Christmas Past

Most of us have just ‘signed off’ on another Christmas and are packing away the decorations and ornaments and dragging the tree to the curb. 

We were late with the tree and decorations this year, so we will leave them in a bit longer. Can’t wait too long, as a lady at church today said that Walmart has all it’s Easter candy and related stuff already to put out this week. I refuse to buy Easter eggs in January! 

What I wanted to talk about is the change I have seen in the Christmas season since I was really ‘into it’. I remember the real highlight was the stockings that Santa left on Christmas Eve. I have a picture of my brothers, sister and I up at 3AM holding our stockings. I believe my mother took our picture and sent us back to bed! The stockings were, for sure, the most important part of the ‘gift getting’. I have often thought about why, but can just say, they were always fun. 

Gifts under the tree were great too but we could almost always predict what would be there. If you needed PJs, they were under the tree. The same with other clothing, shoes, school supplies, etc. The key word is ‘needed’. I am sure most of you reading this can relate to that. Santa saw to it, that things in the stocking, were fun and not necessarily needed. Probably some candy, socks, books, always a box of lifesavers (one item this Santa still gives everyone) and in the toe – a beautiful, large orange. 

When I tell my grandchildren about the orange and how it was so eagerly welcomed, they look at me like I have two heads! I must realize that in their lifetime, oranges have been available and affordable all year round. The orange has now been replaced with a gift card to Xbox. What’s an Xbox? A box with a X on it?? I dare say most things given at Christmas now are not on the ‘needed’ list and maybe that is good if it means families can afford the wanted list. 

So what I am saying, is that waiting for Christmas for some needed things is just fine, especially if Santa supplies the fun things right along with the needed. Wishing you a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Father Spears’ St. Christopher

In 1991 I bought a new car, a brand new car, all by myself. I was driving a 1986 VW Golf, but Gael needed a car to drive, so I decided to give him mine and buy a new one. For some reason I wanted a car with a diesel engine and it had to be a VW, so I found a Jetta in Augusta, Maine and we went to get it. I loved it. 

We had a neighbor who was a retired priest and he and his elderly housekeeper and their cats were great neighbors. They also had a barn that Gael used occasionally. Father Spears was a farm boy from Enosburg and he loved to garden. He had about 100 acres which he kept up well. Gael used to like to visit with Fr. Spears and Alice and spent many happy hours “visiting”. 

One day Gael was there and asked Fr. Spears if he blessed cars. Yes, he did. So, a date was picked for me (us) to take my new car there, to be blessed. It was one of those warm, sunny spring days, a Saturday. I got up early, gave the Jetta a good wash, and at the appropriate time, we drove a mile down the road to Fr. Spears’ house. He was quite elderly and had trouble going up and down his porch steps, so we drove the car over the lawn and got as close to the porch as we could. 

Alice had picked a bouquet of wild flowers and placed it on the hood of my sparkling car. Fr. Spears came out onto the porch with his prayer book and some holy water, and proceeded to bless the Jetta. He handed Gael the small bottle of holy water and Gael sprinkled it on my new car. Alice, then, invited us into their kitchen and got out a small bottle of brandy which they kept for medicinal purposes. We then toasted the Jetta. But what was most meaningful to me, was the small statue of St. Christopher that Fr. Spears gave to me. It was in the car that he drove for many years, a huge white four door sedan, that navigated our road well, winter and summer. I proudly put it in the glove box of the Jetta and we went home. 

I drove the car for years until Gael needed a replacement for the 1986 Golf that he had been driving. I passed the Jetta on to Gael and got a replacement car for me…another VW Golf. For anyone who has been at our house in recent years, you probably passed the black Jetta that was parked next to the military truck in the barn yard. Gael couldn’t let it go. Well, this fall, after looking around the yard at all the stuff??, I decided that it was time to call a salvage yard and have them take the Jetta away. The day the truck was due to come, I went down to the Jetta to say goodbye. I removed the floor mats (you can always use them in some car) and I removed the St. Christopher statue that Fr. Spears gave me so many years ago. 

It now sits in my everyday car, another VW Golf, where I see it every time I go anywhere. Thank you Father Spears. God Bless You. 

