Life with Emily

Now gainfully employed and back home where he was well-acquainted with the area community and the people in it, Babbitt felt happy and contented although he sometimes had trouble sleeping at night because of his memories of military combat. His parents were a great solace to him. He spent evenings with Roy and Alma or he went to places where he encountered friends he had known all his life. One of his favorite locations was Liggett’s Drug Store in Athol. Like most pharmacies of that era, Liggett’s had a soda fountain. Babbitt liked the comradery there as people came to enjoy a cup of coffee, milk shake or some type of ice cream delight. Most of all, he just liked to chat with those who gathered at Liggett’s. Like his father, Babbitt could charm others with his caring attitude and sense of humor. He was at Liggett’s one evening when he took notice of a dark-haired young woman who had entered and taken a seat. Babbitt said he was immediately attracted by her smile and pleasant manner. The soda jerk working behind the counter told him she was Emily Larsen and that was all Babbitt needed to know in order to strike up a conversation with her. He immediately liked Emily because she had a congenial personality and she seemed very relaxed in his presence. They soon were carrying on an exchange as though they had always known each other. Babbitt said:

I found out she had been living a sheltered life. Her mother, Mable Larsen, was an epileptic and Emily helped to take care of her. Mabel was a fine person but her husband had abandoned her and Emily. At the time I met Emily she was living with the Episcopalian minister and his wife. She had spent a lot of time at the Episcopal rectory when she was a girl. When her mother went to a special health care facility, the minister and his wife took her in. So because of her mother’s illness and all those family problems, Emily’s social activities had been limited. She had never had a boyfriend. Actually, she was bashful and didn’t consider herself attractive. That wasn’t true. Maybe she was average-looking but I found her very attractive because it was obvious she was a good person and she had a pleasing personality. So I asked her if she would like to go to a movie or just go out with me. She said, “Sure, pick me up at the rectory.” That’s how I got to know Emily.

Babbitt and Emily Larsen soon became very attached to one another. She had a job as an operator with the New England Telephone Company in Athol. She handled some emergency situations like the 911 dispatchers do today. Babbitt was impressed by her resourcefulness and grace under pressure. As he contemplated his first date with Emily, he knew the minister and his wife would not approve of him. He was thinking ahead. It wasn’t long before they knew he was involved in spiritualism. They told Emily it was all the work of the devil and that she shouldn’t be associating with him. Babbitt said he was not intimidated by their opinion of him. He said:

I used to drive up to the church in my Model A convertible with a seat on the rear if it. On the front of the car I had a statuette of a nude woman. I’ll never forget the look on the minister’s face when he first saw that thing on my car. That convinced him that I was the devil. But Emily had a mind of her own and she had feelings for me. In addition, she was quite taken by the idea of being involved with spirit. My confrontations with the minister only led to our getting married that much sooner.

Babbitt and Emily were married in 1953.  At first, they lived with his parents but they began right away to look for their own place. They wanted to buy a small property in the rural countryside where he could do a little farming while organizing a spiritual center. They found a farm in Northfield that appealed to them. However, the owner had not yet made a firm decision to put the farm on the market. Meanwhile, there was a second farm property a short distance away that might become available. Somehow, the Kimball Insurance Agency had come into ownership of the place. Roy and Alma Babbitt were going to help their son and daughter-in-law by buying the farm for them. Elwood and Emily would pay them back when they could. Roy Babbitt had a solid relationship with the owners of the insurance agency. Elwood Babbitt remembered:

But there was another farm nearby that location we first looked at and it was owned by an elderly woman. She was a widow and the only one left of her family. My dad and I went to see her. We learned she was planning to enter a nursing home. She said she would think about our offer to buy the place. I was quite enthused. It was a fine-looking Victorian home with hard-wood floors. There was a huge barn next to the house. Just when my aspirations were so high, my dad disappointed me by saying that he didn’t know if I should go ahead with the deal or not. Dad said he just didn’t feel right about it and he had misgivings. I became very upset because Emily and I really wanted it. Then the woman let us know she was willing to sell for $12,000.

