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, January 31, 2011

Yep, We're In Trouble

Wooly Mammoth baby uncovered in the Artic after frozen for
40,000 years.  From National Geographic Magazine.
The little four legged fellow in the photo, and I, are going to have a lot in common by the time this week is over. That frozen Mammoth became a part of the Arctic 40,000 years ago, and two years ago was finally uncovered from the tundra as the ice has been receding.

This is how they will find me after this winter.  40,000 years from now, some group of futuristic school children will stumble upon my frozen self, clothed in bright red LL Bean fleece jacket, flannel boxers, wool socks, and ear muffs.

The weather alerts for the week are like the script for the self fulfilling prophecy playing in my head.  The weather reports, for the next three days, say we are to receive another 14 to 18 inches of snow on Tuesday and into Thursday.

Sorry.  I've got no room for anymore snow, unless I begin storing it in the basement, which it will eventually find its way to on its own in the spring.  I have no place to put an additional 2 inches, never mind eighteen.

At other times I would not be feeling this way, but at the moment I am thankful we don't have a sidewalk in front of the house right now.  They'd find my frozen self a lot sooner if we did.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Out of Hiding


I have had much on my mind lately about the American soldiers who continue to perish in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I imagine that most people don't realize that already in 2011 between January 1 and January 20th twenty-five soldiers made that ultimate sacrifice.  I believe that whether or not we philosophically support the wars, we can agree that the casualties should not be hidden.

I have produced a simple video that I hope you will consider using on your web site.  I have taken an old classic American historic song about the sadness of the loss of our youth and with just a few pictures of a cemetery and soldiers' caskets I have included the names of those who have perished thus far in 2011.

You will find this non-political, and I did not include my name or my website in the video.  Please look at it and consider if you would embed it on your site. I am hoping that if others find it worthy, they will consider passing a link on to others.  Thanks, Wally.



I agree.  Take them out of hiding.  Only when we know the true measure of the sacrifices being made can we truly understand the losses our nation has suffered.

When we are not aware it is as if it never happened.

It did happen.  It is happening.

Thank you, Brent.


Speaking Of Sidewalks; Is Sturbridge Next?

Think about the stretch of sidewalks on Route 20 in Fiskdale from Cedar Street to Route 148 that do not comply with the ADA.  All it will take is an attorney, and someone with a complaint to voice.  It will happen, and we, and our children, will pay for our inaction.

The article below is from the 

Taunton faces federal lawsuit

Filing claims the city's sidewalks do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act

Claiming that the city of Taunton has failed to install curb cuts and properly maintain its sidewalks, a local attorney has filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to make the city more accessible to those in wheelchairs.
Attorney Joseph deMello, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of city resident Nancy Gero, claims that the city is failing to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992. He is seeking a court-ordered injunction that would prevent the city from using federal or state funds on road construction projects until the allegations contained in the lawsuit are resolved.
“It seeks to make the city do what it should have been doing since 1992,” deMello said.
In accordance with the ADA, each city is required to create a plan to address accessibility issues, he said.
“Most cities, in my experience, tend to ignore it because the public hasn’t cried out,” he said.
City Solicitor Jane Estey said the lawsuit is currently under review and declined to comment further on it. The city, she said, is preparing a response.
Mayor Charles Crowley also had little to say on the matter.
“I’m not going to comment on the allegations that were made,” the mayor said. “We will let the courts handle it … It is prudent for us not to comment on it.”
City councilors Gerald Croteau and Thomas Hoye also declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Some city councilors, however, discussed the allegations contained in the lawsuit and general accessibility issues in the city.
“I saw Joe (deMello) on Monday and told him I pretty much agree with everything on there,” councilor David Pottier said.
With a meager budget picture taking shape, however, Pottier said he doesn’t know how much headway the city can reasonably make in addressing accessibility concerns.
“Unfortunately now, because of the way funding is, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to make it enough of a priority to satisfy Joe or our constituents,” Pottier said.
A similar lawsuit was recently settled in Sacramento, Calif., resulting in $1 billion worth of improvements in that city.
“I just wish there was a way we could more easily rectify the situation,” Pottier said. “Sadly, it all comes back to money.”
Councilor Daniel Mansour Barbour offered similar comments about deMello’s lawsuit.
“I understand his passion and defense for a worthy cause, but I don’t know how realistic it would be for the city to be in compliance,” Barbour said. “Finances complicate all projects.”
The councilor also said it is unlikely that Taunton would have the means to quickly make all sidewalks ADA compliant.
“There’s absolutely no physically possible way our community could cure that overnight,” he said. “There’s probably no way we could cure it in the near future.”
Barbour recalled deMello had been talking about filing a lawsuit for years if the accessibility issues were not adequately addressed.
The attorney said the lawsuit came about after he had seen Gero, who is confined to a wheelchair, struggling to navigate downtown Taunton.
“I got to talking with her, and I was convinced something needed to be done,” deMello said. “Many of the people who are in a wheelchair or scooter don’t have an active voice. They’re relatively silent. They don’t know how to seek change and are reluctant to seek it.”
DeMello said about a year ago, he sent a letter to the city about the state of the sidewalks and lack of curb cuts but was ignored. A follow-up email sent several months ago, he said, was also ignored.
Estey said she had no knowledge of letters or emails from deMello.
The lawsuit also seeks unspecified monetary damages for Gero.
“We are seeking a limited amount of damages for the utter neglect my client has had to endure in terms of seeking proper streets to be able to ride on,” deMello said. “That is (a) very, very, very small aspect.”
He said he is waiting to hear back from the city Law Department.
“If the city wants to litigate this aggressively, we’re ready,” deMello said.
Ten years ago, deMello filed a lawsuit against the state and the Bristol County Commissioners over the lack of accessibility to the courthouse and Registry of Deeds buildings in Taunton. As a result of the legal action, courts and public facilities in Bristol County underwent $6 million in accessibility improvements, the former Taunton District Court building was closed and the state began building a new courthouse complex in Taunton. The new courthouse is expected to open later this year.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Noticed

