The Hub of Town Activity

This past month the Board of Health changed the policy regarding entrance into the “Refuse Gardens” (affectionately known by us as the dump).  Today was the first day that hang tags were to be used for entrance and part of my job as clerk for the BOH was to be there to check that people were using them and have them ready if they didn’t have one.

I don’t spend a lot of time there – I rarely go at all – it’s not my household job.  When I do go I am always amazed at what a hub it is for residents to relay information, learn about upcoming events or just visit with your neighbor (aren’t we all neighbors here really?).  Every dump visit takes a few minutes to get rid of trash and recyclables but then another half hour spent chatting with someone.  They talk about the weather, they talk about their kids, they bring their dogs and all receive some kind of attention.  Chester loves going to the dump.  It’s also the place you can go to do a little politics. Elections for town offices are coming up and this is the place to get the signatures you need to be placed on the ballot.  The only real alternative is to go door to door.

This is where the connections are made, the invitations to visit, the plans to go places.  When I was growing up you didn’t wait for an invite to go to someone’s house, you just stopped in.  I think this came about more when people used to go out for a Sunday drive and pop in on some unsuspecting relative for a meal.  My mother was a master at stretching her planned menu and always welcomed unexpected guests around the dinner table.  It never rattled her at all.  In today’s hurried, crazed world this is now considered pretty bad etiquette.

I think the change in attitudes has been a long time coming.  I lived in Enfield, CT for over 30 years and am sad to say I only knew a handful of people.  In Rowe many of the people (or families) I knew in childhood are still here, and there are a lot of newcomers.  The difference in living in a town like this is people cultivate their relationships.  We are far from services of any kind really.  It’s a bit of a drive to get to anything resembling a grocery store.  This is the kind of place where if you need that cup of sugar or eggs (especially eggs) you do call your neighbor.  Those of us that live in the small hill towns know the value of having good neighbors.  Things happen, you may need help.  This is the value of community and it seems to me that many people are cultivating their community at the dump.  It’s a pretty special place.

A Warped Sense of Fun

Weavers are a crazy lot, well maybe not all weavers.  My circle of weaving/fiber friends tend to lean towards crazy and I’m thinking that is probably the attraction for me.  The mechanics – the equipment – is really the draw.  I love the structure of it all including the cloth which makes me wonder sometimes why we are not more sane.

Now add to this mix a bunch of enthusiastic boys (mid to late 20’s) and an incredibly heavy, cast iron power-loom and you have a recipe for a real anxiety producing experience.

This is Peggy’s barn frame loom.  She’s a beauty and the first one I ever used.

I have to start with this because it took on a whole new purpose this past Saturday.  There are three Crompton & Knowles W3 power looms in Peggy’s weave room right now and there was a much smaller one in a very small room on an upper floor.  She decided to move it into her weaving room so it could be used.  It’s a beauty.  48 inches wide, having a complete restoration done by Lenny, the loom mechanic.  To my knowledge it hasn’t been run since the restoration, but I digress.

I was called about the move a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t able to attend the first phase.  Last week I got another call and also volunteered husband Bill (the mechanic) and my son-in-law (the young back).

Before we left the house Bill loaded up a chain fall, pipes, bars and other heavy equipment moving tools.  He met Richard in the room with the loom – the other member of the boomer generation with some knowledge of how to do these things.  They formed a plan (meanwhile the boys dove in).

I was tasked with taking apart the barn frame loom on the floor directly above the loom we were moving – the boys decided that the loom would make the perfect mount for the chain fall to pick up the head of the power-loom below (at 600 lbs. mind you) and proceeded to cut a hole in the barn floor.  I cannot begin to express the amount of anxiety I had about this.  We love our looms and I was beginning to think we were about to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.

The loom was moved over the hole, angle iron was placed on the top and the chain was lowered and attached to the head of the power-loom ready to lift it off so the based could be moved out from under it.

There was a slight problem because of the yelling that needed to be done on the parts of both sets of people – on different floors – on when to stop and start, up or down with the chain.  I worried for naught, the loom frame didn’t even groan.

A 2×4 was placed through the heavy end of the head and the chain attach but moving it proved to be quite the balancing act.  Ratchet straps were deployed and the moving continued.

The engine hoist was brought in and the transfer from the chain fall was made.

With the help of young backs the head was lifted off of the base.  We got to a point where it could stop and all had a lunch in the barn.

Where the geezers conferred some more.  I’ve found that the older the guy the more planning they do.  I think these guys were thinking much farther ahead on this game – like about putting it back together or getting it down the hill into the basement.

With all hands on deck the base was moved from under the head.

Then the head was moved out onto a second trailer.

What a beautiful piece of machinery she is.

Once the base pieces were moved into the weave room the head was ready to follow.  (Yes, that’s a Maypole braider in the background and I just wanted to throw it into the back of our truck but thought Peggy might notice it was missing).

