Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, September 29, 2008

"It's The Colors, Man"

The foliage is far from reaching its peak here in Central Mass, but there are some splashes of intense color around that will blow your mind.

Late yesterday afternoon we headed out for probably one of our last Sunday ice cream rides of the season. This time we headed to Howard's on Route 9 in West Brookfield. The sky was mostly gray with the late afternoon sun hitting the tops of the huge cumulus clouds. It was if one of the great Masters had painted the sky just for us. Closer to earth there were pockets of fall foliage that were so fresh, and colorful that even Crayola would feel threatened.

The reds along the wetlands were ablaze. The yellows filled in as the tree line moved further from the waters edge, and the half tones took over till they met with the solid green of the trees that had yet to feel the need to change.

These colored pockets were random, but were a sure indicator of what we will have in store for us in a couple of weeks.

I had a feeling it was going to be a great year for color. Sunday morning I went to get the paper, and on my way south down Route 148 I cast my eyes just beyond the river to Stallion Hill. There on the hill was the best early foliage I had seen in a long time. Couple that with the soft, misty morning, and the colors jumped right off the hillside.

These short jaunts around the area are like mini-vacations when the season is changing before our eyes. To see the world actually changing around you day by day is something that special effects artists will never master, and we get to see it for free.

After our ice cream, we rode through West Brookfield, and down Route 19/67. After a bit we took a side road up onto a hill. There, on the left was a blue sign on a pole: "Scenic Road". Naturally, we turned there. About a hundred yards ahead of us there were two Tom turkeys in the middle of the road. They were enormous. And, they had attitude. We slowed down to view them, but kept the windows rolled all the way up. They strutted across the road with confidence, and stared at us as if to say, "Slow down any more, sucka, and we'll 'jack your ride".

The gray, black, white and red colors they sported made the scene look like a post card against the yellow leaves on the roadside.

We let the GPS show us the little roads, and we followed them back in the direction of home.

It just may be our last foray for ice cream this year, but it won't be our last Sunday excursion. With the price of gas, the economy in shambles and food costing so much we need to get out and empty all the negative from our heads on a regular basis. Otherwise, we'll explode.

Next weekend, I'd like to head further north into Worcester County, and this time, I'll take the camera.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

October 5th: Footsteps through History….The Trails of Sturbridge

Community Preservation Committee member, Joe Ouellette, is hosting a tour of town owned open space, known as the Heins Farm. This Walktober event is sponsored by Quinebaug-Shetucket Corridor, Inc and is one of many interesting walks planned for this fall. You can catch up on other opportunities by visiting .

Footsteps through History….The Trails of Sturbridge
Historic Heins Farm
Sunday October 5th - 10AM

The Community Preservation Act is a Commonwealth of Massachusetts funding tool to help communities preserve open space, historic sites and create affordable housing and recreational facilities. This Open Space project is highlighted to encourage the people of Sturbridge to use these lands for recreational purposes and walk in the footprints of other generations.

Historic Heins Farm
”The Hills are Alive” - From one of the highest points in Sturbridge you will enjoy 84 acres of spectacular views few have ever seen since the stagecoaches carried businessmen, politicians, as well as other area families on this very trail. Enjoy a look back in history to see the last intact remains of the Old Worcester – Stafford Turnpike (1810-1835) making its way across this revered site. Experience new and easy-to-handle hiking trails throughout this property. See the rock outcroppings left from the ice age and experience one, two or three hiking trails to make it a memorable day of experiences you and your family will not soon forget. Your guide will explain just how these early turnpikes were formed, where they stopped along the way and finally what were the influences of their rise and decline.

The three trails are as follows:
Worcester - Stafford Turnpike Trail - 1 Mile – Farm Fields and Town Views;
Pond View Trail – 2/3 Mile – Glacial effects, Wetlands, Streams and Farm Views. This trail is designated as Universally Accessible, which makes it an easy and interesting walk.
Old Cabin Trail – 1/2 Mile – Wetland views, expansive views of the Old Heins Farm including the old Heins family play cabin.

Parking for these trails is located at 197A Leadmine Road. Follow the signs. From Route 20, turn on to the entrance to OSV and proceed past the OSV entrance. This is Stallion Hill Rd. Proceed to the top of the hill. Turn left on to Leadmine road. The parking lot is _ mile on the east side of Leadmine Road.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Making The Transistion

With the change of seasons comes those chores we annually perform to say goodbye to one season, and hello to the next. This week is one of those weeks, and I have the list.

The air conditioners are out of the windows, but need to be hauled up to the attic. That's not a problem, Mary is very strong. There are a couple of fans that will join them there. Yard furniture put away. Summer shorts and t-shirts packed away, and the flannels pulled out of the moth balls. The set back thermostat needs some tweakin', and some weather strip needs to be put up along a new door.

There are many more things on the list, but that will do for now. I won't run out of things to do, and if I do, I'll just make more up just to keep busy. Waxing the refrigerator drives my wife nuts, but keeps me off the street at night.

I really enjoy this transition period into fall till just before the leaves are off the trees. After that I have a really hard time with the short, gray days, but there is always the winter list, and that is a lifesaver. Home Depot loves that list.

This morning I woke up as Mary was heading out the door to work around 6:15. The heat had come on just enough to knock the chill out the air. The old steam radiators will keep the house very warm for hours after the furnace shuts off. I think steam heat is the best. Outside it was gray and foggy, and cold. Not a breath of wind, the trees still with anticipation of what the day will bring.

