been decorated to look frosty. Really nice.

And, it was a “Blue Christmas” complete with music

In the center of the next room were many large decorated trees. Joanie — take note of your next challenge below. (remember, clicking on an image in my galleries opens to larger images)

And walking out the door I was greeted with this garden.

These are PLATE BLOOMERS made specially in Red and Green for the Festival. I found these amazing and fascinating.

I really like Portsmouth, and have visited many times and not seen it all. In fact, this is the third November in a row I have stayed there – and the problem is that the history sites close by the end of October. I also have to get back to Star Island. Now on the list – stay two nights in Portsmouth early June 2018, and book another adventure on Star.

To celebrate our anniversary in 2003, Cathy and I headed to the newly renovated and reopened Wentworth by the Sea.  When booking, the hotel misunderstood Cathy saying we were coming for our anniversary. On arrival we were told, “we upgraded you to a tower suite for your honeymoon.” We said, “thank you.” Our suite is in the center tower, fourth floor below.

and, a few memory views for me – the lobby, and where we had dinner (give me white tablecloths anytime).


I wanted to walk to dinner, and reviewing options from my digs at Hotel Portsmouth, it was obvious (as a bookseller, in case you forgot) that I eat at The Library Restaurant.  A fascinating history to the building (do read about it), great ambience, good food, but overpriced. Only need to go once. (note white tablecloths – anytime, please, I am well trained to finer things)



I then walked back to Hotel Portsmouth. When I checked in earlier they said, “we have upgraded your room.” “Is the upgrade in the original mansion,” I asked. “No, but it is a bigger room and bed.” I asked for the original room in the original mansion I selected. I cannot say more about this new boutique chain – Lark Hotels – I was very pleased. My room – second floor in the left corner.

Monday morning I was at Discover Portsmouth when it opened at 9:30 – a 3 minute walk away. I always start with the movies/videos at a museum venue, and enjoyed 300 years of Portsmouth history in 12 minutes. I looked at the exhibits, shop, gathered travel brochures, and headed to Maine. I wanted to do some trouser shopping in Kittery – UGH – not a favorite thing.

Been down the route before (usually opposite direction). The small town of Kittery is interesting, and then I took the shore road to Kittery Point. I pulled out on the dock and looked out at the ocean. Martha, is that Star with the hotel in the center?

My plan was to take NH 101 home and stop at some possible book discovery spots, but a few signs caught my curiosity. There was Newington, only know of it in books in my inventory, and the next Historical Newington. Off I went. If you look at a map you will see that the Portsmouth area is confusing with bays and inlets and lots of water around isolated areas. I was really in nowhere, but lovely, and I arrived.

The road (look at the map) came to a dead end at the limits of the Pease airfield. Here is the answer to your winning Jeopardy question.

Through the centuries the income from timber cuts here financed and supplied materials for the 1872 Town Hall, the schoolhouse and other community projects.

Here is the 1872 Town Hall

and across the street the Parsonage from about 1710 to 1725.

next to it the 1920 fascinating stone facade abandoned schoolhouse

There is absolutely no reason in the world for you to go here, and it is not on the way to anywhere — but take the opportunity to swing in off Spalding Turnpike.

I said I was going to amend my West Point trip on this post, but decided not to. Maybe someday. In brief, AVOID The Thayer Hotel, and make sure to visit the New York State Museum in Albany.

More holiday posts to come – HAPPY THANKSGIVING, and Happy Holidays, As always, yours, RAY

and, finally, for some reason I have a penchant for old miniature Christmas trees. I got some of my collection out today to illustrate the December issue of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION. You can click this image to open up a large panorama – enjoy.


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VISITING 1838, AND HOW IT CAME TO BE – 10-12 October 2017

My adventures do come about via circuitous routes. Last September I attended a Road Scholar program learning about “everything Dutch in the Hudson Valley.” When at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside I became entranced with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow thinking I could do an October production of that to replace A Christmas Carol as a fundraiser. I bought seven books on Irving and his Legend of Sleepy Hollow, only to decide it would be hard to stage a production since it was mainly narrative with little dialogue, unlike Dickens’ classic. But, I gathered lots of information, filing it away. Early this October I found in my “future trip” folder the 2016 Sleepy Hollow Experience at Old Sturbridge Village. Checking the website, all 40 performances were already sold out for this year. But, needing a break, and not having been to Old Sturbridge Village in nine years, and finding I could stay in the 1789 Oliver Wight House with Rufus Porter Murals — a three day, two night trip was hatched – Tuesday October 10 to Thursday the 12th.

But first I stopped in the early 18th century – Old Deerfield Village in Massachusetts, and went down the Main Street first seeing this display.

how can you not like 18th and 19th century architecture?

I left home in time to be at Memorial Hall Museum when it opened (remember last post I arrived there as it was closing?), the home of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PMVA), and opened in 1870. Separate from Old Deerfield Village, the museum documents the area, and well worth a couple hours. A key relic is from the 1704 Indian Raid – The Door – and saved with the Old Indian House was sadly demolished in 1848. Prominently visible are the hatchet scars and holes.

this gallery, if you open and read, gives a history of the raid, and the Native American occupation in the area.

Something fun I learned in one room, the difference between Relics, Curiosities, and Momentos. Several definitions were presented, but here succinctly:

RELIC – An object invested with interest by reason of its antiquity or associations with the past.
CURIOSITY – An object of interest; any object valued as curious, rare or strange.
MOMENTO – Something to remind someone of a past event, an object kept as a memorial of some person or event.

So much more I could share, but just plan a visit. And, also plan a visit to Old Deerfield Village. I plan to purchase a membership there soon.  So, it was off back roading on Route 47 (not been on this section before – worth the trip) to US 202, to Route 181 to US 20 to head east to Sturbridge, and my inn for two nights.

Checking in I met Courtney who had been so helpful on the phone. I told her that I had hoped to attend the Sleepy Hollow Experience, but it was sold out. She said I should check Craig’s list because tickets that cannot be used show up there, and often people arrive and surrender tickets purchased for which people back out. I told her my plan was to wait at the gate the next night. I only needed one person of 250 not to show up I thought.

The main hallway adorned by Rufus Porter years ago, this time is black and white.

And, upstairs my room was spacious, bright and clean with some original woodwork and flooring.

“On the List” has been to attend one of the Colonial feasts and events at the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, MA. Off I went, on a round-about way, of course. The restaurant and tavern, opened in 1961, is built around the old restored 18th century home on 600 acres.

but it has many sprawling additions, all tastefully done in and out.

Until a tour bus arrived, I was the only guest for dinner. Dinner was great. I had Onion Soup Gratinée and Cedar Plank Salmon. Worth the trip and dinner experience, but learning the seating capacity in all rooms comes to 400, I believe I will pass on going to one of the large dining events – I “don’t do crowds.”

And, then it was back to the Oliver Wight House.

The plan was to arrive at Old Sturbridge Village when it opened, and I did. I like to do preliminary research to know what I will be doing, and also to learn why something is where it is, and how it came to be. Learning that history led to the fascinating Wells family (I had read of them before, but forgot), and where their money and inspiration came from. I encourage you to read the history – on this link — and hopefully it will lead you to repeat what I did on Thursday.

I like to start an experience with an introductory video – there was none in the visitor center, but there was a great exhibit on the Wells family. But, I read of horse-drawn carriage ride through the village and farm area, and arrived in front of the Asa Knight Store (relocated from Dummerston, Vermont, just miles from home) just in time to join George and his team for an overall view and history.

his tour, history, stories,, were wonderful, and I went around one and a half times. In chatting with him, yes it is a small world, he knew Walpole, and we knew some of the same people.

