Next to Chair City

Here are some examples of the furniture made at Temple Stuart:


Philip Swanson carpentry skills – doll high chair

From the time in which the North Central Massachusetts community was settled with many Swedes and Finns, at the beginning of the last century and the end of the one before that, the area has been known for excellent wood working and craftsmanship. Next to Chair City, lived Philip Swanson, the author’s paternal grandfather, one of those woodworking craftsman. Yes, he resided next to Chair City, one town over, in Templeton on what would then be the main drag and, well, still is. There, he and his lifetime love, Lydia, a woman who’s memory lives on in more folks in this community than surely most, raised a large family. Their home was a combination of Philip’s trade, woodworking, and Lydia’s devoted Christian beliefs which made this home one of the warmest ones I have ever had the honor of spending time in.


Lydia and Philip Swanson 25th Anniversary

That bit of ancestry aside, let’s move on to some things we all hold dear, the memories – memories that would fade should we not record them for entirety. Having spent much time working on our family roots, I can say without reservation: recording the past whenever possible is vital. I have so enjoyed learning of my ancestors and recording them here. Now, what is all this about the woodworker? I use that term generically as Philip was a skilled artisan, a toy maker, a furniture maker, a millwright and, of course, a devoted family man. His skills brought him to tenure at Temple-Stuart, a furniture maker by day he was.


Philip Swanson Wood Shop Signs

It was in the small shop alongside that country road that he made his toys, baby furniture, and especially, to my fond recollection, his lawn decorations. As a young boy I was always excited to see them back out in front of the shop as we pulled into the driveway, the wind making them dance. In days of winter other playful activities ensued:


Chris and Betty throwing snowballs

An online search reveals many sites hosting the tables, chairs and hutches of the Rockingham line that have now started to become collectible. Any items Philip would have made through the years in his shop on Rt. 2A in Templeton surely are also to be sought after.


Eight Siblings

While much of the furniture that Philip hand crafted at the now closed mill in Baldwinville, MA is still around, we have not found much of the toys, lawn decorations, or baby furniture that he made in the roadside shop. We are hoping those who visited the shop and procured his wares can help us document his art.


Grandma Mattson, Philip_Swanson, Ruth_Alm, and Ingrid_Swanson

Uncle Phil also adds:

Before Temple Stuart, dad worked for L&Z Kamman of Gardner as furniture designer and maker. Before that he worked at Conant Ball of Gardner. He also did some work at home for Gem Industries of Gardner making cribs and cradles. One interesting aspect of his work at Temple Stuart was that some of the kitchen sets that he designed were featured on the original Price is Right TV game show when Bud Cullin was the host. Uncle Phil.

There are many memories the family has from life in and around Templeton. My Uncle Phil would like to share these:A Trip Down Memory Lane(A trip of an early lifetime)By Philip Eugene SwansonA while ago, Betty suggested that I should write down some of the things I remember from years past. These are the things I remember (in no particular order).

