Thuumbing the Files sparked memories of years past in Wilton and beyond

To the Editor:

Seeing the Thumbing the Files from 50 years ago in the Dec. 12 Cabinet brought back a lot of memories.

Some of them go back more than 50 years to when I visited my nieces, the Strong triplets, living on Perham Corner. At that time, I was living with my mother and her husband at the Clarence Goss Farm.

I was learning how to become a machinist from a wonderful man named Joe Phelan. He was teaching for the Manpower Development Training Act (MDTA) at the old Spring St. High School in Nashua. Many years later on, I taught the same thing, for a summer, at the new Nashua high school. Guess what? They were the same machines. It was like Old Home Week, they hadn’t changed a bit!

On the afternoon of the fire as I was coming home from class, I came over the hill just before the farm to see the Wilton Fire Department cleaning up just after the fire. I still miss the farm as a part of my loving old buildings. Vern was in the process of working on the house when the fire happened.

We still didn’t have an indoor toilet. I can tell you that an outhouse attached to the barn is a cold place in December, but that is how people used to live, and some still do.

I also regret that I was up in the attic the day before the fire and smelled a strange smell, but didn’t recognize that it was the beginning of a chimney fire. I could have prevented the fire. Among the eight dogs, I lost a beautiful, loving Bassett hound named Honey. She had big feet and thought she was my lapdog.

From Wilton, I went to live at the old YMCA in Nashua until I completed my training as a machinist and was inducted into the U.S. Navy and served onboard the USS Oriskany as a machinery repairman. I made three Vietnam cruises and eventually became second in command of the machine shop. In 1966, we had a flare fire, lost 44 men in the fire, and almost lost the ship of more than 3,000 sailors. I do have an understanding of what post traumatic stress syndrome is.

Eventually, I and my family came back to West Wilton in 1975 where I eventually joined the Wilton Ambulance Service to serve my town for 30 years as an EMT and a total of 33 years as an attendant. I used to consider the Gray’s Corner to Greenville and Temple “mine” and would respond whenever I was home.

At 2 in the morning, if the pager toned out and I didn’t respond, my wife was not a happy camper. But, if I responded, she just went back to sleep. I took Thursday night duty for seven years and sometimes, only had several hours sleep and then had to go to work the next day. I never had a portable radio that was mine in all those years.

In the later years, we did have portables that we could pick up when we were on duty. It is an interesting feeling to be a first responder to a scene and have no way to communicate. I only had a pager. No, cellphones did not exist then. Now, portable radios are common place.

In 1990, we moved to Massachusetts to take care of my wife’s parents and I continued serving on Wilton Ambulance for the next 10 years, taking regularly assigned schedule until I retired in 2010. Do I miss being on the service? The answer is a definite YES!

Now, in memory to those who gave in military service to their country, I have joined the only fully active Veteran’s Honor Guard in the state. We often have 12 veterans participate at a funeral. I am now 70 and there is only one veteran member younger than I am. I have participated in more than 100 veteran’s funerals in Canton, Mass., since joining two and a half years ago. Our oldest veteran is 96 years young and served as a Marine in Micronesia during World War II.

To all veterans, thank you for your service.


Canton, Mass.