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Dan Dubenetsky is an extremely personable guy, and a wealth of great yarns.  Unfortunately, his and Alice’s path to Starksboro is so long and interesting it takes a good amount of time until any Starksboro stories come out.  Dan’s interview includes some great stories about being the clueless newbies in the neighborhood in the rundown farmhouse, and the hilarity that ensued.  Like Alice, he also has an in depth perspective of town politics, and is a good source of insight on planning’s place in the town, who supports it or hates it.  He also talks about how Starksboro is different, and how this difference may ensure its survival.  GREAT town meeting story, at 21:39.



0:54 Dan talks about his family ties to radio- important background info for Dan- great story about collecting reject RPM records, too!

3:55  Dan’s break into radio –literally thrown into it with no experience- he tells constant great stories.

10:30 Dan’s break into VT, through his father’s radio station- NOT what he intended, by the way.

11:07 Interruption- Banana Chocolate chip muffin plate

13:00 Finding their house- in April, in mud season, somehow buying what was then a real wreck, despite Dan’s absolute refusal.  A good description of the old Jerusalem town, when more depressed, and how the house used to be, too…

14:36  How they made it through the first winter- the help of the neighbors, their adamant insistence that they stay

14:41Thank God for a couple of neighbors who are still on this road that helped us not burn the house down, thaw some pipes out, and taught me some things that at least you can survive!… One time when we thought about moving in ’94 because the house was still falling down, that half was and one of our neighbors said there’s no way, you’re not moving! Your not moving, forget it, just get over it, fix it!.. He says don’t be an idiot, just fix it, why are you gonna move?  So we just fixed it, and stayed.

16:04 The rat wars…

17:10 Maple syrup getting them through the first winters, and other stories (falling through ceilings, rocking the back roads, etc.)

17:10 This road used to be ridiculous, but also entertaining! We would learn how to make maple syrup and so I had my revenuer thing in the back yard here and a couple friends from the radio station Tom one time came when I fell through the ceiling onto the refrigerator.  Just before he gets here I’m up looking for another bucket or something and I fall through and end up on the refrigerator and bruise my shin… We decide we need more beer now, and we decide what a great time to go to the Jerusalem store the back way you could just go the easy way but no we want to see how bad it is on Robert Young.  I don’t even know how we made it but just riding the ridges to see how fast you can go and… Yeah, mud season is actually very entertaining.

19:20 actually getting back to syrup topic, the tapping an Oak tree for sap story!

19:07 Andy, a friend of ours who moved to Nova Scotia, he said I’m gonna leave this with you and it was a fifty gallon drum cut in half and showed me the whole thing and how to do it and from there I bought a pan and little tiny… nothing, we’re talking cinder block operation, you make two gallons you’re happy… Provided you tap the right tree, because I tapped one tree that wasn’t a maple tree and that became the laughing stock of our neighborhood, everybody knew about that by the end of the day!  Hey, he’s got an oak tree tapped!… (Alice) They didn’t tell us immediately, either, they just came by and laughed!

20:09 We don’t have dinner every week, it’s just if you need something they’re there and we’re there

Stories about neighbor interactions follow

21:39 Dan being suckered into town moderation, because he is a radio guy… Talks about the folks he’s met, the things he’s heard.  Speaks of Starksboro as a relatively friendly and community oriented place compared to other towns- great story about Town meeting being saved b/c people talked so long in line to vote they realized how town meetings got them to hang out w/ each other.

            Somehow I got talked into running for moderator, they thought this radio guy should be able to do this.  Yeah, well I didn’t know a damned thing about Robert’s Rules! … Stories about fist fights and all kinds of stuff, but we have never had that we… [Starksboro’s great!] …the second town meeting I ever moderated and I still didn’t know everything and they were trying to kill town meeting.  And so the guy made a motion to change the orders of the day, which means you want to change all the articles around, so that by the time you got to the end there might not be anyone left and he could vote, and he would have enough of his buddies there to kill it… Was the biggest turnout ever, and the longest one that I’ve ever been involved in, so the Town meeting starts at 9, and I don’t think it got over until ten of 5… this guy just kept dragging it out, calling for paper ballot, and what backfired on him was every time they called for paper ballot people had to get up out of their chairs and ended up standing in line for half an hour, forty five minutes, and they ended up talking!…  At the end, it was so laughable because people who were so against/wanted to kill town meeting and ended up saying they had such a good time, they’d never been to one before, that when it came to the vote, it got voted down!  It totally backfired on the guy!

25:10  Helping Starksboro politics- the presence of Frank Bryant.  Always brings them back together- they all agree to disagree.  They also talk about the things they’ve (Alice and Dan) have done for town; they’ve done a LOT.  Insist that they’ve rarely gotten flak for being political figures.

The neat thing about Starksboro is, we also have Frank Bryant in town, and Frank is a political science professor for UVM, and he’s written a lot of books, and he nows how to just bring it back into perspective at the end.  Usually by the end of town meetings, everybody who’s in total disagreement on whether it’s the Iraqi war or whatever is shaking hands and putting the chairs away and sweeping the floor.

