Small town Christmas

It was 1987 and a young boy named Phil was coming to Greenville for Christmas. He had lived with his family far away in the south Pacific for four years. From this island country of extreme heat, palm trees, sandy beaches, malaria and barefoot living, he came home to enjoy the holidays in snowy, cold Maine.

There was Aunt Tracy’s amazing pizza, Grammy’s baked beans and molasses cookies, fun with cousins not seen for years, a real Christmas tree, and an afternoon of shopping for presents in downtown Greenville. Phil especially wanted to get something nice for his Grammy.

indian storePhil meandered through the Indian Store, where he found plenty of choices for gifts for his siblings, Mom and Dad. He checked prices, counted his money; he had  just enough left to find the perfect gift for Grammy.

He headed across the street to Sander’s Store (est 1852), that famous emporium owned by the Sanders family. It just so happened that Gramps was there having a chat with the proprietor of said store, Brud ( Harry Sanders 3 ). Brud and Gramps (Edwin Schuyler Walden) went way back. (Both est. 1922)sanders store

Phil looked around and saw it –  a carved squirrel, sitting on a log and eating an acorn. Grammy would love it. He picked it up; it was oh, so perfect! Then he looked at the price and his heart sunk. 25 dollars. Way too much. He put it back and sighed.

Across the store, Gramps surreptitiously slipped 20 dollars to Brud, and said, ‘Tell him it’s on sale.’

So Brud did that very thing.

Phil now had the perfect gift for his Grammy and wow, what a sale!!! He walked out of Sander’s Store happy as a clam and walking on air!

Small towns are personal. Gramps and Brud were probably delivered by the same doctor. Gramps  always opined that Brud was born before him by ten days and he could never catch up. They went through school together and were part of the greatest generation, serving overseas. They both came home and eventually raised their families on (well named) Pleasant Street.

These two men – now grandfathers- were delighted to help a young boy buy the very best gift for his Grammy.IMG_2337.JPG

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Gramps Gets Promoted

Gramps had only one regret about his military service; he was not promoted to Captain. He tried a few times to get his rank changed  and even called Susan Collins to see if she would hear his case. Some of his friends wrote on his behalf to presidents over the years. No luck.

Gramps’ favorite place to go this past year was the American Legion Post 94, over in the Junction, where he would have a donut, chat and play cribbage. One day last winter he came home happily surprised; he had met Major Mabee,  and thereafter, he made sure to be there when she was.

IMG_0452Major Mabee is a no-nonsense woman with a heart of gold. She has beautiful long gray hair she keeps up, often under a hat. She plays a mean game of cribbage, is  as quick witted as Gramps and she outranked him. Even if he lost a cribbage game to the Major, it was still  a win for Gramps!

I think Gramps reminded Major Mabee of her father, also a vet, but whatever the reason, they became fast friends. It gave Gramps something to look forward to and often defined his day.  He enjoyed all of his friends at the legion but the Major, I think, was his favorite.

They talked about their military service; Gramps told her about his time in the South Pacific and how he wished he had left the Army Air Corps as a captain.

In the last week of Gramps’ life, when it was apparent his time was short, Major Mabee came into his room at CA Dean hospital. Here is her telling of the event:

‘I walked into his room and stood at his bedside. Ed, I said, It’s Major Mabee. His eyelids fluttered a little and there was a slight smile. Ed, I brought you something. His eyelids again fluttered. Ed, you have to open your eyes to see what I brought you.

I held the card with the captain bars in front of him. His eyes slowly opened and at first he looked confused. Ed, these were my captain bars from when I was on active duty. I want you to have them.IMG_0980

He smiled widely and his blue eyes sparkled with understanding as I unofficially promoted him to Captain Ed Walden.

I added, Ed, don’t let this go to your head because I still outrank you. He murmured something. His eyes closed; his smile continued. I love you, Ed, I said, placed his captain bars on the bedside table and left.’

IMG_0923Last week we had a burial for Gramps with an honor guard, flag folding, and taps.  Gramps was one of the few of the ‘Greatest Generation’ left.

This week he received a letter of thanks for his military service from the White House. He would have loved that.

