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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Very Good Start

It's a start.  Placing a non-binding question on the town meeting ballot is fine, but non-binding means just that, non-binding.  It will put the feelings of the voters in black and white, though, and maybe that means something in the long run.  The town can then go with spending the money for the variance with the support of the town if the vote falls that way, or not feel obligated to if the vote falls in that direction.  Or, do nothing.  After all, it is non-binding.

What is more impressive than wanting to put a question on the ballot is Selectman Tom Creamers admission that more oversight should have been had by all, including himself.  Mark this day down.  It is a rare occasion that a politician admits that things could have been done better, and that they missed the boat. A rare day.

Actually, it is a very good start.

From the Worcester Telegram

"After apology, doors open to vote

By Craig S. Semon 

STURBRIDGE —  After the chairman of the Board of Selectmen beat himself up for not knowing the Town Hall’s front doors were not going to be open for public use, his fellow board members voted to place a
non-binding question to the voters on the matter.

On Monday night, Thomas R. Creamer cited for his fellow selectmen problems plaguing the town, that, if solved, could become burdens to taxpayers.

“I don’t think I’ve done a good job asking questions that should have been asked,” Mr. Creamer said. “We didn’t do — I didn’t do a good job of questioning the Town Hall/Center Office Building Committee. We met with them four times. I didn’t do a good enough job of questioning whether or not we’re ever going to be able to use the front doors. It’s not a question that I thought I would have to ask but, in hindsight, I should have.”

A $5.2 million restoration and rehabilitation project is nearly done for the Town Hall and Center Office Building. As a result, the rear entrances to both buildings are the main entrances, because the front doors are not in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Previously, Mr. Creamer, who has been on the board since 2009, said he was taken by surprise when he learned earlier this year that the public could not use the front doors.

Mary Blanchard, the senior member of the board, and Town Administrator Shaun A. Suhoski were also unaware of the lack of front door access. On Feb. 22, Mr. Suhoski told the board that when he learned there were not even going to be door handles on the front door of Town Hall, he said, along with the building committee, “Put the door handles in.”

“It seems like all the questions that we don’t ask end up going back on the taxpayers,” Mr. Creamer continued. “We didn’t address the front doors soon enough, so now the taxpayers are going to have to come up with some money if they decide if they want to use the front doors on a nearly $5 million project.”

The board voted to place a non-binding question that asks voters if they support spending $10,000 to submit a variance request to the State’s Architectural Access Board to open the Town Hall’s front doors. "

$10,000.00 to ask for a variance?  Really?  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Real Pane In the Glass

I am not sure which is worse, receiving fiery comments denying, or confirming  events written about here, or silence.

Just not sure.

With strong comments there is emotion attached, and a way of venting those emotions by typing fast and furiously on the keyboard.

It can be excellent therapy.  Believe me.

Then there are the postings that don't stimulate a lot of comments, and I would be expecting something.  Anything.  These behaviors can be telling.  The emotion attached with submitted comment is a given, but what about the silence?  Is it do to resignation that there is little one can say that hasn't already been said?  That although the post may be about a different event, or situation, it all goes back to the existing culture, and therefore little one can do about it?

Well, how about those that are involved in the actual event itself?  If it was a positive posting, then I can see those involved stepping back a bit.  No sense in commenting on their own good work, but what about behaviors questioned, or actions that need further explanation?  I would expect those folks leaving a comment occasionally, but they have walked down the "comment path" before and probably don't want to be subjected to online wrath.

I understand that.

So, what is the next step?  Well, I may have cracked open the lid of a particular hidden, or overlooked subject that needs to be addressed, and answers found, but this is not the venue to find those answers.  It is up to the residents that would like an explanation to address it in the most appropriate forum, and that is at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen, or the committee involved.

Believe me, no matter what is written here, folks are aware of it, and if it even slightly involves them, they are expecting your questions, and to give you some answers.  Sometimes they hope it doesn't come to that, but in order to maintain accountability for actions taken, we need to follow up, and question those involved.  If for nothing else, just to know.

The single pane windows at the Town Hall installed as a result of a multimillion dollar restoration of the building, and the Center School across the street is probably the worse decision I have heard being made around here in a long time.

