By Darrell Cass
Being a descendant of most of the town’s founding fathers, I remember the days of giant family gatherings on our farm listening to the baseball game on the radio; and friends chatting away in my grandmother’s small town family restaurant. Not all that far removed from their lifestyle, we were living the American dream – big families on big farms with lots of friends and family with whom we shared our good fortune. When some of the new farmers arrived in town after the great stock market crash of 1929 and were unable to get the bank loans they needed to establish their own businesses, my grandfather came through like a knight in shining armor and personally gave them the loans. We had faith in our fellow Americans and helped each other back in those community barn-raising days. We were free and our own bosses in control of our destiny for generations. Like our founding fathers, we believed in a free government without tyranny, democracy without oppression, the civic responsibility that freedom demands, and true patriots.
When I had a little girl, I knew there was only one place I wanted to raise her. So I brought her back to the town we had cherished memories of for centuries and family houses still standing from as far back as Grandpa Cass’s farmhouse built in 1800 at 50 Foster Rd. – complete with its bee-hive oven and double fireplaces that branched off into the master bedroom.
The farm also included five chicken barns that made it the biggest chicken farm in western Massachusetts. But don’t look for it now, three of the barns burned down long ago and the house was recently torn down.
To get my daughter up to speed, we started with the old Pioneer Dairy Grandma Cass founded with her second husband Charlie Nutter, Paul and Brett Colson’s grandfather. Then I pointed out the adjacent houses Grandpa Cass had built for employees. Then we headed across town to Great Grandpa’s house on my mother’s side, the old Judson Root farmhouse (now Stanley Brzoska’s) at 384 College Hwy. This is the house everyone from my grandmother Isabel Root Carr to me and my brothers Steve, Gary, and Rory were born in. I showed her the house across the street on the corner of Bugbee we owned for generations and told her about the church in the back that the town needed to incorporate. It burned down soon after. We meandered around the other side of Mr. Brzoska’s to our old sandpit that was part of the 200 acre farm and our own very large sand box that is now the Shell Station, Industrial Road, and the town dump.
I was like a kid in a candy store, even in the two cemeteries, as centuries of our family’s history suddenly jump-started my memory. With each gravestone we saw I told her of long gone family and friends. It seemed as if we were related to or knew everyone.
Time was fleeting with the short winter days, so we scurried a stone’s throw down the street to the old twin Root houses built in the early 1700’s on the corners of Klaus Anderson and Fred Jackson Rd.
Finally we got back to Mom’s and read the letter from President Eisenhower congratulating Grammy Carr on being voted Republican County Chairman. We pulled out a picture and newspaper article of her mother’s celebrity wedding to Doctor Carr back when we owned half the town.
After going through pictures that included Gram’s original Salmon Brook Restaurant down town, we decided to go sliding at the high school. It was a typical cold, windy day on the hill, so we warmed our bodies and souls inside where trophies and pictures of more family and friends lined the walls. We strolled the halls as I pointed out classroom after classroom and told stories of teachers and great times in each. We even saw the prettiest lady from my old foods class working there. Then the teachers let my daughter do puppet shadows on the library screen. We finished our tour at the superintendent’s office where photos of many old schools named after family members hang on the walls.
What a day! My daughter said it was the greatest day of her life… we were home!
So I registered her for school and snatched up a house with a nice mother-in-law apartment for my mom. That first year was great, just like old times at our open, friendly schools. I was really excited and jumped in head first – volunteering for everything. The principal even knew my mom from her volunteer days – making our move even sweeter.
As a descendant of William Bradford, I read to the kids at Thanksgiving – doing my Mrs. Doubtfire impression reading the lady’s lines. I had them rolling in the aisles… and half the teachers too! We were like a big happy family.
Like many others who moved their kids back from their own cherished memories, we were back in our hometown that had escaped the new world order… or had it? I found much had changed in my small town, and akin to Socrates, twenty-first century America was just too much to resist. I had to write a book.
Darrell Cass is the author of A Look in the Mirror: The Disintegration Of Our Morals, Values, Ethics and Society – Can America Be Saved? . For more info visit www.alookinthemirror.net