SoCS: a hometown tale

Once upon a time, I lived in a town of about 200 people in western Massachusetts. Well, 200 if you counted the people in the prison camp up on the hill, who lived in what had been built as lodgings for CCC workers back in ’30s. When I was in Girl Scouts, we used to go to the camp for lessons in ceramics and jewelry making and such. My daughter has a tooled leather belt that my sister made there. The crafts kept the prisoners occupied and they sold some beautiful pieces in their gift shop.

We had a grammar school in town. Four grades in one room downstairs and the four older grades in a classroom upstairs. The school was also built in the ’30s by the WPA. Jobs that helped workers during the Depression and that helped the town for decades after. My father lived in town then and was in school when they moved to the new building.

The largest employer in town was a paper mill along the river which made specialty papers, like the glassine that used to cover envelope windows before there were plastics. They used to make the wrappers for Necco wafers; I remember seeing them made on a school field trip to the mill.

Life was good. Everyone knew everyone. We were probably a bit behind the times but no one much cared about that.

Greater forces did impact us over time, though.

Jobs were moving South. The owners of the mill closed it. Some jobs and the people that filled them moved to Georgia. Some other folks found jobs locally, although other towns were also losing their mills, so jobs weren’t easy to come by. Even the prison camp closed.

The town got smaller. When there were only seven kids left in town who were in K-8, the school closed and the students were bussed to a neighboring town. Eventually, even the post office closed.

The town is still there, though. The people are resilient. Everyone knows everyone. They recently celebrated the town’s bicentennial.

And they all lived happily ever after.
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to begin with “Once upon a time.” I chose to end this (mostly) true tale with the classic fairy tale ending. Join us for SoCS and/or Just Jot It January! Details here:


Author: Joanne Corey

Please come visit my eclectic blog, Top of JC's Mind. You can never be sure what you'll find!

16 thoughts on “SoCS: a hometown tale”

    1. Thanks! I’ve written some poems about the town and the changes over time. Some people doubt the value of the poems but, for me, it’s valuable to preserve what life was like in that time and place.


  1. I was surprised that the girl scouts went to the prison camp to learn ceramics. That seems open minded. In some ways, it’s good to be “behind the times.” I’m glad the town is still there. Interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The prison camp was minimal security for non-violent offenders. I remember one of my teachers was serving a sentence for moonshining. Of course, we were always accompanied by our adult Scout leaders but I never felt unsafe there.

      I’m glad you like the post. I think growing up there is why I still have a rural sensibility, even though I’ve lived in more populous places as an adult.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maggie! The valedictorian comment threw me until I realized you had gone to the bicentennial post which had a news clipping from my high school days. My two sisters were also valedictorians of their high school classes. It was quite a coup for our town to have its students succeed in the (not really very big) city.

      Yes, there are many towns in the US in many different states that share similar stories of mills closing and towns shrinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am Joanne’s sister, and like her, I have many happy memories of growing up in our hometown, Monroe Bridge, MA. I did find it frightening that we lived near a prison camp from where inmates could easily escape. In 1976, Robert Nimblett who was on a work release program from the camp, abducted and murdered a young woman. In 1977, former inmate, Herbert LeBlanc brutally stabbed a woman 24 times. This woman was someone we all knew, as she had grown up in our town. I for one, was glad when the prison camp closed.


    1. Yes. When we were going to craft classes there, the prison camp was for non-violent offenders only who were nearing the end of their sentences and had exhibited good behavior. It was a big mistake when they started to have violent offenders there, especially when they sent them on work-release away from the camp. It wasn’t long after that that these crimes happened and the camp closed.


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