Elwood Babbitt was very agitated by his father’s doubts. It was one of the few times that hard feelings ever came between them. Elwood was afraid someone else would come along and buy the place before he could convince his father to go along with him. Their relationship gradually became even more frosty. Suddenly, without telling his son, Roy Babbitt called a man he knew in Connecticut and told him about the availability of the widow’s property. Roy knew the man wanted to move to Massachusetts and set up an automotive shop. As he recalled these events after more than 55 years, Elwood Babbitt couldn’t hide the hurt he still felt over the fact that he and his father had that disagreement:

That guy in Massachusetts was a friend of dad’s. He was a car buff and dad made all the parts for his early magnetic car. The man worked for a company that did all kinds of tests on metal. My dad told him about the widow’s place and that he might find it suitable for his own business. The guy came up and they talked to the woman who said she was still undecided after all. Dad took his friend aside and told him, “I bet if you put $5,000 cash in her hand, she’ll take it.” I couldn’t believe my dad did that. He knew Emily and I wanted that place. But sure enough, when that woman saw the chance to get $5,000 cash, she took it! The guy bought the place and I was really mad at my father. Now, this was tearing me up inside because I loved my father and I never had such feelings about him before. And it hurt my mother too. She did everything she could to get us back together. Meanwhile, Dad’s friend got established in the place I wanted and he put his magnetic car in the barn. My relationship with Dad continued to simmer. It was only a short time after the man had moved into the widow’s place when we had a lightning storm. It struck the barn and set it afire. The flames spread quickly and it looked like the house would also be destroyed. The firemen got there in time to save the house but the barn was demolished and of course, so was the magnetic car. Dad and I were up there at the scene. He was very upset that his friend had suffered such a loss after he himself had suggested he talk to the widow about buying her property. Then Dad turned to me and said, “I think it was a premonition that I had when I felt those strong doubts about you buying this place.  Just think. That could have been your barn that was just destroyed by lightning. Once again, I was grateful for my father’s spiritual powers. I’m sure it was spirit that told him not to put up the money to help me buy it.

Not long after the fire incident, the Babbitts were informed that the owner of a neighboring farm property had decided to sell. Elwood Babbitt and his bride liked this place too, especially the huge fireplace. Roy Babbitt put up the $5,000 needed to buy it. There were no lights and no modern plumbing but Elwood and Emily Babbitt were thrilled and they began immediately to spruce the place up so they could move in. Being a machinist, Roy Babbitt was able to repair the old Delco pump that was in the house and he upgraded it. “Dad was so talented and clever. He could do just about everything that needed to be done and we soon were moving in.” Elwood Babbitt said. They were living three miles from Myron Gibbs’ general store. Babbitt was friendly with Gibbs who had another line of business. He had the busing contract for the local school district. Gibbs hired Babbitt as one of his bus drivers. It was a parttime position that fit well with his other parttime job as driver on the public bus route between Orange and Athol. Meanwhile, the Babbitts had gone into farming on a small scale. They had three cows which provided them with their own supply of milk. They also had horses, sheep, chickens, dogs and cats.

By 1957 Babbitt was fully settled in a rural environment with a wife that he loved and she was pregnant. Babbitt worried about their lack of telephone service. He asked the phone company to install a phone but the costs of doing so were prohibitive. There were no lines running to the property. Babbitt said he consulted with spirit and was told to insist to the Department of Public Utilities that he absolutely needed the phone because his wife was pregnant. Babbitt did as he was told. “Well, spirit must have helped because two weeks later, the telephone company came out to lay a tree hitch line over the two-mile distance to our house. They didn’t place any poles in the ground. That’s how we got the phone,” he said. For a long time after when I came across people in town, they would ask me how the hell I got the phone company to do that. I would just smile and say that I figured spirit did it,” Babbitt said. Meanwhile, his spiritual school was functioning. When he wasn’t driving buses he was able to receive people who came for readings and to learn about the mysteries of spirit. The time seemed to pass by quickly and Emily gave birth to her first child. It was a boy and they named him Kevin. He would be followed by Keith in 1958 and Alma in 1966. Babbitt said that during the early years of life on the farm in Northfield, he found it difficult to increase his spiritual activity while at the same time working to support his family. His spiritual readings were limited to people in the immediate area. While he didn’t do much farming, Emily did have a large garden and they were able to augment his bus driving income by selling a lot of vegetables to the Mount Hermon Preparatory School in Northfield. The Babbitts had a busy life during these early years of their marriage but they remained close to his parents who often came out to visit. Roy Babbitt didn’t live to see his first granddaughter, Alma. He reached his 65th birthday in 1965 and he was given a retirement banquet by the L.S. Starrett Company where he was employed for 28 years. Elwood Babbitt said of his father:

Dad never changed.  He always had that happy spirit about him. He had looked forward to his retirement party and the life that would come after. He knew they were going to give him a gold watch. He used to say, ‘They gave me the works for 28 years. I might as well go in and get the case.’ Following the death of her husband, Alma Babbitt continued to live in the family home on Mechanics Street.

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