Rodgers Book Barn - A Mesmerizing Rabbit Hole in Wonderland for Book Lovers to Discover

Monday, May 2, 2022

 "One does not stop buying books just because there is no shelf space."

Anyone who loves books knows that statement to be true, including the proprietors of the very best bookshops, including our latest discovery, Rodgers Book Barn, in Hillsdale NY.

I recently happened upon a post on Facebook picturing the inside of this wonderland of literary treasures and immediately added it to our spring itinerary.  A couple weekends ago, the weather was perfect for a road trip and my chauffeur was happy to oblige.  Hillsdale is a new place for us, just 70 minutes from Clifton Park down the Taconic Parkway, in Columbia County near Hudson and Great Barrington MA.  Typically I don't chase destinations, as it's the journey that I enjoy, but in this case both the journey and the destination were well worth the time and the gas.

Maureen Rodgers opened the Book Barn in 1972 and is in her 50th year of business.  She was a 29 year old bookseller when she came to Hillsdale from NYC, having started her book career selling books to colleges.  Maureen figured out that colleges don't buy books in the summer so to make ends meet year 'round, she apprenticed in the antiquarian department of Barnes and Noble on 17th Street.  After vacationing in Hillsdale she and her husband decided they wanted to move there permanently and purchased the five acre-parcel, a barn and a house for $8,000.  There's so much more to this part of the story and I encourage you to use this link to read Chris Atkins and Laura Lettelier's story about Maureen and the Book Barn on the blog, Historians of Hillsdale, NY A Visit with Maureen Rodgers.   It's a fabulous read!

Like the Owl Pen Books in Greenwich that I blogged about last year, Rodgers Book Barn is a little like Alice's rabbit hole in wonderland, filled to the brim (on two floors) with neatly shelved and organized books of every genre imaginable.....used books and cd's.  From the outside, no one could guess that behind the modest exterior awaits over 50,000 old and unusual books, most for just a few bucks.  We left with 3 for the bargain price of $9.00.  

As you're driving to Rodgers Book Barn, once you've left the highway portion of the trip, a series of back roads through gorgeous horse and farm country, leaves you wondering how (and why) anyone would choose to open a book store in the middle of nowhere.  Yet, just like Owl Pen, when we finally reached our GPS destination, we found we were not the only book enthusiasts to have made the trip that day.  Several other shoppers were deep in exploration of all the titles available.  For some, it may be a little overwhelming, but not to worry, Maureen has a large number of chairs of all styles and sizes tucked in every nook and cranny just begging for shoppers to sit, relax and flip some pages.

In case you prefer enjoying your book in the fresh air, some tables and chairs are scattered throughout the country property, that day among the hundreds of daffodils in full bloom.

Not surprisingly, a bookstore of this sort would have to be run by someone who is a)passionate about books, b) knowledgeable and c) loves helping people.  When I was boasting about the magnificent barns and landscapes we enjoyed on our drive, she took out a brochure of the Hudson Valley Book Trail and spent several minutes directing us to another bookstore on the trail, one that she thought we'd like that also would take us through some beautiful countryside with great barns.  Talk about hospitality!

Rodgers Book Barn is open year round, weekends and by appointment.  Check the website for particulars.  If you love books, I highly recommend a trip to Hillsdale NY to this half century old treasure!

For more information, check out their website:
and on Instagram at @rodgersbookbarn
Be sure to also check out the Owl Pen Bookstore under new ownership, celebrating their opening weekend this past weekend.  To read my blogpost:
Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It.  I hope you'll check out these great businesses and take in the beautiful sights of our rural landscape in NYS.  For more posts like this one, check out my blog  Directory

Did Anyone In Your Family Play a Part in History?

Saturday, April 23, 2022

 Not everyone has a claim to fame but lucky for me - I do. I’m able to say, “Leo Durocher is my third cousin.” Depending on who I say it to affects the reaction I get. People over 40 are typically impressed. Younger folks who don’t know Leo Durocher aren't all that impressed.  Although growing up I knew enough to carry this claim to fame with pride, I had no real sense of what a big deal Leo Durocher was, and honestly I wasn’t all that interested. I knew the basics - that he was a some sort of baseball legend. Not being much of a sports enthusiast, I will admit I didn’t take much interest in knowing more. Like most of my family history, Leo’s fame and accomplishments wouldn’t achieve their proper significance or impress me much until I was much older, specifically until I researched him for this question in a memoir prompt. What that translates to is the fact that it isn’t until now, in my 60's, that I realize how the “Durocher Gene” has endured and been passed down through the generations. I’m not talking about baseball.

