Waiting

for my story to be told

letter and pic

July 11, 1929  letter:

Wednesday evening.  Tina Dear – Well dear, the whole darn crew blew into town including Jordan … Maine man and also Hoffman, the crew’s boss.  It seems like old times to be speaking to someone you know. After supper, the whole crowd decided to take a ride across the border.  You know, the Canadien border is just three miles from this town, well we all packed into three cars and drove across the border in search of beer.  Finally after awhile, we located a place and had a pint bottle a piece. It cost us twenty five cents per bottle and you know that I am fond of beer.  I would not take more than one bottle for I do not want to make a habit of it while I am up this way. I drove over seventy-five miles to-day and did a days work beside.  Well honey, here it is Wenesday and tomorrow I am going to work this town and Friday morning leave for Presque Isle where I will stay until Monday morning. The crew are leaving for Presque Isle tomorrow morning and tonight will be the last time that I will see them this month.  The boys are all writing to their sweethearts so you see we all have a sweetheart. I have read that Gus Sonnenberg beat Lewis last night. I guess the old boy certainly is a champion in all respects. I will probably be in Presque Isle when this letter reaches you, and in your next letter address it to this:  Presque Isle House, Presque Isle Me. If the letters do not reach me while I am on the go, I have left forwarding addresses right along, so sooner or later the letters will reach me. I have bought for you a little souvenir from Patten Maine today and you will have it when I reach Boston. The boys are all closing with their letters and I suppose that I will be the last one, but I do not care what they do, it is what I do that concerns me mostly, does it not?  I believe that I ought to join the boys and have a chat with them before retiring. Please do not believe that I am in a hurry to close this missive, but I feel that I should go over and talk with them for they will be lead to believe that I am getting high hat. With the same amount of love, Joe

 

July 12, 1929  letter

7:15 standard time, Thursday evening

I have just completed my dinner and feel a great deal better for it.  Well Tina dea, I have not received your mail to-day and I believe it will follow me to Presque Isle for I know myself that when I am on the move, that is beginning this week, it will be quite hard to catch me from now on but I will endeavor to give you any hotels before time.  The Luxury crew have left this town this morning and I am here alone this evening, for I will leave this hotel Friday morning and work my way further north until I hit Presque Isle Friday night there. I will stay until Monday morning. Tina dear, do you realize that this is the second week and only two more weeks to go, say honey, I am getting impatient to see you.  I have worked like a Trojan all day, took only fifteen minutes for lunch and went at it again. I put in six displays, now that’s two more than I ordinarily put in and the odd part of it is that four were large drug stores and the other two were tobacco jobs (?) with large windows, to top this off, the temperature was between 90º and 95º all afternoon. I would not mind the heat if it wasn’t that I had to wash the inside glass in every store that I put a display into.   I believe you have received my address of the hotel at Presque Isle and if you write there I will receive it Monday morning. I will try to give you my exact stopping places next week. How are Paul and Frank these days, still bachelors? Keep them that way. Send my regards to all your folks and tell them please I was asking for them. I am going to write a letter home, make my reports and then retire. I have another seventy mile drive tomorrow. Lonely, Joe

When originally planning my County trip, I thought my first stop would be Houlton, since that would be the logical order and the first place I would hit after a long drive from home.  I went onto Trip Advisor and there were a few choices of places to stay. However, my plans shifted when I found out the Northeastland in Presque Isle was on the same site of the Presque Isle House, I decided to head to Presque Isle and use that hotel as home base for two nights and hit Houlton on my journey southward.  When I entered Houlton after a long and desolate ride on Sunday, I saw the little square, but quickly got onto Route One, knowing I had about another 50 minutes of my ride. Route 95 also passes through Houlton on the way to New Brunswick and I saw the hotel I was originally planning on staying at, right at the intersection of these two thoroughfares.  Looking at the hotel, I was glad I hadn’t ended up staying there, so I quickly drove past on my way to Presque Isle and planned on returning on my trip southward on Tuesday.

I had already made up my mind to take Route 95 back south for a part of the way on Tuesday.  My initial plans were to get up, have breakfast and get moving southward down Route One to Houlton, spend no more than 30 minutes and get on the road by 9:00 a.m..  However, those plans went quickly astray when breakfast took much longer than anticipated. Then, a slew of road work on Route One put me further behind, and I also decided to stop and get gas (and a Dunky Ice Tea).  So, it was 9:00 a.m. when I turned into Market Square in Houlton. And when I pulled into the diagonal parking in the square, I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick “get out of the car, place the picture, read the letter, and get back into the car” type of stop.

view market square

When reading the American Guide Series, “Maine A Guide Down East” written by the Workers of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Maine months before this trip, I was surprised to find that Houlton was featured in a segment titled “Seaports and River Towns”.  There were just seven of these listed, and since I had never heard of Houlton prior to this project, I was curious how it “made the cut” into this book. In the section about Houlton, Houlton is described as “Attractive and tree-shaded, Houlton combines the qualities of an old-fashioned country town with those of a modern city.  The seat of Aroostook County, one of the richest potato-raising regions in the United States, and focal point of the northernmost part of Maine that is actively developing its assets as a recreation area, Houlton has become a large commercial center.  Yet, in spite of the heavy traffic of motor trucks and automobiles over its smooth pavement, Market Square, the spacious heart of the town’s business district, retains an atmosphere reminiscent of creaking wagon wheels and patient horses tethered to sidewalk hitching posts.” (p.150)

And as I stepped out of Sage, that was exactly the picture I had in my mind.  Market Square was the home of many shops and businesses. Along with banks, there was a movie theater (The Temple), numerous antique shops, a candy shop, an old fashioned arcade, a Salvation Army store, cafes, and a Farm Store Co-op.  People were out and about on this nice summer day. You could picture in your mind a scene of people, horses and shops. I was enthralled very quickly and it only got better.

My Grandfather had stayed at the Snell House, and true to what I had been finding with the other hotels, it no longer existed.  From research on the Maine Memory Network, a photo of the hotel taken in 1900, proclaimed it to be the best hotel in Houlton at that time.  The interesting thing is that the picture was taken from across the street at White’s shop and the photo is credited to E.B. White. Initially, I thought this might be the same E.B. White of Charlotte’s Web fame, but in fact, there was another E.B. White who had a shop, diagonally across from the Snell House, and who was also an amateur photographer (https://houltonmuseum.wixsite.com/acham/edward-b-white-collection).   In a 1920s postcard from the same source, the hotel also features stables for guests to park their horses. 

I reached out to the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum to learn more about the Snell House and spoke with Sandy, whose husband is the president of the organization.  She kindly sent me an email with an advertisement from the Snell House (https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/4f308d_11d8aadaea794c4f9f38379971f2e4be.pdf).  In this advertisement, it said that the hotel had 100 rooms, and none of the rooms had a bad view “Every room opens to the sunlight”, which was unusual for the timeframe.  It was still unclear to me about what happened to the hotel. I reached out to Leigh, and he wrote back to me that the “Snell House fell out of favor after the opening of a more ‘modern’ hotel (Northland) in 1930.  By 1940, the site was a movie theater (Houlton Theater). The Snell House was torn down prior to 1940 and the Houlton Theater in the early ‘60s.” From the Maine Memory Network, I did find a picture of the Northland Hotel and it certainly did look more modern than the Snell House did (https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/22609) .  I also found information on the Houlton Theater and found out that it opened in 1941, had seats for 862 people and was torn down in the late 1950s.  (http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/50070) And then, to answer my question about what is currently there now, it is just a parking lot. It is interesting that the Temple Theater, which opened in 1919, is only a few buildings down from this site, and it is still in operation.(Yay for independent movie theaters!)

IMG_0495temple theater

When I googled the Snell Hotel, I did find a story in “The County” newspaper about a tour of Houlton’s historical artifacts (https://thecounty.me/2017/08/17/news/business-news/rotarians-take-a-walk-through-history/) .  This included information about the Ensign Animal Fountain, which was originally located in front of the Snell House on Market Square.  However, this statue, composed of granite from Vinalhaven, is no longer operational and no longer sits in the same location, as it has been moved to the intersection of Water and Court Street..  But is was there when my Grandfather visited Houlton, so I wanted to try and find this as well when I visited Houlton.

Since I knew the site of the Snell House was now a parking space, it was quite easy to identify where it was since it was the only empty spot in the square.  I walked over to the unremarkable location and looked around. There, something to the left of the parking lot river pathcaught my eye. Along a winding path, there was a  beautiful bridge that stretched over a river. Excitedly, I made my way down towards the path. And on the right, was a storyboard sign that told the story about how Market Square has been formed and re-formed by fires.  And on this storyboard, wasfires also information about the Snell House. I kept walking and reading the storyboard signs about different historical aspects of Houlton – its early history, the industrial history, and its educational history.  On the Gateway Crossing Bridge, the Meduxnekeag River flowed gently underneath.

On the other side of the bridge, I spotted a picnic area and restrooms. I learned that this Riverfront Park had been completed in three phases, (https://thecounty.me/2019/07/23/living/arts/new-wilderness-trail-highlights-riverfront-park-phase-iii/) and it was recently just completed.  On the other side, there is a 3-mile trail that parallels the river.  Along the path, there are also storyboards, telling more about the ecological history of the river.   This was not the first footbridge over the Meduxnekeag River; on Maine Memory Network, I also found a photo of one that existed as early as 1890 (https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/13353).

I went back to the side closer to where the Snell House was located and sat on one of the many benches to do my picture taking and video of what my Grandfather said in his letter.  It was a beautiful blue sky and many others walked down the path and over the bridge. It was peaceful as I tried to imagine my Grandfather in this spot.  Now, he got to share the view with both me and my Grandmother.