Today I wrote a post entitled, "Maybe It's Me".  The post was about the new bylaw requiring residents, and business owners to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes, and shops of snow.  The original reason for the bylaw was it would be a cost savings for the town.

I wrote last year that the savings would be small when compared to the big picture, and that there were a "bigger" reasons for the bylaw.  I still have only suspicions of just what those reasons are, and I amuse myself thinking about all the different ones there could be.  One reason I have not quite ruled out is that the Town thinks we are idiots.

Idiots? Yep.  They town stated that money would be saved if residents and business owners cleared their sidewalks, and that would enable the towns DPW to move on to other storm, and DPW related chores.  Time is money. Time gained is money saved.

Then I watched the towns sidewalk tractor clear the sidewalks along Route 131 southbound from in front of the Hampton Inn towards the Common.  The tractor dutifully cleared the snow from the new sidewalk really well, and just as it approached the property line of a private residence, it popped off the sidewalk and onto the street.  It then drove about 100 yards to the just in Front of the Center School, and hopped back onto the sidewalk, and began clearing again until it came to the property line of another private property.

On and off the sidewalk all over town.  Well cleared sidewalks stopping dead mid sidewalk, and others on a road to nowhere, and just being cleared from property line to property line with nothing cleared beyond, or before.

Tell me, how does one save money by taking the snow blowing tractor off of the sidewalk,  and onto the road, drive parallel to the snow covered sidewalk, and then hop back onto the sidewalk when it is the "towns" property to continue removing snow?

Really.  Please, tell me how.

Do you really think the residents of Sturbridge are stupid, or is it the Town that is stupid by making a lot of little roads to no where all over town in order to save money and hoping we won't notice?

Well, I've noticed.

C'mon Spring!

Twelve inches plus in the driveway Thursday morning at 5:00 AM.

Twelve inches plus.

I grabbed the shovel, and started taking the snow from one place, and putting it in another.  Silly really, but transferring snow is all the rage this winter, and I like being one of the "in crowd".

About 45 minutes into the process I saw a pickup truck with a plow begin to attack the neighbors driveway across the street.

I broke the standing high jump record as I bounded over the snow bank, and ran across the street to the truck.

"If you have time, could you...?"
"No, problem."
"I'll write you a check..."
"No, I'll be right over."

And, he was. He pushed the snow bank that was three feet tall, and twenty feet wide, out of the way in about four passes.  It would have taken me until Saturday to clear it.  My hero then left, went back to the other driveway, and when he was done there, he came back to mine and pushed more snow out of the way!!

Thank you anonymous snowplow operator man.  Thank you for saving my back.