Here are some of the views around the village, which hopefully you have visited, or will. If you read the detailed history, you will learn the Wells began recreating the village in the late 1930s, but war delayed completion and opening until the summer of 1946 (a very good year). There were 81 visitors, each paying $1, on opening day.

From my seat in the wagon back to the Meeting House

A view of the common

The Salem Towne House at the opposite end of the Common.

On the road to the Freeman Farm. Fences are held up by criss-cross pieces when posts cannot be driven into rocky soil

Walking around the farm area I visited with a few of the re-enactors (again, a gallery you can click and open for larger images).

Every old village recreation has a print shop, but I did not realize that here was Isaiah Thomas’ shop moved from Worcester. He was probably the most important colonial printer other than Benjamin Franklin. He had a branch in my town, with a bookstore with over 3,000 books, and the FARMER’S MUSEUM, a newspaper going to all states, including George Washington. With my printing and publishing background, his branch in Walpole, is the most historically significant building in town (you may click on the image for a larger easier to read image)

I then walked back to the farm looking across the colonial created mill pond with a covered bridge moved from Dummerston, Vermont.

If you know me, one of my other loves since 5th grade is water power and waterwheels. In the mill area I joined a small tour of the carding mill, gristmill, and sawmill – each powered by different types of wheels. The Mill Pond above was created by the original property owners in the 18th century by diverting water from the Quinebaug River. By law, that water had to be returned to the river.

In typical “Ray fashion” I closed the village down, but on my way out “voted with my dollars” and purchased a membership. Hey, only two hours away I can attend lectures, events, and continue to explore the area.. I had just a short time to “kill” before heading to the entrance for the SLEEPY HOLLOW EXPERIENCE.

I arrived just before the gates opened at 5:30, and there was Courtney at the ticket booth. She suggested I wait off to the side. After about 38 minutes she came over and said, “follow me, someone has surrendered a ticket.”  Ray’s Good Fortune. I still had time before the 7:30 performance, but no problem, I was in. Earlier in the day I saw in the mill area the production areas set up, so unlike others I had an idea what was going to happen, and that the audience would be moving from spot to spot. The introductory narration and songs began at the Gristmill.

the next location was magical, and you can click this image for a larger one.

another great one (I think) that you can enlarge

then it was off to the party at Katrina’s home before poor Ichabod was chased off.

finally was a walk around the torch lit mill pond to the covered bridge and the ride of the Headless Horseman (sorry, missed a shot of him).

what a great 12-hour day!

In the process of learning of the founding Wells family and their passion for collecting leading to the formation of Old Sturbridge Village, I learned of American Optical in Southbridge, Massachusetts, just a few miles away. With roots back to 1826, at one time more eyeglasses were made in Southbridge than any other place in the world. Now closed, I learned of the Optical Heritage Museum (Proudly Sponsored by Zeiss) in Southbridge. I had to go, and did on Thursday the 12th.


FANTASTIC – a history of glasses, and also optics from American Optical that was in Southbridge for over 180 years. If I understand correctly fiber optics were discovered there, and early lasers. Dick Whitney, Executive Director at the museum, spent his entire working life at AO since his graduation from college, and basically closed the last doors. He saved much from the archives, and artifacts establishing the first museum in the old AO plant. Now in a new location with the establishment of a convention center in the old location, Dick will welcome you at anytime to this unique and historically packed museum. Here is the entryway with Wells and early AO history.

Here are some views around the galleries. Another couple arrived while I was there.

In the museum is much of the original artwork for AO ads. Norman Rockwell did four ads for the firm, but the whereabouts of that original artwork is unknown.

In February on my way back from Connecticut I traveled a scenic road that wound me into Southbridge for the first time. I was taken back when I saw this fabulous facade for the first time – obviously an old mill/factory.

At that time I did not know what it currently was, but Dick filled me in. After American Optical closed, it was economic bust for over 3,000 employees, in a town of now 15,000 people. At the same time there were more military base closures. Bush 41 proposed plans to move Navy training from San Diego to Southbridge, and repurpose the complex here for a training facility. Clinton put on hold, and Bush 43 worked on it again. Now the Southbridge Hotel & Conference Center, it is supported by a 20 year DOD $9 million plus year contract. But the public also uses the facility. Dick told me that the center tower section is original, as is the facade. Everything else, from three feet back from the facade, is new. He said I had to see the original stairwell in the tower. I went in walked around, and was impressed.

In front of the convention center is a park and a pair of spectacles paying homage to the heritage of the area. One of the bronze plaques honors the Milestone of Electrical Engineering and Computing done here is 1961-64 – the building of the first optical fiber laser amplifier.

The plan to return home was to explore roads I had not been on before on the east side of Quabbin Reservoir. I wanted to explore the cellar holes and abandoned common of Dana which, although not underwater, was taken for watershed protection for the area.

Ends up I mis-read the directions a tad, and the Dana Common was not 1.8 miles from Petersham, but 1.8 miles (plus) from Gate 40 of the restricted Quabbin area.

But, I headed off down the old road to see DANA COMMON, and 25 minutes later met a couple walking towards me. “How much further,” I asked. “About a mile,” they told me. We chatted, and I continued on. She was not impressed with the bramble over cellar holes and told me to forget it. Looking at the sun dropping I checked the time – hum, could be dark on the way back, and then I checked for cell service – NONE. Not a good idea to fall at dusk and be alone, I wisely headed back. Another day I will head on down with my bike (allowed on this road). On the way back I did see one old cellar hole – probably a barn.

It has taken me two weeks to finish this post. I enjoyed the area, and have much more to explore in the region – one of the reasons I bought a membership to OSV. The past two weeks I was busy in the shop, putting the November CLARION together, and staying with Alex while David and Mari were away. So, one day when he was in school (Friday, 20 October) – here is a bonus for you.

I enjoy Concord, Massachusetts – there is so much history in the area – both American Revolution, and literary. I stop whenever possible to gain another experience, or repeat one. Finally, I was going to be there at the right season, and right day to take in the Emerson House. But first I stopped at the Minute Man National Historical Park to again take in the 25 minute multi-media presentation – each time you pick up a new point, or relearn.

Multi-media presentation begins

We know about Paul Revere’s ride, and his capture. But it was Dr. Samuel Prescott who (having joined up with Revere and Dawes) avoided capture and made it into Concord to spread the alarm.

Here is your history lesson (which can be clicked on for a larger version) —

It was then lunch at Concord’s Colonial Inn (third visit) to soak in 300 plus years of history. And, finally Ralph Waldo Emerson’s House for a tour. He lived here from 1835 until his death in 1882). Look at the front closely, and compare with other images I have shared here — see a pattern, and similarity to “44?” The portico would have been added, “44” had one too at one time.

Emerson was considered the “rock star” of the day. People took the stage in from Boston just to see him, and others moved into the area just to associate with him – e.g. The Alcott Family returned from Walpole in 1855 to live across the street. The home is still in the Emerson family, the last Emerson living there died in 1909. It is as it was with the original furnishings except the study where Emerson did all his writing. It has been removed to the Concord Historical Society across the street, but recreated in the home (downstairs room on the right in photo above) pretty much as it looked.

The docents giving the 50 minute tour were great, sharing much information on Emerson and his cohorts. Henry David Thoreau spent much time at the home with his mentor, and you can see items that Thoreau crafted for the family. We were told that it was on Emerson’s land on Walden Pond that Thoreau built his cabin, and the path to the pond started behind the house. When the tour was done, I went to find the path, first passing the side of the house.



Behind the barn I found the path – called the Emerson-Thoreau Amble extending about 1.7 miles to the site of Thoreau’s cabin. The website I found said is a recreation, but probably pretty accurate – now “on the list” for exploration.


