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                                           “Take me home they call me Henry!”

                                                  By John Duane Aldrich

Jane and John Aldrich 1943

Bellows Falls, VT

 

            During the early 1940’s there was a popular radio program named “Henry Aldrich”. Henry Aldrich was an endearingly bumbling kid growing awkwardly into adolescence, and The Aldrich Family usually revolved around Henry's misadventures with the girls, with his friends and with practically anything he got involved in. Henry Aldrich was always getting in trouble - at home and at school - yet he managed to come through relatively unscathed. When his mother shouted, as she did at least once on every radio show, ''Henry ... Henry Aldrich,'' he knew enough to answer immediately, ''Coming, Mother.”

            My parents sent me to a wonderful summer camp, Camp Marienfeld, in Chesham, NH. This camp had no electricity, no modern bathrooms and was situated high on a hill overlooking Silver Lake. It was during WWII and we helped the war effort by planting “Victory Gardens” and picking blue berries for .25 per bucket full. At age ten I obtained my first social security card.

            We lived in canvass-covered cabins with crude wooden bunks. We were required to send letters home every week. The other boys soon learned how to get my attention. They would taunt me by calling  “HENRY ALDRICH”. I wrote home to my parents, “Take me home they call me Henry! Eventually I learned to ignore the other boys and returned to the camp for another eight years. It was a wonderful Camp with swimming, outdoor sports, crafts, gymnastics, hiking and much more. For more about Camp Marienfeld please go to: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~aldrichnaa/campm.htm      

            My home was in a small paper mill town, Bellows Falls, Vt., on the Connecticut River. My family lived in a large house on a terrace overlooking a large picturesque basin with the Saxtons River and a Dairy Farm below.  My father had purchased a large horse and carriage barn that had been used by one of the wealthy paper mill owners. He had barn restored and converted into our house. I learned how to tap Maple Trees and make my own Maple syrup. My dad was the manager of “Whelan Drug Store” where I worked after school and made the ice cream for the soda fountain. A large double scoop cone was only Five Cents!

Bellows Falls was once a very busy paper mill town with several large paper mills. Logs were floated down the river and collected at the mills. There was a very busy train depot that serviced both the Boston and Maine and Rutland Railroads. My grandfather, Herbert D. Aldrich, operated a restaurant at the train depot and my father; Duane G. Aldrich was born on the second floor in 1895.

The town itself does not look much different today then it did in the 1930’s. Returning to Bellows Falls every summer with my wife for “Old Home Town Days” in August is always interesting. Walking the streets of Bellows Falls is much like stepping back into the past. Living there I knew most every person in town. Now, sixty years later, with a smaller population of about 3,000 people, there are very few people I know there anymore. Most of my friends and classmates have all gone elsewhere. The Hospital has closed, all the paper mills have shut down, there is no longer any drug store or grocery store in town. The large machine shop in Springfield where many had jobs has closed. There was no local industry. Bellows Falls on tough times did fall, most industry was dead by 1950.

However in the 1990s a new spirit of renewal sweep over Bellows Falls. Local groups and individuals have been successful at renovations and developing a new spirit of optimism. I invite you to visit their web site at: http://www.flyingunderradar.com/bellowsfalls.htm