Karen Tolman

Frank’s Kitchen

Frank Upton’s gone now, along with his kitchen.  But, it wasn’t long ago that Barry often went down the road to Frank’s farmhouse to sit around his kitchen table.  As Frank got older, Barry said that he was just checking up on the old man who then lived alone, but there was clearly something more.  Something that not only enticed Barry, but enticed a host of friends and neighbors to gather around Frank’s scruffy old drop-leaf table.

And, it certainly wasn’t the smell of the kerosene pot burner or yesterday’s fried liver (Frank liked it well done).  Nor was it the stale and overflowing ashtray hand-crafted by his good friend Boo Doore from Harrisville, or the spare floatplane propeller propped up in the corner, or even the Remington pump-action deer rifle that hung in the spider webs over the kitchen window, under which a toaster fire had once charred its butt end.  And it probably wasn’t the wind that howled off the lake through the north end of the house, often accompanied by mini-drifts of snow blowing into the kitchen. Continue Reading »

On The Ski Hill at Tolman Pond

Editors Note: In case you haven’t had enough winter, this article from Karen Tolman should satisfy you.

I’ve just lugged a couple of green plastic chairs up to the top of the Jack Rabbit, a hill overlooking Tolman Pond and the 1790’s vintage Farmhouse, which was cleared for skiing in the 1920’s – we’re told one of the first such hills in New England.

I sit here, looking out over this little 40-acre gem of water, and wonder what it was like in the early days of skiing when small ski hills were sprouting up all over the New England landscape.

Newt Tolman skiing off the roof. See more pictures at the end of this article.

Such was the case at Tolman Pond where brothers Newt and Fran Tolman helped their folks Ma (Sadie) and Pop (Wayland) run a guesthouse in the old family Farmhouse.  They also rented out ten summer cabins, whose renters usually joined the others for meals in the Farmhouse.  In order to make ends meet a little bit better, they expanded their winter business by adding something new – skiing.

They not only cleared the Jack Rabbit in the 1920’s, but also extended the clearing out in all directions eventually encompassing several acres.  They cleared trails up Hurd Hill behind the Farmhouse, and anywhere else they deemed feasible for a ski run.  The used the field, where Ted Lenk and Susan Weaver now pasture their sheep, for lessons and practice.  This field is still called the Practice Slope. Continue Reading »

Nelson Community Forum Report

by on February 24, 2011 in Life in Nelson
The Final Report for The Nelson Community Forum, which was held last September
17 and 18, 2010, has been finalized. You may click here to download the pdf (not recommended for dial-up users).  A hard copy is also available at both the Town Offices and
the Library.

Please take a look at it and read about the actual thoughts and ideas that were
expressed during the course of the Forum. Review the steps that were taken to
move the resultant action plans forward to see if you might be able to contribute to
one of the committees. And, then, send a big round of applause to Candyce Fulford
who transferred the many flip charts that we filled up with our words of wisdom
into this document.

It’s an impressive report that demonstrates, not only the thoughtfulness and
insightfulness that the folks of Nelson have in caring for our town, its future and
its people, but that the folks of Nelson are a pretty nifty group of people who came
together to work together in a most civil and congenial manner. A lot of very
meaningful work was accomplished and will continue to be accomplished as a result
of this Forum. Enjoy. It’s a good read!

The Nelson Community Forum Follow-up

The work of the September 17 and 18th Nelson Community Forum is over, and now the work toward its resultant goals has begun.

The event was a phenomenal show of community interest and support with well over 100 participants, many of whom also volunteered to help with the planning aspects of the occasion.  Thank you all.

The Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music was an ideal venue for accommodating the Forum, which was facilitated by Jack Calhoun of Antioch New England Institute.  Thank you Apple Hill for your generosity, and thank you Jack for your many hours of guidance through this process.

We gathered Friday night for registration and a potluck supper.  And then, with dessert barely digesting, as we were settling down to begin the facilitated work of the evening, the power went out!  But the power of the participants surged on as we literally and figuratively lit our way through the rest of the evening. Continue Reading »

Party Lines


Two things brought this story together:  Remembering a funny event and an assignment from Wednesday Academy mentor, Bonnie Riley, to write a story using only dialogue – which is included at the end of this piece.

Thus a little bit of town history emerged – the party line.

When Barry and I first moved into the Farmhouse at Tolman Pond in 1969, our only available telephone service was a six-party line.  (Or, perhaps it was eight.  I can’t remember.)  Of course we knew all the neighbors who shared the line, and after conquering the established art of discreet eavesdropping, we also knew most of their business.  As they surely knew most of ours!

For instance, we all knew that two of our party-line women talked with each other every morning at 9:00 (often sharing gossip about the neighbors) because, while each of us had our own personal ring, everybody’s ring rang on all of our phones.  One woman dialed up the other on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and vice-versa on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  They didn’t gossip on Sunday!

