By Sheila Mason Gale
In Canterbury's Historical Society calendar, there is a photo of Safford Mills on Tracy Road near the bridge over Kitt Brook. In 1920 Edward and Emma Eastland bought this saw and gristmill. They were familiar with Canterbury since they often came to visit Emma's sister, Lydia Erickson. They liked the town so much they decided to move here and raise a family. The Eastlunds, with their children Emma, Lucy, Ina, Helen and Charles spent many hours maintaining the mills which were run by waterpower.
The grist mill ground much of the grain for local farmers and the saw mill was just as busy. Charlie remembers big chestnut logs that were 54" around, but the saw was only 52" so he had to use a wedge on the log. Besides maintaining the mill, there were lots of other chores to do such as picking apples in the autumn. Charlie says it takes 16 bushels of apples to make 50 gallons of cider.
Charlie walked 1½ miles on gravel roads to Frost school. He didn't mind the walk because he always liked to be outdoors. His teachers were Mary Lathrop and Grace Dawley. In the summer he liked to play baseball, tag, Fox and Geese and go fishing in Anna Hart's pond. In the winter all the children would go ice skating on Webbers Pond near the intersection of Bennett Pond Rd and Lisbon Rd.
The section of Tracy Road where Charlie lived was a small "industrial zone". Quite a few of the neighbors had businesses. The Hicks made chestnut shingles and the Smiths made hoops and hockey sticks. When the hoop shop went out of business they gave all the hoop making implements to Mystic seaport for a display. The Saffords had a pickle farm that made and sold pickles to the Stanley Company. In 1919 the pickle farm was bought by August Grab who still has descendants in town.
Anyone who knows Charlie knows he's a hard worker. He started work at the age of 14 at the Plainfield Laughton Mills. He became a union carpenter and worked at Pratt & Whitney, Pfizer, the Sub Base, Coast Guard Academy and even helped build the Goldstar Bridge. Locally, in 1947 he mixed mortar for the bricks for the Dr. Helen Baldwin School and also worked at a rock crushing plant to build Route 14 between Canterbury and Scotland.
Charlie lived at home until he got married at the age of 28. He met his wife Alma at church and they were married for 47 years before she died. He said he would happily have had another 47 years with her because she was such a fine woman. She liked to keep busy and would help with the gardening and even milked the cows at 5:00 in the morning. She once picked 126 quarts of strawberries in one day. Besides their own children, Joyce (Graham) and Mary (Kiddy), they were foster parents to over 25 children.
Did you know Canterbury once had a skunk farm on Graff Road? When Charlie went looking for a farm of his own, he found a piece of land opposite Graff Road. He bought the land from the Barkers who told him about a skunk farm that was in operation in the 1940's. The most highly prized skunk pelts were the ones that were mostly black.
Charlie is an avid gardener. He entered his pumpkins at the Eastern States Exposition over a ten-year period and won first prize eight years in a row. His largest pumpkin was 360 pounds and was ten feet one inch around. He read and studied gardening books to learn the best way to grow vegetables and he once paid $5.00 for one pumpkin seed. He sold his tomatoes at Michael's Market and Michael Pappas said he grew the best tomatoes-that's because Alma would only send him the very best.
Today, Charlie lives next to the old mill farm on Tracy Road. Even though he is in his nineties, he can't get away from the work ethic he had as a young boy. You can still find him working in his pumpkin patch in the summer sun.