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, October 22, 2011

Taste of Tantasqua Coffee Fundraiser

Who:               School Spirit Coffee.               

What:              Coffee, Tea, Cocoa, Specialty Drinks, Dry BBQ Rubs.

Where:            Kickoff in cafeteria, one turn-in day in Advisories.  (Students will bring    home order forms)  

When:             Thursday November 3rd to Tuesday November 15th.

Why:               Supports TRJHS Student Activities Fund & Transportation for field Trips.

Cost:               1 lb. (454 g) of ground/whole bean gourmet coffee is $12. 

(Cash or check made out to Tantasqua Regional Junior High School).

UPDATE!!  FYI: Online price remains at $14+shipping.  The company cannot reduce it.  We will sell it for $12 though.

Goal:               School goal is a profit of $6,000.

Prizes:             Cumulative based on incremental number of items sold as well as top sellers, etc.

Help with prize donations (gift cards, services, gift baskets, small electronics, entertainment/sporting tickets) and with coffee sales would be greatly appreciated.  

Orders are accepted online but do not include shipping:      Go to School Spirit Coffee page.Purchase products and then indicate the school you wish to support with your purchase during the checkout process.

Submitted by:

Dana F. Labb
Assistant Principal
Tantasqua Regional Junior High School
320B Brookfield Road
Fiskdale, MA 01518

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But It's Time

Cable TV service in Sturbridge has been a problem for a long time.  Interrupted service, poor picture quality, internet connections disconnecting way too frequently, and cable service that is far behind the competition.

Charter Communication does not offer what the competition offers, and what the modern consumer has come to look for.  Technology advances  every day, and woe to the company that does not latch onto it, or promotes it the wrong way.

Modern consumers not only expect to be able to stream a movie, or TV show to their TV, but to a smart phone, iPad or remote computer, too.  Our expectations have grown as fast as our technology.  The competition has kept up, and being able to stream is very convenient especially for those times trapped at the airport, or dentist's office.  Streaming has become basic.

Being able to watch a streaming movie in one room, and then moving to another room to finish the movie is something Charter has no ability to do, but the competition does.

Digital Video Recorders like the TiVo service were only introduced by Charter in the past couple of years, long after the competition introduced the service to their customers, and that is the extent of their high tech with the exception of introducing High Definition (HD).

Current cable service in Sturbridge, MA.
Being on the cutting edge is something that Charter has never been, they struggle with maintaining the service they have, and that service is not the best.  They play catch up, and as a result we are left watching Bedrock TV.

For me being good enough is not good enough.  When I pay for a service I want the best service I can afford.  So do you.  With our current cable service we have no choice, except to go without, or with  satellite, and neither choice is one I like.

Currently, Sturbridge is under contract with Charter Communications to provide our cable services, however if the service is poor, we do not have renew the contract.  We can say goodbye to Charter, and open our town up to the competition.  It's OK, we're consumers, and we don't have to accept what is offered, we can go for the best service for the best price.

However,  have had that option many times in the past, and despite the complaints from other residents, the town has listened to the promises made by Charter, and then smiles at the dollars offered to the town for media services, and calls it a wrap.
A happy Sturbridge family watching modern cable TV.

It's time to get real.  

Loose a poor service, and bring a modern, current cable service to Sturbridge.  Charter has had many chances to improve, and they haven't.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Sturbridge is long overdue in regaining it's sanity.

Well, at least in this regard, we can work on the other things later.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's Coming

We enjoy spending a weekend away in the fall not just for the reason that a change in scenery is not only enjoyable, but it is therapy as well.  This past weekend we joined everyone else  chasing the leaves in New England.  We spent a couple of days in the Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire, and our base was in North Conway.  The fall colors were just about peak up north, and they were late in coming out this year.

The exceptionally hot and humid weather we had a couple of weeks ago, not having a hard frost, or two yet along with all that extra rain in September has confused the bejeepers out of the leaves.

All over New England the foliage has been muted with less reds because of the fungus the rain brought to the maples.  As we were driving home on I-290 through Worcester on Sunday the amount of green leaves still clinging to the trees was remarkable for this time of year.

