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).
Southwick 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?
Volume 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as kerosene lamps, wood-fired steam boilers, windmill-powered water pumps and ice saws, many of which were becoming outdated in an era of electric appliances & other conveniences.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!