Normally I don't mind shoveling, but after so much snow, it is not that I am getting tired, or sore, it is just that I have run out of space to put the snow.


I have no place left to put the snow, and quite frankly, unless we get a major January thaw, I'm screwed.

Now, here's a thought, and  money making one, too.  Maybe the DPW could offer their services, on a per diem basis, to help residents clear the mountains of snow from the ends of their driveways, much like they do to clear intersections of snow piles that obstruct a drivers view.  A scoop, or two, with a front end loader into a waiting dump truck for $50.00, or so, would be well worth it.  As it stands now, I guide Mary out into the street when I am home, but when I am at work all I can do is pray she is able to back out safely.

I am also praying for an early spring.

Maybe It's Just Me

I picked up Mary from work yesterday afternoon, and while driving both to and from Worcester I made a point of checking out the sidewalks here in town.  All I can say is, you have got to be freakin' kidding me!

The new enforceable bylaw in town is for property owners to clear the sidewalks in front of their business, or residence, after each snow fall.  If this was Boston, and the doors or shops and homes opened onto the sidewalk, then I would be all for the clearing of the snow, and de-icing of the walkways in front of those buildings, but this is cow country.  For the most part there is fifty to a hundred feet from the door to the sidewalk, and most properties have way over a hundred feet of frontage.  No small feat to clear.

Why do property owners have to do this?  Well, it is basically because we can spend a lot of money of silly things, but will no longer step up and spend the money on man power and the right equipment to clear the sidewalks in town.

Go figure.

It could also have something to do with the fact that no sidewalk plow can navigate the utility pole strewn sidewalks of Fiskdale, and is just too labor intensive to clear.

But, that is old news.  Something the BOS wanted, and the towns residents let go ahead, and the bylaw is now in effect.  I think that after this winter it will change.

Yesterday, the sidewalks in town were a mess at 5:00 PM.  Some cleared right to the property line and then the path stopped.   Some paths were wide enough for a stroller to pass through, others were just wide enough for a thin person to walk sideways.  There were long stretches of uncleared sidewalks all over town.

Clear, not cleared, clear, not cleared.  People were walking in the street, and that is a safety issue the town will have to answer for with the pedestrian accident, or vehicular accident as a result of street foot traffic regardless of the snow removal bylaw.  They need a backup plan to insure the safety of pedestrians.  As of 5PM last night, there was no back up plan in effect, those sidewalks were still blocked.

My neighbor is not responsible for clearing my front walk even though his property abuts mine.  Same should be true for those folks that abut Mass Highway, and town property.

The snow removal from the sidewalks in front of businesses, and homes in Sturbridge constitutes a man made hardship being placed on many.  There are those with no one to clear the snow, or the equipment, or the strong back, or the wallet to hire someone.  If money is a concern for the town, then offer a subscription program, much like the school bus program.  If you want to have your sidewalk cleared by the town this coming snow season it will cost you this much, otherwise it is up to you.

Not the best solution, but certainly fair, and much better that what is happening now, and what is going to happen.  Believe me, this is not going to go as written.

So, as you drive through our village today check out the sidewalks, and the folks walking in the street.  Keep it in mind, and maybe someone will introduce an article for the next town meeting insuring that the town be responsible for clearing all the sidewalks in town uniformly, consistently, and immediately after a storm for the safety and well being of the you, a resident of Sturbridge, and for our visitors.

Yes, visitors.  We are a tourist town, like Gloucester, Rockport, Plymouth, and Lenox.  We enjoy the benefits that tourists bring to our town.  We will accommodate visitors with costumed greeters at the Host Hotel, but won't clear the way for them to walk to a restaurant.

Time to get on the same page.  Do you want to continue to be a tourist friendly town?  Then suck it up, spend a little more money, hire some extra seasonal workers, buy another sidewalk plow, and just do it.


We are making so much more work for ourselves.

Those at the Town Hall need to think things through, all the way through, unless they enjoy the feeling of something biting them on the butt after each poorly thought out plan goes awry.  Judging from the torn back pockets at the Town Hall,  some folks don't seem to mind that at all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Local Man Has Great Idea

I was happy to read in the Town Common  that a local man, David Barnicle, had presented an idea to the Board of Selectmen, and the BOS thought it was a good idea.