No heavy frost so the chlorophyll stays in the leaf, and the leaf stays on the tree.  It looks like the first of October instead of entering its third week.

Thus far it has been a foliage fiasco.

But, wait, it's coming.

The sad faces of the TV meteorologists as they proclaimed the foliage season a bust this year, are about to change.  Mother Nature has not surrendered, she never does.

The color we saw in New Hampshire this past weekend were phenomenal, despite a storm the night we arrived that blew many of the leaves from the trees, and it's coming our way.

The photos below are a preview of what is to come to Central Massachusetts, and Sturbridge,  very soon.

All is not lost, leaf lovers.  Enjoy.

Photos © 2011 W. Hersee

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dual Seasonalities

North Cemetery  Sturbridge, MA
It's a toss up.  Spring, or Autumn.  So many will say that they love autumn.  In late March the same number express similar tributes to budding leaves, and the small blossoms on the  trees.

Dual personalities?

No, same people, but their heads are in a totally different places.  In spring, after many weeks of cold, grey colorless days the slightest twinkle of life returning to ones world sparks the emotions.  In the fall, after running about all spring and summer enjoying life, places, and family outside the confines of a closed up house we begin to slow down.  It seems to happen naturally, like what we do after a long day of  chasing kids, mowing lawns, painting shutters, beach trips, cookouts, and just enjoying.

At the risk of being over analogous, and repeating an overdone cliche, it is like life.  I know, I know, but true.

The season changes the scenery to match the moment.  Blossoms straining to burst open as we are straining to burst out past our storm doors in spring, and soft, comfortable days with bright colors slowly revealing themselves as our pace slows in fall.

Yes, It's a toss up.  One season compliments the other.  Spring and autumn designed to ease us into the next season, and back out again.


Leaves falling onto the steps, frost on the grass, wood smoke in the air; the senses acknowledge, and confirm the changes about us. The season itself is a cliche.

Too much thinking about it can stifle the moment.  Time to enjoy, and put the thinking aside for a bit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just Being A Good Yankee

The found chair before restoration.
 I live in an excellent area to "share" outgrown stuff with the world.  I just stick the item on the grass beside the driveway with a sign reading, "FREE", and  within 15 to 20 minutes the outgrown thing is absorbed into the community.

It's magical.

We have "shared" a number of items in this way.  Things that are not worth posting on Craig's List, and furniture with some life left in them, and too good for the Recycling Center's dumpsters.

Last week the magic worked in reverse (see karma in last post). We were driving along a road in the southern part of town when I spotted a chair like the ones I had been pricing online for a few months.  There it was on the side of the road with a familiar "FREE" sign beside it, and some other less impressive abandoned items.

Booya!  I struck gold.  The exact same chair was $269.00 to $320.00 on line, and here it was on the side of the road beckoning to me.

I wanted  a wooden desk chair with wheels for the desk in the den.  The chair we had there now was an antique one we picked up at a garage sale at a private school in Woodstock, Connecticut a few years ago while we were on one of our drives through the country.  It is a nice wooden chair with thick arms, but no wheels.  Not a good choice for in front of a desk.

I pulled a "u-ee", and swung back to the house with the chair.  There was another couple there, and I was praying they weren't going for the chair, and they weren't.   It coulda gotten ugly.  I stopped, and popped the chair into the trunk, and tore out there like I had just robbed a convenience store.  It was free, but to me I had just found $269.00 on that road side.

The old chair where it was meant to be.
I put the chair into the garage, and ran off to Home Depot for some chair restoration supplies.  This was a great project.  The chair was built by a company in St. Louis, MO, and I dated it to around 1929.  It was in good shape, with a front to back crack in the seat that was an easy fix, and it needed some new casters to replace the 1920 wheels it came with.

I sanded off the old finish, applied two coats of Minwax stain followed by three coats of gloss polyurethane, and Voila!

Cha-ching!  Money in our pocket!

To the family that shared their out grown chair with me, thank you.