Father Spears’ St. Christopher from Judy 

Saint Christopher’s most famous legend tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore, he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or placed in vehicles by Christians. 

Christmas Memories to Last One’s Lifetime

As I’m writing this, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with that comes the Christmas holiday season, which has me feeling a bit nostalgic for past Christmases.

My earliest memories, when I was a child, were spent Christmas Eve “tracking” Santa Claus (through the voice of weatherman Stuart Hall on WCAX-TV) as he made his way around the world heading, I just knew, directly to our house. Then before being herded off to bed, my two brothers and I would make sure there were milk and cookies waiting for Santa and Rudolph.

Come Christmas morning, the three of us would head to the tree to find, yes, Santa had arrived and marveling at the gifts and that the cookies and milk were gone!

After opening presents and having breakfast, we’d get dressed in holiday clothes and head off to my Dad’s parents’ home in Burlington, where there would be relatives and food (especially tourtieres) and more presents!! And then by late afternoon, we’d be on the road to Milton to my Mom’s parents’ house where, you guessed it, there’d be more relatives, food and… presents!!

Even today my brother Tom reminisces, not about what presents we may have gotten, but the fact that we were on the road again to see what lay in store for us. Can you tell that we were the only grandchildren on one side of the family and we had just two cousins on the other for so many years?
Now I could tell you about one of my Mom’s earliest memories when we kids were little – oh, like the time she and her best friend, Deedee, who lived next door to us, got shnockered on the Brandy Alexanders that my Dad had made. It was Christmas Eve, and they barely got toys wrapped and under the trees for us all – but that’s a story for another time!

As I grew older, one Christmas stands out in my mind. In my high school years, after my third brother, David, arrived, my oldest brother, John, and I went to Midnight Mass with my Mom while my younger brothers would go to church at 8 a.m. on Christmas morning with Dad. Well, one year John, Mom and I got home around 2 a.m. after Midnight Mass, and my Mom asked if we would help her get the presents out and under the tree. John and I looked at each other like, Okay, but where the heck are they? We hadn’t found her hiding spot, ever, in 15 years. Well, Mom beckoned us downstairs to the basement where there was an old (and I mean old!) sofa, and she proceeded to lift up the seat portion, and there, to our wondering eyes, was this very large storage area with gaily wrapped Christmas presents! She laughed and told us how we would bounce, jump and play on the sofa all year round, yet we never discovered her hiding place.
As time has moved on, I’ve lost my dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, yet I’ve seen the addition of in-laws, nieces/nephews and, most importantly, my husband, to my family. Each Christmas season brings with it transitions – as one person steps out of my life, a new tradition is created, however small, to try to fill that void, and with that, I’ve said to myself many times: Everything is new again.

What are some of your earliest memories of celebrating the holidays? Do you remember the special people, long gone, you celebrated with? Is there one particular sight or sound today that brings back a pleasant memory for you?

Don and I together wish all of our VAE friends a Merry and Joyous Christmas and holiday season, however you may celebrate it!

Don’t put off………

The phrase “Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today” keeps going through my head lately. 

Gael and I talked about becoming plus members of the 251 Club for years. We joined in the early 60’s, so it’s been over fifty years. Well, this sum-mer we were going to do it. Fred Gonet got the Locomobile in good running order last summer, Brian Aros (a new VAE member) gave Gael two new knees and we were going to tour this summer. Well, it was not to be. I could do it by myself, but I don’t want to do it alone, and I couldn’t use the Locomobile because I haven’t a clue about how to drive the thing and it’s way too big for me….out of the question. Who would I go with if I went “modern”. 

Chainsaws! I’ve been thinking about getting a small battery operated chainsaw to trim some branches that I run into when mowing the lawn. Gael would always tell me he would do it the next time he had his chainsaw out (which is ancient and weighs a ton). It never was done. Well, a few weeks ago, I bought a small battery operated chainsaw and finally cut down those branches, that I kept hitting my head and ripping my shirt on when mowing the lawn. 

As always, we had a little water in the cellar a few weeks ago and I sucked it up with our ancient shop vac. I finally got all the water gone, then went and bought a new, small, shop vac. Wow, is it nice. 