The idea is a simple one.  Main Street on Route 20 would be named Main Street West, and Main Street on Route 131 would be renamed Main Street South.  The reason for the change would to help customers find businesses, and instill civic pride.  He compared Main Street here in town to Worcester's Main Street where the road is designated with north and south.  "If anybody goes to Worcester and asks a Worcester-ite where Clark University is, they say, 'Main South'.  It's something that the people of Main South really close to them.  It's not part of Worcester, it's Main South, baby.  My feeling is let's get this kind of feeling of presence in Strubridge", Barnicle said.

I agree with him that it will ease the navigation of our long, multi-talented, Main Street.  Boutique shops to the west, and the town center, and more conventional retail to the south.  Our Main Street is not like others.  It occupies two routes US Route 20 from east to west, and MA Route 131 from north to south. It also has a "dog leg" turn in from of the Super 8 Motel where it begins its southerly journey.

The change is simple, and would be a great aid in navigation for locals, and visitors alike.  I am not too sure about the civic pride aspect of it.  I have been in a lot of places that separate themselves from the town, or city, by their geographic location, and misplaced civic pride.  From the "Projects" of Brighton, to the "Flats" of Norwood, each had what they referred to as civic pride, and maybe it was, but they also isolated themselves from the rest of the community.  They had their own place, their own rules.

We don't need anymore of that.  No.  No Main Westies, or Main Southies for me.  Leave it as a geographic designation only, and let the neighborhood designations evolve on their own.

The Board of Selectmen agreed that the idea was a good one, but had some concerns.  They are concerned about the "burden" the change would" place on residents, business owners, emergency response personnel, the post office, and the town, who would all have to adjust to the change." the newspaper reported.

Adjust? I have to be missing something.

Selectman Mary Dowling said, "I think it is a great idea, but we need to know what the residual costs to businesses or town will be".

Residual costs?  Now I know I am missing stuff.

The paper also reported that the BOS agreed to assemble a committee that  would consist of a selectman, the towns post masters, the police and fire chiefs, and the members of the Town Hall to discuss what the  implications would be if the change were made.

Implications?  This isn't the Marshall Plan.  This is adding the word "West" to one sign, and "South", to another.  The only "burden" would be changing ones address on checks, stationary, credit card statements, license, and whatever else you have your home, or business,  address attached to.  The cost?  Whatever it takes the DPW to make a few new road signs, and to pay for some of those address changes, but if one just waits until it's time to reorder stationary it won't cost anymore than it normally would.

Sometimes, no, I take that back,  a lot of the time, town government can make a lot work for a little job.  Oh, I know they are only being thorough, but for something like this, that only needs to take a day, or so. Just agree that the idea is good, and has merit, then get all those people mentioned above for a meeting on the front lawn of the Town Hall.  Once everyone is on the lawn, the Chairman of the BOS should point to the south and simply state, "That is Main Street South.  It goes from over there, to the Southbridge line.  Now, up thataway," he will say pointing to the north, "is Main Street West.  It goes from where South Main starts, to the Brimfield line.  Tell everyone to update their addresses, and we'll make the signs."  Then adjourn.  I think the police, fire, and post office will get it.

They all mean well, but I think they go a bit overboard because they feel they have to, or people will rise up.  For little things, that are good ideas, and would be best put into place sooner, rather than later, I believe the people will not take up torches and pitchforks.

Of course, this IS Sturbridge...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Then And Now

The Morton House on Wallace Road
 in 1938 (above), and 2011 (below).

The Fiske House, on Fiske Hill Road, in
 1938, and today, in 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are they Still Standing? Where?

The Morton House
"House built by Lt. John Plimpton 1786.  'The Morton House'.  Lorenzo Morton married the grand-daughter of Lt. John Plimpton.  Picture taken May 8, 1938"--written on the back of the photograph by Winifred Tillyer.

The David Fiske House
"House built by David Fiske in 1786.  Picture taken May 8, 1938" -- on back of photograph.

Are these houses still with us?  If so, do you know where they are?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mystery House #2: The Hutchin's House

While everyone is attempting to solve the last "Where is it?" mystery, I wanted to throw another one out there for you to think on.  After all, that is what being snowed is great for, to engage in silly activities in order to keep your brain from going soft (or softer as the case may be).

Take a look at the house on the left.  Winnie Tillyer wrote on the back of the photograph, " I knew this house as Luiss (sic) Hutchin's...".  The photograph was taken in May 1938, four months before the devastating hurricane that took down hundreds and hundreds of trees in town, many of them in the photograph, and caused horrible flooding throughout the area.