  • The summer of 1947 when Mom came out the back door with tears in her eyes and took us inside to tell us of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt.
  • Riding in the front seat between Mom and Dad in 1947; coming down a hill and seeing Niagara Falls.
  • On a Sunday afternoon in Grand Rapids, MI, at the age of 10, asking Jesus to be my Savior.
  • The night Betty was born and we spent the night at the Gelsamene’s.
  • My second grade teacher, Mrs. Mott, and how strict she was.
  • Potato harvesting—digging them up, drying them off on the side lawn, bringing them down into the cellar in to a big bin and checking them every week during the winter for any spoilage. All small potatoes were boiled and fed to the chickens.
  • Every Sunday, Dad would buy extra newspapers and I would bring them up the hill to the Johnsons and the Nelsons.
  • My 7th & 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Knight.
  • The old Templeton Inn (where the fire station is now) with its grand entrance and stairway.
  • The old-old Templeton High School located next to the church in Templeton Center and how we would sneak in to play basketball. It had peach baskets for the nets.
  • Playing baseball on the Templeton Common.
  • Sitting on the front lawn on a Sunday afternoon and watching all the cars go by in the fall. In that time, Templeton Center was considered the beginning of the Mohawk Trail (and Rte 2 had not yet been built).
  • Saturday mornings listening to ‘Let’s Pretend’ on the radio at five past 11, sponsored by Cream of Wheat.
  • Haying at Johnson’s farm up on the hill.
  • Ice skating on the pond before school, after school and after supper, we’d build a fire and skate some more.
  • Attending my first basketball game at Templeton High School and thinking what a great gym it was. I ended up playing four years there.
  • Getting a real cold drink from the well out back on a hot summer day.
  • Being sick with Scarlet Fever and having a towel wrapped around my ears.
  • Home deliveries: Tip Top Bread, Holsum Donuts, blocks of ice, soda delivered for 2 cents a bottle. It came by horse and wagon from a company in Otter River.
  • Watching the northern lights on many a cold winter night as we slid down the hills out back. Many a time we used pieces of cardboard as our sled.
  • Listening to the World Series on the radio each September. The games were always played in the afternoon and the teacher would bring in a radio.
  • Listening to Holy Cross win the NCAA Baseball Championship on the late 40’s and the NCAA Basketball Championship.
  • Picking pumpkins and squash in Aiken’s garden and putting them in the wagon as Harold drove it.
  • Our biggest trick on Halloween-waxing windows.
  • Walking the streets of downtown Gardner on a Friday night and busy the stores were.
  • Eating a grilled cheese sandwich at the counter at Robichaud’s (Betty’s note—Robillard’s?). It cost 15 cents and a frappe was 20 cents.
  • The Grange Fair every fall on the Common.
  • Going through all twelve grades of school with Delmar LeBlanc, Jean Petrie and Francine Fitzpatrick.
  • Cutting grass for the cemetery dept. Working at Pease Orchard, L&Z Kamman furniture factory and later at Temple Stuart’s–loading freights cars with furniture.
  • Mountain Climbing Day at school each October.
  • Waiting each month for the Saturday Evening Post to be delivered.
  • The stacks of Christmas cards that came in the mail during the Christmas season.
  • Waiting each year for Dad to bring home the Christmas tree and decorating it after supper.
  • Allen Delisle and I playing catch on the side lawn.
  • The hot dog stand at the little store at Queen Lake. They were the best.
  • Mowing the lawn with a ten inch wide rotary blade push lawn mower.
  • Burning the trash in a wire barrel in the back yard.
  • Our first telephone number—4422; no area code; a party lien!
  • Listening to Emerson Aiken talk on his ham radio through our television set.
  • Putting foil on the wires of the TV and moving it up and down to improve reception.
  • Pushing Dad’s car out the driveway and down the road to get it started on a cold winter day.
  • Sliced minced meat Dad bought at the Coop for sandwiches.
  • Going to Don’s Chat & Chew in Westminster after various school activities.
  • Kate Smith introducing to the world, God Bless America’ from the steps of the Park Street Church in Boston.
  • The Howdy Dowdy show every afternoon with Buffalo bob, Howdy, Mr. Fluster, Mr. Bluster, Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring, and many others.
  • Our old rotor antenna on the roof and a dial on the TV.
  • Christmas Eves—just the family but what anticipation!
  • Supper every day at 5:20; that’s the time Dad got home from work.
  • Cott soda, Tip Top Bread & donuts, Brockleman’s market, Wares’ Market, the Evening Gazette and Trading Stamps.
  • Major League Baseball players coming to Waterford field after their season was over; such players as Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and players from other teams.
  • Putting pennies on the railroad tracks just before the train came and flattened them.
  • The 7:00 and 5:00 whistle from Conant & Ball.
  • Buying popsicles at the Co-op for 2 cents.
  • Visiting with Pete in his ‘shanty’ in the woods out back.
  • Memorial Day Parades at the Pine Grove Cemetery.
  • Stores being open only one night a week after 6:00.
  • Ladder Hill Ski area with its rope tow.
  • The Boston braves and Braves Field.
  • Mom’s homemade Root Beer.
  • Frozen bed sheets hanging on the line after washing.
  • Dad being strict but Ingrid had him wrapped around her finger.
  • The day Dad came home with the new Nash Rambler station wagon.
  • Sleeping and camping out for a week in Plainfield, VT
  • New Year’s Eve—sitting around the radio and doing picture puzzles. We must have lasted till 9:00.
  • Always having to let Jim, Chris and Betty have first choice on the toys we played with.
  • Digging for boots in the corner cupboard in the back hallway.
  • Ingrid and her yellow tomatoes; she preferred them over the red ones.
  • Eddie and all his ice fishing equipment.
