Cool weather brings knitting back to Bristol’s Lawrence Library

BRISTOL — With the changing seasons comes the return of knitting at the Lawrence Memorial Library at 40 North St. in Bristol. Whether you want to get a jump start on holiday gifts, make a warm scarf and a hat for yourself, or are just learning, now is a great time to start knitting again. Join your fellow adult crafters downstairs at the library on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m. For more information contact Paulita Washburn, young adult librarian, at 453-2366.
On Sept. 20, Bristol Historical Society heard Gert Bingham speak about Women in Bristol from the 1930s to the 1950s. Women usually went into one of four trades: nurses’ training, teachers’ training, cosmetology or business. These were usually 2-year schools. Local nurses were Fern Wilson on West Street and Ruth Marcille in New Haven. There were also domestic nurses. These were women who, when you had a baby, helped with taking care of the baby, and with cooking and cleaning “until you were on your feet again.” Mattie Hill was one of these.
Castleton Teachers College was one teachers college in the state. Bristol teachers included Ilene Wright, Frances O’Connor, Mrs. Stanton and Nina Landon. Teachers in high school were often new college graduates who would stay only one or two years before leaving. Eleanor Ryan was a substitute teacher who also baked cakes, wedding cakes and donuts. Later she became an English teacher, beloved for years. Gert Bingham said, “We didn’t have any boys in our class; they all flunked out.”
Business students were trained at Burlington Business College in the 1940s. These included Ella Jacobs, Frances Kneeland and Hazel Bristol. They took courses in typing and shorthand. Librarians included Sylvia Kirby, who served in Bristol for years. Ruth Garvey and Emma Orvis were telephone operators. Hazel Bristol ran a shoe store in Bristol. She may have been forced out of business due to the war and shoe rationing. Annie Rivers operated the local watering hole where veterans often gathered. Since she wasn’t known for always keeping her light bill paid, the power company installed a coin-operated power box. If the lights went out in the bar, you could drop 25 cents into the slot and the lights would come on again. The Cragens operated the local Ben Franklin store until Mr. Cragen was called into service. Then Mrs. Cragen operated the store by herself.
Other businesses in town included boarding houses; one was run by Mrs. Wheelock who took in teachers, and laundresses including Mrs. Levarn, Mrs. Emmons and Jennie Lathrop. When women went to the Vermont Box Shop in Bristol to work, they would hire local girls for $4 a week to care for their children, while they worked for $20 a week. Local hairdressers included Peg Hill and Bessie Davis Sargent. The Van Raalte Co., which produced lingerie, was located in the Tomasi block and was a boon to women wanting to work, including Libby Steadman, Maggie Byington Bouvier, Gert Bingham and Lottie Follansbee. They worked for $0.50 per hour or $18 to $19 per week.
One notable community woman was Dorothy Purinton. She worked in politics, running once for state Senate, but unsuccessfully. She worked on the Parent Teachers Association and supported a clinic for children to receive vaccinations. She set up a system that screened children to be sure they were kept current on necessary shots. Another well-known community woman was Grace Bosworth. She liked young people, and she had a badminton court in her side yard. She encouraged anyone to come to play, including Gordon “Bing” Bingham and Jack Seldon. Grace encouraged them to challenge the state champions at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington, and the local boys won.
Grace started a Girl Scout troop to keep girls busy, including Joan Jackman, Ruth Tatro, Noreen Clark and Joan Kilbourn. Grace liked to bicycle, and she and her Girl Scout troop would bicycle to Vergennes to see a movie, then bicycle back to Bristol. Grace used her talents to gain access to a school building in the Notch, which was closed for the summer, for her Girl Scouts to use for a clubhouse. At another time, Grace contacted Middlebury College for permission for the Scouts to use the Snow Bowl lodge for a sleepover. Thorp Thomas, owner of the Thomas Box Factory, let the Scouts use his camp on Long Point for two weeks. Dr. Bosworth picked up the Scouts to get food and everyone ate on Dr. Bosworth’s yacht. Grace had a large library in her home and encouraged young people to come in and read.