Leo Ernest Durocher was born on July 27, 1905 to George and Clarenda (Provost) Durocher in West Springfield MA. He was the youngest of 4 sons. George, Leo’s father, was the son of Leon and Rosalie (Poutre) Durocher - parents of my great grandfather, Henry Durocher, of Cohoes, NY.  To help illustrate....that makes Leo my grandfather’s first cousin; my dad’s second cousin, and my third cousin. Here's my grandfather's brothers, George and Harry, in Florida with Leo in 1973.   

Leo’s father worked for the Boston & Albany railroad. His parents were both French Canadian and French was often spoken at home. Leo attended Springfield Technical High School but in 9th grade after a scuffle with a teacher, he got suspended. He quit school and never returned. He went to work for an electric company and played baseball for their company team. Unlike many of the shorter Durocher clan, Leo grew to be the tallest of his brothers reaching the grand height of 5‘10”. David Redd, a black man, encouraged Leo to try out for the Hartford ball team, a Yankee farm club.  Leo tried out but failed. In 1925, again encouraged by Redd, Leo tried again and this time Leo was successful. He made the team as an infielder. He showed so much promise, he was sold to the NY Yankees for $5000. After two seasons with the farm system, he got a permanent call to the big leagues in 1928. He won his first World Series that same year as a teammate of Babe Ruth, and another Hartford Senators alumnus, Lou Gehrig. He would become known as one of baseball’s fiercest and most successful players. 

As a captain of the St. Louis Cardinals, “Gashouse Gang” (named after Leo's fiery personality), in 1934, Durocher started shortstop and won another world series. After the 1938 season with the Cardinals, Durocher became the Dodgers player-manager and became known for his dirt-kicking tirades against umpires. He claims he was fired and rehired by the general manager dozens of times.

Leo's went on to manage the Brooklyn Dodgers (1939-1946), (1948), the NY Giants from 1948-1955, Chicago Cubs from 1966-1972 and Houston Astros from 1972-1973. 

Despite his antics, there was no doubt about his record. In 1941 Durocher led the Dodgers to the franchise’s first pennant in 21 yrs. Leo is quoted as saying, “as long as I’ve got a chance to beat you, I’m going to take it”. During the seasons of 1939 to 1941, 1943 and 1945, he served as a player-manager with the Dodgers and guided Brooklyn to two consecutive 100 win years (100 in 1941 and 104 in 1942), including the National League Pennant in 1941. Prior to the 1947 season, Jackie Robinson was placed on the Dodgers’ big league roster shattering the baseball racial barrier. Durocher made the point of telling his team that they accept Robinson as a teammate or else they would be traded. His message transcended baseball and in a way helped ease the entry of African-Americans into professional sports. Durocher himself would not manage the Dodgers during the 1947 season, due to a suspension imposed by commissioner Happy Chandler for allegedly associating with gamblers and allowing gambling in the clubhouse.

He left NY after the 1955 season to become a commentator for NBC baseball broadcasts. He returned to manage the Cubs in 1966 and served his final 9 seasons in Chicago and Houston. He retired in 1973 as the fifth winningest manager in history, second only to John McGraw in the National League, with 2008 career victories. He was named Manager of the year three-times (1939, 1951 and 1954).

Leo, known as Lippy and Leo the Lip, was known as a ‘win at all cost manager’. He coined the phrase, ‘Nice guys finish last’ and in one article I read he was described as ‘as brassy as the trombone section in a swing era band’. He was also called loud, profane, and charming when he wanted to be. Hmmm, that description might also describe some other Durochers I know. Edwin Pope who wrote Baseball’s Greatest Managers wrote about Leo with this quote, “Benefactor or blackguard, genius or jerk, paragon or prodigal, Leo Durocher was the most beguiling figure to walk through baseball.” Tommy Lasorda said, “I took his #2 because of love, admiration and respect. We lost a wonderful man.”

In 1965 he co-authored his autobiography, Nice Guys Finish Last. He spent his retirement years in Palm Springs, CA playing golf. He was married to Larraine Day, actress, and did a couple acting projects himself appearing in the Munsters, Mr. Ed and the Beverly Hillbillies. He appeared on What's My Line twice.  Leo passed away on October 7th, 1991 at 86 years of age. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY in 1994. John took my mom to the ceremony because my dad was laid up with heel spurs.  Some years later, John took me to visit Cooperstown to see Leo's plaque in person.

 Like some other Durochers I’m familiar with, Leo once said, “I’m a guy who has to do it my way, whether you like it or not.” Hmmm….the gene pool is pretty strong in this family.  Now I know where I get the 'attitude' from! 

