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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Whole Lot Closer Now

I received this email late this morning, and it made me smile.  You see, I had just emailed the Chief at the end of last week, before the Holiday weekend, and on the first business day after the weekend I was sent a reply.  I had already received a reply, and had spoken to Selectman Moran on the phone, and was reassured that the matter would be addressed.

He was right, the matter is being addressed.  Let's hope that it comes to fruition.

Thomas Ford

10:52 AM (5 hours ago)
Good Morning All,

This morning I spoke with Joe Farley at MASS DOT regarding the signage at Rtes 20/148. He advised me that he and his staff would be looking into the posting of this signage. He told me that they would need to look at the age of the existing traffic signal to determine if it could withstand the weight load of this signage. If the signal was not able to sustain the load, then they would erect a standing sign reminding motorists to follow the state law and yield on green. The Police Department has addressed this issue on many occasions with patrol officers stationed in the area monitoring this intersection. Unfortunately, we have not had much success in enforcing this violation (it is amazing how cognizant we are of the law when a marked cruiser is within sight). We will not be discouraged by this and will continue with our enforcement efforts in this area. On a side note, I also spoke with Mr. Farley regarding replacing the green traffic lights at the intersection of Rte. 20 and OSV with green arrow lights in order to assist visitors who cannot read the overwhelming amount of signage in that area. This idea was given to me by Tony Celuzza. Mr. Farley advised me that he would notify me, via e-mail, of their progress. So, thank you all for your assistance and continued commitment to a safer community.


Thomas J. Ford III
Chief of Police
Sturbridge, MA 01566

A Little Closer Now

Update on the requested sign at 148 & 20.

Sent: Sunday, May 25, 2014 6:42:47 AM
To: DOTInfo (DOT)
Subject: MassDOT Contact Us: MassDOT
Auto forwarded by a Rule Name: Walter Hersee

Phone Number: 508-963-5465
Email Address:
Topic: MassDOT

I write a blog in Sturbridge. Recently I received an email re: placing a sign reminding drivers to yield when turning left at the intersection of Route 148, and Route 20. The intesections configuration with Holland Road encourages those coming from the north on 148 not to yield. This occurs with each light change, and results in confusion, and anger. I don't have accident data. Apparently the idea of a sign reminding to yield has been on other peoples mind for this intersection as well. Could this be looked into b the DOT? Regards, Wally Hersee Fiskdale, MA

From: Jessen, Klark (DOT)
Sent: Sunday, May 25, 2014 6:46 AM
To: DOT Feedback District3
Subject: Fwd: MassDOT Contact Us: MassDOT

From: "DOTInfo (DOT)" <>
Date: May 25, 2014 at 6:42:49 AM EDT
To: "Jessen, Klark (DOT)" <>
Subject: FW: MassDOT Contact Us: MassDOT
Mr. Hersee,

Thank you for contacting MassDOT Feedback.  We have forwarded your email to the District’s Traffic Section for their review.

Feedback District 3


Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Inexpensive Fix

Ever sit and think why something was, and how it could be made better?  Of course you have.  Passive fixing accounts for much of what occurs around us.

I am sure many of you have driven south of Route 148, and stopped at the lights at the intersection with Route 20.  And, most of you know that you must yield to oncoming traffic if you are going to turn left.


Well, you do, but most of you don't.

I have seen close calls, obscene gestures, and hands flying up, and off the wheel in exasperation at this intersection, and it doesn't have to be that way.  People just need to be reminded to yield.  Those yellow triangle signs we see at merges are there to remind us to Yield; so are stop signs.  As drivers we need to be reminded, alerted, and instructed as we drive.  Experience, common sense, and knowledge can only help us so far.

At the intersection of Route 148, and Route 20 there is the need for a reminder.  A sign placed on the large metal support for the traffic lights where Holland Road and Route 20 meet, and facing towards Route 148, and another placed on the wire light  supports over the intersection would be very good reminders.  This past week I received an email from a fellow Fiskdale resident expressing the same concerns.  That email prompted me to write today.  Thank you, Hoyle.

