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This Month’s Cover:

“End of Season” byJoan Nelson

DIRECT MAILED to 13,500 homes & businesses

in the towns of Southwick, Westfield, Feeding Hills, Tolland,

Granville and Northern Connecticut (West Suffield, Granby and beyond).

Serving Massachusetts and Connecticut

Publisher: Carole Caron

Editor: Cole LudorfLayout/Design Artists: Martin Lee, Cole Ludorf, Natalie Strong (Intern) Advertising Consultant:

Carole Caron, Martin Lee

As Spring Takes Hold By Janice Baronian ...................3

Looking Back at 1954 By Clifton J. (Jerry) Noble Sr ....4

KABOOM! Powder Mill Explosions in Southwickand the Vicinity By Lee David Hamberg ........................8

Activity in Spring By Michael Dubilo ............................10

Home Economist Moms Part 3 By Jim Putnam & Anna Haire Cole ..................................14

Ask Big By Jeff King .............................................................16

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! By Debbie Patryn .............................18

Southwick Spiff-up By Maryssa Cook Obregon ..........21

Bulletin Board ...........................................................22

Classifieds ..................................................................23


By Janice Baronian

Like “coils” unwound the long awaited season of “Spring” has begun

It’s time for a change from the dreadful contrast of the retainable weather

The freezing blast of winter has taken its leave...

A gift, we are blessed with this much welcomed interlude

For which in thankfulness and heartfelt gratitude we receive.

The “Grand Opening” is followed by the vernal equinox,

Spigots turned on the clouds begin to release overflowing bucket of rain...

Saturating the ground; creating ouzels of mud

With repetitive frequent showers we wish it would refrain.

Sometimes however we are rewarded by resplendent calorific rainbows

Stretched across the expanse of a powder blue sky,

Made manifest by the omnipresent sun that dwells on high.

Tiny buds upon the naked trees apprise of the forthcoming “born again” leaves.

Red breast robins signal the season’s entrance,

The turnstile exit not until the month of June...

The other migrating birds join in with the year-long residents, seemingly content

In their habitation, in a semi-proficient lyrical like concerto;

Chirping an unchained melody akin to a symphonic instrumental tune.

Like a heart murmur each rippling-purling stream

The frozen ice melt that had hindered their flow ...

With warmer days filtering in through the lingering chill the forsythia is starting to grow.

A habitual ritual the crocus plays peek-a-boo

As they sprout and blossom into shades of Lenten purple with streaks of egg shell white.

The narcissus-daffodil silent trumpets jutting out from within...

Elfin painted a mellow yellow; highlighted by a supernatural sprite.

Tulip bulbs imported from Holland, viable they germinate then penetrate

Through the soil producing an array of primary and secondary colors pleasing to the eye.

Loathsome weeds, these of the dandelion dot the landscapes

. With no inhibition nor permission they vie.


By Clifton (Jerry) Noble, Sr.

January 6, 1954, Wednesday. Roland C. Wilcox died. He was only 39. He became head librarian at the Westfield Athenaeum in June 1946 while I was still substituting as assistant. I could write shorthand and type so he dictated letters. I enjoyed helping him with library projects even after I started work for Massachusetts Department of Public Works in October 1947. He had spent three years with Air Force and Army Ground Forces and encouraged assistant librarian, Miriam Wolcott, to fly a plane. He was cheerful and active in many organizations. It puzzled me that so young a man could be completely bald, but I never suspected he might have cancer.

By Civil Service exams I had progressed from rodman to chief of my own party in the survey section of Mass. DPW. During early 1954 we were concerned with reconstruction of Route 5 in West Springfield at both the tunnel under approach to North End Bridge and the traffic circle at Memorial Avenue.

All men in my party smoked. I didn’t. It was bad enough to have smoke in the field office where I used the Marchand electric calculator, but the smell was in my car.