After leaving the Riverfront Park area, I walked back up to Market Square to see if I could find the moved fountain. And a quick block up, there it was.  It certainly was not as elaborate as it probably once was, and it was no longer functional as a fountain, but, it was surrounded by beautiful flowers and still looked rather majestic on its new corner.  

I was rather conflicted about knowing I had 300 miles to travel that day, but also wanting to soak in a little more of Houlton.  So, I walked around Market Square and down the Main Street. There was an interesting candy shoppe, just opening for the day; what was advertised as a unique arcade, and then an interesting building, called the Vault, which appeared to be an old bank and the building was now for sale.  There were several cafes, which I wish I had time to try out while I was there. I then came upon the The Country Co-Op and Farm Store Cafe, which I knew I just needed to check out. Along with a lot of Maine produced, organic food products, there was the ability to order breakfast and lunch, the ability to sit at a table and work on a lap-top, and the ability to look at local coopartisans’ goods.  As I went upstairs, there was a beautiful small sunflower rug that caught my eye. And to the right of those rugs, were vintage pictures of Houlton. And to the right of that display, sat a picture of the Snell House, with a large parade passing by it. I knew that it needed to come home with me, as a souvenir of my visit to this wonderfully vibrant town. But, I couldn’t get myself to get into Sage just yet, so I went to a few of the antique stores to check out if they had anything about the Snell House.  In both of these locations, Houlton residents sat talking to one another. Nothing from the Snell House, but lots of interesting artifacts and people. Finally, much later than expected, I made my way back over to Sage and started her up. I was wondering if Houlton was this vibrant when my Grandfather visited. I knew he wasn’t able to get a beer there, due to Prohibition, but if the town looked like it did in 2019, I think there would be a lot to do and see. I am glad that I ended my County Tour here in Houlton.  The history, the attention to appreciating the natural resources and the people, were all top notch.  It was a wonderful ending to this recreated road trip. 
snell house old pic

Tina dear – Well dear, I suppose you are wondering how I got to this hotel so early during business hours, well I’ll tell you, I made my first call this morning at seven-thirty, you see I practically slept all day and all all night yesterday and was up at six this morning.  I will wait for the mail tomorrow morning and head for Fort Kent, my address there will be The Arcadia Hotel, Fort Kent, Me. Please address the next mail to the above address. Tonight I am going to make out my reports, pack my bag, write a letter to Babe Fonry, the fellow you have heard me speak about, and retire for tomorrow.  Just the same, Joe

My Grandfather had stayed at the Presque Isle House while he visited Presque Isle in 1929 (and he also did in 1930 as well).  However, when I started to learn about the different hotels, I found out very little about this particular location.  Since I couldn’t find a lot,  I reached out to the Presque Isle Historical Society, since I wasn’t able to find out a lot on Google.  From my first email correspondence with Kim, she replied: It burned down around 1900, was torn down in 1930 and would have been where the Northeastland Hotel stands today. The Northeastland opened in 1931.”  I then went onto the Northeastland site and found the following information:  “Part of what distinguishes the Northeastland Hotel from other area hotels is its vibrant and rich history. Formerly known as the Presque Isle House, in 1931 the building was dismantled by hand, stick by stick. It was then replaced with the brick structure that you see today and re-opened in 1932.”  Excitedly, I booked a room there for two nights to serve as my home base of sorts.  When I called for a reservation, I told the desk clerk about my trip and she provided me with Kim’s name as an expert.  I thought that was funny since I had already received one email from her.

So, I wrote back to her after finding out the information from the hotel’s website and asked her why the hotel was dismantled.  To me, the mystery about what happened deepened when she wrote back to me that The presque isle house hotel had burned down in 1900 and the remnants were never cleaned up. What was left was finally torn down and carted away in 1930  to make room for building the northeastland.”.  I then took a picture of both the letterhead and the envelope that I had and sent it to her.  She wrote back: “That is a puzzle as I have never heard of anyone staying there.  Will have to do some research.”. After a while, I heard back from her again saying, “I wonder if he could have been using old stationery OR if he wasn’t actually at the Presque Isle House Hotel (aka Presque Isle Hotel) as the letterhead simply says Presque Isle House.  The hotel was definitely destroyed in January 1900. I have never heard of anyone operating another boarding house with similar name, so I would need to do extensive research. See attached January 11, 1900 newspaper saying hotel destroyed by fire, photo of hotel, photo of hotel after fire in January 1900.”  These are the pictures that I received from her.

Screen Shot 2019-08-07 at 7.36.47 PMScreen Shot 2019-08-07 at 7.36.59 PM

So, there was definitely a mystery about was this indeed the place referenced in his letter?  I went into my 1930s letters and found four more letters written from the Presque Isle House in 1930.  It didn’t make sense to me that a burnt out building would be left standing for 30 plus years before being taken down. From the Maine Memory Network, I found a 1900 photo of the Presque Isle House with the following description:  The Presque Isle House on the East side of Main Street was torn down in 1930-31 to make room for the new Northeastland Hotel which opened in 1932.” So, heading up to my “home base”, I was hoping to find out a little more about this mystery.

IMG_0426After my long day of travel, I was excited to just get to this hotel as I figured it would be a close as possible to staying at a place that my Grandfather stayed in.  I knew it was in the downtown area of Presque Isle, so I figured it would be fun to be able to easily explore the downtown.  Finally, I passed the hotel, took a right, and pulled into the parking lot behind the hotel.  I knew from reading reviews on Trip Advisor that this hotel would not be like the chain hotels.  And from the moment I entered the lobby, I knew it would be a different experience.  The hotel clerk was extremely friendly, in fact, the total opposite of what I experienced in Baltimore the week before (the person didn’t even ask me if I had a good IMG_0432stay when I was checking out).  We talked about my journey up to Presque Isle and the purpose of my trip.  She found it fascinating.  She then gave me my key.  Yes, a real key, not one of the key cards that you get at most other places.  Yes, this was going to be a unique experience for sure.

 

The next morning, after a restless night’s sleep (I think too much iced tea the day before!),  I headed down to the cafe.  I could tell there, that the customers were a combination of hotel guests and town residents.  I was eavesdropping on an older woman and a my age male who were discussing a variety of topics.  The woman, who told him she was 91, talked about how all her kids were “Down State”.  The discussion focused on how the kids don’t have the interest in farming so they leave for other jobs in other sections of the state.  Parents are left here to age in place with the help of “good neighbors.”  The conversation ended with a discussion of different animals who eat their crops and how the man had recently observed the raccoons washing freshwater clams in  a local stream.  I thought about how the kids left the area and when Ben was sworn in down in Portland.  A lot of the people there were from really northern Maine or New Hampshire, so that was interesting in that perhaps maybe the military was another option for young people who live in this area.

After breakfast, I described to the new desk clerk, my project and asked her if she knew anything about the history of the hotel since there was a discrepancy between the hotel burning down in 1900 and the Northeastland opening up in 1932.  Her name was Amanda and she was really interested in the question and said that she did have information on the history.  She went to her computer, pulled up a document and printed it out for me.

I excitedly scanned it over and was excited to learn that the original hotel had been built in the 1840s.  The original hotel was then built onto, creating a more elaborate hotel.  It seems like there was a huge fire in downtown Presque Isle in 1884, that destroyed a lot of the area, including the Presque Isle Hotel.  That was rebuilt and called the Presque Isle House.  This burnt down again in 1900 (confirming what I had found out earlier), but then, the next sentences helped solve the mystery in my mind.  “Another wooden structure was again erected.  After a series of ownerships, the hotel came under the ownership of the PI Bank and soon was purchased by a group of local men comprising the P.I. Hotel Company.  In 1930, the company made the decision to raze the old and construct a new brick hotel which would better serve the times.  This hotel officially opened its doors in June of 1932.” (excerpted from Forgotten Times: A Walk Through History by Richard A Graves III.). In addition to this information, there was also a picture of the Presque Isle House in 1915.  Bingo!  Now the story made sense!  Now, I will have to go through the other boxes of my Grandfather’s letters to see if he ever stayed at the Northeastland.

I enjoyed walking around Presque Isle and dining at some of the local dining establishments and shops.  Some of the brick buildings appeared to have been around for a long time, perhaps even when my Grandfather visited. The University of Maine also has a campus in Presque Isle and I took a walk up through the campus.  It was on top of a hill and the view from the fields was gorgeous.  The people in Presque Isle were friendly and laid back,  It was a taste of a simpler life and perhaps one like it was 90 years ago when my Grandfather visited here in Presque Isle.

 

 

 

Today, I set off to see the spots in Edmundston, New Brunswick and Fort Kent Maine that my Grandfather had stayed at.  I knew going into these spots that neither place still existed, but I was excited to see the towns that he had visited.  What I wasn’t expecting, though, was the incredible scenery along Route One and Route 161 that I got to experience today.  While there was construction for the first ten miles of my route today, which was a tad stressful, I was just amazed by the big rolling “hills”, the fields of multiple shades of green, and the brilliant blue sky with puffy white clouds  Finally in IMG_0310Cyr, I pulled off to the side to take a picture, which does not do this beauty justice whatsoever.  The amber grain whistled in the light wind as I looked over the green fields and hills that framed this area.  I think this is my one regret of the trip – that since I am the driver and only person in the car, I can’t easily take pictures.  And I am not even sure my photos would adequately capture the beauty of this part of the country.  While the rides today, were again pretty desolate in spots, the natural beauty was simply amazing.  There were so many shades of green – from the green of the pine trees, to the green and white flowers of the potato plants, and to some sort of crop that was kind of lime green, it was all stunning.  The bigness of the sky was something that also took my breath away.  Whether it was vistas from each side of the road, or when I traveled up to the top of a big hill, it just took my breath away.