Thank you, indeed, from all of us and farewell, Captain Edwin Schuyler Walden. You will not be forgotten. img_0989.jpg

 

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Gramps Edwin Schuyler Walden 1922-2017

23795511_10212939139066150_7133622214063084165_nMany of you have come to know Gramps through facebook and our blog; here is a little more about his ordinary extraordinary life.

Edwin Schuyler Walden was born in Greenville, Maine July 20, 1922, hand delivered by the famous Doc Pritham.  He was named Edwin for his quiet, retiring grandfather (sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree) and Schuyler for a WW1 pilot who came to Walden Farm to find respite and recovery. 

IMG_6599He was a happy bowlegged child running carefree among the summer guests on Walden Farm learning quickly how to find money (under the porch) or make money ( taking fishermen to hot spots when he wasn’t big enough to lift the boat motor). His childhood framed the rest of his life; every new acquaintance was a friend – who surely wanted to hear his stories.

He served during WW2 in the South Pacific as an engineering officer in the Army Air Corps. Upon his return, he graduated from the University of Maine, married, and came home to Greenville where he and his wife, Barbara, kept the Greenville Airport operating for several years.12048529_10153012800132541_1517694348_n

He lived the rest of his life in this town that he loved, supporting his family by running a local business, eventually retiring and building a house on Walden land, a stone’s throw from where he spent his childhood.

Gramps was famous for his love of family both past and present. He was proud of his place in local history and was a ‘mahvelous’ storyteller. He was happiest when telling and retelling a Walden Farm tale to anyone who would listen.

He died on November 23, 2017 in the ‘Doc Pritham’ room at the CA Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

They say a loved person has many names and Gramps was Ed, Eddie, Bones, Uncle Bones, Boonie, Gramps and Grandfather. He was a favorite uncle, a loved grandfather, an epic storyteller and a proud East Roader. He will be lovingly remembered by friends and family.

For those of you who love his stories, as I do, I am happy to say that Gramps and I worked together on writing down just about every story he ever told and we will continue to publish these on our blog and hopefully in a book.

We are having a celebration of his life June 24, 2018, at the Walden Farm open to all . Donations in his memory may be made to American Legion, Post 94, PO Box 1222, Greenville, Maine, 04441

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Gramps Hitchhikes to Town in his Wheelchair

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We came home the other day and Gramps told us nonchalantly that he had hitchhiked to town.

Well, he said, I was alone and I wanted to go to breakfast at the Legion Hall because I was hoping to see  a lady (I knew it!) who might be there. Her name is Major Maybe and maybe I ‘d get a chance to play cards with her. 

So I got myself ready, wheeled out the door and hurried down my ramp just as a neighbor drove by. I never even got to put my thumb out and I had a ride.

He put my wheelchair in the back of his truck and dropped me off at the Legion Hall. I had coffee and doughnuts with the other old vets. We shared local scuttlebutt, grumbled a little and checked up on each other.   Major Maybe came in and beat me at cribbage. I stayed until noon which is closing time and then a young fellow was kind enough to give me a ride home in his shivering Chevrolet truck. 

I was lucky to get there and I was lucky to get home.

So tired was I the next day I slept until 11, only rousing with a desire to go visit a lady at the nursing home.

That was another adventure. I brought with me with a change of clothes (just in case) and a cribbage board in a little green suitcase.  My friend, Duane, drove me over to the nursing home. Immediately, I began to look for someone to talk to.

Suddenly, I realized the staff girls looked upset, confused and worried. They were frowning and conferring together. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I had been there several times before. So I said, What’s the matter?

Well, said one, why do you have your suitcase?

 Then it dawned on me. They thought maybe my family had dropped me off for good!

 I’m not here to stay, I said, this case contains some games and a change of clothes in case I need them. Were they happy to hear that! So we had a good laugh together; I finished my visiting and got a ride home. 

And the adventures of Grandfather continue. I wonder what exciting, humorous shenanigans he’ll get into tomorrow on his 95th birthday.

 

 

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The Whiffletree – Sign of Spring

The winter of 1929 was markedly cold, snowy and long. It began unusually early and snowed more than it had in quite a few years. My bedroom window had snow on the sill most days and all winter I had to walk through a minor snowdrift to get to the kitchen.

Seems like I spent the whole winter shivering.

But eventually winter gave way to spring. On a warm Saturday I sat on the front steps and soaked in the sunshine. There were plenty of things to be done but I wanted to sit and just be warm. It was the perfect day for dawdling.

