Cover Photo by Eric Blaisdell
Passumpsic Railroad - P. 14
Route 5 long ago - P. 3 Get away at Milarepa - P. 8 Ride for free - P. 11 Bring the past to life - P. 21
NewsINK Staff: Eric Blaisdell Morgan Forester Erin Milne Samantha Knight Samantha VanSchoick Adviser: Dan Williams Cover photo: Northeast Kingdom towns are represented on the Passumpsic Railroad, a life-sized train set in Barnet. NewsINK is a publication of the Vermont Center for Community Journalism at Lyndon State College. Find us online at Issuu.com/newsink. Address queries to: NewsINK, Department of Electronic Journalism Arts, Lyndon State College, P.O. Box 919, Lyndonville, Vt. 05849.
Keeping History Alive
When Route 5 was finally paved to Lyndon in the 1930s, the town celebrated with a parade. People called it the Hard Road and the Cement Road. The entire roadway, designated a U.S. highway, ran from Connecticut to the Canadian border. It still does, but its importance as a transportation corridor fell sharply when Interstate 91 was built. NewsINK looks at Route 5 in Vermontâ€™s Northeast Kingdom through the eyes of the people who use it every day.
Photo By Erin Milne
Amateur historian Dwayne Garfield holds a County Gazetteer, one of many artifacts about local history in his collection.
Dwayne Garfield has a passion for history. “When I was a little boy, I used to hang around with old folks, so I heard a lot of stories,” Garfield says as he looks out over the pile of Lyndon memorabilia on his kitchen table at his home on Lily Pond Road in Lyndon. Now nearly 73, Garfield has amassed an impressive collection of photos, books, and documents all pertaining to the history of the town. Most of all, though, he has stories. “I donʼt know if Capone and them came here, but Iʼve heard some awful stories,” Garfield says of Lyndonʼs wild prohibition days. He adds that many of the townʼs people, including his own father, were involved in bootlegging then because the area was poor and it was a good way to make money. Born in Burke Hollow in 1939, Garfield grew up there and in Lyndon Corner. In Lyndon Corner, he lived in a house on the sharp bend of Route 5 at York Street. The house is still there. Though Route 5 was asphalted when he lived there, he says that it was originally paved with concrete in the 1930s, and the seams in the cement can still be felt today in the form of bumps under the asphalt. According to Garfield, Lyndon Corner was “the original Lyndonville,” back when the current downtown area was just fields. The center of town started moving north when the St. Johnsbury railroad shops burned and were
rebuilt where the Lyndon Freight House now stands. Garfield says each part of the town had a different name back then: Lyndon Corner was known as “Happytown,” the area along Route 5 where McDonaldʼs now stands was called “Hadleyville,” and East Lyndon was called “Swaggerham.” Garfield also remembers the dogsled races that took place on Main Street in Lyndonville, saying the mushers would throw orange peels in front of their dogs to make them run. The races eventually were ended because they forced traffic to be detoured. Garfield is not the only one keeping the memories of Lyndonʼs earlier days alive. Many of the townʼs older residents have plenty of their own stories to tell. One such person is Russell Wilson, now nearly 92 years old and a life-long resident of Lyndon. He too grew up in Lyndon Corner and remembers when a sign reading “Sound Your Claxon” stood on Route 5ʼs sharp bend. “Claxon” referred to a type of nowantique car horn, and the idea was to blow your horn so drivers on the other side of the turn would know you were coming. Wilson also recalls when Route 5 was paved in the 1930s; at 10 years old, he couldnʼt understand why. “I always thought that road was kept in pretty good shape as a dirt road,” Wilson says. The paving didnʼt change life very much for his family, though he did
“I donʼt know if Capone and them came here, but Iʼve heard some awful stories” --Dwayne Garfield
Story by Erin Milne
Another piece of Garfield’s collection: a survey map of Lyndon dating from the 1870s. Photo by Erin Milne
Left: The Lyndonville Military Band poses for a photo in 1946. Russell Wilson, who has lived in Lyndon most of his 92 years, is the drummer pictured on the far right. Below: McDonaldâ€™s and Dollar General would be visible if this photo were taken today. It shows the Lyndon area once called Hadleyville. The Passumpsic River is in the background.
