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April 2018 Edition of History & Heritage – Curious & Fun

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 winter hours are Monday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers. Beginning in June our opening days will be Monday – Saturday, same hours. Don’t forget to check out the “Owl Bed.”

This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Check out 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.

Curious and Fun

As winter tries to take its last gasp and we all search for the sunshine, I thought I would share some of the curious and fun things that pop up at History & Heritage as the old collections are catalogued and new collections are added from new donors. Collections from the estate of Graham Newell came to History & Heritage when we were in the process of trying to find a location which means they were stored for some time and now are being properly catalogued. His collections run the gamut from the pictures to a grandfather clock. Graham’s roots started out in St. Johnsbury Center before he took up residence where the Academy Alumni office is today. For those who are not familiar with Graham’s history, his time as an educator both at Lyndon State College and St. Johnsbury Academy and his time at the Vermont Legislature are the pillars of his life’s work. Those at the college level remember well his History of England and Vermont History lectures. Latin was his course at the Academy and how he loved it.

While searching for something in his collection, I ran across this black and white photograph of the top of Eastern Avenue looking down in the early 1900’s. I also recalled a colored postcard of this very same view made in Germany. What was missing in the postcard was the blurred image on the right of the black and white photo. On the back of the photo, it was revealed that the “blur” was Miss Haskell, a teacher at the Academy. Her running to avoid the photographer certainly would have hidden her identity had it not been on the back of the picture! Stillness was a prerequisite to clarity in the early cameras. Still curious about the information on the back, I looked in the book An Historical Sketch of St. Johnsbuy Academy 1842 – 1922 and found she was Edith S. Haskell teaching Rhetoric and English Literature from 1903 – 1906. There was however no indication of the photographer on the picture or postcard reproduction. There was another object missing from the picture when it became a postcard and that was the gas light that you see hanging above the sleigh in the black and white photo – maybe a bit of movement there?

I was also drawn to the monument on the right in Courthouse Park. I knew the base was the Civil War monument that had gone up in the 1860’s, but where in the world had the lady on the top of it gone? I could see the tablets where the names of the deceased were written but where was she? Finally I came to the conclusion that at some point she must have been boxed for protection during the winter months. Yet to be discovered is when the “boxing” started and ended!

On the left, going down Eastern Ave., the 4th building with long windows and steeple was the Presbyterian Church, altered and was known to some as George’s Pizza, Aja’s and a Soup Kitchen. The spire further down was the Universalist Church when it came way out to Eastern Ave before half was removed.

Then and now pictures are fun, nostalgic and create questions. I for one would find history less attractive to study without pictures. Back to winter’s gasp – the sun has broken through as snowflakes dance in the air around late afternoon. Should this weather lose its spring forward again and you would like to read history, last weekend the Caledonian Record had a story entitled No Medal Possible for WWll Hero Priest on USS Indianapolis. You could read the book In Harm’s Way about this tragedy and wonder why most everyone should have gotten a medal. On a local history note, Matthew Thomas has written Maple King, The Making of a Maple Syrup Empire, the story of our own George C. Cary.

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