Albert Southwick news and events

In case you missed it, Albert Southwick appeared on “Coffee with Konnie” last month. It’s available for viewing at

Also, if you missed the chance in December or January to meet Mr. Southwick and have some books signed, he’ll be doing another signing event at the Robert H. Goddard Library at Clark University on Saturday, May 17 from 12:00-2:00 p.m.


Stop by and meet Mr. Southwick.  All of his newer books will be available for purchase (cash or check only), or bring along any Southwick books you may already own and get them personalized. For more information about Albert Southwick’s books, visit

Moose Hill Ski Area

Friendly reminder: there will be an Al Southwick book signing tomorrow, January 26, from 2-4pm at Annie’s Book Stop.

As some of you may know, Albert Southwick and his brother Tom ran a ski area called Moose Hill during the 1960s.

Southwick devotees may remember a column from a couple of years ago about this ski area (“It was uphill, then downhill”, Telegram and Gazette, 29 December 2011).

I’d been meaning to post about Moose Hill since the column was published, because the land was owned by Ben O’Janne, who was the uncle of one of my closest friends, Craig.  (Imagine my surprise when I started reading a Southwick column about someone I knew!)

Uncle Ben kept a folder of clippings and brochures about Moose Hill Ski Area.  We’ve posted those to the web:

The front and back of the original 1960 brochure.

The original letter offering season tickets (which were in the form of the moose pin pictured above).

The front and back of the 1961 brochure.

The front and back of the 1962 brochure.

The front and back of the 1963 brochure.

Various clippings about the ski area (1, 2, 3, 4) and a 1980 article about the Moose Hill dam.

An article about Moose Hill from the Country Courier in 1960.


War letters of Albert Southwick

Albert Southwick, like many young men of his generation, enlisted in the armed forces in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was to spend the war far from home serving in the U.S. Navy, and so often stationed in remote locales that he was only able to return home on leave once during the war.

In those days before e-mail and Skype, the way someone stayed in touch with loved ones far away was usually by letter, card or postcard.  Phone calls were sometimes possible, but prohibitively expensive for the typical serviceman, and telegrams were usually reserved for news of crises or death.

Mr. Southwick recently donated over 250 letters from those years to the Worcester Historical Museum.  These letters were to and from young Albert Southwick, from the time he enlisted until shortly after the war ended in 1945.  Many of his letters are to his parents, although some were to other relatives or friends.  The ones to Albert were mostly from his parents at Maple Hill Farm in Leicester, though occasionally someone else writes to him.

Before these letters were donated to the Worcester Historical Museum, they were painstakingly transcribed by Southwick’s daughter Martha, who has now begun making them available in book form for a wider audience to appreciate.

WW2lettersVol1The first volume, titled WWII Correspondence between Albert B. Southwick and Maple Hill Farm: February to June 1942, begins with Albert stationed at the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island; later in 1942 he writes from a Navy service school in Jacksonville, Florida.  In these early letters we get a sense of what young Albert Southwick was going through as he prepared to be sent to war.  Many of the letters sent to Albert are from his parents, and the reader will be surprised to see that his father, Nathan Southwick, writes to young Albert in cleverly rhyming verse, and that Albert sometimes responds in kind.  By the end on this volume, he has learned typing, Morse code, semaphore, and other useful skills.

WW2lettersVol2The second volume, titled WWII Letters from Albert B. Southwick to Maple Hill Farm: June 1942 to May 1943, begins with Apprentice Seaman Albert Southwick, now 22 years old, completing his training in Jacksonville, Florida.  One gets the sense that the novelty & enjoyment of that location have worn off.  He’s been learning radar and earning a swimming classification, spending whatever leave time he has enjoying himself in locations that are now considered vacation destinations, and wondering where he’ll be posted when his training is complete.

