September 2, 2014

Town Cobbler remains a Taft Corners staple

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Business endures industry shift

Oct, 27, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

John Welsh (above), owner of The Town Cobbler, repairs a shoe in his Williston shop. Welsh, who has been located in Williston for 13 years, plans to someday hand the business over to his son, David. The Town Cobbler, located in Taft Corners, is the only shoe repair shop in Williston. (Observer photos by Luke Baynes)

Cobblers are a dying breed, but don’t tell that to John Welsh.

Welsh’s shoe repair business, The Town Cobbler, has been a mainstay of the Taft Corners Shopping Center in Williston for the past 13 years. And while many small businesses have suffered during the recent recession, Welsh’s business has improved.

“(With) the economy, people are digging in their closets,” Welsh said. “Nobody’s throwing anything away. Let’s say you need a new pair of shoes. You go and look in your closet.”

The well-heeled Welsh has been cobbling since the 1970s, when he began moonlighting at DePaul’s Shoe Store in Winooski while still a member of the Shelburne Police Department. Eventually it became too much for him (“I burned out playing cop,” he recalled) and he retired from the force, and opened his own cobbler shop on Shelburne Road in Shelburne before relocating to Williston.

Road construction in the 1990s caused Welch to relocate.

“They were gonna build that damn road — that four-lane highway they put in down there — and I knew that anybody down there wasn’t going do well, and there were a lot of businesses down on Shelburne Road that had to borrow money to keep going,” Welsh said. “Let’s say you get going south on (U.S. Route) 7 and you get in that line of traffic — you’re not getting out because you may not get back in.”

After flirting with a location in St. Albans, Welsh said he chose Williston after driving around the area and observing traffic patterns.

“(Williston is) the go-to area, so I’m a go-to business,” he said. “You don’t stay here; you come in, (if) you’re going to Walmart, you drop your stuff off; if you’re going to Shaw’s, you drop your stuff off.”

A former U.S. Marine who was stationed in Cuba, Okinawa and the Philippines, Welsh is the quintessence of “old school.” He doesn’t have a cell phone. He’s never owned a credit card. He doesn’t use the Internet. About the only modern convenience in his shop is a Keurig single-cup coffee brewer, which gets heavy use whenever one of his old police or Marine buddies shows up.

“I’m a no-nonsense guy,” Welsh said. “I’ve been known to throw a customer out once in a while. I don’t take a lot of crap.”

But he has stayed successful because he maintains a base of long-term, loyal customers who value his unique brand of customer service.

“Everyone who knows me from the old days trusts me,” he said. “We don’t sell you anything you don’t need. But if I tell you, ‘You need oil on these shoes,’ then you really do need oil on these shoes.”

Welsh also has a soft side. He sings bass tenor in the choir at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shelburne. He’s the state coordinator for “Toys for Kids of Vermont,” a nonprofit organization that operates the largest Christmas toy collection program in the state. He also forgoes his usual $12.75 minimum service charge and punches holes in belts for free, with the suggestion that customers instead toss a buck or two in the Food Shelf jar in his shop.

NEXT GENERATION

Welsh’s son, David, has been working intermittently for his father for the past 17 years, and will eventually take it over full-time.

“I would like to carry it on for a while,” said David Welsh. “I don’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life, but I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.”

The junior Welsh hopes the concept of shoe repair can reach the younger generation.

“It’s an increasing problem where a lot of older people know that shoes can be repaired — they remember going to a cobbler when they were young probably — but a lot of parents aren’t handing that knowledge down to their children,” he said. “Therefore, there’s a whole generation of people out there that doesn’t even know that cobblers exist and shoes can be repaired.”

When the elder Welsh, 66, hands over the reins, he doesn’t see himself leaving the cobbling business entirely.

“My life is very simple. I have no hobbies. I have very few interests in life,” John Welsh said. “I’ll (still) come in (after I retire). I’ll putz around.”

And one thing he’s certain he won’t do is wallow in regret, or wonder what might have been.

“Every morning I get up, and whatever life gives me, I deal with it,” he said. “I look back at what I’ve done and where I’ve been, and I don’t think I’d change a goddamn thing.”

The Town Cobbler is located in Taft Corners Shopping Center.

