(This interview with Mrs. Pool took place in her home in Wilmington in 2001 just after 9/11 and was published in the Cracker Barrel Magazine that year.)
Janet Pool is eighty-eight years old and full of grace. She’s a native of Wilmington and has spent pretty much her entire life here as have generations before her. Born Janet Robinson Barber on July 6, 1913 (“the same month as President Gerald Ford”), Janet is a descendant of James Flagg who came to Wilmington in 1783, and of Issac Hubbard who arrived here in the spring of 1800.
In 1934, Janet wed William A. Pool , Jr. from Marlboro, Vermont. Nicknamed “Mr. Somerset,” Mr. Pool was a well-loved naturalist, deeply regarded for his work as a wildlife photographer. Bill passed away in 1981 after conserving two-hundred acres of forest land around the Pool Family Farm in Marlboro, Vermont.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Pool served the town and county in many offices over a long period of time. In 1993, Janet was the recipient of the American Legion Citizenship Award, citing her
extensive work throughout the community, including her involvement with senior groups, which she continues to this day.
Mrs. Pool is the familiar and welcoming face you see each week when you arrive at the Deerfield Valley Seniors meal site in Jacksonville. It is no wonder that she is so well loved–renown as she is for her warm and gracious spirit. Mrs. Pool astonishes those much younger with her amazing recollection of names and faces–as well as life events and little details. Janet leaves each person she encounters (whether an old friend or a new) feeling very, very cherished.
It is my honor and a great pleasure to offer you a glimpse of this special lady in her own “voice.”
My parents were Merton and Minnie Barber. I remember somebody had a couple chickens that were called by those names!
My father was the son of HF Barber (Hardy Barber), who owned HF Barber and Son, a store that was where the town office is now. There’s pictures in there of my grandfather in the store.
(In the 1980 Wilmington Old Home Week book, Janet wrote this about it, “Many have memories of this store as a genial meeting place for card players or those who just wanted to sit around the stove and reminisce.”)
My father, Merton Barber, later sold the business and acquired a general insurance agency where I was employed until 1955 after which I purchased the company from him. Though I have since sold the agency, it still bears the family name, BARBER and JARVIS.
My grandparents and my great-grandparents pictures are in Memorial Hall. A while back, I found my grandfather’s civil war papers and his discharge order. My grandfather’s mother was a Flagg; and that’s why I’m so patriotic!
War and Patriotism
I have a picture here of (my husband) Bill (William Pool Jr.) when he was in uniform. He was in the thick of it. He was in the Battle of the Bulge.
Here’s a photo of VJ Day, 1945, August 14th in Wilmington. That’s the day of the surrender, of Japan. We built a fire right there in the town square and had a little parade; I played the accordion, and we all had a good time.
I don’t like the idea (of another war), no. But I feel we got to do something. In fact the other day at the Seniors, Tuesday group, I wrote a little prayer. Peg Morgan had us join hands and repeat the Lord’s Prayer like we do, and of course we always repeat the pledge of allegiance first; then I read my prayer:
‘Dear Lord, Listen to this tiny prayer from a tiny group. Let it mingle with the thousands of prayers being issued today throughout the country. America has been in mourning for a week over a senseless, horrible act… Bless those who have lost loved ones, also the leaders of our nation, the rescuers, and many others… Above all, God Bless America, the Land of the Brave and the Free. Amen’
Sisters and Children
This is Beaver Street that I live on; Beaver Brook is just over there. I’ve been here since ‘47. I was married then, I must have been thirty-four. That was right after the war. We moved here after Bill was discharged from the service. My father originally owned the house and when he passed away in ‘65 he left it to me.
The house up on Lisle Hill where I was born belongs to my sister, Muriel Barber Manning . She was born thirteen months after me. My mother always dressed us just alike. Muriel lives up in Hinesburg, Vermont. She went up there to teach and found a husband. She wasn’t married ’til she was over 50.
Neither of us have any children, but I always loved children. I always had some around. My husband, you see, had four sisters, and one brother; the brother didn’t have any children, but the girls had plenty, so some of them were with us lot of the time.
In fact, (my niece) Bertha (Pool) spent most of her highschool days living with us while going to the highschool here. Her sisters stayed with us some of the time too as their family lived in Marlboro.
I went to that school (Wilmington Middle High School) all twelve years–and my father was one of its earliest graduates.
Yes, as I say, I’ve always had kids around; the people across the street, their children call me ‘Nana’. Here’s a photo of me with the neighbors and here’s one taken a couple of years ago with the ‘Halloween kids’ I always like to dress up with them.
