Wednesday, July 15, 2015

And the Circle is Unbroken

Our town recently hosted its second reenactment of the great Hill Climb;
the first occurrence of it was sanctioned in 1908 by the racing board of the American Automobile Association of New York City. At the time there were a number of automobile manufacturers in nearby Springfield, the Duryea Brothers and the Knox Automobile Company, to name a few. Here in our town, Wilbraham mountain was often used as an unofficial proving ground. It’s not much of a mountain, but as the promotional material in 1908 promised, “the hill is just steep and bothersome enough to test the quality of the competitors.”

          From 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon Monson Road would be the track and since our own quiet road is just off of it, we would be in the thick of things. 

We decided to first walk down Monson to see what was going on. Town police shooed us off the road (no sidewalks, of course) but we finally worked our way down in between heats. The center of town – normally only holding one gas station, a coffee shop, a barber, and a civil war statue – was awash with tents and vintage cars. 

There were shuttles available for people interested in a display of Porsches at a farm midway up the race route, and since we couldn’t get past the officials and walk up, we managed to snag a seat. We had to wait a bit since shuttles only ran in between the races, but we managed to make it up. The farm was past our own street, but we figured we would see what there was to see and then walk the short distance down to our own road. 

Except once there, it seemed there would be no leaving. The route down had little room for pedestrians, and the local constabulary at this site was letting no one past. 

How to get home?

My husband suggested we could take the shuttle back down, but then we’d be back in the center of town, creating our own unending hill climb.  It was now 11:45; it looked like we’d be spending the next three hours right where we were.

As it turned out, they blew the whistle for lunch and we were able to walk home, avoiding a rural reenactment of the old Kinston Trio hit:

 Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charley
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA

Charley handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
"One more nickel."
Charley could not get off that train. 

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.


  1. Hahaha! You lived the song, all right. Neat old cars. :-)

  2. I used to be able to play that on the ukulele. It took me a few minutes to figure out you meant the cars. I was wondering how the hell someone would display porches.

    1. whoops! You caught my misspelling. Thanks, Ellen..

  3. A Kingston Trio favorite of mine. I usually get blank looks when I quote a stanza or two.
    We have such a hill in our town; motorcycle rallies and hill climbs were held there in the forties and fifties. Once the county engineer commandeered it for a private fund raising event. It was quite the disaster. He has become more of an engineer and less of a politician since then.

  4. How lucky that you could go home.
    Loved the vintage cars (and the song which was new to me). Old cars just have more charm. Less reliability but more charm.

  5. Beautiful old cars and it must be fun to see them run. I'm glad your dilemma was solved and you were not even late for lunch!

  6. Great tune to go along with your story. I am old enough to have listened to the Kingston trio. Great music.

  7. Oh dear, way too much excitement and crowds for me.

  8. LOL -- I love that Kingston Trio song. I'm sure this event was both a lot of fun and incredibly annoying! I'm glad you got back home OK and in a timely fashion.

  9. Thank goodness people still stop to eat. Quite a conundrum you had going. Love old cars and I so remember that song.

  10. Looks like a really fun day with great weather thrown in.


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