Beginning of Emerson-Thoreau Amble

To complete the outing before heading back to be with Alex I drove over to Walden Pond. And, this is a good spot to close until explorations continue another day. RAY



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Santa Land’s new owner and Santa’s being restored

Did you notice? It has taken me more than two weeks to get to writing and posting this fascinating 12 hour adventure that I highly recommend. The day before my Quabbin (The Meeting of Many Waters) visit I got to meet the new owner of Santa’s Land in Putney, Vermont. I then updated my Santa’s Land post and made mention on Facebook of the news of its reopening. That lead to over 400 “likes” and over 600 “shares” which in 2 1/2 days equated to over 5,400 page views of that post – AMAZING. And, then it was CLARION time, and I spent 4 days working on the October issue – which is one of the best yet. Where did the rest of the time go? It just goes.

Before I went to Santa’s Land that Saturday, I stopped at the library to “hold court” and mentioning the Quabbin excursion, friend “Skippy” exclaimed, “may I come?” We left a little after 8AM Sunday down I-91, exiting to cut over to Sunderland, Mass, then to Amherst to get Route 9 to Belchertown to continue east the Quabbin Visitor center. I have always been fascinated with the building of this reservoir that supplies Boston and environs, but I have recently been reading a great book titled WATER FOR GOTHAM about the struggles to get water to New York City – that renewed my desire to explore more at Quabbin (click to open for easier reading).

This project, envisioned even in the 1890s, caused four towns to vanish under as much as 150 of water, and many other villages vacated that were in the proposed watershed. Almost 3,000 people were displaced (homes and businesses lost beginning in 1927), and almost 8,000 bodies from cemeteries relocated. Learning from earlier projects, the new reservoir bottom was totally cleared of homes, vegetation, everything for the purest water. The dam and dike were completed in 1939, and it took 7 years for the reservoir to fill. There is a small museum in one room in the Administration building built alongside the dam.

What was great in the museum, and make sure you see it, is the introductory video. We saw that, and a second one on the system to move the water to Boston. Upon leaving, the fog was beginning to lift finally, and the reservoir coming into view. Do you see the coyote in the grass towards the left?

Do you see him/her? Actually a statue they move around to scare away Canadian Geese flying through. If you have ever seen a gaggle of geese, you know what they leave in great quantity. The plan was originally to have a seaplane housed under the admin building, and there is a ramp into the lake. They never used a plane to patrol the lake, but there are patrol boats, and they use sounds and blanks to encourage birds to continue along. Walking east then to the dam.

It was amazing to learn how caissons were sunk down to bedrock (see the video) to construct the dam, and the complicated procedure to create what you see below.

The fog finally was starting to lift.

Leaving the visitor center we then entered the Middle Gate to loop around a peninsula to the East Gate. The first stop/view is Winsor Memorial Park (named for the engineer) looking back to the dam.

Of course, at the high point is Quabbin Tower so you can get 84 more steps above Terra Firma.

to take in the views (click to enlarge)

Just outside the East Gate of the park area is the Quabbin Park Cemetery where the remains of 6,601 graves from the Swift River Valley were moved.  7,613 graves were disinterred from thirty-four cemeteries scattered throughout eight towns, the others relocated elsewhere.

and even statues were relocated

In preparation for this trip I had read my copy (I squirrel books away in my own collection that catch my eye – have not run out of books to sell yet) of QUABBIN: THE ACCIDENTAL WILDERNESS. Just look at a map of Massachusetts, and you will understand. In the book I learned of The Swift River Valley Historical Society – I did not know of it. Open only Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, it closes the end of September for the season. I had to see it.

As people were being displaced, the museum had its beginning saving items from the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott. The main museum building, the Whitaker Clary House (built in 1816) was purchased from the Massachusetts District Commission (MDC, now DCR Watershed Division) in 1961 for $1.00. In the Quabbin watershed it was originally planned for destruction, but fortunately that never occurred as the interior is essentially all original – a visual and historic  treat.



This is one of the original road sign posts from one of the towns. It was recently restored. Below is a map of the reservoir showing you the location of the towns that disappeared forever.




here is the original kitchen in the Whitaker-Clary House.

In the front parlor are these three wedding dresses. All the same, worn by three sisters married the same day in the same ceremony.

and detail of the great original wallpaper in this room.

going upstairs, I now have a new plan for my home, which is ten years older than this wonderful house/museum.

In one of the front rooms upstairs is the Dana room (each of the lost towns has a room dedicated to it with momentos from the town).

and, a newly constructed barn structure has signs and artifacts from the towns. The North Dana Post Office sign was found just weeks ago and gifted to the museum.

I have driven through New Salem a number of times, and just love it. Ironically, the museum is a tad north of the “village” which is why I have missed it. There is essentially just Main Street in New Salem (but I just did see on Google Maps a few roads I have missed – next trip). Here is the Common in New Salem.

around the common there is a former private school (now a residence) and an early church.

How cannot you not love this drive down a “dead end” Main Street? Main Street ends (after turning to dirt) at a gate to the Quabbin grounds.

Part of this long day was to hopefully get to see the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield.  Closing at 4:30, I knew it would be tight to get to finally visit, but off we headed – back roads across country, of course. Getting there 10 minutes before closing time, we still went in.


Hey, if you are nice, you get to see something. And, we got a quick look at a couple rooms, an introductory talk, and a peek at the gift shop. Two to three hours will be needed to do the museum justice, so still “on the list.” And, finally, “on the list” for the day was dinner at  the Whately Inn,  in Whately, of course.

I had hoped to do this trip with an overnight on Saturday night and run hard on Sunday, but every place I called (that I would consider staying at) was booked, including the Whately Inn. Once entering, I realized that I would not have enjoyed staying there overnight, and the dining room was not decorated as it should be, BUT the food — plan on stopping for the food. Dinner is four courses, and reasonable. Appetizer, salad, entree, and desert. Here is my marinated mushroom appetizer, and lamb. I brought home the next night’s meal.


— Learn what you can about Quabbin Reservoir, and how Boston and 40% of Massachusetts gets its water
— At a minimum read QUABBIN: THE ACCIDENTAL WILDERNESS  by Thomas Conuel. There are so many interesting environmental facts and balances of life from the development of the area.
— Tour the area including New Salem and (when open) The Swift River Valley Historical Society
— Stop anytime in Old Deerfield. I have been touring through for over 54 years.
— Take in dinner at the Whately Inn
— Report back to me with your comments on these recommendations.

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If you read my posts, I have surprises for you, and often things I enjoy repeating. Today was a repeat, albeit different. I remember as a pre-teen a hit-‘n’-miss engine at a car show I was at with my Dad, and I was fascinated. Love to own one, but have enough engines to worry about, but that does not mean I cannot enjoy them. I introduced Alex to these versatile engines in Orange, Massachusetts in 2015, and first attended the Dublin meet in September of that year, last year in 2016, and again today. Click on the highlighted links above for those experiences. Today in attending the 46th Annual Dublin, New Hampshire Gas Engine Meet the plan (besides simply enjoying) was to document and share with you anything I had not seen before, nor shared in the above posts.  I was not disappointed as you will see below.

I arrived a tad after 11AM today, Saturday the 9th, and was waved onto the field at no charge to park in the exhibitor area. BLUE BELLE settled in about where she was last year.

Near her were other “old cars” but I am most attracted to unrestored and original, and many were near BB2. The 1914 Metz on the left below was probably repainted in the 1950s, and the 1926 Chevy is totally original with great upholstery (remember, when you see my images side by side, that is a gallery that you can click and open up for larger images.)

