by Sandy Atkins
HARDWICK – Author Joyce Slayton Mitchell has given the town a precious gift for the holidays: a compilation of her memories of the town during the 1930s to 1950s. In her memoir, “Landmark Memories: A Vermont Village, 1930s-1950s,” Mitchell recounts the landmarks, people and events that made growing up in Hardwick a unique experience.
As an introduction to the village of the era, Mitchell describes the difference between “upstreet” and “downstreet,” a uniquely New England designation. She describes her shortcut to school, across the swinging bridge, another unique village landmark. She introduces us to the many town institutions and events that filled her days and those of the residents who volunteered, well before television and the internet took energy away from these local events.
Mitchells writing style is so personal. Each story in the memoir is told as if talking to each reader over a friendly cup of coffee. Her first recollection of a resident of the time and town, “Bub Rowell – Iceman,” is a perfect example of that style. Her description of this gentle, kind and influential man is so vivid. Mitchell also gives incisive portraits of strong women whom she admired: her Aunt Muriel, her neighbor Jennie Rowell, and several more.
Religion was an essential part of the life of the town and its residents, and Mitchell gives a warm description of her childhood church and the people of the United Church of Hardwick. There is also a memoir of the First Congregational Church in East Hardwick.
The memories never end: Cox’s Drug Store, Hardwick Academy, Burt’s Auction, the Green Iron Bridge, and Jeudevine Library. And more people are remembered: neighbor Evie Bemis, Sally Slayton, workman Claude Cross, artist Hazel Hall Rochester (whose illustrations are included in the book), friend Sarah Cobb Philbrook.
There is even a chapter on Hardwick recipes and recollections of meals and favorite dishes.
And there’s so much more. Mitchells’ book is a warm, but accurate portrait of a town in time, one that is unique and individual. Thankfully, this portrait now exists for all to experience.
“Landmark Memories” will be featured in a fundraiser for the Jeudevine Library in Hardwick. Mitchell is donating all profits from the book pre-ordered from November 26 through December 17. The book may be ordered from the library or from the Galaxy Bookshop.