School children crossing Williston Road at the Central School in the 1950s.

Williston Road • Now and Then

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Thursday May 14, 2015

I recently had the pleasure of visiting with South Burlington resident, Rebecca “Becky” Dutil, a soft-spoken, attractive woman, whose maiden name was Livingston. I thought she couldn’t be the person I was there to meet, expecting someone much older. When I shared this, she smiled and said she was born in 1937. Only the recollections she shared validated her true age.

Becky started by sharing early memories of living with her parents and younger sister, Elizabeth, on Meadow Road, a street connecting Hadley Road and Proctor Avenue. Across the street from her home, there used to be a horse stable that offered riding lessons. It was later replaced by Rice High School.

Becky would accompany her mother to see Mr. Tilley, the Town Treasurer, at his office on Williston Road to pay their taxes and then to Pizzagalli’s on White Street to buy eggs. She remarked, “This was a big ride from Meadow Road!” She said that her family sometimes rented a summerhouse in Queen City Park, where the children, “had so much fun,” going to the creemee stand.

Becky started school at Christ the King on Shelburne Road. When she was in the second grade, the family moved to Kirby Road, which then extended all the way to Lime Kiln Road. Later, the connection was “cut-off” when the airport runway was lengthened. She recalled the original airport terminal, which was located on the corner of Williston Road, now the site of the Heritage Aviation hangar. To her memory, there were no houses near Kirby Road, with the exception of a few homes on Patchen Road.

When in the fifth and sixth grades, Becky and her friends spent Saturday nights square dancing in the basement of Central School. According to Becky, their square dancing teacher, Mr. Chittenden, “was a wonderful instructor.” She attended the Central School on Williston Road when it was a wooden building. In the spring of 1951, Becky’s eighth grade class was the first to graduate from the newly opened brick Central School.

She brought out the program from her graduation, pointing out the names of classmates and where they are today. Later, looking at my copy of the program, I realized she neglected to mention that she had given the class valedictory speech!

Becky recalled some of the establishments along Williston Road at that time, including Barrett’s Dairy Bottling Company, which was located where Zachary’s Pizza is today. Rae’s Suburban, a “very nice” fashion shop, was nestled between Ed Bessery’s Market and the Central School.

In the 50s, South Burlington did not have a high school. Graduates from the eighth grade at Central School typically attended Cathedral High School or Burlington High School (now Edmunds Middle School). Becky attended Burlington High School where one of the classes she took was a “civics” class. As part of the class, she went to a meeting at the Grange Hall on Williston Road, a building that is no longer there. She remarked that “many prestigious people spoke.” State Representative Robert Babcock and Mr. Fredette spoke. As did Charlotte Marsh, a community member, whom Becky noted, “often spoke out, to make a point.”

In 1961, Becky married Ernest Paul Dutil from Richmond. She explained that while he was in the service, Paul had written to a friend of Becky’s, asking if she would find him a girlfriend when he returned. Becky and Paul double-dated and later married. Becky and Paul moved to Milton, where they raised their three children, Jimmy, who lives in Milton, Danny, who passed away, and David, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama. After Paul retired, they returned to South Burlington. Paul Dutilpassed away in 2012.

These days, Becky enjoys her family and getting out with friends, some of them her former schoolmates. When I left Becky, she was getting ready to meet them for lunch. I think if they are anything like Becky, I’d love to meet them. And if I’m lucky, I just might!

SOURCE: Elizabeth Milizia, Contributor