Williamstown Branch


So, on my way upstreet, I came to many houses and other structures that had meaning for me. There was George Beckett’s harness shop and his new house and the older house on the back of the lot where we lived for a while later on; there was the Edison Girls’ brick house on the left; there was in succession, on the left, the Town Hall, the Universalist Church, the Congregationalist Church, and the Methodist Church; there were, on the right, the stores, beginning with a modest establishment run by a Mr. Brockway, an elderly man with a short beard and a quiet disposition. I don’t now see how Mr. Brockway made his living, and maybe he didn’t; maybe he only thought he did. His stock was crowded higgledy-piggledy into a rather small, dark room; he had a pronounced lack of enthusiasm about everything; and though he was polite in a melancholy sort of way, I never saw many persons in his store, or heard the sort of conversation that was audible in J. K. Linton’s establishment and that was so educational to young boys.

Beyond Mr. Brockway’s store, still on the right, was the meat market where Ben Weaver would sell you a steak for twenty-five cents, but it would be a good steak, and maybe he would give a boy a slice of bologna free. He would also give away crackling, which was the residue from pork fat tried out to make lard; I didn’t like this at all, but it was filling.

Then one came to the Linton store, the Monument House, the other drugstore—the one Fred Ainsworth didn’t own—and the S’eaver store, which I think sold clothes, furniture, and various odds and ends, and must have competed in some respects with J. K. Linton’s establishment. And there were the three churches on the left.

By this time one would be about at the bridge, the upper bridge, with I forget what on the right side and the blacksmith shop on the left side. On the far side of the bridge a road led up to the box factory and then into farm country. I think there was a cheese factory, too, and perhaps at that time, or a little earlier, they had put the cheese in boxes and shipped it out.

On such a tour of our village I would avoid the road to Barre, which kept straight ahead, and swing right toward Mill Village. The sawmill and the gristmill might engage me for a few minutes, and then I would swing right some more, past a wood-working shop above the mill dam; and this was often worth looking into—and smelled better than any perfume, except possibly new-mown hay and some scents of cooking.

There were a few modest houses beside the stream, and these, I believe, belonged to French-Canadian “lumpers” who worked in the stone-sheds. I was a little afraid of the French-Canadians, I can’t recall why. They were, in general, I now realize, the best-natured of men, and when they threatened to kill each other they never intended to do so. But I hurried by, if I was alone.

Opposite these houses there was a farm, owned by I don’t know whom, and what I remember of it now is the way it looked one fall—maybe the fall of 1898—when the field nearest the road had been planted to corn and pumpkins. I stole an ear of corn, which was hard chewing, but what I remember is the beauty of the yellow pumpkins among the brown stalks.

Our tour would now bring us past the Rattlesnake Tavern and so around to the stone-sheds and over another little bridge whence one could look across the marsh and the meadow and see the General E. Bass house.

Then one came to the railway station, and maybe, even after all this walking, it was still bright morning and Old Man Webb was at the throttle ready to take the train down the grade to Barre, and Jim Kennealy, the conductor, was yelling “B-o-a-r-r-r-r-dl” the way an old-fashioned conductor always did, as though two or three thousand people were waiting for the word.

I did not, in fact, leave Williamstown until 1901. Yet now it seems to be time to step aboard. It is time, after this tour of 1898, to say goodbye to that year. Jim Kennealy repeats his “B-o-a-r-r-r-r-dl” Old Man Webb pulls his throttle and blows his whistle, and the fireman—ah, if only I could have been that fireman on at least one trip!—rings the bell frantically.

We are moving, gathering speed, down the grade to Barre and points north, south, east, and west. We are also headed toward the twentieth century. I look back with homesickness and forward with eagerness. Soon we are out of sight of Williamstown and the year 1898.