Perhaps you’ve heard tell of the wall, or maybe you took part in the 1960s. Chester’s downtown used be very busy. Kids have always needed a place to hang out. The wall at Brookside Cemetery was Chester’s hangout. In the late 1960s, there were hundreds of kids in town. My graduating class alone had 64.
The wall entry
The driveway came off the road to the cemetery, around behind the Civil War monument continuing along in front of the wall, before it curved again and returned to the street. Kids sat on the wall waiting for something to happen. The kids with cars neatly backed them up in front of the wall. There were often ’55 Chevys or other rods parked there.
Try to imagine downtown Chester in the late ’60s. Al’s IGA was a grocery store where Blair Books is today. Chester had two banks at the time. The banks were at either end of the Chester Inn – now the Fullerton. Chester Drug Store was next to the inn on the right. Down Common Street was a laundromat where Southern Pie is today, the American Legion and Central Vermont Power Co. Much of Chester’s business was conducted in the downtown.
Sitting on the wall gave us an excellent view of the goings on. Girls our age walked by with their shorts and halter-tops. We were all coming of age and experiencing life.
Sometimes we got ahold of a six-pack of beer. No, we weren’t old enough to drink, but why let a little thing like age interfere with a good time? We’d take a ride up around the “Loop.” The loop ran from Lover’s Lane Road all the way around through the hills to the Chester Reservoir and back down to Route 11. The road in those days wasn’t maintained so you drove real slow picking your way through mud or over rocks. This was the perfect time to have a couple beers without fear of being molested by the law.
One night I was driving Arnold’s ’64 VW bug. I had backed it in beside the other rigs. I don’t remember now who with, but I took a ride with someone around the loop, leaving the VW parked in front of the wall. When I came back, the Volkswagen was gone.
The kids sitting on the wall all played dumb. No one knew anything. I began to fear what Arnold might do. Eventually someone said to check the cemetery. Sure enough, there it was in the rear of the cemetery near the brook. The kids had pushed it down there.
I think “parking” is something most will know. Usually, with only a few dollars in our pocket, we took a girl to the A&W in Springfield and then for a ride, quite often around the loop. There were a number of places where you could pull off the road to do some necking. We had AM radios in our cars. On Friday nights WKBW came in crystal clear. KBW was out Buffalo way.
There was always the chance that other kids riding the loop would see your car. They knew what you were doing. They would sneak up on your car and pound on the hood or trunk hoping to catch you in a compromising position.
Bill Clemons was Chief of Police until about 1962. He was followed by John Whitaker and then Keith Grimes. Sometimes the chief would park his cruiser alongside us kids’ cars. This always made us nervous. We would be as polite as we could possibly be until the chief got a call and left.
I remember once we had a six-pack of beer that we had hidden on the cemetery side of the wall. Here we sat smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. We all watched out for each other. I remember Bud Nadeau saying, “Ronnie, here comes your father.” Fear set in. I prayed Arnold wouldn’t stop.
The photo with this article is from my 1969 Chester High School yearbook. We chose to have our class photo taken at the wall. You can see the Class of ’69 standing on or in front of the wall.
This week’s old saying is from my mother. June was driving when a pregnant woman came out of Al’s IGA. She didn’t bother to look to see if any cars were coming. My mother stood on the brakes, rolled down her window, and said, “You can get knocked down just as easy.”