WILLIAMSTOWN — Long before crime, scandal and other juicy tidbits of news were delivered in real-time and “living color” via ingenious electronic devices, people relied on newspapers to keep them in the know.
By today’s standards, the pace of life 90-plus years ago was agonizingly slow. This was especially true in towns and villages, where gossip was the alternating current that powered the gathering and dissemination of news.
Local grapevines didn’t always hang heavy with fruit, and most consumers knew — or tried not so hard to forget — that there was no guarantee that the fruit would be fresh and/or unspoiled.
Enter the local newspaper. In those hallowed columns, it was said, truth reigned supreme. Or not, as viewers of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film “North By Northwest” learned. A self-satisfied character in the movie proudly declared that the cock-and-bull story put out by a certain national intelligence agency had “acquired the authority of the printed word.” An unwary public had taken the bait again.
It’s unlikely that any fear of deception was abroad in Williamstown on a late December day in 1931. There were plenty of other clear and present dangers to worry about: The Great Depression was on, and the annual epidemic of cabin fever was nearing its height.
Against this dull, somber background, editors of the North Adams Transcript might well have rejoiced upon receipt of a dispatch from South Williamstown describing in minute detail a fracas involving members of a family well-known for troublemaking and Alpheus Steele, a town constable.
The account of a show-cause hearing in the District Court was unsigned and ran for nearly 20 column inches. Headlined “Three Maynard Brothers Are Charged With Assaulting Constable Alpheus Steele,” it named the defendants as brothers Herbert Jr., William and Francis Maynard, all of whom were charged with assaulting Steele in the aftermath of an altercation at the home of the Carter family near Roaring Brook.
The brothers, whose notoriety persisted for many years after the incident, were said to have become involved in a fight among themselves at the Carter house. The struggle allegedly also involved another brother, Andrew Maynard, and the family patriarch, Herbert E. Maynard.
Steele was called to quell the fight “but he was unable to do so although he placed Francis under arrest. After Constable Steele had left the Carter place and returned to his home near the Corners (the intersection of Routes 7 and 43 named for his family), the Maynards went there and the fighting was resumed,” the article reads.
“Some of the blows were exchanged between the brothers themselves; others between the brothers and men who came to the assistance of the officer when the three brothers were on him,” it continues, citing testimony at the hearing. “Besides the blows, there was much cursing and some biting. At least one of the participants had lost some of his clothing, and three, including Constable Steele, still had bandages on their hands in court today.”
The hearing was well attended, the account states. Some of the testimony provoked laughter, prompting then-Police Chief George A. Royal to call for order.
The outcome of the case was unclear from the available news clips, but an otherwise dreary December day was enlivened when Williamstown got a taste of Dodge City. It wasn’t always quiet around here.
Drivers headed north into Williamstown on Route 7 need only to glance northeastward as they crest the hill near Mount Greylock Regional High School to enjoy one of the finest views in New England.
That the gently rolling landscape is not dotted with expensive houses and veined with roads is due in no small measure to the stewardship of the Galusha family, who have owned and farmed the land for five generations.
On March 2, the family lost a loved one, and the town a good friend, when Jim Galusha died at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio following surgery for a heart disorder. He was 73.
As a young man, Jim worked at his family’s Fairfields Farm and later at a western ranch before returning home to branch out into heavy equipment and excavation work. His son, Jay, now operates the business.
Among Jim’s early clients were residents of the road I live on, a private, unpaved “way.” Twenty or so years ago, I inherited the honorary post of “mayor” of Sabin Drive. The job description called for regular consultation with Jim on such matters as grading, filling and plowing the road.
Invariably patient and helpful, Jim brought his experience and wise counsel to bear on such questions as when to carry out maintenance operations such as grading and pothole filling. He always sought to avoid having a heavy rain wash yards of costly fill into the nearby highway. He almost always got it right. Jim Galusha was an able, honest business owner and a friend to many. He’ll be much missed.