Today, the home is essentially unchanged, except for those spruce trees in the front of the house, they are just much taller.

Where is it?


"Sure looks like the "Robinson" house at the corner of Charlton St. and 131.

And, JDC is right!

I have two more "mystery houses", and will post them tomorrow.  As with all of the houses, with the exception of this last one, I haven't a clue as to where they are.  Any help in identifying them would be appreciated.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hmmm, A Puzzlement.

The mystery deepens.

I wrote to Bob Briere, our resident historian, and asked him to identify the house in the previous posting.  Bob wrote back, and sounded very definite that the house was an old farm house I had happened to drive by the other day while I was out taking some photos around town.  The current photo at the top of the page was taken at this old farm.  Here is what Bob wrote:

"Hi Wally,
That's an easy one. I knew it as the Finlay farm, on Finlay road (past the golf course on Holland Road). Looks the same today as in the picture because of neglect by a most recent owner. Jim Malloy blew this one. Had over a hundred acres with a pond and it was foreclosed on by the FHA(?). The property is adjacent to the Heins Farm which the town bought which in turn is adjacent to the land that goes northerly all the way to the river in Fiskdale. What a sanctuary for birds and animals that would have been. The town could have had it for taxes because that owner was so far in arrears."

Well, an anonymous comment was also left stating the house was on Fiskhill Road, so I went there, and to Finlay Road, as Bob feels this is the house,  to take some photos.  Now the mystery deepens.

You judge for yourself.

The Ed Nichols House
Note the location of the chimneys and the side windows.  The house also looks like it is on a hill, and both of the suggestions are for houses on hills.

This is the house on Finlay Road that Bob feels is the correct house.  Could be, but there are a couple of problems with this: 1)  the chimneys don't match, and 2) the side windows don't match at all.  There is not an attic window as seen in the old photo, either.
 This is a house on Fiskhill Road.  Now, I am not sure if this is the one suggested by the person that left the comment, but it sure could be.  The chimneys don't match up, but with the advent of central heating, it would have been far easier to remove chimneys than to add them in a different location.  The side windows also are a closer match.  The first floor window may have been moved forward when the addition was built.  This has the attic window.

This is another Federal style home on the north end of  Fiskhill Road.  No chimneys, but they could have been taken down long ago, and the center, second floor window doesn't match at all.

There are several other Federal style homes in town, maybe one near you.  Is it a match to the Nichols House, or is that house long gone?

A Mystery House: The Ed Nichols House

The house below is identified on the back of the photo as the "Ed Nichols House" built by Ebenezar Cutting 1812.

The photograph, along with many other photos, and documents are part of my collection originally owned by Winifred Tillyer, Sturbridge historian.  When the Historical Society obtains space for a permanent display of artifacts and documents in town, I will arrange that the collection can be displayed there.  In the meantime, I will put them here for you to enjoy.

Does anyone know where this old house is, or was?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Old-Fashioned Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rally at Old Sturbridge Village Feb. 5

Antique Ice Skate Club Presentations; Olympic Medalist, Commentator Dick Button to Attend

STURBRIDGE, Mass. (Jan. 14, 2011) – Old Sturbridge Village celebrates the history and the joys of two favorite winter pastimes on Saturday, February 5 with an old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh rally and antique ice skate exhibits and presentations by the Antique Ice Skate Club. Both events are open to the public and free with museum admission. For all details: 800-SEE-1830;
Antique horse-drawn sleighs – many of them 80-120 years old – will converge on the Village for the sleigh rally, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will feature dozens of drivers competing in a variety of categories, including the popular “Sleigh Dog” and “Currier & Ives” divisions. Sleighs participating will include Bob Sleighs, Portland and Albany Cutters, Racing Sleighs, Freight Sleighs, and more. Bob Sleighs have “Bobs,” which are double runners that make them more maneuverable and easy to turn sharply.  Single runner sleighs can tip over if turned too sharply.
Old Sturbridge Village is also exhibiting antique ice skates on loan from Antique Ice Skate Club member Karen Cameron, who will discuss “The History of Skates and Skating,” and “The Joy of Collecting” at 1:00 p.m. followed by a presentation on “Antique Ice Skate Patents” by club member Bob Gates. Former Olympic ice skating champion and television commentator Dick Button, who is himself a club member and skate collector, will attend and answer questions from the audience. Button was the first U.S. figure skater to win an Olympic medal, winning gold in 1948 and 1952.  He was also the first skater ever to land a triple jump – the triple loop.
Other activities at Old Sturbridge Village include ice skating (bring your own skates), horse-drawn sleigh rides around the Common, and sledding on 1830s-style sleds (weather permitting). After enjoying the museum’s outdoor winter activities, visitors can warm up indoors beside one of the Village’s many cozy fireplaces and take part in hands-on crafts and activities. Children can also spend time “pretending” in Old Sturbridge Village’s popular “KidStory” indoor play area.  For times and details: 800-SEE-1830;