Photos Courtesy of Dwayne Garfield
Above: Dwayne Garfield lived in an apartment in this building in Lyndon Corner on Route 5 at York Street. Right: An ornate Victorian house, one of 11 dwellings that were moved to make way for I-91, according to Garfield. Below: The Stern Block on the corner of Depot and Broad Streets (Route 5) burned down in 1924. Photos Courtesy of Dwayne Garfield
NewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInkNewsInk note that it made it a bit easier to get around in mud season. Wilson also remembers when the center of Lyndonville along Route 5 was very undeveloped. A large swamp once existed near where Kinney Drugs now stands, and Wilson says it was known as “The Willows” and he recalls seeing it on a postcard. In the spring time, the sound of frogs peeping there was deafening. “You wouldnʼt know frogs ever lived in the place, hardly,” Wilson says of how the area has changed. Deanna Wheeler also knows how the town has changed. One of her favorite memories is of the trotting horse races that used to take place on Main Street each Saturday during the winter. This meant traffic had to be rerouted, and the townspeople began to complain, so the races became restricted to just Presidentʼs Day. “I remember that as a kid, standing on the snow banks, watching the races,” Wheeler says. In the 1950s, the races moved off Main Street entirely and were held instead at the Caledonia County Fair-
grounds. Wheeler, a retired teacher who graduated from Lyndon State College in 1959, marshaled the races at the fairgrounds and says she was disappointed when the track was seeded with grass. Wheeler also recalls the changes to Main Street itself. “I remember Main Street when it was really, really nice. The houses were beautiful,” Wheeler says. That was before the Dutch Elm Disease, which destroyed many of the trees that lined Main Street. Today, Wheeler says the street lacks its old splendor. “Itʼs not kept up now. Itʼs not like it used to be,” Wheeler says. One change involved Wheelerʼs own family. In 1939, her father opened Blakeʼs Garage, an auto service center and car dealership, where the China Moon Buffet now stands on Broad Street. The business was very successful for many years but failed in the 1950s after an employee embezzled $10,000. Wheelerʼs father went to work at a gas station to pay back the resulting debts.
Photo Courtesy of Dwayne Garfield
Blake’s Garage on Broad Street in Lyndonville. China Moon now stands on the spot..
Take Sanctuary In Barnet
Story and Photos by Morgan Forester
Up a steep, narrow road off Route 5 in Barnet sits a quiet farmhouse. It is the home to Milarepa, the Buddhist retreat.
and even a mother who just The center has been here needed some time away from her since 1981, offering a quiet place kids for the weekend,” says Miller. for anyone to come for reflection The center also offers a workand peace. study program for those interested The Venerable Amy Miller, a in a deeper study of Buddhism. Buddhist nun, is the director of the “We have people who come center. She also teaches meditafrom all over the world to do work tion classes and plans pilgrimages study-with us.” to Nepal. She came to this seThe students work thirty hours questered spot three and a half around the center to pay for room years ago following the death of a and board while they stay. great Buddha master she attended “People find us on the website in India. Photo Courtesy of milarepacenter.org and they have their normal jobs “I spent some time running The Venerable Amy Miller, Milarepa director but want something more meancenters out in California. As a Budingful, a new spiritual path, so dhist nun I looked for places that they come here.” need help and this center The center isnʼt just for was in need of a director.” Buddhists or those seekAnother pull was being ing to learn more about close to her family who live Buddhism. Miller calls it an on the East Coast. open space where everyMilerepa is a small one is welcome. center but has a lot to “You donʼt have to be offer. There are many reBuddhist to come here. I treats throughout the year know a lot of people get as well as programs and intimidated. They see our classes in between the rehill and they get a little treats. Cabins can be nervous but once they get rented out by anyone who up here they see itʼs a needs to get away. nice farmhouse and every“Weʼve had yoga instructors, writers, teachers, one is really nice.”
Clockwise from top: Prayer wheels adorn a fence at the Milarepa Buddhist Center; a drum in the meditation room at the retreat; a statue of Milarepa, one of Tibet’s most famous mystics, watches over guests; small Buddha statues form minishrines that climb the Buddhist center’s stupa, a religious monument that overlooks Route 5.
Tales from the NEKâ€™s
Christine E. Maddox gets off the Jay-Lyn bus at Lyndon State College.