Our personal ring was one long and one short.  And if we wanted to call someone on the same party line, we would dial their number and quickly hang up.  All the phones on the party line would then ring that number.  When the ringing stopped, it usually meant that the other party had picked up, and said “hello.”  So, we’d then pick up our phone again and say “hello”, too.  The “hellos” were sometimes pretty awkward, because if the timing was slightly off, the receiving party would often be saying “hello” before the dialing party had picked up again – thus talking to a vacant phone.  And when the dialing party finally picked up and said “hello”, it was often confusing as to who was calling whom because both parties were echoing “hellos” back and forth.  Of course the eavesdroppers had to time their interference pretty carefully, too, being sure to pick up only after the other parties had said their “hellos”, or otherwise risk revealing their nosiness. Continue Reading »


On Saturday, March 27, 7:00 pm, in the Town Hall, Nelson will again celebrate itself at the Hotel Nelson “Revisited”, in an adaptation from the 1997 original Hotel Nelson:  the wonderful musical theatre performance, written and staged by, for and about our town; and facilitated by composer Larry Siegel of Tricinium Limited.  At that time, Larry likened the process to the late 19th century town pageants…an art form that he has helped to reawaken in many of our small communities.

Hardly a substitute for the amazing hard work of the original production, the “revisit” has mildly adapted some of the original works to better accommodate the busy lives of those who are helping with this production.  We’ve also, reluctantly, cut and pasted here and there in order to make room for some newness that hopefully will speak for the ever-evolving newness that is Nelson – the new guests at the Hotel!  And to top it off, we’ve added a few PowerPoints here and there – well, there weren’t any computers in the late 19th century!

Those helping, who were not involved in the 1997 Hotel Nelson, are enjoying the opportunity to learn a little about the process that produced the original theatre; to learn some of the songs that were written and sung, and to otherwise be a part of something that again brings friends and neighbors together, in the spirit of community.

We hope that you’ll join us to learn a little about our town’s past and present, to witness some of our extensive local talent as they hold forth on (and off) stage – some reliving their 1997 roles, others filling in for those not available this time, and still others adding some additional flavors to the show.

In order to be certain not to exceed the fire-code seating limits (155) in the Town Hall, we’re asking you to reserve a seat by e-mail at: shansel@peoplepc.com or by phone at: 847-9918.  It’ll be first come, first served, and Susan will check your name off when you arrive at the Town Hall on March 27.  Remember that admission is free, but donations will gladly be accepted at the door.

The Hotel Nelson Revisited

Sponsored by Moving in Step

In 1997, the people of Nelson raised funds from private donations, the Town of Nelson and the Nelson Congregational Church to sponsor The Hotel Nelson, a musical theatre that was created by, for, and about the Town of Nelson. Facilitated by Larry Siegal of Westmoreland, it was performed in the Nelson Congregational Church on August 14 and 15 to sold out audiences.

In 1840, The Nelson House was built to house the hotel, the post office, the library and a store.  The three-story brick building burned down in 1894!  So, for 54 years, sitting on the village common, it was literally the center of the town.
Thus, it is the metaphor from which our theatre, The Hotel Nelson, was born:

“When I built this hotel I put a porch on the front.  It was the best decision I ever made.  People come and sit out there, from the end of black fly season until the first snowfall.  Now granted, that’s not a very long stretch of time, but it’s enough time for some good stories to get told, and for more stories to get made.  The town goes by, day by day, and just when I think I’m getting to understand how it works, something happens and I realize I really don’t have it figured out after all.  But I love it here – this place, this land, these people.  I’ve found myself quite a home here….  Please… come in.  You might stay for a night, or for a summer.  And if you can’t figure out how to leave, well – you won’t be the first. “
Narrator in “The Hotel Nelson”
(from the opening scene)

From the above scene onward, songs were sung and stories were told by the same people who researched, wrote and composed them.  They covered some of
Nelson’s history and politics, some of its notables and characters, and many anecdotes past and present.

Some of the songs that were sung are simply too good to relegate to the archives, so we’re going to sing them again…with your help.

So, please join us on Friday night, January 29, 2010, 6:30 pm, at the Nelson Town Hall.

After a potluck supper (please bring something to share), we’ll have some skilled musicians teach us a few of the songs so that we can all join in.  But, if you don’t sing, that’s OK.  Just come to enjoy the festivities.

“The mud can’t get deeper on Old Stoddard Road.
My white car is brown: what a sight to behold.
I’d give anything for a driveway that’s dry,
And to taste the tart pleasure of fresh rhubarb pie.”

From “Sing Halleluiah!”

“The world is full of gladness, and joys of many kinds.
There’s cure for ev’ry sadness, each troubled mortal finds.
My little cares grow lighter.  I cease to fret and sigh.
My eyes with joy grow brighter, when she makes lemon pie.”

From “The Lemon Pie Song”

“When you’re a kid in Nelson you’re like a tall oak tree
Roots reach down into the past
Arms reach for eternity
Whether we’re playing baseball
Or biking through the square
There’s always something happening
And music fills the air”

From “Being a Kid in Nelson”

And, stay tuned for more:  On Saturday, March 27, 2010, we will incorporate the songs that we learn on January 29 with more of the original songs and many of the stories (and perhaps even some new ones!) into another evening out at The Hotel Nelson Revisited.

“There’s one thing certain about the future, which is — it’s always going to be there.  Some folks worry about it, some try to plan for it, some think it’s preordained, and some spend so much time thinking about it that today becomes tomorrow with nothing in between.

“Now the past is always there too.  And we might not worry so much about it, but people can get to dwelling on that too, and lose the present.

“I like it here in Nelson, ‘cause folks seem to enjoy the past, the present, and the future, all in good measure.

“When I’m away from here I tell people about this place.  And sometimes someone will ask – tell me, that town of yours, and that Hotel, is it real, or is it just make believe?

“And I answer:  yes.”
Narrator in “The Hotel Nelson”
(from the closing scene)