Recently, my son came home one night after milking cows and said nonchalantly, “They tore the Randall farmhouse down today.” Immediately I started to tear up. The Randall farmhouse was my grandparents’ old farmhouse. Although they had not lived there for 25 years, it was still known as the Randall farm. This old farmhouse set in the middle of a long hill on a dirt road in North Danville, Vermont, a village well known for its picturesque hillside family farms.
The structure was typical of so many farmhouses prevalent throughout Vermont during the 20th century. The house was attached to the woodshed that was attached to the barn. These homes were not “McMansions” they were “McFarmhouses.” These large old houses were not fancy, but they were beckoning and homey. They were also hard to heat; the wood furnaces located in the cellars really could not keep these houses warm during a cold Vermont winter.
In the Randall house, the dining room was directly above the furnace that made it warm when someone played the piano. Pianos were a fixture in many Vermont homes before cable TV. The dining room table was only used during special holidays. Off the dining room was the one bathroom for all eight family members. The bathroom also doubled as a phone booth. The only black rotary telephone was conveniently located in the dining room but my aunts would stretch that phone cord until it was paper thin into the bathroom and shut the door in order to have a private conversation. At least it was private until one of the neighbors picked up the party line. Facebook was no comparison for six family party lines.
Left of the dining room was the kitchen – the epicenter of the farm – where my grandfather met with salesmen and my grandmother fed anybody who walked through the door. The mailman actually brought the mail through the screened-in porch, into the house and set it on the kitchen table. It was the room where my aunts would huddle over a large wood stove in the corner every morning and where the dogs and the pet deer often slept.
Yes… my grandparents had two pet deer during the late 60’s. I know the first one was named Bambi, and probably the second one was too. Bambi (the first) was clean and trained to go in and out with the dogs. My grandparents welcomed all the local kids into their home to see those deer.
The second floor had four bedrooms and a long hallway. These bedrooms were like all farmhouse bedrooms: bare wood floors and no heat vents. My aunt said she always knew when the wind was blowing outside because the draft coming through the windows ruffled the curtains. At the end of the hallway was a door opening to the attic stairs. It was a huge treasure trove of goodies. There was another room located directly over the kitchen that was fun to explore because it was my uncle’s man cave. Even though we grandchildren were not supposed to go up there, we would venture through the woodshed and up the stairs to check out my uncle’s “boys’ club.” Looking back, there really wasn’t much in the room except an old Coke cooler and a couch. But it was a place where my uncle could get away from all his sisters, except in the wintertime when it was too cold.
Those old farmhouses were cold but the memories they fostered were rich and warm. It’s sad to see these structures torn down because they represent another piece of Vermont history lost. North Danville used to be peppered with farmhouses and small dairy farms, now there are just a few left. My grandparents left the farm in 1979 and retired. Ironically, all Grammy wanted was a new, small one story home to live in. She decided it was time to let another family move into that big farmhouse and call it home.
Sunday September 13th is National Grandparents Day. My grandparents both died in 1994, but they left a priceless legacy because of the fun times in that big, old farmhouse.