My wife and I got in the car at 11:00 today and drove north. As we went from New Hampshire into Vermont, the traffic slowed down and the cell service deteriorated. When Interstate 91 came to a halt, we got off the highway and headed northwest. At 3:23 we found a turnout somewhere along the side of the road through Groton State Forest. We joined a few other souls standing around and got to witness one of the most spectacular events I’ve ever seen. I thought I had seen a solar eclipse in the backyard of my childhood home in 1970 in Holden, Massachusetts. Not so. That was a partial solar eclipse. Not the same thing. This one was total. And it differed from the other one I saw just by the slightly more than two minutes that it went total. The forest quieted down. It got darker and darker. The stars came out. And then, the eclipsing sun, that you could only look at through those ridiculous cardboard glasses that everyone had, went behind the moon. Total darkness. The glasses came off. And then this bright sparkly ring of light appeared in the sky. It looked exactly like all those pictures you see of a total solar eclipse.  Right in front of us. It was incredible.

We celebrated for about three minutes, got back into the car, and beat the traffic back to Massachusetts.

The glasses have made it into my Real World Stuff™ collection.


Real World Stuff™ at the Library

Real World Stuff™
Collected Memories
of Ben Woodbury

October 28 – November 30, 2016

Program Room
Gale Free Library
23 Highland Street, Holden, Massachusetts 01520

Come see a piece of the Berlin Wall, a piece of Space Shuttle, a piece of the Moon, and hundreds of other memories collected and curated by me, Holden’s Ben Woodbury. There are Holden things, too: a piece of Scorched Brick from the fire in 1980 when Holden Junior High School burned; old wires, now buried under our new Main Street; and a piece from the Ribbon Cutting at the recent Grand Opening of the New Mountview Middle School.

For more than half a century I have been collecting memories in new and unusual ways. Come travel with me — around town and around the world — and learn how easy it can be to preserve cherished pieces of your own history.

Opening Reception
Thursday, November 3, 2016 · 6:00 pm

Time for More Questions
Saturday, November 26, 2016 · 10:00 am

If you are old, like me, think endless slideshows at the neighbor’s house; if you are younger, like my children, think obsessively sharing selfies. But unlike those selfies and slideshows, I’m not going to bore you with hours of stories. You are welcome to travel with me at your own pace as I give you just a hint about each of these – my – collected memories. After these few examples, you can fill in the rest.

Number 13 is A Canopy, Finally. Mobil Station, Holden Massachusetts.

This scrap of siding was found in the gutter along Main Street in front of the Mobil station. Earlier that day, they were putting the finishing touches on the new canopy over the gas pumps, and I remembered the years it took the owner, Jack, to convince the Town and the Historical Commission and the Local Historic District Commission that the world wasn’t going to come to an end if his customers could be protected from the rain, just as Mobil customers had been for many years before the earlier one came down … and before the high hurdles promulgated by good-intentioned governmental regulations made it so difficult for him to put a new one back up.

When I walk or drive by the Mobil station or see my piece of canopy, I think of what it took to build it – not of what it is.

Number 78 is a Piece of the Moon. A gift from my child, August 2000.

What do you think that means? Have you ever collected a piece of the moon? Has anyone ever given you one? My family knows that I collect stupid stuff™ and that I had always wanted a piece of the moon. Mindful of this, one of my children took one of my collection bottles (made of borosilicate glass with a Teflon® F-217 cap liner to keep things fresh for hundreds of years), waited for the full moon to rise over Kennebunk, and scooped up just that little bit of Atlantic Ocean where the moonbeam reflected off its surface. I cherish my piece of the moon.

I choose to believe that every item in this collection was gathered legally. I accumulated most. Some were given to me. And others I solicited from friends and family as I learned of their impending travels.

Number 64 is Crack. The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1999.