Circ Task Force resumes meetings

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Irene stalls progress, A/B Boulevard project not deemed high priority

Oct. 27, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

This section of Williston Rd. in Williston – located between the Williston Fire Department and the village – was left abandoned when construction of the Circumferential Highway stalled. Alternatives to the project have also come to a standstill because of damage caused by tropical storm Irene. (File photo)

It has been almost two months since tropical storm Irene left the state battered in its wake, but the worst storm in Vermont’s history is still fresh in the minds of its residents and officials.

The Circ Highway Alternatives Task Force met on Oct. 20 for the first time since Irene to discuss alternatives to the stalled Circumferential Highway project — but not before hearing a report from Vermont Secretary of Transportation Brian Searles on the full extent of the storm’s damage.

The near-capacity crowd at Williston Town Hall listened intently as Searles related that the state highway system was “about 88 percent” ready for winter and that 79 bridges remain closed on the local level — some of which won’t be open before winter. He said the total cost of the reconstruction effort to the state would depend on whether the federal government waives the $100 million cap on disaster aid.

“The state of Vermont does not have the capacity to pay for the storm … we have to have federal participation,” Searles said.

With that bleak outlook and the prospect of limited Circ-related funding in mind, prioritization of short-term implementation projects and the scope of the alternatives’ project area were the primary items on the evening’s agenda.

“Right now we have in the ballpark of $350,000 in the current fiscal year program to work on Circ-related planning activities,” said Michelle Boomhower, executive director of the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization and chairwoman of the Circ Task Force.

Boomhower explained that a primary goal of the Task Force is to have its agenda accepted into the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, thus making it eligible for federal funding.

“In essence, because of our status as (a metropolitan planning organization), we have the ability to advance a construction program recommendation, which becomes integrated — unless the governor decides to reject the whole program for the MPO construction area — into the (STIP),” Boomhower said. “And you have to be in the state’s transportation improvement program in order to receive federal funding, which is essentially the goal of what we’re trying to do here.”

The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission released a preliminary ranking of project areas, as prioritized by a methodology agreed to at the Task Force’s Aug. 25 meeting.

In a three-way tie for first on the list were exit 16 in Colchester, the Vermont 2A/Vermont 289 interchange in Essex and the Severance Corners intersection in Colchester. Rounding out the top five were the Crescent Connector Road — which would connect Vermont 2A and Vermont 117 in Essex Junction — and the Vermont 2A/U.S. 7/Creek Road/Bay Road intersection in Colchester.

The Circ A/B Boulevard, a project that would connect I-89 in Williston with Vermont 117 and 289 in Essex — and one The Federal Highway Administration has already authorized the Vermont Agency of Transportation to proceed with — was not near the top of the list.

“The scoring system that we have devised ended up with not a single one of the top five projects being in Williston,” said Williston Selectboard member Chris Roy. “And if the goal and the intent is to provide a goal and a substitute in the near-term for what the Circ was hoped to provide in the near-term, I think we have a disconnect when the town through which the A/B segments (of the Circ) were going to run is not found anywhere (in the top five).”

Responding to assertions by Task Force members that none of the Williston projects are “shovel-ready,” Roy added: “One of the ironies is that because A/B was going to be built in the closer horizon, (Williston) has not proceeded as far down the path to do alternative projects because we’ve been repeatedly told that the Circ was right around the corner.”

Another point of conjecture regarding the scope of the Circ alternatives project was whether or not to include the areas surrounding Interstate 89’s exit 11 in Richmond and exit 17 in Colchester for project consideration.

“The intent is to provide improvements that would mimic the benefits of the Circ, and what’s interesting is when you look at Exit 17, the actual benefits of mitigation are far greater than any of the benefits with any of the major intersections within the study area that we all agree on,” argued Bryan Osborne, director of public works for the town of Colchester. “It seems pretty compelling that exit 17 is a logical place to extend the study area to.”

Dennis Lutz, Osborne’s counterpart with the Essex Public Works Department, disagreed.

“I don’t know what you put at exit 17 that’s going to improve traffic … short of maybe bus service, but from a practical point of view, you’re not going to do anything at that intersection that’s going to change any of the congestion in the corridor,” Lutz said.