Submitted by OSV

Friday, January 14, 2011

Trail Contract Awarded

Submitted by Tom Chamberland, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Sturbridge; The town has recently awarded a $ 51,795.00 contract to CME Engineering of  East Hartford CT to provide engineering design and permitting for the ¾ mile portion of the Titanic Rail Trail, Grand Trunk Trail section from the Ed Calcutt Bridge to River Road.  Of the $51,795 contract $41,440 is being paid from a part of the larger Transportation Enhancements Act (TEA) grant awarded by Mass Department of Transportation (Mass DOT) to the town, and the remaining $10,355 is appropriation from the Betterment Fund.

CME’s contract calls for a 100% design and permitted plan to be acceptable by Mass DOT to allow Mass DOT to bid construction for this section of trail.  It is estimated that the design and permitting phase will take about 1 year as several public hearings on the plan as well as environmental review and hearings conducted by the Conservation Commission will be required.  Work will commence this winter with flagging and topographic surveying of the trail route, confirming wetland boundaries, along with measuring and listing all trees that may need to be removed to accommodate the trail.

The proposed design is for a 10’ wide hard packed fine gravel trail with 2’ wide shoulders and a 5’ wide sidewalk along Farquhar Rd to the River Rd intersection including a redesign of the River Road/Farquhar Rd intersection to improve safety.  Mass DOT will fully fund 100% of the construction costs from the TEA grant authorization and will administer the construction of the trail. Approximately ½ mile of this ¾ mile trail section is on lands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Westville Lake Flood Damage Reduction project. The remaining lands are owned by the Town of Sturbridge and the Morse Family. A trail easement is being granted by the Morse Family. Under a cooperative trail agreement, Park Ranger Tom Chamberland of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be overseeing this project for both the Corps and the Town of Sturbridge.

With the completion of this section of the Titanic Rail Trail, ½ of the approximately 6 mile route will be completed thru the town.  The Sturbridge Trail committee is actively working on several other sections including engineering and design of the 1.2 mile River Lands portion, a grant from The Last Green Valley to complete a ¼ mile section of the Fiskdale portion, known as the Trolley trail, and has applied for grants to complete the remaining ¼ mile section out to the East Brimfield Lake Dam.

Anyone with questions regarding this project or any Grand Trunk Trail section of the Titanic Rail Trail thru Sturbridge can contact park Ranger Tom Chamberland at or call 508-347-3705.  For more information on the Sturbridge Trail Committee, contact its chair, Randy Redetzke at  The Sturbridge Trail Committee meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month 6 PM, Center Office Building.

From left to right: Park Ranger Tom Chamberland, Trails Committee volunteer Charles Blanchard, CME’s representatives, Engineer and Project Manager Scott Young and Director of Commercial Development Richard Strouse orient themselves with the wetlands delineation plan for the proposed trail route as they prepare to walk the trail route.

Photo credit: Sturbridge Trail Committee supplied photo

Our Winter Coat

The land is wearing the recent storm very well.

Photos:  W.J. Hersee © 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And, Now You Know

The Turnpike Madonna in Warren, Massachusetts
Ever since I was a kid, I remember seeing the statue in the photograph at the left while riding on the Mass Pike, and I wondered why it was there, and who put it there.  Something so Holy in such a secular place.

Now, I know.

A dairy farmer in Warren, Massachusetts, Alfred Brodeur, erected the statue of the Madona in 1964 after his wife, Eldora, successfully recovered from  breast cancer, and a mastectomy and radiation used to treat it.