The other surprising thing was the steeples that I could see from miles away.  I found this interesting because in one of my Grandfather’s letters, he wrote: You have asked me whether or not I had been to church since I had left, well no dear for these towns that I had stopped at had no Catholic church, so I had stayed at the hotel.  And these steeples that I saw, where not just simple steeples.  They were majestic in so many ways and I didn’t even get a photo of all of them. I had found out from the 1937 Maine Guide Book, that Fort Kent is described as a town having “simple one and two-story buildings that are overtopped by the spire of the Roman Catholic church.  Most of the population speaks a provincial French and being strongly religious, observes the church feasts and fasts faithfully.” (p.248).  In the same book, Grand Isle is described as “a village that, like other small ones in this area, is notable for the ornateness of its church.”  The St. David’s Church in St. David was also beautiful, as was St Luke’s in Frenchville before getting to the magnificent St. Luke’s Church in Fort Kent.  Not directly on Route One, but over the river in Canada was the immense and spectacular Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  This area of the world is predominantly Catholic, so I found it interesting that my Grandfather had written that there were no Catholic Churches when there were many and they really stood out.  Interestingly, in Presque Isle, the Catholic Church is not as spectacular as the other spots.

The other surprises of the day was the lack of food choices in either Fort Kent or Edmundston.  I was excited to grab a tea and a treat from a French Bakery and eat it in the beautiful City Hall Square Park (the site of the New Royal Hotel until 1985).  But to my dismay, there was nothing open.  One little bakery was completely closed and for sale, and another one said it was open on Mondays, but the door was locked.  I was thirsty and luckily found a pizza place open that I could buy a bottle of water.  In Fort Kent, I knew that a “ploye” was a product that was traditional to the area.  At the closed bakery in Edmundston, they had ployes on the window.  Ployes are a French-Acadian buckwheat type of product, and during Fort Kent’s 150th anniversary, they are having a Ploye Festival.  So, when I got to Fort Kent, I first looked for a bakery to no avail.  I went to Rock’s Family Diner with the hope that maybe they had a ploye.  They had something called a Poutine, which sounded French to me.  I asked about the ploye and the waitress told me that no, there was nowhere in Fort Kent to get a ploye. She told me that Dolly’s in Madawaska (20 miles south on Route One) served them and that there was going to be a Ploye Festival as part of the 150th Fort Kent Anniversary, including making the World’s largest ploye.  Since there was no ploye to be had, I decided to ask and try the poutine.  Poutine is a dish that includes french fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. It originated in the Canadian province of Quebec.  So, out with my chicken burger ( a fried version, not quite what I expected, was a mass of French fries smothered in gravy and cheese.  I did eat several, but it was too rich for my liking.

IMG_0379IMG_0349

Another big surprise is how fast people drive up here.  I am not sure why us in Massachusetts always get the bum rap for being aggressive drivers.  There was a construction zone with a 25 miles per hour speed limit.  People were flying by me at about 60.  On the rolling hills, again, it was a speedway.  I wanted to relish the view and pulled over multiple times to let others fly by.

So, that’s an overview of Day 2.  I had no issues with customs (although the U.S. side was tougher than the Canadien side.  I am sure the U.S. Customs Officer was underwhelmed with the search of my trunk (a bag of social studies books).  I will be off to Houston tomorrow morning and then on to see some friends in Milton NH (and taking the highway for a part of the way!).  I will leave you with a few excerpts from my Grandfather’s letters

 

From Fort Kent:  Tuesday Evening:

This will probably reach you Thursday and I will have left for the Eastern part of the State.  From my window, I can see Canada and also the first bridge heading there. The boys in this hotel are all feeling happy tonight, I believe it must be some sort of heavy water they must have drank; I have not as yet.  Just the same old Joe

(There were two letters in this envelope.  One was written while in Canada and the next one was written in Caribou and mailed in Caribou.) 

Thursday evening:  Tina dear – Here I am in Canada for the night, not for pleasure either, but for strictly business.  Tina dear, this noon I received both of your wonderful letters that you had written Monday and Tuesday, you will never realize how happy and contented they made me feel.  I waited in Fort Kent for your letters and also my check until twelve thirty. Your Tuesday’s letter came in the first mail but my check was still missing so I thought I would wait until one thirty for the next mail and there was your letter of Monday and also my check.  Mind you I had not done a bit of work as yet and I had a thirty-five mile drive with a day and a half work to do, in a half day. Well I just got through, it is now after nine, so you see I had to work like the devil, with my clothes just sticking to my body from perspiration.  O do not believe that I had ever worked so fast in all my born days – came into a store, put in a display, and hurry right to my next stop. I am just exhausted and can hardly see straight. I am going to get up at six a.m. tomorrow and work my way to Caribou for Friday night. 135 miles. 

Friday evening.  Tina dear, the first page was as far as I got last night, for my eyes were so sore I thought I would rest them, that was necessary as I fell asleep and did not wake up until six a.m. this morning when I had to get dressed, have breakfast and wait for the fellow on the American side to come for me, to take me across the river to my car.  You see I have a commercial vehicle and that means a bit of trouble and red tape to take it across the line, so I had a garage man take me across in his car. I was going along at about fifteen miles per hour when my steering post snapped by the steering wheel and the car went out of control. Well, I applied my brakes, thank goodness that there was not anybody on the road or I would have driven into them.  This was about one p.m. and I had already had completed my days work and going to start on a part of tomorrow’s, well it was just five p.m. when I was ready to start on my journey to Caribou. It is ten p.m now and I am quite drowsy again for tomorrow. I am going to clean up Caribou and start Sunday for Calais, which is another hundred and eighty miles from this town. Getting nearer to home, aren’t I dear?  You have asked me whether or not I had been to church since I had left, well no dear for these towns that I had stopped at had no Catholic church, so I had stayed at the hotel. Well Tina dear, I will bid you good night until tomorrow. Love, Joe

 

Today, I set off to retrace my Grandfather’s journey into what is now called “The County” plus Edmundston, New Brunswick.  For me, it was as much a journey for me, as it was to retrace his steps as a traveling tobacco salesman.  For me, it was the first time I have really undertaken a solo trip.  While, I spent one night alone in Newburyport before my doctoral defense, this was really going to push myself out of my comfort zone.  I think the longest I have ever driven by myself was a couple of hours, so undertaking these set of road trips this summer was a way for me to become more comfortable with being solo on the road.

I had carefully planned out my trip, since I would be using “back roads” like my Grandfather did in 1929 (there was no Route 95 and if you know me well, you know that highways are another thing for me to get used to doing).  I have AAA design a Trip Tik but I did not like all the turns, and without a navigator, it would be extremely difficult to figure out.  During my trip up to New Hampshire, I had decided that it was really difficult to read Google Maps while driving, so I knew that I would need to use my phone’s GPS.  I designed a trip on Google Maps, staying on certain routes, even if it meant that the trip was a little longer.  I would travel Route 27 to Route 225, into Westford and Depot Road to Route 3-A North to Route 111 to Route 125 to Route 202 to Route 1A to Route 2 to Route 2A to Route 1, where the hotel was located.  Sounded simple in theory…. My first little mess-up was actually in Rochester, New Hampshire, a place where I had spent 27 years visiting.  I righted myself and was happily on Route 202, where I thought I would stay until just south of Bangor.  My GPS kept trying to get me to go different ways, (which I had downloaded my map onto my phone and I was surprised it was trying to deviate from my plan).  After fighting with the GPS, I thought everything was okay until somehow, I veered off Route 202 and the GPS had me going up Route 201/100/11.  I felt sure that it was also still 202, until it had me take this really backroad for 5 miles.  It was there that I began to understand the loneliness of a traveling salesman in 1929.  I went for miles without seeing anyone or anything.  At one point, I pulled over to look at the “real” map I had and realized that my GPS had won, that this was similar to what the Trip Tik said to do, so I decided to stay the course, because it seemed like a legitimate route.

However, while it was a legitimate route, I was surprised at how desolate these roads were.  I had originally thought of filling up in Bangor, but this route would take me nowhere near Bangor.  It was just miles and miles of big sky and open cornfields.  While, I still had a lot of gas, I was a little concerned that there may be even less civilization as I got further along.  So, when I happened upon the little crossroads of Pittsfield, I pulled over at the gas station/general store.  Not knowing when I might happen upon another place, I decided to refuel there and to eat the sandwich I had packed.

Another secret is that I am a princess when it comes to pumping gas.  Just last week, my dear friend Johanna gave me a lesson.  I remembered her words – take off the gas cap, swipe the card, select the gas type and put the nozzle in the gas tank.  Except when I put it in, it didn’t work.  She told me if it didn’t work, jiggle it a bit.  Nothing.  Nervously, I asked the woman pumping gas at the next pump if she was having any problems.   “No,” she replied.  I then said to her that I had never pumped gas on my own, I had driven from Massachusetts  and would she help me.  She came right over and my mistake was I hadn’t pushed up a thing on the tank.  She told me she was from Massachusetts as well and I asked her where.  “Hudson” she said.  I told her me too.  I asked her name….Jennifer….how coincidental was that I thought.  I asked her if she graduated from Hudson High and she had – one year earlier than my sister Jennifer.  I felt this was a very good omen, so I thanked her, finished filling my tank, ate my sandwich and kept moving.

