Thursday, September 1, 2011

Village Life

The Great Neels always waxes lyrical on the subject of Village Life.  Araminta Euphemia Dawlish Spencer Darling would much rather live in a teeny tiny, itty bitty village than London. One village store that doubles as the post office is the only day to day shopping experience she needs.  Of course the village will also boast a Norman-style church (with attached graveyard), a pub, a school, village green and perhaps a garage (where cars may be hired).

While on vacation last week, we stayed with my sister-in-law in the small town of Byron, Wyoming (population: 500+).  I imagine Byron is larger than a typical Neels village - but in spite of that, it doesn't have all the amenities.  Along the main street (which also doubles as a well-known speed trap, but hey, Frankie (the policeman) has to pay his salary one way or another), there is a tavern, a high school and a Mormon church (which sounds like the beginning of a joke). A block or two away is a nice park, and just a little way out of town is the nicest, most well-cared for plot of ground in the area. What is it? The cemetery.  Yes, Byron has a lovely cemetery. Did you notice the lack of gas station and grocery store?  Yeah...sorry sis, but Byron is not my idea of a great retirement spot.

Betty Marcy in front of the Meeteetse Bank (museum).
Betty Marcy and I drove around quite a bit of north central Wyoming.  It's chock-a-block with teeny-tiny towns.  Some boasted amenities, others, not so much. The little town of Meeteetse has less than 400 residents, yet it had at least one gas station, a museum, a bank, motels, B&B's, AND a chocolatier.  A chocolatier? Dang, how did we miss that?

Our favorite small town was Greybull, Wyoming.  It was a little larger (1,800+) - practically a market town - but it still had a ton of character. My favorite stop was the museum.  It was roughly 20 feet by 20 feet - and packed with local treasures.  Betty Marcy and I giggled a lot as we perused the displays...but I promise that our giggles were of delight not derision. Here's a sampling of the wonders therein:

Dolls with handmade costumes...

...just SOME of the salt and pepper shakers donated by one lady...

...a German helmet (from The War)...

...local soil samples...
...the natural history portion of the museum included fossils...

...I'm pretty sure the bright plastic dinosaurs aren't actually fossils...

...admit it, you've never seen a diorama, in a museum, quite like this one.

I wish I had a picture of the little old couple who were manning the museum 'office' when we visited.  The wife was reading a novel (no, not Betty Neels) and the husband was doing a crossword puzzle.  I stepped in to ask a question and every time the little old man turned his chair around, he ran the wheels over his oxygen hose.  I found myself holding my breath each time.
 So, my question is, what (and where) is your favorite village (no fair counting Ye Olde English Village in your local amusement park)?


  1. Hepburnville, in NorthCentral PA.

    We have a hardware store, a travel trailer sales, an exterminator franchise, a post office (no store) a Presbyterian churcn and a Mormon church and a barber shop. And a few dozen houses, a variety of critters, and me. :)


  2. Noti, Oregon. It is nestled (yes nestled!) in the hollow of a hill on the side of the highway to the Oregon coast. It has a gorgeous, still-in-use, bright blue old schoolhouse and we knew that we were getting close when Dad began a story of how the town got it's name(which always changed--Indian's who forgot to tie up their canoes, cars whose engines dropped out for want of a tie) whose punchline was always "No tie".

  3. Your post reminds me of Indian River, MI. Oh My Goodness, did I love this place as a kid. We stopped on every vacation that went north. As a kid from downtown Detroit, Indian River was a dream place. Two rivers meet in Burt Lake. It's close to Macinaw Island and THE Bridge.I would imagine living in one of the huge homes on Main Street. We'd go to Cross of the Woods Shrine every time and would see what we called the "Nun Doll" museum . When I got my own brood I dragged them there, stayed in cottages one year and the state park another. The older ones were grown by the time we took Betty Megan. I was amazed that last time we went how many more dolls there were, even life size! The Cross was the largest crucifix in the U.S. don't know if it still is.
    At about 900 households, it's a bit bigger than your towns, but still has that country feel as so many are snowbirds and aren't around come winter!

  4. There are villages in England that are just as you describe, and then there's Twyford, where Betty Ross lived before I dragged him to a tiny place in NE PA (so small it lacks public buildings entirely -- even the post office is owned by our local C-list celebrity: Bronson Pinchot).

    Twyford has lost whatever Olde-Worlde charm it might once have had. Betty Ross's house was built in the 70s -- in The Canon, it would be the nasty house the nasty mother would have moved to after she married the nasty stepfather. Actually, Betty Ross's house was fine, just unrelievedly suburban. (British suburban is not a good thing. Which is why you don't encounter it -- EVER ("not ever?" "well, hardly ever") -- in The Canon, or PBS, or BBC America.)