The theme for this year’s show was vertical engines, and several were on special exhibit near the entrance – by the way, as I entered a warm chill came over as I saw the largest crowd I had seen there.

this engine is just so colorful it had to be shared.

around the corner was this amazing contraption – a combination lawn mower and roller powered by a hit and miss – what a heavy monster to manage.

on a trailer in the “flea-market” area, each for sale at $500 each was a hay machine, and a cement mixer. Trust you can see the installed hit-‘n-miss engines.

you should know that mini-trailers from the 60s and 70s are all the rage now (think tiny house craze). He is one appropriately towed by a 1960s pickup. See what is in the bed of the pickup?

Yes, American Pickers Mike and Frank (and Dewey) – an INDIAN

I know, kinda campy a toy Ferris wheel driven by a hit-‘n-miss engine, BUT

the fascinating thing here was the opposing cones that as the belt is moved back and forth regulated the speed at which the drive belt moved, thus the speed of the Ferris wheel.

how about a Rock Crusher driven by a hit-‘n’miss – or in this case the drive wheel off an old John Deere???

of course you want to see it in operation

Most people I know buy their wood already split, but here is a DIY outfit.

and this hit-‘n-miss gas powered saw can be put on any log and put to work

as you can see here

sitting down I hope?  How about a loader (think moving stuff into a dump truck or rail car) powered by a massive mounted engine. Note the toy loaders on the trailer fender.

I think there may now be easier ways to shuck corn.

The gentleman who owns this tree spraying device answered all my questions as to the flow of the pump (and the bypass to change the flow and resulting pressure). You could buy this rig complete with the engine, or without the engine if you want to use the one already on your farm.

many clubs exhibited member’s models or related collections. I may have a new quest – if you watch American Pickers you know brass bladed fans have a premium, but did you know that brass bladed fans predate electricity? How about this assortment of early 1900s models powered by alcohol and water. Heat from a kerosene or alcohol lamp heated air in a piston, which turned a crankshaft with a fan blade attached. Off tomorrow on the hunt.

BB2 can attract attention, and when I was almost done and stopped for some water I started chatting with a couple fellows from North Walpole who walked by and admired her (she should be a chick magnet, but great conversation always welcome). We had fun, and I learned a great deal from them. But it was time to head back, but I thought I would be different (last year I took roads home previously unexplored by RAB) and took 136 north off 101 heading towards Hancock. Was going to reproduce a map for you, but want you to explore your paper map on your own. If you are on the right road(s) you will be surprised that Fall is upon us. No kidding, the below is this afternoon just south of Hancock common.

From Hancock I continued on 137 to Bennington and then north on US 202 to Antrim. Both new “discoveries” having never been to either before. From Antrim I took Route 31 to Route 9, turned south until reaching 123 west — and home.  Check out the route on your maps.

I still owe you some more from my route to and from Fall River last month – in time. But, if you have have a chance to see these old gas engines, or a farm implement related show may I encourage you to do so — they are fascinating. Yours, RAY


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WHACKED IN Fall River — 16 and 17 AUGUST 2017

Have you noticed that recently I seldom get to complete my posts while on my adventures as I used to? Some of my recent experiences have continued well into the evening hours impinging on my sitting down with wine and words. Hoping to put everything together when I get home, I still am too busy. I have been home from Fall River, Massachusetts for nine days, and finally started putting together a three day tale. But, working with my images, I realized I should separate out this adventure to 230 2nd Street in Fall River – my B&B for two nights. The trip there and back will come later on.

230 2nd Street, Fall River Massachusetts

My infamous bedroom is on the second floor above – the left two windows. Do you remember what happened here August 4, 1892? Maybe this will help —

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

Although the child’s skipping rope rhyme is not historically accurate (there were about 19 blows to Abby, her step-mother, and 17 to Andrew) you know where I was. And I had the room where Abby was whacked. Most expensive B&B room I have had, but (remember this) in checking out I saw a small sign “Show your AAA card for discount.” I saved $50! And, now I can share the story about this crime that still fascinates after 125 years, partly because Victorian women were thought not capable of such an act, this was the first nationally publicized crime and first carried by the new wire services. And, the first time actual crime scene photos were used in court in the US, and only the second time ever used in court (four years prior crime photos were used in England in the Jack the Ripper case).

Check in is after 4PM since there are one-hour tours during the day (when did you last sleep in a museum?). Did not have to go on one because guests receive a tour from 8PM until 10:30 or 11. I had to do “all things Lizzie,” so off I went after checking in to the massive Oak Grove Cemetery. Borden is a large family in Fall River, but here is Andrew’s marker.

the individual head stones:

and, after her trial, Lizzie decided she would be Lizbeth

Once acquitted, Lizzie purchased a house up on the hill where the wealthy, well-heeled residents resided. Her father could have easily bought there, but was frugal to a fault.

and the house that Lizzie renovated naming it Maplecroft, where she entertained and lived until her death in 1927. The current owner is hoping to open it as a B&B.

I really do not think I need to relate the Lizzie Borden story in detail because you probably know something, or can easily research (as I did for background prior to going – including watching the Elizabeth Montgomery movie on YouTube.) You just want to see her home which the current owners spent over $500,000 bringing it back to its 1892 appearance – thanks to all those crime photos.

Below is heading up the stairs to my room, and the view from the seventh step.


and, entering my bedroom, and looking over my bed

here is THE SPOT

Abby’s body had to be moved some for the crime photos. It would have been inappropriate for any of her legs to show, thus in pulling down her dress she appears to be propped at an angle – not so. You will want to open this gallery of images for sure to see the larger images.

My first evening I had a wonderful dinner at the Abbey Grill , ironically in the old church Lizzie attended and where she taught Sunday school. It was great. Getting back for the 8PM tour I joined six other guests. Rich, our guide for the night, gave an in depth architectural, and history tour of the property and the events. Here are a couple images during the tour. First, up the front stairs with my room was Lizzie’s room that she traded for with her sister following returning from a tour in Europe with oodles of souvenirs,

See the door to the left? Originally a two family home, Andrew did not make too many changes. He and his wife used the back stairs to the two rooms in the rear, and this door was kept shut with the bed at an angle in front. The girls then using the front stairs (viewed earlier) to their rooms (second bedroom off the one above to the left) and the guest room in the front.

Here is the front parlor – just about perfect Victorian (well milk crate on floor has binders of Lizzie Borden clippings)

And, the dining room which was two bedrooms when the home was a two family. Our host for the evening has arms extended.

Did you note the contraption hanging on the wall to the left? That folding framework with caning was used when laying out a body for autopsies, or wakes in a dining room. Instead of being laid directly on the dining room table, a body was placed on the frame, thus bodily fluids drain off. The second night one of the guests was a young mortician — was she full of stories, loving her work and its history.

Upstairs on the third floor was the maid’s room and another guest room at the time of the murders. Bridget Sullivan was called Maggie by Lizzie and her sister, the name of the former maid. The new owners have added two additional bedrooms on the third floor in what was storage.

Thursday I did other things that I will report to you in the next post, but I ended the day at the Fall River Historical Society. A wonderful old home, but the “hook” that got me there was one of the things my guide, Rich, had said the night before. With Lizzie acquitted, all the evidence of the trial was given back to her lawyer, Andrew Jackson Jennings. He took the evidence home and stored it in a hip-tub in his attic. The collection is known as the “hip-bath” collection. In 1967, Jennings’ daughter donated the items to The Fall River Historical Society. The items were put on display finally in 2010 in the room shown below.

Hard to see because of the glare, here is some of that evidence including the infamous broken hatchet found hidden in the basement. Even with the glare, I bet you cannot resist opening up this gallery for larger images.

