February 12, 2016

Police Notes


  • Police are investigating two daytime residential burglaries that occurred on Hillside Drive and Kirby Lane on Aug. 21 and 23 in Williston. Items stolen included cash, jewelry and electronics, including two Norwich class rings and one VMI class ring. The Kirby Lane home was “ransacked,” according to police reports. Police ask residents to lock their doors and windows, and to report any suspicious vehicles and people. Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call Williston Police at 878-6611. [Read more…]

WILLISTON’S 250TH: A community pageant in Williston’s Chittenden Park

‘The Spirit of Patriotism’ from a presentation of ‘America, Yesterday and Today.’ (Observer courtesy photo)

‘The Spirit of Patriotism’ from a presentation of ‘America, Yesterday and Today.’ (Observer courtesy photo)

By Richard H. Allen

Special to the Observer

In 1920, the “Community Church” in Williston (perhaps a reference to the Old Brick Church) needed electrical wiring, so a community pageant was organized to raise some money for the project. This would be different in some respects from the historic performances mounted in July of 1913 that were part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the town’s 1763 charter. The same venue was chosen. It went by the name of Chittenden Park and in the early 1900s it was used for pageants and picnics. This was the amphitheater along the banks of Allen Brook on Belle Clark’s land. It is located behind what is now the Immaculate Heart of Mary church.

This “ideal spot” had “no good automobile road into the park.”  Drivers would have to park in the meadow and take the walk down into the area. The “setting of trees, sloping hillside, brook running over the stones” could not…”be rivaled,” according to the Burlington Free Press.

The pageant, entitled “America, Yesterday and Today,” was presented on Aug. 11 and 12, 1920. Walter J. Cartier of Burlington, a 23-year-old auto mechanic who apparently had a drama background, was hired to direct the show and provide the costumes. He was the local representative of H. Buchholz & Son, a theatrical supply company from Springfield, Massachusetts.

There were four episodes and a closing: Spirit of Indian Days, with a corn dance, the renewal of prosperity and a peace pipe ceremony; Spirit of the Wilderness, with butterflies, flowers and a wood nymph dance; Pioneer scene, where “man overcomes the trees” and tames the land; Spirit of Patriotism, which welcomed an overwhelming number of civilized pursuits (art, drama, church, school, “little town interests” and many others, including forest preservation.) No faction of society was to be left out. The grand finale was a pledge to the flag and the singing of “America” with six ethnic groups represented.

The large majority of the people listed in the program as organizing the various groups were Williston residents. One exception was Miss Grace Cashman of Burlington, the solo dancer in the “Wilderness” episode.

So had Williston grabbed a unique opportunity to present an original play? No. It had been staged nationwide about 350 times in 1917 alone, so it had a successful track record. “America, Yesterday and Today” was written by Nina Lamkin, a physical education instructor at Northwestern University, author of pageants and Chautauqua lecturer. The script for the program is filled with short speaking parts in flowery language; many allegorical dance routines with specific instructions on the movements and spots where the town name could be inserted to give the production a local touch. Thirty-seven musical numbers are listed. The recommended cast could vary from as little as 80 to as high as 500 citizens. This generic pageant was in direct contrast to the July 1913 presentation that had eight scenes, many of them specific to Williston’s history, and probably written by Williston citizens.

The printed program for the Williston presentation included several paid advertisements, mainly from Burlington businesses. But two Williston firms were represented. One was C. G. Austin, Oak Hill Store that had “A variety of goods at the lowest possible prices to guarantee good quality,” where “Courtesy and Service [is] Our Motto.” The other Williston advertiser was J. R. Forville, in the Brick Store, who sold Diamond and Blackstone tires and Hood’s tennis wear and featured the sale and installation of Louden’s barn fixtures and Pine Tree milkers.