One thing I’m not going to do today is to drive the VW Thing. It’s needed some attention for a few years and taking a closer look at it the other day, I think I’ll find somebody to do some work on it, work that should have been done a few years ago but we put it off. The kids and I drove the Thing off and on for a number of years, and we all have good stories to tell (the day I hit a bear) that I’m just hearing about now, so it’s a keeper. It’s just beat up enough that I don’t have to worry about dents and scratches. My kind of car. 

There are definitely some things that shouldn’t be put off…that trip to the dentist office, the annual visit to the doctor for a physical, changing the oil in the car and getting a new inspection sticker for the cars. That one, the inspections, could cover a whole Softer Side article. Mowing the lawn before the grass gets so high it clogs the mower. Sharpening the blade on the brush cutter before you start cutting. I’m sure you can think of a few things to add to the list. 

So, the next time you wake up during the night and think of things that need to be done, get up the next morning and do them, please…..don’t put off….well, you know what I am talking about. 

Been there, done it in a Probe

I admit it. I’m not that into cars. If it has 4 tires and a steering wheel and can get me to where I want to go safely, I’m happy. My husband, on the other hand, is what you’d all call “a car guy.” Over the years he’s purchased antique (I say old) cars and trucks. He does a little bit of general maintenance on them himself, but the big stuff he leaves to the professionals. That I’m happy about. I liken it to, if I want a new electric outlet installed, or want that damned breaker fixed that keeps tripping, when I run my laptop, printer and label maker all at the same time……well, let’s just say I’m still waiting for him, and not the car mechanic, to get around to fixing it. 

All that said, it was somewhat surprising to me what happened one day of a month-long camping trip, we took beginning mid June with the end result of arriving in Salt Lake City, for the International Barbershop Singing Convention and then returning home by July 15. We were driving our F-350/camper and towing a 1997 Ford Probe acquired last fall. We traveled down through the eastern U.S. and then over to Branson, MO, and then continued going west by way of Pueblo, Durango, Moab, and finally 

ending up on the correct date at the KOA in Salt Lake City. 

The biggest highlight of our trip (not necessarily the best) for me: We drove up Pikes Peak in Colorado, which is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. It comes in at 14,115 feet above sea level. (To put it in perspective, Mount Mansfield is 4,393 feet above sea level.) The drive is approximately 19 miles from visitor center to the summit. 

Don was driving. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and puffy white clouds. We were informed that we’d have to leave the car, at the lot, at mile marker 16, and we’d be shuttled to the summit. 

As we got to mile marker 16, Don casually remarked, “Uh-oh, I think there’s something wrong with the clutch.” Ya think? What the heck does that mean? Get me out of this car. How are we going to get down? I’m going to die on Pikes Peak! All of those thoughts raced through my mind. 

Don casually maneuvered the car into a parking spot, turned it off and started getting out of the car, all the while I’m internally panicking, thinking about calling AAA for help or my mother to say goodbye and to take good care of our kitty, Millie. But, no, I too made my way to the shuttle and up and away we went. 

I must say the peak was awesome! spectacular! breathtaking! gorgeous! No words can capture the magnificence of that part of our American landscape. I am truly glad we made the trip up, but now we had to get down off this damned peak. 

We were shuttled back down to 16 and got in the Probe. Don started the car, and it “appeared” that things were OK. He then finally said something about somebody telling him about hydraulic clutches, and how they can overheat and not work and need cooling off, which did nothing to calm my nerves of possibly going off one of those S-curves at 95 mph. All I thought about was clutch/brake, clutch/brake, clutch/brake – they’re right next to each other. Maybe the brakes won’t work either. 

As we started the drive down, though outwardly calm, my stomach was in a knot, and every time he stepped on the gas I wanted to throw up. I think the door handle needs replacing as I was gripping it so hard; either that or the floor where my feet were. Suffice it to say it was the longest 16 miles of my life. 

We did make it down the mountain. When we stopped for the mandatory “brake check” by a Park Ranger, he let us know the tires were great, and all I wanted to say was, “Yeah, but what about the &*%$!@$ clutch? 

OK, so I can say I learned a little about hydraulic clutches that day, but I can also say with regard to Pikes Peak: Been there, done that, in a Probe! 

