PUTNEY—On a recent balmy evening, the Putney Grade School Reunion Planning Committee held its final work meeting to prepare for this year’s reunion, to be held on Oct. 10.
Around the large, rectangular table in the surprisingly cool back room of Putney Town Hall, the committee — six graduates of Putney’s grade schools — sat and prepared letters to send to everyone on their list. All 500 of them.
“Anybody who went to Putney grade schools is invited,” said Anita Coomes, Class of 1955.
Carolyn Handy, Class of 1964, said, “it’s not just for graduates.”
The invitation and registration form says, “Even if a person only attended a grade school for a portion of one year, they are still welcome.”
Teachers and staff are also encouraged to attend.
“Are last year’s graduates invited?” a visitor asked the members of the committee.
“A 12-year-old could come,” Handy said, referring to the common age of a recent eighth-grade graduate, “but, they don’t. This is really an adults-only thing.”
So, who is likely to attend the reunion?
“People who graduated in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Kay Robinson-Clough, Class of 1953.
“Older people,” said Marilyn Austin-Loomis, Class of 1948. Last year, “I had decided I was going to retire [from the Planning Committee], but nobody showed up,” she said, “so here I am again."
Lillian Wade-Hamilton said she had graduated eighth grade in 1955.
Richard “Dickie” Taylor estimated he left Putney grade schools in the late 1950s.
“Back in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the town was small and everybody was close,” Robinson-Clough said, adding, “I think that’s why more of us come” to the reunions.
Two people in their 90s who graduated from the East Putney School have attended the reunions, the committee members said.
One of them is Olive Frost. Her great-grandchild, Laol Short, graduated this past June from Putney Central School. Four generations of the family attended Putney schools: Frost, her child, her grandchild, and Short. The latter received one of this year’s Alumni Awards.
Everyone sitting around the table that evening was born in Vermont, but Taylor admitted to having lived in Walpole, N.H., for a few years. Now, he resides in Westminster, but “just over the border” from Putney, he said.
He and Robinson-Clough are the only two committee members who live outside of Putney.
Robinson-Clough currently calls Dummerston home, but was born in Putney.
“My mother was visiting,” she said, and “couldn’t make it the half-mile home,” so Robinson-Clough’s mother gave birth to her in the midwife’s house.
As the group finished folding the pages into thirds, and affixed postage and mailing labels, the kibitzing about Putney’s past continued on.
Remember that woman who made hard candy and sold it to schoolchildren for a penny?
Remember that old laundry, located in the building on West Hill Road where Handy’s parents opened The Vermonter Candy, which made homemade maple brittle?
Remember the movies and the Christmas parties in Town Hall?
From the way the members of the committee described it, the reunion’s main event will be a larger version of that meeting, but minus the work and plus dinner.
“The first reunion had music and entertainment,” said Austin-Loomis, “but we stopped, because we’d rather visit” with one another during dinner.
While the dinner is a highlight of the reunion’s events, there are additional activities throughout the day.
Included in the reunion invitation is a page with maps detailing the location of four Putney schools — the Old Putney Central School on Signal Pine Road, the current Putney Central School and the Washburn School on Westminster West Road, and the East Putney School on Cemetery Road — which attendees may tour on their own during the afternoon.
A volunteer from the Putney Historical Society will be stationed at each one during specific hours.
The invitation asks attendees to “please respect these properties when visiting,” because “all except the current grade school are in private ownership."
At 5 p.m., hors d’oeuvres will be served during the hour leading up to dinner.
This will provide attendees a good opportunity to peruse the many door prizes donated by local merchants and individuals.
At the work meeting, those present called out some of the donors: Basketville, Harlow’s Sugar House, the Putney Co-op, The Vermonter Candy, and Green Mountain Orchards, to name a few.
One year, the committee members said, a local veterinarian donated a free cat neutering.
This year marks the 20th year since the former students began hosting reunions, but this is their eighth event — they only happen every three years.
But, every year the committee gives an Alumni Award and scholarship to two students graduating eighth-grade and leaving Putney’s grade schools.
“We have to raise enough for six awards at one reunion,” said Handy.