We’re still at our site in Klondike Camp Resort in Otis, Massachusetts, continuing to spruce it up for visits in future years – we won’t bore you with the mundane details of all that we’ve been doing.
Highlights of the month, though, started with a visit from Lucille’s brother Roger and wife Kathie on vacation from their busy nursing jobs in Arizona. They spent a few days with us enjoying Klondike’s scenery and its wildlife. One morning Roger looked out the window and spotted a large black dog walking next to our site – his large black dog turned out to be one of the resident bear cubs making a special appearance for our guests.
Together we visited Hancock Shaker Village in nearby Pittsfield. This National Historic Landmark was founded in 1960 to educate visitors about the Shaker way of life. We last visited in 2006 – click this link and scroll down to read more about it. It was just as interesting the second time around. Lunch at their Village Harvest Café was reasonably priced and excellent.
From here, Roger and Kathie headed to younger brother Ray’s home in Plymouth, Connecticut. We joined them all on the 4th of July for a cookout, and then stayed to watch some fabulous fireworks put on by several of the residents on Lake Plymouth. Ray had told us the fireworks rival those put on by local towns – he wasn’t kidding – they were spectacular. One display ran well over six minutes non-stop – lots of oohing and aahing. The entire neighborhood is one huge block party celebrating the holiday – something you don’t see often. Ray had arranged for us to park the truck on a side street because once the festivities and fireworks start, the main road around the lake is passenger-traffic only.
Bonnie (Larry’s brother Brian’s wife) celebrated a birthday later in the month. Several weeks earlier, Larry had given her a lesson on one of our mountain dulcimers. Brian decided to try to find her a reasonably-priced dulcimer and surprise her with it as a birthday gift. Bill and Jann, friends in Georgia we’ve known for years and fellow dulcimer players, had one for sale and shipped it to us at Brian’s house. Bonnie had no idea what the package was, loaded it in her car to bring up here one weekend, and was quite surprised when we told her the package’s contents was hers. We got in some practice time that one day before heading to Klondike’s clubhouse for a scrumptious turkey dinner. Since then, she’s done very well practicing on her own as well as with the two of us.
Larry’s mother had a very special and significant birthday in July – 80 years young. Larry’s brothers and their families got together to throw her a surprise birthday party at Brian and Bonnie’s. She knew about the cookout but was quite surprised when she saw the back deck decorated and especially surprised to see her sister Loretta and husband Bill, who came up from Maryland for the occasion.
One evening, we drove down to Canaan to enjoy pizza at Roma’s Pizzeria (our favorite pizza place when we worked at Lone Oak Campsites in 2006) to meet John and Maureen, fellow coworkers and friends we’d met in 2006 and who have returned to Lone Oak to work since then. We’d seen them last October in Alabama – it was great catching up on our travels and lives since then. We’re hoping we get to see them again before we all leave the area – they’ve got an invite to join us here at Klondike when they have some free time.
The First Congregational Church of Lee (United Church of Christ) that we attend on Sundays hosted Village Harmony one evening. “Founded in 1990, Village Harmony is an organization based in Vermont dedicated to the study and performance of authentic harmony singing traditions from throughout the world.” Led by ballad singer and storyteller Suzannah Park, her husband Nathan Morrison, singer and musician, and Evgeny Efremov, Ukranian ethnomusicologist, the high-energy group of 25 singers ranged in age from 14 to early 20s and hailed from all over the US, Canada and even Russia. We were treated to American and British traditional harmony singing, Appalachian clogging, and village music from Ukraine. If one of Village Harmony’s ensembles tours your area, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the concert and their enthusiasm for performing.
Another great performance we attended was Woods Tea Company at Millside Park in Easthampton - one of the city’s free concerts in the park. We’ve been Woods Tea Company fans for years and last saw them performing in September 2008. When we learned they’d be nearby, we made plans to attend, introducing Louie and Anne, longtime friends who have a site here in Klondike, to their music. Their granddaughters Savannah and Emily also enjoyed the music. Woods Tea is known for its acoustical sound and will not put on a loud concert. Their music is family-friendly and quite fun with several audience participation tunes as part of their repertoire.
