Son of noted Reformer journalist holds on to memories through scrapbooks of articles and other ephemera

Saturday February 9, 2013

DOVER-- Jeffrey Smith has been holding onto bits of history in the form of newspaper clippings and postcards since his father, Bob Smith, a prominent journalist and town figure, wrote for the Reformer in the 1950s.

"It's history," said Jeffrey. "A lot of it is family history, which I think is just totally really cool, and it makes me want to delve into it more and learn more about the genealogy of my family. I find it fascinating to see this stuff and see how things have changed over the years."

Bob Smith went on to cover politics in Montpelier after working at the Reformer. A column he penned, called "Dateline Vermont," appeared in multiple newspapers in the area.

Newspapers he had been affiliated with included Maiden Evening News, Boston Herald American, Burlington Free Press, The Caledonian Record, The Bennington Banner, Montpelier Argus, The White River Valley Herald and The Northfield News. Smith also had been the first manager of WCVR radio in Randolph.

Bob Smith was on the Randolph Selectboard, and he was a Randolph Rotarian. In 1979, he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship Award by the Rotary Club. He also served twice as the president of the Randolph Chamber of Commerce.

In 1968, Smith went to Vietnam to interview Vermonters fighting in the war. Jeffrey Smith told the Reformer that his father had heard that a local resident and family friend had been wounded. It was James Tucker, a son of Dr. Ransom Tucker, the man who delivered two of Bob's children.

Bob Smith immediately went to find him and interviewed him. Then, he sent back the news. His wife wrote up an article and had it published in The White River Valley Herald.

Jeffrey Smith remembers his father telling his siblings and him that he promised to be back by July 3, for the fireworks display in town.

"I remember plain as day, waiting for him at the bus stop," said Jeffrey.

Bob Smith kept his word. He came home, ate dinner, then took the kids and his wife to the fireworks show.

A co-worker of Bob's talked about the days when both men worked at the Reformer.

"I remember the bow tie he used to wear," said Dick Guthrie, who worked at the Reformer as a delivery boy then went on to work as the Brattleboro Police Chief from 1961 to 2001. "The old times at the Reformer ... It was a wonderful family. I remember he was a good writer. He wrote good articles."

Guthrie remembered the Reformer being a busy place to work.

"Back then, they had quite a few employees," he said. "Everybody knew each other's job there. I worked in the mailing department at the time, in the press room. He worked upstairs."

The staff was like a family, Guthrie said.

"When there was a crisis getting the paper out, if something happened, the whole Reformer staff worked together to get that paper out to the street. It was quite an experience back then, putting that paper together and getting it out to the people."

He recalled the newspaper costing only five cents back then.

"As a paperboy, I delivered papers. I collected 30 cents a week from customers," Guthrie said. "I got to know a lot of people in Brattleboro. I delivered to 200-plus customers a week. I knew who they were and who they worked for."

Guthrie remembered reading Smith's work, back in the late 1950s.

"Every once in awhile I get a nudge about the old days," said Guthrie. "I never thought I'd be looking at life this way. Time has gone by fast."

As a child, at about 6, Jeffrey Smith told his grandfather, Earl Yeaw, he would be back to live on the same street his grandfather did in East Dover. That street was Captain Copeland Road, right next to the Dover School off Dover Road. That was in 1963.

Jeffrey Smith had gone to the College of Southern Vermont in Bennington.

Before returning to that block, he went back to help his parents in Randolph, where his father was sick with cancer.

In 1978, Jeffrey Smith moved into the house he resides in now, at the end of Captain Copeland Road.

Delphi Yeaw, his great-great grandfather had a farmstead on the corner of Captain Copeland Road and Yeaw Road. He lived there with his wife.

"I am a sixth generation Yeaw," said Smith.

In 1948, Jeffrey's mother's house burned down, which prompted the creation of the East Dover Fire Department. He has pictures of the house as well as old pictures of the fire department.

"The house burned down again in 1990, too," said Jeffrey. "I believe."

Jeffrey has been holding onto newspapers and clippings that his great grandmother, Ida Yeaw was keeping.

An interesting clipping that Jeffrey held onto was a small article about a reverend in Wilmington, who married a couple that approached him from outside his window while he was sleeping. It was raining and the reverend married them right there at the window, rehearsing a poem to go with the ceremony.

An album with pictures from newspapers that Jeffrey showed the Reformer had included a picture of the South Newfane Bridge.

"Here is a bridge that wasn't born a covered bridge, but became one," said the article dated Sept. 1, 1937.

An article about an East Dover centenarian had been kept in the album that told of a man who "bought (his) first car at (age) 73" and "drove until (age) 87."

This man had been a Brattleboro native and his name was Wells C. Halladay.

In the archive, Jeffrey had pictures from a flood in Brattleboro during 1927, one of Brattleboro's greatest snowstorms, showing Main Street with an enormous amount of snow and also ice in the West River during 1936,

There were clippings that told stories of local townspeople, such as Dr. L.B. Gordon, of Williamsville, who would attend to sick people, no matter if they had the money to pay him or not.

Quintuplets born to a Canadian woman was a national phenomenon that Smith's grandmother had taken care to save clippings about.

In the national news clippings, Jeffrey showed pictures of Charles Lindbergh after his child had been kidnapped, Abraham Lincoln from the Smithsonian Collection, taken in 1860 election and released during the early 1900s, Calvin Coolidge when he died in 1933, and a picture of George Washington from 1799 that had been re-printed in a local newspaper.

Postcards from Brattleboro included Fisk's Monument, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the old railroad Station downtown.

From West Dover, there were postcards of Route 100 during 1909 and then more from later on. There were some from Wilmington that included the Forest and Stream Club, West Main Street, the Children's Tavern, which is now the Crafts Inn, North River Street, South River Street, the Pettee Free Memorial Library, Haystack Mountain from the railroad station, the Soldier's Monument and Baptist Church on North River Street. Other postcards that depicted nearby towns included the Windham County House in Newfane, the Old Covered Bridge in Wardsboro and the covered bridge in South Vernon from 1908.

Jeffrey also showed a Brattleboro Maples program from 1950. It showed that the year before that, the Maples had been number one in the National League that the team played in. The Maples had 42 wins and 25 loses in 1949.

A postcard that had come into the Dover Selectboard had been saved. It had been a request to the board to fix a bridge that was near A.D. Funnel's Bungalow in West Dover.

"This stuff is priceless. I just feel blessed to have it," said Jeffrey. "Plus it's really neat to be able to show it to people."

Jeffrey is constantly looking for ways to revive traditions and inspire people to remember history. He said that at some point, he'd like to organize what used to be called a Dawn Dance, which had been an event that occurred when Jeffrey's mother was growing up in the 1940s.

"The Dawn Dance in Dover Town Hall would start at 7 at night, then they'd dance until 7 in the morning, with a big breakfast afterwards," he said. "It'd be pretty nice to bring back something like that."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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