Longtime Waitsfield educator Betty Joslin as a child. She is on her family’s farm riding a pic.

By Steve Joslin

Elizabeth (Beth) R Dole, Betty Joslin, Mom

Elizabeth Rogena Dole was born on a mountaintop dirt farm in Proctorsville, Vermont, to Fletcher E. and Laura (Harrington) Dole on February 18, 1913. She was the first of four girls including Edna 1914, Gertrude 1915 and Dorothy 1919. Grampa had a dream to be a farmer on his own land. He purchased land almost at the top of Bailey Hill in Proctorsville and did the best he could. All of the girls went to school in the village of Proctorsville, walking the 3 miles in the summer. In the winter Gramp drove them down and back up in a horse-drawn sleigh; wrapping them in a wolf hide robe, which I still have. It was an isolated life. So much so in Mom’s memory that she firmly expressed no desire for her ashes to be buried there.




In 1921, Gramp conceded that this was no life for him or the family and moved by horse and wagon with his wife and children to Peterborough, New Hampshire, to become the herdsman on the Bass Farm. Perkins Bass was the former governor of New Hampshire. After several years Grampa was able to lease and eventually buy a small farm within the village.

All four girls attended Peterborough High School and all graduated valedictorian. I have been told that after Dotty graduated one parent was heard to say “Well, now maybe someone else will have a chance.” The girls all had jobs to help with college. Mom had a summer job in a neighboring town as a housekeeper and rode to and from work every day on Gramp’s horse. All four girls attended college, Mom at Boston University, Edna, MD, at Simons and UVM, Trudie, PhD, at Middlebury and University of Michigan and Dotty, at Bates, Vassar, and Columbia. The result was one BA, one PhD and two MDs. After graduation Mom went to Barre, Massachusetts, to teach high school.

She moved to Waitsfield in 1936 and here in lives a whole related story. In 1910 my grandfather, Stephen P Joslin and his wife Lena moved to Proctorsville to become the herdsman on the Riford farm. My dad was born on the Riford farm in 1910, hence his first name of Riford. The departing herdsman was Fletcher E. Dole who stayed on for a short time to show Stephen the ropes. When Mom told her father of her new job, he allowed that he might have a contact in Waitsfield as he apparently had good memories of Stephen Joslin on the Riford farm. He contacted my Joslin grandfather inquiring of lodging availabilities for Mom in Waitsfield. She was offered a room and eventually married my dad in December, 1941.

Over the next 36 years Mom taught English, algebra, Latin and maybe some French in the old Waitsfield High School. She had a reputation of being strict and I know a certain number of her students thought she was too demanding. She did set high standards and she seemed to know what all her students were capable of even if they did not. Others have told me how much she meant to them and the skills they realized they had. As a result of all the classes she taught in Waitsfield my parents tuitioned me to Montpelier High School (MHS). This was so I wouldn’t have my own mother as a teacher for the majority of my classes. As a result I had a daily commute to Montpelier. This worked for the next three years until September, 1961 when she accepted a position in Montpelier. MHS had been in contact with her for several years.

Due to scheduling issues guess who I had for senior college prep English? The principal, Dr. Chastney, had both of us come into his office the day before school started wherein, I pledged on the blood of my unborn children to behave. I had my fingers crossed. First day of school and I had to make a show of my elevated status in English class. I went in, took a desk in the back row and turned it around to face the wall. It was less than a minute and I had a seat in the middle of the front row. This outburst and result are a great example of her ability to control. If she could not control her son, how could she control her class? I suspect that my grades for senior English were not exactly as high as I had earned. She did not want any sign of preference. With her teaching in Montpelier meant that I now rode to school with her. By then I was hitch-hiking home daily.


Her reputation for high standards and at times a stern demeanor will become more easily understood by understanding her. I believe and know that you are a result of your childhood. How you were raised is reflected in your adulthood. Her parents were loving and caring but expressions of emotions were seldom. Her parents only expected that the girls do their best and doing your best was not anything that needed to be commended. Mom also expected the very best from her students and her two sons as well. Shortly before she died, she told David and me that she wished she had praised us more.

When I told this to Aunt Dottie, she said ‘let me tell you a story.’ Dotty had gone to Bates College Maine. After first semester she sent her report card home with all A’s. Her father wrote back, “got your grades.” Dotty’s roommate was flabbergasted that there was nothing else. She had only done what was expected of her and nothing more was warranted. I live with some of this Yankee heritage.

But those who appreciated Mom’s teaching remain loyal to her to this day.

(Next time Take Me Back returns to the Old Waitsfield High School and educator and Mom-- Betty Joslin.)
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