Leo was not the best athlete to play baseball and some might not necessarily sing his praises but I'm particularly proud of Leo's contribution to paving the way to end segregation in sports. We recently watched the movie '42' about Jackie Robinson and seeing Leo (who was portrayed by Christopher Meloni of Law and Order fame) play such an instrumental role in Jackie's involvement with the Dodgers was a really neat thing to watch.  I’m no cooler by association when it comes to having someone famous in our family lineage, but I realized in researching Leo that despite my ignorance, he was a pretty accomplished and famous athlete as evidenced by the plethora of information that was generated in my Google search. It also makes me proud knowing that someone in my family was strong enough to stand up against segregation when it wasn’t the popular thing to do. It makes me wish I’d mustered up some interest years ago when my dad and great uncles who knew Leo could have told me more about him. At least now his history will live in my recorded history and hopefully my offspring will be proud to be related to such a legend.

Here's my grandfather with Harry & George....I think you can see the family resemblence....

Here is my Uncle George, playing ball for the Cohoes Orange Crush team in the late1920's...He didn't go on to play with the big leagues but he was a great man in many other ways.  

A story about Uncle George:

A Little Backroad Therapy Between the Seasons in Easton NY

Saturday, March 26, 2022

 In a world where it's rare to find a consensus about anything these days, it seems that almost everyone is ready for spring, especially if you live in the northeast.  We're finished with the cold, the snow, and the wind, and we're longing for moderating temperatures, trees to leaf out and the ground to transition from muddy beige to vivid green.  Those of us who enjoy photographing outdoors are anxious for things to 'pretty up'.  I knew it was too early to find anything of what I just described when we headed out yesterday in search of a little backroad therapy, but I also knew that I was headed to my happy place and it wouldn't matter what color, or lack of it, I found. 

I'd feel better for having gone.  That happy place is Easton, NY and even though we only had time for a short jaunt, my 'session' was just was the doctor ordered.

I can't help myself from seeing things in analogies on our rides, and yesterday was no different.  As we drove over familiar, repeated routes in Easton, I couldn't help but notice that things looked a little bleak.  Without the lush green cornfields we see in summer, the autumnal glow of fall or the snow white brightness of winter, the Easton landscape felt a little dull and unattractive.  As I processed this disappointment, feeling sad that I might not capture any good photos, it occurred to me that at this transitional phase between winter and spring, the landscape was a sort of 'clean slate'....past the dead of winter and just before the emergence of new life of spring.  That clean slate reminded me of what we are like after we make it through difficult times, catching our breath, processing recovery and ready for better times.  We are a clean slate waiting for opportunity and possibility.  This may not be a good example of 'clean' slate......

In some ways it's sort of like covid.  Even though we seem to be past the worst of it, the continued new variants popping up keep us from completely letting down our guard to embrace life without fear.  We're between seasons, our slate is clean but we are not yet fully ready to let go and embrace the new season.  We are past the worst of winter, but there are still some cold and windy days to endure before we're in the clear.  

What I happily figured out on our drive was that despite the dreary landscape, there was plenty of beauty to be found.   If we kept our eyes wide open and paid close attention, there were things visible yesterday that are pretty obscured in the density of summer foliage.  When we first headed out, I almost turned back, discouraged by some lingering clouds and disappointed by the dull landscape.  There are days in life when we just want to give up, bury our head in our covers and wait for another day to venture out.  Had I succumbed to that feeling yesterday, I would have missed some pretty cool sights....and the parting clouds and bright sun.  

 Life can be challenging and it can test our endurance and our faith.  Sometimes it feels like we're never going to escape from a difficult season.  I hope that if you're in one of those seasons in your life, you'll see these photos as a reminder that even in our darkest days, there's something to appreciate, something to be thankful for and something to look forward to.  Warmer, brighter days are ahead and if you haven't been able to see that, I hope that this reminds you that spring always shows up.   Until it does, hang on tight and look for the things that make you happy.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll come back soon for more Life As I See It. In the meantime, to read more posts like this one, check out my blog Directory.

When Shopping Brings All the 'Feels' of Home - The Speckled Hen

Tuesday, March 8, 2022
 "She makes it feel like “coming home” each time I come. So warm and welcoming" is how Susan W. describes a visit to The Speckled Hen.  

I've been blogging about the Speckled Hen since my first visit in 2015 but many customers have been shopping at the Hen since it opened ten years ago.  As Maureen launches her 11th year, what keeps her awake at night is not the stress of owning a shop, or the hassles that may come with owning a business during Covid.  No, what fills Maureen's thoughts and heart both night and day is gratitude, gratitude for the customers who over time have become more like family.  Through the years, Maureen has been a part of her customer's lives from new babies to new homes, life's joys and life's sorrows - season after season.  Her customers don't view her just as a shop owner, Maureen becomes a friend, and confidant, someone they visit to escape from the daily grind of life.  And she feels the same about them!