Sturbridge a Green Community?  I think we need some answers, and a plan in place to correct the situation first.

It would be awfully embarrassing applying to the program and having to admit to installing new single pane windows in a the town hall for history's sake.

Green Communities Grant Program

Criterion #5: Set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction; one way to meet these requirements is to adopt the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Historic Energy Fail

I really enjoy history.  Ever since I was old enough to understand the difference between present and past, and how the past led to the present, I have been fascinated by history.

When I arrived here in Sturbridge I naturally wanted to learn the  towns history.  Knowing what happened here  before I arrived gave me a deeper sense of place.  It is also important for anyone to know a places past in order to understand where the place is today, and to have a respect for the place as well.  I know it is cliche, but I will say it anyway, one cannot map out where they are going, unless they know where they have been.

More common sense than cliche, really.

So, here I am, a guy that lives in a town surrounded by history, and by others that have the same, and even a deeper passion than myself. I am a very lucky man.  Of course, there is a difference between being a person that enjoys, appreciates, respects, and maintains our history, and our historic places, and, those that are fanatical.

Fanatical history lovers?  Well, yes.  Not much of an issue, but when they rise to a position and are called upon for advise when important historical advise is needed it can become an issue.  If there is no one in the crowd with a lick of sense to temper some of that hardcore advise into something usable, then we may live to regret it.  

I think we can all start regretting it now.

The new windows that recently replaced the windows in
the old photo of the town hall above are essentially
the same:  single pane. 

I was told last weekend that during the renovation of the Center School, and the Town Hall, that single pane windows were installed in both buildings because they are more  historically accurate than energy efficient, multi-pane windows.  This piece of advice was given by our local experts in history.  I was also told that one can actually see the curtains move as the air circulates around the windows, and that the heating system is far from working effectively. It is either around 80℉,  or much, much  lower. Seldom a happy medium.

Single pane windows?  In 2011?  Really?  I really do trust, and respect my source of this information, but could they really be right?  Could our experts in history have actually insisted on single pane glass windows for their historical accuracy  resulting in wasting huge amounts of energy?  Not to mention adding to the uncomfortable working conditions in the building.  If these experts wanted true accuracy then why did they stop at the windows, and not advise that the bathrooms be located outside in the parking lot along side the pump for the running water.

Because it doesn't make any sense, that's why.
The Master Plan for the Town of Sturbridge has an entire section on Energy and Sustainability, and these single pane windows run counter to not only the plan, but to common sense.

The Planning Board has listed "Current Events" on their page on the Town website, and one of the items listed is applying for designation as a Green Community.

"3.  Establish an energy use baseline inventory that includes municipal buildings, vehicles, street and traffic lighting, and put in place a comprehensive program designed to reduce this baseline by 20 percent within 5 years of the baseline year."

Well, it doesn't take a genius to know that we've screwed up royally.  Yes, I said "we".  No matter if a committee, or commission made the decision, and others did not question it, it eventually falls on us, the residents.  It is our responsibility.

Getting advice of experts is always a great idea, but so is having others review the advice, and think how it will actually affect the task at hand, and everything else it touches.  Again, nothing hi-tech here, just common sense.

If those windows can be replaced with energy efficient windows, we may be back on track, but for now, I don't see that happening.  Replacing newly purchased and installed windows requires a reason to do so, and that reason has to be owned by somebody or somebodies.

I don't see that happening any time soon.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Really Quick Thought

I was just driving west on Route 20, a little west of Old Sturbridge Village when I saw a couple of DPW workers power sweeping the sidewalks.  The sand, and dirt of the winter season was being deposited on the road along the curb for the street sweeper to pickup at a later time.  There was also a new patch of concrete on the sidewalk around a utility pole.  The old square of concrete failed, and the DPW repaired it.  They did many repairs on the sidewalk a couple of years ago, and between the sweeping of the sidewalks, and the repair of failing concrete, they do an excellent job.

Now, my thought in the form of a question.  Why do we find it OK for the DPW to do this work?  Why are we  not all up in arms and making a commotion about our DPW spending their time sweeping sidewalks, repairing them, and making our Main Street look nice? Seems rather peculiar since they are adamant about not maintaining the sidewalks when there is snow on them, and the temperatures are a bit lower.  In fact, property owners that do not maintain the sidewalks in the winter season, and clear them of  snow, can be fined.  Why are property owners only responsible when the work is much tougher, the environment more arduous?  Why are the property owners not the ones out there sweeping the walks and repairing the old concrete?