Been there, done it in a Probe from Anne 

What Things Have Changed?

Every time I go to Williston and pass by Friendly’s restaurant, I remember my days in X-Ray school when we would collect our paychecks (second year students were paid $80/month plus call pay, usually amounted to about $160) and we would head out for Friendly’s for a cheeseburger deluxe and milkshake. The burger used bread for the ‘bun’ and added lettuce and tomato and of course, cheese. 

I can’t figure out if it was really that good or that we ate hospital food for 3 meals a day and going out was a once a month treat. I haven’t tried to order one, in about 15 years, but at that time they had stopped making them the way I was use to. So, the question is – has my memory been playing tricks on me? 

Another food item that has changed – the tomato. I know that you can buy them year-round, but my advice is not to. It seems that the last great tomatoes were in my garden 18 years ago (haven’t had a garden since). I do most of my shopping at the Farmer’s Market from May to October and I buy pounds and pounds of tomatoes, but rarely get the fabulous taste, that once was (or at least what my memory says). The only exception is the Heirloom tomatoes which are scarce in the NEK. I will have to branch out to larger markets this summer in search of the heirlooms and pay premium for the experience. 

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about and that is the change in Vermont’s gold crop – Maple Syrup. I am not talking about the silly names they want us to use – Golden Delicate (think that was called Fancy in my day) and so on, but what I noticed was the taste. Unless you can find someone, who taps, uses buckets, gathers, boils (no osmosis) with wood fire – you aren’t getting the true taste that is real Vermont Maple. 

Some say I’m crazy (a lot might agree on many levels), but I believe I’m right and am sticking to it. We found a man in Enosburg who still gathers with horses (that makes a difference I’m sure) and I have found another hold out from Brownington. He agrees I am right about the taste but he says he is fairly limited in how much he can make, doing it the ‘old fashion’ way, because as he ages it is getting harder and he may have to give it up all together. In a lot of things, change is good, but in Maple Syrup – not so good. The only remedy that I can see for me is to have Wendell (Noble) dust off his buckets, fire up the evaporator, and did I mention find plenty of help to assist doing it the right way?! 

Some Serious Cleaning!

Circumstances, here at home, have forced me to do some serious cleaning. I always said that Gael was the hoarder, but I have added my name to that list. When you live in a house for fifty years, things accumulate, especially if you have room in closets and spare rooms. 

That’s the case here. I think of friends that have neat homes with no clutter and wonder where all the stuff is. I guess it isn’t, it gets tossed. I just made two trips to the recycle place in Jericho and took a car load of things (I won’t call it junk yet) to the church Clutter Barn. I saw Gary Irish there helping! 

We have had to eliminate two closets where the overflow from the kitchen went. Those things that were on sale at the grocery store and it was too good a deal not to purchase. I often wondered, on my rare trips to Costco, where people store those 48 rolls of toilet paper or paper towels. Under a bed? Not at my house. The places under the beds are already filled. 

I think it all started when we purchased our first home in Underhill. It was partially furnished with a lot of things that belonged to Gael’s grandparents. Along the way we added things from my parents house and Gael’s mother’s house. Toss in three kids and their things and, presto, you have stuff everywhere. 

I’ve discovered a number of things that I have forgotten about, so it is also a trip down memory lane, if you will. I found the first issue of Wheel Tracks with a lengthy article that Pev Peake wrote, about one of his famous trips with a friend in an old car. Very funny!! Lots of photos of old cars and car parts taken over the years. They are being kept. How about calendars going back twenty years. They are going in the recycle bin next. Twenty five years of tax returns. I’ll just save the last seven and the rest goes in the wood stove, which is still being used. Then there are the buckets of pens and pencils that haven’t been touched in years. They are going out too. Nobody wants textbooks any more, so they are going. That free up a book shelf. Christmas wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons. Knitting needles, old thread, sewing supplies, parts to a sewing machine that’s been gone for years. Most of that went too. Gael’s electric typewriter is staying and I found a few new typewriter ribbons that are still good. It’s a daunting task but needs to be done, so I’d best get back to it. Would anyone like to buy a great old pine corner cupboard? 

I Am Now Retired!

