First-Hand:Growing up in Rural Vermont in the Early Twentieth Century


Submitted by Cyril G. Veinott

Although I was born in 1905 in Somerville, Massachusetts, my childhood was spent in southern Vermont. For the first eight years, it was in the small hamlet of West Townshend, and then some ten years more in Chester, a town of fifteen hundred. In summer, travel was literally by horse and buggy. In winter, the horse drew a sleigh because the dirt roads were never ploughed-the snow was just packed down by huge horse-drawn snow rollers. Our telephone was mounted on the wall, with several parties on the same line. We could call anyone on our line by hand-cranking the appropriate number of rings. Anyone on our line could listen in, and even interrupt if they so desired. For "long distance" calls, we had to ring the operator and wait interminable periods of time to reach the called party.

Homes generally were not wired for electricity. For the bright light needed for reading or studying, we had a kerosene lamp that used a fragile mantle, just like the ones commonly used on gas lamps. Generally, we did not have inside plumbing; the one (or two) holer would often be in the corridor that joined the house to the attached barn. When one went to the bathroom in wintertime, one did it as quickly as possible.

Our first car was a Ford Model T. To start it, we used a hand crank. An electric starter and demountable rims were extras. Side curtains didn't keep out all the rain, nor did they keep one warm in cold weather. Headlights were supplied from the ignition magneto mounted on the engine flywheel. When the engine slowed down on a hill, the headlights would go almost out; often the driver had to drop into second gear so the engine would run faster and the lights got brighter.