April 2013

For about a quarter mile upstream from North End Bridge the river was too close to Riverdale Road to per-mit building a dike high enough to protect hundreds of side street houses and the tunnel from flood waters. Therefore this contract included a concrete wall about ten feet high for that distance. The steep riverbank was to be protected from erosion by covering it with “rip rap,” large pieces of broken stone. By May and June I was giving location and elevation for both. The closest I could park to the “rip rap” operation was the sidewalk of Riverdale Road. Hence it could be a long walk around the end of already-constructed floodwall to get forgotten information or equipment. The operator of the big crane placing stone was helpful. As soon as he realized my need he had me get in the bucket and lifted me over the wall.

After a project was finished it had to resurveyed to verify that it was built according to contract plans. “025” at start of the 16-digit work order number on our time sheets meant “final” work while ”024” denoted “construction.”

My daily personal accounts reveal other happenings. Janu-ary 19 I bought a blue, vestless suit from Sears Roebuck for $24.95. Haircuts cost 90 cents and our monthly electric bill was between three and four dollars. Movie admission was 45 cents and most books of piano music such as Czerny were 75 cents. Heating oil (kerosene) was 17 cents a gallon. Shoes were $4.95, overshoes $5.95 and sneakers $2.69. From Fred Mueller in Denver, Colorado, I ordered denim cowboy shirts with snaps instead of buttons for

Looking Back

at 1954

1950s Sears & Roebuck Catalogue


$6.95 and jeans for $3.49. In July a hammock cost $5.98. A step ladder for $4.98 was added in November, and an electric flat iron in Decem-ber for $14.95. As to books, I got Ted Shawn’s Every Little Movement for $3, Kingley’s Water Babies for $3.82, and Mechanics by Hodgson and Styles for $5.95.

I netted $72.82 from the state. Retirement deduction of $4.43 and witholding tax of $11.25 added up to the gross of $88.50. A survey job for Les Weisman in Russell earned $50, but I paid Ernie Rapisarda $21.25 to help me

Real Estate tax was $58.80. Property insurance cost $23.50. In April I got an electric motor for my cement mixer for $39.95. This mixed concrete for footings and foundation walls for my new house. (Cement cost $1.25 a bag.) 4-inch clay drainage tile 2-feet long was 68 cents apiece

Although I made puppet heads out of wood and Hester dressed them, cat, dog, and monkey puppets could be bought for $2.98 from the toy department of Johnson’s Bookstore. Second hand green drapes, which covered my portable puppet theater were donated by Bessie Sibley’s sister, and I doubt that one-by-two-inch lumber plus hardware, wiring, lights and scenery cost more than $20.

While helping in his father’s clock and lock shop, my cous-in Lester Emerson worked two days a week for a carpenter. He earned $1.25 an hour and had to clean up after others who used basements for toilets. Hester and I offered to pay him $2 an hour for two days a week to help with my building. He helped.

Ever since age ten I had wanted to write for pulication. Now from magazines such as The Grade Teacher and F. A. Owen’s In-structor I got as much as $8 for poems. Puppet shows drew $5 to $25 and kept us busy especially for Christmas parties. We enter-tained a church fair and visited “cousin” Rachel Allyn Love at “Glass House” in Sherman, Connecticut. “Glass house,” with one wall all windows, was described in a magazine.

When mother “Hester” and I had lived in Fresno, California (1942-1945) I had been to Los Angeles and San Francisco, but nei-ther of us had been to New York City. Uncle Ralph Emerson want-ed to take us. I wouldn’t leave my construction job but arranged for Hester to go. Uncle Ralph took her, wife Georgia, and daughter

Mabel to Radio City Music Hall and other sights.

Perhaps being a bit stage-struck may have increased my in-terest in ballet. I first studied from books, but, after an interview with Marjery Fielding Hayle, I spent Saturday afternoons for $1.25 a lesson in a class of school-age kids. A Longmeadow doctor’s wife, Mrs Yerbury, taught singing so I in-vested $3 a week with her. As June approached I looked forward to participating in the Hayles’ recital, “Stars of Tomorrow” to be held at Court Square Theater. A large part of the program was based on songs from the movie “Hans Chris-tian Anderson.” I was to be schoolmaster as well as perform in other skits. Evening rehearsals were necessary. Cousin Lester had finished his new house on High Street, Southampton. I left Hester with him, saying I would pick her up about ten. Rehearsal went on and on. I didn’t get back to Hester till nearly midnight. She was upset.