I read a great deal, viewed videos on Youtube, listened to Rich the first night, and also the other guests who had ideas. My tour hostess for the second night I was there had more of an interest in the paranormal which this Borden home is also noted for. Along with that evening’s 8 guests I gained even more insight. So, I have my theory, and can happily entertain you with the details, but basically I believe the only victim was to be Abby, whacked by Lizzie’s uncle (fantastic alibi). Sadly, Lizzie’s Dad came home 1 1/2 hours early, and not sure what to do, I think Lizzie whacked him. She then lived strangely ever after.

And, one last image — the end of night one, guests helped pose me correctly as Andrew. THE END

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I cannot keep up to share my adventures. Still I have not yet gotten to my Fall River report, and when asked why by a friend days ago, she said, “that’s right, it is CLARION time.” Yes, the September issue of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION, went to press this morning (23 August), so I can now write about other things. But before I report on surviving Fall River (teaser at the end), I want to encourage you to follow the roughly 20 mile trip I took on Sunday the 20th.

Sunday I met a bookseller friend in Hopkinton, NH. He was cleaning out the books in a house there, and invited me to pick what I wanted. Arriving there at 10, I finished up at noon. My plan, since I was already across the state (time for this adventure does not include time it took to arrive at the start, or travel home from the end), was to explore a few towns I have missed. DO NOT MISS Hopkinton – it is a delightful small colonial village lasting but a few blocks. Ultimately I wanted to see the Muster Field Farm Museum in North Sutton – and the back roads to take were NH 102 and 114. The first stop was Contoocook Village in Hopkinton where I had lunch.I realized that on this route I could share three covered bridges with you. You can click on the image to the right (above) to read the importance of the bridge below. Hopefully you get the sense of the height to accommodate a puffing steam locomotive.

This village is also charming. I stopped at Union House Oddities which was packed with colorful eye-candy accessories for the home. I struggled, but could not think where to put any of the items that caught my eye. In the center of town is the railroad station, and a car that a citizen bought and gave to the town to restore.

From Hopkinton to Warner I was on the Currier and Ives Byway (Route 103 – the old main road that I-89 now parallels. In recent years a number of states have designated scenic drives, and I hope to share those state websites with you in time .  Sadly in Warner the New Hampshire Telephone Museum is closed on Sundays, but I walked around town, and drove up to the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, but decided to wait when I could visit both museums at once. Glad I did not go in, because I would not have made it to my final tour destination in time. You can click the image above left to read the sign about Warner.

New Hampshire Telephone Museum – Warner, NH

Turning on Joppa Road, next to the post office, I came to the Dalton Covered Bridge built 1853 spanning the Warner River, and one of the oldest bridges still in use.

Leaving Warner on Route 103, and passing under I-89, I started looking for Newmarket Road to Waterloo. What a treat when I found it, first seeing the old train station.

and, then the Waterloo Bridge, again across the Warner River, built originally in 1840, rebuilt in 1857. Listed only for 6 tons, the clearance is 8 1/2 feet.



Just before you head down the hill to the river is this sign about Waterloo (you can click to enlarge for readability). This area was an important mill area, and on a stage route. The few homes extant are amazing, and a sample is below (please click to open up the gallery and enjoy the images).



One of South Sutton’s prominent citizens of past.


Then I continued on Route 103 to Bradford to pick up Route 114 to Sutton. Ends up there is both a North Sutton, and a South Sutton. Arriving in South Sutton a few people were on the common, and a small cardboard sign said “Old Home Days 10-2” – I had just missed it. What a gorgeous village. Meeting house on the hill, obviously an old tavern to the left, and a fantastic old country store packed with original items. I clambered up onto the porch to peer inside the windows.


As I left the store’s porch two ladies called over to me. Yes, Old Home Days was over, and the store, owned by the historical society, had been open for its one day a year. They tried to think who could come back with a key, but I said it was alright. We chatted about the lovely area, and I learned the historical society owns the meeting house, old school, store, and a few other homes. Again – you need to visit there, and maybe bring a picnic to enjoy on the common.

I then continued on to North Sutton and Kezar Lake. I cannot wait to get back and re-
explore. Ends up this was a summer camp and resort area. If you look at the map you will see the area is on a parallel, and to the east, of Lake Sunapee. I turned off 114 keeping the lake to my left looking for the turn for Muster Field Farm Museum –  an 18th century homestead, restored farm buildings, and bicentennial working farm. Of course there is a book MUSTER DAYS AT MUSTER FIELD FARM. I thought I had it, and just found it in my private New Hampshire collection, complete with notes I made when reading it in November 2014. Now on my writing list for a future article “New Hampshire’s Muster Day Tradition”.

Dating from the 1790s the home did serve as a tavern since it sat on one of the main turnpikes for drovers heading to Portsmouth.

Sundays in the summer the homestead is open for tours — I made it just in time. Original – I love it – owned by one family until the 1940s, then one last owner. Upstairs is a ballroom where the militia would have dances – yes, musters were held in a flat field across the street – thus the name. No pictures allowed inside (understandably so the treasures are not publicized) but I could shoot through this pane of wavy glass.

Around the fields…

are 17 farm buildings that have been moved and preserved here to create the museum, including this Mineral Spring House from the complex of buildings that were the Bradford Springs Hotel.

and the various buildings (I did not get into them all, wanting to save some for the next trip) are packed with 19th century treasures. I was thrilled to see this item below – you may guess. But a teaser (not the big one) this is an implement that I will mention in my Did You Know That… article in the December issue of THE WALPOLE CLARION. Already read two books researching the subject.

Back into the center of the village, small green, church, and store.

and at the corner of the lake is the Follansbee Inn – now “on the list.”

There is much more I could share about the farm, and its many events. But RAY RECOMMENDS that you visit during one of the special events. It is really very easy to get to off I-89 from a New London exit — BUT — RAY ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMENDS that you follow Routes 103 (starting at Hopkinton) and 114 (from Bradford) to visit Sutton.

Did I say there was a teaser???



Yes, eventually to be posted a great three days – August 16, 17 and 18.

Thank you for getting this far, as always, yours, RAY

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I have not taken an overnight, or more, since early March when I stayed at the Red Lion Inn for my birthday, but had to leave early due to an incoming bad snow storm. I have gotten out of practice, and to be truthful, become afraid to plan anything. Part of the reason as some of you know (besides lack of time and windows of opportunity) has been developing hip problems (since April 15th), and most recently a neck muscle (or new arthritis) problem. But I couldn’t take it anymore — I love being home, but I love exploring.

While BLACK BEAUTY was being refurbished in 2010, I discovered (on-line) Bascom Lodge atop Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. I thought I had camped there in my Model A in 1963. I promised BLACK BEAUTY that when she was done we would head there for an overnight. But with seasonal hours, it did not happen, and for whatever reasons, has not happened the last almost 7 years. I have been struggling  to get back in “travel mode” – Finally, I just picked up the phone, and booked a room and dinner at Bascom Lodge.

I left on Tuesday the first about 11, took Route 63 to Chesterfield to cross the river to Brattleboro. Hopped on I-91 for one exit to Route 9, exiting to head to Wilmington. While there had lunch, wandered around, then stopped at Austin’s Antiquarian Books. Long time bookseller friend, Gary, was there chatting with a customer who I also knew from decades ago. We had fun.

Continuing west on Route 9, I turned south on VT 8 which becomes Mass. 8 once crossing the border. West on the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) in North Adams before getting Notch Road to go up the forested north approach of Mount Greylock to Bascom Lodge and the granite War Memorial atop the highest point in Massachusetts.

The original part of Bascom Lodge (on the right below – where I slept) was expanded by the CCC in the early 1930s, and is nicely maintained in its original Arts and Crafts style complete with a complement of Mission Oak furniture.

