The voice
of social justice

Editor of the Reformer:

"I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious or my political beliefs, or how I voted, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under any compulsion as this."

Pete Seeger’s answer to Rep. Francis Walter, D-Penn., before a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in 1955 earned him a one-year prison sentence for contempt of congress. Did he perform at a concert sponsored by the Communist Party in 1947? Sure. Such is a crime under the First Amendment according the reactionaries on the committee dedicated to sanitizing America by suppressing dissent views.

Peter offered to sing some songs to the committee. He knew the consequences of his answer and his refusal to succumb became another emblem of his life of resistance to injustice. The committee was not interested in any song that could threaten the very foundations of America. They never permitted him to sing his dangerous songs. Wisely, the committee knew that the walls would inevitably come crumbling down if his sweet tenor was heard.

Fortunately the people of our country are greater than those who purported to lead us then, and now. We can count on other voices to be lifted for social justice in the spirit of one of America’s finest, Pete Seeger.

Tim Kipp,

Brattleboro, Jan. 30

Memories of
’watching ‘em fly’

Editor of the Reformer:

The winter Olympics got me thinking about my old home town of Brattleboro. My family lived there until 1967. I was 3 when we arrived, and 13 when we moved back to Maine. As a kid growing up, there was only one activity that I remember with so much interest now ... ski jumping. The Brattleboro Outing Club had an amazing youth program for young jumpers, and I was one of them. Our next-door neighbors had six boys and most of them were jumpers, too. We worked out, trained, competed in many jumping meets and dreamed about someday jumping at Harris Hill. Brattleboro’s Harris Hill is a 90-meter ski jump that has been launching athletes into the air for 90 years. One of only six regulation sized and maintained hills in the U.S. (they even have snow making), it’s story is pretty cool. If you have any interest, you can go to www.harrishillskijump.com.

Back to my time there ... I was too young to jump that hill but I sure do remember it well. Our youth program had us there all the time packing the outrun (the landing area below the jump). We’d start at the bottom, pack up with our eight-foot-long jumping skis, and ski back down to do it again. I remember being terrified just skiing down that outrun, never mind jumping. Thankfully, we moved before I had to face that demon. The biggest hill I ever jumped on was 30 meters. Even won a Maine state jumping event as a senior some years later (that’s mostly because the guys I jumped against were only on the jumping teams at their schools because their coaches begged them to take their downhill skis off and give jumping a try). To this day, I have a great amount of respect for those who launch off those big jumps. According to a really good Yankee Magazine article about Harris Hill, the reason ski jumping no longer is part of every Northeast high school ski team’s program is because of the "agony of defeat." Yup, that iconic intro to ABC’s Wide World of Sports, where the jumper loses balance on the in-run and takes a bad tumble off the side of the jump. No matter that he was not badly hurt, that was too much for the school boards across the Northeast. Too bad really. I’ve always thought giant slalom and downhill were far more dangerous. Anyway, if you enjoy the Olympics, catch at least one of the jumping events and watch ‘em fly. I sure will.

Dave Stinchfield,

Turner, Maine, Jan. 27

Visitors, near and far

Editor of the Reformer:

On Jan. 26, eight Costa Rican students and their three leaders left Brattleboro after nine days full of activity with their hosts at Brattlboro Union High School. The Costa Ricans, who had never seen snow, went for a sleigh-ride at Fairwinds Farm, went skating (several times) at the Memorial Park rink, attended a BUHS girls’ hockey game, visited Rescue, Inc. and went bowling at Brattleboro Bowl -- and visited Spanish classes and presented Costa Rican dance to an appreciative audience at BUHS. Last Sunday the American families held a welcome potluck for their guests, and last night the visitors cooked Costa Rican food for their host families.

The group would like to thank everyone who helped make their guests’ visit a success -- Jay and Janet Bailey of Fairwinds Farm; the employees of the Brattleboro Bowl; the staff at Rescue, Inc., who showed the visitors how the service works and demonstrated life-saving procedures; Liz DeNiord, chair of the Art Department at BUHS, who helped them make self-portraits; administrators at BUHS and BAMS; Tom Yahn and Hilary Famolare, who arranged for the farewell dinner to take place at the Famolare Farm; Danielle Cullinane, Allison Cram, and the language teachers, who brought their classes to the dance presentation, and Superintendent Ron Stahley, who also attended; and all the teachers at BUHS who welcomed the students in their classes on the very first day of the new semester. We would particularly like to thank Judy Abascal, newly-retired Chair of the Modern and Classical Languages Department at BUHS, who hosted one of the leaders and helped in countless ways.

In April, nine BUHS Spanish students will travel to Costa Rica with two teachers. They’ll spend a week helping to teach English at an elementary school and staying with their younger "brothers" and "sisters" from that school before spending two days with their high-school partners. They will also visit the Arenal volcano and the rainforest.

To help pay for their trip, the students are organizing a Costa Rican supper for the public this Friday, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m. at the West Village Meeting House in West Brattleboro. Tickets will be $10 for adults and $8 for students; pre-school children will be free. See you there?

Maggie Cassidy

and Karin Blakeson,

co-leaders of BUHS Abroad,

Costa Rica, Jan. 27

Safety concern

Editor of the Reformer:

I would like to add my comment regarding the unsafe passage through the Interstate 91 bridge project lane closure area. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems is the lack of high visibility reflectors on both sides of the road. At night you can barely see these tiny reflective markers. They are too small, too far apart, and are not very reflective at all. You cannot see the fog line on the northbound side and there are no reflectors on the railing on the drivers right. This area needs to have many more reflectors on both sides of the lanes in both directions. I have seen many road markers in my travels, with reflectors that are extremely bright. These are almost useless. This problem needs to be addressed before someone gets hurt or worse.

Peter Francis,

Brattleboro, Jan. 27