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Saving Yesterday for Tomorrow

A Reminiscence

by Donald Hyatt

We all reach back in time to gather up our own special thoughts and memories…to smile at some of life’s precious moments…to ponder the paths taken and the turns left behind. Memories can give us perspective and serve as a kind of personal balance.

It is with these thoughts in mind that The Academy on the Green Commission initiated an oral history project in observance of Branford’s 350th Anniversary celebration. The project, entitled Branford Memories, is designed as an ongoing effort in which many of Branford’s native senior citizens will have the opportunity to share with us, on audio tape, their life experiences here in town. Pearl Esther Blackstone Milne at the age of 99 years can take us on a journey that begins around the turn of the century.

"I went to Damascus School. There was one room for eight grades and about 33 pupils. There was an outhouse for the girls and one for the boys, also a coal bin for the stove which stood in front of the room. We recited in front on benches in back of the stove. Oh…I can remember how hot it would get. There was a closet near the entry, and for punishment the teacher would put us in it, close the door…and leave you in the dark. You could also hold out your hand for a good slap with the ruler.”   

“Two children each week were given the job of getting a pail of drinking water from a well down the road. We all drank from the same dipper. I had pink eye, chicken pox and whooping cough when I was there. Oh…that whooping cough was terrible.” “We used to play snap the whip. The biggest boy was always at one end, and when I was 8, I was the smallest so you know who got put on the other end. I did a lot of somersaults and broke my collarbone. A pupil had to walk two miles to get my father to bring me home. Dr. Gaylord couldn’t come until night. He set my collarbone by kerosene lamp. I remember he put a safety pin through the sling and into my flesh.”

" The Town Farm, also called the Poorhouse, was on the southside of my grandmother’s on Damascus. Men who had no home or money stayed there. Transients stayed overnight. They were called tramps. In the morning they would often rap on our door, and we would give them bread and a bowl of milk. I can’t remember ever refusing any of them.” ”My father used to hunt in the woods in back of back of our house on Damascus. We had baked pheasant, broiled woodcock and other birds. I also made squirrel and rabbit pies” 

There is a richness of life living in the memories of these who traveled before us. Their stories constitute a treasury of all the bits and pieces of daily life that make up the sum total of human experience. It is our hope that the recorded stories in the Branford’s Memories project will create a kind of oral legacy for future generations.

Last Updated: Thu, 06/20/2019 - 12:07pm