John Tracy’s garden: A learning experience for local kids

John Tracy hired many children to work with him in his gardens, paying up to 25 cents an hour for their efforts.
John Tracy hired many children to work with him in his gardens, paying up to 25 cents an hour for their efforts.

An eight-acre garden required help, and John hired many young kids to work for him to give them a source of money and to teach them how to plant, grow and harvest produce. Three such youngsters were Chris, Jon and Nick Kent. As Chris remembers, their friendship with John Tracy was in the mid to late 1960s.

Our yard abutted the north end of his garden. When we were very young, our mom, Barbara Kent, would walk us over to visit and see all the great plants he was growing. He would sit in one of his bouncy tubular metal chairs in the shade at the east end of his barn and talk with Mom and recite lines of poetry to us kids. He always wore a suit jacket over a white shirt and a loosened tie. On occasion he would hold his hand horizontally a couple of inches above my head and tell me that when I was that tall I could come to work for him.

A few years later he employed me and both my brothers. I remember him teaching me to sharpen my hoe so it would glide easily just below the surface upending the young weeds. Jon worked on a few occasions and decided it wasn’t for him. He liked Mr. Tracy well enough but preferred other occupations.

Nick remembers vividly how he was paid 5 cents an hour while Jon and I were paid 25 cents an hour. This injustice did not keep him from coming to work as he happily spent his earnings at the Country Store penny candy corner. Nick enjoyed sitting in the bouncy tubular chairs and on one occasion he had an encounter with a bumble bee and ran in a tearful panic to our grandmother’s house next to the Craft School for treatment. I remember John was our town grave digger and had his own grave stone leaning against a tree in the cemetery ready except for the last date to be chiseled in.

We enjoyed John Tracy and his garden for many years and we took him for granted because as kids growing up he was always there. Now we realize how unique and wonderful he was.

Thanks to Chris Kent for sharing his memories of working in John Tracy’s garden … and to Judy Frazer for her research in creating the Living Our Legacy series.

Leave a Reply

Shelburne News requires that you use your full name, along with a valid email address. Your email address will not be published, shared, or used for promotional purposes. Please see our guidelines for posting for full details.