Once I checked in, it was time to explore and climb the 90 foot War Memorial which recently was reopened after restoration. Remember, you can open the gallery below (just click) to see larger images.

And, this to give you the view from the lodge back to the memorial

And, here is where I planned to read and work.

HELP – with 43 unique candlesticks on my porch and in my kitchen, I thought I had enough. BUT NO — HELP, I love these Mission style candlesticks — reward offered for a source.

The plan to read and write in the lobby did not materialize. On the Appalachian Trail, the lodge is a great place to stop, eat, shower, and have a bed maybe for the first time in weeks for the trail’s hikers. I started listening to 5 hikers chatting (one couple and 3 singles) and then chimed in asking questions to learn. They had started in April in Georgia and planned to finish in 6-8 weeks in Maine. Did I enjoy this – totally unexpected, and a learning experience (hey, is that not why I do this?)

Dinner is served at 7 – reservations made in advance for a fixed price three courses (salad, entree, desert). I brought my book in thinking I would be alone, but everyone was seated together filling tables. So, the conversation continued, and my learning of hiking experiences broadened. Hikers have “trail names” (people do not know their real names Blue Deer told me – and he also told me – as did another – how they got their names); there are “angels” along the way to assist, often with caches of useful items left; most hikers have boxes of supplies shipped to various places to save carrying; and many lodging and food facilities (and individuals) will pick up hikers and bring them into towns for doing laundry, etc. Many of these “hints” are in a small guide the hikers carry.

My dinner at Bascom Lodge.

And, the view from the dinner table, where I thought I would be seeing the sun set.

but, I assumed wrong, since the website said “enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun set over the Catskills.” I asked, and was told, “no, sun sets the other way.” Well you do get turned around as the road circles the apex, and after thinking about it I realized that the lodge was sited away from the cold westerly winds. So, I headed out (before desert) and saw many local youngsters up for the evening to see the sun set.

and (looking west) this is what we all saw:


The War Memorial lights at the observation level were on as the sun set, but later turned off and the light on the beacon turned on – but alas, it is so bright that I could not get an image to share.


And, then I walked back to the lodge for desert, and more conversation until after 10PM.



In the morning when I awoke, I looked out my window to see BLACK BEAUTY with dew on her windscreen.

I am usually in the Berkshires “off season” because I “don’t do crowds” – but the downside of having everything to yourself is that many places I wish to experience are only seasonal. Such is the case with Arrowhead – Herman Melville’s home from 1850 to 1862. The plan was to visit first thing Wednesday before meandering home. I arrived 5 minutes before the first tour was to begin at 10. A few moments later a couple joined me and my great docent, Tom. I really never knew anything about Melville, but now I do.

Arrowhead – Herman Melville’s home 1850-1862.

Melville did not start as a writer, but a sailor, jumping from one ship to another. It was finally writing those experiences that brought him acclaim. After getting some introductory history in the el at the back of the house we entered the dining room.

There are panels above the fireplace and writings on the fireplace coming from Melville’s “I and My Chimney.”

The final room you visit upstairs is his study on the north front corner of the house facing Mount Greylock. It is here that Melville wrote MOBY DICK during the winter of 1850-51. His original desk is in the Melville Memorial Room at the Pittsfield Library, but the study is still set much the same.

and looking out the window at Mount Greylock said to look like a whale from this viewpoint, but the debate is whether the whale’s head is to the left or right.

There is a walking tour around the grounds. Melville could not conceive a house without a piazza, so he added this one. Here he is reading, facing the mountain, with a few of the fairies that currently are in residence.

RAY RECOMMENDS that you visit Arrowhead, and here is some more detail (click to enlarge) from a sign on the grounds.

Almost 11:30, and my plan was to head to the Pittsfield State Forest, and then towards the NY State border and follow roads I had not been on north to Vermont. I wanted to see where I had camped in 1963, thinking it was Mount Greylock, but before I left home I dug out my photos from that trip, and there I found my $1.50 receipt for a tent site at the Pittsfield State Forest, August 5, 1963 – 54 years ago tomorrow (posting this the 4th).

My campsite at Pittsfield State Forest, August 5, 1963, in my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster,

A friend from High School, Roger Ahrens, was with me, and we stopped at Berry Pond where I took his, and BELZEBUTH’s picture.

So BLACK BEAUTY could have her picture taken next to the same sign, she and I headed back through downtown Pittsfield, and towards the park. But BB1 had a different plan. She cut off her power, restarting roaring with backfire, and sporadically repeat the process. If she totally died, I could restart her, but soon she faded totally. Fortunately I was close to a residential corner and coasted off under a tree – it was about 11:30. I checked under her bonnet, seeing nothing obvious I called Dr. Dewey. I recounted the various motions, hiccups and sounds, and he diagnosed the Pertronix  Ignition System had failed – nothing I could rig to limp home.

I got off the phone with AAA at 12:19 with the promise help would be there within an hour. I have the plan with 100 free miles of towing – and that can be to home. I now will make a long a tedious story as short as possible – if you wish to skip the next five hour saga, that is fine.

I called after an hour asking when the truck would arrive, “well, it reports it is on location now,” was the reply. Sorry, not so. “Well give them another 5 minutes.” “What then,” I asked. I called back after another 20 minutes, and got bounced around from state to state – seems as though Massachusetts is not in the New England Region – and they make maps? I was then told that a truck had just been sent from Lee. “Alright,” I said, “Lee is just about 20-25 minutes south.” I waited, and called again after almost another hour.

After the couple referrals, someone told me to hang on for awhile – it seemed like I was on hold 15 minutes. “We found a truck in the Pioneer Valley to send to you,” I was told. Mind you, this was the third promise of someone on the way. “Pioneer Valley, ” I exclaimed. You see, that is the region surrounding the Connecticut River, and I am on the NY State Line almost. Then the tow company dispatcher calls me from South Hadley – now that is a good sign. “Our truck is heading your way, and GPS says about 60 minute trip, but it is raining real bad, and he could be slowed.” Now, I too had been watching clouds build, thunder clap, and the occasional lightening display around me for a couple hours. I called the dispatcher after about 90 minutes. “The rain was real bad, and he is just exiting the Pike at Lee now.” The rain had finally hit me too – no need for a shower that night – I finally slid under the porch at the rest home down the street. Twenty minutes later I got another call, “My GPS shows he is two miles away.” And, at 5:20 — five hours after I originally got off the phone with AAA — a nice young 22 year old shows up, and it is now BB1’s turn for a piggy-back ride.

Yes – another 2 plus hours to get home – nice ride, nice company – and 97 miles on the truck’s odometer (back roads home will do it) and within my 100 mile allowance. The young man said, “you want her in the garage? Just watch.”

I did not get to Pittsfield State Forest, or the back roads between there and Williamstown that I have not yet been on – but they should still be there because this trip is now only “half done.”

I have not been scared away from traveling, and as my friends know, even something like this (put into perspective) is nothing to get upset about. I just roll with it, and that is me. Thanks for traveling again with me, yours, RAY

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When our play was done on June 25th I figured “I’m out of here – and Shunpiking.” But lengthy sojourns and overnights have not materialized. Hip provided hiccups, and between threat of rain almost every other day, and other commitments almost every other day — an overnight break has not yet worked out. But I still have not driven the “new” 2008 Dodge van in a month – BLACK BEAUTY has seen some miles, and BLUE BELLE’s rebuilt engine had a checkup Thursday – and she has seen over 200 mile since. You know I enjoyed the 4th of July in Plymouth Notch, on Saturday the 8th, inspite of a threatening storm, I headed to Nelson’s 250th Anniversary Celebration. Oh, I may add a new feature – your new word – so read through to learn anadromous.

You can only get to Nelson from here (or anywhere) on back roads. Passing into Sullivan, “do you see what I see?”

