Life in Falls Village, generations ago
Longtime Falls Village resident Rev. Cyril Wismar (1918-2012) shared with The Lakeville Journal his remembrances, written in May, 2011, of a Falls Village/Town of Canaan of a different time. His wife of 68 years, Sylvia, was glad to allow us to share them now with our readers. The first part can be found in last week’s Lakeville Journal or at www.tricornernews.com. Part 2 of 2 A mile beyond our property was a farm owned by Felix Beaubaux, who came to my mother’s rescue one day in the long ago. Because she considered Upper Barrack Road too difficult she elected to use Lower Barrack Road to drive with the Model T Ford, and we got stuck. At times, portions of that road became mired in mud, and the car got stuck. My brother and I walked the mile or so up the road to ask a favor of good Felix. Would he get his oxen yoked and come down the road to extricate our car from the mud? He did. In those days, people here did not belong to AAA Road Service. The farm from which that welcome help came is now known as the center of Music Mountain, Inc. Not only did the beginnings of that cultural contribution to our town bring much musical beauty, but it hastened the paving of the road and the acquisition of electricity.In 1929, my brother and I would walk the mile or more to observe the buildings being constructed by Sears, Roebuck and Company for Maestro Jacques Gordon who had left his Concert Master position with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to establish the Gordon String Quartet and their summer series of concerts and student workshops.Now let us move to that which was the throbbing heart of the community, the center of Falls Village, some three miles away. Main Street was unpaved. Matter of fact, so was our portion of US Route 7. There were no sidewalks either. The most direct road was Warren Turnpike, then there were a few houses and the first Roman Catholic Church. It has burned down as a result of some live coals that fell from a passing freight train. That, by the way, was the first Roman Catholic Church building that stood between Pittsfield, Mass., and Bridgeport, Conn. It became the mother of a large number of parishes, including St. Joseph’s in North Canaan and St. Mary’s in Lakeville.Passing under the railroad trestle bridge, to the left down the hill was the power plant, built in 1914, to the right up the grade one saw the Town Green with Town Hall to one side and the Falls Village Inn around the corner. There was a garage run by Eddie Houston, now owned by the Jacobs family. At times it doubled as a blacksmith shop for a horse that might have thrown a shoe. The next building contained one of the two general stores and beyond there was a drugstore, which also dispensed, without prescription, bootleg booze. Next came the railroad station which had an office for American Railway Express. Across the street from this complex was the beginning of the firehouse. In the building with the Town Hall, the post office claimed one half of the main floor of that building. Next to it was a savings bank, then the Methodist Church. Across from the savings bank, another bank and a general store. In the next building was a barbershop. Further up the street on that side a doctor’s office and residence; opposite that, a hardware store (now the Toymaker’s Cafe) and a feed grain store were housed in that building.On the next corner was the library which housed the elementary school classes. The six one-room schools had been closed in 1919.The high school students, mostly girls since the boys were farmhands, commuted by train to the upper school in North Canaan. Students from as far away as Kent also were in class up there. Housatonic Valley Regional High School was dedicated in 1939. The Lee Kellogg School, first unit, was completed in 1949, and on Beebe Hill Road there were two active churches. The Congregational Chapel was there and the main house of worship for congregationalists was located in the “suburb” of South Canaan, where the 1804 Meetinghouse stood.Postscript: It was on my 11th birthday that I was given a ride in a Curtis Robin single motor airplane piloted by Floyd Brinton. My brother joined me, and we were both flown over the town and Barrack Mountain where we could see our property and the neighbors who were out waving sheets.The town of Canaan, Falls Village, is no longer a land of milk, but it is a honey of a town, and any way you look at it, a lovely place in which to live.