It can't be because in spring time the weather is more conducive to working outside, and may be more enjoyable?  Naw.  Too obvious.  Maybe it is because concrete work is not really work, but a skill, and not something for the lesser experienced.

Could be, but, again, too obvious.

Well, whatever the reason, I think we have an honest to goodness double standard here.

It has been made very clear that the DPW is not able to maintain the sidewalks during the winter, and we should not be expecting  them to be doing it in the other three seasons.

Shame on us.

No matter that they do a great job, it is too much for them, and we as citizens of Sturbridge don't allow them enough funds to do their work year round.

Yep.  Shame on us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Volunteers Really Clean Up

Cub Scouts standing by the efforts of their labor from volunteering at the
Westville Dam Recreational Area on National Trail Day this past Saturday.
This past Saturday Mary and I spent some time at Westville picking up trash along the river as part of National Trail Day.

Yep.  I was a bit sore the next day, but the volunteers pictured at the left were still going strong at the end of the day.

Great way to harness all that energy.

I received the following email from organizer, Army Corp of Engineers Ranger Tom Chamberland this morning:

Wally: I hope you and Mary were not too sore!  Attached photo of all trash in
back of truck with Cub Scouts.  Some #'s from area trail day:

       Westville: 50 volunteers, x 3 hrs = 150 hours @ $20.25 (national
volunteer rate) = $ 3037.50 value in service.  In addition to trash, 15 drain
culverts were cleaned and maintained to minimize trail erosion, Park entrance
& park were cleaned and spruced up from winter debris, and 250' of trail
shoulder edge had loam spread and seeded.

       Sturbridge: 38 volunteers at Leadmine Mt along with 4 small tractors,
chain saws and brush chipper total value est. $3526.25 spread approx 90 tons
of fine gravel 1000'long x 6' wide x 4" thick final trail surface to Arbutus
park trail, wildlife habitat improvement to 1/4 acre of open field, and cut
back brush, removed Hazardous trees along 2000' of the Arbutus park Trail.

       Brimfield: 21 volunteers, 2 tractors, est. value = $ 1725.00. Spread
125 tons fine gravel surface, 10' wide completing 1500' section of Titanic
Rail trail, clean winter and flood debris off of 3 miles of Titanic rail
trail and 500' of trim and improve trail clearance from low limbs.

       Southbridge: 3 volunteers, chain saw trail cleanup after logging
operation at Cole Forest property Est. value $ 282.25.

Tom C

Amazing what a hundred volunteers can do in three hours.  Thanks for the opportunity, Tom.  See you next year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Start Up A Casual Relationship With Your Town

The "white water" in the photo to the left is the result of storm run off from the rain we received early yesterday morning.  Up till then, the water coming from the culvert was at a trickle since the snow melt had gone.  The amount of water, and the force it comes out the pipe after living as a drip for weeks amazes me.  The rain water runs off the hill between Clarke Road and Brookfield Road, and fills a few small ponds.  Those ponds feed each other by what the state refers to as an "intermittent stream", meaning a stream that is there, well, only intermittently.  Depending on the weather, or season it will either be flowing strong, or be barely moist.  Yesterday it showed it was very much alive.

Years ago there was a larger pond where the culvert is now.  That pond was filled in and the stream rerouted through the culverts.  Filling in a pond, and rerouting a stream would not be allowed today, but years ago, it was just done if there was a reason to do it.  It was a job that one would not do on a lark.

In the photo to the left the water flows from the culvert towards another culvert at Route 148 (Brookfield Road).  This other culvert connects to the storm water system under the road, and where it goes from there I haven't a clue, but have been told it is the Quinebaug River at the bottom of the hill.

Slowly, over the few years we have lived above the stream, we have cleared out the years of neglect, and trash dumped along its edge, all the while insuring it remained a stream.  An act of continual restoration.  After each heavy rain I will find several old bottles that have been exposed at the top of the embankment.  Most are just old liquor bottles, or shards of old pottery, and plates.  The long ago practice of using ones land as a dump continued for some folks into the latter half of the last century.  