Eight years previously, Brodeurs farm had been cut in half by the construction of the Mass Pike, and his land went right up to the edge of the Pike between mile markers 68 and 69.  He thought this location would be the ideal location to erect the statue to give thanks for Eldora's recovery, and to encourage prayer, and recitation of the Rosary from others, which Alfred felt had fallen off.  He built a small kneeler and a little bench in front of the statue.

The three Brodeur children contributed to bringing electricity out to the site so that the statue can be viewed at night.  Over the years a timer was installed, and eventually a light sensor.

Diane Fontaine, daughter of Alfred and Eldora Brodeur,
 and her husband, "Bud".  Photo: Lori Stabile / The Republican

In 1979, the Brodeurs celebrated their 50th anniversary.  Eldora passed in 1981, and Alfred joined her in 1998.   According to, "... the statue and the area are maintained by Brodeur’s daughter Diane F. Fontaine, 70, and her husband Elmer “Bud” J. Fontaine, 75."

Many people have stopped along the Pike to visit the site, something not wise to do, and discouraged by the family. Over the years people have left notes, rosaries, and other mementos at the site.  If you want to visit the site you can contact the family.

Presently, there is no one to maintain the site after the Fontaines are unable to do so.

'Our Lady of the Turnpike' is a popular stop

Turnpike Madonna maintained nearly 50 years later by Diane Fontaine of Warren, whose father believed in the power of prayer

By Lori Stabile, The Republican

Published: Saturday, January 08, 2011, 10:00 AM   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is Life Really Becoming Simpler, Or Just More Jetson Like?

In front of me, sitting on the coffee table, is an iPhone.  On my lap is an iPad given to me by Mary on Christmas so that I can write away from the laptop, which is sitting on the desk just upstairs.
Yes.  I am spoiled.  Actually, beyond spoiled, but more on that some other time.
I guess I am seeking the ultimate in portability beyond everyday, old school portability.  This morning, I am sitting in a tree in my back yard writing this.   


I could be though, and this spring I just might, but in the meantime I will just wander about the house ( I'm in the kitchen now), and continue digitally applying my essence to my environment. 
I'm a 21st Century kinda guy (standing in the cedar closet now).  I could be at the beach and view the inside of my house, set an alarm, or lock a door from my iPhone if I wanted to.  
In the living  room there is the digital cable TV box.  I can, but haven't as of yet, connect the internet to the TV in order to watch HD movies at a fraction of the cost the cable company charges.  I can also connect to Netflix via the Wii, and actually use the cable companies cable to circumvent their limited selection of movies, and national debt like fees to rent a movie ( back on the couch).
Another part of this digital world at my finger tips is the DVR, the digital video recorder in the cable box.  I never mastered setting the VCR to record a show back in the 80's, I would like to meet anyone that actually did, and I  never mastered setting the clock in the VCR, either.  I don't believe anyone ever did.  The DVR is simple.  Just click with the remote, and program is recorded.  If the is a show I missed, well I just pull it up on the iPad, or the laptop, and watch it there.
So, here I am, sitting on the couch, iPhone ringing on the coffee table, iPad on my lap and I am answering an email while watching the flat screen with the DVR, and I feel like my analog self has slowly been assimilated  into a digital world, and I may not even be real anymore.  I may actually be an avatar that Mary is designing from the laptop.
Scary thought.  I am sure there are parts she would vastly improve on. 
Nothing I have mentioned was available a few years ago.  Technology has accelerated exponentially with each new gadgets appearance in it's inventors head.  By the time it arrives on your coffee table, it is will be replaced at the store within eighteen months of it's initial inception, and that could be only weeks away.  
Electronics are actually designed in advance to use technology that is not yet available today, but will be in eighteen months.  This is called Moore's Law.
Moore's law was perceived by the co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore, back in the 1960's, and simply stated that the number of transistors needed to make a device would be halved every eighteen months, thus devices would not only become smaller, but potentially smarter as there would be more room for the technology.  In  a silicone computer chip this is not only true, but an accurate prediction as to just where the industry will be in a year and a half.

To make a boring, long story short, the TV you just got this Christmas for the living room will be surpassed in technology sometime this afternoon.  It was conceived eighteen months ago, design took a little time, then manufacture, and distribution took some more time before it was actually sent to the stores and advertised as the latest in TV's for Christmas, and on December 25th, it was.

