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History Corner: Day Before Yesterday
On Maple Sugar Trees and Red Oldsmobiles

Nat Frothingham, co-founder, writer, editor, and publisher emeritus of The Bridge, was once an English teacher in Randolph. As such, he got involved in the lives of his students. One student, Bette Lambert, grew up on a farm where they produced maple syrup — among other farm things. The combination of Bette Lambert and Nat Frothingham led to the 1973 production of “Maple Sugar Trees and Red Oldsmobiles,” self published by an unnamed group of people who dubbed themselves “general delivery.” In it, unattributed student poems are interspersed with memories of old-timers. To honor sugaring season, I will quote some of the old-timers’ memories as given to the authors in 1973:

“We sugared some, sold syrup fer $1.25 a gallon; back then it was mostly made into sugar. Remember th’stage, could go from Barre to Montpelier for 10 cents. No, I never went to dances much myself, suppose some had themselves a pretty good time. I suppose the young people wouldn’t agree, but I liked it better then …. ” 

—Mr. Clough, Chelsea

“… people just didn’t have the money those days as they do now. We made butter … sold it twice a year; then in the fall we sold the sheep we didn’t want to winter. Had some hogs; sold cream t’the creamery in Northfield. Got credit all summer at th’store till we could pay up ‘round fall. We used oxen before horses, didn’t have the income t’get a team of horses. Oxen were good t’sugar with, on account of their feet was cleared … broke through the crust better than horses; didn’t cut their legs on the crust. Horses were more delicate … most often sharpshod, apt to step on themselves in deep snow. But the heat bothered the oxen more … too slow to mow with, too. When we got horses we started usin’ a two-wheeled sulky plow. You raise one blade up and go up the’field plowin’ then when you get t’the end, you turn ‘round and put th’other blade down, and raise t’other….” 

—Albert Parker, age 79.5, North Pomfret

Tangled weeds

   float back and forth

   letting the water rush through