We feel we are only temporary owners of the land we live on.  Caretakers, really, and while we are here we'll try to make right what has gone by the wayside over the years.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am far from being the head of the local Sierra Club.  I'm like you, just a resident of Sturbridge that enjoys where we live very much, and want to care for the people, and things around me.  Besides my family this "intermittent stream" is another thing to keep an eye on, and be sure it continues to do well.

I was thinking this morning how great it would be if a few more regular folks adopted some small place in town and made it there "own", and cared for it.  It could be as close as the stream in their yard, or a traffic island.  Nothing official, more of a casual relationship.  For instance, if you spotted trash accumulating  along the stone wall surrounding the Old Cemetery beside the Center School Office Building, then pick it up.  Yes, I know we have a DPW that does care for the grounds, and will eventually get to it, but in the meantime, while we wait, it sits there.  

A simple, casual relationship with a piece of our town.  Nothing too serious, those relationships can be consuming, and before you know it, you're texting each other day and night.  No, something easy, and casual, and when you are done doing what ever you decide to do, you feel good, and your project looks great.

Random, casual, anonymity can go a long way in this kind of relationship.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trail Day This Saturday At Westville

Sturbridge: The 11th annual area spring volunteer trail day will be held Saturday April 16th by the Town Trail Committees of Sturbridge, Southbridge and Brimfield along with the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Grand Trunk Trail Blazers. Residents, youth and community service groups are all welcome to be a part of celebrating the arrival of spring, Earth Day, and being a part of improving our communities. Registration begins at 8:30 am and the work project will start at 9 am and continue through noon. Each Town has its own work sites and projects they are:

Brimfield: 207 Five Bridge Rd. Trail clean up and preparation for their 5K trail race on April 30th, along with trash and liter removal, loam raking and seeding along the recently completed section of trail out to RT 20, and spreading fine gravel. Tractor with buckets and small dump trucks are needed to support these projects.

Sturbridge: 10 Old Sturbridge Village Rd. Trail construction of the Arbutus Park trail, surface preparation and spreading fine gravel, bridge maintenance, brush clearing. Small tractors with buckets and dump trailers needed to support these projects.

Southbridge: Registration at Westville Recreation Area, trail work of improving and maintaining the West St school trail network. Spreading gravel, brush trimming and trail clearing are the scheduled projects.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: 125 Wallace Rd., Westville Recreation Area. Loam and seeding shoulders along the Grand Trunk Trail, shoulder repair and maintenance of the Community trail, and trash debris pickup after the recent high water are the scheduled projects.

Pre registration is requested to allow for proper planning of materials and supplies, as well as ordering enough pizza for lunch for all the volunteers. In case of heavy rain event will be postponed until April 23rd. Please dress for the weather, sturdy shoes, work gloves and a water bottle recommended. To preregister or for more information on trails or any questions contact:

Brimfield: Tony Bys at 413-245-9297, email at:

Sturbridge: Randy Redetzke at 508-344-9823 or email;

Southbridge: Ken Pickren at 508-765-6022, email at;

Corps: Park Ranger Tom Chamberland at 508-347-3705, email at;

Grand Trunk Trail Blazers: Pat McGarrah at 508-347-3647, email at;

Last year over 60 volunteers participated, the trail committees are looking to better that number this year but need your help to do so. Thanks for volunteering!

Forgotten Sturbirdge: The Old Service Station

Mary and I enjoy taking long morning walks on the weekends.  On a recent walk, here in town, we came across more bits of "Forgotten Sturbridge".  I have seen these little pieces of hidden history many times before, and have always wondered about them, and that is where you come in.

I would like you to give a bit of history to the objects.  Don't ask me for hints, or help.  Except for the location, I am totally clueless on this one.  They are simply relics of another time that have been left undisturbed, and are slowly slipping away, like a hand beneath the waves.

This is all that remains of an advertising sign that is
slowly being swallowed by the tree.  Do you know
what this side says?

The other side of the metal sign shows a logo, and most
of the word "gas", and possibly a company name at the

This area is in front of a house.  Note the raised concrete "island", and
metal pole.  This is where gas pumps stood long ago on a road
long since closed to through vehicular traffic.