ALICE: We agree to disagree, doesn’t mean we don’t like each other.

27:45 People’s approach to planning- different ‘groups’ or approaches, and the difficulty of getting communication up between folks.  Issues for folks trying to sell, develop, etc.  The difficulty with active planning with such diverse interests- how the planning board needs more perspectives so everyone supports.

29:00 What’s more important, education or road maintenance- apparently getting $ to school is easier than anything else.

31:00 Living with the commute to Burlington- a necessity if you are going to survive financially with no jobs available in Starksboro- the need and want for business in Starksboro.

32-33:12 Nice reflection on the community- just how nice it is.

It’s a great community, it would be tough to leave, because we know so many people, and it’s kinda nice to go to Starksboro and Bristol and know almost everyone!

35:35 Dan’s prediction for Starksboro in 2020, and his hopes.  Accepts the reality of development, hopes they cluster, thinks they’ll cluster, and wants to preserve the beauty.

39:00 Looking at space- the cluster- what they hope people will do, what they don’t want for themselves

40:30 the charms and harms of Starksboro

You can be in Bristol and it’s spitting rain, and you get up here and we got a full fledged blizzard going on (laughter)… Yeah, I’ve pulled my share of people out of the ditch.  That’s always fun in mud season, too, meeting people and pulling them out of the mud.  Yeah.

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Bernie Hurlburt

Dan Baker set up this amazing interview for us both, and I have to say- Bernie told us some pretty amazing things.

**I also have this interview condensed to a 6 minute clip if anyone is interested in that version…

2:00 Rosco family lived there early. Story about Rosco kid who drowned in the well outside Bernie’s house in the early 1800s.
4:45 Pot ash- lots of charcoal pits can be found in the fields (5:15-5:25 quote 6:01-6:11)
7:00 Where Charlie Parker lives today, ‘Place’ was the original settler. ‘Stedmon’ next.
7:35 “I think they started both places about the same time” – settlement of Hillsboro and Little Ireland
7:55 On Hillsboro- “They was farming there, in 1931, when my dad bought this farm. I was six years old. You could look over cross and see them farming, plowing, cuttin’ hay”
8:20 Why was Hillsboro abandoned? “That’s the worse road to travel.”
You could go up in the summer, but it’s mostly impossible, I would think, even with chains on…”
8:50 “When we first moved here, Ernest Diddy was the mail carrier, and he’d come up this road, and go around down that road. And he had a horse and sleigh, and most of the time in the summer he’d have a horse and a buggy… course there was farms all through there.”
12:55 Two first houses on Hillsboro: Little Ed Hannon, and another — Bertha Smith (owned both). Her husband got killed at a sawmill on Little Ireland.
16:45 ‘Farnham’ place- beyond the town’s two farms-2000 acres- by the Fish+Game parking lot- somebody else bought it and then sold it to the state; ‘Tatro’ place after the Twin Bridges
18:34 Hill home in Bertha’s book at the Fish + Game parking lot. Lemuel Hill’s house owned by Mrs. Olsen. Four or five Hills who came at the same time.
20:20 – Places houses: ‘Rosco’, ‘Moody’, School house
21:40 ‘Charlie Devoid’ last person to live at Hillsboro house site above school- related to Bernie’s dad.
23:30 Hotel in Hillsboro area: “There’s a lot of them big houses that they used…”
Could have been the Holcomb Bushnell farm?
24:20 Farnham farm by the parking lot might have been a hotel too- it was a large house. The last people who lived in it were the ‘McLanes’. “It just bowed down after a while.”
26:05 Bertha Smith owned those two places. Charlie Thibault’s father bought them after her- only stayed a year or two. “I guess they didn’t like the hill…” Tucker before the cemetery (2nd house site), D Hill (1st house site), T Brock all the way at the bottom of Hillsboro
28:20 Hannons, Conways—all Irish.
29:40 Cole’s house- where the Little Ireland school house is
31:10 Garage across from Hillsboro was another schoolhouse- area called Little Boston
32:30 B. Hurlburt graduated from L. Ireland SH in 1938
34:00 Talks about all his L. Ireland schoolteachers
36:40 Employment: Creamery… started out farming sheep, then cows… potatoes
40:30 Samuel Hill came to live at the Devoid place (above the Hillsboro SH)
46:40 Devoid place- had an identical barn to Frank Spina’s/Butler’s barn
48:20 The barn had already burned when B. Hurlburt moved up. Fancy house, abandoned. “I think the barn burnt, and that’s why they quite farming”. LW Hill:Devoid
51:10 Dan Baker talks about the size of the barn- “It’s got to speak to the quality of the land”
51:40 Farm size: 10-11 cows- most farms that was about it
55:40 Dunham’s place- used to be the Crowley’s farm (Crowley road?). The house burned, and one part was sold to Connors, then the Johnsons. The other part was sold to the Dunhams.
58:49 Lemuel Hill farm/ Mrs. Olsen place – 3 barns (1 hay barn, 2 cattle barns). House is above the pond. Randall, Murphy, then Cofflin, then T. Hannon.
1:02:50 “It was hard farmin on the hill. It was better to go down the road, it was better farmin” The barn burned.
1:10:20 “Mostly it was hard farmin up here… They moved down where it was easier farmin”. The soil: “It isn’t better, but up here it’s awful stony.”
1:11:40 Frank Hannon used to say “It’s good soil… it had to be strong to hold up all them rocks”
1:13:15 What did this place teach you? “Well… it taught me to work” Talks about telling college kids how to spell things… “We got a good education up here”– 20 kids, 1 teacher.
1:16:00 Explored Hillsboro more when he started hunting… talks about the ‘Gully’.

