Old haunts

This is my last full day in the North Adams area. MASS MoCA is closed today, so I planned to go back to Monroe Bridge, Paco (my dad) and my hometown, and Hoosac Tunnel, Nana’s (my mom) hometown. I thought it would take a couple of hours this morning and I’d be back to the hotel by noon.

I got carried away.

I wound up stopping at a lot of old-but-changed haunts and taking tons of photos. (Don’t worry. I’ll only share a few.) Many of the ones I won’t show are unlikely to be meaningful to anyone without long-standing personal history in the area, as there is a lot of “what used to be here” in play. Warning: There will also be a lot of dams and reservoirs and hydroelectric plants. Paco was superintendent of the Upper Deerfield River (southern Vermont/western Massachusetts) for what was then New England Power Company and my sisters and I grew up traipsing around powerplants and such.

Sherman Reservoir – our house, which is no longer there, was near the dam that created the reservoir
Sherman Station, the hydroelectric plant just below the dam and our “neighbor”

The building in the photo below was built by the WPA in the 1930’s. My father and some of his siblings attended school there when it was new. It also housed the town office and library. They are still there, but most of the building is now offices for the current successor of New England Power Company. The array of mailboxes is a poor substitute for the post office, which was the center of town life for many years. Olga, the postmistress was a good friend of my mom’s; they saw each other nearly every day and stayed in touch after retirement and moves put them at a distance.

Front of the former school with tree dedicated to Olga Simonetti, former postmistress
Olga’s memorial plaque

I went down to the river and crossed the bridge; our town’s name was Monroe, but the mailing address became Monroe Bridge because they would leave the mail at the Monroe bridge. This iteration of the bridge was built in 2015. The dam is quite a lot older. Part of the old paper mill was torn down and replaced with a little park. The rest is still there, although the worse for wear.

I continued downriver. I visited the Dunbar Brook picnic area, which was deserted except for a toad that I startled as I walked across the grass. I got to take a ride on a swing, which was refreshing and nostalgic. When I went back to my car, I was surprised to see that the old road along the river leading toward the Bear Swamp lower reservoir was open. I drove all the way down to the gate just before the Number 5 Station.

Number 5 Station and the Deerfield becoming the lower reservoir for Bear Swamp pumped storage

When I went back up to the main road, I stopped to pay my respects at the Legate family cemetery. When Nana and Paco were first married, they lived in the old Legate House, which was then owned by New England Power. The house was torn down decades ago, but the little cemetery is still tended to.

I wish I could show you a decent photo of the lower reservoir for Bear Swamp. I wish even more that I could tour the underground powerhouse that we visited with Paco so many times as it was being built and after it was completed, but it is all fenced in for safety and security reasons. I will close, though, with a photo of the Hoosac Tunnel. Nana grew up in Hoosac Tunnel, a part of the town of Florida, Massachusetts, because her father headed a maintenance crew for the Boston and Maine Railroad. At the time it was built, the Hoosac Tunnel was an engineering marvel. This is the less-fancy eastern portal. The North Adams side was more decorative, befitting a growing city in the late 1800s.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to revisit my roots. I hope that the sense of connection and the energy and the comfort of familiarity will stay with me so that I can make progress on my poetry collection after I am home.

If not, I may have to come back.

Or, maybe, I’ll come back regardless.

Mass MoCA Poetry Residency: Aftermath

The Mass MoCA/Tupelo press workshop ended yesterday morning, but I’m not home yet.

One of our cousins picked me up and B met us later at their home in Stamford, Vermont, which is his hometown. For the weekend, we are staying at the home of a high school friend, who was my classmate and B’s lab partner for physics.

The local connections and tour continue.  Today, B and I went on a car trip back to my hometown, Monroe Bridge, MA. We stopped and took some photos of where my house used to be, where Rowe Yankee used to be, where Sherman hydro station, the dam, and Tower Brook still are, where the town office and library still are, although the rest of the building which was my elementary school up through eighth grade is now offices for whichever power company it is that now owns what was New England Power when my father was superintendent for the upper Deerfield.

I keep having ideas and little fragments of poems pop into my head, so I scrawl them in my journal. I have also had some chance to tell B some of my experiences, which is helping me to process. I am looking forward to talking to some of my poet friends at home. I also want to share some of my drafts of Monroe Bridge-North Adams  poems with my mom and dad. There are some details that they can provide to help me be historically correct.

I realized that the chapbook I had hoped to write from this experience probably needs to be a collection instead. I find myself thinking of prospective titles and ways to organize the collection into sections, even the placement of some of the poems I have already written which will fit into the collection.  It’s exciting! It will be a big project and I’m not sure how long it will take to write, revise, and assemble it.

I told Jeffrey he could be the first one to reject it when it is done. 😉