He then spends a while in Norfolk, Virginia, where he has his first plane ride and learns the finer points of operating a radio.  Then the Navy sends him on a long train trip westward, and he eventually arrives in California, where has lots of other training, and whenever allowed leave, explores many interesting locales, and he’s able to visit with a relative who lives nearby.  At one point he’s able to have a short visit with his mother, who makes a trip out west to visit.  Later he’s sent back east to Louisiana, where he attends pre-flight training school.

By the end of this volume we’ve followed Albert to May of 1943, and he’s now an Aviation Radioman Petty Officer, 3rd Class.

WW2lettersVol3In the third volume, titled WWII Letters from Albert B. Southwick to Maple Hill Farm: May 1943 to August 1944, we find 23 year old Albert Southwick writing from Normal Station in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where he’s learning to pilot and navigate aircraft.  Later that year he’s moved to a base in Dallas, Texas, where his flying skills are refined, though he has some difficulties with aerobatics in January of 1944 that set his training back a bit.  From there he’s sent to  bases in Florida for further training, including night flying.  He’s introduced to the PBY aircraft, which will play a notable role in his career in naval aviation.  By the end of this volume in August of 1944, Albert Southwick is ranked Aviation Pilot, First Class.

These activities are chronicled amid many dozens of letters which usually deal largely with things like how the family’s faring at home, how certain other relatives in the service are doing, what sort of extracurricular goings-on occur in Albert’s life when he’s on leave, etc.  His correspondents are often his parents, though occasionally we see letters from other relatives, or friends such as Ben Bagdikian, or English pen-pal Nellie Timberlake.

It’s amazing to see how long it took to train a young man to be an aviator.  At the end of the third volume of letters, young Albert Southwick still hasn’t been sent into harm’s way to fight his nation’s enemies, though we sense that this is what will happen next as we look forward to a fourth volume of letters, to be published later this year.

Through these many letters we begin to get a glimpse of what sort of young man Albert was, and we get some sense of the people and places that have been important to him.  Those of us who have known someone who fought in that war may also gain some further understanding of what the veterans we’ve known went through in those years.  That worldwide conflict changed so many lives in so many ways.

This man who now shares so much of our local history with us survived a piece of what we now think of as history, but which for Albert Southwick is his story.  And thankfully, many of his letters have survived, too, to help him tell us his tale.

Where to buy the books

I linked to Amazon, but you can (and should) buy the books locally.

They are available for sale at the Worcester Historical Museum.

There are also two book signings coming up:

  • on Saturday, January 18 from 1-3pm at the Worcester Public Library Food for Thought Bookstore & Cafe
  • on Sunday, January 26 from 2-4pm at Annie’s Book Stop at 65 James Street

Note that if you want copies of the older books (Once-Told Tales, More Once-Told Tales, etc.), plan on coming early as there will only be limited copies available for sale.

And there was a great profile in today’s Telegram.

Selected Writings of Albert Southwick

As you may have read previously on this blog, Albert Southwick will be doing some book signing events this month.

SelectedWritingsIf you’re a fan of Southwick’s Thursday columns in the Telegram, you’ll really appreciate one of his new books — Selected Writings, Volume I.  Much of this book is material that originally appeared in the Telegram . . . but then nowhere else.  Until now.

Selected Writings, Volume I includes some of my favorite columns.  Having visited the American Sanitary Plumbing Museum when it was located in Worcester, I enjoyed rereading Southwick’s piece titled “Worcester’s First Loo?”  If you’ve ever hiked the East Side Trail and seen the remains of coal mines, you’ll appreciate the story “Worcester’s Big Coal Rush”.  Other local topics include gaslights, streetcars, the “Deep Cut” under Plantation Street, influenza, Worcester’s first waste recycling facility (a municipal piggery), bridging Lake Quinsigamond, newspaper intrigues, and elections that hinged on one vote.