If you are observant peripherally while sailing at 40 +/- MPH, as I am, you spotted a Model A Ford.

Yes, a 1930 AA truck (note larger wheels/tires and bumper), still in use on the farm, and as I passed the next barn, in the barnyard sat a matching Model AA Ford dump truck, and in use.

As the dark clouds were arriving in Nelson, so did I. So I secured the tonneau cover over BLACK BEAUTY’s cockpit. And, walked down the hill to Nelson’s green (where everyone – population about 600 – probably gets their mail.)

There was an exhibit of Things Made and Used in Early Nelson from clothespins to samplers at the Old Library.

I thought this original shipping container of clothespins fascinating (yes, I am strange with what catches my eye)

Did you see the dresser in the image above? I have an almost identical chest. My home is filled with period Colonial pieces and wonderful (I think) Mission Oak all purchased in the early 1990s when I went on house calls to buy books. Ironically, the homes with the worst books had the best furniture which I bought. In central New Jersey in about 1994 I bought my chest. Today thinking the provenance written on the back on my chest traced to NH, I thought I had better check to see if I had a matching Nelson chest. I do not, mine is from Vermont. But maybe someone in Nelson gave it to Eunice?

It was approaching noon and the ceremonies began (crowd numbering maybe in the dozens) with proclamations read from the Governor, Senators, etc. Very nice, perfect, and the downpour came minutes following the conclusion when I was walking over to see the Colonial kitchen garden. Fortunately, a tent was there, and I happily sat alone for 30 minutes enjoying the rain.

On the way home the day broke into a delightful one. Arriving in Stoddard, Old Home Days was fizzling out (don’t think I missed much), but the Historical Society was open. I had fun chatting with the docent, and looking around. You may know that I have liked country store post offices ever since seeing my first one in Greenfield Village in 1957 – I decided then I would someday be Post Master General. Here is the original Stoddard Post Office unit.

and, it always amazes me what I may see out a second story window.

On the way home I stopped at the Vilas Pool where it was Vilas Pool Days – I had another snack.

Finally on the 20th Dr. Dewey said he could make time to check BLUE BELLE’s power plant. He wanted to do it after 500 miles, somehow I got to 600 and he told me, “please drive BLACK BEAUTY until I can change the oil and re-torque everything. I am good, I complied. After she passed her checkup with flying colors we back roaded to Landgrove, VT and then over another hill to Hapgood Pond (think I camped there in 1963 in BELZEBUTH – 1929 Model A Ford Roadster). I stopped for lunch in Peru (population about 375). Then I crossed Route 11 to cover some unexplored territory to the back side of Magic Mountain, and back onto Route 11 towards Chester. Fun outing – sorry no images.

Saturday, 22 July — I had to get out, but where? I had a news clipping on a museum, and I needed to see where Route 32 ended up in Massachusetts. I made my check on my garden, and headed to Jaffrey. I have to look at these Black Eyed Susans constantly adjoining my porch – too bad. Always wanted some – bought a couple plants last year, and was told that with luck they would reseed themselves, well did they.

My lunch at Sunflowers in Jaffrey – also had a crock of French Onion Soup


I stopped at the library in town before leaving, and mentioning I was heading to Jaffrey. Carolyn said, “eat at Sunflowers.” Well I did. Service terrible, wait lengthy, roast beef had a strange taste — must have been a bad day, probably worth another try — food presentation was nice.



And, then I headed back to Jaffrey Center. The center is where the town started, but once the mills were built to the east, the “main town” moved a couple miles (the same thing happened in Stoddard). I drove around a tad, and when it opened at 2PM entered the Melville Academy Museum which is run by the Jeffrey Center Village Improvement Society which was organized in 1906. Do check out their great website.

The building is so similar, and the same age, as our “academy” and historical society, but one main room on each floor. Here is the first floor once you pass through the entry room.

Here is a gallery of some of the things I enjoyed at Melville Academy Museum. Remember you can click on any image to open up for larger views.

Then I headed over to the Meeting House. The walls of the Meeting House were raised by local citizens June 17, 1775. And, the cannon shots at the Battle of Bunker Hill, 75 miles away, were said to be heard as the walls were going up.

Nine of the original 12 horse sheds were saved from demolition by the Jeffrey Center Village Improvement Society which has owned the Melville Academy since 1920.

and just to the right in the cemetery and down the hill is the grave of one of Jaffrey’s famous summer residents – Willa Cather.

overall perspective from the common to the Meeting House, horse sheds, cemetery behind, relocated school house, and a blue speck under the trees. Yes, that is Mount Monadnock in the background above the sheds.

the New Hampshire history signs really tell it all, and give you an introduction for further study.

the rest of the plan for the day was to head west on Route 119, and head south on Route 32 from Richmond having not been on the road before. Perfect day for cruising with the overcast, and only caught one rain drop on my face and four on the windscreen while on 32. But, RAY RECOMMENDS, you do not have to explore this road – nothing of note. And, arriving at Route 2A in Athol, Massachusetts, I headed west towards I-91 for a high speed run back home. Passing through Orange, however, I saw Route 78 heading north to Winchester, NH. Remembering that road, off I went — better than a super slab with nothing on it — and I am glad that I did.

At the intersection of 78, 10 and 119 I headed straightish on 119 towards Hinsdale. Believe I have only been on that stretch once before. Worth the trip – packed with history, and would you believe, we have Covered Bridges in NH also? Here is the bridge in Ashuelot (an unincorporated village of Winchester), crossing the Ashuelot River which starts in Washington (NH not DC) dropping 1,000 feet and providing power for scores of mills.

Continuing on towards Hinsdale, I do not recall these signs before. Packed with history, and I encourage you to click and read. You may even get the answer to the question I posed earlier.

And, arriving in Hinsdale I revisited this historic building. Last time I drove through I got inside because it was a junk shop, and open. I vowed I had to write about what happened here.

and here are the details – thanks again to a NH Historical Marker.

A great deal happened in Hinsdale (now a sleepy village hanging on), but here is the answer to the next Jeopardy question:

hopefully you read the sign on the right – OLDEST CONTINUALLY OPERATING POST OFFICE BUILDING SINCE 1816.




And, crossing the river and going up the hill, I saw this mailbox, and remembered what was across the road. How could you not want to live here?



It was then north on Route 63 which eventually ends on Route 12 just south of the border of Walpole. Last time BLACK BEAUTY and I headed south on 63 through Chesterfield we vowed not to return. Seems as though without trying we went totally airborne – the road was that bad. Guess what? No improvement – good thing BLUE BELLE’s frame was rebuilt last year.

Couple adventures, lots of fun, and I wanted to share. Hope you learned something, and found something you may wish to experience also. If all goes well, I will be able to avoid the “new” car for another month – just as well too since the GREY GHOST is shy of 100,000 miles – not bad for nine years.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and rantings, as always, yours, RAY

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


Over cocktails the 3rd, with neighbors Lil and Dave, Lil asked, “why don’t you join us for lunch with our new neighbors tomorrow?” And, she then quickly said, “oh, I forgot, you will be at Plymouth Notch tomorrow.” Predictable, yes – my friends know me. Ms T., I am flexible, but when it comes to tradition on the 4th of July, you will find me celebrating the birthday of our 30th President – now 145 years old. And, this was the best time there yet. And, for several reasons. The weather was absolutely perfect, and former Walpole Player, Tracy Messer made his debut as President Calvin Coolidge.

Friend, Carolyn, journeyed with me in BLACK BEAUTY, and we arrived in plenty of time to see the largest crowd (again a relative term in Vermont) yet assembling for the noon parade to the President’s grave.


