Showing posts with label Fitchburg Massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fitchburg Massachusetts. Show all posts

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Remembering Brainard Winslow Rogers

Brainard, about 1983
My brother has always referred to our Uncle Brainard as "the gentle giant" and I think that describes him perfectly. As you can see, he carried on the name from our Civil War ancestor, Winslow Brainard Rogers, which was probably both a point of pride and a bit of a burden. (although I never heard him complain)

Brainard Winslow Rogers was born in 1933, almost a full decade after my mother.  He grew up in the house on Garfield Street and later the first house on the corner of Rogers Avenue and North Street.  His childhood was at the height of the Great Depression when my grandfather finally went to work for the department of streets (most probably through a WPA program) and my grandmother briefly had a little shop to bring in extra money.
Uncle Brainard and me, Christmas 1954
He enlisted in the Air Force at the end of the Korean War, but ended up fulfilling his service in various reserve units. I remember him going off to serve with the SeaBees in Biloxi and coming back appalled at the heat and humidity! Generally, though, he seemed to enjoy his reserve weekends.

Brainard was brought up on the tales of the animals in Thornton Burgess and while he did some hunting in his younger days, by the time I knew him he was a birder and conservationist. He was sensitive and a bit shy, but very warm when you got to know him. My cousin, Lynn,  shared a memory of Brainard and his famous "walks" in the woods. Everyone in the family got to do one of these sooner or later and they were memorable.
"I remember all those long walks (fondly and not-so-fondly) he liked to take in virtually any kind of weather.  When I was young, I didn't appreciate it during the winter months - but he sweetened the deal at the end, wisely, with cups of hot cocoa at a diner. Dad's form of walking was infamously closer to almost -jogging, speed walking.  When I did move back to Fitchburg for my first year of college, and he was still doing his 5-mile per day walk in the hills behind Burbank Hospital, he was a bit taken aback by how fast I had become.  Our regular walks were almost like races and I was proud that he seemed to find it a challenge to keep up with me sometimes!  When I came home from California with my husband-to-be, and Dad offered to take Mike for a 'walk', Mike returned exclaiming "That was no WALK!", and Nancy immediately chided him, knowing what he could be like to walk with!"
Lynn is right. Speed-walking was about it. I remember huffing and puffing along behind him- I was young and in fairly good shape. He was middle-aged and could run circles around me.

In his adult life, he was a plant manager for various large power stations at the Boston Navy Yard,
Pease Air Force Base, Fort Devens and Fitchburg State College. He was Stationary Steam Fireman, which means he lit and monitored the big boilers.  At the college, he had a huge plant to take care of and Lynn said she found the boilers quite intimidating. He didn't. He used the hot boiler surface to cook up apples and make home-made apple sauce for a tasty snack.

For a shy person, Brainard got around. I probably could have shaved a few years off my research if I'd had him as a resource for genealogy. He was an avid fan of railroad lore and probably knew all about our railroading ancestors. He kept far-flung contacts in the family with Roger Frost and family of the Smith branch and Holly Jones' brother Dwight Jones of the Tapply branch.  I believe he was also in contact with Wally Cambridge and Sherman Coates as well. He would mention names in passing, but genealogy was not on my radar at the time. What a shame!
Grandma Kinsey, Jim, Jill, Lynn and Brainard- 1965
Brainard was married first to Judy Kinsey and has three children: Jim, Lynn and Jill. When he married Nancy Elliott, as the children grew up, he became more active in birding and the camera club. He grew a luscious vegetable garden every summer. They took some nice trips and really got to enjoy life. Lynn and her husband had them out to California. This story is very typical:
"One of my favorite memories of all was when he and Nancy came to visit Mike and I in Southern California, and we all went to dinner at a local restaurant.  Now, my father had never in my lifetime taken a sip of alcohol.  At his second wedding to Nancy, he drank a flute of ginger ale.  So imagine my surprise when my husband talked him into ordering one of the delicious peach daquiris that the rest of us were enjoying - and he LOVED it, and looked just like a kid in a candy store, sucking that drink down rather quickly.  As I remember, he wandered off for a lengthy time shortly thereafter, and we were concerned and sent Mike looking for him.  Maybe he went to the bar and had another one, who knows?"

Brainard was taken from us far too soon, on the 9th of September in 1990. He would have been 83 on the 19th of this month. He is missed by his two girls, his wife Nancy, his grandchildren, and all of us who knew him. People always underestimated my uncle. Those of us who loved him knew better.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sweethearts


Primrose Tapply and Harry Rogers
No download or reproduction without express permission
A visit to my grandmother's house was never complete until we went through the box of old photos. These  two photos were from an old album documenting my grandparents courtship. Many years later, my mom had two of them framed and presented them to me for the "family wall" in my house. The house in the background was the Tapply family home on Pearl Hill Road. My grandmother isn't quite a flapper, but still quite fashionable for the time. My grandfather looks like a bit of a scoundrel. (and it turns out he WAS- but more about that later) My grandmother always said that they met while performing in a musical revue. The account of their marriage makes reference to this
Primrose Victoria Tapply married Harry Winslow Rogers on January 30, 1920.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Sign of the Times


Here's something you wouldn't see in a local paper these days. Despite all the kerfluffle over private gun ownership, the police departments have de-emphasized marksmanship in favor of "community policing". The idea of a police revolver team posing with guns drawn seems quaint. In the 1930's, however, The Fitchburg Sentinel was full of the exploits of the local police department. I suppose this was as close to tabloid reporting as the public was likely to get at the time. Third from the right in this picture is my great uncle Harry J Tapply. He was my grandmother's older brother. He must have been a good shot to make the revolver team. Stories about his career as a policeman were a regular item in the Sentinel. Sometimes he got to save a life:
Dec 26 1929
Harry Tapply walked a beat, saved a life or two, kept good order for the city of Fitchburg AND was a crack shot for the revolver team.  I think I'd still call that "community policing".

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Chris in 1954- Amesbury, Massachusetts
Every family passes along those Christmas traditions- open the gifts on Christmas Eve, open the gifts on Christmas Day, white elephants, gift swaps, name pulls.... and it goes on and on. But Christmas food traditions are pretty interesting. In my mother's family it was always hot oyster stew on Christmas Eve. This came from her father's side of the family and I began to wonder why.

After a thorough search of the internet I had no clear answers and apparently lots of people wondered the same thing. I found the question asked and answered in a million different ways. Some said it comes from the Feast of Seven Fishes where Catholics avoided meat on certain feast days. Somehow in Anglo-Protestant America this origin became quietly obscured. Some say the Irish brought it with them substituting oysters for the traditional ling fish. Others had the origins in Germany. My mother's family was not Catholic or Irish or German. They were Yankee, Protestant and went back in New England to coastal Maine and Cape Cod. Chances are good it was a practical decision. Oysters were cheap and plentiful. Christmas, the next day, was an occasion for a big holiday meal. It would make sense to have the somewhat lighter meal of stew the night before. My family was in good company. In the December 23, 1931 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel I found this:
Brockelmans was a popular Fitchburg grocery vendor of the time and this was a thinly disguised advertisement. 39¢ a pint is a great price for New England oysters. I paid considerably more for mine.
One thing I did find in my search is that while oyster stew was a tradition in many families all over the country, the commenters were evenly divided between the oyster lovers and the oyster haters. After years of oyster stew, the tradition quietly died among the haters and new food traditions were born. My brother is one of the haters. I however, will make my stew, thinking of my mom as I do and upholding the family tradition for just a little bit longer.