This post is both the easiest and hardest for me to write. Harold Tompkins Mollison is my grandfather, and I miss him to this day. He taught me what it means to truly be rich in family, and how that outweighs being rich in money. He was far from a perfect man, including but not limited to his stubbornness! And one definitely didn’t want to be on his bad side. But he loved my grandmother so much, and his love for his children, grandchildren, and extended family was plain to see.
He was born in 1921, the 4th child and 3rd son to Stewart and Emeline Tompkins Mollison. He lived almost his whole live in Goshen, attending Goshen Center School and Williamsburg High School. He did not graduate from high school.
He moved to Barre to for work and it is there he met his future wife, Phyllis May Thompson. They were married there and moved back to Goshen after the birth of the first of their three children. They would remain in Goshen for the remainder of their lives.
They did live in several homes, one in Florence, one on Route 9, one on South Main Street, the Spencer Tilton farm on Wing Hill Road, and finally their own home at the top of Wing Hill Road where it meets East Street.
- 1930: Goshen: 8 years old, living with parents and 4 siblings, a farm laborer, and a boarder.
- 1940: Goshen: 18 years old, living with parents and 6 siblings. Shows completed 3 years of high school, and working as a chauffeur.
- The primary occupation for him was as farmer and machinist. He built a tool sharpening business that thrived upon his retirement from farming. It occupied 1/2 of his garage and allowed him to have an income while still being at home with Phyllis.
This is a strong thread in the Mollison family and their ties with Goshen. It is actually common for many families in the area to be involved, one might say making it a stereotypical New England town.
Harold Mollison served as a baseball coach, school bus driver, ambulance driver, Board of Selectman for 12 years, Board of Health for 29 years, Conservation Commission, 4-H Club leader, Goshen Historical Society member, and a Hampshire County Commissioner.
One just had to look at his key ring to know that he was involved in the community. I remember my grandmother telling me that he tended to the boiler at the Center School, and even had his picture made when the annual school pictures were taken.
While he was Grandpa to six of us, he was Uncle Harold to his many nieces and nephews, and Mr Mollison to many children in town.
I lived with my grandparents in the summer of 1981 due to my grandfather’s back surgery. This was during their time on the Tilton Town Farm. They raised chickens on the farm as it was owned by the town. They also had their own separate garden, pigs, and chickens. I quickly learned an appreciation for what my grandfather did in the barns tending to the chickens. He was very fastidious about how well they were doing and tracking their output and making sure they were not treated poorly. Many local children had their first jobs working with my grandfather on the farm. It struck me how many came to pay their respects when he passed.
I knew my place was not in the barns with him, but with my grandmother tending to the eggs – cleaning, sorting and packing them. Along with that I learned how to run the cash register and interact with the public that came to purchase eggs. And no time to sleep in on Saturdays! That was dump day – and the town dump was town the road from the farm so it was very busy from opening until close.
A benefit to spending a week at the farm each summer was to go along for the deliveries on Wednesday and Friday. The routes were different, but he knew everyone along the way. And they knew we were coming with him. Sometimes there were lollipops or sodas, sometimes they just wanted to see how big we had gotten since our last trip. He was proud of us and it showed that his clients knew about us and our accomplishments.
He taught me the value of fixing things instead of buying something new. Time spend fixing the egg machines or some other appliance on the farm was I also remember the first time as an adult taking them out to dinner on my dime. He was very upset that I had a credit card. He was concerned that I was living beyond my means.
Thanksgivings were, and continue to be, an important gathering time for this family. The farm house allowed for many to join in the festivities. These gatherings are some of the happiest memories I have with my grandparents. But the happiest I ever remember being able to make my grandfather was the Thanksgiving of 1989. My sister and I had moved away when we were teenagers and Thanksgivings were no longer spent with our grandparents. We were of age and had the means to join the family that year. I remember my grandfather standing against the door frame between the kitchen and the living room. He was looking over the family gathered there and I asked him if he was happy. The look in his eyes said it all, he was so happy to have all of his grandchildren there together. I would try again many years later to have us all in one place. As it turned out I was the only one not to make it due to a sinus infection that kept me from flying. He was still thrilled that we had attempted to get everyone there.
My other memories of my grandfather center around his pets. The one dog I remember was Roxie Star, a boston bulldog. That dog adored him, and just him. She would snap at the rest of us – just try and sit in her chair or in her spot in the truck. But it worked for them.
And then there was Henry, the crow. Henry was found in the back field having been abandoned by his mother. His new home became the front porch, when seasonally appropriate. My grandfather had a routine – for lunch each day he had a bologna and cheese sandwich with mustard on rye bread and a Coca Cola in the glass bottle (pre New Coke and 2 liter bottle days). The top of that Coca Cola was given to Henry has a toy. Henry would drop them out of the cage onto the porch floor. Clang. Clang…..Clang. And then you’d pick them up and he’d get all excited about them. But nothing excited him more than Grandpa giving him his new one each day. I’m not sure how long Henry lived but you didn’t aggravate Henry, you played with Henry.
In the evenings, after the chores were done, we would sit on the front porch and listen to music. My parents had some extra speakers and one year they were installed on the front porch so that the music could be played in both the living room and outdoors. There was a big console with the record player built in for the albums that were played. Perry Como, Andy Williams, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and traditional gospel hymns come to mind. It soothed him. We would sit on the porch and swing and just listen to the birds, look for the fox in the lower field, or talk.
Then there were those evenings when we were told we were going visiting. We, my sister and me or some semblance of cousins, would get the backseat of their car and traipse off to some relative or friend’s home for short visit. I wish now I had paid attention to who those relatives truly were. I imagine it was mostly his cousins and friends. If it had been to his siblings, I would have remembered as I knew them better.
As I said, he was not a perfect man. Most grandchildren have far different views of their grandparents than do their parents. It is normal for people to grown and change thru time. I am grateful that I knew the man I called Grandpa. I am thankful he was at my college graduation. I am grateful he lived to see 2 of his grandchildren married. He was so proud of all of us. Each of us had our own separate experience with him, because we were not the same to him. We were individuals and he loved us all.