Tales of East Windsor
In Windsor, we're fortunate to have a number of resources that can vividly bring back to mind a past that has left few physical reminders, and one of my favorites is the archive of Progress, the monthly newsletter of the East Windsor Progressive Club. The November 2016 issue of Flashbacks, Making Progress (add link,) looked closely at the history of the newsletter itself. This time, for our online presentation to accompany the June 2016 issue of Flashbacks, East is East (add link), I have scoured the archive for some quirky and characteristic tales of the East Windsor community from an earlier time. Susan Phillips
A Terrifying Tale That Ends Well
(This was published in the January 1954 issue of Progress under the title "Editor's True Story for January". The events described probably date from close to 1900.)
In recalling Jordan's Machine Shop, one is conscious of noise. Wheels turning rhythmically with a deafening whirr while broad belts chase themselves endlesslyaround pulleys and span space from machine to machine, from smelter to anvil to lathe to augur and back to the beginning. One entering the big front doors was momentarily dazed by the echoing racket - appalled by the restricted areas of safety.
Thus it was as Phoebe Hathaway, a girl of nine, stepped inside the great doors as lunchtime approached. Her full-skirted dress draped to daintily about her flipped and fluttered in the breeze from the racing belts and rotating wheels. Under her arm was clutched a lunchbox and her big sleeves drooped at the elbow nearly to her knees. She crept a step or two forward and peered into the dimness at the back of the shop. "Father," she called, "I've brought your lunch."
Another step down the aisle and the increasing suction from the running belt caught the fluttering skirt as with a clutching hand. And Phoebe found herself being drawn into the great wheel. There followed a valiant and desperate struggle for her very life. But at last she won. Her clothing was stripped from her as by a violent hand and she stood stark naked except for the big baggy sleeves of her "modern" dress, which still clung to her shoulders. Machinery stopped, and men came running to the rescue. Modest Phoebe dropped to the floor, covering herself with the big sleeves, and refused to be moved until a blanket was brought and a lady was present. Then she was removed to the Jordan House and propped on a lounge to recover from shock and to wait for a carriage to come from home bringing fresh clothing and take her back.
In commenting in later years she said, "Lucky I was always strong and husky. For a few minutes it was a tussle between me and the durable material of my new dress." Phoebe has many descendants living in this area and pretty much all over the U.S.
When Getting There Was AT LEAST Half the Fun
(This is from the March 1954 issue, and was written by George C. Galusha, under the title "Snowmobile Party".)
Reading the two articles in past issues of Progress about the snowmobile reminds me of trips we took in it several years ago. (1908)
The vehicle was in two sections which would accomodate about twenty young people. We pulled it from East Windsor to Perus, slid in it to Hinsdale, took the trolley car from there to Pittsfield. We attended the vaudeville show at the Empire theatre on Summer streed in Pittsfield...We arrived back in Hinsdale about 11 p.m. on the last trolley-car for the night, drew the snowmobile up the hill to Peru and slid from there to East Windsor. Arriving home about 2 a.m.
This seems like quite a trip, especially when it could be done in half the time now, by car -- but it was fun which the young people of today have missed!
Some of the young people who went on this trip were: Arthur Ball, May Turner (now Mrs. Arthur Ball), Floyde Pierce, Adah Pierce, Archie Tower, Catherine Shaw (now Mrs. Fred Tirrell), Frances Shaw (Mrs. Richard Butler), Alpheus Shaw, Raymond Morin, Allen Thayer (now of Pittsfield), Gus Mongue (now of Hinsdale), Lucian and Frank Ball (builders of the snow-mobile), and Cala Johnson from West Cummington. There were probably others whom I cannot recall.
When News Traveled by Foot
(This is from the February 1955 issue, and was written by Bessie T. Bicknell under the title "Party Line - 1860 Style". I have shortened it a bit.)
Come with me to East Windsor, Mass. in the eighteen-sixties. The telephone is still in the future. Newspapers, books and magazines are few and precious. There is a war on and the boys are gone from many of the farms. There are not so many social gatherings now the boys are away. How does the news get around? East Windsor is lucky. It has Uncle Jim.
In these days, of course, wood is the only fuel and it takes a pile of it to keep the fires burning. Where there is a big family of boys this is no problem...But with so many boys gone to war there now are farms where there just isn't enough man power to deal with the wood situation; and that's where Uncle Jim comes in.
Uncle Jim is an expert at "working up" wood. He will come to a farm and stay until he has sawed and split all the wood in the yard (or as much of it as the owner wishes) and then move on to the next place...Of course he eats with the family. And how Uncle Jim can talk! He not only has a fund of stories for the children, but he knows (and tells) where new babies are expected; who is "looking puny"; what young people have started "keeping steady company"; who has had a letter from their soldier at the front; what girl has "had a spat" with her beau; when the next apple-paring or sugar-eat will be. By the time the meal is finished the man of hte house is smiling broadly, the children are round-eyed with wonder and the lady of the house is a bit concernd about what those sharp eyes and ears may be taking in at her house. As they get up from table, she says, "Jim, how is it that you know so much?" looking up with his characteristic grin, Uncle Jim replies, "I saws wood."
So Uncle Jim goes from woodpile to woodpile in the neighborhood, carrying the news. It is slower than the more modern "party line" to be sure, but it is also kindlier. Uncle Jim's news may be embarrassing at times, but he is never malicious.
Then, some fine morning, Uncle Jim, all dressed up, will be seen heading west. A friend waves and calls to him, "Where are you going now, Jim?" "Going to Albany, to get me some pies 'n cheese 'n brandy, to cure my rheumatiks and disentines," replies Uncle Jim. Now for a time the "party line" is out of order.
PS I think Unlce Jim's last name was Mason.