July was a nice blend of visiting with family and friends, doing some sightseeing, and of course, continuing with our jobs here at Lone Oak Campsites.
We visited with Larry’s mother Vivian several times during the month, once to take her out for a birthday lunch and earlier in the month to help her take care of personal business.
One Tuesday, we drove to Shelton, Connecticut, home of Larry’s brother Brian and his wife Bonnie, to pick up their travel trailer and tow it to Black Rock State Park in Watertown, Connecticut. Brian and Bonnie traditionally spend two weeks each summer at Black Rock but they were caught in between tow vehicles this year. Larry offered to tow their trailer back and forth – being nearby and available to do this is another perk to our being in the area, plus we got to visit with Bonnie both on the day we dropped the trailer off at Black Rock and again picking it up two weeks later. We goofed that first day, though. We made sure we had the right size hitch ball but didn’t even think of the height difference between our monster truck and their little travel trailer. Bonnie followed us on the highway and said she’d never seen the roof of their trailer before. On the return trip, we borrowed Brian’s 6” drop hitch--the trailer was now riding at the proper height.
Larry’s brother Bruce invited us to the library in Orange, Connecticut, for an opening day reception showcasing his photos being displayed along with two other artists. Bruce is a late starter as a photographer but a quick study and quite talented. One of our favorite pieces (the U.S. flag waving alongside zinnias) is framed and hanging in our RV.
Not to be left out among Larry’s sibs is youngest brother David and his family who came up for a cookout towards the end of the month. David and three out of his four gals (daughter Jessicca was in camp that week) enjoyed swimming in the campground’s pools. We enjoyed an early cookout after the swim fest so Lucille could get to work that evening.
On Lucille’s side, brother Ray and his family came up for a cookout early in the month. Ray insisted on preparing supper that evening and after no arm-twisting, we caved in. He made his famous grilled salmon coated with a creamy sauce. They made a return trip about a week later with their popup, staying at the campground for three nights. In between the storms that weekend, they still managed to have a great time. We all got together for pizza on Sunday evening and visited at our site till almost midnight.
Friends Louie and Anne have a getaway home at Klondike Camp Resort in Otis, Massachusetts. One Monday, we took them up on their offer to visit them there during their vacation. Of the many places we’ve visited since we retired, Klondike is the first that has grabbed us, making us want to stay there for a while. There are about 165 developed sites, owned by individual members of the resort. All the sites are tucked away in the woods with about one-third acre per site. There is a large L-shaped swimming pool available for members and their guests as well as a beautiful log cabin-style clubhouse, large enough to accommodate private parties, at no charge to the members and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Louie and Anne’s own site sits atop a hill overlooking a frog pond. We invited ourselves back the next Monday – not only did we enjoy their hospitality, but we wanted to learn more about possibly becoming part of the resort ourselves, using it as a potential three-season base camp. Otis is located amongst the Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts – every road in that area has a gorgeous view around every bend. We’ll get more info and see if being part of Klondike will make sense for us – we’ll keep you posted.
What little sightseeing we did in June, we made up for in July with a flurry of activity. Not only did we take advantage of our Mondays and Tuesdays off, but when we both were off on Thursday afternoons (the pay week ends on Thursday – Larry frequently had all his hours in by lunchtime), we visited nearby places.
Waterbury is home to the Timexpo Museum, located in one of Waterbury’s old brass mill buildings, housing three floors of exhibits. The museum is dedicated to telling the story of Timex, from its roots in the 1850s to the latest innovations. Remember the ‘It takes a licking and keeps on ticking’ ads? On display are the original 1950s and 60s torture test ads for their watches along with a re-enactment featuring a watch strapped to a functioning outboard motor immersed in water. Amazing display of a durable product, both then and now. Timex was the leader in mass-producing affordable watches, targeting their women customers with ads touting that Timex watches were so inexpensive, they could afford several watches to match their wardrobe. On scheduled days (not when we were there alas) are craftsmen performing on-site restoration and demonstrations of the inner workings of watches and clocks.
Within a 10-mile range not far from Hartford can be found museums showcasing trolleys, fire equipment and airplanes.
The Connecticut Trolley Museum, located in East Windsor, also houses the Connecticut Fire Museum. What a gem both these places are and very affordable. The ticket price includes entry to both museums.
