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A longstanding tradition

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Oldest Hermon resident awarded cane

HERMON - Being the oldest sibling has its perks, and so does being the oldest resident in your town.

Linnet Archer was recently awarded a plaque and Boston Post Cane by town selectmen in honor of being Hermon's oldest living resident. It's an award that was almost entirely kept secret from the 96-year-old until days before the presentation.

"No one told me [this was happening] except the oil man from Sinclair, and I thought he was kidding until I got in touch with my daughter Sylvia," said Archer.

The Boston Post Cane tradition was started in 1909 by Edwin Grozier, then-publisher of the Boston Post newspaper. As the story goes, he had gold-headed ebony canes made by J.F. Fradley and Company in New York and sent them to the boards of selectmen in 700 New England towns with the request that the canes be given to the oldest living male resident in that town. When the cane recipient passed away, it was the board of selectmen's responsibility to hand it down to the next oldest living resident in town. No New England cities were included in the Boston Post Cane tradition, and according to the Maynard Historical Society's website it wasn't until 1930 when eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well.

"I can't complain. I've had a pretty good life," said Archer, who has lived in the same house in Hermon since 1947. Prior to that, she and her husband, a WWII veteran, lived in the GI buildings on 13th Street in Bangor where Hayford Park is now located. During their many years together, they raised four children.

When asked what her secret to longevity was, she replied, "I was just born this way, good genes I guess. My father lived to be 97."

However, Archer's daughter, Sylvia Chase, credits her mother's long life to her inability to sit still. "She didn't have an exercise plan, but she was out there throwing hay on the wagon, working in the garden, chasing kids, or canning and freezing fruits and veggies. She has never been the type of person to sit around and take it easy," said Chase.

As healthy as Archer is, Chase says there are some things her mother misses being able to do at the age of 96.

"She misses being able to mow the lawn - she did that until she was 90," shared Chase.

There are dozens of Maine towns that actively participate in the Boston Post Cane tradition besides Hermon. Some display the canes in their town offices, municipal buildings or libraries; other towns physically give the canes to the oldest resident in town. Over the years, though, many of the canes have been lost, stolen or even destroyed by accident.

The Town of Clinton had its Boston Post Cane stolen from the town hall earlier this summer. The cane had been in a display case across from the town hall's service window up until June. Two months since, police say that they still haven't been able to locate it.

For Archer, she plans to keep her eye on her cane for as long as she owns it.

"I'll hang my cane here in the kitchen," said Archer. "Morris Overlock is just a year behind me, at 95 years old, so he'll get the cane after me."

Last modified on Thursday, 08 December 2011 17:06

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