My niece collected this for me during her trip to Philadelphia that year. I had thought long and hard about how I might collect my piece of the crack in the Liberty Bell. But I wasn’t there when this one was harvested. So I don’t know what the reaction of the National Park Service Ranger – or the machine-gun-toting Homeland Security Guard – was as she approached the bell with her uncapped borosilicate vial to collect this piece of the crack.

All these memories are mine and they are how I choose to remember them.

Number 190 is What My Camera Saw. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, August 18, 2012. Number 191 is What I Saw. Same Place, Same Day.

It took me nearly three years to make the photograph that now hangs on my wall in Number 191 from the image captured by my camera in Number 190. Every time I tried to print it out, it never looked like what I remembered. Time, education, and some very powerful computer software let me finally pull out the fantastic colors I witnessed that day.

This show is the brainchild of Nancy Richards, the Gale Free Library’s Local History Librarian. I was just looking for a place for the executor of my estate to donate some of my Holden-related memorabilia to when the time came. My family has never much cared about any of this. She suggested this exhibition. Enjoy it in your own time. Think about your own memories and how you preserve them.

Ben Woodbury
Holden, Massachusetts

More than sixty years ago, when I was two months old, my family moved to Holden. I still consider myself a newcomer.

2 am

The parking was free and there wasn’t any traffic getting to Niagara Falls. The only drawback was that it was 2 am. And, apparently, they turn the lights off sometime after midnight. I stumbled through the darkness, dragging my camera down to the viewing area, set it up on its tripod, and made this 15 second exposure. The result is spectacular. But until it showed up on the display on the back of the camera, all I saw was darkness.


It Happened Again

I went to the Hanover Theater in Worcester, Massachusetts again tonight. This time I saw Classic Albums Live, the Michael Jackson – Thriller show. It was incredible. I took one of the children. We had a great time. The music was impeccably performed. It was billed as a bunch of musicians who get up on stage and play an album, note for note, cut for cut, start to finish, live. That might not sound too thrilling (pun intended), but it was amazing. They got up on stage and played Thriller, note for note, cut for cut, start to finish, live. Then they took a little break, came back, and played a whole bunch more Michael Jackson songs. The aisles were packed with people dancing: Kids; adults; older adults; really old adults. And they were all smiling. And clapping. And having a really good time. When there wasn’t any more room in the aisles, people stood up at their seats and started dancing. Everyone I saw was having fun. The performers were having fun. Even I was having fun.

This doesn’t usually happen.

But it did happen once before, and recently. And it was at the Hanover Theater again. This time, it was with the other child. And the boyfriend. We went to see Buddy Valastro, the guy from Cake Boss. He showed up in town with an even sillier premise. Take an Italian baker from Hoboken, New Jersey and stick him on stage in Worcester, Massachusetts with a bunch kids and parents from the audience. Add some cupcakes. He teaches us how to decorate them. We laugh at the audience members as they try to imitate his designs. He tells stories. And everyone smiles: The kid; the boyfriend; the dad; the people on stage. Once again, everyone in the room was having a great time.

Family friendly entertainment?

I didn’t think that existed anymore.

But it does.

Search it out.


The Price of Fighting the Fight

Ten years ago, our area was overrun by the Asian longhorn beetle. We’ve been fighting it ever since. Teams of specially trained inspectors have permeated our forests and neighborhoods as they search for the beetles and their paths of destruction.

They claim that the beetles threaten our trees, but to date, not one tree has fallen victim to the bug. This does not mean, however, that we are safe. So far, about 30,000 trees have been cut down. They say that they have done this to protect our woodlands.

I wonder who is winning.


Why We Need More Hurricanes

I believe that we should schedule hurricanes a little more often. I got an incredible amount of stuff done yesterday:

• The generator is all tuned up and working great.

• The sump pump (the one I installed hastily during the last flood) is now in its new hole in the floor and properly piped.

• The chainsaw has gas in it and runs well.

• The lawn furniture and the fire pit are stored in the garage.

• The barbecue grill has a full propane tank.

It’s a shame that it takes the threat of such destruction to accomplish so much.