Colony Bay TV

The Very Beginning ..Or How I got so Obsessed with the Colonies..

April 30, 2011 James Riley

Growing up, my mother kept a rather large studio (converted from a two car garage) just next to the kitchen. She pursued oil on canvas, watercolor, china painting, textile arts, and portraiture, along with seamstressing and costuming skills that rendered me the indisputable champion as “headless horseman” in Halloween costume contests all through my elementary school years at Highland Oaks in Arcadia, California.

She was one of the first moms in suburbia to bring back whole wheat bread as well, and I spent many years apologizing for having no Wonder Bread at school — until I realized that my mother and her bread were far more popular than I was. People loved her art, her cooking, her conversation. She was what you would call a Bohemian conservative, a patriot daughter of thunder, but the complete opposite of the pearls and crinoline crowd. She wore beaded moccasins and a painter’s smock, and I don’t recall anyone every not being welcome in her home

The Scarecrow of Romney MarshOut in that studio, she kept an old Royal typewriter with a black and red ink ribbon, and I can remember being fascinated by the perpetual freshness of the deep black and red colors, the wetness of the ink, and the strangely empowering notion I could print up something in one of two colors whenever I wanted. Beneath the typewriter, were file drawers full of genealogy and a worn pedigree chart that actually, along some branches, went back to the 16th century. One of the place names always stuck out for me, on this side of the Atlantic, was “Chesterfield, New Hampshire.”


Who knows why it sounded so shire-like and royal to me? Perhaps I had heard the name “Lord Chesterfield” somewhere, or perhaps Mom’s maiden name — Winsor — communicated an ear for baronies and earldoms. I know that the word, Chesterfield, doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. Some people think cigarettes. My brother can’t get past the lumpy, ungainly sound of the name “Chester” at the root. For me, though, it presented almost instant mythology. You can almost hear it in this simple sentence: Many of my ancestors lived on the Connecticut River, in a place called Chesterfield, on the eve of the American Revolution.”Your great great great great grandfather Zerubabel,” mom said, “was captain of the militia there.”

The nice thing about moms is that they take you seriously, even when you’re eight years old, and she proceeded to tell me all about the Snow family of New Hampshire and the Pulsiphers (tavern keepers of Vermont) and even our famous cousins, John and Sam Adams.
“You are related to them through the Streeters. Amos Streeter lived in Chesterfield too.”
Luana Patten
Well, that did it — along with Johnny Tremaine and the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Who wouldn’t want to be one of the sons of liberty, plotting righteous rebellion against the ministerial villains? It was 1968–an odd chapter in time where Disney’s Tomorrow Land was yielding to the age of Aquarius–but I was out of it all, hooked on candle-lit taverns and midnight rides and the spark of black powder.Oh, and… Luana Patten (who played Johnny Tremaine’s girlfriend) might have had something to do with it too.

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