Recycling comes in a lot of different forms, but I think I like this form best.

Save the planet.  Save my wallet.  Culturally, there is something very New England about this concept, and I like being a good yankee.


Monday, October 10, 2011

So Simple

Do unto others.  Same principle.  For some of us it may take a lifetime to grasp the simplicity of it, for the others it almost comes naturally, and so much earlier.

Understand that the essence of this is not that you help an older person cross the street today, and receive a tax abatement tomorrow.  No.  It is about attitude.  If your head is in a place to help that person across the street, then you will also probably turn in the car keys you found at the store, pick up your neighbors trash container that rolled into the street, grab some groceries for a sick friend, or allow a driver to pull out of a side street in front of you.

Attitude is the key.  Living a life with an emphasis of being positive, and doing those simple things for others sets the stage for a life in the same vein.  When negative things, or events do occur in your life, and they will, they will be more accepted, and handled in a different way than one who "bitches and moans" about life.


It is like that insurance commercial.  A person sees a toy drop from a stroller, and he stops to pick it up for the child.  The mother is thankful, and when a driver is attempting to pull out of a street the mother signals them to pull out despite the fact she is running late, and so on and so on.  

Attitude is contagious.  Both good and bad attitudes.  Sometime, there will be that moment that someone allows you to go first in line at the market because you only have a few things, and they have a cart full.  Simple, gestures most of the time, but eventually what goes around, does come around.  Believe me, I know.

I try to live life with this principle in mind.  Most of the time I succeed, but of course there have been, and will be in the future, those times when I still want to reach out of my car window and slap someone for just being stupid.

I'm human, not an angel.

When people use another to person in a selfish way, in a way that is self serving, it will eventually end.  The attitude that person has, and took advantage of others with will dictate where their life goes.  In most cases having made their own bed, it won't be a comfortable one.

So, for this Monday morning, take a deep cleansing breath, breath out slowly, and adopt a perspective of doing just a bit more for others, and less for yourself.  Don't expect anything in return, and when events smile on you, just smile back.  One thing is for sure, you will have less anxious moments, frustrating times, and those "the world is against me" feelings.  Your attitude will have insured that.

Now, drink your coffee, Grasshopper, class is done for this morning.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's Next?

Town Hall, and Center School done.  

Route 131 is finally completed.  

Burgess School occupied, and will be completed in a little over a year.  

The new Waste Water Treatment Plant will be online in the beginning of 2012.  

The completion of Well No. 4 has occurred , and the well passed testing by MassDEP last month.  

Took some effort, a lot of input from the residents, and the occasional "fix" along the way for each on of these major town projects.

We done good, Sturbridge.  We done good, despite it all, we done good.

Now, the question we all have swimming around in the back of our heads, "What now?".

What new projects would you like to see here in town?

How about I start it off?

Traffic lights at the intersection of Arnold Road and Route 20, and the intersection of New Boston Road and Route 20 are needed, and have been for a very long time.  Now, we are way beyond hearing that it is not something the town has jurisdiction over, or it is a project that only the state can perform.  I've heard it before, and this time, I'm not listening to the rhetoric.  Maybe it's true for the projects entirety that the state would be responsible, but it is up to the town to express a need to get the ball going, and to pursue it until it is completed.

I challenge the BOS to punt the ball to MassDOT, and put some effort behind it this time.  No onside kicks this time around.  Smack that puppy, and make our roads safer.

Quite frankly, I don't think it should be necessary for me to say a prayer before I turn from Route 20 eastbound onto New Boston Road.

So there, the gauntlet has been thrown down.  The challenge made.  Now it is time for the BOS to make its move.  A simple exploratory committee with a 90 day expiration date would be an excellent start.