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Alfred Thompson
Listening to this interview again for the time-log just made me think- what a quirky interview. I think the most interesting part is the relationship between the father-daughter (subtle exchanges). I did cut out some long pauses/deliberations/repetitions of questions, so it’s not exactly true to the original style, but some is left just to give the listener a sense of the dynamic. About half way through, Audrey leaves and Alfred says something like “well she’s got to get her piece in somehow…”, which I thought effectively summed up his views on her presence in the interview. She was very interested in recording details about their family history, and I was extremely grateful for her prompts to her dad, as well as numerous documents, maps, contacts, and of course the delicious pumpkin pie.

0:00 Logging in the family
1:30 Split his head open logging
3:00 His family has always been here- they’re farmers
5:45 We weren’t told a lot of things, as dad said, we didn’t discuss history or ancestry
7:15 Using a funnel to put gas in the truck when you were driving uphill
8:00 The logging camp used to be part of the Hannon farm
9:00 Everybody had potatoes back then
12:00 Cemetery on Crowley road
16:00 Bristol house…?
17:00 Buying the land at the logging camp – he forgot about it and his daughter ‘prompts’ him back to remembering that he actually bought it for $1500
18:35 Only remembers Herb Itty? Who built the farmhouse up off of 116. (not sure who/what he’s referring to)
19:40 Hunting- always got the biggest and the best
20:30 Audrey left home at 13 (very quiet, doesn’t want to be heard here)
21:30 Stokes place (Brown hill?) Art Clifford put a pond there.
22:30 Rerouted the creek by Big Hollow
22:45 Sawmill across from their cemetery- Walt Smith was killed here
24:00 After an age-guessing game, I find out that Alfred is 91- born in 1917
25:45 Went to school 4-5 years
27:30 Samuel Hill, ancestry story of prisoners being sent up to work in lumber mills- Audrey speaks about how lumbering has always been in the family
28:30 How logging has changed– Audrey’s brother has the philosophy that he was born in the wrong time period- lumbering has gotten much more difficult to make a living with since his dad’s (Alfred’s) time.
32:10 Alfred used to drive the Starksboro creamery truck back and forth between here and Boston every week. Lots more good stuff about the creamery, Frank Wells, ice house across the street from the creamery
34:00 Family history and connections to the Browns
37:20 Logging- mostly maple, but a bit of everything. “It worked pretty good for me, it always did. I never had no complaints. And that’s saying something, for me.”
39:00 Talking about food, cooking, canning, and how a garden held them through hard times.
40:40 “I fished a lot. Weekends. We always took a weekend off.”
“I don’t go to supermarkets much, unless I really need something. Stay in there long, and you spend more money than you got.”
41:40 Coon hunting
43:00 Arsonists set several places on fire
47:00 Why logging is difficult now. “There’s too many doing it [now, but] there’s good money in it if you can work hard enough at it. It worked pretty good for me, it always did. I never had no complaints. And that’s saying something, for me.”
51:00 Audrey’s brother- story about getting stuck in the wetlands by the logging camp. He fell through the ice…
52:00 “I liked the mountain pretty well… Used to go coon hunting; hunted it all over.
53:40 Talks about flats house site by the twin bridges- big house, horse barn below it :
58:10 Meeting his wife, a Brown girl, and more about school.
60:10 His first memory- a great story about sipping homemade alcohol when his father sent him to pick it up from up the hill (Lindy Liberty?), for “medicinal uses”
1:04:40 Important issues were kept very quiet- Audrey speaks about things that weren’t discussed
1:06:40 Questions about Hillsboro/Ireland, doesn’t remember anything else about the structures


I really need to get up to Bristol/Starksboro tomorrow. Is anyone going or can anyone give me a lift?

Hey, representing the Jerusalem group, we were wondering if anyone was going up to Starksboro Monday or Tuesday.  If someone is, could you meet with Ruth Beecher and pick up some of the Jerusalem projects that her students did for us to use in our digital map?  I will tell her and set up the time.  Thanks all.

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