This is not an expensive fix, but as with the No Turn On Red signs at Hobbs Brook, it is necessary.

I have forwarded the email I recieved to  to Selectman Moran, Greg Morse of the Highway Department, and Chief Ford.  All of these men consider public safety to be a priority.

I'll let you know when I hear back.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's Simply A Matter Of Public Safety

A few years ago I wrote about the abandoned house beside the Blackington Building in Fiskdale.  It wasn't the first time I had addressed the issue of the abandoned house, and the fire danger it presented.  It is also a blight on the neighborhood.

The former chairman of the BOS contacted me in an email, and assured me he would address it.  He later called me and said he was involved with other negligent property owners in town, and wanted to take care of them first.  He felt if the BOS addressed the Fiskdale house it would affect the proceedings with the other abandoned homes in town.  He assured me he would address it in about three months.

Say what?

I was confused.  Here was a safety concern for the businesses, and those living next to the abandoned building that had been an issue for many, many years, yet the town would was not going to address it.  Any other town would have cited the owner, given them a date to correct the issue, and if it wasn't, tear it down.

I did email reminders each year after the initial email in 2010, but never received a reply.

It's 2014.  The building is still there, and he's not.  There is a a new chairman, a new building inspector,  a new fire chief, and a new attitude.  So, let's try this again.

To the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen, Fire Chief, and Building Inspector:

The abandoned house beside the Blackington Building is a public safety hazard.  It has sat empty for well over a decade, and it needs to be razed.  

What are the towns plans for the building?

OK.  Let's give the town a chance to formulate a plan, and to get back to us.  This time, I promise not to let it go.

Friday, May 16, 2014

And, We Will Be Better For It

Fisherman on Wells Beach
(c) W. Hersee
This will be our second full season of enjoying life on the coast of Maine.  For years we frequented the southern coast of Maine, and enjoyed it for all the same reasons that millions of others have over the years.

The sea is very different each day.  The feeling of the mist on your face on a cool, overcast morning  is as enjoyable as the scent of sunblock soaked sand on a 90 degree day.  The gentle sound of the tide going out is so different than the heavy surf coming in when there is a storm at sea.  Both are wonderful, both enjoyed equally.

I could sit and watch the sea roll in, and then out, again forever.  This passive act is perfect for thinking, dwelling, and pondering about nothing more than nothing at all.  Sometimes that is the very best thing to do.  It justifies that staring
A young girl enjoys the sunrise on Wells Beach
(c) W. Hersee
off  into space look one has as they watch the sea touch the sand over, and over again.  Yes, sometimes it is not only a good thing, but a necessary thing to just let the mind go, and process little more than getting up, pouring coffee, and staring out to sea.

This summer we plan on doing a lot of mindless staring off to sea.  We are getting quite good at it, almost to the level of making it an Olympic sport.

Watching the surf chase the Sandpipers up and down the sand is therapeutic--it actually cleanses the head, washing all the debris that has accumulated  in those hard to purge recesses.  It is a healthy thing to do. There is a renewal that occurs, and one can feel it as it is happening.   It is not an act of laziness, in fact, if done correctly it surpasses being lazy.

Fishing on the Jetty at Wells Beach
(c) W. Hersee
We all need a place to go to renew ourselves, to flush out all the detritus that has burrowed deep inside, and taints everything we do.   You have a place, but you may not know it as your renewal place.  If you feel different, for the better, after being there, then you have your place.  Gardening, mowing the lawn, hiking a trail, painting your child's room, or staying at a cabin in the mountains all have a way of emptying the dust bin on our shoulders.  These activities are not without another purpose. They were not only designed to accomplish their intended purpose, but also make you feel good along the way.

Nature is cunning, and manipulative that way.  We plan on being victims of manipulation on the beach a lot this summer, and we will be better people for it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weekend Project: Build Your Own Cat Distractor

The one thing that will get your cat to listen to you, follow you around the house like a puppy, and keep itself occupied, and out of trouble for awhile is this thing.