We positioned ourselves at the former Top of the Notch Tea Room operated by “Midge” Aldrich with tourist cabins (occupied by Secret Service agents during the President’s stays) and gift shop. I have not shown you this angle of her Tea Room before –

nor of her “gift shop” –

the clouds, the temperature, the humidity – all was perfect as noon approached, and the “crowd” gathered –

and then it was time for the parade to the Plymouth Notch cemetery to begin. Compare this image to those I have taken in previous years — basically all the same – LOVE IT !!!

and, the parade began (you will see site director Bill Jenny waving to me) –

and the largest assemblage I have seen headed off to the cemetery

for the laying of the wreath and ceremonies

Laura V. Trieschmann, State Historic Preservation Officer, gave a wonderful speech, and when I saw her later I asked if I could share it with my readers. Many points she made relates the significance of Plymouth Notch, and lessons from history adding to its importance. You will find her complete speech at the end of this post, which I was able to add on July 6th, having received it from Laura.

Getting through the all afternoon line for hamburgers and hotdogs it was time for President Coolidge to be interviewed by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas prior to the traditional group reading of the President’s Autobiography. In his fifties, Tracy Messer is a former Walpole Player and intense historian with many connections to our 30th President, who he now portrays.

Cal Thomas interviewing President Coolidge (Tracy Messer) in the Union Christian Church 4 July 2017

In its email announcing the event, The Coolidge Foundation included this interview with Messer (if you want to come back to read this, there is more following, then you may come back):

Coolidge Foundation: How did you first become interested in President Calvin Coolidge?

Tracy Messer: As a boy, one of my favorite books was an old paperback collection of presidential biographies.  President Coolidge intrigued me for many reasons: mostly because he was cut from the same cloth as my Dad, my grandfathers, and their Yankee forefathers. Underneath my Dad’s high school yearbook photo is a quote by the English writer Martin Farquhar Tupper, “Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”  They were all men of quiet action, engaged in their respective families and communities, and endeared themselves to others through their characteristic wit and wisdom.

By the way, my maternal grandfather started his career as a dairy scientist working for Department of Agriculture during the Coolidge administration.  As a girl, my 97-year-young Mom used to participate in the Easter Egg Roll at the White House while the Coolidges lived there.  My Dad was born in greater Boston just as Governor Coolidge was beginning his first term.

CCPF: What kind of preparation have you done to portray the thirtieth president?

TM: I’m reading everything I can by and about Calvin Coolidge.  Jim Cooke, Jennifer Harville, and Jerry Wallace have all been wonderfully supportive in sharing their knowledge about President Coolidge.  I’ve been visiting various Coolidge-related landmarks in New Hampshire and Vermont and plan to do some more sight-seeing in Western Massachusetts and Boston.

CCPF: What is the most difficult aspect of portraying President Coolidge?

TM: The initial challenge was practicing his particular brand of Yankee speech.  Listening to his recorded voice and recalling my own grandfathers’ patterns of speech helped considerably.  Learning the proper pronunciation of local place names is especially tricky. Now, my biggest challenge is going beyond the known facts to begin thinking and acting like President Coolidge.  That’s what makes Jim Cooke’s portrayals so fascinating.

CCPF: Do you have a favorite Coolidge anecdote?

TM: Every new anecdote I come across seems to become my favorite.  Here’s the comeback I’m now using to start out my current presentation, Calvin Coolidge: The Monadnock Region As I’ve Known It: After an opera performance at the White House, President Coolidge was asked what he thought of the soprano’s execution. Coolidge replied, “I’m all for it.”

CCPF: What do you view as President Coolidge’s most enduring legacy?

Perhaps his most enduring legacy is not his legislative record, but his personal record of leadership with dignity and humility.  In his own words he once observed, “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” Certainly, he was a good man.

For the first time I sat in on part of the reading of the Autobiography, and now I am very anxious to read it. Outside the church the wagon was waiting to give tours, so off we went.

and, down the lane to the fields — “hey, look at that neat car!”

President Coolidge built an addition off the back of his home, but when the State took over the property in 1956 the addition was moved across the field (by the same movers who transported The Ticonderoga from Lake Champlain to its solid ground home at The Shelburne Museum) and expanded. This home remains in the Coolidge family.

I always try to sit right behind the driver, as he is a tremendous raconteur. He started, “I had a visitor from Kansas who was complaining because he could not see anything because of all the hills and trees in the way. I told him that is too bad because I understand in Kansas you can see nothing for 50 miles, but standing on a tuna fish can you see 100 miles of nothing.” Continuing he said, “If your dog runs away, you can watch him run for two days.” What can I say, except I should ride with him all day instead of just once a year.

The fiddlers who before noon were playing at the Wilder Barn were still playing, but now (three hours later) under a tree between the Wilder House and the Coolidge Homestead.

President Calvin Coolidge portrayed by Tracy Messer


spotting the rocking chairs empty on the porch at the Florence Cilley General Store, we claimed two. We hailed the President (aka Tracy) and he joined us while chugging down a traditional Moxie. For an hour or more he entertained and educated not only us, but others who stopped intrigued. I look forward to helping the President on some of his various projects, and have him speak on Monadnock experiences at the Historical Society’s lecture series this coming winter.



Would you like to know about the village of Plymouth Notch? Here is a link to a page on the Historic Vermont website that details all, and you will enjoy reading this page —

And, finally, below is Laura’s graveside speech in its entirety.

Plymouth Notch Cemetery Talk, July 4, 2017
Laura V. Trieschmann
State Historic Preservation Officer

It is my great honor to welcome you on behalf of Governor Phil Scott to Plymouth Notch Cemetery and the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

The State of Vermont, now in partnership with the Coolidge Presidential Foundation, has been directly associated with this significant historic site since the 1940s. We strive to preserve this site as a museum to Calvin Coolidge and his ancestors, a museum that tells the story of 19th-century Vermont life and farming, a museum that documents the modest swearing in of an accidental president around 2:30 in the morning in August 1923. Not all historic sites should be frozen in time as this one has been, but Calvin Coolidge was who he was because of this place and that is certainly worth historic preservation.

Today, we celebrate the 145th birthday of Calvin Coolidge, the only president born on the Fourth of July. The tradition of laying a wreath on the grave of a former president on his birthday began soon after the death of George Washington in 1799, and was informally and irregularly practiced for over 165 years with other presidents. President Lyndon Johnson—at the request of his nature-loving wife Lady Bird Johnson most likely—made the tradition official in the 1960s, with the White House sending a beautiful wreath from a local florist to mark the graves of every presidents on the anniversary of his birth. The sitting president is represented by the Vermont National Guard.

In 1872, when Calvin Coolidge was born here in Plymouth Notch, the doughnut cutter and the wireless telegraph were patented, the automated toothpick manufacturing machine was designed, and Yellowstone becomes the world’s 1st national park. In 1923, when Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States here, telephone service between New York and London began but it didn’t reach Plymouth Notch, congressional sessions were first broadcast, and cars, radios, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines become new products available to all households. In 1933, Calvin Coolidge was laid to rest at the place of his ancestors here in Plymouth Notch. He was always a Vermonter—despite serving as governor of another unmentioned state and living in Washington, D.C., for nine years to serve first as vice president and then as president. When asked why he wanted to be buried here, he said “we draw our precedents from the people, I came from them, I wish to be one of them again.” Seven generations of the Coolidge family are resting here in this historic cemetery in the Brave Little State of Vermont, and we honor them all.

And, just now (Friday 7 July) I stumbled on this fine article in the Rutland Herald documenting the day covering all aspects include Walpole Player Tracy Messer.



and, I have categorized my experiences about this special place, and to read them click on this link –


Posted in Plymouth Notch, Vermont | 3 Comments