Armorial Bearings granted to Robert Lord alias Laward of London in 1510; College of Arms MS L10 folio 105b; copyright of the College of Arms, London. Used by permission.

Gilbertsville

Gilbertsville


No, this is not a picture from my European vacation.... it is in the heart of the Village of Gilbertsville, New York... my home town.


The place that I consider to be, first and foremost, my "hometown" is this little village of 400 people. We moved here in 1945, when I was only 4 years old. When I was 7, we moved to a house two doors down the street, and my folks have been there ever since.

This village is unique in many ways, not the least being its architecture, although during the 15 years that I lived here more or less full-time I did not appreciate the degree to which that was true.

The Grange Hall steeple.

Others who had not grown up here perhaps more readily understood this fact, for the entire village is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it continues to draw tourists and visitors from places near and far.

But for me, it was just "Home". It was not until I was grown and had left this place to see the rest of the world for myself that I realised everyone's "hometown" didn't look like mine.

One has to believe that being surrounded by all this architectural richness had some subliminal effect on me, and perhaps it did. But the fact remains that it has taken me nearly a lifetime to fully recognize my good fortune to have grown up in such a place!

Uptown.

It is ironic now, looking back, that I should have grown up surrounded by English Tudor architecture, replica though it was, only to later find that my ancestral roots 400 years ago are in England in the Tudor age.

And perhaps it was here, in this village which had both a real history of great depth, and also the appearance of a great historical association in its architecture, that my interest in the past was born.

And often I reflect on the great depth of personal history that I associate with this place. To have experienced so much here: the post-war years of the late 1940s; the classic 1950s; the socially turbulent 1960s; and then to move away, but never fully leave it behind in the 1970s... this represents to me an historical continuity of inestimable significance.

To drive down the same street that I walked on a half century ago to go "uptown" to get the mail or check out a book in the little stone library...

To still be able to step along the narrow sidewalk where I first learned to ride my bike, or see the fading remnants of white paint on a power pole that my playmate and I painted one idle summer afternoon 45 years ago; and then lived in fear that we would be arrested for defacing government property...

Home.

And to still be able to turn into that same driveway and sit on that same porch and remember. I can glance up to my old bedroom window and recall the wire we strung between there and the corner of the barn - the makeshift antenna for my ham radio set. Built from a kit, it connected me to the world, as I sat in the back attic room and tapped out Morse Code to anyone who might pick it up. And people did. Some said I had the best Morse Code technique they'd ever heard. Well, that was back in 1960.

My old ham radio calling card.

We used to trade our calling cards with everyone we contacted. I still have a few of mine (above), even though my license expired nearly 40 years ago. And I have a fat deck of the cards those people I made contact with sent to me. Someday I am going to go through those cards and see if any of these people got famous in their old age.

Or I could look across to the Central School, now closed, from whose windows I used to be able to look back to my house, depending and what grade I was in, and see my mother or grandmother hanging out the wash. All 12 grades in one modest building!

And looking across to that building today, I can still see, between my home and the school, the now empty field where in the tension-filled days of the Cold War I signed up for volunteer duty in the little Civil Defense aircraft spotter's shack.

I may have spent as many years, or more, in other towns since, or found my roots in places that have a "hometown" meaning for me. But no other place will ever be the same.


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