Hartland in the 50’s

The Hartland Historical Society is sometimes asked to provide a photograph for the annual Town Report. This year’s cover created interest among people of a certain age who grew up in town. It was a 1950 picture of the 1st and 2nd grades on the Three Corners School’s front steps. The names of the students were not included, but it seems many from that era went to work identifying their classmates. We now have a nearly complete list of the 44 students in the photo. There are no teachers in the photo.

I’m a little younger than the ones on the cover, but I know some of them. The cover prompted us to reminisce about school in those days, with one teacher, almost always a woman, in charge of 25 to 30 students, teaching, maintaining order, and meting out punishment. When I was talking with one of those in the photo, he asked if I had checked the staffing level at the present K–8 school. The Town Report, of course, has two sections, the Town and the School. Both give very detailed accounting of their operations. By my count, our K–8 school has about 60 staff for just under 300 students, about the same number we had for Grades 1–8 in the 1950s.

That cover has inspired me to start writing about Hartland in the ’50s. The decade has long been considered a golden era of happiness and prosperity when we saw significant economic growth. Europe and the Asian nations that participated in World War II were beaten down; everything was made in the U.S.A. Some people today would be quick to point out that the ’50s weren’t great for the large black minority in the country. Certainly true, but Vermont and much of Northern New England was nearly 100% white. There were also some poor families in town throughout the ’50s.

Hartland then had been slowly reversing a hundred-year trend of losing population. When men returned from WWII, they found good jobs, and they married. Couples started families, built or bought new houses, bought new cars, and even took vacations. I saw it happening as a young Baby Boomer. The Baby Boom was one of the most momentous demographic eras in American history. Baby Boomers still represent a large segment of the population in the country, certainly in Vermont, which along with Maine has the oldest population in the U.S.

The ’50s did get off to a bad start. Hartland men too young to serve in WWII were now being drafted for yet another war. After WWII, the U.S. and Russia partitioned the Korean peninsula. In June of 1950, the communist North invaded South Korea. A U.N. force consisting of mostly American troops pushed the communists out of the South and right up the peninsula toward the Chinese border. Alarmed, China sent 250,000 troops into the fray, making the U.N. forces retreat a very costly running battle. There was a two-year stalemate until an armistice was signed in July of 1953. Thirty-six thousand Americans died in the brief Korean War.

We at the Hartland Historical Society have a well-documented history of Hartland in the 1950s. Herb Ogden started publishing his Hartland News in February of 1952. After looking through several issues, I couldn’t help but think how much the topics resemble those on our modern List-Serv–for example, people then second-guessed the Selectmen or School Board, or complained about the condition of their roads, or wondered when they would be plowed. There was even discussion about gender issues and the effect of modern media on children. The one all-consuming challenge facing the Town was what to do about the schools. As the Baby Boomers added to the population in the ’50s, everyone knew something drastic needed to be done and that a lot of money would have to be spent. There were many proposals and countless meetings.

Hartland News – February 23

By Saturday night the great storm of the 17th had been licked. It took 85 hours of plowing by the three plow trucks and the bulldozer. Road Commissioner Harold Barbour had no estimate of the cost of the storm other than labor at $1/hour came to $595.
Osmer ran short of hay, but he only buys one bale at a time and will know better next time. Milk piled up at several farms: C. Best had 18 cans, D. Hoisington had 16, and F. Richardson got his out to the road by horse and stone boat. People living on some dead end stubs and remote stretches wondered when they would be plowed as the plows went by on the main road. John Bowley called Road Commissioner Barbour to task: “I live on a 1/2 –mile stub off from Hartland Hill Road and did not get plowed out until nine days after the storm.” Barbour apologized.

March 1

Flood Control Legislation from Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts has formed a Connecticut River Flood Control Compact. Some 10 reservoir sites will be set up in the headwater states. North Hartland is one of them. Communities involved will be recompensated by Massachusetts and Connecticut for loss of taxable property.

April, 4, 1952

Thin Sap, Fancy Syrup, Snowshoe Gathering Mark New Season. Sugaring began here March 10th when Lyman, Maxfield and Rockwood began setting buckets. M. Adams started his floundering three days later. At least 15,000 buckets are hung in Hartland. There was no real sap run until the 17th – one day after the opening of the two-week “new moon in March” period. This is traditional sugar time and also when hard cider should be bottled.
While most struggled to gather on snowshoes in deep snow, Mesdames Minnes and Rudolph grinned and relaxed while their new tree-to-tree arch pipeline, from some 650 trees, ran full pipe. Most syrup made in Hartland is sold at retail, around $6 a gallon.
Armed Services – Brothers Lawrence and Richard Davis entered the Army and Navy respectively. A third brother, Corporal Robert Davis, is stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. Pfc Avery Howe has received a medical discharge on account of stomach ulcers. He now works at Cones.

April 16, 1952

Selectmen postponed appointing two new Special School Committee members. Ogden, a member of the Committee, said if they put any more women on the Committee, they would have to replace him as well. Ogden said that mixed committees on basic problems do not cut much ice. Men and women reach their conclusions by basically different methods. Men hesitate to speak freely on such committees and at a showdown men are inclined to be too polite. Chairman Bradley asked “What’s the matter, Herbert, don’t you like working with women?” Persis Stillson, the only woman present, said “He just doesn’t like women, period!” As Editor of the paper, Ogden added: “(She exaggerated somewhat.)”

June 12, 1952

Present at the June 12th Selectmen’s meeting were Dean Bradley, Everett Miller, Kendall Adams, Phil Royce, Jim Howland, 2 public
There was discussion of the Mace Hill incident of that afternoon and the sewage disposal problem at a new house in Four Corners. Work is going forward on proceedings to get some 10 little-used roads either thrown up or designated as trails. No business of any consequence was transacted. No date was set for the next meeting.

July 1

Ground broken for new fire station alongside Town garage
Steven Lobdell and Conrad Hoisington have formed a hay-baling partnership. They bought (on time, naturally) a new Turner baler at the start of haying and have been right out straight since. It’s a big, impatient, snorting rig with a capacity up to 8 tons an hour. With rakes, mowers, trailers, and tractors, they will put some $6,750 worth of machinery on a man’s hayfield for the prevailing rate of 16¢ a bale. They also do miscellaneous tractor work and Steve has added chain sawing to his list.
Hartland’s Most Remote Dwelling . The house, marked “camp” on the highway map, and barn are both small and homemade, but uncommonly neat and orderly. The garden, including asparagus and strawberries, is well-cared for. Leon Bettis, about 50 years old, and William, about 80, live there, approximately a mile off the Muskrat Hollow Road on Densmore Hill (now Creampot Road which has 30 houses). The road is in poor shape, good only for Jeep or truck. They have no car, but one horse. Leon hikes to South Woodstock for groceries, but William seldom leaves the place. He receives old-age assistance and does what he can around the farm. Leon does the heavy work. They have 20 cords of solid maple wood for sale, waiting only on someone with a truck to come get it.

There is more to tell, but I did not want to be nosey. The impressive thing is that they live way off from nowhere, on very little, yet do their work, maintain their self-respect and keep their place clean and right.
Les Motschman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.