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Greenfield, MA: Scale Model Town in His Backyard

One is a church big enough to hold a hearty Greenfield congregation. It has a white steeple and a floor-to-ceiling, multicolored stained-glass window that his grandmother gave to a church in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, back in the 19th century and which serendipity floated back to Waine. It was one thing that his wife helped him with, holding it steady while he framed it in. Soon he plans to move up here the several dozen fir pews he has stashed under the barn and set them in place.

Next to the church is a schoolhouse, complete with 36 old-fashioned wooden desks screwed to the floor, the seats braced in black cast-iron filigree and blue inkwells in the upper right-hand comers. He’s working on this still, searching out maps and globes and slates. You might think that this would be his first love (he has just retired after 3 1 years of teaching), but it isn’t necessarily his favorite. He seems to enjoy each part of this honeycomb equally. “These are a lot of little loves,” he says of the whole.

He would like to open this someday as a museum. A while back he cleared a place for a small parking lot below his house, but the weeds have grown up in that. Every few years a write-up comes out on his endeavor, and he is quoted as saying that he will open it up for tours “when the project is completed.” Two years more, he usually estimates, whether it is 1968 or 1988.

It isn’t that he isn’t sincere. It’s just that it’s all very involved. For one thing, there are still so many things to do to get ready to have people coming in. The weeds have to come out and curbs have to go in, paths made straight, piles of scrapwood tidied. And then there’s the butcher shop he wants to put in this winter, where the church pews are stored now. Besides, could he handle everything — showing people around and safeguarding all the exhibits at the-same time, just himself? “I don’t know. I was hoping maybe my wife would help.” He pauses, eyes alive with the fun of it. “But I haven’t asked her yet.”

And then there is the matter of permits from the town. A big hurdle. Nowadays there are so many fire codes and rules about this and that. What will he do if he isn’t able to get the proper papers? “Well, then,” he says, trying to appear unperturbed, “we’ll have one heck of a tag sale.”

Updated Monday, July 14th, 2008

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