It may look like a little plastic ring, but to the Felis catus, it is crack.

No matter what they are doing at the time, annoying you with those choreographed in 'n outs through your legs while you are taking dinner from the oven, or slapping your face as you lie in bed trying for those last few minutes of sleep, if they so much as hear one of these rings hit the floor you can say, Adios, gato!

There is something about these plastic circles that drive cats mad.  I used to think it was the scent of milk from the milk jug from which they came, but after finding a few under the couch months after they were lost, and they still have the same narcotic effect on them, I now doubt that is the reason.  It could be how the thing springs madly about when slapped with a paw, and can be carried from room to room in their mouths, but I haven't a clue.  It is something powerful, though.  It can distract the most hungry, and persistent cat, the most annoying cat that appears out of no where to sit on your head while you are watching TV.  Just toss it on the floor, and watch the fun.  If we could invent a human equivalent I believe we could achieve world peace.    All we would need to do is have fly a drone over a trouble area, drop a few hundred thousand of these little plastic diplomats onto the angry throngs, and then sit back and watch the distraction.  After awhile, the opposing parties may forget what had them so hot and bothered for in the first place, and go out for a beer.

I hope those smart kids at WPI are reading this.

How to Build Your Own Cat Distractor

The plastic cat ring in its natural state.
  1. Buy a jug of milk with a turn off cap.
  2. Take off the cap.
  3. Take off the ring.  A fork may help.
  4. Put cap back on the milk jug.
  5. Toss the cat distractor onto the floor in front of cat.
  6. Watch the fun.
*  You may pour a glass of milk for yourself between steps 3 and 4.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

And, The Hits Just Keep On Coming

If something I owned broke, or just stopped working, I would try to fix it.  I would take the repair as far as my skill, and knowledge would allow.  With some broken things that wasn't far, but with many other things I did succeed.

How old the broken something is, is there a newer, better, shinier version available, and cost would be the factors that would preempt any repair attempt.  The challenge of giving the broken thing an extended life was always something worth taking on so that when I had to buy a new own I could justify the purchase, and have no regrets.

Many of us follow these steps to some degree.  We'll wiggle it, shake it, and turn it upside down. Some of us will even go the next step, and take a screw diver to it, open it up and do the wiggle, shake, turn maneuver all over again.  We do it not so much to save a buck, but to satisfy the driving force to accept the challenge to fix it that the thing has offered up.  Half of our brains hope for a quick, and easy fix, and the other half are hoping for a new, shiny thing.

The other day, after wiggling, and shaking,  I bought the new shiny thing.

Failed lock set.
The lock set on the door leading from the house to the garage failed.  It was only about three ears old. I bought it at Home Depot along with the metal door I attached it to.  One morning before the weekend I saw that the door was closed, but there was light coming from around the lock set side of the door.  On closer inspection I found that the door was not closed all the way.  I opened the door, and rotated the knob, and found it would only turn one way.  I made sure it was unlocked, tried again, and got the same result.  Now, this lock set was one of those sets that also comes with a deadbolt.  It wasn't cheap, and that would be my motivation to take the thing off the door, and tear into it.

Challenge accepted.

I grabbed a Phillips head, and went at it.  Soon I had the knob off, and in my hand.  I wiggled it, followed by the required shake, and then examined it from every angle as I wiggled and shook.


The knob continued to turn only one way, but not the other way so it would not allow the door to be closed unless the knob was turned.  Without any further wigglin',  I was off to Home Depot. It was time for a shiny new knob.

Home Depot's lock set aisle is impressive.  Large displays up one side of an entire aisle of lock sets with, and without deadbolts, brass, or nickel finished, antiqued rubbed bronze, or brushed metal finishes, key operated, or combination lock.  I narrowed my search to a combination pack of knob, and lock set, and I found the price was a bit more than it was three years ago.  Maybe a new part would help.  One company did sell a replacement inside piece, but my lock was a Schlage, and the store no longer carried those replacement parts because they were seldom sold.