The mist and fog here in Sturbridge in the fall is unlike anything I've seen elsewhere. As I drive home in the morning there is often a large fog bank hovering over Exit 9 that suddenly appears. Walker Pond is shrouded in that low lying cloud, and it covers the ground all the way to the toll booth. It is a scene out of a Stephen King novel.

Once through the toll booth the sun is bright, and the fog seems to evaporate around the road. It's as if I am driving into a secret kingdom surrounded by a moat of fog that suddenly lifts when it recognizes one of its own.

Driving west along Route 20 the mist reappears to accent the trees on Stallion Hill and the land along the river. When the leaves are in full color you cannot find a prettier sight in all of New England.

Autumn is a time for different chores, harvesting, and change of weather, but it also refocuses our eyes to the world around us. The hills take on a different glow when the angle of the sun decreases. Our lakes and meadows steam with mist in the mornings, and look like a scenes from a Yankee Magazine calendar. Pumpkins punctuate the fall earth tones, and mums brighten our door steps.

I have always enjoyed the spring the most, but as I've grown older I have begun to understand why we are given the colors, and cool, soft air of Autumn. It is a gift to prepare us for those short gray days, and long dark nights of Winter. A last hurrah of sorts. It prepares our souls for the emptiness of December, until the sun begins to linger longer in January.

Until then we will soak in the fall. Store up all the colors, smells, and sounds offered us, and when the those cold, colorless days of winter appear, we can pull out those memories to help get us through til Spring.

I need to get moving on that list now. I want to get as much done during the week as I can. After all, there is football that needs watching on the weekend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Monday Musing

In 2003 a man awoke from a coma after 19 years, and spoke. His first word was "Mom".

Freakin' amazing. He spoke a few more words like milk, Pepsi, and then started chirping up a storm. He hasn't shut up since.

I always wondered if when someone awoke from a coma would they continue the conversation from where they had left off, or would they start a new one. In this case it's a bit of both. He asked for a Pepsi, obviously a conversation starter after 19 years, but also asked about President Reagan. He still thought it was 1984.

Some fully conscious people do this, too. Ever hear from a usually omnipresent person after they've been somewhere else for a few weeks? Most of the time the conversation starts anew.

"Hi, Bill."

"Hi, Fred. Where ya been?"


"That's nice. Want a Pepsi?"

This is a normal conversation. A short, but healthy exchange of words. Then, there are the others that are away for a bit, and suddenly call.



"A 1963 Dodge Rambler with a black interior. It was a standard shift, too."

"Is this Fred?"

"Yes. I believe it was light gray."

"Fred, we had this conversation last summer before you went away to Peru. And, in the spring, and over the Holidays I listened to you about the Rambler. Can you talk about something else? Heck, you've been gone for a month, is there anything else you can talk about!"


"I put an eight track in it. Remember?"


These fully conscious people go away for a month, come back and start over as if they had just gone out for bread and milk. The same story. The same rants. The same complaints. Nothing new.

Arrgghh. Irritating as all get out.

Anyway, enough about that. Did I tell you about this fella that awoke from a coma after 19 years?

Freakin' amazing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our Stones

Sturbridge Stone Piles (MA)

ong before there was a concern for the height of gravestones here in town there was a people that lived on this land that built stone monuments all over our town. The Native Americans, and ancient people that lived here are responsible for scores of "monuments", and if you are curious enough, you can find them.

Why were they built? I haven't a clue. Some may be burial grounds, others may mark where significant events occurred, or maybe markers for the passing seasons. The point is, they are here, and all around us, and were obviously very important to the people that built them.

These "rock piles" remind us that we are newcomers to this place. Long before they discovered the graphite here, there were peoples that lived undisturbed for eons. Hard to imagine a world devoid of Route 20's, fast food, motels, and "primitive decor". These purposely built piles of stones are hidden in the forests throughout the area, and are invaluable to the historian in telling more about the history of our town.

Yesterday, I took a short walk into the woods with a friend of mine that is somewhat of an expert in local history. I had mentioned some stone piles that I had found a couple of years ago that seemed more than just a random placing of rocks. Curious, he asked to be shown where they were.

Our "hike" wasn't a long one, but over land that is seldom, if ever walked on. We crossed a small stream and in a short bit I found the pile I told him about. He agreed, this was not just a pile of stones. He had seen Native American burial grounds before, and this site reminded him of the stone monuments he had seen before. He has a friend that is Nipmunc, and very knowledgeable in this area, and he is going to run it by him, and get his feedback.

As we wandered about, in the area of the stones, we found a few more piles. Each one purposely placed and mostly covered with years, and years of forest debris. Early settlers would not have left piles of rock in the middle of the fields they had cleared, but rather placed them in a wall surrounding the field, and out of the way of the plow.

The slide show above is not of the piles we visited yesterday, although the photos were taken here in town, it is from a website I found on the internet. The photos were taken by someone else that had the same curiosity we have about the rock piles in our town. The photos give a good sampling of what there is in the woods around us.

The stones can tell us much if we are willing to see. Disturbing them is not something that should ever be done, even archaeologist won't disturb them unless there is the chance of a major find, and then it is something that will be discussed at length.

