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Middlebury Years 1961-66

I attended Middlebury schools from grade 4-8, 1961-66. I was younger than most of my class (MUHS '70) because I had been in an accelerated program before arriving in Middlebury. My dad was teaching English at Williams College for my first two years in grade school and I was part of a dozen or so kids doing grade 2-3 in one school year. When I started in Middlebury, the admins started me in grade 3. A couple weeks later they promoted me. But, skeptical of my ability to catch up w the college-bound group, they put me in the non-college (farm) group. My teacher gave me special attention and I worked my way through 4 or 5 years of math, though not the "new math". I think Robert Gerow was in that non-college group in 4th grade, though his mom insisted he was college-bound, and I hung out w him for a while.

I joined the college-bound group in 5th grade, in the "old school" nearer my home. Mrs. Hammond(?) was our teacher. I think I was in her classroom when I learned that our pres had been assassinated (doesn't everyone remember where they were at that fateful moment?). Sixth grade we had Ms. Yolan Oliver. The first name sticks in my memory because ... My mom had installed a chem lab in our basement, as she was working remotely for a precious-metal plating company, Technic Inc, in Cranston RI. A lot of her plating samples were discards from the costume jewelry industry, which had a lot of unwanted "Y" brooches. So I was able to gift her w a home-plated, gold brooch!

We lived in a twin house at 120 S Main I think, where Storrs Ave runs today. They put that house on wheels and moved it up the hill near the athletic fields I think. It was a house owned by the college and we had a long, narrow back yard where my parents installed a hard-packed, dirt badminton court. In the winter it was an ice rink. The old parallel bars were in the middle of the rink during year one, but we soon moved them out of the way. We also installed a Space Trolley further back.

Kitty and Wayne Scott were regular playmates, along w the Bielli twins, Andrea and Adele, whom I babysat, and sister Alison who was regrettably too old for me. Later the Bilodeaus moved into the far half of their house and Blaise and Larry taught me to play chess. Young Joey tried but he never could teach me much. They attended parochial school, though their dad taught science in the public.

The other half of my house was occupied by a *published* cat lady, Grace Davis I think, at first. She published in some animal-lover mags. Bruce Muirhead and wife Elaine occupied that house next and I babysat little Brucie and a younger one, giving me access to a fabulous record collection and my introduction to Ian and Sylvia and the first Butterfield Blues Band LP. Bruce played some boogie-woogie piano, as did I. I think they met at RISD, where Elaine studied dance. She was also a graphic artist, not to mention a stunning redhead. Two or three Muirhead canvases adorned our walls thereafter, at least one by each. Elaine also gave us a penciled silhouette drawing of each of my two younger sisters, Robin and Nancy, begun from shadow outlines. Decades later, I learned that Elaine had been the victim of an infamous rape in Providence.

George and Valerie Bahlke lived across the street a little up the hill I think. I babysat their two, Conrad George ("Zords" is how he said it) and a younger one. One summer I was hired to mow their lawn while they were away but my allergies were so acute that my mom had to fill in for me. Val was one of my mom's closest friends. She was a published poet and my mom played a part in at least one publication by selecting artworks to accompany the poems.

If I'm not mistaken, I babysat Helen Reiff's kids at some point. I heard much later that she went into politics. She asked an old farmer for his vote and he questioned whether she was a local or a carpet-bagger (I paraphrase). She admitted that she had not grown up in the area, but had only been local for 40 years or so. "That's enough" he said.

My dad was an avid sportsman -- badminton, tennis, badminton, basketball, swimming ... but not a skier. I had a season ticket to the Snow Bowl every year. My mom, not a skier, nevertheless drove me up to the mountain often so that I could learn. Soon I was catching a lift w neighbors. The Biellis for sure, maybe Helen Reiff and the Scotts. Peggy Martin and her VW microbus were a primary mode of transport.

I remember the Hinmans and the Strattons(?) were neighbors, though I don't think they had kids of my age. David Littlefield was a colleague of dad's and I babysat their kids I think. Biff Klein was one of my friends in the early years I think -- unless that was in Williamston. His military family soon moved away. Another military family was the Cunninghams, of whom I remember only the mom, Marge(?), because my mom stayed in touch w her. They moved to Anchorage in time to experience a famous, major earthquake, which crashed a large bookcase of theirs as she watched, but caused no injury that I remember.

My best friend in 5th and/or 6th grade before his family moved away was Bill Haines, a bit of a misfit (like me) as I recall. His mom was an owner and/or worker at the Grey Shop I think. Another misfit was Eric Rugg, who lived down the street from me w his cat-lady aunt. He had lived in Guatemala, where his dad ran a trucking outfit, making runs to and from Texas I think. I think his parents felt he would be better-educated and/or safer living away from home at the time.

I was a crossing guard in 5th or 6th grade, sharing a station w Sam Spencer. We had a flagpole on our little parcel and invented a game called "Polf" similar to golf. You had to squeeze a walnut-sized rock between your feet, then jump upward w feet together before releasing the rock forward toward the pole, score determined by how many attempts you needed to strike the pole, starting from a distance of 40 feet or so. Jim Coons, whose dad was in insurance I think, was one of my early bad influences. I had a crush on Martha Perry for a short time in 6th grade(?), but was too shy to let her know about it. I had a movie-date w Kitty Scott one time but it was not a cuddling kind of thing.

By 7th grade I was a regular, after-school, candy buyer and magazine reader at Pete Cobb's Mid-way Shop, where I also purchased HO-scale model trains and then cars. Another misfit, Bill Crow, took on the best-friend role. We combined our railroad and road-racing tracks to create elaborate and lengthy layouts in his farm-country home (Cornwall?). His dad worked for Digital and he had stacks of tractor-feed, oversize, continuous, green and white, computer paper, on which he drew multi-page designs of Rube-Goldberg type "mad inventions" which he signed "Bill (the Cat) Crow." Not to be outdone I drew a few of mine, signed "Dave (Big Daddy) Butler."

Bill threw a going-away party for me at his home. Maybe you were there -- I can't remember any of the attendees, although I think Bill's then-sweetheart Linnea James was probably there. Bill had an older sister whom I remember as Marilyn. I remember we teased her by singing The Old Gray Mare she ain't what she used to be. Maybe she was also named Carol? A few years ago, on a Middlebury Facebook group, I saw a post from sister Carol saying that Bill had died of cancer at age 64. I had connected w him briefly on Facebook before that, but we exchanged few words. From his Facebook page I learned that he had worked for Microsoft from its early days, and lived on a posh property on the Washington coast, or maybe an island in Puget Sound, where he owned and operated an airplane.

Earlier in 8th grade I hosted my one and only dance party at our home. Not sure who might have been on the guest list, as I only had eyes for Becky D'Avignon at the time. She danced me into dad's study during the long, slow dance, Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row"! And it was there that I lost my innocence -- received my first kiss of passion, that is to say.

My dad loved to swim and we all got to spend a lot of time at Branbury Beach State Park on Lake Dunmore. When the A&W stand opened up, we must have been among the first customers. I loved that root beer, and eventually came to love the root beer floats. Root beer and ginger ale remained staple drinks of mine until I reached middle age and my doctor told me to ditch the sugary drinks. In my old age I drink almost nothing but water. Chronic heartburn cured me of alcohol (and cocaine) by the mid-1980s, and I've led a very boring existence ever since.



This page was last modified June 19 2022 01:42:19


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