Down on the Farm

Beloved local historian/author Albert B. Southwick has several new books available; If you have enjoyed his weekly columns in the Worcester Telegram, you may want to add some (or all) of these to your library.  In the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing the three titles published in 2013.  More are expected in 2014.

If you’ve been reading Albert Southwick’s informative Thursday columns in the Worcester Telegram, you probably enjoy tales of long ago.  Mr. Southwick has been educating folks in central Massachusetts about their history for many years, through books such as Once Told Tales of Worcester County and 150 Years of Worcester: 1848-1998  (and others).

FeatureParadeSouthwick has had a long association with the Worcester Telegram, and in the late 1950s he wrote bi-weekly columns for the Sunday Telegram’s “Feature Parade” insert which highlighted aspects of growing up on a farm in the 1920s & 1930s.  These columns were called “Down on the Farm”, and must have seemed a little nostalgic to the post-war readers, for whom a generation had passed from the 1920s to the 1950s.  How much stranger will these stories seem to today’s readers, many of whom weren’t even born in the 1950s, let alone the 1920s or 1930s?

DownOnTheFarmVolume one of “Down on the Farm” is a compilation of columns that first appeared in the Feature Parade in the Sunday Telegram during 1956, 1957 & 1958. These “Down on the Farm” columns recall Southwick’s boyhood at Maple Hill Farm in Leicester. These features discussed various seasonal activities, things that the children did for fun, the hardships and challenges that his family faced, and the numerous tasks & responsibilities involved in agriculture and caring for farm animals. “Down on the Farm” reacquainted the reader of the 1950s with older technologies such as kerosene lamps, wood-fired steam boilers, windmill-powered water pumps and ice saws, many of which were becoming outdated in an era of electric appliances & other conveniences. For those of us living in the 21st century, reading this first volume of “Down on the Farm” columns is like taking a journey to another world.  Unless you’ve lived as long as Albert Southwick has, these stories from his boyhood will probably be as eye-opening as they are entertaining — we now live in a world of many conveniences, though after reading “Down on the Farm”, the reader may envy the simpler life that Southwick once enjoyed.

These stories have been lovingly collected and edited by Albert Southwick’s daughter Martha Jean Southwick.  If you enjoyed them many years ago in the Feature Parade, it may be a treat to now have them in book form.  Younger folks, or those who are only familiar with Southwick’s later work, can enjoy these tales for their own sake — Southwick’s more recent work has usually focused on local history, whereas this collection of stories are purely personal in nature.

The initial release of Down on the Farm: Volume I (1956-1958) included some photos and illustrations; a revised edition is now available with more photos.  The type is large enough that even older readers can easily enjoy this volume without eyestrain.  If you’re lucky enough to get to one of Mr. Southwick’s book signing events, you may even get yourself an autographed copy.  There have been a couple of these events in recent weeks, and more are planned for early 2014.

Down on the Farm: Volume I (1956-1958) is an enjoyable ramble back to the 1920s & 1930s, whether you lived those years or not.  Get a copy for yourself . . . and maybe a few to give as gifts during the year!

Tickets for Tanglewood Marionettes available on Monday at the library

The Worcester Public Library is going to host Tanglewood Marionettes’ production of Sleeping Beauty on Monday, December 30 at 1pm and 3pm.

Tickets for the show are required and available FREE at the Children’s Room Desk, starting tomorrow, Monday, December 16 until they are gone.

I cannot recommend Tanglewood Marionettes enough. If there is a child in your life between the ages of 4 and 10, and you’re looking for something to do during Christmas vacation week — get over to the main branch and pick up tickets, because they go fast!

The program is sponsored by the Friends of WPL.  Among other things, the Friends provide museum passes to the public and sponsor many children’s programs.  If you attend the marionette show, or if you use the museum passes, consider joining the Friends so that they can continue to offer these kinds of programs in the future.

Cathy Update

As always, I encourage folks to visit CaringBridge [password = flowerpower] and sign up for email updates about Cathy.

Right now, she’s at Rose Monahan Hospice.

In order to defray some of the expenses associated with hospice and other care associated with her disease, some friends are fundraising for Cathy and her husband Paul.  Cathy has generously given to this community for many years, so if you can, please give.

