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I just finished reading my weekly copy of The Valley Reporter which I receive on Fridays, and started reminiscing about my early years in The Valley; Waitsfield, in particular. I read about the proposed changes to the covered bridge in what I have always referred to as "the Village" and which most newcomers probably call "old Waitsfield."
Many of the Waitsfield Select Board know that I have complained ad nauseam about the "new" look of the covered bridge. Ever since its renovations in the 1970s, the whole look of the bridge was changed and in my mind became "prettified," if there is such a word! So when I hear that folks "are concerned about keeping a sidewalk as part of the bridge but doing so without changing the bridge's visual appearance...,” I go gaga....! The "visual appearance" is awful!
I do not remember what the bridge was like before 1940 as I was born in 1937, but I do remember what it was like when I lived in the village in the 1940s and walked through the pedestrian walkway every day on my way to and from grammar school at what now is called the Old High School.
It was also one of my favorite places to hang out, watch the water flow down the river, as I worried and wondered about my mother who was dying of a malignant brain tumor back home on the farm. It became my special hideaway while living with my Aunt Marion and Uncle Paul Moriarty when my mother's condition became so grave that I could no longer stay at Round Barn Farm with my father and brother. There was no one there to watch me. Therefore, that old covered bridge has very special meaning to me, and I, for one, would love to see it returned to its earlier plain lines.
As a non-Valley resident, I have no control or say in what is done with the bridge now, but if massive change is anticipated, perhaps now would be a good time to decouple the walkway from the rest of the bridge as it was way back when…. It certainly looked better when the walkway had its own roof line rather than being an extension of the bridge roof as it is now and as it was designed by Mr. Gratton in the 1970s.
Well, I guess I am just getting old as I live in the past. So, since my move to Montpelier a year and a half ago, I have been attempting to recall some of The Valley as I remember it through oil paintings. Recently, I finished an oil rendition of the Waitsfield Village covered bridge as a reminder to me of the look we lost back in the 1970s. Although I am no trained artist, I believe it is a fairly accurate rendition of what the bridge was like in the 1940s, as I used an old photograph to copy. Sometimes this kind of life review helps set to rest a childhood with lots of pain.
On a more positive note, it was delightful to see that the "Senior Moments" page, which I used to write, has been resurrected! Although I get to The Valley rarely now, particularly with the high cost of gas, it is good to know that caring folks are continuing to maintain what is important while instituting new types of sustainable living for the 21st century.
Keep up the good work in that part of Vermont that will always be my home as I continue writing my memoirs and hanging out at the State House during the legislative session.
Peace to all,
Mary Alice Bisbee lives in Montpelier.