Taking a vacation usually means going somewhere completely different in order to get a change of scenery. While my recent trip to New England did bring a change of scenery in the technical sense, it also brought some comforting sameness.
We traveled to my father’s hometown of Shelburne Falls, Mass. It’s located in the northwestern part of that state, along Route 2, which is more commonly known as the Mohawk Trail. The name comes from the Mohawk Indians of New York who once traveled the path to salmon fishing spots on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers with the Pocumtuck Indians. Early settlers also used the trail to traverse between Boston and Deerfield, which were English settlements, and the Dutch settlements in New York.
One of the most notable salmon fishing sites is Shelburne Falls on the Deerfield River.
The town has its uniqueness both in the Salmon Falls as it’s called, and upstream at The Bridge of Flowers. Once a trolley bridge that crossed the Deerfield River from the Village of Shelburne Falls to the town of Buckland, in 1929 the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club sponsored a project to turn the deserted bridge into a display of flowers and shrubs. It’s the only one of its kind and draws tourists from all over to walk across the bridge in the spring, summer and fall.
While we were in “the Falls,” the village was celebrating the 90th anniversary of the bridge’s transformation. The five-arch concrete bridge has a path down its center with flowerbeds along each side. Despite it being October, there were roses, dahlias, daisies and, of course, mums in bloom. Visitors with cameras in hand crossed the bridge, stopping frequently to take photographs. I heard one young boy ask his mother when they would be home. She replied that it took them two hours to arrive in Shelburne Falls and they’d return home later in the afternoon.
It amazed me that all these people had come to see the bridge and possibly take part in the celebration that included a parade of children and speeches and cake at the community center. The bridge is maintained by the current Women’s Club and by volunteer help and donations. When dad was just a young boy, he was one of two boys who were asked to help with the weeding of the flowerbeds. He tells me it was he and the son of the minister from the Baptist church, which dad also attended.
Down river from the bridge is the Salmon Falls that offers more than just a historic spot for salmon fishing. The area is the largest selection of glacial potholes in the country, according to the Mohawk Trail Region website. The potholes predate the Indians “by thousands of years” and were formed “by attacking whirlpools of water and gyrating stones of the Glacial Age that eroded the granite.”
Shelburne Falls is about the size of Brookville, with a busy Main Street as well. There is history found in both areas but the most noticeable characteristic these two places have in common is the friendliness of the people.
There are not many, if any, of the people dad once knew still living in Shelburne Falls. That doesn’t seem to matter though as we made our way around town, stopping at the local grocery store, restaurants and more. Even those passing on the street would offer a hello, a good morning or just a friendly smile. Despite being hundreds of miles away from Brookville, it still felt like our area of Pennsylvania. Even the terrain is similar with rolling hills, farmland, forests and streams.
The towns have changed across the decades as businesses change but the people one finds there – hardworking, friendly, welcoming – have remained unchanged. Whatever the reason for their commonality, their shared characteristics made spending a few days there comfortable and stress free – just what a good vacation should be.