Flashbacks, Music, & Memory

The Main House

……A long time ago in a galaxy that seems far, far away, there was a remote farm on a dirt road in Andover VT. This farm was the home of East Hill Farm and School. Founded in the 1950’s as a summer camp, it soon grew to include a high school in the 60’s and a grade school in the 70’s, with cows, sheep, chickens, horses, oxen, hay fields, a sugar bush, and just enough logging for firewood (which took quite a bit since they used cross cut saws, not chainsaws, and axes not motorized woodspliters).

My boys, Wyatt and Wesley

A fire ripped through the main barn in 1973, destroying the barn and killing some stock. My grandfather hauled his bulldozer in to bury the dead animals and my family and I helped to build the new barn later that summer. This was my introduction to East Hill Farm. The minute I heard it was a school without homework, I asked my parents if I could go and I attended East Hill from 4th grade through high school, and also worked as a camp counselor.

windmill (guest photo)

Last weekend I returned, with my boys, to Andover for an East Hill reunion. The classes were small, I only had 3 other 12th graders in my graduating class, so it was a full school and camp wide gathering.  There were no invitations sent out, just an event page posted on Facebook. There was an hope of maybe 25 people showing up, and we doubled that!

The old sauna

The farm stopped being a school sometime in the 1980’s, but it’s still owned by the same family. Being there was a day of flashbacks. The boys and I spent a good hour just wandering the farm. It was like opening a picturebook from the past. We walked past the “corner cabin”, which had once acted as a dorm. It was really a not-so-air-tight cabin, with one small propane heater, 12 bunks, and many “ventilation” holes that allowed snow in on your blankets in winter. . . and it was a long run to the outhouse. It is now in poor shape and being used for storage. There was another log cabin that was a wood-fired sauna built generations before by Finnish settlers. That was how we got clean – you’d sweat and scrub yourself down with luffa sponges, then jump in a pool or a snowbank and pour on buckets of cold water. I reconized fields that I had mowed,  distinctive looking trees that I remembered as soon as I saw them, rusted old pieces of farm equipment that had aged, but were still in the same spot 30 years later.

dancing (guest photo)

Then there were the people, the songs and the dancing.

Sitting in a lopsided circle, on the lawn, we told each of our names, times at the farm, and present residence. In the telling there seemed to be a real longing to recreate “a day in the life of an East Hiller” with people we hadn’t seen, maybe hadn’t even thought of, for decades.  There were calls for morning meetings, work details, rebuilding 1st and 2nd dinner bells, and many calls for music and dancing.

singing (guest photo)

A big part of the East Hill experience was the music and dance, from singing graces before meals, to singing along with a guitar to “Good Peanuts” in the evening. And we had dancing every morning. It was most often traditional circle dances, with some contra and square as well. To hear these 50+ people spanning generations of time singing songs that we all seemed to know and remember was fantastic. Music triggers memories, sometimes clearer than an image. Even though I started that weekend with just a vague recollection of the steps to the traditional circle dances I once knew, the minute the music started, the dance steps were remembered.

More dancing and visiting (guest photo)

It was good for the mind, spirit and body to reunite with campers and schoolmates from all those years ago, to hear their stories and follow their life paths to the present. Even better, I had a chance to share stories and pictures with my kids that were from when I was their age. Now, back in Cabot, we’re getting ready for their new school year and it’s remarkable to think of them building their own histories, that they will one day be looking back, a long time ago, and far, far away. . . .

Old spring house (guest photo)

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11 responses to “Flashbacks, Music, & Memory

  1. It was great to meet your boys and catch up on the last…oh…so many! years. Let’s make a pact that we won’t let it be so long again. xxx

  2. Wow, Will, that was a wonderfully written account of the day, and of the memories stirred by the event. Thank you for putting to words so articulately that which we all felt last Saturday.

  3. Great write-up Will ! I wish I had known about the reunion, I would have loved to come and see everybody again. I have so many fond memories of East Hill. It would be great to have regular East Hill reunions-

  4. Will, how are you ? This East Hill article and your Blog here are a delight to read. Your life sounds idyllic. What’s your brother up to these days ?Does your family still have their farm in Londonderry ?

    Over the years I’ve lost touch with most of the East Hillers, and often wonder where they are and what they’re up to. I wish I had known about this East Hill reunion- I would have loved to have attended. Hopefully there will be more, and on a frequent and regular basis-

    It would be nice to set up an online group or something to be able to connect with fellow East Hillers, and eventually a website where the East Hill Farm and School and Summer Camp Community, could come together. I was in the very large (all of 2people) class of ’77, and Over the last 35 years, East Hill has often been in my thoughts. My mother, step-father, and Dick Bliss were all the same age, they’re all gone now- my mom passed away just last fall at the age of 91.

    Oh, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m Carleton, Carleton Procter.

  5. Loved stumbling upon this site, although stumbling is not accurate because I was obviously searching for East Hill Farm. I have beautiful memories of attending summer camp there in the 70’s. More than memories, it shaped me in many ways – the music, yes ‘good peanuts’, gardening and eating have all been influenced by my time there. Great photographs – thanks for posting!
    Jenni Brown – brother David was there as well.

  6. Great to read such a heartfelt account of East Hill. Doubt that anyone could have said it any better. Hope there is another reunion sometime soon, and that I will be able to attend.
    Mark Costabell

    • Thanks Mark, great to hear from you. When I saw your name I had a flashback of a Halloween party. At first glance I thought you had a neck injury. Upon closer inspection I realized it was paint not blood. “What are you supposed to be Mark?” I asked. “A REDNECK of course”.

  7. Hi all I attended east hill farm school in 1974 and 1975 I have so many great memories and still think of all the wonderful people I meet there. If anyone out there knows fellow students Rebecca schockter or David List od Hillair please let them know I would love to here from them . I have a face book account Sheryl Barnla

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