Story and Photos by Erin Milne
Bob Patton has seen and heard his share of interesting things on the bus. One was a paranoid passenger with a mistaken view of property rights. Patton recalls her words: “These foreigners, theyʼre buying park land in America. What if they want to start a war? They can drop paratroopers on their land and we canʼt do a thing about it because itʼs their land!” Other passengers aboard Rural Community Transportation bus are quieter but equally interesting—such as the 85-year-old man who Patton says sometimes rides all day just for fun. And then there are the drivers. Patton says each has a distinct personality and most are very helpful, though some are more adamant about sticking to the schedule than others. Patton is not alone in his experiences. According to Sandy Thorpe, RCT transit director, about 100 people ride the Jay-Lyn route along Route 5 between Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury each day, and they come from all walks of life. “There can be very low-income, and we have people making $60,000 to $70,000 a year who ride the bus between St. Johnsbury and Montpelier. It really crosses the gamut. Employed, unemployed, children, college students, people going to medical appointments,” Thorpe says. This broad spectrum of riders includes retirees
such as Patton, who takes classes at Lyndon State College, and Christine E. Maddox, who uses the bus for shopping, recreation, and visits to the LSC library, as well as to link to other transit systems to get to Montreal and Boston. “Itʼs nice to talk to people on the bus,” Maddox says. “You meet a variety of people on the bus. Some people take it just so they can talk to someone.” One of her favorite bus memories is the time she met a retired hockey player from Boston. “You hear bits and pieces of other peoplesʼ lives,” Maddox says. Ridership also includes car-less LSC students like Yolanda Liang and Amanda Bernard. Liang is a student from China and says she takes the bus to St. Johnsbury to visit friends about once a month; Bernard does not have a license and usually rides the bus on Wednesdays and Fridays to get to stores and doctorsʼ appointments. Still other people take the bus to work. The RCT bus route began in 1991 as a system for getting Medicaid patients and disabled people to their medical appointments. While the bus still organizes trips for this population, it has since expanded its services to the general public. In addition to the weekday Jay-Lyn route, RCT operates a daily route between Newport and Derby as well as several monthly or bi-monthly shopping routes in northern Vermont. There is also a route known as the U.S. 2 Commuter that runs weekdays from the St. Johnsbury
Amanda Bernard and Don Schiflett are just two of the Jay-Lyn route’s regular riders.
Welcome Center to Montpelier and links to other buses in the Green Mountain Transportation Authority system. Patton said he recently used this route to get to Burlington. “I was basically able to make the whole trip using public transportation,” Patton says, adding that he hitchhiked a brief part of the way. The U.S. 2 Commuter costs $1 for a one-way ride, $8 for a ten-ride pass, or $33.50 for a monthly pass. People ages 6-17 and over 60 can get a 50 percent discount on this route, and all other routes are free for everyone. RCT operates through a combination of federal and state funding. RCT must also match every dollar it gets from state or federal government, and it does this largely through appropriations from the towns that it serves, Thorpe says. She added that RCT is hoping to increase its funding so that it can offer weekend service on its Jay-Lyn route in the future. RCT has 24 full and part-time staff and drivers as well as many volun-
The Jay-Lyn bus heads to its next stop.
teer drivers who receive no money other than gas reimbursement. The average RCT bus gets about 10 miles per gallon. Thorpe says that the bus routes are deviated, so all RCT drivers will stop anywhere that is safe and within one quarter of a mile from the standard bus route. This was not true for Patton on occasion, though; he says one driver who was very concerned about sticking to the schedule was loathe to let him off at the Freight House to pick up raw milk. “All the drivers would let me stop there, except this one driver, who was very punctual,” Patton says. Thorpe also noted that, while ridership tends to go up when gas prices rise, it does not go back down when they fall. “Once they start riding and find out how nice it is,” they tend to stay, Thorpe says. For many of these riders, riding the bus isnʼt just about getting from point A to be point B— itʼs about being part of a community. For many RCT riders, itʼs the unusual sights, sounds, and experiences that make their trip more than just a daily commute.
The Passumpsic Railroad A Real Life Train Set
Story and Photos by Eric Blaisdell East Barnet – Larry Scott trades in his farmerʼs overalls for a wrench every Sunday and repairs old trains. It is something fun to do on the weekends to “get away from the farm for a few minutes and think about something else besides the back end of a cow.” Scott is one of several train buffs who devote one day a week to the Passumpsic Railroad, a lifesized railroad set in Barnet that was started by Dr. Marvin Kendall 25 years ago. The train yard is full of old boxcars and engines, some which are on tracks that run only a couple of feet from a duplex. It covers a large field and spills over into the adjacent woods.
Clockwise from top left: Dave Traczyk giving a tour of the inside of a caboose; Larry Scott next to a train engine that he has been working on; Marvin Kendall started the Passumpsic Railroad 25 years ago.
The Passumpsic Railroad has some pieces that are the last of their kind in the country, if not the world. It also has the only operating steam locomotive in Vermont. Scott owns and operates a farm in Newbury that raises beef, pork and emus. His farm sits right next to a set of train tracks, so Scott says he has always had a love of trains and wishes he were born 50 years ago so he could have really enjoyed them. He drove by the Passumpsic Railroad for over two decades wondering what was going on. Then Scott met up with someone who volunteered at the train yard six years ago. They brought him over and he has been coming back ever since. Marvin Kendall, a former family
medical doctor who now works for Veterans Affairs as a practitioner, started what he calls a railroad museum for the purpose of preserving railroad culture. “(In the past) the country changed from an agrarian society to a mechanical society,” he said. “When it did, the railroads made it possible. They changed the whole world.” Most of the items were donated, but some had to be bartered for. “If I find one of a kind relics I go talk to (the owner). Sometimes it takes years for us to get into some sort of agreement. For one of the cars, we took some large boulders out of a manʼs field (in trade),” he said.