Romance and Floods
I met my husband, William Pool, at the (Deerfield Valley Farmers Day) Fair in ‘33. A funny thing is, another fellow invited me to go the fair that day, but he called and said he couldn’t go. So I went alone, and that’s when Bill spotted me.
He’d come from Marlboro to go to the fair. He used to walk seven miles to take me to the movies; that’s when they had them in Memorial Hall. His father would wait up for him to get home. It was something!
I remember the fair of 1938; that was the time of the flood. Bill had a huge collection of deer antlers on the table there (on exhibit) and they floated around, but he found most of them. That was quite the fair!
Hunting and Wedding Plans
I was married at home, just a quiet wedding, up at Lisle Hill. I don’t remember much of a party after, but I remember we left on a honeymoon… went as far as Greenfield!
That was December 1st, 1934, and that makes me think of something that one fellow thinks is funny. Bill was a great hunter you know, and in those days deer hunting was the last two weeks in November, so he had to wait to December 1st to get married!
Girlfriends and School Days
I don’t have too much company anymore, but one of my school friends was here last week, and stayed a couple days, and we talked. Her name is Meredith Wood. She was born here. She comes up every year to get maple syrup up at Carl Boyd’s. She’s eighty-eight too. She’s pretty spry!
Meredith and I graduated highschool together. We had white dresses, white stockings, white shoes; no caps and gowns then! We graduated down at Memorial Hall, and I remember they would present us with a bouquet of flowers after.
I was Salutatorian… that doesn’t mean much for eleven graduates! (There’s just three of us left now.) I had to speak and greet the people. I remember the last part of (my speech): I said, ‘Go forth, attain, attain!’ I’ve got a copy of it somewhere.
We used to have what they called public speaking (in school). I started out when I was in the first grade. I spoke a piece; It was at Christmas time:
You know what the Christmas mousey did
before he went to his trundle bed?
‘Dear Mr. Santa if you please,
put in my stocking some Christmas cheese.’
The Cracker Barrel and Old Times
Oh yes, I’ve been a fan ever since it started. I like it, it’s a homey paper. It tells about people as they are, you know. And there are so many things that I recognize in there.
I’ve been mentioned (in The Cracker Barrel) before, (but this is the first article just about me). Nice of you to think of it.
Not much has stayed the same here (in the valley), not much. Of course the buildings, the old buildings, they’ve tried to keep the outside as they were, but they’re different inside. This house hasn’t changed though; it was built in 1895.
There aren’t many folks left that I can talk old times with. Evelyn Keefe, remember her? She and I used to visit a lot. Now there’s Dot Turner. She lives on Dix Road, I think they call it. Her house is the oldest house in town.
Women and Careers
I wonder if there are other things that I ought to tell you… I’m trying to think. It was funny you know when my mother came to town; she came to teach, and they told her there weren’t any eligible men left, but she found one! My mother was a Robinson: Minnie Swazee Robinson. My middle name is Robinson. She was the oldest of six girls.
She taught up here at the school in 1909. She quit teaching when she was married. My mother was a very talented person, a good sewer, seamstress; also an artist, she could paint things. Neither my sister or I took after her in that respect; we were more career people I guess.
Muriel was a school teacher and I was in the (insurance) office; did that most of the time. My mother stayed home; and she’d make our dresses and this and that. I used to like her Red Flannel Hash. Do you know that? It’s after a boiled dinner.
Aging and Some Advice…
Well, I’d like to be back, maybe not quite so young, but maybe in my twenties and thirties; that’s some of the prime of life, I think.
My maternal grandmother lived to be 95. (And I plan) to go right along the way I am. Course you have to look to the future. Right now I’m pretty well set. Bertha (my niece) nextdoor, runs errands for me, and Sam Hall, upstairs, does the outside work. So it works out pretty good. I do my own housework myself; I tell the doctor, ‘That’s my exercise!’
My advice on aging? It’s all attitude! If you feel, ‘Oh , I can’t go today, I can’t do this,’ it’s good to push yourself a little and have a good time. As a eighty-nine year old told me the other day, ‘We got to keep going!’
I agree. You got to be positive about things. I imagine I’ve always (felt this way). That song, Young at Heart, is a good one to go by.
Fairytales can come true
it can happen to you
if you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find,
to be narrow of mind,
if you’re young at heart…
And life gets more exciting
with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart
or on it’s way…
Don’t you know that it’s worth,
every treasure on earth,
to be young at heart…
And if you should survive
to a hundred and five
Look at all you’ll derive
out of being alive!
And here is the best part
You’ll have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart!
(written by Carolyn Leigh and Johnnie Richards.)