Sunday, August 28, 2005

Old Homestead Revisited

As a child, I lived in quite a few places: Virginia Beach, Va;, Bellevue, NJ; Albany, NY, Glenmont, NY, Louisville, KY, Walpole, MA and Cedar Grove, NJ. I attended 7 different schools, which made me feel rather nomadic and without a home town to call my own. Be that as it may, we decided to visit Walpole, Mass., the town I lived in from 1962-1965 (5th through 7th grade). The amazing thing was that, even after the passing of 40 years, I started to remember things as we came into town. Yes, here was the street Mom and us kids used to walk into town. (Remember when families had only one car?). Yes, here was the bridge where I fell walking home from school and busted up my nose. Two nice old ladies in fur coats (before the days of PETA) picked me up and brought me home. (I went with them despite all my mother's warnings about taking a ride from strangers.) There was the spot where Mr. Chase's store stood. Pre mini-mart days, it didn't sell gas, but it did sell bread and milk and most of all (to the delight of us kids) candy, Beatle cards, and Baseball cards. There was the truck garage, still there after all the years. They were the meanies in those days, because they had knocked down the hill behind our house. This was the place where we played house in the woods. The "houses" were outlined with stones taken from the rocky New England soil and carpeted with pine needles. We sledded down the hill in the winter. Mary Ann one time used her new sweater as the sled, leaving pinkish-red streaks behind in the snow.) They covered over the "swamp", which we explored when it was iced over in the winter. We turned down Norfolk, which seemed like such a big street when I was a kid. The gravel trucks still traveled down it.

Then we turned onto McDonald Circle, and there it was, looking the same as I remembered it. A two story house, with a little "breezeway" and an adjoining apartment where Grandma lived, and a garage. It was here that I tried to roller skate and wrecked the new blue corduroy pants Mom had just made me. It was here that Mom was a Cub Scout den mother for my brother and his friends, going to Walpole Woodworkers and getting scraps of wood for projects. Being artistic and good at crafts, Mom's den always won the monthly prize for best project, though others complained! It was here that Mom made John a big teepee and Dad built us girls a play house. It was here that I saw a shooting star while trick-or-treating one Halloween and here that I went to my first dance. It was a junior high dance, with all the boys on one side of the room and all the girls on the other. And it was here, one November day in 1963 that I got off the school bus in tears and ran into the house to tell Mom and Grandma that President John F. Kennedy was dead. Oh, the memories of childhood came flooding back, almost overwhelming. I knew there was one more thing I had to do. We had to find Old Stone School, where I went to 5th and 6th grade and the pond across from it where we ice skated during recess and drank hot chocolate to keep warm. We retraced our route and, sure enough we found the pond.

Across from it, stood a building that looked like it had once been a school, but not the school I remembered. Now it held the Town Hall.

All in all, it was astounding that the town had remained so much the same. Sometimes you can go home again.

Moving On...

Much as we enjoyed our stay in the 19th century, it was time to return to the 21st. For those with a passion for history, there are other outdoor museums in which to experience a touch of the past. Before we left, we explored modern-day Sturbridge, Mass., driving through the main shopping area. We stopped at Sturbridge Yankee Pedlar, a fun place in a big old building just stuffed with all types of home decor items. The friendly clerks there suggested Lola's Place for dinner. We get so used to fast food and chain restaurants these days, it was real interesting to step into this spot! Lola was not only our hostess, but also the waitress, the cook, the busboy and the dishwasher! For $11 a plate, we had a huge piece of salmon in filo dough with cheese and spinach, stir-fried vegies, coleslaw and garlic bread. It was a treat! Sturbridge is a place I've returned to several times, and this time was no different. When we learned of the nearby Brimfield Antique Show, we just knew we would have to come back this way someday!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Old Sturbridge Village

The weather: perfect. The surroundings: quiet and peaceful. The town: A New England farming town, circa 1830s. Old Sturbridge Village is made up of period buildings that were moved to Sturbridge in order to preserve a way of life far different from today. The amazing part of the village is that, through archeological digs and research, the buildings bring to us the stories and careers of the families that actually lived and worked in them so long ago. If you go into the Towne House, the Towne's really did live there.

Some of their furnishings and pictures are still there. Their house was large enough to indicate they were well-to-do and important in the community. Their garden indicated their status, too. They were able to have both flower and vegetable gardens. Most people only grew vegetables. There was no time for frivolous things like flowers!

At the pottery shop, the history of the potter who actually worked the local clay was told through a historical interpreter. The big kiln is still fired up to bake the pottery. In the shoe shop, a young man was repairing by hand the shoes of a villager.

Not only that, but at the Blacksmith shop, a smithy was making the tiny nails that would go to fix more shoes.