The Trolley Museum was founded in 1940 and is the nation’s oldest incorporated organization dedicated to the preservation of streetcars and the trolley era. The museum’s ultimate goal is to establish a full-size operating street and interurban railroad system, with the appropriate accessory equipment and buildings, recreating an important phase of New England’s business and social life from 1890 to 1945. A three-mile round trip streetcar ride (included in the ticket price) is available to visitors and features an educational narrative by the trolley operator. The visitor center houses several displays and pieces of trolley equipment, some of which you can board and walk through. Outdoors is located the Kelly Barn with numerous trolleys on display. Some of these trolleys are still operational and take turns carrying passengers on the three-mile loop.
The Fire Museum houses an impressive collection of fire engines and other apparatus dating back to the late 1800s. There are so many vehicles on display in this museum that the facility has already outgrown its capacity.
The New England Air Museum is just a few miles away in Windsor Locks, skirting the runways of Bradley International Airport. There are three huge exhibit hangars with more than 80 aircraft on display from all periods of aviation history. On display are helicopters, amphibian aircraft, gliders and modern jets.
In the museum’s three hangars, we saw aircraft representing the World War I era up to Desert Storm; the Silas Brooks balloon basket, the oldest surviving aircraft in the U.S.; the history of ballooning; an exhibit chronicling the life and achievements of Igor Sikorsky (of helicopter fame); and the development of airmail. We have seen several aircraft museums over the years--we were quite impressed with what the New England Air Museum has to offer. One special attraction is the giant Sikorsky VS-44 Flying Boat, the only large American commercial flying boat still in existence. Walk into the 58th Bomb Wing Memorial and prepare to be awed by the mammoth B-29 bomber completely filling this hangar. Display boards around this room detail the story of the 58th and its contributions to the Pacific Theater during World War II.
On another day off, we headed north just across the state line into Massachusetts and visited Hancock Shaker Village. Located near Pittsfield, Hancock Shaker Village is a national historic landmark consisting of 1,200 acres of farm, woodland, and meadow with twenty buildings scattered amongst the acreage. This living history museum is the most comprehensively interpreted Shaker site in the country.
Founded in Manchester, England, in 1747, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing became known as Shakers because of the trembling, whirling and shaking that affected them during worship services. The tenets of their religion are based on celibacy, communal life, and confession of sin. They also believed in gender equality, pacifism and were dedicated to creating heaven on earth. The women were called Sisters and the men Brethren. Some of their responsibilities--the Sisters ran the dairy, laundry and weave shop; the Brethren did the woodworking, blacksmithing, broom making, and oval box making.
The Brick Dwelling (circa 1830) housed about one hundred Sisters and Brethren. This five-story building had separate areas for the men and women. Women entered on one side of the building, men on the other. They also had separate sleeping quarters as well as eating quarters. When they entered the dining area, women entered through the right hand door of the double doors and men on the right. Even visiting married couples had to agree to this arrangement if they chose to lodge there for the evening.
We were impressed by how much natural light was in the Brick Dwelling – part of the plan with the many windows throughout. Chair backs were low to simplify sweeping the tabletops clean. Dumb waiter elevators, on both the women’s and men’s side of the dining area, led down to the basement kitchens that prepared all the meals for the commune. The celibacy theme was reinforced throughout their lives – even the work buildings were segregated.
The Round Stone Barn is probably the most famous and recognizable of all Shaker buildings. This unique dairy barn stabled 52 milk cows. Wagons entered on the upper level and hay was unloaded into the central haymow. Cows were stabled on the ground floor, facing the haymow. Manure was dropped through trap doors to the cellar and stored until needed for fertilizer. The entire design is simple yet practical and effective. A 1930s addition off the barn stables historic breeds of livestock typical of those raised by the Hancock Shakers. In this addition, we saw a mama pig and her 13 piglets, all snoozing at the time we were visiting.
The Shakers believed in a simple life but they were practical – they were among the first in the area to own automobiles. They bought luxury autos that would last for many years, garaging the vehicles in a brick building kept warm in the winter by piped-in steam heat from an adjacent building.
