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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Made My Day Just That Much Better

In the summer of 2012 we had our second floor bathroom gutted, and rebuilt from the studs out.  It was a quite the job.  One thing we both wanted was to enlarge the existing window, and place the bathtub below it.  Nothing like sitting in the tub and and enjoying the natural light.

However, there was a slight problem:  privacy.

Of course, we would be putting a shade on the window, but we didn't want  to have to reach over the tub to get a cord hanging down in order to lower the shade.  I went to and came across a pleated shade that was controlled by a remote control.  And, the best part was it cost no more than a blind with a cord!

I measured the window, and sent in our order.  A short time later the blind arrived, and I installed it.  It took a little bit of time to adjust it stop at the window sill, and never really rose up and down evenly.  I called customer service, and they were very helpful on the phone, and the problem was resolved for a few weeks.  After awhile, it became evident that the blind was a lemon, and I called back.  The CEO of, Jay Steinfeld, got in touch with me, and apologized for the blind with a mind of its own.  He immediately sent me a new blind and asked that I keep the blind that wasn't working well, or donate it someone that could trouble shoot the malfunction, and perhaps keep it for themselves.  I still find this part amazing.  They didn't want the original blind back.

The new blind arrived after a week, or so, was installed, and has worked flawlessly ever since.

Until Monday.

On Monday I pressed the button on the remote, and the blind rose to the top of the window as usual followed by a snapping noise, and the blind hurtling to the sill.

Well, at least it broke in the closed position.

I never did donate the original blind.  I put it back in its shipping tube, ad stored it in the attic.  I was going to try to troubleshoot that faulty blind today, but I had an epiphany yesterday evening.  I went to the website, and called their customer service number.  I ended up on hold for a long time, so I opted to send an email instead.  In my email I told them that I had an issue with the original blind, and that customer service, and Jay Steinfeld, had helped us out in 2012, and the replacement blind had been fine until Monday.  I asked if there was a warranty on the blind.  Often there may be a warranty, or a prorated type of warranty if the original warranty has expired.

It was worth a shot.

Just about a half hour later I received the following email.

"Good afternoon Wally,

Thanks for writing us today!! I am so sorry that your blind has failed you I know how frustrating this can be. No worries I am here to help:). I have gone ahead and reordered the blind for you here is your New Order #2690094. I show your order is due to ship on or around 4/10 you will receive tracking by email. Please let me know if there is anything else we can help you with.

Have an AWESOME Day!!
Megan Jones
Customer Care Specialist

You read it right, they are sending me yet another replacement blind.  No mention of warranty expiration.  No mention of a prorated replacement plan, or a price reduction for my being a previous customer, just a new blind to replace the one that failed on Monday, and a wish for an "AWESOME day!!".

After showing the email to Mary, I immediately wrote Megan back.


Thank you!  I did not expect this.  I just showed your email to my wife, Mary, and we both sat with our mouths open.  Must have looked really silly to our daughter.

Thank you again for contributing to an awesome day, Megan.

Wally Hersee"

The email from Megan at made me smile, but not for the fact that I received a response a half hour after writing my initial email, nor for the replacing the broken blind with no mention of warranty provisions, or legalese whatsoever, or Megan asking me if there was anything else she could help me with.  No, although each was impressive in their own right, and each of those things did floor me, what made me smile the most was that wish for an awesome day.  That wish was exactly what is meant by going the extra mile.  Giving just a bit more of yourself in order to resolve, fix, make better whatever situation you have the power to make better.

My day had already been a good one, but the customer service I received from Megan at truly did make it an awesome one.  As a customer, I will most definitely come back, and they know that.

 Customer service can either grow a business, or slow a business.  We are all customers, but there are times when we aren't happy customers.  We can be frustrated, irritated, angry, and vengeful.  Most often we are satisfied customers, and that's OK.  Being satisfied, is a good thing.  We are satisfied with the service, or product we have given money for.  But, to be a truly happy customer one must experience near nirvana in service, or merchandise.  

I experienced that yesterday.  Thank you,, and thank you, Megan.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Time To Save Your Life

Just a very few years ago there was a company called Fotomat.  Fotomat's were little drive-up kiosks located in most shopping mall parking lots around the country.  They offered the convenience of developing your roll of photographic film without having to get out of your car.  Of course, you would have to wait several days to get back your 12 to 24 exposures back, but the convenience could not be beat.  Fotomat also sold Kodak film so you could drop off another roll to develop when you came back for the first one.  Simple marketing genius.