I so wanted to be in the show. What to do? I went out on the road in front of our house and prayed, “If I ought to give up being in the show, would God show lightning in the clear night sky.” Scarcely had I thought this when over the mountaintop across the valley there was a streak of lightning. I went right in phoned a message to the Hayle’s home that I would not be in “Stars…”. Sat-urday night of the show Lester’s family sat in the audience with Hester and me.

I expected to be blacklisted from future programs, but such was definitely not the case as events of 1955 will show.

Vin Penna, north approach to tunnel at North End bridge West Springfield. Flood wall at extreme right.




Southwick, Mas-sachusetts was the home of powder mills from around 1800 to about 1893. The pro-duction of various types of black pow-der, whether used for guns, cannons, or blasting, was always a dangerous job. Consist-ing of salt peter, sulfur, and charcoal, the combi-nation was highly explosive and virtually every powder mill suffered one or more explosions. Newspapers dating from the 1700’s on have 100’s of articles from around the colonies and later the country reporting explosions caused by the sulfu-rous mixture. A dozen or so explosions occurred in or adjacent to Southwick during the 1800’s. The following are some accounts of those horrible ac-cidents.

OCTOBER 8, 1813: [The Repertory, Boston, Mass., Oct. 21, 1813, p. 2] The earliest known pow-der mill accident in Southwick was at one owned by Fowler, Clark, and Laflin. Three men, Elisha Graves and Alpheus Dean of Granby and Reu-ben Clark of Southwick were repair-ing the mortars used for crushing one or more of the ingredients. Apparently they used a steel hammer to drive an iron bolt, a spark was generated, and dust “collected in sweeping the mill,” caused a massive explosion. The three survived but a few hours. Dean was

buried in the Old Southwick Cemetery [Carol Laun, Beneath These Stones, Granby, Conn., 2003, p. 182; no headstone]. Clark was also buried in Southwick, and his surviving headstone [#212F] reads in part: “How sudden was the fatal stroke When the Almighty summons spoke. My Friends and Children now draw near And see that you for death prepare.”

APRIL 30, 1817: [Maude Davis, “Histori-cal Facts and Stories About Southwick,” 1951, p. 210] “Jacob Busnan was killed in the powder mill explosion April 30, 1817.” [Hampden Federalist, Springfield, Mass., May 1, 1817, p. 3) “Yesterday morning about six o’clock, the report of a heavy explosion was heard, in the direction of Westfield and Southwick. The most probable conjecture is that it arose from the blowing up of a powder mill in one of those towns.”

JANUARY 1, 1818: [Hampden Federalist, Springfield, Mass., Jan. 8, 1818, p. 2] The mill of Doras Stiles blew up, in which his son, Anson, died a few hours after the event. Anson’s headstone [#405F] in the Southwick Old Cemetery reads: “In memory of Mr. Anson Stiles, son of Mr. Doras & Mrs. Sally Stiles, who died by the explosion of a Powdermill, January 1st 1818 aged 29 years.”

MAY 15, 1820: [Repertory, Boston, Mass., May 23, 1820, p. 4) “SPRINGFIELD, MAY 17-Explosion.-A Powder Mill at Southwick was blown up on Monday last, but no injury done to life or limb. The explosion was distinctly heard and the smoke seen in this town [Springfield].

JULY 13, 1821: [New-Bedford Mercury, New Bedford, Mass., Jul. 27, 1821, p. 3, and other newspapers] The exact location of this in-cident is somewhat vague. It could have been at either the powder mill just over the Southwick-Westfield line on Great Brook, or the powder mill on the Little River, known more recently as the “Up-per Crane or Stevens Mill.” The multiple owners are listed as Booth and Co. of Westfield, and Campbell Lee and Col. [Enos] Foot of Southwick. One man was killed, Julius Lee, son of Campbell Lee.