Well, duh.  They are replacement parts.  If you sold a lot of them it would not speak well for the product,  but it you did need a replacement, you would need it then, not in three to five business day from an online site.

I was directed to a lady at the end of the aisle.  The Home Depot employee that directed me said she knew everything about lock sets.  And she did.  I told her my problem, and she asked what company the lock was from, and I told her it was a Schlage.  She said to call them, and they will replace the lock set for free.  They warranty their products for life.

Free?  Really?  Well, that sure as heck beats a shake and a wiggle hands down.

The new lever lock set.
I bought the set I wanted.  The only difference was that I bought one with a handle, not a knob.  It would be easier to open coming in from the garage with hands full of groceries, and such.

When I got home, I called Schlage, and was greeted by a lady named Judy, and I explained my situation.  She said she would be happy to help, and asked for the numbers on the replacement set I had just purchased, and for me to email her a copy of my receipt.  She then told me my refund for the newly purchased lock set would be sent out in two weeks.

Really?  She told me that Schlage stands behind their products, and they are guaranteed for life.  I asked if she wanted me to send her the old set, and she said no.  I then told her the new lock set had a lever, and was not the knob type that it replaced.  She agreed that a lever was the best thing to have on that door since it would make life easier with hands full of groceries. No, she said, it didn't matter that it was a lever.

In the span of a couple of months, I had been visited twice by the Consumer Good Fairy.  First the powered bathroom shade was replaced for bupkis, and now a $70.00 lock set was being replaced as well, and all for the price of a phone call.

So much for planned obsolescence.  Today corporations find it better business to build a product that will either last, or take on a policy of replacing a defective item with no questions asked.  For the consumer, this means a great deal.  Loyalty is insured, and that spawns more positive word of mouth reviews, and more business.  It works - I'm doing it now.

The lesson in all of this is if you have a product that has failed, and you fully expected it to last a lot longer, then give the company a call, and speak to customer service.  You may be in for a pleasant surprise.

Now, for a bit more positive consumer news.  I want to report that the new razors from I wrote about back on April 30 are great.  That first razor I loaded onto the handle two weeks ago is still there, and shaving very well.  Let's see just how far it will take me.

In the meantime, the hits just keep on coming.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Local Best From Tires To Clams

Lately, I have been praising a couple of products that I use, and felt that you would appreciate them as well.    A neighbors recommendation.

Although, I am beginning to feel a bit like Angie's List, I want to share about a few local businesses today.

There are lots of small businesses here in town, and many of them I have used at one time or another, and I would recommend to a friend.  Others, I have experienced, and they did not impress me.  Most of them did not survive, and some, unfortunately,  are still here.

Below are a few of the local businesses I recommend.

C&R Tire in Fiskdale
I have used C&R Tire on Route 20 in Fiskdale since I came to town fourteen years ago.  Everyone needs a local mechanic when they outgrow the dealership, or are as an alternative to the dealer.  A mechanic that is honest with their pricing, and, diagnosing of your cars issues is paramount.  I have brought several different cars I have owned to Mike and Dave at C&R, and not once have I felt like I was being "taken to the mechanic", and getting worked over. The diagnoses has been real, and the pricing good; much better than a dealer would offer.  They also offer great personal service as well. They'll drop me off at home when I leave a vehicle off, and pick me up when the job is complete.  And, they are local.

I've used the Finer Cut on Main Street just before Shaw's Plaza,  in Sturbridge for years.  They take walk-ins, and Ellie, the owner, and Marie, are nice people.  They run a good shop, and know how to cut hair.  I have no clue about the other things they do to hair, such as coloring, and such, but they've been tending to the hair needs of local folks for a long time.  A good haircut is something one always needs, and they deliver.

Micknuck's Fresh Marketplace in Fiskdale is a local market that we frequent a couple of times each
week.  Their produce is fresh, and their meat department is the very best.  They will take special orders, and are always baking, or making something in their kitchen.  They offer everything from wraps, and sandwiches, to custom cut meats, prepared fish, and pork.  Several different macaroni salads, potato salads, and many different cold cuts.

