Welcome to this month’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located at 421 Summer Street. Our summer hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers. Please stop in and check out the WWI exhibit, newly acquired painting of the Rev. Sumner Clapp who was the first minister at the South Congregational Church. Join us on July 1st for the opening of our permanent St. Johnsbury Town Band exhibit and concert.
A Fat Envelope & A Summer House
Tis the season of graduations and reunions and end of school calendars full of activities! This column will focus on the reunion part of the season. St. Johnsbury Academy’s class of 1965 does not wait for a reunion every five years; almost every month the date is sent out for the next luncheon. Linda Graves Thompson is the chief organizer in getting as many women there as possible. To be sure if a gentleman from said class asks if they may attend – the answer is always “yes.” Attendance is always at its peak in the summer and early fall before people take flight from the winter months. During the late fall and early spring, the gatherings are held at History & Heritage as we are not open on Thursdays and I happen to be a member of ’65. In April, we had classmates from the other side of the state finally venture out on clear roads and they arrived a little early and four of us headed south on Summer Street just to kill some time. There was the usual remembrance of who lived where; the bowling alley in the old Goss building on the corner of Summer and Central, Brightlook Hospital and the former house to the right of the hospital that is not there now but was the home of classmate Reg Wakeham back in the day. We joined others back at History & Heritage and got caught up with each other and reminisced about just about everything from walking home alone from kindergarten to who played what in the band. Before folks, left a fat envelope was given to me for History & Heritage. It contained close to five hundred dollars in support of the Center and for the privilege of meeting there. It was a total surprise and made me aware that even though we may be in different locations, our roots are in St. Johnsbury and we relive portions of memories every time we gather.
Stan Crane, class of 1969 at the Academy and celebrating his 50th reunion this past weekend, is responsible for the newest structure on the property of History & Heritage. We had a picture of the summer house that used to sit on the north lawn from former resident of the house, Dan Brodein. One dictionary defined a summer house as “ A covered structure in a garden or park designed to provide a shady resting place in summer.” Dan said his grandparents, Dan and Nellie Gilman bought the house and Dan remembers his family joined them in the home when Dan was about a second grader. Grandfather Dan was everything about farming and did business buying and selling horses and cattle. Grandmother Nellie was a schoolteacher in Wheelock. The black and white photo shows the summer house with Nellie and her great grandson Neil in front of it. Dan remembers it was enjoyed in the summer, never screened in and he played in it as a kid. When asked what he thought about the new one, Dan said, “close to what it was.” That is a real compliment to the talents of retired math teacher, Stan Crane. Not only did he recreate it but he cut the tree and milled the lumber for it! Another volunteer, David Forbes, was most often seen helping out Stan. Looking out the window at the progress you could see the two discussing the angle of the roof and what would work the best. Good ole Yankee ingenuity was at its best at History & Heritage. Bob Gibson and Steve Slayton were two other volunteers that lent a hand when needed. When it came time for the roof boards, Stan’s son, Paul joined the two man crew and one day Paul’s wife, Dawn, was helping with the measuring and holding the boards for cutting – a real family affair. When I arrived Saturday morning around 8:15 to open up for possible alumni that might come, there was Stan, putting the railing in place prior to going to his class luncheon at Joes Pond! I have to say that I don’t know of anything that Stan cannot do and if he doesn’t know how to do something – it is not worth doing!
The new summer house will be the focal point of the Monday night St. Johnsbury Band concert at 7:00 p.m. on July 1st. Not only will it be the first formal use of the structure but the concert will celebrate the permanent exhibit of the Town Band in the History & Heritage house. They are the third oldest continuous playing band in the country. West Point Army Band is first, followed by Allentown Pennsylvania. Please join us as we celebrate the extraordinary volunteers of both the band and History & Heritage.
This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home and barn a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Browse our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.