Ultimately, the motion to exclude exits 11 and 17 from the project area was put to a vote. The measure passed, 10-6, with five members abstaining.

The Circ Task Force will reconvene on Nov. 9 to finalize the project list that will be submitted to VTrans for comment and consideration.

Williston, CVU students improve NECAP science scores

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Oct. 27, 2011

By Steven Frank

Observer staff

What a difference a year makes.

In 2010, the percentage of Williston eighth-graders who scored proficient or higher on the New England Common Assessment Program science test was 26 – a 10-percent drop from ’09. They scored lower than the state average, all of the other Chittenden South Supervisory Union school districts, and neighboring towns Richmond and Essex.

It was the second consecutive year in which Williston declined in eighth grade science proficiency.

There won’t be a third. Williston eighth-graders scored 43-percent proficiency or higher in the standardized test, a 60 percent increase over last year. The results, released by the Vermont Department of Education on Sept. 30, also show that Williston is more competitive with nearby districts. Essex dropped to 31 percent (from 53 in ’10) and Williston scored two percentage points higher than Hinesburg. Williston  also scored above the state average, which was 29 percent.

Inside of those statistics, the number of special education students who scored proficient or higher nearly doubled from last year, increasing from 7 percent to 13. The percentage of those who scored partially proficient skyrocketed from 36 to 56.

The test combines scores from multiple choice and short-answer questions with results from an inquiry task that requires students to analyze and interpret findings from an actual experiment.

“I’m incredibly pleased,” said Williston District Principal Walter Nardelli. “The teachers took this seriously. There was a concentrated effort on their part and it shows in the results.”

Nardelli pointed to several factors behind the improvement. Assessment science probes were implemented last year, which enabled teachers to gauge how well students understood concepts. Science journals, previously not mandatory, are now in every K-8 classroom, according to Nardelli. Coordinators from other schools also came in to provide training sessions with Williston science teachers. In addition, more time was allocated to science instruction.

“We needed to make sure science was a priority,” said Nardelli, who oversees Allen Brook (kindergarten to second grade) and Williston Central (third to eighth grade) schools. “It’s a system, not just one grade.”

At the fourth-grade level, Williston scored 66 percent proficient or higher for the second consecutive year. Comparatively, Williston fared better than Essex but trailed every other CSSU district. Charlotte led the way with 80-percent proficiency or higher.

CVU CLIMBS SEVEN PERCENTAGE POINTS

After 42-percent proficiency or higher for two straight years, 11th grade students at Champlain Valley Union High School improved to 49 percent.

Adam Bunting, a house director at CVU who is also in charge of the school’s science curriculum, believes increases in motivation and comfort helped create better test results. Unlike an SAT test, which can help students get into the colleges of their choice, there was no incentive for taking the NECAPs. Bunting said the school administration taught children about “the power of community perception,”—that there was a lot of pressure on their teachers for them to do well.

“We told them that we could lose our ability to offer the curriculum that best suits them. That’s not an easy thing to explain but the students have been very thoughtful,” said Bunting, who added that the school also threw an ice cream party for the students.

CVU also placed the students’ science teachers in the classroom when they took the tests. Before, proctors administered the exams.

“It made more sense to have the students with the teachers that they are familiar with day in and day out,” Bunting said. “It shows the students we care. There is a comfort level. You’re nervous taking these.”

According to Bunting, other changes this year included science teachers spending more time in their classes preparing students for the test, administering the test in one day instead of over three and not giving the students homework during the week of the test.

STATE AVERAGES FEATURE LITTLE CHANGE

This is the fourth year in which Vermont public high school students in fourth, eighth and 11th grades took the NECAP exams — created in collaboration with Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

At the fourth grade level, the Vermont average of those achieving proficiency or higher dropped one percent from last year (54 to 53). Eighth-graders scored 29 percent, the same as last year, and 11th-graders improved three percentage points (31).