These remnants are located on Old Mashapaug Road.  Click here for a Google Map of the area.  Once you are at the map you choose the street view, and view the house, and the roadway where the tree that holds the sign is located.  

Old Mashapaug Road, at one time, ran from River Road along the Quinebaug River, and crossed the river on an bridge built in 1956, just before the Army Corp of Engineers took over the land for the construction of the Westville Dam.  That bridge, and a bridge at the intersection of Wallace Road, and Breakneck Road where Mashapaug Road ends further down river at the entrance to the seasonal park at Westville are also relics of the past.  Only used by the public for a couple of years before they were closed by the Corp of Engineers to through traffic, they look as strong as they did when first constructed in the village of Westville.  

Time moves very slowly here.

One of the walks we enjoy is to start the walk at the parking lot on Wallace Road, and walk on Old Mashapaug Road along the river, and over that 1956 bridge to the other side.  We then follow the road to a yellow pipe barrier gate that blocks the abandonded old road as it winds high over the river, and onto River Road.  At the end of the Corp of Engineers land, the old road returns to its lost life, and there are several houses along the open part of the road with the old service station being the first on the road near River Road.  

At River Road, we take a right, and walk along the road for a ways until we come to another one of those yellow barrier gates on the right blocking vehicular access to an old road that leads to the Ed Calcutt Pedestrian Bridge that has connected both banks of the river since 2002.  We cross the bridge, and follow the trail until we reach the parking lot again at the intersection of Wallace and Breakneck Roads.  The walk is three miles long, and has no steep hills, but a lot of views that you cannot see anywhere else in Central Mass. The views of the river from high above on the both sides of the river are simply amazing, you would think you were in the deepest parts of New Hampshire, or Maine.

We'll be walking again this weekend, and most likely will head to Westville again with a follow up cup of coffee at the Publick House Bakery.  Take the hike yourself, and check out some lost pieces of history along the way, and the wonderful views.  There are other relics along the way, but I won't spoil the surprises for you.

If you know anything about the old service station on Mashapaug Road, or anything else about this piece of "Forgotten Sturbridge" leave a comment, or drop an email to

Monday, April 11, 2011

Well Done, Detective

Never underestimate the tenacity of someone from Central Mass that is is on a mission.  In my last post, "A Sturbridge Mystery", I posted an old photo collage of a Sturbridge family. I asked for help in identifying the family, and the locations in the photos.  Well, one long time reader took my request to heart.

Hi Wally,
Regarding your mystery photographs on Thinking Out Loud in Sturbridge:

Miss Hyde is likely related to the Hyde of the Joshua Hyde Library (a guess).

Page 170, Section 1014 of a book titled The Richardson Memorial, written by John Adams Vinton mentions the Minister in Sturbridge as Martin Luther Richardson from 1867 "to the present time."  "He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from Sturbridge in 1871. He has no children." Here's the link.

'Hope we are of some help. Marilyn

Hmmmm.  Time frame seems right, and he was a State Rep, too.

This web site seems to say that our Rev. Richardson did have a child, and his name was William Shed Richardson, born in 1860, which would make sense, as the Richardson wedding was said to have taken place in 1859.


Well, this would account for the young boy labeled "Will" in the collage.

The Reverend did have kids! Wait 'til you see their names on this 1870 census! (Okay, I'll tell. Hattie and William.)

The Cottage
And, now this record acknowledges who "Hattie" was!  So far, we've identified the family, and two of the children.  There was a comment in the original post questioning whether or not the house labled as "Our Cottage" was the yellow Brunell House just past the common on Main Street.  The photo to the left is not clear, but in the original photo it is much clearer.  Unlike the yellow house, the "cottage" doesn't seem to have the  second floor balcony, and to there is a also an "ell" to the right in the photo to the left that isn't part of the yellow house.

Now, all we need is to identify the other folks int he collage, and the location of the homes.

Sturbridge 1870  census, page 7, lines 27,28,29, you will find the Hyde women. They appear to be mother and 2 daughters. One of them must be the Miss Hyde in your photograph. More research would tell us if this is the family of Joshua Hyde. I suspect that it is.

Getting closer...

Hi Wally,
The photographs must include a spelling error, because the selectman mentioned as Whittmore, was actually Whittemore.