Georgia Shadrick Jimmo was a high school Latin teacher and basketball coach. She encouraged students to do their best job, and they went on to win a championship. Christine “Gussie” Levarn, Georgia’s sister, wanted to become a nurse, but she wasn’t old enough. She went to her uncle’s house in Boston to be a babysitter/housekeeper. Then she stayed with Georgia for a year until she was old enough to enter nurses’ training. During World War II she worked in a prisoner of war camp. She said the TV show M*A*S*H was a “pretty accurate rendition of what war was like.” Gussie loved to build floats for the annual Fourth of July parade. She collected clothing, costumes and any other likely useful items for floats. She made and dressed so many apple head dolls that no one knows the exact count. She made thousands of pot holders of leftover material. She often said she was “holdering my way into heaven.”
Juna Perlee was another notable Bristol woman. She had four children of her own and cared for everyone else’s kids. She bought a Tennessee walking horse from Ezra Dike and formed a riding club. Juna’s husband had a flower garden. Juna’s take was, “If you can’t eat it and you can’t ride it, what good is it?” Later a lawsuit developed over the dust the horses kicked up from the riding ring. Eventually Juna had to give her horse away. Juna, Barbara Desorda and Gert Bingham were the “Hot Lunch Ladies” for several years.
Have a Heart Food Shelf will be open at 5:30 p.m. for food distribution on Friday, Nov. 16,at the St. Ambrose Catholic Church’s side entrance on 11 School St. Thanksgiving baskets will be available and hot soup will be served. For more information or to donate or volunteer, call Becky Price at 453-3187 or Eldon Sherwin at 453-3189.
Bristol Historical Society’s annual banquet took place at the American Legion Post 19 on Oct. 18. After a delicious dinner served by the Sons of the American Legion, the assembled crowd heard ballad historian Burt Porter on his fiddle accompanied by Becky Machia on guitar. Burt gave a running commentary on the history of ballads and the inner workings of music as he and Becky played ballads to illustrate a point. He explained that the first and second parts of a ballad are each played twice; “Why? Because it sounds better that way.”
In the past, folks prosperous enough to afford a piano could play ballads and pass them on to others. Old tunes from the British Isles are hard to play on guitar, but they are easy to play on piano. When the railroads came in, a piano could be shipped and music could spread farther, when more people had access to ballads. Burt played “Albion’s Seeds”; Albion was the old name for England. Between 1629 and 1640, 20,000 people came to New England; that was unequaled until the 18th-century Irish migration. The people who came were craftsmen, tradesmen and educated people. Musical literacy was becoming more common, and literacy keeps tunes constant. When tunes move away from the original, one can refer back to the original book. “1001 Fiddle Tunes” is an old book of tunes that is still used today.
Burt talked about the bow he used with his fiddle. The rosin on the bow string makes it sticky so it grabs the violin string, instead of sliding over it. Burt played a traditional New England waltz, a Scottish jig in 6/8 time, and a hornpipe tune called “The Lamplighter.” “Spey” tunes are those that originated in the river valley of the Spey River in Scotland. Next Burt and Becky played a schottische tune followed by “The Old Crooked Stove Pipe” polka, as an example of odd names sometimes attached to tunes. At that point in the program, Burt asked if anyone had a request and many people did. If someone asked for a song that Becky had not heard before, Burt called out notes to Becky to help her keep up with playing the song.
Among the requested songs were “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Silver Threads Among the Gold,” “Kentucky Waltz,” “Danny Boy” and “Greensleeves.” Burt played “Loch Lomond” and sang. He said it was his mother’s favorite song, explaining the “low road” in the song depicts the “soul of a warrior returning home.” Burt explained that Appalachian tunes like “Soldier’s Joy” have a syncopated rhythm. Burt ended the evening with “Maple Sugar Time,” a French Canadian tune, then played the same tune “the Yankee way” to show the different regional styles. The audience members, throughout the program, were tapping toes, nodding their heads with the music and smiling. Burt and Becky had to finally end the program because they had a 2-1/2 hour drive to get home.
The Bristol Federated Church will be holding its annual Christmas Bazaar in the League Room and the downstairs dining room on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Santa will be at the church at 10 a.m. There will be Christmas decorations, a variety of baked items, tots and teens gifts, gifts for adults and a book sale. Come for a luncheon at 11:30 followed by a silver tea. Upstairs you will find free coats and attic treasures. To donate coats bring them to the church office on Wednesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, bring them to church on Sunday or drop them off in the trunk on the back of Pastor Bill’s porch prior to the sale. For silent auction donations call Ginny Prescott at 453-2071. For more information call Eva Mastalos at 453-2379 or Leslie Leggett at 453-2619.

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