Saturday, November 13, 2010

Passing of a Sister . . .

Dredges Up Hometown Memories

I'll guess I am reminising back about 75 years or so with this memory. It was not long before the New York World's Fair and probably a couple of years before the celebration of my hometown of Taunton's 300th anniversary.

I'm the last of three Hoye children who lived at 5 Pleadwell Street. About six weeks ago my sister Margery passed away in Oklahoma where she was living with two of her five children. Ill for sometime, she had, reluctantly, moved two years ago to Oklahoma.

Now in rummaging through many boxes of "stuff" in my garage to get rid of maybe 50 years or more of "savings" (at the occasional pushing of a wife also growing old with me) I am running across memories of Margery and brother Paul, now both gone, and of the neighbors of the 30s, 40s and up.

Here's one of those memories, drawn from my memory of a short handwritten note in a school book saying "she chopped more wood than me."

I knew a girl, close to my own age, living a few houses away from my abode on Pleadwell Street. I used to watch her working with her daddy who ran a business called B. Bullock Bagwood Company. Her name was Helen, born in 1920, three years before me.

She was chopping wood one day when I met her in the nearby wood yard that
Mr. Bullock had stacked with lots of short logs and where several men kept busy chopping them into fireplace size chunks. She said "I'm the strongest girl in the world, I can chop wood faster then anybody, more then them!"

Being me, I didn't want any girl saying she was better than me so I challenged her to a chopping contest. Don't ask me what happened after I started chopping.

I had not finished chopping the first log. She had finished three. I think she was eight years old. We became good friends when I visited her often and WATCHED her chopping wood.

After a while I had other interests I guess and didn't pay much attention to her
until I read in the newspaper one day that she was going to be an act at the New York World's Fair in 1940. The fair began really in 1939 but spilled over into the next year.

She was 20 then and with her light brown hair flying, she tackled a pile of wood and in 90 seconds had reduced the pile to a bushel of kindling and before eight minutes had passed she had chopped, packed and tied six bags of fireplace wood.

She had earned the right to claim the title "Strongest Girl in the World." I seem to remember that 50 years later she appeared on the Johnny Carson show
where in greeting him, she clamped a bear hug on Johnny, lifting him into the air and causing him to yell to the orchestra for help.

I never kept track of Helen Bullock although once I heard she was living somewhere in the west, maybe Wyoming or Colorado. She may no longer be among us.

Yeah, she was a pretty strong girl and yes, a pretty girl, too.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


. . .Maybe A Bunch's Still There!

I don't drink liquor. Well, that's a little fib. Now and then I might imbibe but I don't have a stomach for it.
Long ago, like about 67 years ago, I learned a lesson when a bunch of GIs in England, feeling sorry for me on New Year's Eve when I pulled a CQ duty night and couldn't leave camp, bequeathed me a few bottles of soda (?).
They knew I was not a drinker so they told me the stuff they gifted me with was clear English-made soda. I had naught to do that night but write letters or read.
Weeks later my dear departed mother back in America, cried her heart out when she read a letter her baby wrote that night which made no real sense, having been penned by a son far under the influence of that clear soda. (Gognac)
Since then my imbibing (it had made me terribly sick that New Year's Eve of 1943) has been limited to my wedding day, once or twice or so with friends at a formal dinner and a few times when I had a wine cooler at the American Legion hall.


Those above paragraphs lead into the story of the rumrunners of the Mohawk Trail.
After living in Pennsylvania 10 years I moved with my family to Adams, Massachusetts and eventually we bought a vacant rundown restaurant atop Hoosac Mountain and along the Mohawk Trail in North Adams, transferring it into a rock and mineral shop and gift store.
After a few years we decided our five acres might also support a campground so we attempted to plan one, carving out a few one-lane trails. While doing so we ran into little hills now and then.
Describing them one day to a friend at the newspaper where I worked, the friend launched into a story about rumrunners and opined that I might have stumbled onto one of their stashes of bootleg liquor.
I decided to investigate, poking a shovel into one of the mini-hills which promptly exploded as I hit a glass bottle.
I told my newspaper friend what had happened . He decided to see for himself.
We climbed up a hill for a few hundred feet and found a sizeable mound. I worked carefully and uncovered several bottles.
We opened two and took a swig. I choked and quit while my friend glugged the contents of his bottle to the end, remarking as he drank "this the best moonshine I've ever had."
Tom McShane, a true Irishman , was the guy's name, sports editor at the paper, years older than me and full of stories. He launched into a yarn about the Mohawk Trail, relating that besides being a trail the Mohawk Indians followed for eons, it also was the pathway for rumrunners, men who transported illegal booze from Boston to points in New York and westward.
Tom reasoned that my five acres, atop the mountain just overlooking the city, was the ideal place to stash the booze while they made sure there were no feds in North Adams, just down and around the Hairpin Turn, who might end their journey.
Hiding the liquor therefore was done by digging hiding places in the dense woods. Why was there still such a big stash on our propeerty? No doubt the last rumrunners who hid a stash in the hills were picked up by feds in the city before they could get back to the trail.
Wonder if that stuff is still there?
- 30 -