By the time you read this article, I will have been retired for all of five weeks, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what I’ve been doing for the past 40 ½ years and also give a plug to a career that is in desperate need of people all across our country. 

A little background: I was born and brought up in Burlington, attended Rice High School and then went on to Champlain College in their Court Reporting Program, graduating in 1978! Yep, I’m a court reporter, or maybe you’ve heard the term “court stenographer.” I am one of those people that sit behind that funny looking machine, you may have seen on TV, and make my fingers dance across the keys. 

For the first 10 years after graduation, I was a freelance court reporter in Rutland, which means I was hired directly by attorneys where I would go to a particular law office, and “report” the questions and answers asked by the attorneys and answered by witnesses in court cases. I’d also report contentious school board hearings, arbitration hearings, and even fill in a court because their court reporter was away that day. In 1988, I was the luckiest person in the world! I was hired by Judge Albert Coffrin to succeed his retiring court reporter. That meant a move back to the Burlington area and family & friends; and since then I’ve been reporting nonstop for 30 years and 7 months at the United States District Court until my retirement on March 30. 

Daily, I reported to work and was in the courtroom whenever there was a hearing scheduled (be it jury trials, motion hearings, sen-tencings, etc.) taking down – reporting — every single word spoken by anyone in the courtroom. One may ask how is that possible? Well, as the name implies, the shorthand machine has 20+ keys on it, and each key corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and you, in essence, create a shorthand system. I always say it is much like playing a musical in-strument. I learned how to play the piano when I was young, and if you think about a piano with so many keys, you strike one key and it sounds one way, you strike 2 or 4 or up to 10 keys all at once, it sounds another way. That’s the way the shorthand machine works. 

I’m sure none of you have ever been to a gym or a bar and watched the TV screen with the translations at the bottom of the screen!?! Well, that’s a court reporter, a closed-captioning court reporter. TV stations by law have to closed-caption news and sports — like the Super Bowl or the World Series, and many other broadcasts for the hearing impaired, in what’s called “real time”, and the only way to do that is to have a court reporter, probably at home in his/her jammies, getting a live feed from the TV station to their home. The reporter then writing what they hear through their headphones onto their shorthand machine, that being translated back into English by the specialized software, and then the feed going back out to the TV station and, in turn, being broadcast out to your TVs. Whew! Seems like a lot of extra work, doesn’t it? Why don’t they just use voice recognition software you have on your iPhone and be done with it? Because, ultimately, court reporters are the gold standard for accurate, instantaneous translation. Only the human ear and brain can discern the difference between “pahk the kah” and “park the car.” 

The last part of my job is to return to my office and, when requested, prepare a certified written transcript of the proceedings. A full day in court will produce on average 280 pages of transcript! I will use my specialized software to translate the shorthand “gibberish” back into English and then correct spellings (is your name spelled Brown, Browne, Brawn); punctuation, paragraphing, identifying speakers; homonyms, unless you write them differently (their/they’re/there, to/two/too); and then be able to certify that the transcript is a true and accurate record of the proceedings.

My career has spanned an amazing 40 years, and I am truly grateful to Judge Coffrin for hiring me 30 years ago and bringing me back to my family and friends and the city that I love. If you know of anyone who’s looking for a great career that pays very well, has an aptitude for the written word, a good work ethic, a good ear, a desire to learn every day of their working lives, by all means have him/her get in contact with me and we can talk further! 

To the right is a picture of the paper that would have come out of the machine “in the olden days” with the interpretation on the right. Today, it’s all electronic and the steno machine simply down-loads into a computer, 

25th Anniversary Milestone

Anne was unavailable this month for her column, so instead, we have gone back in the Wheel Tracks archives to the 1980s. Enjoys…… 


Al Ward’s 1982 “25th Anniversary Milestone” Poem. 

Some 25 years ago at a lovely place called Stowe 

Stood five old cars pushed all in a row. 

The occasion of which was a picnic, I’m told.

And started the VAE as a club to take hold. 

Each year we have prospered under super direction 

Now each gathering held in close perfection. 

Our meets take place in august as we all know 

And features flea markets and a wonder show. 

The town is jam packed with enthusiasts galore 

Who arrive from Canada and the New England shore. 