And then my father called to me, ‘Son, go get me the whiffletree.’

In truth I did not know what my father really wanted but I was too embarrassed to ask. Reluctantly I pushed myself up and headed out to a nearby field because that’s where the trees were; I figured there must be a whiffletree among them. I searched for a while and then picked the biggest tree I thought I could handle, cut it down, and dragged it back for my father to use.

I could see him already out in the field. He had tired of waiting for me, found the whiffletree in its usual place in the barn,  harnessed our horses Old Bill and Duroc and headed out to get the day’s work done. whiffletree
The whiffletree, I learned, looks like this. It is a ‘crossbar, pivoted at the middle to which the traces of a harness are fastened for pulling a cart, plow, etc’.

The whiffletree is also a sign of spring. Get the horses out, plow the fields, prepare the ground. There will be planting a garden, weeding and all kinds of work on Walden Farm.

But there will also be time for a young boy, rid of the constraints of school, to throw off his shoes, enjoy the warmth of the sun and fish in Wilson Pond to his heart’s content.

 

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The boy and the whiffletree both grown old 

And now bring on the whiffletree. We’ve had enough of winter.

 

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East Road Excitement circa 1938

Dave Curtis was at times a bus driver, piano player, photographer, dog owner and generally well-liked East Roader. When he had to get off airport land because of eminent domain, Dave decided to take just his photography studio to live in as it was only him and his dog. So a bunch of friends put that little building on a couple of birch logs and pulled it with Stan Walden’s 6×6 truck to its new resting place by Bersley Hill on East Road.

The studio house was placed on posts in a small uphill spot that the men had cleared. That was a good thing because Dave often had to roll his old Ford to get it started. It so happened that his battery  died one day so a friend took it downtown to Newt Porter’s garage in town to get it charged up.

So a day or two later Dave Curtis wanted to go downtown and he had forgotten all about the battery not being in the car; he just remembered it had been flat and he thought he should get it charged. Without a glance behind him, he put his Ford in neutral and rolled  backwards out into East Road. He cut in sharply so he could start down the hill, shifted into third gear and let it go. Then the motor ignited and off he flew down the hill to town.

Dave pulled into Newt’s Garage and went inside, walking past the seven foot stuffed black bear holding an outboard motor. He found Newt and said in his distinctive way, ‘Sniff, sniff, Newt, can you take out my battery out and charge it?’ And Newt says, ‘Somebody brought it down a week ago. Want me to put it in the car?’ ‘Oh, sure,’ says Dave, blissfully unaware that at that very moment ……………..

scared-man-driving-nervous-holding-steering-wheel-over-isolated-background-37201731Back up on East Road a few houses down from Dave Curtis’ studio house a CMP (Central Maine Power) man who had been driving on the hitherto peaceful country roads was having a moment of rage, relief and wonder at Stan Walden’s house.  His eyes were bugged out of his head, his hair was standing on end. He was white as a sheet and weak as a new born lamb. ‘Wwwwwhhhat kind of man,’ he asked in a trembling voice, ‘I say what kind of a wild man backed out into the street right in front of me and took off like a bat outta you-know-where? I had a close escape, a very close escape, I say!’

Stan sat the CMP man down, gave him a sweet lemonade and cookies made by his wife Em and eventually sent him on his way calmed down.  Then Stan sat down himself and had a good laugh. Being the good story teller he was he added this day’s events to his repertoire, told it many times over and now over 60 years later we’re telling it again.

 

 

 

 

 

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How an 8 Party Line, Hatbox Car and 2 Farm Kids Saved the Elliot House

A Walden Farm Tale – Gramps and Viv Walden

th_002One five, ring twelve was our number at Walden Farm. It rang one long ring and two short. Sometimes my sister Lambie and I would pick up when other people were called just to listen in and have a bit of fun. We knew everybody’s number on our 8 party line.

One winter in late February, as Lambie and I were eating breakfast before heading off to school, the phone went crazy – it was ringing wildly and making no sense. Figuring something must be wrong somewhere, I picked up and Elsie Elliot, who lived about a mile away, was frantically hollering, ‘My house is on fire! My house is on fire!’

