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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Two Small Towns. One Small-World Story

In a town as small as Reading is, and with so few people, you might think that small world stories would be non-existent or at least rare. I’ve had a few since I moved here, including this one.

I met with Jim Hasson on Friday to learn more about Claude Bartley for the Reading Historical Society. After we talked about Claude, who was killed in World War II, our conversation wandered delightfully. If you know Jim, this isn’t a surprise; the man can tell stories.

I mentioned that I used to live in the Catskills. Jim told me he had a history with that area as well. When he was 14 and 15, he spent some time with Harold Krantz and his family in the tiny village of Callicoon Center. Harold had a brother named Clarence, and Clarence had a daughter named June.

In October 2005, Bill and I bought a house in Callicoon Center, and our neighbor was June Donohue, nee Krantz. Jim knew June when she was less than 10 years old. I met June when she was 71. What a small world!

When Jim and I met, he brought with him an envelope that he was a bit shy to talk about. He said he usually doesn’t toot his own horn, but today, he was making an exception.

He handed me the letter that the envelope contained and asked me to read it. It was a dense two pages, written by a woman whom Jim said had a talent for writing. After I finished, I agreed. Like Jim knows how to tell a story, the author of the letter, Colleen Simmons, knows how to put her heart on the page.

Colleen is from Irvington, New Jersey, and she drives a small bus for a living. She was in Reading to pick up the group of students who was finishing up the week at Farms for City Kids. She had made the turn off Route 106 onto Caper Hill Road, and the bus got stuck.

It was then that Jim happened to be driving by. He got out of the car and chatted with the Colleen. In her letter, Colleen relates that Jim captivated her with his storytelling.

Luckily, Caper Hill Road is right across Route 106 from Jim Cloud’s logging and trucking business. He, too, happened to be passing by at the right time. Both Jims surmised that Jim C could use a tractor to get the bus back on the road. Sure enough, they were right. Colleen was able to continue up the hill to pick up that week’s students. She was only five minutes late.

As it turns out, this woman and Jim have a bit of a small-world story as well. As I mentioned, Colleen lives in Irvington, New Jersey. That town borders Elizabeth, which is where Jim grew up.

Hopefully, you won’t have any trouble getting up Caper Hill on Saturday, October 6, for the Spring Brook Farms Open House. It runs from 10am to 3pm rain or shine. If you're wondering why it's a little bit later this year than it has been recently, Tatiana Werner-McCarthy tells me it’s because of the apples. In past years, it was just too soon to press them to make cider, which is one of the many events happening on the day. With an extra couple of weeks, the apples should press better.

Along with the cider press, there will be other activities for kids, including face painting, a craft table, a petting zoo, games, and wagon rides. Adults can hop on the wagon too, and they can watch cheese-making in progress, tour the farm, sample and buy cheese, syrup, and maple cream. There will also be a barbecue with hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. Gary Vittum will be making donuts for the event. You can also pick your own apples.

It’s a special year at Spring Brook Farms, for it is their 25th anniversary. It’s a great reason to visit during their Open House (as is all the things I mentioned were not). You know from above that Spring Brook Farm is on Caper Hill Road. Its actual address is 734 Caper Hill Road, but if you drive up the hill, you won’t miss it.

Not in its 25th year but in its 8th week, is the Puddledock Park Party. This week’s theme is Perennial Swap. It’s a perfect opportunity for you to dig up those perennials that you no longer love or have prospered a bit too well under the care of your green thumb, and swap them with other folks. . Of course, the Puddledock Park Party is a social event. So even if you don't swap perennials, come swap stories and make community with your fellow Readingites. Feel free to bring your own seating, snacks and drinks, and bug spray. Puddledock Park Party starts at 5pm today, Thursday, and runs to ever-earlier dusk.

Also, don’t forget that Friday, September 21 at 6:30pm, is the Game Night. We’re back indoors at the Reading Public Library. We’ll be playing board games, card games, cribbage, doing puzzles, and having a lot of fun.

Happy birthday to Michael Barr (September 20), Hilda Allen (September 24), and Doug Wilkins (September 25). And happy fall (September 22).

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

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