The moment I arrived I felt welcome! Its a happy place in these dark times!" says Cyn.   Mary Ann says, "It's always been a place that's made me happy, and sometimes a relief from the realities of life. "  And Lisa says, "I am from North Carolina. I come to the area several times a year to help my parents. I try to get a visit in to your shop each time. Things can be stressful in caring for elderly parents but your place is a wonderful healthy respite of peaceful calm and beauty!" 

"It's a complete feeling the minute you open the door....from Charlie's greeting, and the smell....ohhhh,.that glorious smell!!!" said Morgan.    And Jennifer says, "I am from Indiana originally- I love how your store makes me feel back home when I walk in. No place quite like it around here." What I love best is that the minute you walk in the door it is calm, relaxing, and beautiful! - Patty  "Love that you remember everyone and help with designing a piece when I need help". - Amanda

Unlike shopping in big box stores, shopping at the Speckled Hen is like shopping with a Personal Shopper.  Not only does Maureen always have the most beautiful items, she creates vignettes that inspire.  And when we're not able to whip up our own decorating magic, Maureen is ready and anxious to help her customers put together exactly what they wished they could have coordinated themselves.

"Maureen, you just can just put anything together and make it beautiful." -Alice  "I love the Hen because every time I come in, Maureen will put a design together that is exactly what my home needs." - Susan    

 Doreen says, "What I love about your shop is I always find what I am looking for to help decorate my Home! When I decorate for everyday or Christmas, my friends say my home looks like the Speckled Hen🙂."  And Teresa says, "you have been so helpful in teaching me how to accessorize my home. And what I love most is the warm feeling I get when I come and I always leave with little tips in decorating."

 And from Phyllis, "This shop is delightful, friendly, and makes me feel so good flowing around from room to room. I get that feeling of being in my favorite candy store when I was little."

What customers appreciate and are quick to point out again and again is the hospitality and warmth that is extended to every customer who enters.  Cindy says, "Maureen is so down to earth and so nice to talk to and I love your pup!❤" 

Charlene says, "Maureen you are so caring and so much fun!  You have helped me put together so many gifts and you really give your all to help achieve the perfect gift! You are a treasure!"  Meaghan says, "I love the smell when I walk in, the fact that you are so sweet and friendly that you will hold and entertain my babies while I shop, and I always leave with something that I love when I leave."  One comment really said it well, " I love your florals, but the best part is you!! You are so friendly and passionate about your is contagious!" Maureen's joy and enthusiasm for her shop and all that entails definitely is contagious. 

 I and everyone who has shopped at the Hen can testify to Maureen's genuine passion for her shop and the sincere joy she gets, not only in making it one of the most visually pleasing shops around, but the joy it brings to each and every customer who walks through its doors.  Joy....pure and unbridled joy.  Maureen wants her shop to be a refuge, a respite where people can escape and detox from the troubles of the world.  The atmosphere and the joy it brings is not an accident, it's intentional.  I think it's only fitting that on the International Woman's Day, we shine the spotlight on this amazing woman!

One customer summed it up perfectly, "I have been coming since the beginning. Countless trips and there have been times I’ve made 2 trips in 1 day.  Always leave walking sideways because I have too many bags. It’s not just about all the beautiful things in the shop it’s about a connection for life." - Lisa

 The Speckled Hen isn't just a shop, it's a place where people make a 'connection' and leave that place feeling differently than when they went in.  It's a place we all go knowing we'll come home with beautiful pieces for our home, but it's also a place we go knowing we'll be greeted with open arms, a listening ear and shoulder to cry on, a respite from the troubles weighing us down.  Whether we leave with one bag of goodies or laden with many, we leave feeling good. That, in essence, is what 90+ comments on just one of Maureen's Facebook posts sums up. 

You've heard me sing the praises of The Speckled Hen for years and now you know I'm not alone when I say there's no better place to shop and support local small business (and feel good while you're doing it) than at the Hen.  I had a chance to get a preview of all the goodness awaiting you tomorrow when Maureen re-opens the shop for her 11th season.  Here's a sneak peak so you can plan your visit soon.

If you're a customer of the Speckled Hen, today's post doesn't tell you anything you didn't already know, but I hope you'll take the opportunity to share it with someone you know who could use a little joy in their life. The Speckled Hen is located at 38 Saratoga Road (Route 50) in Glenville NY. Please check their Facebook page for more information and to follow their page.
As always, thanks for stopping by Life As I See It.  Check out my Directory for more posts like this one.

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