As I was driving past endless corn fields, woods, potato fields, big sky, and little else, I thought of the words from one of my Grandfather’s letters:

Tuesday evening.  Tina Dear: Here I am at the top of my journey and let me tell you something that to-day I had the worse luck of any one person imaginable.  I waited until ten thirty for the mail to come in, expecting to hear from you, well it did not come to my utmost disappointment, second in order to make up for the lost time I started to drive to beat Hades, well I was traveling along about finally when I struck soft road, I skidded around, went into a ditch about three feet deep and was marooned there for fully four hours before I could get her out.  I had to walk about two miles before I came to a farm house where I borrowed a shovel, walked back and began working. Well I had to make a wood in the ditch and what a job that was, why I do not believe that I had worked any harder for over three years, finally I got out, it was after three and I hadn’t eaten a bit since breakfast, I certainly was very hungry, tired and dusty – all the roads are dirt through Northern Maine.  I got started and about ten minutes from Fort Kent, there is a mountain climb, well I got to about three quarters of the way, when my chariot bucked and stalled, and began rolling down the hill, well, I edged the car over to an embankment and left it there. I looked at my gas and there was just about half a gallon, that was great I thought, well, I waited beside my car until a car came along and asked him for a lift to a gas station, he drove me for about three miles until we came to one, he then went on his way and I got a container filled it with gas and started walking towards my car, after about a half mile and a fellow came along and gave me a lift.  I filled my tank and thought that I would get started, well I stepped on my self-starter but there was no response. “Great” I said. I began cranking the darn thing and it kicked, tore the flesh of my hand, so that it was bleeding quite freely before I stopped it. I then cranked for awhile with my left hand and it turned over and began humming. I climbed in and drove over the hill and what a ride it was downhill, I must have gone over fifty-five miles per just coasting. It was just six-thirty when I pulled into Fort Kent, no work done, tired, hungry and worst of all, blue; great combination is it not? ……This will probably reach you Thursday and I will have left for the Eastern part of the State.  From my window, I can see Canada and also the first bridge heading there. The boys in this hotel are all feeling happy tonight, I believe it must be some sort of heavy water they must have drank; I have not as yet. Just the same old Joe

As I kept driving towards Presque Isle, I thought about how hard it must had been to travel in 1929.  My Grandfather talked about the dirt roads, about walking a long way to get help, and about long days on the road.  I kept thinking about why his letters talked about how lonely he was on the road and how he lived for her letters to arrive at his next  destination.  His job must had been made more difficult by the difficulties of travel in that time period.  No GPS, no AAA, no car radios to keep one entertained.

And I guess it was only fitting that when I finally picked up a rock station (versus country and religious), that this song came on:

On a long and lonesome highway
East of Omaha
You can listen to the engine
moanin’ out his one note song
You can think about the woman
or the girl you knew the night before
But your thoughts will soon be wandering
the way they always do
When you’re ridin’ sixteen hours
and there’s nothin’ much to do
And you don’t feel much like ridin’,
you just wish the trip was through
Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin’ star again
There I go
Turn the page

 

I think I have turned a page in the journey to push myself out of my comfort zone.

And on the way back, I will push myself again and go back part of the way on Route 95.

 

 

bowlsThis is a story that I have long been trying to figure out how to write about.  Several years back, my brother decided to hold a yard sale of sorts since when my mom moved into assisted living, he ended up with lots of stuff.  And for me, having to pack up a house several years earlier, I did not want to have more stuff.  So, as I circled the table in my brother’s basement, there was really nothing that I really wanted.  I spied two mixing bowls that I remember using to bake with my Grandmother, so I did grab something to help take a few things off my brother’s load.

But there was one other thing that caught my eye.  There was an old box sitting there.  Curiously, I opened the musty box to find a box of envelopes.  They were all addressed to my grandmother.  I asked my mother and she said her father had written them all.  I opened one and could not read most of the cursive.  Interesting, but they weren’t interesting enough for me to bring them home with me.  I took my bowls and was happy the I didn’t come home with more stuff that would sit in my cellar.

However, on the ride home and over the next several days, I kept thinking about those letters.  While my grandmother, Artena, had played a big role in my life, I never knew my grandfather Joseph as he died ten years before I was born.  Perhaps these letters would provide me with a glimpse of who he was.  So, with that in mind, I called my brother and said I would take the letters.  At the next family gathering, he handed me the musty box.

SJE lettersAt first, I just tried to read the letters.  The cursive handwriting was really difficult for me to decipher.  I noticed that all the letters were written on hotel letterhead, which was interesting.  From what I could decipher, a lot of the letters were about how much my grandfather was missing my grandmother.  I almost felt like I was intruding into their relationship.  The only thing I thought about doing was ordering the letters into smaller boxes by years, so I did that.  The letters ran from 1929 to 1940. And then, they sat on the top shelf of my closet of my office.

Over the next year, I kept thinking what to do with these letters.  On the last time I saw my Aunt Betsy before she died, she thought I should write a book.  I asked her if she knew what my grandfather did.  Betsy thought he sold alcohol but that didn’t make sense to me since some of the years was during Prohibition.  So, still, I didn’t know what to do with these letters.  So, in the closet they sat.

I thought maybe I could make some sort of collage with the letters.  Maybe do something with maps.  I wasn’t sure about the story aspect – in some of the letters he called my grandmother “Tee” and signed the letter “Davey”.  That might make a good title, but I was’t sure there was enough substance to write a whole story.  I thought about doing something with the hotels.  I looked up a few and found that they either didn’t exist anymore or I couldn’t find anything about them.  So, in the closet they sat.

Fast forward to April 2019.  I was recovering from bunion surgery, so I got to spend a lot of quality time on the couch.  This couch time allowed me to contemplate lots of different things.  I missed doing some type of research.  Not being associated with a higher education facility any longer, I felt like I was not going to be able to do the scholarly research that I had done with my doctoral studies.  The second main item that I thought about was what to do for a vacation this year.  Since being divorced, my vacations have mainly involved (and I am not complaining, I love these!) spending time with the boys at their new locations or with friends who live out of state.  For my upcoming milestone birthday, I had thought about doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  I felt like I needed to start to push myself to do some different things by myself.  What could I do for this coming summer to push myself out of my comfort zone a tad.  And the third main topic of thinking centered on those darn letters.  Finally, I had an epiphany moment.  It was 2019.  The first set of letters between my grandfather and my grandmother were in 1929, 90 years ago.  I hobbled upstairs and grabbed that box off the closet shelf and looked at where he traveled that year.  Providence, New Bedford, Fall River, Houlton, Presque Isle, Edmunston, Fort Kent, Concord, Manchester, Springfield, Pittsfield, North Adams, Wilmington, Greenfield, Gardner, Fitchburg were the addresses on the envelopes.  I thought to myself, how about if I visited these places to see where my grandfather traveled 90 years ago.  And hence, my recreated 1929 road trip story was born.

books and lettersI tried testing out the idea on my friends and colleagues.  At dinner one night with my friends, when I told them about this idea, my friend Karen, a librarian, excitedly told me that she had a collection of books that might help with this trip.  During the Depression, the Federal Writers Project wrote a book about each state.  I thought this was cool but once I opened it up, I found it was even cooler because in the book, there were descriptions of various “tours” all over the state.  Since in 1929, there were no big interstate highways like we have now, I had already decided that these trips would be done on “by-ways” versus “highways” (which also were much better suited to my style).  And these books provided great actual routes that I could use.  Another friend thought this might be a great article for regional magazines.  Everyone I told about this project thought it sounded really cool.  I kept reading the letters over and over again and got better at deciphering the cursive.   I found a “travel log” that provided me with the name of the company that my grandfather worked for.  Turns out it was a Richmond Virginia based tobacco company. Research doesn’t need to involve qualitative and quantitative measures.  I could research about the towns, the hotels, the routes, about the life of salesmen during the Depression.  I put together four different road trips, ranging from two day trips to one overnight trip to a multi-day trip and got the dates on the calendar.

So, tomorrow the quest begins.  The quest to do a little research.  The quest to push myself out of my comfort zone.  The quest to retrace my grandfather’s footsteps from 90 years ago.

You will be able to follow my travels on this blog as well as on Facebook and on Instagram – 1929roadtrips

route list

 

The Battle Road Trail.  My “happy” place. A place where I reclaimed my health by first only being able to walk  just a very small segment and eventually working my way up to walking to Lexington Center and back (14 miles).  A place, where surrounded by the natural beauty, I began to heal my broken heart. A place where I walked in a blinding snowstorm, navigated long sheets of ice, watched sunflowers sway in a light summer breeze, observed farmers picking corn on a hot summer day, witnessed the passing of all our New England seasons, and stopped to see the moon rise.  A place where I received a phone call, asking me to interview for a position that I was not really looking for, but was the change I didn’t know I needed.trail

The history of the trail also fascinates me.  I think about the quest for freedom that started along this trail.  I think about the farmers that mobilized along different sections of the trail that sent the Redcoats scurrying back to Boston.  As a mother of a soldier, I think about those young Redcoats who lost their lives far from their mothers and whose deaths are marked along the trail.  I think about travelers stopping at the Hartwell Tavern for food and rest. Although the focus of the trail is on what the Battle Road was like in 1775,  there is a lot more history of this area than what is presented and in some cases, that other history has been bought out and wiped out. Perhaps it is the wiped out history that is a story waiting to be told.

To me, the first mile of the trail, if you start from the Meriam parking area is the prettiestboardwalk and the most diverse.  Starting out from the parking lot, you cross over a small boardwalk and then fields and meadows surround you on both sides.  Red winged blackbirds often greet me with their high pitched calls. This trail heads into the woods for a short amount of time before once again popping out surrounded by farmlands; fields of corn on the left and fields of sunflowers on the right.  Behind the left field, more fields continue up towards Virginia Road. On the right side of the field, lays a large barn complete with silo, along with other smaller buildings and an old farmhouse that sits on Lexington Road. On the left side of the pasture, there is a small cow barn and at one point, there were some really big cows grazing in this grassy area.  Continuing east on the trail, the trail departs from the farmland and heads onto a boardwalk that crosses over wetlands. In the summer, this area is alive with birds and insects who enjoy the cattails that sway in the breeze. After traversing the zigzag of the boardwalk, the trail heads up a small rocky hill before it ends up on a short paved section that is parallel to Lexington Road.  And it is on this section of the Battle Road Trail that my story begins.