Seems stones have been something the peoples in this area have paid attention to over the ages. I guess we're no different today judging from the activity at the selectmen's meeting this week regarding the tombstones at the cemetery. Stone monuments are still very important to our culture.

We may be called Modern Man, but we still have a bit of Stone Age in us.

For more information regarding Rock Piles in New England go to

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another Major Issue Overcome. Whew.

This past Monday the Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 for the acceptance of both flat memorials, and vertical memorials at the North Cemetery.

Believe it or not, this topic made the papers not only before the vote, but was reported on in great detail after the vote as well.

Something is wrong.

Why is this issue getting so much press? Seems like a simple enough, everyday type of small town thing that gets brought up, voted on and that's it.

Apparently not. Seems some time ago the town told the residents of Jamieson Road that flat, horizontal headstones would be the only stone allowed in the future in the growing cemetery. This would serve a couple of purposes. One, it would make maintenance easier when mowing the grass, and two, it would be easier on the eye. The section near Jamieson wouldn't look like a cemetery anymore for the residents.

I can see both sides in this one. I lived on Jamieson Road for awhile, and wandered through that cemetery many times. I could see it from my side yard, but it wasn't outside my front window, either. I understand that having a cemetery outside ones bay window is not the most scenic vista, but the cemetery has been there for 200 years, and the only things that have changed are the houses that were built near it, and the growth of the cemetery over the years. And, I can understand the sole vote against vertical, or raised stones, especially if it will affect your sisters view. I figure I'd do the same.

If you buy a house on the water, you're gonna get wet once in awhile. Same with buying a home near a cemetery, if you see headstones when you bought the house, you're gonna see even more of them for years to come.

I said I could see both sides of this, and I do. If the town had made a promise to the residents that only horizontal stones would be accepted, then that issue should have come up for a vote at the time. If it did, honor it.

It's that simple.

If it was one of those off the cuff remarks made a board meeting, then there is little we can do to enforce it. Still, it's a broken promise.

I agree with Bob Briere, President of the Sturbridge Historical Society, however. He said, “We should leave well enough alone,” he said. “If someone wants a flat stone that’s the family’s decision. If someone wants a vertical stone that’s the family’s decision.”

Anyway, the vote has been taken.

We can bury it now.

Photo: Vertical headstones in the old section of the North Cemetery.

(c) 2006

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nartional Public Lands Day Call For Volunteers

Sturbridge; National Public Lands Day, (NPLD) the Nation's largest volunteer
day for public lands, will be held on Saturday Sept 27th, 9 am to noon. NPLD
is the nation's largest 1 day volunteer effort in support of Public Lands.
Last year over 1 million people volunteered. For more information on NPLD

Local hosting of this year's NPLD is by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and
The Grand Trunk Trailblazers. The local trail committees of Brimfield,
Sturbridge and the Sturbridge Conservation Committee are asking for
volunteers to work on trail projects. This year's event will be organized at
the Westville Lake Park, off Wallace Rd in Sturbridge.

Volunteers are needed for the following projects, listed by town:
Brimfield: continue work improving the Grand Trunk trail along 5
Bridge Rd. Work includes spread gravel, brush removal and tree trimming.
Volunteers are asked to meet at the trail head parking lot on 5 Bridge Rd for
registration at 8:30 am.

Sturbridge: Two sites will have several trail work crews; Site 1 is
the Heins Farm Conservation land, where 4 crews will work spreading gravel,
pulling rocks and roots from trails, and Vista pruning. Meet at Westville
lake Park for tools and crew organization and car pooling.
Site 2 is at the Leadmine Mt Wildlife Conservation Land (OSV Parcel) Three
trail work crews will do trash and debris pick up, brush cutting trails and
invasive plant removal to start opening up the proposed 1.8 mile loop trail
around the ponds. Meet at Westville lake Park at 8:30 am for tools and crew
organization and car pooling.
Westville Lake Park: Four trail work crews are needed for invasive
plant removal, Tree planting and trail building/safety improvements along the
Community Trail in Southbridge. Meet at the Park for registration at 8:30 am.

Participants are requested to pre register for preferred trail crews, sign
ups can be made by calling Tom Chamberland at 508-347-3705 or email at
Please bring a water bottle, work gloves and dress for the work and weather.
Events will be held rain or shine. Refreshments and a pizza lunch will be
provided at Westville Lake Park at noon.

Any one interested in making donations of equipment (trash bags, tools,
gloves, and small tractors), water, food or refreshments are asked to contact
Pat McGarrah at 508-347- 3647 or Erin Jacque, Conservation Agent at
508-347-2506. For further information or to sign up for a trail crew contact
Park Ranger Tom Chamberland at 508-347-3705 or email at

Service Nation

Our National Public Lands Day is now also a part of this Service Nation Program. Please visit this website for more information on Service Nation.

--Tom Chamberland, Contributor

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where Are They?

There is a Scenic Road bylaw here in our town, but are there any actual, official Scenic Roads?

Well, if there are they aren't listed on the Towns website, and there are no streets that I have found in town that are marked "Scenic Road".

This got me wondering, why?

A Scenic Road is just that, a byway that is scenic, and/or historic. Here in Central Mass that road could be a country lane surrounded by farmland, road running through the forest, or along a river. Here in Sturbridge we have many scenic roads, but why haven't any been officially designated?

I think I know why.

