Who put the jam in Ed’s boots?

Hump’s hat. Photo provided by Ron Patch.

CHESTER, Vt. – Most readers will be aware of high school yearbooks. Yearbooks have not always been around. Here I shed light on what existed before yearbooks. This history would apply to most New England towns.

Autograph albums

The earliest artifacts I have seen regarding organized classes are autograph albums. The photo with this article shows an 1860s autograph album. It’s in the foreground under the hat brim. Each page has different signatures, town, and state the signators were from, and date. Calligraphy became popular in the mid-19th century. Some pages have elaborate ink drawings, quite often a fanciful eagle. Depending on individual skill, some calligraphies are works of art.

Felt Hats

In the early 1900s, it wasn’t uncommon to collect classmates’ signatures on your felt hat. Remember collecting signatures in your yearbook?

Given the nature of felt, now over 100 years old, moths and the conditions under which they were stored, many hats have been lost. These felt hats are scarce today. The photo with this article is a hat in my collection. I have only seen two. The other was a Dartmouth hat.

Ed Farr

Years ago I bought the felt hat you see with this article from Ronnie Metzger. Ronnie lived on Church Street in Chester. This hat is covered with symbols, 1912 to 1917 classes, and doodles from Chester High School kids. A curious inscription: “Who put the JAM in Ed. Far’s BOOTS?” Howard Peck answered this question for me.

Beginning in the late 1800s, plays were a popular entertainment. Plays were held on the stage upstairs of Chester Town Hall. In the old days where the Town parking lot is today, stood the Odd Fellows Hall. Overhead there was an iron footbridge that connected the Odd Fellows Hall to the rear of the stage at Town Hall. Initially, this footbridge was a fire escape.

When actors completed their scene, they would run across the iron footbridge to the Odd Fellows, and change costumes for their next scene. Ed Farr was a regular actor in these plays.

Howard told me Ed raced over to the Odd Fellows to change costumes. Ed hurriedly changed costumes and slipped into his boots for the next scene. Someone had put jam in Ed’s boots.

Ed instantly felt the squishy squashy in his boots. Ed appeared for his next scene. Howard said Ed bore it in good spirit. Howard said Humphrey “Hump” Barrett put the JAM in Ed’s boots.

At the lower right of the photo on the hat you’ll see: “H.W.B.” a rifle and “STILL WALKING, HUMP.” Notice the L’s in “STILL” have short legs pointed upward as if feet walking. Ken Barrett remembers Hump as an old man. He was still walking.

Other inscriptions on the hat: “The 1912 Boys” with ax and two man crosscut saw. “VA (Vermont Academy in Saxtons River) to Chester, 2 hours 40 minutes on SKEES.” A beautiful casting rod with “STRATTON POND ’17.” “Foot-Ball VA. 48 opp, 0.” Howard told me Chester lost 48 to nothing. Go Chester!

Ted Spaulding and his brother John Leon donated hundreds of Chester artifacts to Chester Historical Society. Included were a few old photos of Town Hall plays. Ed Farr can be seen in several of these old photos, along with other Chester notables.

Edwin “Ed” Farr was the Bartonsville rural route mail carrier. From the Spaulding donation, we know Ted’s father Edward, sometimes substituted for Ed Farr delivering mail.

This week’s old saying: One Sunday Henry’s father insisted he work moving rock. When Henry complained, his father said, “If God can move a rock on Sunday, so can you.”

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