top of page
  • Sara Tucker

Everything Was Upset

By Harry H. Cooley

Chapter 4 of Harry's autobiography records his first teaching position, his marriage to Gertrude Small, his job as a teacher of agriculture in Stowe, the outbreak of World War I, his job as a hired man on the farm of Closson Gilbert, and his father's purchase of the Hill farm, which adjoined the property in Randolph—all in a mere 800 words. (He wrote his life story in fewer than 15,000 words.) Korongo will publish Harry's book later this spring.


When, in 1915, one of the faculty at VSA became ill, I was asked to fill in as instructor. I accepted and took a room in the colonial across the street from the agricultural school. Mr. Cook did not recover, and I stayed on as instructor until spring, when the trustees hired a Cornell graduate, Ralph Denman, to fill the position.

I stayed on as teamster on the farm, working with the farm foreman, Mr. Kimball, an elderly employee. The school trustees purchased a pair of heavy horses from the West, and I was given the duty of breaking in a green team, something I had never done but which I enjoyed and was moderately successful. At least they never ran away or got sick and did learn how to work, although they were never well mated and after I left the school soon disappeared.

I worked on the school farm that summer, and through the good offices of Mr. Green obtained a position as agricultural instructor in Stowe High School at a salary of seven hundred dollars per year.

During that time I courted Gertrude Small, who was a clerk in the [Randolph Center] post office and who married me in September of 1916 after I had taught a year at Stowe.

I saved half my salary that year, as I got board in Stowe for $3.50 per week. I not only taught through the school year but stayed in Stowe the following summer as a sort of county agent, assisting farmers in various ways—testing cows, spraying potatoes.

I came home the last week in August, and we were married in Claremont [New Hampshire] on September 5, the wedding anniversary of Gertrude‘s parents.

The house had no central heat, plumbing, or electricity, but we were accustomed to such lacks and had a very happy year.

We went straight to Stowe, expecting to start teaching immediately, but found the school did not open on time due to the epidemic of infantile paralysis. We rented a part of a small house, on the main street in Stowe, owned by one Ida Harris, who reserved rooms in the rear but occupied them only occasionally. At that time the house had no central heat, plumbing, or electricity, but we were accustomed to such lacks and had a very happy year.

During spring vacation, I had an operation for hemorroids at Burlington, which laid me up for ten days.

During that spring [1917] the United States entered World War I, and everything was upset. The agricultural students were excused to work at home, and it appeared that the agricultural course would be discontinued, at least for the duration of the war.

Mr. Gilbert was a fine, intelligent man with the highest civic ideals, but his method of farming involved what I considered ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ practices.

I was anxious to get into farming again and arranged with Mr. Closson Gilbert of Randolph Center to work for (or with) him. I finished my work in