On this section, you pass by a house, a farmstand, and several other buildings that overlook a sloping hill.  Several tractors sit next to the out buildings. This farmstand sits at the one mile mark. While heading out for a long walk, it is the end of my warm-up period, where I then need to focus more on the pace I want to maintain for the rest of the walk.  On the way back, it means one mile to go, where I will hit a downhill section right after this landmark. I had passed this farm many times, but one day, the empty feeling that it conveyed, spoke to me. On occasional walks, I will stop and take pictures and on that day, the peeling paint and a cracked window with a “Yes We’re Open” sign we are open2on the door of the farmstand, caught my eye.  So, I stopped. I remembered a long time ago, visiting this particular farmstand and buying a wreath made out of Oriental Bittersweet. That was the only time I had ever visited that particular farmstand, but I remember a woman who sold me the wreath. But it appeared that even though the sign said “Yes, We’re Open”, that it had been a very long time since anyone had bought anything from this particular farmstand.  On later walks by that farmstand, I would notice that the sign had been changed to “Sorry We’re Closed”,closed that there was a sign that warned No Trespassing, Property of the U.S. Government,and on another window was a “Save save the farmsAmerica’s Farms” sticker. The house had a large wraparound porch where I could envision people sitting out on the end of the day, watching the sun set. It made me curious to think about the government clearly now owned the property, but it didn’t really look like they were doing anything with it.  This farm, once in business, was clearly vacant and not being used for any purpose.

driving up

If you are traveling west on Lexington Road (once called Bay Road, since it was the road to the bay) towards Concord Center, you will pass the once working farm (First Root Farm, a Community-Supported Agricultural Farm that was there from 2010 to 2017), and then you will encounter another small farmstand on your right.  However, there are no other buildings around this unique farmstand. Even though I had driven by this structure numerous times, after doing more observations of farmstand at the one mile mark, this caught my eye one day and I pulled into the circular driveway to have a deeper look. It was a cloudy day and the fading red door caught my eye. red door I felt that this building was different – there were no other buildings near it, but it had a grace to it that spoke to me. On the sides of the porch, was a pretty curved lattice that framed a field and a grove of trees behind the field. The front of this farmstand also had large rectangular windows, with benches in front of each window. On one of the benches, sat two framed pictures.  For me, it was very strange to see someone’s personal belongings just laying outside. This farmstand had piqued my curiosity so I decided to come back another day to further explore.

front cover

On a hot August afternoon, I parked at Meriam lot and walked to this farmstand to investigate this structure further.  Once arriving, I spent time really closely examining the farmstand. For a small structure, it had a lot of windows – the two big ones in the front, one on each side, and two more on the back of the structure.  There was the red front door and in the back, a door with nine window panes with a broken lock. Another interesting feature was the remains of a foundation in the back of the farmstand. This foundation was deep and I wondered if it was a barn at one time.  There were fields in the back and to the East of the farmstand. I also found several apple trees in the back. Exploring this land only made me more curious about its story. Why was this farmstand still standing where there was nothing else around it? At this point, the theme of my photography was “Abandoned” and this area certainly felt like it was abandoned by someone.  But the question was who abandoned it and why did they abandon it?

old foundationback of farmdoorknobside

I spent a lot of time pondering what to do with this series of pictures to present some type of story.  Based on a card that I had bought that was a combination of text and pictures, I thought perhaps a type of collage with the pictures and some text was a good thing to do with these pictures.  I decided to go onto Google Earth so that I could see this area from a bird’s eye view, which provided me with more information in that there was also a foundation a bit west of the farmstand that I had not seen previously when I walked there.  My thinking started shifting from the word “abandoned” to the word “waiting” in that this story was waiting to be found out.

With this shift in mind, I headed down to the Special Collections Room at the Concord Public Library to ask research librarian extraordinaire, Leslie Wilson, if she might have any information about this land.  She listened to my questions and said this might be a tricky one. On previous local history projects, I knew of a resource that listed all the historic houses in Concord and I asked Leslie if she had this resource.  She walked over to a bookcase and pulled out that resource. I had an approximate address from my Google Earth search. And bingo! Here is what I found out:

Architectural Description:  #851/855 is a 1 ½ -story shingled, 3-bay cottage of ca. 1915-20, its lines today altered by a large shed dormer across the facade. The foundation of the main house is rubble; a 1-story east ell connects with a 2-story barn standing on a high base of rough-faced concrete block.  The windows here are 6-over-1-sash in the house; 8-over-1 and 2-over-1-sash in the barn. There is a large-light glass and panel door at the main entry, and exposed rafter ends at the unboxed eaves.

Historical Narrative: #851/855, today called “Twin Ash Farm”, is significant as a surviving early-twentieth-century farmstead, complete with fields to the rear, and a well-preserved roadside stand.  Today it is owned by the National Park Service.

historical narrative

And there also, was a picture of the property that had stood on that land.  Unfortunately, the quality of the picture is not great, but there was the little farmstand and it was surrounded by a large house to its left.  “So, that’s what was there,” I thought to myself. Twin Ash Farm… a now name to this lonely, lovely little structure. But could I find out more?

survey

 

Leslie and I continued our sleuthing and found documentation from the United States Department of the Interior – National Park Service, called the National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet, Property Name is Minute Man National Historical Park, Section 7, Page 18 about this property.  It reads:

“One of the park’s few contributing twentieth-century buildings is the Albano House (map no. 59) at 851 Lexington Road (map no. 51).  The building is set back approximately fifty feet from the street, within a landscape dotted with several mature trees and shrubs.  Open farmland is located to the north. It is a one-and-one-half story, side-gable, Craftsman style building clad in wood shingles and set on a fieldstone foundation.  A lower, one-and-one-half story, side-gable ell connects the east end of the main block to a large, one-and-a-half story, side-gable garage/apartment set on a high rusticated concrete block foundation.  The south elevation of the attached garage/apartment includes a vehicular entrance set down a slope with a stone retaining wall. A centrally-located one-story one-bay, flat-roof entrance porch with slender, square posts is attached to the facade (south).  A shed-roof dormer spans the south elevations of both the main block and the attached garage/apartment. Fenestration consists of single and paired, six-over-one, double-hung-sash windows set in simple wood surrounds. Other elements of the building include exposed rafter ends and two, exterior brick chimneys.  To the northeast of the house are the stone remains of a barn which once stood on the site. The Albano Foundation (map no. 61) is approximately thirty feet by forty-five feet wide and is partially recessed below grade on the west, north and east sides.  To the southeast of the house, set close to the road, stands a one-story, side-gable Produce Stand (map no. 60) sheathed in novelty siding and set on concrete blocks  This small building features a one-story, shed-roof, full-facade porch with plain wood posts and lattice on the south elevation.  Two long, rectangular windows flank the centrally-located entrance on the south elevation. The building’s east elevation includes a one-over-one, double-hung-sash window, flanked by slender, eight-light, rectangular windows.  

8 x 8 windows on side

And in the back of this resource, was a listing page of properties, towards whether it was contributing or non-contributing.  And the Albano Produce Stand, built in 1915 was listed, along with other “produce stands” at 955 Lexington Road (Edward Nowalk Produce Stand – 1960) and at 1087 Lexington Road (D. Inferrara Farm Stand, ca. 1920s).  Three farm stands in the stretch of about a half mile, all once active, now all empty.

list of farmstands

So, now I had both a name of the farm stand, along with a family name.  It really made this little farmstand come to life with this information.  But I wanted more information, what was the history of this particular area and how did it get to this state?  Time for more research.

From walking on the Battle Road trail, I had seen many signs about how this area was all farm land in 1775 and that the farmers also played a pivotal role in the April 19th battle.  I knew from living in Concord for 26 years that there were some family farms that I frequented, such as Brigham Farm and Verrill Farm. Luckily, in my time at the library, I found a source that discussed the cultural history of this area, especially in the 1900s. (https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/mima/clr.pdf)  This history discussed how “The popularity of ‘motor touring’ provided an increasing customer base for the roadside stands. As an example of their profitability, a 1933 highway layout map (turnpike cut-off) depicts five roadside stands along the Battle Road within a one-fifth mile segment.” (p. 77).  The ethnic backgrounds of the farmers also changed over this time frame and the percentage of people who farmed decreased. After World War II, there were more homes built in this area, along with the development of Hanscom Air Force Base and of Route 128.. The families who had been farmers in the earlier part of the century, continued to successfully farm their lands.  In the late 1950s, there began to be talk about preserving the Battle Road area. In a 1968 follow-up to the strategic plan for Minuteman National Park, “the plan identified buildings and structures within the park boundary to be retained, removed, or demolished, and it explored the establishment of historic motor trails within the park. “ (p. 107). The National Park Service identified structures that were historic and structures that were non-historic.  Among the non-historic structures were: “a veterinarian hospital, an automotive dealership garage, restaurants, residences, garages, barns, outbuildings, and farm stands.” (p. 108). However, agricultural buildings, that were kept were both the Albano and Norwalk farms.

state map

From NPS report referenced above

According to this report, the Albano Farm was slated to not be demolished.  But with the exception of the farm stand, the rest of it is not there any longer.  What happened to the rest of the house that was described as standing in both of the earlier reports?   The barn was described as a foundation, but the description and pictures of the house was pretty clear that there was a house on the property.  Back to doing some internet research. And luckily, I found some information on the Concord Historical Commission’s annual reports. In 2009, this commission wrote:  “We were also asked by the Massachusetts Historical Commission to comment on the proposed demolition of the Albano Farm on Lexington Rd. This property is owned by the National Park and, as such, required a Section 106 review prior to demolition. The Historical Commission agreed to the demolition of the farm, but asked that the small roadside farm stand remain to preserve the historic rhythm of small farm stands along that section of Lexington Road. The Park has agreed to this request.” (p.80)

https://concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2506/Historical-Comm-PDF.  This seems to indicate that the house was standing until somewhat recently.  In the 2012 annual report, it states: “The Commission was delighted to discover this past fall that the small produce stand along Lexington Road has a new roof! The Historical Commission had requested that the National Park Service preserve the farm stand when the Albano farmhouse was slated for demolition several years ago due to severe deterioration; the stand contributes meaning to this historic byway.  A thank you letter was sent to Superintendent Nancy Nelson for the Minute Man National Historic Park, who reports that they plan to make use of the stand for The Park’s apprentice farming program.” (pp 85-86),

https://www.concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2320/Historic-Districts-Commission-PDF?bidId=.  