Don't try to keep up.  Just be happy your TV is no longer the old tube type, and if it is, then it's time to let go.  Think of the environment.  Think of a better picture.  Think of spending a few hundred dollars for something that would have cost a few thousand five years ago.  Think just how cool that new LCD LED 52 inch will look on your wall.  Sweet.

Technology has always given us so much.  Our everyday lives been made easier by our cell phones, ability to text instead of being trapped on the phone forever with Mom, take photos on the fly and annoy the family in Florida with immediately all day long, view real time videos with cousins in Alaska, or Southbridge, with Skype.  Ever wonder when those video telephones they promised us at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair would appear?  Well, they are here, and have been for some time.

So much of what has been developed, thought up, designed, and put into every day use are useful, practical, and take today's technology to the limit in order to make the world around us easier to manage.

Then, there are the stupid, and the "How-about-this-because-I-can't think-of anything-practical-today" developments.  For instance, some hospitals are actually advertising on the TV, and radio that you can now text the hospital, and receive a text back from them telling of the current waiting time in their Emergency Rooms.

Say what?  Think about this.  If something has happened in your life that causes you to think "ER", then you go to the ER, quickly, otherwise, you wait until your doctors office opens up.  You don't text the hospital to see how long you will have to wait with your emergency.  If you did, your reason for going would not be an emergency, would it?  I guess it's just good marketing, and just using technology in that way.  

So, back to my using technology around the house.  It can get pretty silly.  We have actually texted each other while in different rooms, even while sitting on the same couch. Why?  Dunno.  Maybe just to say we did, but I do have an annoying side to me, too.

I can't wait to see what the next eighteen months will bring, and which of our new appliances, and gadgets ,will become obsolete, and what the new ones will offer.  

I am still waiting for that flying car they said back when I was in grade school, every home would have in the 21st century, or is it already here?  

Damn.  I can't keep up.  I need to go set up a Google Alert on my iPhone to let me know when things are about to change.

I like being in the digital loop.  FB me if you agree.  ;-)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

March 23, 1903

A ghastly tragedy in Sturbridge on March 23, 1903.  Life was as real back then, as it is is today.
Click here to view the original New York Times article.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Late December At Old Sturbridge Village

Mary and I walked the Village this past Friday.  The Village is a living, and breathing entity, and like us, reacts, and changes with the seasons.  Walking through the Village on peaceful morning is a prescription for a calm and gentle life. Great way to shed the stress of the week from your shoulders.


Your Mother Was Right, It Is Not What You Say, It's How You Say It

The comic books from Classics Illustrated
were ideal for those that were unable
to digest the full version of classics.
You wouldn't use the same voice you used to remind the kids to clean up the garage, as you would to lead a meeting at work, or, maybe you would, and I 'm  assuming too much.   For most of us we have different voices, and we use them at different times, for different reasons.

We write the same way.  The words in a short note within a Christmas card are selected for the person that will read it.  A reminder note on the fridge is written with less care.

Know your audience.  It is a piece of advice that will not grow old , and can be passed on forever, and still be of great value.

There are those that speak, and write in a very simple, "grammar be damned" way that for the most part, is effective in all aspects of their life.  It defines them.  Sometimes it is purposeful, other times it is is just the persons baseline.

Then there are those that speak, and write in a verbose, affected, pretentious, grandiose way.  It's just them, just as my writing like a hillbilly hooked on phonics is me.   The issue that bothers an audience is when they feel that they are being "spoken up to", or "spoken down to".  Both are bothersome, but some reason when someone we know speaks to us as if they are a Department Chair at Oxford, and we know dang well they isn't, it bothers us more.  As a result, our concentration is placed on the fact that they are attempting a spoken, or written soliloquy about something as inane as the importance of  rotating ones tires, and we find ourselves only hearing the tone, not listening to the message.

When the audience looses the message, we've lost the audience, and it takes a lot to get them back, otherwise we will alienate them forever.

Keep in mind, that just because one uses ten words to as opposed to anothers use of only one, doesn't make them any less truthful, accurate, or well meaning, it only means we need to take a bit more time to listen, and read than we normally would.  Most newspapers are written for readers with an eighth grade level of reading, and when one writes, or speaks at an eleventh grade level it can confound many of us, myself included.

Now, if you are re-reading this, scratching your head, and grunting , Huh?" over your Sunday morning coffee, then I have not chosen my audience well, but if you are nodding, smiling, and muttering something like, "Whoa, Dude, you are sooo right", then I've chosen well.