They keep coming back year after year 

To take part in the show and give us a cheer. 

Who would have thought that from such a small start 

This club would have grown and we all could take part. 

In putting on tours and sponsoring meets 

Or just milling around while munching on sweets. 

Over the years, the scenes have change 

The designs of the cars have greatly ranged. 

At first they were mostly all in the teens 

But now it’s the fifties and in-be-tweens. 

The success of our club is due in part 

To those dedicated few who gave it a start. 

And also to those who have carried on, 

Through there 25 years we look back upon. 

And now on the anniversary of our very small start 

It give us great pleasure and comes from the heart 

To thank all those who through these glorious years 

Are most deserving and have earned these three cheers. 

Cheer, cheer, cheer! 


1980 Glidden Tour with, 1929 Silver Annie 

“She’s not much to look at” by Cliff French 

After being on the 1968 Glidden Tour in Pocono, Penn., I wanted to go again in 1980 in the White Mountains. I pulled the motor out, and out of 4 motors, took the best of each and made a motor that sounds like a bucket of bolts. This motor runs nice and uses no oil. With a 1927 Marvel brass carburetor, I get 14 miles to a gallon of gas. 

I was accepted on the 1980 Tour with number 67 out of 341. 

Esther and I left Bradford in the rain, September 14th, arriving in Brenton Woods at the Mt. Washington House about 3:30PM. We were to stay across the road at the Bretton Woods Motor Inn. We spent the rest of the day visiting and admiring the other many cars arriving, coming from across the United States and Canada. 

Editor’s notes…. Taken from the 1981 Spring issue of Wheel Tracks. Cliff’s column goes on describing their eight days on the tour. We do not have the room to print the complete article but if you make a request, we will mail it to you.

Cliff ends his column with this……. 

When I saw and heard about the many fine cars that threw rods, clutches and rear ends, to name a few, it made me feel good that Silver Anne made the 775 miles and the only problem was a leaky manifold gasket. 

Birds of a Feather

Friday night (February 1, 2019) we lost a good friend and the area lost a knowledgeable, passionate historian in Ken Barber. 

ken barber

Ken was a VAE member and has contributed to Wheel Tracks many times. If you didn’t know him, I wouldn’t be surprised. He didn’t inject himself in the running of the operation, not to say he didn’t have opinions about its “runnings”. I think some of the reason was that things tended to annoy him, so he stayed away. 

He was an avid collector of information in the form of books, papers, magazines and photographs. He loved printing photo-graphs of local history from some glass negatives which he had collected. And with them, he had great recall and knew facts which, I fear, without being written down, will be lost forever. 

His knowledge spanned a huge number of things, from town and village history and changes, antiques, old tools, trucks and of course, cars. Recently Ken wanted my husband, Gary, to take him to Maine to get about 200 Life magazines from the 40’s and 50’s. After Ken looked them over he passed them on to Gary and they now reside under my dining room table! 

Ken was as concerned as Gary, about the loss of history, when things get thrown away or by people passing away. This would include the loss of skills, that at one time, many could do. I know Gael Boardman was impressed with Ken’s skill in producing hand hewn beams for a house Ken built for his family. I also know Ken would give Gary items knowing he would ‘hang on to them’. 

One of the reasons I liked Ken, so much, was that if Gary suggested going somewhere and I didn’t really want to go, I would say, ‘why don’t you ask Ken’. Gary and Ken, being like-minded, enjoyed the outings with each other and I enjoyed seeing them go! 

Ken could be kind of cranky and believe it or not, so can Gary. That along with their common interests and we have “Birds of a feather flock together”. Another ‘bird in the flock’ is Gary Fiske. Gary and Ken had become great friends with common interests. I can’t believe, however, that Gary ever gets cranky. Ken you will be missed by Gary and I, maybe not wholly for the same reasons but thoroughly missed none the less. 

Rest in Peace, dear friend. 

Wheel Tracks note…. Ken’s two sons, Glenn and Scott, while completing the obituary, decided to asked if someone would like to make a donation in Ken’s name, they can donate to the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts. Our treasurer, Don Pierce at 203 Colchester Pond Road, Colchester, VT 05446 is where it can be sent.