Bernardston residents recall World Wars, local entertainment of times past

  • Lou Atherton and Polly Streeter shared their memories of times past during an event at the Bernardston Senior Center on Sunday. Staff photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • The band, The Dragon Wagon, performs at the Boy Scout Dance at Bernardston Town Hall in 1968. Band members are, from left: Bob Shedd, Harold Cook, Marvin Shedd and Frank Johnson. Town Hall used to be Bernardston’s entertainment hub, Bernardston resident Polly Streeter recalled during an old-time storytelling event on Sunday. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2019 1:02:11 PM

Polly Streeter and Lou Atherton drew a crowd of people eager to hear the Bernardston residents’ stories of times past during an event at the Bernardston Senior Center on Sunday.

World War I and World War II, as well as local entertainment, were extensive topics of discussion.

Streeter, who said she has her father’s diaries from when he served in World War I, recalled how he realized he had a problem when he was sent to France on a ship.

“He had motion sickness, so he went all the way to France, sick as a dog the whole way,” Streeter said. “His diary tells us they got there and everyone was celebrating because the war had ended, so they turned right around and came back. He states in the diary he wished he died.”

The local region felt the affects of World War II as well. Streeter said that in 1943, when she was growing up in Leyden, she didn’t go to Bernardston’s Powers Institute because there was gas rationing.

“I didn’t have a chance to come to Bernardston. We lived on the farm and remotely, we worked,” Streeter said. “We learned how to survive. We had food we could raise.”

At the time, she said, it was very popular for young men to go into vocations so they could work their senior year of high school. In class, students learned how to identify airplanes, both American and foreign.

“We put hundreds of hours into learning how to identify airplanes,” Streeter recalled. “This was our main connection (to World War II).”

Let the good times roll

Atherton said the Bernardston Town Hall was once the town’s social hub.

“Basketball for students, proms, PTA plays,” Atherton recalled.

And then, there were the performances by professional actors.

“They were all based on children’s stories, like the fairy tales, and I was just in awe watching these talented people perform in Bernardston,” she said. “I grew up with that as a little girl.”

In sixth grade, Atherton herself was in a play at the Town Hall.

“At the end of one scene, I was supposed to faint,” Atherton said. “Back then, the curtain rolled down from the top of the stage and it was very heavy. I knew I had to be on the other side of the stage before that curtain got down to the bottom, so I rolled to make sure I was on the other side of the curtain and all of these flakes of asbestos fell on me. I was covered in it.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at, 413-772-0261 ext. 263 or on Twitter @mbourdeau28.

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