To become a scenic road there is a process, and once so designated it can be removed at any time, it's not forever. There are a lot of restrictions for the property owner when their road is designated a Scenic / Historic Road, too. And, the kicker is, it is all under the auspices of the Planning Board.

Say what? The Planning Board? No Scenic Road Advisory Council? No Pretty Street Committee?

The Planning Board.

You couple the Planning Board, and its agenda with the current Scenic Road bylaw and the original intent of the Scenic Road designation will be lost.

So, after a bit of research, and some thinking, I can see why there are no designated Scenic Roads in our town.

One would think there would have been a simple bylaw:

The road is scenic.
The end.

Oh, we could add a few things like, if you have do make adjustments to a stone wall, or take down a tree, come to a hearing, so as to make sure the road stays scenic. But no, a bureaucracy has written the bylaw, and that would be only a small part of the "process", and as I mentioned already, the designation can be taken away by the PB as well.

Just as well. We don't need a special sign telling us what streets in our town are scenic. All we need to do is go for a drive and our heads will tell us, "Man, this is a pretty road".

No bylaw needed.

As Amended 2007

To protect the scenic quality and character of certain roads within the Town of Sturbridge by establishing regulations that control physical alterations within public rights of way.
In the absence of contrary meanings established through legislative or judicial action, pursuant to MGL Ch. 40, § 15C, the following terms contained in this bylaw shall be defined as follows:
Cutting or Removing Trees – Shall mean the removal of one or more trees.
Repair, Maintenance, Reconstruction or Paving Work – Shall mean any work done within the right-of-way by any person or agency, public or private. Within this definition is included any work on any portion of the right-of-way which was not physically commenced at the time the road was designated as a scenic road. Construction of new driveways or alteration of existing driveways is included, insofar as it takes place within the right-of-way.
Roads – Shall mean a right-of-way of any way used and maintained as a public way including the vehicular traveled way plus necessary appurtenances within the right-of-way such as bridge structures, drainage systems, retaining walls, traffic control devices and sidewalks, but not intersecting streets or driveways. When the boundary of the right-of-way is an issue so that a dispute arises as to whether or not certain trees or stone walls or portions thereof are within or without of the way, the trees and stone walls shall be presumed to be within the way until the contrary is shown.
Tearing Down or Destruction of Stone Walls – Shall mean the destruction of more than fifteen (15) linear feet of stone wall involving more than one cubic foot of wall material per linear foot above the existing grade, but shall not be construed to include temporary removal and replacement at the same location with the same material.
Trees – Shall include any living tree whose trunk has a diameter of four inches or more as measured one (1) foot above the ground.
The Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Historical Commission may petition the Board of Selectmen for additions or deletions to the list of scenic
Sturbridge General Bylaws
As Amended 2007
roads for consideration at Town Meeting. Any petition for “scenic road” designation must be accompanied by a written description of the characteristics of the road as a justification for the protection afforded by this bylaw.
Within the public right-of-way of designated scenic roads, the following activities shall require written approval of the Planning Board in accordance with the provisions of this bylaw:
The tearing down, painting or destruction of stone walls.
The cutting or removal of trees the scope of which is outside the responsibility of the Tree Warden as defined in Massachusetts General Laws or the Town of Sturbridge General Bylaws.
Repair, maintenance, reconstruction or paving work, including the construction of new driveways or alteration of existing driveways, insofar as they affect stone walls or trees within the public right-of-way, as defined above.
In cases where a threat to public safety does not allow sufficient time to obtain approvals from the Planning Board, the Planning Board must be notified within five (5) business days of any action which, had the threat not existed, would be a violation of this bylaw.
The Planning Board shall, as required by statute, give notice of its public hearings by advertising twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area. This notice shall contain a statement as to the time, date, place and purpose of the hearing with a reasonable description of the action and its location proposed by the applicant. Copies of this notice shall also be sent to the Town Clerk, Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the Tree Warden, the Director of Public Works and the owners of property within one-hundred (100) feet of the proposed action.
The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing within thirty (30) days of receipt of an application and shall approve, conditionally approve or deny an application within sixty (60) days of receipt. In making its decision, the Planning Board shall consider the following criteria and shall not grant approval if the proposed action will be in violation of one or more of the following:
Preservation of historic values
Sturbridge General Bylaws
As Amended 2007
Preservation of scenic and aesthetic quality of the area
Protection of natural resource and environmental systems
Public Safety
Compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood
In making its decision, the Planning Board may grant an approval that otherwise would be denied if the overall effect of the proposed alteration, including compensatory action, such as the planting of new trees or the reconstruction of stone walls, is to maintain or improve the scenic quality or historical character of the road.

Comments are now closed on this post.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Easing Into Fall

Finding something to do is usually not too hard for me. Doing them comes pretty easy. Doing them right, well, I have learned to measure twice and cut once the hard way. All in all, I like to take on new projects around the house, and I thank God for molding and joint compound, they hide a myriad of mistakes.

I'll be finishing some things around here over the next month, and looking forward to taking on the Winter Projects. I get cabin fever really easy, and unless I have something to do I will drive Mary out of her mind.

In the meantime there are lots of little things to do. This weekend is time to remove the air conditioners from the windows, put away the fans, and go through the summer clothes, and begin to toss out some t-shirts, and cut-offs that have been with me since '71. Over the next few weekends I'll begin to put away the outdoor furniture, and take down the little canvas cabana that has been our respite from the sun since June. Tasks like this signal the seasons change, and if I work with it, it won't be so hard to take come the first frost.

