Early Morning Musing

I woke up early this morning to the sound of a train passing through the valley. The roar of the engines and the whistle as it passed through Charlemont sounded as if it was right in the center of town. It’s a common phenomenon – when the wind is just right it sounds as if you could walk to the tracks.

It made me think of a time in Rowe’s history when people were almost completely dependent on the railroad for travel or commerce. Summer visitors would board the train in Chicago or Boston to come to Rowe to take in the fresh air. The visits were long and quite relaxing I’m sure. Many households took in boarders, some enterprising individuals build cabins or camps to accommodate vacationers. Other families built or bought homes that were only used in the summer months.

.Edward Wright and his team on Fort Pelham Farm 1900

There were people in town with a good horse and buggy that would drive to Zoar to pick visitors up for their stay or residents coming back from bringing butter to North Adams to sell. Arrangements were made and the train was on schedule. It was a slow motion Uber if you will.

Back forty at Fort Pelham Farm

Summer is the most glorious of times on Fort Pelham Farm. It’s lush and green. The gardens are in full bloom and the birds sing you awake in the morning. You can take a little walk and see all sorts of wild animals – some visit that aren’t always as welcome (bears) but are still a thrill to see. It’s not just Fort Pelham Farm though, a drive about town gives a sense of why people want to come here. It’s slower, cleaner, calmer.

View of the hopper from Fort Pelham Farm about 1890

There are still spots in town where you get a glimpse of what was once great views of the valley. Diaries speak of taking walks in the evening up the road by my house to take in the sunset. There are photographs of these vistas.

The cool brooks and pools were always a welcome spot on a hot day and people took advantage of not just the big pond but those little ponds scattered about town as well.

There was a big difference between the people in town working everyday of the year and the summer people arriving in June to wile away the summer months. I always fancy myself as a visitor sitting in the gardens, picking fruit as it came in. Reading a book, playing croquet or lawn tennis, eating a meal that someone else has grown and prepared.

These are the photographs we see at the museum. The pictures of people relaxed and enjoying their days here. There are very few taken in the winter and fewer still of the day to day life in the very early 20th century here. Photographs, especially of a candid nature, were more of a luxury. We are fortunate to have the collection we do at the historical society. It gives a small glimpse into what we all know to be a most wonderful time of the year even if we don’t get to ride a train to get here.

Throwback Thursday

1937 Holland Pond (1)

This is my favorite photograph of all the ones I have from my father’s side of the family.  A few months ago I was thinking about our connection to water, swimming and boating and thought about this image.  I went looking for it in the place I last remembered it being located and it was missing ( along with a lot of other memorable photos).  I came across them a couple of days ago – woo hoo!

This image was taken on Holland Pond in MA around 1936.  I really don’t know any of the story around it.  Who’s boat was that?  How far away was the photographer (no long lenses then)?  Was this vacation?

My father has been filling in details as photographs have been coming out from family members recently.  He told me that every year his father had vacation in the first weeks of July because the mill shut down. This is when they went to Canada to visit family and took time to do vacation sorts of things.

My father looks like one happy kid in this photo.  I recognize that smile – our children were brought up on water and in boats.  They always had that same smile while they were on the water.

1937 Holland Pond

They also took the photos with each other.  Vacation photos.  Take my picture photos.  It’s nice to see that has happened for as long as there have been consumer cameras.  Now these common photos are family treasures.

1937 Holland Pond (2)

When I go through my archives and now with new images coming to light I know that this was probably my grandfather’s 1928 Chevrolet Coupe.  My father tells me about an accident they had with it in Canada.  It’s funny what he remembers (everything).

It’s funny how things repeat themselves over and over again, generation after generation.  My parents always took vacation the last week in June or the first week of July.  We always take ours around the first two weeks of July.  Maybe it’s a regional thing because of the weather but I’m willing to bet it has more to do with your upbringing.  Just as I’m willing to bet these take my picture moments are half done out of the notion that it’s what you’re supposed to do while you’re on vacation.



Throwback Thursday – Those Family Photos

660701 Perry's Nut House (1)I posted this photograph at the risk of my siblings never speaking to me again.  I was looking for something totally unrelated and found a few of these taken at Perry’s Nut House in Belfast Maine in 1966.

Apparently this was the beginning of my photography career. The camera around my and my sister’s neck were acquired with Kellogg’s box tops I seem to recall.  I used that camera a few times and still have it with my initials emblazoned on the front of it with a permanent marker.  I’m not sure the photographs I had taken with that camera are even around anymore.

We all went through those incredibly awkward stages.  Your mother took your picture standing in front of ridiculous things, dressed in ridiculous clothes.  We pull them out every so often and think to ourselves “What were they thinking?” or “Who the heck was dressing me?” or “Were those really the only glasses available in the mid sixties?”  What I am finding out, more so as I get older, is the importance of some of these images to other family members regardless of how annoying they are to me.

Distant family members set up a memory page for a branch of my father’s side of the family a couple of days ago and many photographs have been shared.  I can’t describe the feeling of seeing pictures of my grandfather that I have never seen before.  He’s been gone since 1976 and it feels like this tiny little miracle getting just another, new glimpse of him.  We all have the same photos we look at over and over – more so after someone dies.  It’s a finite number, you memorize them, inventory them in your head.  When someone shares a photograph at first it is so unexpected, then it’s an image you take into your heart.  It’s a pretty wonderful thing.

With the photos of me and my sister and brother I laugh at them initially, then I see our children and grandchildren in those faces.  There’s the miracle, right there.  We are blessed with the technology that now allows us to record with abandon but it’s only a recent phenomenon.  My generation and all those before us have a limited number of photographs and I think, no matter how embarrassed you might be, it’s important to share them with your family.  You never know what they are going to get out of it.

Meanwhile I’m thinking, “Really Brian, nice socks!”

660701 Perry's Nut House (2)