The Free Press estimated about 500 people attended the first night in perfect weather. The second night the Honorable James Hartness spoke. He was running for governor and paid tribute to the pioneer spirit in America, past and present. He cited the service of young men in World War I when they rose to the challenge. The Free Press noted that he “carefully refrained from any utterance that could be tortured into politics.” Dancing followed the program with music from a 10-piece orchestra from Sherman’s band.

Williston was not unique in its presentation of the two historic pageants in 1913 and 1920. The pageantry movement was in its heyday in the early 20th century as it was promoted by such diverse organizations as the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Playground Association of America, and progressive educators like John Dewey. The push for such pageants was in part a reaction to the boisterous and unsafe celebrations that marked holidays in some cities where alcohol and fireworks took center stage. There was also an emphasis on recapturing the true meaning of American history by the more genteel groups that felt the lower classes were losing sight of the important reasons for such celebrations as Independence Day.

Pageants served a purpose in entertaining and educating the public, and imparting a feeling of pride and patriotism. As Lamkin stated in the foreword to the script, the themes of the pageant “strengthen community life…and build a stronger patriotic loyalty through binding together groups of people who have common interests.”

But usually the past was glorified and non-conforming truths ignored. For example the scene involving Indians is all peace, love, and gratitude for the bountiful corn harvest. No mention of disease, broken treaties, and forced relocation by the white man. Warfare with fellow tribes was all in the past.

The 1920s were a time of rapid change in the United States. Prohibition was underway and women had just received the right to vote. Automobile ownership was greatly increasing and modern forms of entertainment, such as radio programs and movies were making inroads, so tastes in leisure time activities were shifting. Historical pageants would not maintain the importance they held before World War I. In any event the Free Press saluted “the public spirited people of Williston…on their enterprise in providing for the presentation of spectacular community pageants.”

Sports Roundup

Homestand next for CVU boys soccer team

After three straight road contests, all victories, the Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team brings its Division 1 title defense to the green, green grass of home for the next trio of games. [Read more…]

Home opener Saturday for 2-0 CVU gridders

Quarterback Steele DuBrul (left) looks for an opening while his CVU teammates keep defenders at bay. (Observer courtesy photo by Glenn Fay Jr.)

Quarterback Steele DuBrul (left) looks for an opening while his CVU teammates keep defenders at bay. (Observer courtesy photo by Glenn Fay Jr.)

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

His Redhawks may have two wins in their first two outings, both on the road, but Champlain Valley Union High head football coach Jim Provost was seeing a busy week of practice work for his team starting Monday afternoon. [Read more…]

CVU soccer girls kicking up a storm

Senior Emma Davitt outpaces the competition during a Sept. 9 game against Rice. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

Senior Emma Davitt outpaces the competition during a Sept. 9 game against Rice. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The defending Division 1 champion Champlain Valley Union High girls’ soccer team is once again flying high. [Read more…]

Young Writers Project gears up for school year

Each month, the Williston Observer will print local selections from the Young Writers Project, an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with authentic audiences. [Read more…]

New teachers settling in

Observer staff report

With the first two weeks of school under their belts, new teachers in the Williston School District and at Champlain Valley Union High School are settling into their new roles. [Read more…]

Library Notes

Did you know that you can get library news emailed directly to you? Go to www.williston.lib.vt.us. On the left side you’ll find a link to “Sign up for/view our newsletter.”

[Read more…]

LITTLE DETAILS: Before the snow flies, part 1

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

There’s a chill in the air. Maples and oaks reveal bits of orange and red, hinting at the fiery blaze of color to come. Geese fly overhead, bodies leaning southward. Summer has begun her slow departure, like a tide gently receding out to sea. Soon, snow will fly as Vermont settles in for its longest season. [Read more…]



  • Zachary and Trista (Valliere) Cousino of Williston welcomed sons Ethan Tyler Cousino and Logan Allen Cousino on Aug. 19, 2013.
  • Matthew and Jessica (Parent) Mason of Williston welcomed daughter Laila Rose Mason on Aug. 20, 2013.