We easily spent several hours at Hancock Shaker Village touring all the buildings. It’s well worth a stop and a return visit.
Not too far from Pittsfield is the Crane Museum of Papermaking. The Crane Paper Mill is located next door but is off limits for tours. Crane is the only authorized mill making the stock for U. S. paper currency, so security is extremely tight. The museum has several short videos showing the papermaking process. In one video, heavy drapes and armed guards surround one of the processes involved in currency making.
Crane’s paper is made from cotton, not trees. The cotton doesn’t come directly from the fields but from material scraps from jeans and t-shirts – an amazing use of rags and very environmentally friendly. Crane’s papermaking process hasn’t changed much since 1801. First the rags are mixed with water and then beat with an industrial-sized blender type machine. (Ah hah! -- beaten to a pulp...) Afterwards, the pulp is mixed with water and sprayed onto a wire mesh. Gravity drains the water (which is recycled) and what is left is picked up on a felt roller and passed through wringers, squeezing out even more water. The paper then continues on rollers to be thoroughly dried before being collected on large rolls to be shipped to customers.
Crane has also manufactured personalized stationery for over a hundred years. Employees hand stencil borders on each piece of notepaper. The museum has on display several notes from past U. S. presidents, including a thank you note made for Jackie Kennedy to mail to those that had sent their condolences after President Kennedy’s assassination. The museum docent said that the tears of the employees doing the stenciling ruined several notes being stenciled for Mrs. Kennedy. Even after all these years since JFK’s assassination, hearing this was moving.
The museum gives its visitors a sample pad of writing paper, but alas, no samples of our paper currency! For more information on tours here, contact Crane’s website or pick up a copy of “Watch It Made in the U.S.A.”, our favorite source for information on factory tours.
Last tourist stop for the month was the Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine in North Granby, Connecticut. Old New-Gate was originally a copper mine that was abandoned in the late 1700s because of a labor shortage. Someone got the idea to use prisoners as labor, with a few trained miners teaching them the necessary skills. Sounded like a good plan but the prisoners had other ideas – like bonking their miner-teachers on the head and attempting to escape. The mining attempts were again abandoned but the prison remained, supposedly as a maximum-security prison. After reading logs of the prisoners interred at old New-Gate listing their offenses and their prison terms, we read about a lot of horse thieving and adultery but very few murders. Prison terms were at the most two years with most of them being less than a year. If we recall correctly, stealing a horse back in the late 1700s-1800s was a greater offense than killing someone, so today’s definition of a maximum-security prison differs somewhat than it did a couple of hundred years ago.
There is a short self-guided mine tour with several points of interest. A ladder accessed the mine from the guardhouse. Evenings, the prisoners slept in the mine. Daytime, they would ascend the ladder and be escorted to their workstations by armed guards. Prisoners made nails, shoes and barrels to help earn money to offset expenses. Lucky for present-day visitors, a new entrance to the mine was opened with easy access. The mine floors are sloped and the passageways at times very narrow or ceilings very low. Small veins of copper can still be seen down there. In some of the rooms, prisoners were chained to the walls in solitary confinement for improper behavior. There are also the remains of an old wooden drainage pipe, used to remove water used during the mining operations.
After we came back up to the surface, we stopped at a newer brick building in the center of the compound that houses exhibits from the mine and an informative video. Had we been smart, we would have watched the video first. The narrator gave tips on what to look for when taking the self-guided tour – next time!
Ruins of a four-story cell block, the kitchen, hospital and chapel can be seen along the south wall of the prison. Seen there are also the remains of a large treadmill. Up to eight prisoners would walk in place side-by-side, providing the power that ran the water wheel. Supposedly, ten minutes doing this was considered quite strenuous. According to the video, even though prisoners lived underground their entire prison sentence, there were very few health issues. They were protected from most diseases down there and mine temperatures stayed at a steady 59 degrees. They didn’t experience extreme cold or heat during their imprisonment below.
On our way back from Old New-Gate, we stopped to take a picture of the interesting and unique-looking control house of the Saville Dam – beautiful architecture. Wonder if they ever give tours???
July ended and we are halfway through our commitment here at Lone Oak Campsites. We’ve got a few more places we’d like to visit during our stay in this part of the state – stay tuned for our August adventures.