  • George and his light blue Ford convertible.
  • Whose turn it was to wash or wipe the supper dishes and clear off the table.
  • Mom and Hilma Aiken going out moss hunting.
  • The sound of Mr. Aiken cutting wood every autumn.
  • Going fishing down at Trout Brook.
  • Each and every coal delivery.
  • On a cold night, standing on the floor register to get warm
  • Scratch feed for the chickens.
  • The Bantam roosters.
  • The geese chasing us around the yard.
  • Dad repairing the wooden car doors for the old woodies.
  • Arlene and Louise always going off somewhere together.
  • Milton Berle and the Men of Texaco on Tuesday nights; George Gobel on Thursday nights; Red Skelton on Wednesday nights and Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco on Saturday nights in the Show of Shows.
  • On the radio dial: Mr. & Mrs. North, Gangbusters, Inner Sanctum and the Great Gildersleeve.
  • Baseball games telecast with only one camera—above first base.
  • Dad sitting in the car listening to the Braves baseball games.
  • Mrs. Sargood’s “Cash customers”.
  • Baby chicks being raised in the kitchen.
  • Uncle Paul’s cherry trees.
  • Grandpa’s tulip garden.
  • Jim constantly following Eddie around.
  • Burning off the grass every spring to promote new growth.
  • The old train passenger station across from Conant & Ball.
  • The old gas pumps at the Candlelight.
  • When May Day meant getting small baskets of candy.
  • Sitting on the front steps on a warm summer night and watching the fireflies.
  • Getting together with cousin Gerry to find a place to play basketball—often at the Prospect Street school where Gerry was friends with the janitor.
  • Looking through stuff in the attic.
  • Sunday trips to Worcester on the old dirt roads.
  • Riding in the back of Earl Woods’ pick-up to play softball in Otter River.
  • The barber shop above the Co-op Grain store.
  • Kool-Aid, the standard summertime drink.
  • When our toys were leftover pieces of wood from Dad’s shop.
  • Mom’s homemade buns and how many roasting pans she would fill when she was done.
  • Emerson taking his walk through the woods every afternoon.
  • Snooky Lanson and Giselle Mackenzie and your Hit Parade every Friday night.
  • Climbing on the iron elk in John Ohman’s yard.
  • Dad and Mom ever in an argument?
  • Sunday ham dinner; everyone wanting the burnt pieces.
  • Miettinen’s little grocery store next to the Templeton Lunch
  • Picking concord grapes by the road in front of Aiken’s house.
  • TV test patterns—the only thing showing from 11:30PM to 7 AM.
  • The sound of gun shots on opening day of deer hunting season.
  • Friday nights going into Sears to see Uncle Bert.
  • Gathering around the piano at Grandpa’s and singing while Ruthie played the piano.
  • Bus rides to Gardner every hour from 6AM to 6PM for 10 cents.
  • Campbells’ Pork and beans and hot dogs every Sat. The hot dogs sliced in half lengthwise and sliced again widthwise—in order to feed all of us.
  • Putting up and taking down the old storm windows.
  • Being chosen to clap the chalk eraser at the end of the school day.
  • Having my tonsils removed by Dr. Roberts at the Baldwinville Hospital Cottages.
  • Wooden bumpers on cars made right after the end of WWII (no chrome available).
  • The old Studebaker cars.
  • Old comic strips in the Sunday newspapers; how many can you remember? Mutt & Jeff, Nancy, Katzanjammer Kids, etc.
  • The Boston Travelor Daily Newspaper.
  • Old products like Jack Sprat canned goods, Duz detergent, Hires Root beer extract, Hudson cars, Tip Top Bakery goods, and good ole Geritol.
  • Mom’s homemade sugar cookies in the shape of the letter S.
  • Watching the long line of army trucks on their way to Camp Drum in NY.
  • Walking home from grammar school every day until I got tired of it and got on the school bus and told the driver we lived too far away; after that, we never walked to or from school. In those days, if you lived a certain distance from the school, you rode free; if you lived closer you paid 10 cents a week and we couldn’t afford 10 cents for the three of us.
  • My first toy truck—a small piece of 2×4.
  • My first toy gun—a stick.
  • My first holster for my toy gun—an old sock tied to my pants.
  • Swimming across Pine Point Pond.
  • Missing the first night of basketball practice my senior year to help Dad in his work shop and his wanting to write a note to the coach explaining why I missed practice.
  • Complaining when the price of gas went up to 25 cents a gallon.
  • Taking the carpet up in the living room, bringing it outside to hang on the clothesline and beating it with a carpet beater to get it clean; no vacuum cleaners in those days.
  • Christmas 1947 when George and I got our electric train set. 1947 must have been a good year as that was the year of our trip to Michigan.
  • Walking the train tracks to Queen Lake road to mow the lawn of a relative of the Saftstom’s.
  • Dad taking us to Endicott Johnson’s for new shoes.
  • Sunday School picnics at Lake Ellis in Athol.
  • Saturday night baths in the round tub in the kitchen. Can you imagine kids getting their baths that way today?
  • Going to the Brow for some ice cream on a hot summer day.
  • George, Eddie and I staying up late Saturday nights in Ed’s room and picking up stations all over the world on his radio (How did Eddie end up with his own room and radio?)
  • Taking Betty outside to walk around when she ‘acted up’ in church
  • Sunday chicken dinners.
  • Do you remember the day Dad came to get us out of school because Grandpa died? The last time most of us saw him was in church on a Sunday night.
  • Being thankful for the day and age we were brought up in—when it was really true, “Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.

Phil says: I think it would be a great idea if the rest of the siblings (and others!) also made up a list of memories –to add to this list and to leave with the next generations of memory sake. Will you join me in creating this keepsake?

So, please leave a comment below if you can add information about the products that Philip made, or want to add your own memories of life in Templeton.