Mr. Southwick’s columns in the Telegram sometimes discuss matters of wider interest, and this volume includes some of those.  Whether aircraft of the second World War, Eli Whitney, the first newspaper in the Colonies, U.S. Imperialism, or power struggles among the Roosevelts, Albert Southwick always has an interesting take on things.  And as a veteran of World War II, Southwick has some observations about Hiroshima that remind us about what front line troops were thinking regarding the prospect of having to invade Japan.

That all said, Selected Writings, Volume I isn’t just a collection of newspaper articles.  It includes texts of several talks/presentations that Southwick has given at various events, and some reminiscences of people and places that have been important to him.

Selected Writings, Volume I will be available for purchase at some upcoming book signing events, where you can get a copy autographed/personalized by Mr. Southwick himself.  It is also available online from  If you enjoy Albert Southwick’s writing — especially if you’re looking for something to join your copies of Once Told Tales and More Once Told Tales on your bookshelf — then Selected Writings, Volume I would be a great addition to your library.

Albert Southwick book signing events and other news

As regular readers of this blog know, Telegram columnist Albert Southwick has several new books available.  Last month he had two book signing events — one at the Worcester Historical Museum, and another at the Leicester Public Library.

If you missed those, you’re in luck — there will be two more book signing events this month:

Saturday, January 18, 2014
1:00-3:00 pm
Food For Thought Bookstore at the Worcester Public Library
3 Salem Sq., Worcester
Cash/check only at this event
(snow date January 25)
Facebook event

Sunday, January 26, 2014
2:00-4:00 pm
Annie’s Book Stop
65 James Street, Worcester
Cash/credit cards accepted

The newer books will be available for sale at either location, or order some in advance and bring them with you to be signed.  Here are the new book titles, with clickable links in case you want a sneak peek at what will be available at the book signing events:

Down on the Farm: Volume I (1956 – 1958)

WWII Correspondence between Albert B. Southwick and Maple Hill Farm: February to June 1942

  WWII Letters from Albert B. Southwick to Maple Hill Farm: June 1942 – May 1943

Selected Writings: Volume 1

Maple Hill Farm & Al Southwick

I’ve reviewed one of the new books already; before the upcoming signing events, I hope to have reviews of two others for you.

It’s unclear whether some of his popular books from years ago (such as Once Told Tales of Worcester County, More Once Told Tales of Worcester County or 150 Years of Worcester: 1848-1998) will be available at the book signing events, but several of these titles are still available for purchase on — one could order a copy & bring it to the event to be signed.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Mr. Southwick has been embracing modernity lately.  He finally has a web page; it’s fairly basic, but has links to all of the books that are still available for sale.  Check it out:

The book signing events at Annie’s Book Stop & the library are both being promoted on Facebook.

What’s next?  Historical tweets?  Only time will tell.

Go, Al!

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!

Southwickian Festivities

As not one but two readers have pointed out to me, tomorrow is:

135th Annual Meeting of Worcester Historical Museum
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

4:00 Annual business meeting
Fletcher Auditorium

4:30 Presentation of the first
George Bancroft Award to
in recognition of his decades-long
commitment to sharing and
celebrating the history of Worcester

A reception will follow in the exhibition
in the Booth Gallery
R.S. V. P. to 508.753.8278

(Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend as I have a prior engagement.  Otherwise, you know I’d be there.)

Leicester: a gentler pace of life

Travel a bit northwest of Auburn to a place where we don’t worry about flying girls and frenetic boys.  If you’re late for work, tell the boss you stopped to let a turtle cross by you on Peter Salem Road.  What’s with all that rushing around, anyway?  Roll down your window and enjoy life for a few minutes or a few hours, or however long it takes that turtle to cross the road.


Albert Southwick thinks turning ninety isn’t a big deal.

While that may be true, ninety years of AWESOME is totally worth celebrating.

Thank you, Mr. Southwick, for your always-interesting columns, for continuing to inform the public about our history, for being an inspiration to young people, and for knowing the difference between “jerry-built” and “jury-rigged.”

(Also, in honor of your birthday, today’s BBC One Planet programme devoted the better part of a show to aging.)