Let me tell you a little about my friend Cathy

I have a friend named Cathy.  You probably have a friend named Cathy, too.

They’re probably the same woman.

Like any other run-of-the-mill amazing person, Cathy Walsh has many facets and your Cathy is probably different from my Cathy.

So let me tell you a little about my friend Cathy.  I’d really like to hear about your friend Cathy, too.

My friend Cathy is a closet urban planner.  Except if she suspects you, too, have an interest.  Then she turns into a full-on A Pattern Language-pusher.

Want to complain about the newest candidate for ugliest building in Worcester? Cathy’s your woman!  I wrote this blog post for her, and there are so many other posts yet to be written about senseless streetlight installations and other urban design items that drive us both batty.

My friend Cathy is also a celebrity.  I mean, I’m a celebrity, too, but I’m the Naomi Watts to her Nicole Kidman — people are relatively sure they’ve seen me in something, but they’re more than willing to knock me down to get to the true star.

One day we popped down to the Crompton Collective and the paparazzi showed up:


I wish I could say this is unique, but just try going to an event like Arts Worcester’s Art on the Line with Cathy.  I’ve done it — twice.

You can try to sit on a bench in a dark corner next to the coat rack — it doesn’t matter — people will just gravitate to wherever Cathy is.

And it’s not just the pink hair.

It’s that unique staccato laugh, the warm smile, and the major talent and generosity that combine to make the Cathy we all know.

I’m not sure how your Cathy is, but my Cathy’s a real chatterbox.

Last Friday, I was planning on picking her up to take her to an appointment and her husband Paul reminded her to plan for an extra hour to account for the talking.

(Though, to be fair, he could have been talking about my own chatterbox tendencies.)

When I’m with Cathy, we have conversations that last hours and hours and before we know it, six hours have passed in what seems like fifteen minutes.

Last week, she didn’t have the energy to talk much.

And that’s okay, too.

L. M. Montgomery, one of my favorite writers from my childhood, wrote, “If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and yet be entirely comfortable, you and that person can be friends.”

I don’t think Cathy and I had ever spent half an hour before where we weren’t chatting about parking structure designs or Worcester drivers (and the pedestrians who hate them) or how annoyingly dark Copper is or when Officer Al from the crimewatch meetings is retiring, but we have now.

And I can honestly say that now I know she and I can be friends.

When we visited Cathy tonight, there were so many flower arrangements that you could see them before even stepping into the room — and her bed was on the far side!

You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep.

During my brief time at the hospital tonight, I saw quite a few of Cathy’s friends, from different backgrounds, with different interests, all united by a love for a friend who does so much for others in so many different ways, who uses her talent and vision to make our city a better place.

Cathy and I often talked about tilting at windmills.  I have been so grateful to have been her Sancho Panza for the time I’ve known her.  I suspect many others are as well.

I love you, Cathy and Paul.

Sprout Flowers Closing Tomorrow

Sprout Flowers will be closing tomorrow, December 7.

If you can, please stop by the shop today or tomorrow and buy stuff at their big sale.  And then do the saddest Manny dance ever.

In case you haven’t already, you can check Cathy’s CaringBridge website for updates on her situation.  [password = flowerpower]

You can sign up for email alerts on CaringBridge to get an email every time her site is updated.

Cathy at Sprout

I just wanted to let folks know that you should check Cathy’s CaringBridge website for updates on her situation.  [password = flowerpower]

Our friend Cathy does so much work in the community, and one of the most visible projects she founded is the Turtle Boy Urban Gardeners.  She has also provided free wreaths to local businesses for many years.

Some of Cathy’s friends are planning an event at Turtle Boy THIS SATURDAY at 1pm which combines both of these great projects.  The event is on Facebook — please come down.  Details:

As you all know Cathy has always decorated our beloved Turtle Boy with a wreath for the holidays AND given them to area businesses.  We would like folks to meet at TB at one on Saturday to decorate,  Francoise will get the decorations.  If you would like, you can bring a wreath with you and we can hand them out Sprout style!  And then we go toast our friends at Vincent’s.

We will keep you apprised as we hear more.