While all this information was great, I still felt that I was missing a human connection to the story.  I belong to a Facebook group about Concord, so I put out a post with a picture of the farmstand and asked people what they knew about the farm stand.  I did receive a lot of comments on the request, although not all of them were relevant to my question. I learned that the house was torn down after the roof collapsed.  They use to sell many things at the farm stand, but it hadn’t been active for many years. Another person replied how the Concord Historical Commission got the National Park Service to get it a new roof, but commented that it now needs body work.  This person remarked that it was nice to have it on Lexington Road and that every now and again, pie sellers would use it to sell pies. Other people noted that it was nice to have a lot of farm stands within close proximity to one another, while another expressed concern that this farm stand could also be wiped out, leaving no trace of this part of Concord’s history.  What did strike me through all the other different responses was that people who lived in this part of time, had a close connection to other families who farmed in this area. They shared stories of grandparents and recipes, and of their family homes, some that no longer exist. I have to admit, I lived in Concord during this time period where homes were being bought by the Park Service.  But, the only story I remember specifically was when Willow Pond Kitchen, a local legend (that I had never been to), was being closed and demolished to make a parking area (that I always use when I am on the trail). I do remember a recent story about Palumbo Farm being closed, but other than that, I need to claim ignorance on this project. .

Still wanting to dig deeper to obtain more of a human connection, on Google, I found a Flickr account by a Mr. TGT that had an album called “Albano Cousins Reunion 2005”.  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrtgt/albums/72157594176025103/with/52038967/On that album were six pictures of the house and farm stand.  I learned that Mr. TGT’s mother was born in a room above the garage/barn.  The house looked similarly sided to the farmstand, and at that point, had the similarly peeling paint around the windows.  Under one of the pictures, was a caption from Mr. TGT that said “My Grandfather’s farm @ Concord , MA

flckr pic

Mr. TGT’s Flickr Picture of His Family Farm

Federal Government has purchased property to become part of Battle of Lexington_Concord battlefield National Park. Also 3 homes to the left lived Louisa-May Alcott the author of Little Women.”  And underneath that comment was another one that read: My name is Joe Albano and my family also lived on that farm prior to 1927 my grandfather and his brother Sal were in business together .I remember as a young child going with my family to visit Uncle Sal and cousin louis. Please contact me I would like to share the history of the family and farm.”   So, I did contact him, and even though the comment was nine years old, in a six-hour time frame, he did respond to my email and we set up a telephone conversation for the next day.

flickr picture 2

From Mr. TGT’s Flickr album

At 9:00 a.m., I called the number that Joe had left me and he immediately picked up.  Before even going into his story, I want to thank him for making my pictures and the beginning of this story, really come to life.  This 13 minute conversation brought light to the history of the farm and provided a human element to this story.

Joe’s grandfather Joseph and his brother Salvatore, bought the farm in the 1900s after arriving from Italy.  The Albano brothers did not go through Ellis Island, they came right into Boston. The brother originally worked the farm together, but Joseph’s grandmother did not like being so far out in “the country” and so they moved to Newton, where they opened a store that sold fruits and vegetables.  Sal stayed on the farm, raising his family there, along with raising vegetables such as carrots, peas, and tomatoes to sell at their farm stand. Sal’s son Louie, would eventually take over the farm. Joe remembers many fond childhood memories, visiting the farm. He recalls picking blueberries, swimming in a swimming hole that sat in the back field of the property that was always chilly as it was spring fed, and being given silver spoons, complete with the family initial, to go outside and dig.  Joe also told about the many arrowheads that they found on the property. Many years later, Joe went up to visit Ana, Louie’s wife, who still lived on the farm. He asked if he could do some metal detecting. And in addition to the 1902 silver coins that he found he found those spoons. As he told me, “I am thankful to have those childhood memories.”

Louie, Sal’s son, took over the farm after his father had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair.  Joe stated that “Louie did a great job.” Louie also worked in the Agricultural Department and did a great job keeping the farm as a working farm.  Joe recounts that his grandfather Joseph use to go up to the farm to see his brother, and instead of visiting with his brother, he use to go out and farm.  Even though Joseph had moved away from the farm, he was still a “farmer at heart.” During our conversation, I also found out that the Albanos also owned land across the road.  They dug an irrigation pond, which Joe says if you cross the road, follow the trail, you should still come to the pond. Additionally, Joe said there was also a small house behind the farm stand that use to house the seasonal migrant workers.  

A surprise that I found out during our conversation, which is the picture of the house that I found, is not actually the original house that sat on the property and that Sal and Joseph bought.  That original house, was struck by lightning during a “thunder-snow” storm in the late teens time frame and burned down. The house that was demolished by the National Park Service around 2009-2010 was to replace the house that was struck by lightning and destroyed.  Joe said that it was around then that his grandmother had enough and they moved to Newton. As a result of the fire, Sal and later Louie, made sure that every building had a lightning rod on it. There had been one on the farmstand, but perhaps when the roof was redone in 2012, it was taken off of the farm stand.  And yet another surprise was that the farm stand was featured in a Trailways Bus Commercial to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, that was shown nationally. Pretty cool that this little farm stand came to living rooms all over the United States.

Produce Stand

From NPS publication

So, what happened to the farm?  Louie died at age 62, leaving the farm to his wife Ana.  From Town of Concord Property Records, (http://gis.vgsi.com/concordma/Parcel.aspx?pid=3410), the National Park Service bought the property for $185,000.00 on November 1, 1975, which confirms Joe’s statement that the family only received several hundred thousand dollars to sell the farm.  Anna was allowed to live there for the rest of her natural life, although according to her obituary, it appears that she did move to Belmont later in her life. The family was allowed to keep 10 acres of land across the street, although I am thinking that after looking at the Massachusetts Interactive Property Maps (http://massgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/OnePane/basicviewer/index.html?appid=47689963e7bb4007961676ad9fc56ae9), that perhaps the government now owns that as well.

Joe recalled that he had gone up and walked around the property after the government took control of the land.  He said a park ranger asked him what he was doing. He told them that this was his family home at one time and that “they had broken their promise.”  When the property was purchased, the Government agreed to maintain the houses and they didn’t. Joe said that inside the house was beautiful, it was full of mahogany wood and he didn’t like that the government let it deteriorate.  The park rangers referred him to go the person in charge. He told her that the contract said that the government needed to maintain the properties. She said she knew that, but there wasn’t any money in the budget for these properties’ upkeep.  So, as we know, the house deteriorated enough that it needed to be demolished. I could hear the bitterness in Joe’s voice as he told this story, but he also shared that he had so many wonderful stories of his family homestead and to me, it seemed like these memories for him were far more important than what happened to the house.

So, that is the story of this Forgotten Farmstand.  It was not abandoned, in fact, it was much loved by members of the Albano Family.  The Concord Historical Commission alerted the Park Service about the need for a new roof, so perhaps they will continue to be its advocate.  On Route 2A in the 1950s, Joe said that “there was one farm after another, and it was like stepping into the past.” Perhaps, it is lucky that this piece of the past, the  Albano Farm Stand still stands to remind us all of another time were life was full of multiple vegetable stands, children digging for treasure with silver spoons, and close knit families and neighbors, who many years later, still fondly recall the days of farms on the eastern end of Concord.  

Waiting…what stories do other buildings in your community have to tell?

foggy stand

 

This was not not even in my mind as I created this new blog.  In fact, the “first” story was almost done and ready to go before the New Year, but as it often can, life got in the way.  So, that post is not done yet.

But this post, might even be a better inaugural post for a blog called “Waiting” since that is what I am doing….Waiting.  I arrived at Fort Campbell late Wednesday night to do just that for a few days….wait. In the past almost two and a half years, I have found that Army Moms do a lot of that – wait.  While I am sure that the experience is the same for a Marine Mom, a Navy Mom, an Air Force Mom, and a Coast Guard Mom, this post will focus on Army Moms, since that is the experience that I am most familiar.   From the website Statista (https://www.statista.com/statistics/239383/total-military-personnel-of-the-us-army-by-grade/), there are 473,966 active duty military personnel during Fiscal Year 2018.   This includes officers, enlisted and cadets. These numbers don’t include the members of the National Guard, which according to the same website, has 343,500 military personnel in 2018 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/207392/national-guard-members-in-the-usa/)   If you add those numbers together, it would equal 817,466 military personnel and 817,466 Army Moms.  Since there is no more draft, these 817,466 Army personnel, voluntarily chose to serve our country in this manner and 817,466 Army Moms who do a lot of waiting and worrying.  

