A small community in Vermont or New Hampshire is pretty much a living thing, and blogger George Moltz certainly has his finger on the pulse in Rochester. In North Hollow Humdingers, George has already shared so much about life in and around town, I almost feel like I live there. Which I don't. But I tell you what: reading his blog makes me want to.
George has lived in Rochester for 30 years, and he taught at Rochester High for decades -- a school that soon will be no more. Which we'll get into ...
Your blog logo features you and a giant pumpkin. There’s got to be a story behind that!
It’s not that great of a story, but the photo is dated August 17, 2016. We had driven out West for several weeks, and returned home to find the garden totally overgrown. But there was this huge pumpkin that had sprouted out of nowhere, all ready to harvest. I just had the photo to show it off, but I've always thought it was a cool, unusual picture. The early pumpkin. This year we never got a single pumpkin that big, and the only ones we harvested were still green in places in October!
The pumpkin in question ...
You’ve written about the emotional consequences of closing small high schools around Rochester -- and understandably so, as a longtime teacher and resident. Are the adults reacting to the change any differently than the kids are?
It really depends upon the adults. Some I think are even more emotional than the students, especially those who’ve lived in Rochester forever. I wrote in one post about “Rocket Nation,” the locals who support the sports teams year in, year out -- and travel to the games. Those folks are definitely feeling the loss. Many of them spent the past few years going to Castleton basketball games to support our most famous hoops alum Pavin Parrish - but his career is over now, so they really have no one left to cheer.
Personally, I mourn the scholarship monies that seem likely to vanish. Our little town’s businesses and organizations gave away tens of thousands in scholarships every year at graduation -- and when you only have a dozen or so graduates, that money can accumulate fast and make a huge difference. Also, every valedictorian of Vermont public high schools is awarded a “Green and Gold” scholarship to UVM - four years of free tuition. My daughter won that one year and it made a huge difference for us. After this June, that’s gone.
While some adults just look at it as “the world’s changing” and try to justify it as progress, others of us find it hard to accept, because this decision was really forced upon us by the state. I do admit to my bias, so...
What changed the most in the years you were teaching?
A lot. The general character of the students and parents evolved towards trusting the school less to a certain degree, certainly not just a development in Rochester. By that I mean just the general “back in the day, if I got in trouble at school my parents would kill me” to the parents blaming (or, at the very least, seriously questioning) the school if their student got in trouble.
But, overall, the biggest change was definitely technology. When I started in 1984, we used mimeograph (sp?) machines to make all of our student materials, there was one photocopier in the principal’s office and it wasn’t available for everyday use. It was always broken, anyways! It was exciting when we changed over to electric typewriters!
So, the use of computers and the internet really revolutionized education during my career, and despite the pitfalls, in my opinion it was overwhelmingly for the better. Being able to find and communicate information rapidly, and encourage students to do independent research on topics that interest them, is a huge tool for modern educators. Plus, I am convinced that the ability to present material to students via PowerPoint ranks as one of the most satisfying and successful teaching methods around.
You wrote affectionately -- sort of -- about the mysteriously persistent frost heave you called Bethel’s Mount Mayhem. When you a nasty frost heave hard, do you apologize to your car for it? Because I do.
Oh yeah, even more so for potholes! FYI, if you live in Rochester, you have to drive to get to EVERYTHING, so your vehicle takes on a much great importance in communities like ours. My mechanic, who is in Randolph, always remarks how the vehicles from Rochester endure so much more wear-and-tear than normal.
What’s one institution or feature that Rochester would not be the same without?
Well, the school, so we will see. The elementary is staying open, but it won’t be the same. We have a core of basic businesses - the SkipMart (convenience store / gas station / creamies); the Cafe
; the Store (well, Mac’s, the grocery store, but most people just call it the store) ... Those are all pretty key.
But, if I had to pick one thing, it would be “the Park,” which is what we call our town green. In Rochester, all roads lead to the Park. It’s beautiful, features what I think is the oldest Civil War monument in Vermont, a classic old-school bandstand … it’s surrounded by beautiful homes, inns, the Pierce Hall Community Center. It’s where we watch parades. It hosts graduation. When Governor Shumlin wanted to stage a celebration of the town’s recovery from the Irene flooding, of course it was on the Park. And, any time one of our sports teams wins a state championship, the bus circles the park with the athletes screaming out the windows, fans waving and honking their horns.
Yeah, the Park is our community icon.
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