Below is a continuance of Ed Kendall’s 1962 Springfield Reporter article. Last week ended with Austin N. Chandler’s early memories in Chester. Here are Kendall’s memories of a later time in Chester. Kendall was a teacher at Chester High School.
“Mrs. Gowing’s memory should be kept alive by the people of Chester. I best remember her as School Superintendent. I can testify to the fact that she had the teachers maintain proper discipline. One winter day the older boys persuaded me that it would be a good idea to put several large firecrackers in a block of wood just as it was put in the stove. It nearly wrecked the stove as it blew several lengths of stovepipe to the floor and put the school out of commission for the rest of the day. Mrs. Gowing came down to help the teacher ferret out the instigators which ended in my being laid across the teacher’s desk and the ruler applied in a manner that I did not forget for many a day. If a little of like discipline were used in our schools today there would be less juvenile delinquency.
“Before the advent of the movies home talent plays were the chief source of amusement in many Vermont communities. Plays directed by Mrs. Gowing always drew a full house on the evenings of their presentation….The erection of the Town Hall (1884) gave an added impetus to home talent plays. What was considered at the time to be a large commodious stage was a part of the hall. One or two settings of scenery painted by out of town artists were part of the stage equipment….
“During the decade or more that it was my good fortune to be numbered among the Chester Players, we had the good fortune to have Mrs. George C. Allen, “Agusta” as we called her as our coach… I must mention a few of my fellow actors and actresses. Rated according to portrayal of the role assigned them, Edward Whitcomb stands at the head. Ed was a farmer who lived over West Springfield way. Rather small of stature with a face once seen would never be forgotten, he was the star in play after play rendered in Chester. DeWitt Davis, a well-known Chester farmer for many years, usually took the role of the villain with a false goatee, matching the color of his mustache he certainly looked the part of a bad man.
“His ability as an actor was on par with his appearance. Ed Farr was another veteran with many plays to his credit. His role was that of a well-to-do gentleman. Never was there anything mean or villainous in the roles assigned to Ed. I must not omit Charles Waterman from my list. His dry, Yankee drawl won much applause from the audience. He will best remembered as the star actor in many farces. The evening’s entertainment always ended with a short farce….
“What about the ladies? According to my judgement, Mattie and Mamie French stood at the head of the lady Thespians. Mattie filled the role of the heroine to perfection in many plays; Mamie’s roles were more of the motherly type. Annie Olney, whom so many of us remember as Annie Pollard of Baltimore, did her high school work at Chester High during E.W. Gibson’s principalship.
“I have made mention of the rendition “Neighbor Jackwood” in the cheese factory on North Street. Years later when Annie was attending high school it was decided to give the play again. With the improved stage facilities at the Town Hall we thought we could improve its first rendition. Annie was given the role of a quadroon girl who filled quite a prominent part in the play. She outdid herself. Her portrayal was the talk of the town for many a week.”
Kendall then goes on to mention the minstrel plays at Town Hall. I thought it best not to include those here.
Don’t forget to bring your old photos to Town Hall in Chester on Sunday, Feb. 18 from 1-3 p.m. Tom Hildreth will scan your photos while you wait. We are looking for photos of Chester, Derry & South Derry, Weston, Andover and Simonsville for a book Chester Historical Society is to publish early this summer. This is your chance to have you old photos published in a book. Don’t miss it.
This week’s old saying. “If two wrongs don’t make a right, try three.”