Obituary

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Oct. 27, 2011

 

CAROLYN A. ROBINSON

Carolyn A. Robinson, 74, passed away peacefully on Oct. 16, 2011 at the Vermont Respite House of Williston. Carolyn was born Oct. 26, 1936 in Glover, the daughter of the late Ernest and Helen Rock. She graduated from Barton Academy in 1954. Carolyn’s passion in life was her family. She is survived by her children; Linda R. Bryce and her husband Edward of Williston, Paula A. Robinson of Winooski, and Edwin A. Robinson and his wife Deborah of Milton; grandchildren, Mark A. Herman II and his wife Tami, Wenona Herman and her fiancé Dan Harvey, Toby J. Bryce and his fiancé Roxie Chartier, Matthew E. Bryce and his wife Amie, Brandon P. Robinson and Jadyn D. Robinson; great grandchildren, Mark A. Herman III, Brody Casamento, Cheyenne Cote, Sydney Harvey and Amelia N. Bryce; great great grandchild Brody Casamento Jr.; her sister Pauline Cassidy and her husband Clyde; many beloved nieces and nephews., and good friends at Eagle Crest. She was predeceased by her son, Mark A. Herman, sister, Amy Cassidy, brother, Paul Rock, and sister in law, Marlene Rock. Private services were held on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011 with burial at Deer View Cemetery in Williston.  The family would like to thank Nancy Resi of Evergreen Health, Dr. Havaleh Gagne and her team at Fletcher Allen Hospital, the staff at The Vermont Respite House, and her nurse Lyla and team at the VNA for their compassionate care of Carolyn. Memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society of Chittenden County, 142 Kindness Court, South Burlington, Vt. 05403 or Vermont Respite House 99 Allen Brook Lane, Williston, Vt. 05495-2102.

 

Letters to the Editor

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Oct. 27, 2011

 

Williston schools fundraiser a huge success

Whitcomb’s Land of Pumpkins would like to thank everyone who participated in and supported our annual “Giant Pumpkin Display/Weighoff” and Williston schools fundraiser. We displayed and weighed some very nice and big pumpkins.

The pumpkin plant sale in the spring, along with the pumpkin and maze donations, totaled $1,170. More than 70 Williston families visited us to purchase pumpkins and run through the corn maze. Beautiful weather was enjoyed by all.

Thank you for supporting Williston schools and this community event, and a special thanks to our local businesses for their generous prize donations.

The Whitcomb family (Mary, Lorenzo, Cale, Max and Dane)Williston

 

Please stop texting and driving

Every day I travel back and forth from Champlain Valley Union High School to Williston Central School. I am amazed at how many teenagers I pass whose heads are down while driving because they’re texting. Today I counted five teenagers coming from CVU to the Williston village.

I have had a few close calls in the past with people (not just teens) texting and driving, where if I wasn’t paying attention, I could have got hit head on. The point of my letter is not to lecture, but that hopefully it will encourage parents to talk with their teenagers again and again about the dangers of texting while driving.

Maybe take the time to go online and pull up the statistics of those who have hurt or killed others while texting and driving. I hope that at least one person reads this and stops driving and texting.  No message is that important that you can’t wait until you get home or to school.

I heard recently of a young man who texted a reply of  “LOL” to a friend. He hit and killed a person who was on the side of the road. This young man will have to live with that for the rest of his life. Was the “LOL” really that important? Couldn’t he have just waited to reply until he wasn’t driving? Was it worth it? Life is too precious to take the chance. Please stop texting and driving!

Melissa Bissonette

St. George

 

Lead impacting protection area

In addition to your story (Observer, “Testing Confirms lead pollution in farm’s well,” October 13, 2011), I would like to point out that this property is sitting in a mapped “Wellhead Protection Area.” And for those of you not familiar with this terminology, a “Wellhead Protection Area” is a surface and subsurface land area regulated to prevent contamination of a well or well-field supplying a public water system. This program, established under the Safe Drinking Water Act, is implemented through state governments. Our testing shows that this protected area has been contaminated by lead. As this is a more rural area, most of our homes depend on our wells for our drinking water. Our bedrock well is fairly shallow — only 125 feet deep — but has supplied our water needs for many years. The lead content in our well came back at .053 mg/l. This is almost four times the level for toxic substances in drinking water for humans.

How much longer will it be before the lead reaches other wells in our Wellhead Protection Area?

On a side note, we would like to thank Jessica Edgerly, State Director of Toxics Action Center, for all our her assistance in bringing our lead pollution issue into public knowledge. When issues like this are made public, they can get resolved. We are looking forward to that day!

