Old Roads, New Highways, and Small Towns
Last Saturday evening, I attend the Reading Historical Society’s Annual Meeting. At the meeting, novelist Deborah Lee Luskin presented “Getting There from Here,” a fascinating talk about the history of roads and resistance from as far back as colonial times. When the weather gets nicer, I know I will be out exploring the locales of two roads she spoke of: the Crown Point Military Road, which traversed this part of the state just south of Reading, and the Bayley Hazen Road in the Northeast Kingdom.
Though the talk was historical, Deborah made two interesting speculations regarding one “road” in particular, the information highway, a term I hadn’t heard in a long time. However, it is the route needed to get people in Vermont to work remotely. I work from home for companies headquartered far away, and I know other people in Reading who have similar work arrangements.
Deborah’s first prediction was that the information highway would revitalize small towns, bringing businesses back. Since people won’t need to travel far from home for work, perhaps they will desire not needing to travel far from home to shop. She also admitted this coin has two sides, and the other side is the ease of ordering things online and having them in hand two days later.
Her second prediction seemed more likely to come true. The time spent not commuting to and from work could be spent working on a community project, volunteering at a food shelf, supporting a local band, or attending an event like, for example, Deborah Lee Luskin’s talk.
Deborah’s presentation had a timeliness that she was likely unaware; for this year, the information highway is scheduled to be “paved” through Reading. And EC Fiber, the company doing the road building, is working hard to get folks involved.
Let me preface what comes next by saying it may sound like an advertisement for EC Fiber. I am writing this because I think having reliable town-wide internet access is as important for Reading as reliable town-wide telephone access.
I spoke with John Malcolm, Reading’s EC Fiber representative, and he assured me that the company does plan to build out the entire town in 2020. If you haven’t yet, now is a good time to “subscribe” to EC Fiber.
Subscribe is in quotes for a reason. Among other definitions, Merriam-Webster defines subscribe this way: “to set one’s name to a paper in token of promise to give something (such as a sum of money).”
John admits that EC Fiber’s use of that word is confusing, so let’s break it down. Subscribing to EC Fiber does require you to set your name, but not to a paper. You subscribe online at EC Fiber’s website. Further, your signature means you are interested in EC Fiber. It does not obligate you to give a sum of money. Even after the wires are hung on the utility poles, you can change your mind. Your total outlay if you decide not to get EC Fiber: $0.
In fact, subscribing to EC Fiber may give you something in return for your signature. Between now and April 30, EC Fiber is offering a promotion for people who do subscribe. For every 25 new subscribers anywhere in the EC Fiber service area, which includes Reading, the company will choose one lucky subscriber to receive free standard installation and one year of “Wicked Fast” internet at the “Basic” price. If your name is not drawn after 25 people subscribe, it goes into the next drawing and may be picked after the next 25 people sign up. Or the next 25 people. Or the next. And so on and so on. In short, the sooner you subscribe, the more chances you have to win.
There is more to this promotion, including incentives for switching from an existing provider. For more details, get on the information highway and visit ecfiber.net/subscribe.
You can probably learn more about the next band playing at Winter Concert Series on the internet. Or you could just read on.
The next act is the Bluegrasoles, a trio including Susan Damone Balch, whom, you may remember, I wrote about last summer after she won a Juror’s Choice Award at the annual Billing’s Farm Quilt Exhibition, her husband, John, and Rich Knight. Susan and John live in Reading, and Rich lives in Springfield. They play a mix of Americana music, featuring Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Tom Russell, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and John Prine. For added measure, they also cover Rolling Stones and (no surprise) Neil Young songs. John plays lead guitar, Susan plays the conga drum, and Rich plays bass. They all share the singing duties.
The next Winter Concert happens on March 14. Admission is $10, and that gets you a night of great music and dinner. The dinner buffet for the March show will be provided by the Reading Green Spaces Committee. They are one of the beneficiaries of the concert series along with the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, the Reading/West Windsor Food Shelf, and the Reading Recreation Commission.
Don’t forget to bring non-perishable food items. The Reading Recreation Commission, sponsor of the series, will donate the food to the food shelf immediately. As for the money collected, we pool it all together and will divide it evenly after the final show, which happens on April 4.
See you on the road—dirt, paved, cabled, fibrous, or otherwise!
That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!
This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on February 20, 2020.