By Tom Adams
One Friday evening in April, about 1965, a dozen or so men in their mid-twenties arrived in Bridgewater in search of non-resident fishing licenses. They were a good part of a group known as the Jolly Boys, a loose club formed of male members of the teaching staff of Rockville High School in Connecticut. The Jolly Boys had two meetings per year. One in the fall to feast, drink, and in the night to hunt raccoons. And one during spring break to go to Vermont with the goal of catching trout. Each member was informally required to bring along two bottles of invigorating spirits, one of the good stuff, and one of an inexpensive blackberry brandy, the latter on the theory that when your pals ran dry they still wouldn’t want a slug of the cheap stuff.
Because I was familiar with Bridgewater, I was more or less leading the group. We arrived in Bridgewater about 10:00 this Friday evening partly in search of fishing licenses, and partly because I knew that the Rustic Tavern in Bridgewater was the only bar for a long way in any direction.
So we parked near the Rustic Tavern, opened the door and marched in. I seated myself at the bar and soon discovered that the fellow to my left was Bridgewater native Ted Wood and that we were distantly related. After we had toasted numerous shared relatives, I mentioned that my crew would need fishing licenses. He looked thoughtful, and then said, “Come with me.”
He led us across Route 4, which was deserted at this hour. to a house he identified as Mrs. Cram’s. I knew that she was the town clerk, and also that her late husband, Dr. Cram, had delivered my father back in 1909. Ted scanned the windows of her house and guessed that she would be asleep. But in his mind the lateness of the hour did not constitute an obstacle. He promptly began to shinny up one of the pillars on Mrs. Cram’s porch, swung up onto the porch roof, and crept up to her bedroom window.
The crowd of us below could hear him tapping gently on her bedroom window, and then speaking softly, and in gentlemanly tones, “Mrs. Cram, oh Mrs. Cram, it’s Ted, Mrs. Cram.” After a little pause he explained with considerable poise that a group of fishermen needed licenses. She agreed and in a few minutes opened the front door to us.
As we began one by one to give her the required information and to pay for our licenses, we began to feel a bit ashamed at having awakened an elderly lady at this hour, and a resolution was quietly passed to leave her with a good tip. About that time the late evening quiet of Bridgewater village was enlivened by the first of a long sequence of jeeps and trucks that were a U.S. Army convoy traveling from Fort Drum in New York to some destination to the east of Bridgewater. Each vehicle came to a noisy stop in front of the Rustic Tavern. They did so with a precision that suggested considerable prior experience. The occupants dashed in and reappeared after perhaps 90 seconds – long enough to down one shot, and possibly two. They quickly drove off. Within a minute or two another few vehicles would arrive and repeat the task. I would guess that there were about 50 vehicles in all; these abrupt celebrations went on for quite some time. Between the Jolly Boys and the U.S. Army, to liquid stocks of the Rustic Tavern were taking quite a hit this night.
Soon the traffic subsided and we all had our licenses. We left Mrs. Cram (despite her protests) with a nice tip. then marched across Route 4 again to properly toast our mentor and porch-climber Ted. Finally at a late hour the Jolly Boys went off to Bridgewater Corners to camp under the stars, and quiet descended once again on downtown Bridgewater.