By Marian Leavitt Lavasseur, Barefoot Tracks in Vermont
When I think of Old East Barnard, I think of the people who lived here for a long time or for a short time and I think of the houses and the barns. Many are gone and many are new and some of the newer ones were built where older ones had once stood. Some stay pretty much the same and some change.
To me, East Barnard is not just the little village that is the community center, but it branches out up the East Barnard Road to-wards Barnard and South Royalton, but also up the Pomfret Road, Lime Pond Road and the Broad Brook road towards South Royalton and Sharon.
The people I remember as a child are long gone now and even though they lived a few miles in several directions from East Barnard, they all seemed like East Barnard folks and we knew them all. There are many characters who really stood out and are re-membered for good, bad or other reasons.
Clayt and Carrie Haskins lived on Lime Pond Road where Ralph and Connie Kurek now live. Clayt’s face seemed to be one big grin and I thought it made people happy just to be near him.
There were a few doctors who were summer neighbors, Dr. Corwin lived at what we know best as the Chang place. Sometimes East Barnard folks went to him with a medical problem. The Corwins were good neighbors and provided boxes of hard Christmas candy each year for local children. No matter how many or how few gifts we got at the school Christmas program there was always the special box of candy from the Corwins!
Aldor LaCroix lived near the Bowman Road, where David and Jennifer Firestone now live. Aldor was a singer and often was part of an East Barnard quartet. He was a fine tenor.
The Woolley’s lived on the corner below the Paige house. I am not sure of the number of girls in the family, but the four boys were well known. When talking about the Woolley boys someone would usually pipe up with this little verse, “John, Jeff, Jim and Joe and that is how the Woolley boys go!”
The Wheelers lived at the Aiken Stand on the Turnpike Road. Sadie was an amply endowed lady and she could Sing! Somehow the roof stayed on the Community Hall where she lifted her voice!
Fred and Janet Schlabach lived in the old Dr. Howland house. He once in a while had an East Bar-nard patient. I was taken to him after an outbreak of hives. I must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me.
Jack Quilla lived just above Aldor LaCroix’s place. When Jack was young he had an acci-dent – fell out of a tree, I think. He was paralyzed from the waist down and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He had relatives nearby and was often at East Barnard Functions, especially if there was a musical evening, because he played the guitar and perhaps the accordion. He was well known for repairing clocks and watches.
One summer, my cousin, Eleanor from Chicago visited us for a while. She was 17 and it was soon learned that she was a beautiful singer. She was asked to sing at a program in East Barnard. We told her that Jack Quillia had a guitar that she might be able to borrow. In those days there were few cars around and farmers could not take time off on a good haying day to take young ladies off someplace to play on a guitar, so Eleanor went on horseback. I was about 13 at the time and had spent many hours riding my Gramp’s little gray mare, Maggie. I saddled her for Eleanor and told her how to get to Jack’s house, which was about three miles away. Eleanor was not used to horses and I told her, “For goodness sakes don’t ride through East Barnard hanging onto the saddle or people will think you are a real green horn!” I suspect she walked Maggie every step of the way, but she made the trip up and back with no problem. She did get to use the guitar. The thing that impressed her the most about the crippled Vermont man was his knowledge of clocks and watches. She wore a very dainty little wristwatch and they had a discussion about the jewels in it. She did not agree with him. She said he opened the watch “with only a jack knife” and showed her the jewels and proved his point.
Two other doctors were brother and sister of the Brailey family who were our closest neighbors. Dr. Miriam Brailey and her brother Allen Brailey came to relax away from their practices. One summer when Mom was sick Dad asked his old friend Dr. Allen Brailey to come and see her. He did come, but because he was on vacation he did not have medical equipment with him. He took a magazine, ripped off the cover and rolled it and used it as a stethoscope to listen to Mom’s heart. I was about 11 and I was shocked to see the doctor rip that magazine! But, it seemed to serve the purpose.
The Thompson’s lived on what is called “Hawk’s Hill,” now. That is where Randy and Lisa Robar live. Mr. Thompson was missing parts of his fingers on one hand. We kids asked what happened to his fingers and he said, “Fish bit them off in the woods!”
The Thompson’s had two sons, Edney and John and they were both musicians. I never heard Edney play and sing, but John did a lot. Everyone enjoyed hearing him sing, “The Little Shirt That Mother Made For Me.”
My mother, Josephine Moore Leavitt, was a hard-working Vermonter who raised a family of seven children. She worked in the hay field and she always raised a large vegetable garden and canned foods galore. She never got her driver’s license until she was 70!
When she was young and having babies, one of her aunts said, “Poor Jo! All those children. She’s going to be old before her time!” Well, Mom proved just the opposite! She was always very youthful and lively. Many times she was thought to be an older sister of mine.
When she was about 95, a gang of us were at her house one day and the conversation centered around dishes and a certain dish that she had not seen for a while. “Perhaps it’s on the top shelf of the cupboard.” I hopped onto a chair and tired to find the dish behind other dishes, cups and saucers up there. Mom said, “Marian, get down from there before you fall and hurt yourself.” I loved my mother dearly and did not want to distress her, so I hopped off the chair. In about one second there was Mom, up on the chair pawing through the dishes on the top shelf of the cupboard!
By Marian Leavitt Lavasseur, Barefoot Tracks in Vermont