A few years ago, Mary turned me on to apple picking. As a kid our neighbors had apple trees and we climbed and ate apples whenever they were ripe. We never went to an orchard to pay for apples. When my daughter was younger, I remember going a couple of times for apples and pumpkins in late September. Pumpkin carving was always a tradition, but apple picking never was something I did year after year. I really like it, and wonder why I never did it more.

Here in Central Mass we have a slew of apple orchards to choose from. This year I plan on visiting a few. Last year we did The Brookfield Orchards, which I am sure we will do again, and we'll take in Breezelands, too, and then look around for a place we've never been to.

Each orchard offers something a bit different from another. Home cooked apple dumplings at Brookfield are great, and they all seem to have apple cider donuts which are addicting as heck. Most have those little country stores that sell a myriad of Autumn stuff.

Yep, I'll be dropping some coin this fall, and supporting our local farmers.

If you're new to the area, or haven't been apple picking in a long time, I suggest you take a few hours this weekend and do it. Besides gathering the apples, it is one way to reduce stress. For a while all those cares and worries that have mounted up during the week seem to float away. It's just you, the family, and the orchard. Some hot apple cider, a few bags of apples, and some time strolling through the stores can do a lot to soothe the spirit.

And, another nice thing apple picking can do for you is get you away from the Presidential campaign for a few hours.

Just my luck I'll find one of them doing a "meet-'n-greet" amongst the Granny Smiths.

Time To Make New Memories

When a small town looses a landmark, such as Rom's Restaurant, it looses a part of itself. I know, it sounds cliche, but it is true. The memories, people, and "forever-ness" of places we have grown up with becomes a part of us as well.

The recent closing of Rom's hit a nerve in folks here in town, and although it was with us for well over 50 years, it was one of those things that we figured would just go on forever. The dining room, the Wednesday buffet, the take-out window, and the functions are memories now. There is a large hole to fill now.

Rom's came of age when family dining was so much a part of our culture. Before the drive up window, or fast food counters, restaurants like Rom's catered to families, and served real food from large menus. Today, grabbing a sack of burgers, or chicken pieces and tossing it on the kitchen table is more of our idea of "eating out".

The family that owned and ran Rom's restaurant for all theses years closed after a long successful run on Main Street. Time for them to move on, and enjoy what other things life has to offer, and time for us to say, "Thank you".

Word has it the next generation will open another restaurant in town at what was the Hearthstone Bed & Breakfast and serve a menu similar to Rom's.

Time to make new memories, and maybe, introduce our children to the fine art of dining out at a table with a table cloth.

I can't wait.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Goodbye Honey Dew Donuts

On September 19th the Honey Dew Donuts shop at the XtraMart on Route 20 will be no more. Dunkin' Donuts has made a higher offer for the lease that is about to expire. Word has it they will not be keeping any of the Honey Dew staff on.

We sure need three Dunkin' Donuts in this town of 8000. The more the better.

I just hope they accept my application for a store in my garage. We need a Dunkin's to take care of the folks on the first mile or so of Route 148.

Goodbye, Roms

"Rom’s Restaurant in Sturbridge has closed, according to Romaldo Roscioli, who with other members of the Roscioli family owned the place. Rom’s was in business for 56 years, according to a press release.

The release also reported that Romaldo’s at the Hearthstone, Route 20, Sturbridge, would open later in the fall. Romaldo’s reportedly will feature a menu similar to Rom’s.

Romaldo Roscioli said he could not comment on the closing of Rom’s or the opening of the new business."

-- Worcester Telegram & Gazette September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Hey! I Can See Your House From Here!"

It's here.

"Street View" in Google Maps has made it to Sturbridge. The latest Google-ite feature allows users to go to Google Maps, type in their town, or Zip code, and see the town as if they were walking along one of the streets. You actually turn around in the street, and look in the windows of the homes if you like.


The feature is not without controversy. Some people don't like their their homes on the internet for the world to see, but this is a Brave New World we are living in, and like it or not, it's here to stay. Face it, the government has been snooping on our backyards for years. Today's cameras from space can make a mosquito on your arm look as big as a Pterodactyl.

So, think twice before going outside to catch some rays on that chaise behind your fence.

Sturbridge isn't completely "Street Viewed" as of yet, but it will be. Currently, Route 20, and some of the roads north of 20 are available to explore on "Street View". Go to and choose "Street View" from the menu on the map, and have fun!

Who knows what you'll see around town, and hiding behind the curtains.

View Larger Map

Recent Poll Results

The results of the most recent unscientific poll are in. The score represents the percent of those partaking in the poll that agreed with the statement.

Food for thought.

  1. If a residential property owner is at least 70 years old, and has lived in the town for a minimum of 25 years they should receive a certain percentage deducted from their property taxes. 83%

  2. The discount should be increased with the residents age and longevity in the town. 33%

  3. The amount of the discounts given would not place a financial burden on the the town. 33%

  4. The discount should be awarded regardless if the resident is able to donate time back to the town. 66%

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Patriot Day: September 11th


In accordance with a Presidential Proclamation, the flag of the United States
will be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day, Thursday, September 11, 2008.