We finished off the month with a flurry of activity. First off was a visit through the Lee Crafts Fair – the 1st Congregational Church was sponsoring this and had asked for baked goods to sell so we dropped off a platter of fresh-baked brownies. Of course, Lucille had to check out the different crafts’ vendors and help support the economy a bit. We then took a tour of the church, something we wanted to do before leaving the area.
A little history about the church…Its first meeting house was completed in 1781 and was situated about 200 yards southwest of the current building. A second church was built on the present site in 1800 but was destroyed by a fire in 1857. The third and current church was dedicated September 1858. Anyone coming in to Lee from any direction cannot miss this historic building right on the town square. Built entirely of wood in the Romanesque style, its steeple measures 195 feet from the ground to its tip – the tallest wooden pegged post-and-beam structure in New England. Step inside the sanctuary to see one of the finest examples of “trompe l’oeil” (trick of the eye) stenciling, representing an almost-forgotten craft, done by itinerant French and German artists.
Photographs cannot adequately show the illusions from this style of stenciling – walls appear to be right angles but are actually rounded, painted columns appear to be three-dimensional, side walls appear to go from top to bottom but actually stop at the balcony and continue underneath. As part of a major renovation in 1979, two women from the Massachusetts Department of Historical Antiquities recommended how it could be restored. Because the stenciling was all watercolor, use of water or mineral spirits would erase the artwork. The walls and ceilings could safely be erased with soft rubber erasers. With the help of eight teenagers, plus the two women and some of the church youth, and lots of erasers, the walls and ceiling were carefully cleaned to erase almost one hundred twenty two years of hot and cold temperatures and dust and grime. Can you imagine all the eraser crumbs? A 12” x 12” square was left unerased so that you can see the difference.
There is a beautiful Hook and Hastings of Boston organ in the choir loft but it hasn’t been played in a while because the church currently does not have an organist. The four-faced clock made by Turret and Maine Clock Company of Boston with a Seth Thomas movement has been keeping time for Lee for over 150 years. We were able to get a tour of the tower and steeple and got to see the clock mechanism. The guys in the tour got to wind the mechanism – one for the time and one for the chimes. How cool to look outside through the clock faces. Larry then proceeded further up the tower (Lucille chickened out beyond this level) to see the 1,900 pound bell cast by Jones and Co. of Troy, New York. Proceeding further up into the steeple is not for the faint of heart but can be done by climbing a ladder of sorts. Larry went part of the way and decided that was far enough.
From Lee, we headed down to Shelton, Connecticut, for Bonnie’s birthday party, a little more subdued than the party we’d just attended a week earlier but the food and fellowship were just as enjoyable. We then stopped at Griffin Hospital’s birthing center to visit with niece Cindy, husband Steve and the newest member of the family, Nathan. Grandmother Bonnie was taking care of his older sister Rachel so we didn’t get a picture of the entire family.
The one other memorable event during the month was surviving the first Medicaid audit for Lucille’s father. The case worker was quite helpful and suggested a few changes that had to be made by the end of the month, with documents to be faxed to validate the changes. Otis is s-o-o-o small….you ask how small? The library has a fax machine but because it’s not a dedicated line, only a maximum of five pages can be faxed without incoming phone calls cutting off the faxing process (there were twelve pages.) The librarian suggested that the nearest fax machine was in Great Barrington, about 30 minutes away. Yipes! This particular Georgia Medicaid office does not allow emailed documents, only faxes. At the last minute, the librarian remembered that the Town Hall may have an available machine. It did, and the documents were quickly on their way.
Coming up: More family and friends visiting us here at Klondike. How do you connect trains, sewing machines and a huge saw blade? Check back next month to see how and read about what else we’ve been doing during our summer in the Berkshires.