At the Freeman Farm, a cooking fire was going, even though it was a hot day. No microwaves or fast food then!

So it went as we traveled back through time, through the church and the Friend's meeting house, through the grist mill and cider mill. Through the school, the bank, the tin shop, the law office, the parsonage. We came away tired and with an appreciation of how close to the land these people were. They labored hard for the basic necessities of life. Want a quilt to keep warm in the winter? Start sewing! Need a loaf of bread? Better go down and get some flour at the grist mill and then bring it home and make the bread.

Food for the winter? Hey, that is why all those vegetables were dried in the summer! Meat for dinner tonight? Go butcher a hog or kill and pluck a chicken. So, the next time you feel stressed by this century, think about what your ancestors did way back then, when the average life span was 45 years and there were no supermarket chains or "big box" stores!

Friday, August 26, 2005

On the Road Again

We covered 4 states in 5 hours, which is easy to do when back east. Ah, but here I must digress into a slight rant! It sure was a lot different then a 5 hour drive in Washington state! New Jersey being (I think) the most densely populated state, driving is no piece of cake. Drivers tend to go fast, follow closely, cut in and out of lanes and be very short tempered (can you blame them?). Add to that the Garden State Parkway, where tolls must be paid every few miles. The newbie Parkway driver is faced with a bewildering choice of lanes: "Easy Pass Only"; "Token or Exact Change Only", "Cash", etc, etc, etc. Not only are there signs, there are pictures and various color lights either flashing or solid. Escaping over the Berlin Wall must have been easier then jockeying for the correct lane on the Parkway! In addition, they are redoing some of the toll booths, so a person without an easy pass must go through what appears to be an exit to pay the toll. (We missed one of these, so I'm sure the state will track us down through the rental car company and send us a ticket.) (This would be the second of the trip. The first was a parking ticket at the Manahawkin Flea Market. Despite no curb markings or no parking signs, the ticketing officer told complaining motorists that they "were supposed to know" that this was a no parking zone. After we mailed in the fine, the state sent us a note demanding more money!) OK, OK! We did survive N.J. and passed into New York and crossed over the Tappen Zee Bridge. Then it was on to Connecticut, where we passed by a bus merrily burning away. Luckily, passengers and driver escaped the flames. Driving through Connecticut and Massachusetts was easier then NJ, except for the habit of 18-wheeler trucks to travel in the middle lane. (In Washington state, they must use the right lane and go 10 MPH slower then cars.) Needless to say, by the time we got to our motel in Sturbridge, Mass, we were crabby, tired and hungry. But the bad part was over and the fun was soon to begin! Next: Old Sturbridge Village.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Crabbin' by the Bay

Jack and nephew Dan raising the crab trap. These tasty critters were later cooked by sister Mary Ann and shelled by Jack and I. The crabbers in the family are careful to only take the crab that are legal to catch. The rest go back into the bay. It's a lot of effort for a little meat, but they are delicious!

Barnegat Light

On the very northern tip of Long Beach Island is the lighthouse known as "Old Barney". The first "Barney" was built in 1834, but had the bad luck to fall into the sea. It was rebuilt in 1857-58 by General George G. Meade, who later achieved fame in the Civil War. It stands watch over Barnegat Shoals, which, according to AAA, is the scene of over 200 ship wrecks. One wonders how well the light did its job!! Today it is a place for picnics, fishing, boats, and walks out on the jetty. Also a great place to enjoy a treat from the nearby Dairy Queen on a hot day (which have been coming in record numbers this year). There are 217 steps to the top of the lighthouse where the view is said to be fantastic. (It was just way too hot to attempt it on the day we were there.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Shifting Sands

Last year while geocaching we found a great historic spot down by "Old Barney", the lighthouse at the North End of Long Beach Island. It was the mast of an old fishing ship sticking out of the sand. From info posted at the site, we learned that the ship had been named the Sea King and was beached in Feb. 1963. It had been over 1000 feet from the shoreline, but due to a jetty built by Barnegat Inlet, tons of sand formed a new shoreline. It is duned and beautifully covered in sea grass and other plants. The beach is very uncrowded (for New Jersey), because it is a bit of a walk from the parking area.

Hey, Have a Nice Day!

As anyone who has lived in New Jersey can tell you, there are lots of people and lots of rules!

Friday, August 05, 2005

The best little beach house in the world!

Surf City, NJ

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sunset over the Mainland

Long Beach Island is only about 4 blocks wide by where my Mom's house is located. So, we bicycled over to the ocean side to watch the surf fisherman and then rode over to the other side to catch the sunset.

Back east

Sailboat classes on Barneget Bay
Long Beach Island, NJ