Lambie and I were just a couple of farm kids but we knew what to do and we wasted no time. I called to Lambie, ‘Get the car out!’ and she jumped into our 1928 Chevrolet. That car looked like a hatbox on wheels and had a top speed of 45 mph downhill.

Lambie was our best driver on the farm; she used to go out and practice 180’s in the winter just for the fun of it. We came through town after school one day and as she drove past the Post Office she said ‘Oh, I forgot to check the mail’, quickly spun around 180 degrees to drive into the PO driveway from the other side of the road.

Another time we were passing by the Drew’s house on our way to school and a black cat was in the middle of the road; Lambie accelerated, shut the motor off, turned it back on and BANG the car backfired!!! That cat flew off the road and remained airborne for about 10 feet. Sometimes Lambie did the same thing when we went through town and kids were walking in the street –BANG- and those kids scattered.

Anyway, with Lambie at the wheel, I knew we’d get to that house fire lickety-split. I grabbed the garden hose and had barely jumped in the car when it took off like a shot. Out the driveway, down the road and with a squeal of breaks we pulled into the Elliot’s driveway.

I hooked the hose to the kitchen sink and swung the nozzle hard into the wall; it broke through and hit the fire in the chimney. By the time the fire department arrived, the fire was out. Lambie and I took our garden hose back home, picked up our homework and lunches and went to school.

The old Elliot  house is still standing by Sawyer Pond as a testament to two quick thinking farm kids, a hatbox car, a garden hose and that eight party phone line!

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He Raised the Roof for Her – an Everyday Valentine

She was a fine looking New England woman and he was a quiet man with a mustache.     It was a marriage made in Maine and from all reports a long and happy union.

Abby was one of the famous Varney daughters and Edwin was the grandson of Deborah Haskell Walden Young, a widow with three children, who arrived in Greenville, Maine in 1826 on an oxcart. (What I mean to say by this is that they both came from good stock.)

IMG_4012There used to be a dummy at the corner in Greenville that said, Walden Farm 1.5 miles. That was the farm of Abby and Ed Walden. They raised potatoes, three children and ran a summer bed and breakfast long before that term was coined.

When their sons grew up, married and took to producing the next generation who also lived at the farm, Abby raised the roof, in a manner of speaking. ‘Ed’, she said, ‘We need more room.’

So Ed raised the roof – literally! He added a whole new floor with eight bedrooms and two bathrooms.

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Raising the roof 1912

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The finished house

 

Time went on, more grandchildren were produced and one morning Ed saw Abby walking down the road toward town with her suitcase, money in her pocketbook and a look of determination on her face. Ed headed out after her.

‘Abby’, he called, Where are you going?’

‘I’m going downtown,’ she said. ‘It’s a big farm, Ed, but not big enough for three cooks. I’m going to find a house of my own.’

And so she did. Ed and Abby lived happily in downtown Greenville where he cleaned outhouses and rented boats and she raised chickens. The grandchildren came often to eat her homemade bread and play dominoes; time spent with this couple was so marvelous that at 93, their grandson remembers it as some of the most pleasant moments of his life.

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Abby Varney Walden and Edwin Walden

We at Walden Farm wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. And if you want a long and happy marriage, take a tip from Ed and Abby- if need be, raise the roof!

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Planning the Garden with Gramps


IMG_20160111_192426237We are in the thick of winter so yesterday I handed Johnny’s Seed Catalog to Gramps as a nod to spring and the large garden we hope to plant.

We began our work on the garden in the fall because Gramps had a load of horse manure delivered and with that came an abundance of the dreaded mustard weed which Gramps said we should pull up by the roots and throw down the hill behind the barn. So there we were yanking up those weeds out in the garden and Gramps began to reminisce.

IMG_3271‘Well’, he said, ‘I was helping my mother in the garden when I was four years old. We depended on that garden to feed the summer paying guests. Tomatoes, beans, cukes, squash, pumpkin, turnip, carrots, potatoes – Ma grew all of them and we children helped with the planting, weeding and harvesting. We knew we had to pitch in to have enough food for the Walden Farm guests in the summer and the family in the winter.

‘One year we had a field of potatoes that was just too darn sweet and somewhat scabby. That was because my Grampa Edwin Walden who cleaned out outhouses for a living spread you-know-what on that field. The PH was not balanced well. Our guests enjoyed the potatoes remarking on their sweetness and we made sure not to mention what made them that way.