Whoops.  My fault.  Just wanted to shake up the research a little.
-- In 1880 Rev. Martin Luther Richardson and family had a black servant named Hannah Walker (age 17 from Virginia)

Here's info on the Hyde women (regarding Miss Hyde in your photo) listed in the same census as the Rev. martin Luther Richardson. They ARE part of the family of Joshua Hyde.
You have a great deal of Sturbridge history in your mystery photographs!

I wonder if there are any members of this family still in town?

Thank you for all your hard work, Marilyn, and for sharing it with all of us.  You learned a lot about our mystery family, now all we need to do is to identify the houses in the photo.   Maybe, old census data will show who lived where, and when...(hint, hint).

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Sturbridge Mystery

A few years ago,  I was spending too much time on Ebay.  Too much time.  I was finding a whole lot of items related to Sturbridge history that were forgotten pieces of our history.  They were, more or less, affordable so I bought them.  

I was able to pick up a so many great historic items that would have been lost forever to some "collectors" closet, and never return to Sturbridge.  Now, since the town does not have a place to display the items, such as a museum, or a room for historic collections, they sit in another closet, a bank vault.  Someday I feel there will be either grant money, or other money to pay for the restoration and preservation of the old documents and maps, and they will be available to the town at that time.  In the meantime, I will display a few of them here.

One of the items I purchased is an old framed photograph.  Can you help to identify the people in the photo?

The photograph is a collage of many old photographs.

The photo at the lower right is "The Elms", now called the Publick House.
To the upper left of the Publick House is the photo of the Upper Bridge.  This old bridge was immediately to the north of Route 131 at the intersection of Hall Road.  The dog on the tufted chair is simply labeled as "Brownie".
The girl on the lower left center is "Edna", and to her right is "Hattie Richardson" 
The photo at the top right is of the troops drilling on the Town Common.
The building directly below the common photo is the Center School located across from the town hall and recently restored.
The house at the bottom left is "Our Cottage".  The little boy in the oval photo is "Will"
To Will's left is "Edna" with "Henry", and "Anna" in the lower left.

The gentleman at the upper left is identified as "Rev. Mr. Richardson",  the man in the middle is "Grandfather"
and the woman at the r]far right is "Miss Hyde".  The church on the left is the "Congregational Church in Sturbridge", and directly underneath the church is "Father", and "Mother".  The house in the center of the photograph is labeled as "Edna's Birthplace Born 1863".  There is a typed newspaper article below the photo:
"The house burned last week was built in 1753 by Col. Hiram Wheelock..."
The house was also the home to Cyrus Merrick, Elisha Southwick, A.C. Morse, and William Whittmore, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen at various times.

Now, comes the fun part, your mission at CSI: Sturbridge.   Your mission is to help identify the people in the photographs, and where were these old photographs taken in Sturbridge.  If you have an idea, or would just like to offer up a guess, either email me at, or leave at comment.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Let April 11th Become Groundhogs Day

In the March 31 edition of the Town Common there is an informative article written by Jennifer Grybowski about reinvesting in the towns tourist district.  The tourist district runs from the Old Sturbridge Lodges next to Friendly's on Route 20 to Route 148 to the west.  A district just about a mile long.  A revitalization study finished in December 2009 had many recommendations for the area, such as the area should be pedestrian friendly, cater to tourists, offer a variety of shopping, restaurants, and lodging.  The study also recommended family entertainment during the day, and at night, some way to enjoy the natural water resources either passively, or actively, and adequate parking within walking distance to everything.

The study recommended planting more trees, and expanding landscaping, placing the utilities underground, reducing curb cuts, and increasing sidewalks for pedestrian safety.  The plan to implement the recommendations is now in effect.  According to Jean Bubon, " There is a good energy associated with the project because so much is going on.  We have people volunteer all the time, but we also have a lot of new faces getting involved.  People are feeling positive."

The town planner also mentioned a survey done by both the Chamber of Commerce, and Old Sturbridge Village that revealed a lot of those of living in town already knew, that the world outside of the Village is somewhat disenchanting  to visitors.  An ugly, four lane highway running through town is one thing that contributes to this feeling.  I imagine that the empty buildings, closed shops, and ancient, unattractive infrastructure are some other things that add to that feeling.