Additionally, the President has called upon all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on Patriot Day and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m., (Eastern Time) to honor the innocent who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

--Courtesy of Tom Chamberland

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Brimfield Trail

We took a walk along the Brimfield section of the Grand Trunk Trail a couple of weekends ago. Although, not completely cleared to the west of the parking lot on Five Bridge Road, the eastern portion is clear till it bumps into the Quinebaug River. At one time a bridge spanned the river at this point, in fact two bridges, one for the railroad, and another for the street railway from Springfield to Fiskdale. The walk was very nice. Quiet, with the exception of the crickets as we passed through the wetland area. No sounds of traffic, or another person. The only people we did see was a couple of kayakers leaving the rest stop on the Quinebaug River Canoe Trail.

This hike was in mid August, and the maples were already turning red along the banks of the wetlands, and the mosquitoes were still plentiful. I usually keep a can of repellent in the truck, but this time I was lax, and we both paid the price.

A remarkable job of restoring this portion of the old rail bed as a trail for non-motorized recreation was done.

"...although the grand trunk trail blazers are a part of expanding the super trail, the work you enjoyed on the Brimfield section was the result of a newly formed partnership between the U. S Army Corps of Engineers,, (owners of the land) and the Brimfield Trail committee. It is the hard work of that committee, Brimfield DPW, and volunteers who are working to build this trail. "--Tom Chamberland.

I had initially given credit to the Grand Trunk Trailblazers, but Tom corrected me.--ed note.

As a part of the Super Trail that will run from Franklin to Palmer, it will offer a recreation venue not seen in these parts before. From bicycling (fat tire), hiking walking, bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, or just sitting on the banks of the river and staring off into space this trail system offers so much.

For more information, go to the link highlighted above for directions and a map of the trails. With fall coming, an autumn walk in the woods may be just what the doctor ordered for a little peace, and this is a wonderful place to start.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Everyone Needs A Wilson

People need people. I know, that sounded very Babara Streisand-ish, but it's very true. Hermits are an anomaly. Mountain men were just plum crazy after a season or two trapping in the mountains without human contact. Their horse was their best friend, and they talked to it all the time. Not the best therapy for good mental health, but it worked. One sided conversations are one way to combat loneliness.

In the movie "Castaway", Tom Hanks's character adopted a volleyball as his buddy. "Wilson", the name the ball was born with and was stamped on its skin, was an important tool for Hanks to keep his sanity on that island for all that time. He talked to it, and shared with it. It worked to a degree, if you think talking to a volleyball is sane.

People, regardless of who they are, or their circumstances, need the interaction of others. Some may need it only once or twice a year as with the hermit that comes to town for supplies, others, like me, enjoy it more frequently.

This is why humans have taken the act of pairing up so seriously. From the earliest times, humans have found themselves becoming connected to another, for a variety of reasons. In the beginning, it was probably a specific skill set that attracted the other. One could hunt well, the other could do something with the thing that was hunted. Later on, one could grow things, and raise livestock fairly well, and the other could help, and do stuff with the things they grew and raised. If the partners were male and female, then making babies was something that came naturally as well.

So, some partners would have the skills to do something with the meat brought home by the other, help out in the garden and with the animals, and do something with whatever they produced, and as a bonus, they could replicate themselves. The other partner, while being true to their skills and work demanded of them, would be lost while the other carried, delivered, and cared for a baby. That is when the nap was invented. It is instinctive. It's in our genetic code, and it is something that one doesn't mess with. Women can breast feed, men can nap. Our Maker is very wise.

Besides naps, there were other things that came from these mutual relationships. Companionship was high on the list. Instead of talking to a volleyball, they had each other to share their day with, express their feelings to, and argue with. Human nature being what it is, soon let emotions to augment the needs the partners had for each other. They felt good when the other was around, and missed them when they were away. They cared for each other, and soon that caring and good feelings grew into that "little thing called love".

This pairing of people has been with us since we first walked around alone talking to ourselves, and someone answered back. Whether we pair up as best friends, partners, or mates, our heads need that contact with another on a personal level.

Sometimes those partnerships dissolve for a variety of reasons. Usually, it is due to other human emotions that get the best of us, or back in the day, when a tiger or a barbarian ran off with our other half. The latter was always a bummer, and when it happens today, we still get upset.

There are those of us that are blessed enough to have another face to greet us in the morning, and at the end of the day. To listen to us babble on about nonsense, and rant about more nonsense. To share in our excitement when we do something neat, and to tell us they love us out of the blue. To be there when we hurt, and to hug us when we're down, and to love us everyday, no matter what.

I'm one of the blessed.

And to think, it all started with my talking to myself, and her answering back.

Go figure.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Septembers Overture

There a little pieces of the year that I enjoy more than others. Early Octobers colors knock me out, and sunlight bouncing off that very first snow has a way of bringing a smile to my face. The change in the air in late March when the smell of mud is all around, the trees are just beginning to bud, and temperatures are beginning to hold above 40 for a couple of days. The best is that one day in Spring when the air is clear, the sky is bright blue with an occasional puff of a cloud and the temperature is around 70 degrees with a hint of a breeze. That is the day I wait for all year long.

There is another time of the year that I enjoy just as much, but not so much for what the earth is doing around me, although that has a lot to do with it as well, but what the world is doing outside my window. That time of year is now.

