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Local History by Ron Patch. Ron Patch is a Chester native, Chester Historical Society president, and a lifelong antiques dealer. He can be reached at 802-374-0119 or email

The Chester Historical Society 2021 calendar is here! The photo with this article is one of the photos included in the 2021 calendar. It’s most likely opening day of the new Chester Elementary School.

While collecting histories for our “History of Chester Fire Departments” book, we’ve made a few interesting discoveries. We found an envelope containing a number of film negatives. I passed them on to Tom Hildreth. Tom scanned them and put them on a disc for us.

Tom has said before he wondered why we didn’t have many photos from the 1950s. This batch of negatives is from the 1950s. Also included in our calendar, from the same batch of negatives, is a photo of the newly built Ellsworth Clinic. I had forgotten what the clinic looked like until I saw this photo.

Opening day of Chester Elementary School.
Opening day of Chester Elementary School. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

I wasn’t sure of the opening date of the elementary school so I called Ken Barrett. Ken and I discussed it and concluded the school opened in 1955. I began first grade here in 1957.

I remember my mother walking me to school that first day. I was 5 at the time. My father was at work. I reported for duty. My mother abandoned me and walked home. Evidently, I didn’t care for incarceration. Later that day I was AWOL.

You’ll notice in the photo the pasture behind the school. This pasture continued all the way out behind the Academy Building to the Stewart property.

In the photo, on the left, are a group of kids and their bikes. By the time I got there in 1957 there was a long galvanized metal bike rack us kids used. The bike rack was on the left of the walkway from Main Street to the school.

The cars date from the 1940s to the early 1950s. Notice the whitewall tires. Look at the row of cars on the right. There’s a dark color Volkswagen just pulling out. I believe Earl Capron drove a Volkswagen at the time. It might be Earl dropping off Sandra?

Out behind the school was the playground. There were three or four swing sets, a jungle gym and teeter-totters. This was a very active playground in those days.

You’ll notice the driveway and parking lot are yet unpaved. It was probably paved later that year. I remember we were given a daily vitamin. These were small egg-shaped capsules. If there were any puddles on the payment we would squash the vitamin in the puddle to watch the oily contents change colors on the surface of the puddle.

I remember getting my distemper and rabies shots. To this day I have a small round scar on my left shoulder. If you’re my age, I bet you have one too.

There was a poster on a bulletin board where you entered the school. It was an anti-drug poster that read, “It’s called dope for a reason.”

Notice the tall brick chimney on the left. I remember this was where the boiler room was located. Near the boiler room were double doors leading out to the playground. Did you ever stick your tongue on a frozen door handle?

I drove down to the school with this photo to compare then and now. The square chimney is there but not nearly as tall. There is an addition on the end facing Main Street. The right end as you drive in is a larger addition. The pasture has grown up and no longer visible.

Henry Wilson Jr. of Popple Dungeon was two years ahead of me in school. Henry was an odd duck to be sure. I remember him walking up the walkway to Main Street. He would walk with his hands raised as if holding a steering wheel. All the while “putt, putt” or “vroom, vroom.” Then he pretended to shift gears and his voice would deepen for another “vroom!” A weird kid he was. Henry died young.

This is a story Henry Sr. told a friend. Henry Jr., or Sonny as he was called, was raised without a mother. One day when he came home from school, his grandmother asked, “What did you learn in school today, Henry?” Henry replied, “I learned girls don’t have any spouts.” There were no further questions for little Henry.

Our 2021 calendars are for sale at Smitty’s Chester Market, Town Hall, Framery of Vermont, Blair Books & More, Chester Hardware, and Stone House Antiques Center.

  This week’s old saying is from Don Imus: “I’m not happy until you’re not happy.”

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