Mona Boutin, Lead Free Williston

 

Attend the budget community forum

The Williston School Board is holding a budget community forum on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. in the Williston Central School’s dining room. The School Board is looking for community input as we start the process of developing the school budget for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Hearing from parents and other community members is important for the School Board as we strive to prepare a budget that ensures the delivery of a quality education to our children at a value to the taxpayer. Public input is essential in helping the School Board meet these objectives, especially during this difficult economic environment that has impacted our state and town. By attending this community forum, you will have the opportunity to inform the School Board and administration about your priorities, what you would prefer the school district to continue to offer, or to change.

So now that the school budget process is about to begin anew, please join the School Board members and school administration team at this budget community forum. Working together, we can build a strong educational program that benefits the entire community. We hope you can attend.

The Williston School Board — Joshua Diamond, Kevin Mara, Giovanna Boggero, Deborah Baker-Moody and Holly Rouelle

Guest column

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Blue-green algae found in Lake Iroquois

Oct, 27, 2011

By W.C. Wright

 

September brought a bloom of blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria) back to Lake Iroquois for the second consecutive year. These blooms are caused by excessive nutrients entering the lake from stream erosion, shoreline erosion, poor management procedures during construction of buildings and roads, road erosion, wastewater disposal systems (septic systems) and stormwater runoff.

The “pea soup” appearance of the water and the blue-green-yellow sheen (looking like spilled paint) on the water surface are characteristic of cyanobacteria blooms. The toxin that is sometimes produced by this algae is known to have caused illness and death of dogs that drank the water.

Upon seeing the new bloom, we notified the Water Quality Division of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and health officials in the towns of Hinesburg and Williston.

Rocky Martin of the Hinesburg health office responded by contacting the Vermont State Health Department and — with the help of Lake Iroquois Association Board member Dan Sharpe — collected samples from the southwest corner of the lake, where the bloom was most apparent. Signs were also placed at the fishing access and beach area warning people to avoid the algae and to keep their dogs out of the bloom.

Sample water tests confirmed the presence of blue-green algae toxins, but thankfully in lower concentrations than those known to cause disease in humans or animals.  Because tests were done at a single location and time, it is likely that toxin levels could have been higher or lower if tested earlier or in a different location.

This bloom of toxin-producing algae is a concern to all of us who use and enjoy Lake Iroquois. We have read reports of blooms in Lake Champlain, especially in Missisquoi Bay, that limit swimming and the use of the water for cooking and other domestic purposes.

The Lake Iroquois Association is committed to attacking these problems. Studies have been done to identify some of the major sources of nutrient loading, and plans are underway to remedy some of them.

It is essential that all who enjoy the lake become involved to protect and improve it. Boaters, fishermen, beach users, those who have properties in the watershed, and the towns of Hinesburg, Williston, Richmond and St. George all need to contribute their efforts, time and money to make this lake a viable, enjoyable and safe place for us all in the future.

Hopefully, together we can make Lake Iroquois a model for others of how interested, dedicated individuals, organizations and towns can improve the quality of a lake — now and for future generations.

For more information on this and other lake issues go to the Lake Iroquois Association web site: www.lakeiroquois.org

W.C. Wright is a board member of the Lake Iroquois Association.

 

The Everyday Gourmet

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Fancy French pie

Oct. 27, 2011

By Kim Dannies

 

A favorite special occasion dessert is Apple Tarte Tatin, a succulent upside-down apple pie. Officially known as La Tarte Desmoiselles Tatin, this classic is named for the French sisters who created it in 1898.

Tarte Tatin is extraordinary due to the intensity of flavor from caramelized sugar, apples, and butter. A fundamental of French pastry cooking is “color equals flavor,” so don’t be alarmed if your caramel topping is quite dark — that is considered très bien!

 

PÂTE BRISÉE  (PASTRY CRUST)

In a food processor, combine 4 cups white pastry flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup chilled butter, cut into small chunks. Pulse quickly until coarse flour forms. With the motor running, add ½ cup cold water and let the dough form. Add small drops as needed to incorporate all of the flour. The dough must pull cleanly off the sides of the working bowl. Remove the pastry and wrap in plastic wrap, store in the fridge.