Early September is the unofficial end of summer with the start of school. Funny, we attend school for twelve plus years of our lives, and that calender stays with us long after we have left the classroom. That last summer blast over Labor Day evaporates in a mist that lingers till the following Tuesday morning. Then, through the morning mist, down the road where the yellow lines disappear into the fog, comes the sound, and then the distinctive shape of the school buses.

The start of the school year was always something I looked forward to as a kid. Now remember, I said the start of the year, the rest of the year was something I couldn't wait to get through as fast as I could.

There was something about the smell of newly shaved pencils, crayons, and erasers all lined up inside a new pencil box that got my juices flowing. Tools. They were my tools , and some of them I had no clue as to what to do with them. Most pencil boxes came with a ruler, a protractor, and a compass amongst the colored pencils and erasers. What the heck was the protractor for? I figured out the compass was for carving my name in the desk pretty quickly, but the protractor had me stumped.

Still does.

I lived about a mile or so from my elementary school in one of those new developments built in the late 50's, early 60's. We'd walk through the neighbors yards till we came to Summer Street, and then we'd follow the roads the rest of the way till we arrived at the Memorial School, the school for grades first through third. I usually walked with my friends in rain, and snow to school, even though my father drove to school everyday to his job as the music teacher.

I still wonder about that. I'd be soaked by the time I go to the end of the driveway, and he'd be pulling out, beep, wave and drive off to school all dry and snug in his Mercury.

No matter, though. Despite being abandoned by my father on the road to school, the walk is something I still remember to this day. I had a routine. I'd eat the apple I had in my lunch bag on the way to school, usually finishing it about the same place on Pine Street, off Summer every morning. Even then I felt guilty about throwing an apple core onto the ground, as biodegradable as they are, so I would take the core each morning and stuff it into the exhaust pipe of the same car. Around the middle of October it go harder to stuff those cores into the pipe. It was getting a bit full.

One morning I saw the blue Chevy truck from the Sunoco station in the driveway of the Apple Core Car. The mechanic was on his knees with a coat hanger, or something, reaching up inside the exhaust pipe.

I played dumb, and walked real fast while whistling "The Colonel Bogey March". I looked guilty as hell.

The weather in early September was mild. The mornings were cooler than a few weeks before, and the leaves had yet to change and fall onto the street for us to kick our way through. It was a the Transition. It was the time of free wheeling apple core stuffing, newspaper kicking into puddles, sweaters tied around our waists in the afternoon, and still lots of daylight left in the day to get into mischief.

The daily ritual of changing from school clothes to play clothes when I arrived home became ingrained in me. Sometimes, I slip and refer to my jeans and t-shirt as my "play clothes", and hope nobody has heard me. They do.

All those wonderful September feelings come back year after year. All it takes is a trigger. This year it was the school bus stopping out front of our house to pick up our neighbors little girl for kindergarten. The sounds of the bus, the door opening, and the yells of, "Goodbye, Honey! Have a great day at school!" as the bus pulled away brought back a rush of memories long locked away.

That's all it took. All those sounds are like an overture of things to come.

I don't think it is a sign of getting older, I've always been susceptible to memories, but I do seem to appreciate their appearance more and more each time they come knocking.

This year was no different.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Labor Of Love Program

I recently learned of a group of residents that are forming "The Labor of Love" committee. This committee, an all volunteer effort, will aid senior residents, disabled residents, and single parent households with the upkeep / maintenance of their home. Volunteers will give one day, or a weekend, to the two families selected by the group each year, and assist with the immediate needs of the family related to their home. This could mean landscaping, repairs, or painting around the house.

The committee is currently looking for volunteers to perform the work, and vendors to assist with supplies.

Small towns have always come through for those in need. This kind of program is like a barn raising with everyone getting together to help out others in need.

This is a great idea, not just for the obvious reasons, but for the sense of community it builds as well. That renewed sense of community can go far in spawning other programs, and events.

Yep, I like this idea a lot.

To obtain more information click here.

Comments on this post are now closed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Taking a Toll

I don't profess to know a whole lot about town government, I'm like most of you--I know enough to get by. One thing I do know about is open meeting laws, and "executive sessions".

There are nine exceptions for going into "executive session". Eight of the exceptions do not fit the recent scenario with the Board of Health, but one may.

Click on the quote below to be brought to The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law in .pdf format.--ed.

"9. Exception Nine - "To meet or confer with a mediator, as defined in section twenty-three C of chapter two hundred and thirty-three, with respect to any litigation or decision on any public business within its jurisdiction involving another party, group or body, provided that: (a) any decision to participate in mediation shall be made in open meeting session and the parties, issues involved and purpose of the mediation shall be disclosed; and (b) no action shall be taken by any governmental body with respect to those issues which are the subject of the mediation without deliberation and approval for such action at an open meeting after such notice as may be required in this section. "

"This exception, passed in December, 1994, exempts mediation sessions from the Open Meeting Law's requirements provided that the decision to enter into mediation is made in open session and that the governmental body does not take any action concerning the issue or issues submitted to mediation until it has deliberated and approved such action in an open meeting."

If the above was followed as the law is written, then it was done properly. Only those residents that were there that night can tell if there was a quorum, a proper vote to go into executive session, and a vote on anything decided upon in the executive session in an open meeting directly after the private session.

However, if the residents of the town are disappointed, concerned, and against the decisions made in "executive session" there are avenues to take in order to stop it. A vote a Special town Meeting is one way to address the issue.