It is like the movie "Groundhog Day", we have read all the recommendations before, for decades.  The Master Plan of 1988 was an exercise in futility.  The new Master Plan, is hopeful.  I hope it is implementable, too.

All of the recommendations have been written about before.  I hope the "energy" to make things better in town is infectious. I do see signs of improvement despite the closing of restaurants like "420 Main", and New England Graphics closing, and moving to their main store in Auburn.  The Whistling Swan has been sold and purchased by a group intent on making it a winner.  The same group is responsible for the newly restyled Cedar Street Grill.  We've dined at both, and they are both winners.

The real sign that things are getting better is the old Ames Store that has been vacant for years is now alive again with not one occupant, but two!  Ocean State Job Lot took half of the building, and the Tractor Supply Company took the remaining half.

Empty, unused prime real estate finally being used again.  Long term tenants, too.  They will draw folks to the remaining stores in the plaza on Route 131, too.  It is more than a win / win for the plaza, it is a win / win for Sturbridge, too.

I really do hope the studies will lead to the improvements they suggest as being vital.  There has been too much rhetoric, and promises over the years offered up by many that didn't have a clue as to how to implement those changes.  Election day is on Monday, April 11th.  When you have that ballot in your hand on Monday, look at the names listed, and choose those that you know have a clue.

Otherwise, Welcome to Groundhogville.

Excellent Idea

April 5, 2011

Sturbridge room will be named after Iwo Jima hero

STURBRIDGE —  Selectmen last night endorsed a proposal to name one of the Town Hall’s conference rooms in honor of Sturbridge’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Veterans Service Director Thomas A. Chamberland proposed naming the second floor rear conference room at Town Hall in honor of Marine Platoon Sgt. Joseph “Rudy” Julian. Sgt. Julian, the town’s only Medal of Honor winner, died at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

According to the proposal, the room will be named Platoon Sergeant Joseph “Rudy” Julian Conference Room.

In addition, Mr. Chamberland proposed the front conference room be named the Minuteman Conference Room in honor of the legacy of the town’s respondents to the call to arms at the start of the Revolutionary War.

Mr. Chamberland said dedication plaques would cost $3,000 for the Julian Conference Room and $1,385 for the Minuteman Conference Room. An article to appropriate money from the Community Preservation Fund for the project is on the annual town meeting warrant June 6.

Mr. Chamberland said he has support from local veterans groups as well as the town’s historical commission and historical society. The goal is to hold a dedication ceremony on Veterans Day, he said.

— Craig S. Semon 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Can Hear Music!!! Finally.

Ever have something drive you completely nuts, and know that the feeling only gets worse as you accept the reality that there is nothing you can to to make it better?

Fortunately, those situations are few, but there is nagging one that has affected me for  years:  the lack of good radio reception in Sturbridge.


Sorry.  Had to get that out.

It started so innocently.  I listen to WBZ in my car, during my commute, for the traffic reports, and the latest news.  Nice to know if the roads are blocked due to an alien invasion, or hurricane, and what roads I need to to take to avoid the mess.  "BZ and I have been partners since I was a kid.  Inseparable, except on Route 20 in front of the Information Center across from Country Curtains.

For about 1/4 mile, from just before the information center to around Cedar Street WBZ is impossible to hear.  In fact, no AM radio station is without interference, and distortion.  Some form of electrical interference I imagine.  I wrote to the FCC a few years ago, and they wrote back and told me to contact the radio stations and tell them about it so they can fix it.

Really.  That was their solution.  So, instead of investigating some rogue high powered pirate radio station broadcasting out of the woods here in town, they want me call all the radio stations within a hundred miles and let them know their broadcast is broken in Sturbridge.

I'll get right on it.

Electrical interference is one thing that affects radio reception that can be solved if the source is identified, but overall bad reception is something those of us have here in Central Mass is due to the topography.

Mountains and hills block radio signals, and valleys hide radios from the signals, as well.

Over time, I have learned to live with the inconvenience.  I do have a large antennae attached to my Bose radio in the bedroom. I taped it to the back of my chest of drawers, and it faces in the general direction of the smooth jazz station I listen to at night.  Works great.