My boys grew up in an affluent suburb of Boston, where the Army as a career choice (and particularly an enlisted member of the Army) was not one that you heard out of the mouths of their high school guidance counselors. While there was an Air Force base in the next town, the students whose family members were in the service, were not a part of my boys’ high school.  My original career was working as a Food Technologist for the Department of Defense, both of my boys’ grandfathers were members of the Armed Services, but that was about as much exposure to the military that my boys had. Both boys grew up playing firemen, not soldiers. So, when Ben approached me in the summer of 2016, about his exploring the possibility of joining the Army, to say I was rather surprised, would be an understatement.  I reached out to Jeanne, a former parent in my classroom, since her son had also recently enlisted in the Marines for questions about this process. My thinking was that from my experience with the DoD, that this process would take a while. Ben was scheduled to go up to Portland Maine to take more tests in the middle of August. I again was very surprised that after Ben returned from that, he came over to told me that he had signed his enlistment papers.  Again, I was banking on my DoD experience, when I asked him when he would be going. “September 12th”, he replied.  That was a mere three weeks away.  Not exactly the snail like pace that I expected, but in a way, this short time frame prevented the waiting for this to happen.  It was akin to having a bandaid removed quickly from a cut rather than removing it slowly and having the pain last longer. There was much to be done in that three week time period and those three weeks flew.  

The morning of September 12th arrived and Ben had asked me to drive him to the recruiter’s office in Waltham, which from there, he would be driven to Portland where he would be sworn in the next day.  That morning also flew by and before I knew it, we were at the Recruiter’s office. Even though my boy was 25 at that point, I wanted to walk him in, even if it meant that it would make it potentially more difficult to say good-bye.  Following him in was a young man, who was not accompanied by his parent(s). I quickly told Ben that I would see him tomorrow, went back to my car, and headed back to school, where I was hoping that an afternoon of training about how to do evaluations would take my mind off of what had just happened.  

sworn inTuesday September 13th came early and my brother David, graciously agreed to drive me up to the Portland Recruiting Center, where Ben would be formally sworn in as a member of the US Army.  We arrived there ahead of the schedule, and my training as an Army Mom would now formally begin. We went upstairs, signed in, and were directed to a waiting room. I distinctly remember feeling like a deer in the headlights.  My brother and I sat down next to another family, who probably could tell from the look on my face, that I was a newbie at this role. The mom told me that this was her third son that joined the Army, that her husband was career military and that her daughter in law would be joining in several months.  It seemed pretty obvious to me that many of the people in that waiting room had prior experience with this process. Before long, Ben scooted into the room to say hello. We had a few moments of small talk before he was summoned to his waiting room. And then, the moment arrived… everyone was asked to go back downstairs for the actual swearing in ceremony.  These men and women stood tall and proud and swore their allegiance to defending the United States Constitution. My eyes filled with tears about the life changing words that I just heard from Ben. We had about ten minutes for pictures and talking. Those ten minutes went quickly and off he strode to his new career. David and I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts, where we met many of the other families who were there at the ceremony.  These families were also experienced military families. There were aunts there, who had been in the service, and were there to see their nephew off. What became pretty evident in my first lesson, that was in some areas of the country (and in this case New England), being in the military was a clear career option and that many families had multiple family members who served in the Armed Services.

And now the real waiting began.  Jeanne had warned me about random calls in the middle of the night from your child that sounded more like a hostage message.  I knew he was on his way to Fort Benning Georgia, and I had no idea when I would receive a call. My cell phone became my new best friend, and a mere day later, after coming home from Back to School Night, my phone lit up with Ben’s caller ID.  Excitedly, I answered the phone and heard my boy’s voice. He was in what is called “reception”, a new military vocabulary word for me, that was nothing like the definition that I knew. Instead it means that the soldier is waiting for their training or new job to begin.  For them, it’s a lot of “hurry up and wait”. There is no predetermined time in this phase. Our phone call lasted exactly four minutes and I wasn’t sure when I would hear from Ben again. Several days later, I went with a friend to pick up lunch at Brother’s MarketPlace. While waiting for Tracy to select her food, my phone rang and Ben’s caller ID came up.  Quickly I picked up the phone and started to run out of the store. However, this time, the call was even briefer than the other night. It consisted of “Mom, I’m starting red phase”. And then it was done. I was sure that I was disconnected because I had no service, so I continued out of the store and called his number. He didn’t pick up. I quickly received a text message that said “That’s all I could say”.   And I realized, I would no longer just be able to pick up the phone and call Ben. I was waiting for the next call. I was waiting for a letter with his address. During boot camp, the only way to communicate with your child is through old fashioned letter writing. So, I waited for that letter to arrive in my mailbox. During this wait, I figured out what group he might be in as it seems that some of the Army uses Facebook as a means to keep people informed.  And one day, that letter finally arrived in my mailbox. It was a form letter from the Commanding Officer, informing the families when graduation would be and how to properly address an envelope to our soldiers. And there, on the example of how to fill out the envelope properly, was Ben’s small writing with his address. I quickly addressed the nine letters that I had written to him and rushed down to the post office to mail them all. Little did I know, that those letters would cost Ben doing push-ups to receive them all.  And so, that is how it went for nine weeks – waiting for a letter to arrive and waiting for the next call to say he was through another phase of basic training. And yes, these calls kept coming at odd times – once while I was at a photography meet-up and another time on a Saturday morning while doing errands. And little by little, we were getting closer and closer to his graduation from Basic Training. It would be a little more than nine weeks since I had seen Ben and I was growing more and more excited to see him. The waiting was almost over.

finallyIt was a clear and surprisingly (at least for me) cold Tuesday morning in Georgia when we would get to see Ben.  I made Christopher and David get up bright and early so that we could be there with lots of time to spare because the letter said that there would be a lot of traffic getting onto base.  But, getting onto base was actually pretty easy because they had the families names at the security, so it was just a matter of getting that pass. This was an outdoor ceremony, and while it was rather chilly, I was excitedly waiting for the group to appear on the field and waiting even more for the group to disperse so that we could actually see and talk with Ben.  As a parent, and now as a parent of a member of the Armed Services, it is somewhat hard to know that someone else now dictates the time you can spend with your child. So, when the time came and the group was allowed to go find their families, I was beyond excited to see my boy. He was released to us until early evening and I loved meeting some of his “grumpy old men” buddies and their families (since Ben is older than the average enlisted soldier, I was a little worried that he would not find people his age, so I was pleasantly please when he was actually the youngest of this group!).  It was fun to see Ben show us various parts of the base. We went out to boot campdinner in Columbus, Georgia and then it was time to return him to his barracks. The next day was his actual graduation and it was another glorious ceremony. Luckily, since the following day was Thanksgiving, we would have that entire afternoon and the entire holiday with Ben. After most boot camp graduations, families get about 20 minutes with their soldier before they are gathered back up and shipped out (another new vocabulary term) to their next training site. So, I relished every moment of these days and I knew that the next round of training would not be as restrictive. 

 

Ben spent nine months at Fort Gordon in Georgia for his advanced training.  During that time frame, he was able to come home for holiday leave, and I was able to see him during Easter and at his graduation.  When I was on base for both of those visits, I was lucky to meet some of his colleagues and learn more about them and why they chose to enlist in the Army.  For some, it seemed like the Army was a way out of a life back home that didn’t offer many opportunities. While Ben was at Fort Gordon, he called one night to tell me where his next assignment would be.  Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I was psyched that he wouldn’t be going to Korea or some other place that I didn’t think was safe. The next call, when I said how great it was that he was going to Kentucky, he said to me, “Mom, Fort Campbell is the home to the 101st Airborne Company.”  When I said I didn’t know the significance, he let me know that the 101st is involved in all sorts of conflicts. “Oh” I said, suddenly not feeling as secure as I once did.

So began the Fort Campbell days.  I visited there for Thanksgiving 2017, where we did a great hike on Land Between the Lakes, had Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel, and explored Nashville.  I had an unexpected visit back to Fort Campbell in January 2018 when Ben was injured in an automobile accident. It was during this trip, that Christopher asked him what would happen to his room during deployment,  It was the first time that I heard the “D” word mentioned. Spending Easter in Baltimore with the boys, there was a little more definite talk of a deployment occuring in the summer. And then it was definite: Ben would be heading to Afghanistan sometime in June for nine months.  And like that time between announcing he was enlisting and leaving for boot camp, this time seemed to fly once again. Ben brought his car home in May, I held a get together of friends and family to see him off, and then it was time to bring him to Logan Airport. Luckily, the traffic to the airport was horrendous, which provided me with a little more time with Ben.  And then, he was off and the waiting until he was back, officially began.

But before he could come back, he had to first officially leave.  And that waiting was like that slow way to remove a bandaid. The first date he was supposed to leave was a Wednesday.  We did the What’s App app video chat to say our goodbyes, only to receive a text later that his departure had been delayed until that Saturday.  Saturday came and he never even made it out of his barracks as his flight was delayed once again for 24 hours. Would the third time be the charm?  Finally, I got a text from him that he was at the hangar and there were planes outside, so this time looked to be it. And it was. I created a countdown calendar for March 15th and so, the long wait began.

One of the worse things to worry and then wait about was when I heard on the news that there had been an issue involving US troops in Afghanistan.  The first time this happened, I felt sick to my stomach. Knowing that your child is in an unsafe area is one thing; but realizing that they could be in harm’s way was another rude awakening.  And then, knowing that someone else’s Mom was having a really bad day was heart wrenching.

So, what did I do to pass the time during this deployment?  One of the first really helpful things that I did was join the Military Family Support Group, that is based in Concord.  The founders created this group in the early part of the war in Afghanistan because people with children in the military felt isolated and this provided families with the support of other families going through the same experience.  This group provided me with lots of great resources, starting with sending me to see Lisa at the Concord Post Office for advice on mailing packages to Afghanistan. Lisa is one of the kindest, most helpful and positive people that you would want to meet.  She set me up with custom forms, mailing labels and Priority Mail Flat Rate B boxes that saved me a lot of money. At the meetings, I was able to learn about how other families’ experiences with deployment and was able to ask questions. They also provided me with information about joining a Fort Campbell mother’s group on Facebook that also provided me with some good information.  Another valuable tip was the group that would send a Christmas tree to Afghanistan. The Monday after Thanksgiving, Ben called me while I was at work and asked me if I was responsible for a Christmas tree arriving. He said it brightened everyone’s spirits since they would be spending Christmas there. It was nice being with people who understood exactly what you were feeling. So, that is one way that you can pass the time while waiting – find a support group.