We also frequent The Duck at the Whistling Swan, and Avellino's.   Recently, I raved about Avellino's.  The Duck is upstairs in the loft.  It is a great casual gathering place with live music on weekends nights.  The bar is very comfortable.  Sunken a few feet, and surrounded by very comfortable chairs.  The bar staff are great.  They believe in service, and are very good at what they do.  The menu at The Duck makes it well worth a visit.

Last night we visited Sturbridge Seafood on Main Street beside Sal's Pizza.  Today, I am adding it to my list of neighborly recommendations.   The menu is awesome.  Mary had the honey crusted horseradish salmon, and I went went with my old standby that I use to judge seafood restaurants, whole belly fried clams.

Both were fantastic.  Really.

Fried clams is such a New England staple, and they are made as many different ways as their are clam shacks.  The trick to making them worthwhile is to use only fresh clams, and the batter cannot be an afterthought.   A  good taste, without being overly textured, and crunchy is best.  It cannot take away from the taste of the clam.  The batter on my clams last night was perfection.  The clams were so fresh I had to send them to their rooms for the night.  Mary's salmon was also very, very good.  The horseradish gave her salmon a little bit of a kick without overwhelming the salmons fresh taste.  Jenny had the fish taco, and she loved it.  She told us it was great, and that is a great review.

Great food, and a great menu aren't the only things that a restaurant needs to succeed.  They need a great chef, and they have one.  Ken Yukimura is chef, and owner, and he has big plans for expansion that are now underway.  The next requirement needed for any restaurant to succeed is to have the right customer service attitude in place from the very beginning so that it becomes a culture.

They have that part  down pat as well.  Last night our server was Faith,  a young woman, that was truly personable, and real.  She was efficient, personable with a great sense of humor.  She never appeared harried, and when she was standing beside our table it was very evident we had her attention.  If you are treated rudely, or the service at your table is lacking, you will not want to repeat that experience despite the food being great.  We will be repeating our visit to Sturbridge Seafood again.  They're on the list now.

So, there you have it.  Some of the local businesses in town that impress us, and that we frequent.  There are many more as well, but I'll save those for another time.  I really am starting to feel like Angie.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Annual Pane In The Glass

Those mundane, repetitive, must-do chores are the worst.  Window washing is near the top of the list.  What has made life so much easier is new windows that flip inside, and allow one to clean them without a squeegee on a pole from the outside, or worse, having to climb a ladder.

Cleaning the months worth of dirt the winter has thrown onto the outside of your windows is a spring ritual for most of us.  We have 32 windows at our house, not including the 4 basement windows.  32 replacement windows only a few years old, that all fold in.  This ability makes the chore more than tolerable, almost pleasant.  What can make it almost painless, and pleasant is using the right tools as well.

Sprayway's World's Best Glass Cleaner
I think I have used every glass cleaner known.  From homemade concoctions with vinegar, to straight ammonia cleaner.  Windex to Glass Plus.  What I have found is that they all work similarly.  They remove grime, and dirt because they are wet, and wet removes stuff.  Wet also will streak.

The one product I have found to work the very best is the one on the left, Sprayway Worlds Best Glass Cleaner.  It is a spray foam, and stays where you put it instead of running down the window, and it is ammonia free.  It also is very easily removed with a paper towel taking with it all the dirt on the window without any streaking.

The other right tool is paper towels.  Lint, and fuzz free paper towels.  Stay away from the the dollar store brand.  Use a decent brand like Brawny.   Tote a little plastic bag like the ones you carry your groceries home in with you as you move from window to window to throw the used paper towels into.

You see, like most folks, I like doing a good job, but I like doing a good job in the most painless, and quickest way I can so I can move on to other things.  Napping is a something to reward ones self with.  Cleaning windows is a necessary evil; might as well make it quick, and not draw out the torture.  Yesterday I cleaned 30 of those windows in about an hour.  Now, I have more time to do other spring things.  Looking outside at the sky, it looks like a good day for a first mowing.

The nap will come later.