Updated: Apr 18
Welcome to the May 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 in our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street as of August. We officially opened our doors to the public on November 1st. We are still a work in progress but it was time for us to show you what your volunteer efforts or monetary gifts have accomplished. For the present time, the Center has been open Monday through Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; beginning June 1st we will be open Monday through Saturday from 10:a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 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. Our current goals for 2016 are the moving of the collections from the Museum; reception area installation; opening the carriage barn showcasing horse drawn vehicles; and the installation of a permanent platform wagon scale. 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.
Goodbye to Ruth Crane, the Voice of our Natural Surroundings
Ruth loved the grandfather clock that once stood in the gift shop at the Fairbanks Museum – it moved to the History & Heritage Center last year. On May 10th, it started striking without stopping as Ruth took leave of us. As news of her passing was learned, many recalled waking to the bird calls that started Ruth’s broadcasts of the weather on WTWN with either Doug Drown or Don Mullally. Others remembered her columns “Right In Your Backyard” in the Caledonian Record or they remembered her reign over the Flower Table at the Museum.
Ruth’s tenure at the Fairbanks Museum began as a volunteer, two half days a week, in the 1970’s when three sons were already in college and two were in the St. J. Academy. She must have been a top notch volunteer as only three months went by before Fred Mold asked her to become a member of the staff. Birds and flowers had always been interests of Ruth, so it was a match for all concerned. She was a master at organization so the added job of registrar was in very capable hands.
Ruth did not step into the limelight easily but for those of you that remember Fred Mold who could talk an Eskimo into buying a fridge, he talked Ruth into being capable of doing weather broadcasts! There was no “winging” it with Ruth; every script was written out fully and weather records were meticulously kept during her twenty five years there. A short script on a bird began her weather forecast consisting of the call of the chosen one, a description and habits. Ruth was not one to waste time, money or things – her “use it up” philosophy was exhibited in her December 31, 1990 weather broadcast:
“It is about time to dispose of Christmas trees and I’d like to remind folks that they make a good extra birdfeeder for the rest of the winter. They are attractive and offer some shelter as well. Place the tree where you can enjoy seeing it, anchor securely from blowing over, and hang all sorts of goodies on the branches. If you have popcorn and cranberry ropes on it now – leave them. Empty grapefruit halves make good baskets for seeds or nuthatch pudding – maybe hang a few donuts – just use your imagination. Now back to the weather –“
With regards to Ruth’s custody of the flower table, that had its roots back in 1903, she made it a work of art, everything in its place and placed according to size and attractiveness. I can remember hearing her say of a specimen – “this doesn’t look very good, do we have another one?” Ruth remembered a circular, tiered cabinet that Fred acquired that was used for display. She was quite pleased with Charlie Browne’s idea of using the herbarium cabinet to take the place of the other – Ruth said in a talk – “A new stair-step top was added and it now serves the purpose quite appropriately – dried flowers beneath and live ones on top.” It is a wonderful “open book” for identification and those visiting the table will note that it is named in her honor.
Flower Table – Image from the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
In 2001, The Franklin Fairbanks Award was presented to Ruth “for lifelong creative and dedicated service to the residents of Vermont.” Her education about nature reached both listeners and readers, students and various organizations of the area.
One of the highlights of my time at the Museum was sharing an office with Ruth. At one time I called us “cellmates” as we had a small, windowless “hole in the wall” with the two original roll top desks back to back. One summer we had mushrooms growing in a break in the floor! We shared life’s ups and downs and I learned a thing or two about organization and priorities – family first! I took a page from Fred’s persuasion book and both she and husband Ed became involved with Craft Days.
She was a trooper – taking her first canoe ride with the staff on the Passumpsic River, hiking up Wheeler Mountain with the youngest of us, showing us the best and most attractive way to serve cookies and enjoying each of us for what we bought to the Museum. Her legacy will forever be a part of the Fairbanks Museum’s history.