$50,000.00 is a paltry sum. There is too much at stake here, and an issue this big, that affects the health and well being of all of us here in Sturbridge must be taken before the citizens of the town for a vote, not decided in a private session.

Here's an idea that can be brought up at Town Meeting, if an access road is to be built to the Southbridge Landfill from Sturbridge, how about installing a Toll Gate? Allow access, but charge a fee per ton of refuse trucked along the route. The income from a venture like this could more than make up for settling for a mere $50,000.00.

Just a thought.

ed note: I've been told (see comments) that the access road to the landfill will not be coming out of Sturbridge as I believed. Bummer. However, the law is clear regarding Open Meetings, and if things were done correctly the town should have no worries about the mechanics of what was decided. Were they done correctly according to the law?

Due to the volatility of this subject, the comment section will remain open.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sent: September 3, 2038


Subject: Our Trip to Sturbridge
Date: September 3, 2038

Dear Blanche,

Well, Harry and I drove north this past weekend and stayed in Sturbridge again. Let me tell you that so much has changed here since we last stayed here back in 2008!! It is a whole new place! First of all we had the traffic to contend with on I-84, seems like everyone was getting off at the Sturbridge exit!

Remember when we all came here back in 2004? And remember when we got off the interstate and headed towards Sturbridge Village, well that big plot of grass between the east and west bound lanes of Route 20, you know the place, where Harry hit the skunk, well it is like a golf course now!! All sorts of trees planted and bushes. It's so pretty, Blanche, and then there is nice "Welcome to Sturbridge" sign smack in the middle of the grass with flags on both sides and all lit up with spotlights. the whole thing is surrounded by the cutest little split rail fences, just like at Old Sturbridge Village. Blanche, it looks so pretty! And, a little further up, on the right, there is a lake!!! where the heck did that come from, Blanche?? But, I was told it was always there, but hidden in the trees. They took all the scrubby trees down and it was like raising the curtain on opening night! Voila! A beautiful lake right in the middle of the town!! Who'd have figured that?

Well, we drove to our hotel, and let me tell you the town looks like the folks from Disney came in and did a makeover. First of all there are the nicest old fashioned street lights on both sides of the street as far as you can see. The crosswalks are made of bricks and sidewalks are now wide enough to handle my scooter. No more telephone poles in the way anymore, and having to drive that thing out into the road.

We drove into the hotel parking lot and checked in to our rooms. The hotel was filled, and it wasn't even a holiday weekend, or a convention in town! We were so lucky to get a reservation when we did back in February. The girl at the desk told us it is like that all the time now, so we booked again for the spring right then and there!

Let me tell you all about the other changes around there. First of all the Basketville store is gone. I was disappointed till I went inside the new place, and it is one of those specialty grocery stores and a bookstore now. All sorts of natural this, and organic that, and there was even a place to grab a cup of coffee and sit outside and read the book you just bought!

Let me back up a little bit. You know where the Friendlies restaurant is, right? Right beside that there is the most fantastic little shopping place. It used to be a motel and a part of Old Sturbridge Village, but now all the little motel buildings are shops. There are art galleries, a pottery store, a store with nothing but bronze art work and statues, and a linen outlet store where we bought a quilt for the guestroom. Harry got lost in a store that sold weather instruments while I walked around outside. There was a small band playing under a gazebo, and there was a so many people just sitting around at these little tables having a cold drink and listening to the music!

It is amazing how much the place has changed!! You and Mel have go to go there!!!

After we listened to the music, Harry and I walked along the main street and there on the side of the road was a new footpath. It led to the river. Did you know there was a beautiful river running behind all those buildings on Main Street? I didn't!! They've been hiding it, but now this little trail takes you right to it, and there is a an area with picnic tables and benches set up right on the waters edge with grass, and a little bridge that crosses the river to the other side. The signs on the other side give directions to a long trail back to the Old Sturbridge Village, or the other way to a new group of stores and restaurants at this place called the Mill Pond. We walked down to it, and what a wonderful sight it was seeing this old mill building from across the pond all redone!! There was a large deck outside with table and umbrellas along the pond just above a waterfall! Blanche, they even had a waterfall!! Another little bridge took us across the waterfall to the Mill building and we wandered around in all the shops for over an hour. Finally, we sat out on the deck and had the best lunch!! There were swans on the pond and ducks with all their babies. It was so peaceful!!

The stores at the mill pond are right at the intersection route 20 and where Route 148 starts. There is another large sign welcoming people from the west to Sturbridge. The place is so pretty now, Blanche!

Well, I got to go, Harry is home from golf and is telling me that the golf course in Sturbridge is now 18 holes and he wants to book another trip there before the snow flies.

Hermoine in Passaic

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Monday, September 1, 2008

The Air Is Different Now

"The summer wind, came blowin in - from across the sea

It lingered there, so warm and fair - to walk with me

All summer long, we sang a song - and strolled on golden sand

Two sweethearts, and the summer wind"

There is a change in the air. Happens every year around this time, yet it still takes us by surprise when we feel it. The nights are becoming cooler. The mornings darker. The maples by the wetlands have already begun to change their color, and the dew on the grass stays longer in the mornings.

Things are changing.

It's a long way to Memorial Day. (sigh).

Photo: Long Pond on an early September morning.