    I'm currently fond of Owego, New York. I'd call it a small city rather than a village (so not on point for this post, but I'm drawing a blank on villages), on the banks of the Susquehanna (or is it the Chenango there?) River with gracious houses, an impressive courthouse, and some cute shops. Even the county office building has an impressive garden -- WAY nicer than mine.

    Sorry -- upon rereading this comment, I realize none of it is germane to the topic at hand. I'll shut up now.

  5. We haven't done a Cinema Betty in a while, so for this posting I recommend Summer Magic with Hayley Mills. An all time favorite for me. Early 1900's, A widow and her kids move from Boston to Beulah, Maine for financial reasons. thus the connection to small villages!
    This is so Betty. So many fathers who die w/o insurance after making bad investments! And the heroine is much younger at about 16 and seems to be paired up with a guy who's in his late 20's. Of course Betty would have waited at least 2 years!
    It's worth it for Burl Ives and the Ugly Bug Ball song. And the casting is marvelous, Dorothy McGuire,Deborah Walley,Una Merkel, Michael J. Pollard (C.W. Moss in Bonnnie & Clyde).
    And check out the hotties: Peter Brown and James Stacy with legs.
    I can remember waltzing around the house with my sibs singing the Pink of Perfection!

  6. Oh my heck, I love that movie, Betty Mary! All the lies..wicked lies!

  7. You forgot to specify the cricket pitch in the middle of the green. (The rest of the green doubles as the outfield, but is open for walking on when they're not playing. It is not mandatory that a road runs across the outfield and has to be closed on game days.)

    Henry BW

  8. Betty van den BetsyNovember 4, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Washington, Connecticut – the inspiration for the town of Stars Hollow of the television show The Gilmore Girls. I never saw 1/100th the eccentricity the show portrayed, but there was a real soda fountain at the drugstore. Probably the fields I used to ramble in the 1970s are now covered with mini-mansions for the hedge-fund managers who can’t afford Greenwich.

    The town itself has a lousy website, but I'm pretty sure I’ve been to a family wedding or two at this picturesque church.

    Great Barrington, MA – another lousy website, but a lovely town of 7,500 (plus hundreds who come for skiing and thousands who arrive for summer) under the Berkshire “Mountains” which are more like large hills. Hippies blending smoothies, farmers shooting deer, rich New Yahkahs dining on locally-grown (by the farmers) arugula by the light of locally-thrown (by the hippies) ceramic lanterns, and second-run movies at the Mahaiwe Theater. Yay!

    Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire – I spent a week here one autumn, and knew Mr. Shopkeeper’s life story before I left. I had a yen for hummus, so went into that tiny shop – about the size of a large-ish living room – and asked for tahini (sesame butter; a middle-eastern staple); after digging around for five minutes under Cadbury bars and tins of soup and a handful of ugly, dusty greeting cards, Mrs. Shopkeeper hauled out two jars and offered me a choice of light or dark. Which I thought amazing, given I hadn’t expected any. I went to Sunday morning church service, and that afternoon a local stopped me on the pavement, recognizing me as having been in church. (This is less impressive when you realize that there were about ten people in attendance, total. Coffee hour consisted of a parishioner bringing out a tray with paper cups of coffee on it, and a paper plate with dry sugar cookies of some (pre-fab) sort.)

    There was a marvelous cottage tea room which seems to have evolved into this. When I was there, it was a single room presided over by an unfriendly man in scuffy slippers and a light hand with the pastry – or at least chocolate cake. Opening hours were erratic at best.

  9. I was raised in the country two miles from such a "village" in Nebraska with one store, one gas station, a bank, post office and a school that covered kindergarten through 12th grade (all in the same building) and all on a main street just off the highway.

    A block one direction revealed an adorable, tiny park and a block the other way led to the small residential area. Horses were even allowed within three or four blocks of main street and people regularly ride through town.

    I definitely relate to country girls! :)

    -Hopeless Romantic

  10. Two miles from such a "village"... In which direction? Welcome, Betty Hopeless Romantic! Adorable, tiny park/people regularly ride through town - sounds like a neat place!!!
    When I was a kid we moved to a village (first mentioned in a document from 1238, its oldest "building", found in the 60s, a neolithic dolmen, 3600 B.C.), anyway: one church (only the 12th/13th century fortified tower remains from the original medieval building, Betty, do you hear me?, the ship, early 20th century, built in the Neogothic style), one grocery store, one baker on (translated) Baker Street, one supermarket, one gas station, one post office, one primary school, a fish pond, stables, fields, meadows complete with cows... But it was only about a ten minute bus ride to the nearest city’s downtown area where I went to school. So, while being in the country I never considered it as truly rural.