We needed to develop photos, and print them onto 3x5 inch photo paper,  in order to share our life with family and friends , and to fill all those shoe boxes in the closet.  We needed birthday pictures to send to grandma, and First Communion pictures to share with aunts and uncles.  Baby showers, school plays, weddings, and days at the beach pictures were needed in order to document our lives.   We would stuff envelopes with photos, and mail them to all corners of the globe, fill little albums and bring them to work for coworkers to see the new baby.  Generations of us shared our lives via Kodak.  It was a way of proving that we were here.

Kodak has changed.  They don't sell film anymore.  They don't even develop photos.  The digital camera rung the death knell for them, and with the peeling of that bell went a bit of Americana, and tradition, from our landscape.

We still share photographs.  The need to share our moments will never go away, it's a human condition.  We will record a scene at the beach on Cape Cod, and within seconds it will be viewed by grandma in Orlando.  No more 3x5's in the mail, and no more shoe boxes full of memories for future generations to get lost in on a rainy spring day.  Our moments in the mountains will be posted to Instagram, and Facebook for the world to see, but will only fade from memory.  Moments will be tweeted, instead of savored, and stored away.

We are taking more photographs than ever before in our history, but where are they?  Most are all 0's and 1's sitting in a cloud somewhere on the Internet.  Only a fraction are ever printed to share for posterity.  Most will save them on a memory card, and wait till its filled to capacity, then erase the card to fill with more temporary memories.

We may be taking more photographs than ever before, but in a few years  Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter may no longer be around, and neither will all those photos that have been posted.


Entire parts of our lives gone with a click of "Delete".  So much for having a record of our time on this planet.

Unless we want to return to the days of oral story telling to paint a picture of an event we must begin savings our digital memories.  Save photos to some  permanent memory device such as a DVD, or flash drive, and when the technology changes in a couple of years, then switch over.  But even better, permanently preserve a percentage of your photos to a photo book.

Every few months, go through your photos on your phone, or digital camera, and select 10% of them to print in the form of a photo book.  The books are not expensive, and can be designed, and ordered from an app on your phone, tablet, or computer, or directly from some websites.  Ten per cent of your photos,  just ten of every hundred, will give a good representation of your life at any particular point.  You can edit, and weed out the cat chasing laser pictures, the multiple upon multiple new baby pictures, the even more countless selfies with no recognizable background.  Save only the best photographs that say something about the moment.  A photograph that will speak volumes when viewed years later on a rainy spring day even if your are not there to personally tell the story.

Besides having children, this is another, obviously less expensive way,  to leave bit of yourself behind, and prove to the next generation that you were here.  It's a vey good way to trap those memories forever in the real world, and not lost as so many 0's and 1's in the ether.

It's time to start saving your life.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Morning Whine

It is March 17th, 2014.  St.  Patrick's Day, and it is 14.3 degrees outside at 7:30 AM.

The snow is still on the ground, and the ground is still frozen hard.  No sign of Mud Season yet.  The sap began to run when the temperature rose to the 50's a few days ago, but is most likely confused as heck right about now.

The snow cover in our backyard is slowly retreating like some ancient glacier only to loose ground to a "covering to an inch" of overnight frosty annoyance.

The frozen landscape on Brookfield Road.
I'm tired of winter.  I'm tired of cranking the heat in the car,  gray skies, scrapping windshields, shoveling frozen water from one place, and piling it in another place.

This is my seasonal Monday morning whine.  It is something that has to be done at least once each winter, and for the opposite reason, once each summer, or my head will explode.  And, yes, I am from New England, and I should be used to this, so why complain?

Being used to something doesn't mean one has to like it.

Lately, I have been using my Trulia iPhone real estate app to seek out a little piece of warmth in Florida.  Something to give refuge to this New Englander now, and again, and maybe a place to hide once retirement comes.

I never thought I'd consider becoming a "Snow Bird", someone that winters in warmer climes, and returns to New England in summer, but I am considering it.  I think it may be something that naturally evolves as one grows older, or just grows tired of winter.

I am feeling myself evolving, and I would really like to smell some mud right about now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

1821 Copy of Town Common Survey by Levi Chase

The 1821 handdrawn copy by historian Levi Chase of the original Town Common survey.