Mary, on the other hand, has always enjoyed listening to the radio when she is getting ready for work in the morning.  The radio she uses is a dial type radio, and the reception is not very good, and when it is OK, it soon drifts away.  Most of the rooms in the house are like this.

Well, when I found out that something as simple as not being able to listen to the radio in the morning to get the news, traffic, and weather for the day can make my other half unhappy, I was determined to fix it.  It was not only the right thing to do, but an unhappy spouse makes for a chilly house.

After messing around with the antennae, repositioning the radio, and doing some online research about how to improve radio reception, I finally figured it out, and we went to Best Buy the other day, and bought an internet radio.

It is awesome.  It really is.  Now, our reception is perfect.  Instead of receiving a broadcast over the air as a regular radio does, an internet radio receives it over the internet.  You can either connect directly to  the modem you use to receive your internet service with a cable, or connect to the modem via wi-fi, and truly receive your signal over the airwaves.  If you use wi-fi, like we do, then you also aren't restricted by the connecting cable, and the radio can go anywhere in your home.  This is the best way.

Not only is the reception flawless, but we are not just limited to local radio stations, either.  Of course, we can receive WSRS in Worcester,but now we can receive any radio station that is streamed onto the internet from anywhere in the world!

Do you miss your hometown radio station back in Dallas, or Seattle?  Not a problem.  Just tune them in, and Voila!  you are back home again.  Radio stations in Dublin, Ireland, or Tokyo, Paris, or Cape Town are all out there for you.  Interesting thing is, that most of the Pop 40 stations around the world all play the same music, they just announce the songs with an accent.

The Logitech Squeezebox radio we bought also lets us listen to satellite radio if we were subscribers, listen to our music collection from our computer, or MP3 player, and display our own photographs as a slideshow as the music plays.

I really like this gadget.  Not only did it solve our problem, but is so cool.  If you would like to check out the reception in Sturbridge, or anywhere else in the country, for yourself, click here.

In the meantime, another problem solved in Sturbridge.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Roadside Archeology In Sturbridge

The Bay Bath in Sturbridge
Sturbridge has literally been at the crossroads of New England since it was first settled.  First there was the Indian trails, and then the Bay Path that meandered from eastern Massachusetts to Springfield.  Along the trails, that eventually became roads, both the natives, and the settlers left "signs" along the way to advertise to, or direct a traveler.  The early signs were most likely stones, or large rocks indicating direction, or marking an important spot.  Later, stones engraved were placed along the roadside by none other than Benjamin Franklin when he was postmaster of the northern colonies.  The stones marked the distance along the Boston Post Roads from Boston in order to set the postal rates.

The Wilbur Cross Highway met up with route MA-15 in 1952.  Those modern day routes were the main roadways connecting Boston and New York City, and thousands of people traveled along them every week.  Sturbridge was at the junction of the cross country highway Route 20, and MA-15 until the Massachusetts Turnpike bisected town in 1957, followed by I-86 (now I-84).  These roadways also were also ideal locations for placing signs for both direction, and advertising. Some were billboard-like, others merely lighted signs advertising a restaurant or an inn.  As the four lane Wilbur Cross / MA-15 gave way to the new interstate I-86 the signs could no longer be seen as well from the vehicles on the new high speed interstate.  So they were left where they stood until the trees overtook them, and forever blocked their message from those coming to town.

The exciting news is, some of those antique, and historic bits of signage are still there standing forgotten in the woods. Steel and wooden memories of a time long gone.

The sign at the left is just off of Haynes Street, Old MA-15.   It stands on rusted steel girders and the image is an open box of chocolates.  There is no text remaining, but the candy looks as good as it did 40 plus years ago.

Roadside "archeology" is a hobby that many study along the highways, and backroads of America, and Sturbridge has many lost and forgotten pieces of modern times scattered about along the roads, or hidden by the continually growing roadside forests.  The late fall and winter, when the leaves are off the trees,  are the best time to discover these facinating glimpses of our history.  Keep your eyes open as you motor around town, and you just may discover a piece of motoring history like the old sign post below.

This one is located on Breakneck Road.  Do you know what the sign advertised?  If you know anything about either sign, or have a piece of Forgotten Sturbridge you would like to share, let me know.

Springtime is here, and it's a nice time to go on an explore.