Another way I passed the time was sending Ben and his shop a box of goodies every other week.  I got a lot of pleasure over picking items out that I thought would be good to have. When the weather got cooler, that turned into baking for them.  This gave me real purpose and a sense of making these soldiers’ lives a little better. During my “off weeks”, I enlisted friends and family to write to him.  So, this was fun and helped me count the weeks down until he would be home.

The ability to pretty easily communicate with Ben was another way that made the wait go by a bit quicker.  My god-daughter’s husband served in Iraq in the 2003-2006 timeframe and commented that how tough it was for them to communicate with their loved ones back home.  But with What’s App and then later, Facebook Messenger, it was really easy to maintain pretty good contact, so that also helped me get through this time period. I video chatted with Ben about once every ten days and that was great to see his face, to see where he lived and to get a glimpse of the land where he was living.  The use of facebook by his group was also a great way to see what they were doing and share in celebrations such as promotions and holidays. All of these tools helped me pass the time during the wait and sometimes felt like I was talking to him and he was close by.

Since I am a goal focused person, I also decided to train for a half marathon as I felt that 14 week training program would help me cross a big chunk of time off the calendar quickly.  Every week that I finished in my training log meant that it would be one week closer to when Ben would potentially come back. (since we weren’t really sure of the actual date at that point).  Exercise is another important way to keep your mind clear and to relieve the stress of being a now Army Mom with a child deployed.

appAnd finally, I used a countdown app to provide me with an approximate number of days.  The first one was focused on a return date of March 15th. And the second one was focused on the somewhat more concrete date that I approximated of February 15th.  And as I sit here and type this part of the post, it is now February 15th and I have been sitting at Fort Campbell since about 10:00 pm on Wednesday night, waiting for my boy to arrive.  I have about five hours now and I am so excited to have this day finally here – the waiting is almost over!

I asked other Army Moms how they passed the time and here are some other perspectives on this time of waiting:

 

  • I am a runner.  I trained and ran my first marathon while my son was deployed.  I’d say any hobby you have that is time consuming or take up a new hobby.”
  • My son has only been gone a month. I finally sent two boxes out. One was a Valentine’s box and the other was his sheets and toiletries. He has told his girlfriend and myself not to send anything. I get a text via WhatsApp daily to answer a question I have asked. He does randomly message me but not a lot of chatting. I also send him pics of our animals and food we have eaten. He has sent us some pics also which we are very thankful. He is not much on FaceTime so we will have to rely on pics and just wait to see him in the fall. I work to keep my mind busy and I know that he is doing is job. He chose this job and I am here to support him. He is only 18 but getting an experience of a lifetime.
  • I still don’t have an address yet. He has a younger brother to keep me busy that’s in high school
  • I used fb messenger to send messages to my son. All hours of the day and night since his schedule constantly switched. Every few days he would get them all and answer. I very rarely asked specific questions regarding his life on deployment because that is how he wanted it. He tended to tell his father and brothers a few more details than he told me or his wife. He and I talked about some of his flights and the scenery… we talked about our 4 crazy dogs.. how his wife was doing.. and his two crazy little brothers and their silly antics… and unfortunately we talked a little about his papa who passed away in December while my son was deployed. I really didn’t want to notify him of that.. but had to. I did spare him family drama as much as humanly possible so there’s lots of stuff he simply doesn’t know. My goal was to burden him with home as little as possible so that he could keep his mind on the missions.
  • I sent him care packages with crazy stuff in it … like coloring books and puzzles… just to let him take a few minutes out of where he was. Also packages with coffee, crystal light, chips, beef jerky, crackers, etc… At Christmas we sent a Christmas tree, lights, and hand painted decorations… an advent calendar that I made and his little brothers put random stuff in😂 … plus small presents. Again.. the idea was to distract him.

arrivingWe were suppose to arrive at Hangar 3 two hours early, in case the flight arrived even earlier.  I could not sit in my hotel room and wait any longer, so I headed out at about 9:25 a.m. and arrived 15 minutes later.  I did not have to worry that I would be the first one there as there were about 20 cars already in the parking lot. I followed in families carrying balloons and families pushing baby strollers.  When entering the Hangar, I was overwhelmed by all the banners welcoming different bannersgroups home, by the huge American flag, and by the 101st Airborne flag. The enormity of this deployment suddenly hit home to me and I was overcome by tears.  After heading to the ladies’ room, I found a spot on the bleachers, near another parent and was just quiet and teary. The emotions that had been bottled up over this eight months was now bubbling to the surface and I couldn’t stop it. I didn’t want to say a word to anyone, which is not like me.  Finally, as more and more families came in, I pulled it together and began to observe. There were many young children there, wearing tee-shirts such as “My Daddy is My Hero”, and “Move out of the way, my dad is coming home today”. A large pink balloon read “Come meet your baby and see balloonyour girls!”  Another mom sat on the bottom bleacher, holding her four month old, while her almost two year old girl scampered up and down the stairs and her four year old boy was being chased around by another four year old dressed as a police officer. Another family and balloonsyoung mom and her four children, each carrying an animal balloon that said “I love you” stood in the middle of the floor for a picture.  Young wives were dressed as if they were going out to a fancy restaurant, instead of being at a hot hangar. I was taking this all in, when another young wife, dressed elegantly in a deep red long wool coat and matching red nails came to sit near me. She said how nervous she was, she was just married in March and her husband was deployed in June. Another mom, similar to my age, joined in the conversation.  The young wife, had gone home to Arizona during her husband’s deployment to be with her family because she didn’t really know anyone on Ft. Campbell. She had been a member of the National Guard for five years and described how upset that her parents were that she had enlisted and how they were very unsupportive of her decision (she explained that she felt this was more of a cultural issue). The other mom talked about how her son enlisted at age 18, which was a lifelong dream of his because his dad was career Army Special Forces and now works as a trainer for the Navy Seals.  It came to me that she had been through deployments both as wife and as a mom and I asked her which was more difficult. Hands down, doing it as a wife was more difficult she said because she had two children to parent as basically a single parent for long stretches of time and with her son deployed, she had her husband to support her. Another young mom and her four year old joined us. She had also gone home with her child since she also did not know anyone on base. I remembered as when I was a stay at home mom, at times, it was very isolating and I was close to family and also was building a new friend base.  However, it seemed that for perhaps many of these young moms, it was extremely difficult, being in a strange place, with the only person that you knew well, was in Afghanistan. This is a story that many people don’t know, and I felt privileged to be sitting with these strong women. Waiting in this hangar, surrounded by families with children of all ages, with parents, grandparents, banners, flags and balloons really hit home with what a sacrifice those who serve our Country have made to protect our Constitution.

All during this time, the woman in charge, kept coming up to the microphone and telling us how far away the airplane carrying flight number 9720F was from landing.  First it was 90 minutes, then 60 minutes, and then 30 minutes. With 15 minutes to go, we were instructed to go outside to await the arrival of the plane. The cold air was a sharp contrast to the hot hangar, but no-one cared.  The Army band was there, the new General who had just assumed the base command yesterday, was there and a set of stair, stood alone on the runway. After not too long of a wait, someone shouted, “There it is, the off the planeplane!” I could not pick it out, and the young man standing next to me, pointed out you could see the front light of the plane way off in the distance.  It kept coming closer and closer and then, there is was – the plane came into view on the runway. The crowd whistled and cheered. After what seemed a long time, the plane came back, turned around and headed towards the stairs. The General and other personnel, and the band headed out to the plane. After what seemed a long time, and to the cheers of “Open that door!” out walked the first group of soldiers who headed towards the area where I was standing (we were behind fences).  And much to my surprise, one of the first soldiers was Ben. I almost missed him walking by, but he was able to spot me with my Welcome Back banner. Hurriedly, I rushed back inside to get a seat on the bleachers. I passed another Mom and Dad, carrying a similar but larger banner of their daughter. I asked that Mom what helped her wait and she said “Prayers, lots of prayers.”

The next set of waiting… for everyone to come back into the hangar, for the doors to open, for the remarks to be over, for two songs to be sung, seemed to take forever.  And then the word was given to go find your families. I didn’t know how I would find Ben in this sea of people. But I didn’t have to wait for long. He found me. My tears flowed freely as my strong son hugged me.  The waiting was over.

Waiting – the story of Army Moms and Army Families.  Thank them all for their service and sacrifice.

another army mom

 

Thanks for joining me in my new creative and scholarly adventure.  This blog tells stories:  stories of places that you may pass by everyday, not knowing its unique history, stories of people, and stories of places, plants and animals that you may not know about.  The idea for this new blog started off by just my being curious about some of the sites I was viewing on my walking routes.  Those set of photographs were originally called “Abandoned” but upon looking at a Google Earth view of one of the locations of an old farm stand, I saw an old foundation from this bird’s eye view.  That made me think that instead of thinking of these places as abandoned, that there was more to this farm stand’s story than I knew.  I love forming questions and then researching those questions to seek answers.  Utilizing my research skills, I visited the Special Collections Room at the Concord Public Library to find out the history of this particular location.  And, then this idea was born:  a place to marry the things I am curious about, with my photographs, and my love of researching to tell a new story. My favorite song from Hamilton is, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, so this new blog is dedicated to telling the stories of ordinary places, people, and things whose story might go unknown otherwise.  The quote below, sums up well the intent of this new blog.

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The picture alone, without the written word, leaves half the story untold.
— James Lafferty