Greenfield, MA: Scale Model Town in His Backyard
It’s what’s inside that matters. Whatever it is, it now surrounds his house, hidden among trees and continuing up the steep hill above. There are weeds high around the foundations and the dirt paths are obscured by the overgrowth. Beside the vegetable garden, an old steam pumper is covered in plastic. Farther down is an old wooden milk wagon, badly in need of buttressing.
Next to the store is the pharmacy, which he built in 1969. “There was a drug store on the way to Sturbridge, in West Warren. I noticed one day that they were going out of business,” he says. He bought the counters and the glass cabinets, as well as the 14-foot-long wall that separated the pharmacist’s work area from his customers — a big, old-fashioned affair that includes mirrors framed by dark-stained wood pillars.
He took it down and brought it back to Greenfield, piece by piece. He reassembled it inside his new building. He worked alone — he did then and does now. From that old drug store and from others, and from items bought at flea markets and yard sales, he began to stock the shelves.
Like the general store, there is not a hairline left for expansion. Crammed into the cases and up on the shelves, Waine has lined up hundreds of packets of herbs (frostwort, blessed thistle, horehound, ignatia) and assortments of salves and medical assists — King’s Kidney Plaster, Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap, Corn Cure, Tuttle’s Family Elixir, Carter’s Little Pills, Dr. Blue Jay Corn Plasters, Kantleek hot water bottles, Red Raven Splits of “Laxative Water.” There they are, their labels still bright, the wrappers still sealed, full to the top with the old remedies.
Waine Morse has never tried any of them. “I just like to come in here and look,” he says. In the windows sunlight shines through big blue and amber apothecary jars. Other jars and bottles crowd in, shoulder to shoulder.
The store is long since complete. There are two reasons for that. When he was gathering stock for these shelves, in the sixties and seventies, bottles and such could be had for not much. Now the prices are sky-high. “See those two cobalt bottles over there? They’d probably cost $75 apiece now, so hey, I’m done.” It’s not just the money. “I wouldn’t want to buy any more bottles. I would have to build another shelf, and once I hit the ceiling, that’s it.”
After the pharmacy he lost track of the sequence; the years seem to blur. “I’d have to look that up,” he says in answer to questions of when did he put in the doctor’s office and when did he reassemble the tinsmith’s shop. But in truth he doesn’t really have a place to look it up. He’s not absent-minded and heaven knows he is anything but disorganized. It’s just that there is so much. Beyond the pharmacy, there is a big building, more than 100 feet long, with add-ons like shops along a street. And several others, the doors to which Waine Morse opens like surprise packages, moving into the darkness and amid the smell of pine and sawdust until he finds the light, illuminating his creations.
In a comer he has the blacksmith shop, behind a glass wall made of old storm windows. The more-than-man-sized bellows, the anvil as big as a workbench, the collection of tongs on the side of the forge – all of it brought from different sources. Waine didn’t know too much about this kind of work. “For this I got a book that showed how it was done and so I said, ‘Okay, here we go,’ and I looked for one of this and one of that.”
When he read in the paper that Tony Trela, the last blacksmith in Greenfield, had died, he took note. “By the time I got down there, most everything was gone. The tools, that is. But I got what no one else wanted.
I got his chair, his gloves, his boots, and his two hats, one for summer and one for winter. I looked down at the floor. It was covered with metal filings and ashes and coal dust from the forge, old cigar butts and the parings from horses’ hooves.” Waine Morse’s eyes shine in recollection. “The man never swept. NO one else wanted it, but oh, it was beautiful, if you like such things.” Waine swept it up and brought it home. When the time is right, he will carpet the blacksmith’s shop with its majesty.