Powder Mill Explosions in Southwick and the Vicinity

By Lee David Hamberg

Headstone of Reuben Clark. It reads: “In memory of Capt Reuben Clark, who was suddenly killed by the explosion of a Powder Mill Oct 8, 1813 aged 61 years. How sudden was the fatal stroke When the Almighty summons spoke. My Friends and Children now draw near And see that you for death prepare.


Be was the only person in the mill at the time, and employed in the “sifting-mill” where the explosion originated. The “pounding-mill,” located about 150 feet away, also blew up. The event was felt and heard 10 or 12 miles away. Julius Lee suffered multiple broken bones, was black from the smoke, and survived only an hour or so; “bereft of his reason,” he of-fered no explanation for the incident. In the South-wick Old Cemetery is the headstone of Julius Lee [#255FJ which reads: “In memory of JULIUS LEE, who was exploded in a Powder Mill, July 13, 1821 AE 21. How sudden was the fatal[?] stroke, When the Lord his summons spoke.”

MAY 11, 1824: [Hampden Journal and Advertiser, Springfield, Mass., May 19, 1824, p. 79; Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Mass., May 19, 1824, p. 3, and others] Maj. [Heman] Laflin’s mill was de-stroyed, “only about 15 casks of powder” being in the building. The only person in the mill was Luman Campbell, recently from New York. Sadly, he was blown 36 feet from the build-ing into the mill pond, but he walked out. His clothing were stripped from his body, and his skin “hung about him like a tattered garment.” He lived only a few hours.

MAY 1824: [Maude Davis, “HFASAS,” 1951, p. 210] “Mr. Carm-el was killed in a powder mill explosion, May 14, 1824.” No grave-stone or corroborating newspaper account could be found.

MAY 22, 1824: [Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Mass., May 26, 1824, p. 3] Another powder-mill explosion.-We are informed, that on Saturday last, a powder-mill, situated in Westfield near South-wick line, was blown up, but no lives lost. A man who had just left the mill, and who was only a few rods from it when the explosion took place, received no material injury, although the fragments fell thick around him.” It’s likely that this was the powder mill just north of the Westfield-Southwick line on Great Brook, which area was claimed by both communities. It was eventually determined to be a part of Westfield.

MAY 26, 1826: [Maude Davis, “HFASAS,” 1951, p. 210) “Ensign Hough and Harry Stocking were killed in an explosion in South-wick, May 26, 1826.” No gravestone or corroborating newspaper account could be found. Two men were killed in a powder mill ex-plosion of Erastus Phelps & Co. of Granby on May 25, 1826 [Boston Commercial Gazette, Boston, Mass, June 1, 1826, p. 1]. The location of that mill was apparently in Connecticut, not Southwick, Mas-sachusetts.

DECEMBER 25 [Christmas Day], 1828: [Westfield Register, Westfield, Mass., Dec. 31, 1828, p. 3, and others] Powder Mill Explo-sion-On Thursday of last week, the shock occasioned by the explo-

sion of about 200 casks of Powder, in Southwick, was felt in this village. The mills and powder belonged to Messrs. S. Smith & Co. Four buildings were destroyed, but no lives lost. The fire was occasioned by the boil-ing over of the nitre in the refining kettle-damages estimated at $2000.” This was one of the largest Southwick explosions documented in the news-papers.

OCTOBER 18, 1833: [Hampden Whig, Spring-field, Mass., Oct. 23, 1833, p. 2; Weekly Messenger, Boston, Mass., Oct. 31, 1833, p. 4, and others]: This explosion consumed about 100 kegs of pow-der, creating a thunderous series of two or three reports that could be heard as far east as Brook-field, and a concussion that was felt as far north as Whately and Sunderland. It happened between 9 and 10 on a Friday evening, shortly after the work-ers had left. Three mill buildings were “blown to atoms,” and a nearby house had every pane of glass broken as well as all of the crockery in the house damaged and doors blown off of their hinges. The mill complex was owned by Col. Saul [Solomon] Smith, and the damages were estimated at between $1500 and $2000. No lives were lost. Part of the magazine, where an additional 40 kegs of the best powder were stored, was blown off but did not