 

TARTE TATIN (APPLE TART)

Peel and core 12 to 14 golden delicious apples; slice a thin layer off each bottom to even the base and then slice each apple in half. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On the stovetop, in a large (12-by-14-inch) cast iron pan or deep copper tart pan, melt 1 cup butter with 2 cups sugar. Turn off heat. In a concentric circle arrange the apples, standing them tightly against each other — back-to-belly style — until the pan is filled.

Caramelize the apples on medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until dark syrup bubbles up and you can smell the cooked sugar. Let the apples cool slightly, then roll out the pastry and fit on top of the apples, working quickly and tucking in the edges. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Cool tart 10 minutes; gently unmold tart onto a round serving platter. Don’t panic if all of the apple does not release! Simply use a spatula to re-paste the apples, scraping up as much color as possible. As the tart cools it will solidify to perfection. Serve slices with a dollop of crème fraîche; serves 14 to 16.

 

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

 

 

Life in Williston

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Metamorphosis of life

Oct. 27, 2011

By Karen Wyman

 

 

Over the past few weeks, the girls and I have been fostering caterpillars and watching with amazement as they transitioned into beautiful monarch butterflies. Soon, the time came to release them and let their journeys begin. We watched in awe as they spread their wings and left our home, and I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed at the symbolism. Some day, my two little ones will also leave home to begin their journeys. I remembered I had a similar feeling a few months ago when we planted our garden. After the butterflies flew out of sight, I went inside and found the girls’ memory books — where I poured out my sentiments during the spring.

May 2011: “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.” Dr. Seuss provided my daily mantra for one of the rainiest Mays on record.

“All you two wanted to do was go outside and ride your new bicycles, so I had to be extra creative to keep you entertained. I decided to think of a theme, and each day we would do something new related to it. As you groaned and complained how bored you were, the idea hit me — a garden! Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘Um, mom remember it’s raining outside?’ We wouldn’t actually plant the garden until Memorial Day; however in the meantime, we had lots of planning and research to do!”

“My ultimate goal was to instill in you a love of organic fresh vegetables, with the hope you’d become more adventurous eaters if you were involved from ground to plate! Luckily, it wasn’t hard to sell you on the idea. You couldn’t wait to dig in the dirt. We started out at the library, where we discovered many books on gardening. We figured out what zone we were in and what would grow well in our region. You both loved to look at the pictures and see beautiful vegetables that you had never even heard of. You each chose some vegetables that you wanted to grow, and then it was off to the grocery store to actually touch them and bring some home to sample.”

“We spent another afternoon mapping out the backyard to decide where the garden would get the best mix of sun and shade. You loved drawing pictures of veggies on the different layouts, trying desperately to envision our finished product. Next, it was time for us to shop for supplies. It was so much fun visiting all of the gardening stores right here in Williston. At the first one, we purchased two tiny pairs of ‘Dora the Explorer’ gardening gloves, and a small spade and trowel. At the next store we spoke with a wonderful gentleman who patiently answered all of your questions. He helped us buy tomato cages and poles for beans, and he convinced me a birdbath would look beautiful near our garden. I’m not sure if he worked on commission, but I bought the birdbath just to thank him for answering so many questions!

We spent an amazing day (yes day!) at one of the other local stores, learning all about how to care for our garden. After you each picked out your seeds, another knowledgeable and kind man helped us design each square foot. We decided on a raised bed garden kit and some topsoil and compost. Thank goodness there was an onsite café, because we needed to refuel after all of that planning.

“Before we knew it, the sun was sunny and Daddy helped us build our garden. Every morning filled me with delight when you two would wake up and race outside to see if anything had sprouted yet. You had spent an entire month on this project, and as you should, you both felt extremely invested and proud. I was proud of you also. You were both so helpful and committed every step of the way. I started to cry thinking how fast you were growing up and how someday you won’t want to spend a summer gardening with your mother. Then the wise Dr. Seuss came to mind again. ‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’ I will always be thankful for that rainy May.”

As I closed the memory book, I vowed to appreciate and enjoy every moment of the girls’ childhood — after all, it won’t be long until my two little ones will be begging to fly to Mexico for spring break. Hopefully my two little butterflies won’t want to leave for a long time.