Now, your turn.  What new project would you like the town to embark on?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Water Main Flushing October 12 until November 11

The Sturbridge Water Department will be flushing water mains to removesediments that can cause brown and black water complaints.
The flushing will take place from Wednesday October 12, 2011 until Friday November 11, 2011. We will start on the East end of Town. The flushing will begin at 8 AM and finish by 5 PM Monday through Friday each day. All customers should be aware that water main flushing can cause some temporary water discoloration throughout the community. The discoloration comes from small particles of iron and manganese that are removed from the pipe walls. The discoloration is temporary and typically clears in four to five hours. It is recommended that residents check the water before use, especially prior to doing laundry. DO NOT TRY TO BLEACH STAINED CLOTHES, AS THIS WILL SET THE STAIN PERMANENTLY.

Monday, October 3, 2011

National Public Lands Day Attracts 55 Volunteers, And Finds The Kitchen Sink.

National Public lands Day, (NPLD)  the nation’s  largest 1 day volunteer event for our public lands locally held this past Saturday Sept 24thattracted some 55 volunteers in the Southbridge, Sturbridge and Brimfield areas.  Projects ranged from invasive plant removal in Southbridge along the Heritage trail to Westville Lake, to tree and tornado debris clean up at East Brimfield Lake in Brimfield and Sturbridge, to construction of a 144 foot “bog bridge” on the Stafford turnpike trail at Heins Farm Conservation lands in Sturbridge.

Organized under the Regional Trail Committee chaired by U S Army Corps of Engineer’s Park Ranger Tom Chamberland, volunteers turned out in reasonable numbers given the predicted chance of rain.  “We were hoping to get a few more volunteers at all our project sites, but I think the prediction of rain and the humid weather kept our numbers down” said Tom Chamberland, who continued, “I want to thank all those who did take the time to come out and help all our organizations move forward in make our trails better and the clean up from the tornado.”
The Sturbridge Trail committee whose project was installing a 144’ long bog bridge over a section of wet meadow on the Stafford turnpike trail drew the largest # of volunteers with 20 people showing up to help. Said Randy Redetzke, Chair of the Sturbridge Trail Committee, “We are grateful of these folks who chose to come out and helped us build this bridge which had some 108 pieces of wood that need to be carried out and set up and assembled into the bridge structure.  The rain of the night before and the humid weather made this bridge project more challenging, but we all
had fun and more importantly we just about completed it.”

In Brimfield, Park Ranger Tom Chamberland, working with the Brimfield Trail Committee put together three crews of volunteers to each start on a section of the closed 2.8 mile section of the grand trunk trail to clear it of downed trees from the tornado in an effort to get the trail re opened. Three local tree companies, Northern Tree Service, Advantage Enterprises and DB Tree all donated brush chippers for this effort, who were assisted by the volunteers some who operated chain saws and others dragging brush.   Of the 2.8 miles closed by the tornado, these crews were able to reopen about 1 mile of trail.

At East Brimfield Lake,  two boat crews assisted by a land crew cleared approximately 5 miles of shoreline of East Brimfield Lake, filling a 10 yard dumpster to capacity.  Keith Beecher, Park Manager of East Brimfield lake said “ we closed the 360 acre lake and 5 mile river trail immediately after the tornado as we knew we had trees and other debris deposited in the lake by the tornado making  recreation on the lake hazardous.  With this shore line clean up I am now more comfortable with opening up water based recreation on out lake and I want to thank all those who came out and help make this possible”   Although most of the debris were pieces of foam, plastic and wood, the more notable exception was the recovery of a kitchen sink. Possible from a camper unit from one of the two Camp grounds located adjacent to the lake.

Southbridge had the fewest number of volunteers at 5, but none the less they continued to remove invasive plants and remove brushy overgrowth along the Heritage trail.  Scott Benoit, crew leader for Southbridge said “I think the rainy humid weather really dampened the volunteer spirit of folks and our turnout out was lower than expected, but we still got a lot accomplished.  Everyone worked hard and it shows.”

National Public Lands Day attractedmmore than 180,000 volunteers at some 2,000 sites across the country and in U.S. territories on Saturday, September 24 the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the United States.  To find out more about NPLD visit .  Or to find out how you can help volunteer with any of the local public lands contact Park Ranger Tom Chamberland by calling him at 508-347-3705 or email: