Floyd VanAlstyne Isn’t Ready To Stop Delivering
The following first appeared in the Herald of Randolph March 19, 2015.
Floyd and Marjorie VanAlstyne live on the East Barnard farm he purchased after returning home from the Second World War.
“I left Italy in October 1945,” Floyd said.
“Came home on the Booker T Washington, a liberty ship. On the second of November I was discharged at Fort Edwards just across the canal on Cape Cod. Took a taxi to Boston.
“Bought a bottle of whiskey in North Station and climbed on a train headed north to Vermont. There was a fellow next to me from Northfield, and he gave me a lift from White River to South Royalton. It was snowing hard.
“By the time I got to East Barnard there was a country dance in full swing. I had a hell of a time!
“I bought this farm fifteen days later. Two hundred fifty-six acres for $3600. No electricity; had an outhouse; water flowed continuously into the kitchen sink from the spring.
“We’re still using the spring.”
Floyd and Marjorie met at a dance in that same East Barnard hall in the summer of 1947.
“I offered her a ride home,” VanAlstyne reminisced with a smile last week. “Had to clear beer bottles from the floor to make room; her two brothers sat between us!”
They were married six months later. She was 19, he was 27. They’ve farmed together here for 67 years.
From Here … and Away
Born in Boston on February 29, 1920, VanAlstyne is a leap year baby. Family and friends celebrated his 95th year with a big party at the farm on March 1.
“I’ve lived here every summer since I was four. When mom died in 1927, I was living with her sister Maud and husband Will Allen down in Broad Brook. Mom died in childbirth … never saw dad after that.”
The names in Marjorie and Floyd’s family tree comprise much of the history of European settlement in this region. Parkhurst, Flint, Allen, Leavitt, Moore, Leonard; follow these branches and it seems forbears once owned just about every acre in Royalton, Barnard and Sharon! One line, through adoption, links back to Zadock Steele, captured by Indians in the Royalton raid, who famously escaped from a British prison on the St. Lawrence during the Revolutionary War.
VanAlstyne’s memory is prodigious, and he punctuates his stories with trips about the house for artifacts and books to enliven the stories.
Going to the kitchen back window and peeking out several times, he finally sighs, “I guess he isn’t going to visit while you’re here … we’ve got a small raccoon who comes over for treats.” A bit later, cutting meat, he takes scraps to two crows that hang about the front yard. He’s named them Gertrude and Heathcliff.
“Do you remember Red Skelton? We’ve always had a couple crows. They’re always named Gertrude and Heathcliff.”
Over the decades here on this hill farm, Marjorie and Floyd raised a family of five, three girls and two boys, operated the dairy, sugared, logged, and milled timber together. Floyd also worked heavy equipment off the farm, starting with a small John Deere dozer at Silver Lake State Park.
“I stayed here milking the cows with the kids,” smiles Marjorie.
“When Jay Peak was started, Paul Ostrosky, who lived on the North Road here in town, brought me up to help clear for the aerial tramway. I’ve been from the top to the bottom of that mountain on a bulldozer. Some of that time, I can tell you, I was attached to a cable!”
At 95, VanAlstyne still has his commercial driving license. His sons Greyling and Clay operate the logging and mill business; Floyd makes deliveries throughout the region.
Walking out to the truck is a bit painful. His hip replacement from 1991 is scheduled to be redone. VanAlstyne compares this operation to maintaining his 1986 Ford.
“Before the first hip work, the surgeon started in with this big explanation. Well, I’ve butchered beef and the anatomy is pretty close. I described the tricky part of detaching the tendon. Told him he was basically a mechanic … working with the ball joint. Gave me a new front end.
“Never went even once to rehab. I did all my recovery right here on a stationary bike. Some nights I’d come down at 3 a.m. and pedal away stark naked for three miles or more!
“Cataract surgery has given me 20/20 sight, except for close work. I needed an eye test when I got my last license. Talking to the fella at the registry, I realized I’d been breaking the law, because my license requires glasses for operation of a Class B vehicle! When I put my head up to the testing machine I read all the lines and the operator said ‘no, no, just the middle one!’ I read that and he said, ‘you pass.’”
A Good Life
Looking down into the valley of East Barnard, VanAlstyne expresses love for his town and its people.
“We’ve tried to give something back. I’ve been health officer, selectman, lister … on the Three Rivers Commission. Marjorie was on the school board and a JP. She and I have served more than a century in different ways.”
He was the oldest voter at Town Meeting this year. The assembly celebrated his 95th birthday with sustained applause.
“It was a good meeting … felt like old times. I remember when Paul Doton was a boy. The Ward brothers, too … they’re good folks, all.”