 

Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for six years, and lives with her husband and twin 4-year-old daughters.

 

Places I’ve Played

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Ahead of their time

Oct, 27, 2011

By Bill Skiff

 

At Cambridge High School in the 1940s, we teenagers were blessed with two wonderful role models: Father Marcoux and the Reverend Bob Harding. Father Marcoux was the parish priest in Cambridge and Rev. Harding was the minister for the Congregational Church in Jeffersonville.

Each Friday afternoon, the two men held religious classes at our high school. These classes were well attended and enjoyed. But it was the relationship between these two religious leaders that had the most impact on us.

In those days, the two faiths were well respected. However, we kids recognized that the adults saw the two faiths as different. We did not witness much tolerance or understanding of the others’ point of views. For instance, my mother had two fears: first, that I would drink and second, that I would date a Catholic girl. I was always falling for Catholic girls who liked to drink. I never found them any different from the Protestant girls; in either case, we did not spend much time discussing religion.

When Father Marcoux and Rev. Harding entered our lives, it was a blessing. We witnessed them sharing ideas as well as their religious beliefs. We saw their deep respect for each other. We sensed that they liked us kids. Both men loved sports and attended all our ballgames, many times sitting together. They taught us many lessons, both in and out of church. I’m surprised how many apply to today’s challenges.

Rev. Harding came to Jeffersonville in 1946 to serve as the minister for the Congregational Church. It was his first church, as he was fresh out of seminary. He arrived with a new wife, a new 1946 Ford Coupe, and now had a new church.  I liked all three (especially the Coupe). He let me drive it once.

One day we were playing basketball on our dirt basketball court when he came over and watched. After a while he asked, “Can I play?” and “Why are you all playing in your sock feet?” We said, ”Sure you can play” and “The reason we play in our sock feet is because we can’t get our shoes dirty. If we do our mothers will kill us. When we get home we throw our socks away and our mothers never know the difference.”

He said, “Well I guess if you can fool your mothers I can fool my wife.” He took off his shoes and started playing. He won all our hearts that day; no matter what church we attended.

One day I was having a terrible time on the baseball field. Coming in from my position, after making an error, I was swearing. Rev. Harding stopped me on the way to the bench and said, “Bill I don’t think that kind of language is a good representation of you or our church.” Because of my respect for him, and the fact that I knew he was right, I never did it again.

Father Marcoux was a robust man with a booming voice and a kind heart. He always wore the cloth, but mingled with us kids with an ease that won our trust. During his Friday afternoon classes at school he would keep the Catholic kids mesmerized with his stories and good humor. A couple of times, I skipped my religious classes just to hear him.

As a priest, Father Marcoux did not have many material possessions but loved his big black automobile. He always drove a Buick or an Oldsmobile. And he drove them like a “bat out of hell.” During my freshman year at Middlebury College, he picked me up hitchhiking home. I was terrified during the entire trip. When I looked at the speedometer — on the many flat stretches between Middlebury and Cambridge — it read 80 miles per hour.  The whole time he was asking me questions about my classes, sports and my plans for the future. By the time he dropped me off in front of my house, I was exhausted from nervous tension.

Just before he left, he said, “Bill it sounds like you are doing well. Always remember what your parents and your faith have taught you, study hard, trust in the Lord, and you will do alright.” For someone who was away from home for the first time, and struggling with difficult classes, it was just what I needed to hear. I never forgot his words of encouragement

The best lesson he taught us boys came prior to an important basketball game: the state tournament at Burlington. The Catholic boys suggested we attend a Mass and have Father Marcoux give the team a blessing. After the Mass, we gathered and he blessed the team. Some of us were thinking, “How can we lose? Not only are we good, but now we have Father Marcoux’s blessing.” Just as we were walking out the door, he said, “Boys, one last thing. When you go out on the court tomorrow night, remember — the Lord will not be in uniform.”

Too bad the Lord wasn’t in uniform. We could have used him.

 

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at [email protected]

PHOTOS: CVU boys soccer vs. Brattleboro

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Courtesy photos by Glenn Fay Jr.

The Redhawks boys soccer team opened the 2011 Division I playoffs with a 4-0 victory over Brattleboro on Oct. 25.