Note: This transcript is from a series of interviews conducted by Harold Anderson of Valley Eye Radio during Worthington’s 250th anniversary celebrations, which took place from June 29 to July 3, 2018. Valley Eye Radio, based in the Pioneer Valley, provides local news, interviews and other content to those with vision loss or other disabilities.
Harold Anderson: Kevin, are you a lifelong resident of Worthington or did you move here?
Kevin Porter: I am a lifelong resident, one of the few natives still left here in town.
HA: So how long has your family been in Worthington?
KP: Since around 1958. But I’ve had ancestors that were here before that as well. My grandfather was born here in Worthington, where the golf course is today, back in 1900. My father grew up on a dairy farm, and his father’s farm wasn’t big enough to keep him busy. So my father broke off to start his own dairy farm, and he purchased a farm here in Worthington around 1958.
HA: So what do you like most about Worthington?
KP: I like it being a nice, small-knit community where everybody knows everybody and helps out thy neighbor as much they can, whenever somebody’s in need or needs a little helping hand.
HA: What was it like going to the schools here?
KP: It was a quiet, small community, so everybody knew everybody and it was pretty easygoing. Everything was nice, but once we had to graduate and go to junior high down at Gateway, then that was a big, big change.
HA: How so?
KP: The grammar school here in town was just up to fourth grade. Then junior high is part of the Gateway school system. You’re in a bigger school with six other communities, so there was a lot more students to get to meet and be friends with and learn different cultures.
HA: So what would you say is Worthington’s best feature?
KP: Probably the open fields that we still have here in town. There was a large potato farm here in town at one time, and all those fields are still open. A few of them have houses in them, unfortunately, but for the most part there’s still a lot of good open farm country here.
HA: A lot of people do farming here?
KP: Thirty, forty years ago there was a big farming community. Today, not so much as it used to be. But there’s a lot of smaller, organic, new-type of farming starting to come back alive in the area.
HA: So when you were growing up, what was Worthington like back then?
KP: It’s funny how times have changed. As everybody says, thirty years ago things were a lot quieter and easier-going. You could go up to the store and a post office here in the center of town, and you would know everybody that you’d bump into up there. Today, you go up there and you might not know half the people because there are new people that come to town, and we just don’t socialize enough to get to know your neighbor as good as we used to.
HA: What kind of activity did you have here in Worthington?
KP: I did start working for Ben Albert in the potato fields at the age of twelve. I wasn’t supposed to, but Ben gave me the job because he trusted me. For state laws, insurance reasons, you weren’t supposed to be that young to work, but I did, and I also picked potatoes for Joe Sena. We used to pick potatoes by hand years ago.
HA: Potatoes, you have to dig them out of the ground?
KP: They would go through with a harvester and put the potatoes on top of the ground. Then you would go along and everybody had a barrel to fill up. Every person had a bunch of cards with numbers or a letter on it. You would fill a barrel, put your card on that barrel. They would keep track of how many barrels you picked in a day, and you were paid so much a barrel for picking potatoes by hand.
HA: So what kind of potatoes did they grow?
KP: Well, there was a lot of different varieties and I can’t remember them all. But they were special potatoes for State Line Potato Chips, a big company in Wilbraham years ago. A lot of the potatoes went there.
HA: So years ago, when I was eating a bag of State Line Potato Chips, I might have been eating something from Worthington.
KP: There’s a very, very good chance of it, yes.
HA: I know there’s also maple sugaring in the area, did you ever get involved in that?
KP: I did. There was a farmer in town years ago, Howard Mollison, a big sugar maker. I worked for him as a young person during sugaring season, hanging the buckets on the trees and then collecting the sap. Then at the end of the season, collecting the buckets back off the trees and spending the weekend washing buckets. That was quite a project when you had to wash the buckets by hand.
HA: When you had some free time when you were growing up, what would you do?
KP: Well, there was another family here in town, the Sheldon kids. And the Nugent kids I grew up with. We’d get on our bicycles and go all over town. Also there’s a lot of trails in the woods, and there’s this group of people that ride snowmobiles through the trail in the wintertime. We would take our bicycles through the woods on the snowmobile trails and we’d travel all over. One of the other favorite spots was Albert’s Pond. It was a very popular swimming hole in town and everybody went swimming down there. There was one summer my mother bought me a membership at the Swim and Tennis Club. But I spent more time at Albert’s Pond than I did at the town pool, and she was upset about that. So she only did that one summer.
HA: Do you have friends or family that come visit you, and what’s their reaction when they first come to Worthington?
KP: Oh, just being so nice and quiet and peaceful. You don’t hear traffic going by, you don’t hear trains, you don’t hear sirens like you would in the city. I think the quiet tranquility of it all, the peacefulness.
HA: You ever do any farming yourself?
KP: Presently my wife and I have an alpaca farm. We have six alpacas right now, and we shear the animals once a year in the spring. Then we send the fiber to a place down in Fall River, Mass, and they process it all for us. We get back hats, socks, mittens, all kinds of wintertime garments.
HA: Oh, that’s appropriate for here.
KP: And that is a very nice product, much better than wool. One of the things I explain to people about the difference between the alpaca fiber and the wool is, the alpaca fiber is silky smooth. If you had a pair of wool socks, you always get a little bit of a scratchy itch to them. But the alpaca fiber is silky smooth, and it is the best pair of socks you’ll wear in the wintertime.
HA: So do you sell them locally?
KP: We do. It’s hard to sell them on a day like today when it’s 80 degrees outside. We go to a few craft shows in the fall, at the beginning of the Christmas season when people start shopping.
HA: So I see you’re a part of the 250th celebration here. You’re part of the committee?
KP: Yes, I joined. I came into it a few months afterwards, because I work for the state highway department and couldn’t get any time to come to the meetings. But once spring finally broke, I’ve been coming to the meetings and helped out. I’ve been a member of the Volunteer Fire Department here in Worthington for 35 years, so I got chosen to contact all our neighboring towns to come and participate today in our parade. We had a good turnout for fire trucks today in our parade, along with everything else.
HA: So what’s your favorite season here?
KP: Oh, probably everybody would say the fall, with the nice, cool, crisp air. Then when the trees start turning, the colors are beautiful up here on the edge of the Berkshires, when the foliage starts changing. That’s a beautiful season, September, October.
HA: You mentioned being involved with the highway department. Do winters in Worthington live up to or down to their reputation?
KP: Oh, they live up to it very well. It gets very cold and snowy and windy up here. That is one of the issues with having our open fields for the agriculture and the farming industry. When that wind gets to blowing the snow, that really drifts and blows into the roadways. It keeps us busy plowing snowdrifts in the winter months and the windy nights.
Posted September 7, 2020. The interview transcription was funded by a grant from the Worthington Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.