‘Every year we put 1000 bushels of potatoes down cellar. We had a potato digger hooked up to the tractor; Dad drove and we kids followed and picked the spuds. Two bushels went into a bag. Then the jigger came along and we put the bags on the jigger and off they went to the cellar.’

Why do you call it a jigger,’ I asked Gramps. ’Well, got to call it something’, he says.

Gramps leaned on his hoe and continued, ‘Ma would send me to Sanders’ store to exchange potatoes for whatever she had on her list. A bushel was worth about a dollar in the best of times and 25 cents in the depression.

‘I would load up our 1928 Chevy Hatbox with spuds and go down to Sanders to trade for material byIMG_0035 the yard and Ma would make my clothes. I graduated in tan wool knickers and a cotton shirt made by my mother. Shoes and underwear we had to buy.

‘One time Eleanor Marie Duval, a wealthy summer guest at Walden Farm for many years, gave me a pair of Bavarian pants she brought back from a trip overseas. They had a wide front with a flap in front like long underwear had in the back. I happily wore those odd pants to school where I was a hit. It was nice to have an extra pair of pants to change off with the ones Ma made.’

I asked Gramps for a list of his top gardening tips. He mentioned soil testing,IMG_20160110_090147937 PH balancing, adding lime to the soil, crossways tilling and blue vitriol poison to kill the bugs. But first on his list was – Put your boots on! Before the harvesting of a hopefully bountiful crop of vegetables comes the hard work in the dirt.

Duly noted, Gramps. I’m off to get a pair of Maine gum rubbers, size 5; when spring comes I’ll be ready! I wonder if the old Sanders store- now Northwoods Outfitters will accept potatoes as payment! We figure the purchase will come up to about one and a half bushels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Lieutenant Edwin Schuyler Walden, 93, Reports for Duty

Last night First Lieutenant Edwin Schuyler Walden aka Gramps returnedIMG_3997 home from his trip to Washington, DC with Honor Flight Maine.

Forty-five WW2 veterans made up this fall’s group. I like to think they represented all the men (including my father and perhaps yours) who volunteered to go to war. Gramps’ son said it best; they went not knowing if they would come back.  It has been said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  These good men from all over our country willingly risked their lives that good might prevail.

This weekend Gramps and his fellow veterans were honored. ThousandsIMG_3998 greeted their flights with cheering, clapping and singing. Fire engines performed their water salutes. There were handshakes aplenty and the phrase, Thank you for your service, was heard many times over.

But the most moving moment for Gramps was the 45 minutes he stood at attention at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It happened like this. As he got dressed in the morning, he decided to wear his old uniform from over 70 years ago. After breakfast he and  his fellow vets traveled by bus to the different sites. They visited the Vietnam Memorial,  Lincoln Memorial and the World War 2 Memorial. By afternoon, Gramps was getting weary and his legs were tiring. He was also feeling the somber mood of remembering all those who had given their lives for others.

And then the group arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This delegation of Honor Flight Maine had been invited to attend the changing of the guard and had brought with them a Maine wreath to lay at the tomb.

Right before the ceremony began, Gramps was singled out (he thinks because of his uniform) by the woman in charge, ‘Lieutenant, I want you to stand right here, on guard, during the ceremony.’

‘Yes, ma’am’, said Gramps, ‘I would be honored.’

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Gramps stands guard.

He got up from his wheelchair and stood at attention, thinking of those men who had died in war and specifically those who had been buried unknown and unnamed. He felt it was a solemn and sacred duty given to him and he took it seriously. Gramps, who in his regular life seldom stands for even short periods of time, stood straight and tall for three quarters of an hour. The sun cast his shadow before him and when he saw his legs begin to bend and wobble, he made sure to stand tall again. The strength of his will was stronger than the frailty of his body. He felt privileged to give honor to the fallen.

When the wreath had been laid and the changing of the guard completed, Gramps’ hard work of standing at attention was finished. ‘Very well done, Lieutenant. Thank you,’ he was told. Only then did Gramps sit down.

Gramps came home completely overwhelmed with gratitude to God and country for giving him the privilege of serving our country and for the marvelous and free life he has lived.

 

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