It was getting late in the day and the objective at this point was to get everything inside.  People were exhausted.  The base was assembled enough to stand on its own and the head was put down beside it.  Assembly will happen another day (or days most likely).

I never realized what happens with an age gap like we had in this little project.  The boys had this energy, enthusiasm, let’s get this job done kind of attitude.  Those of us in a different generation approached it with caution, planning, fear of injury.  It’s kind of sad in a way, how much we lose as we get older but on the other hand we have gained so much in experience.  I dare say not a single one of those younger guys gave a thought to injury when all I was thinking about was where I can dial 911.

In writing this it suddenly dawned on me how many of these my father and grandfather moved out of the weave room at Charlton Woolens after the flood in ’55.  My dad was 24 at the time, they must have had help but honestly the weave room must have had 50 looms of much larger size in it.  They moved them to the next town over and rebuilt what they could out of what they salvaged.  Now the burning question is how did they do it?  There’s no one to ask.

I know they had family and like minded friends and I assume what happened this past weekend was similar in fashion to what happened then.  People came together to work towards a larger goal.  That’s the beauty of the crazy weaver community.  We are surrounded by people who love our crazy and are willing to be a part of it.

 

 

 

Grand Opening

It’s been a whirlwind kind of week in preparing the Browning Bench Tool Factory for its Grand Opening this coming Saturday, the 15th.  The historical society was given the use of a building that was moved and restored in 1976.  It was originally a factory building used in the making of small hand tools such as hand planes.

The idea of building another building for the display of sleighs, wagons and large agricultural artifacts had been discussed during the latter part of last year but the cost of doing so was just out of reach.  The Bench Tool had been used in the past for exhibits of local crafts on Old Home Day but has basically sat idle otherwise.  It’s a barn essentially with no insulation but tight to the weather.  It has a good roof and windows.  We figured this would be the perfect annex for our agricultural display.

The sleighs, wagon, and large agricultural articles have been moved in, the smaller stuff has been making its way over.  This past week with work bees we’ve sorted things to different floors and by industry, season or animal.  There are displays about sugaring and skiing, tools for ice cutting and wood cutting.  Dairy, haying and harvesting grains are included along with bee equipment and chicken brooders.

The third floor is a temporary exhibit on textiles and the manufacture.  Shirley (the loom) is set up and being dressed this week, I will be weaving there most Saturdays through the season.  There will be displays of other spinning and weaving equipment as well as some of the hand-woven artifacts from the museum.

One of the most important things for me has been the photographs.  The Historical Society has a treasure trove of amazing photos and I have scanned a good many of them in the past 10 months or so.  I’ve printed and mounted a great number of them to display along with the artifacts to put things in context.  So while the displays come together I think the photographs  will be the icing on the cake.  To see the town as it was 130 years ago is an amazing thing – open fields, amazing views, industry.  It’s difficult sometimes to wrap your head around it.

The trustees have come together and done an amazing job.  They all really care about the history of the town and sharing it with those that are interested.  If you are in the area on any Saturday through Fall from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. stop by and see what we have in our newly expanded museum, there’s something for everyone.  Also consider becoming a member or lending your support as we continue to uncover treasures to share with everyone.

Why Are These People Laughing?

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Yesterday was the first work bee I have attended at the Rowe Historical Society.  Like most small town museums there is a decided lack of space.  This is something that creeps up with collections growing year after year.

One storage space had flooding a while back and our task was to remove all of the covering from the basement walls in preparation for painting.

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Getting to the walls was a whole different issue.

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The group of eight split along gender lines as it always does with the men doing demo on one end of the room and the women sorting and categorizing everything to move into spaces better suited for each item.  For me it was a pretty awesome experience and not unlike going through the barn or coop here with decades of stuff collected.

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I have to say everyone worked diligently to get to the end of the task but there were many, many light moments surrounding the question “What the heck is this?”.

I daresay this may be an issue with most museums, especially those that are trying to make sense of collections without policy taking place since the sixties.  We are not alone.  There is so much knowledge in this group that there were maybe 3 items in that room that were left unidentified.  That’s pretty cool considering the amount of stuff that was there.

We each have our own strengths.  Mine is photography and textiles but having grown up with a nutty, hoarding collecting  father it extends to sawmills, lumber and vintage farm equipment.  Old Sturbridge Village taught me the use of household items in 1840 so that helped too.

There is only one member that I knew when I started this a short month ago but I see this as building community within a community.  We have a common interest.  These bees will continue as well as individuals working on their areas of interest.  Trying to bring centuries worth of belongings into the present.  Knowing what there is, why it’s there and how best to share it with the community.  It always amazes me just a little bit when strangers come together with a common goal and through that friendships are built or made stronger.