Marvinʼs son Jim Kendall, a mechanical and electrical engineer, is the fourth generation Kendall to be passionate about trains. He enjoys restoring old things and likes the engineering challenges that rebuilding trains can bring. He has a vision to use the train yard as more than a museum; he wants to turn it into a railroad theme park. He sees it as a way for people to connect with a bygone era. “We have a real hands-on component that most preservation places donʼt have,” Jim Kendall said in a phone interview about what he wants to turn the Passumpsic Railroad into. “Families can come and not just be tourists. You can roll up your sleeves and move around rails, drive railroad spikes and operate railroad equipment of all kinds.”
Story continued on page 18
Scenes from the Real Life Train Set
He is already preparing the sixth generation of his family to work on the trains as he brings his six-yearold son to the train yard to help. There is no timetable for having the park up and running because there are so few volunteers and they only work one day a week. The immediate plans involve finishing off the mile long track, including a bridge in the woods, so that it is a complete loop for the trains to run on, but even that is a year or two off. The track is built by hand and involves moving rails that weigh between 1200 and 1500 pounds each. To move one rail takes between eight to twelve people using special tongs. Dave Traczyk worked at a trolley museum in Connecticut before moving to Vermont, so he has some familiarity with the mechanics of the job. He now works at a scale com-
Cont. from page 15
pany and has been volunteering at the Passumpsic Railroad for about 12 years. “Itʼs just something different and unusual. Everyone has different hobbies and interests. To save some of this stuff is kind of nice,” said Traczyk. There is so much restoration and manual labor to do that the men have to prioritize what needs to be done. Some of the men have even resigned themselves to the fact that some projects will not get done in their lifetime. Traczyk says that it comes down to time, energy and money. “You are split up between the three. You only have so much time, especially since you only work one day a week on things. You are limited to people coming and going and money is the other factor. You have to pick your priorities,” he said.
Angie Nelson lives in the duplex apartment building on the property with her husband and five children. She enjoys living so close to the train yard. “I love to hear the sound of it as it is going around,” she said. “The house shakes like an earthquake, which is what I like.” The Kendalls use to run a Christmas train in December for the public and would give the donations from the passengers to a Romanian orphanage. That has fallen through the past couple of years because of other responsibilities and just being too busy, but they do plan on bringing it back. The Passumpsic Railroad is not a theme park yet and visitors are asked to receive permission before they arrive.
2012 World Maple Festival
Every year St. Johnsbury’s Railroad Street (Route 5) is shut down to traffic for one weekend, and maple festivities run wild. It is here that the best maple syrup in the world is judged and named king. This year, Moser’s Maple Products of Beaver Falls, N.Y., took the crown with its “Fancy” grade submisPhotos by Samantha VanSchoick sion.
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery:
Home To St. Johnsburyâ€™s
Pa s t
Story and Photos by Morgan Forester
It is the final resting place for the famed Fairbanks family, and at last count holds more than 13,000 remains. St. Johnsburyʼs Mt. Pleasant Cemetery stretches over a hillside, its twisting and winding walkways lined with gravestones leading down to Route 5, where the few remaining plots in the newer section await their remains. “Around 1850, they were building the courthouse and there was a burial ground so they removed those
graves and brought them over to Mt. Pleasant,” says Les Blodgett. Blodgett has been the caretaker of this old cemetery for the past eight years. He spends his time managing burials and the sales of grave plots but his main focus is running the crematorium, which opened in 1966, the first in Vermont. “They were the only ones in the state for three or four years,” says Blodgett. Standing next to the crematorium is a small chapel built by the Fairbanks family in the 1870s. It is the first thing you see when you pull into the driveway. Originally it was an open pavilion where horses and wagons could pull right through to unload bodies into the underground vault used for storing remains during the winter months when burials cannot take place. Mt. Pleasant covers about 50 acres and, according to Blodgett, is the resting place to many locally famous people. “We have a good portion of the
Fairbanks family; the founder of St. Johnsbury, Jonathan Arnold; the architect who designed the Athenaeum and the North Church, Lambert Packard.” With so many notables it is no wonder Peggy Pearl, head of the St. Johnsbury Cemetery Association, has an annual Ghost Walk. Pearl is also the head of the History and Heritage Association and has a long standing relationship with Mt. Pleasant. Her father was the previous caretaker of the cemetery. Pearl likes to say, “I was raised in a cemetery.” Pearl uses all of her historical knowledge of the cemetery and those who rest there to pick out interesting people for locals to act as during the Ghost Walk. Crowds walk through Mt. Pleasant to meet and talk with the ʻghosts.ʼ The cemetery is always open during the day so even if you miss the Ghost Walk you can always stop just to walk around. According to Blodgett, “people wander around the cemetery all of the time.”
A variety of gravestones dot Mt. Pleasant; marble, slate and granite. Some are old and weathered and some are painfully new.
Published on May 7, 2012