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As Townsend approaches its 275th anniversary, this series has recognized the many generations that have gone before us. Their stories live on in books like 1992’s “VOICES from their times and places.” Here we listen to more memories from our fellow townspeople. We invite you, our readers, to share your own Townsend experience, to appear in this newspaper. E-mail your recollection or memory to, or call the Townsend Historical Society at (978) 597-2106.

Every town has its own traditions — and if they are lucky, someone to help keep them alive.

In these busy days of the 21st century, that’s no easy task. Memorial Days here in Townsend continue, as does the observance of a moment of silence on Veterans Day. Band concerts still grace our summer Thursday evenings.

Each of these traditions has one energizing spirit in common: Betty Mae Tenney. As president of VFW Post 6538 Ladies Auxiliary and as Town Band concert coordinator, Betty Mae has found ways to keep these customs alive for future Townsendites. From passing the collection hat at town meetings so that Memorial Day funding could survive budget cuts, to managing the Town Band and preserving its century-old history, Betty Mae continues to work diligently today. Her efforts honor the past and help to ensure the future of these unique Townsend traditions.

”My mother also worked at Townsend National Bank,” Betty Mae recalls. “She was the first woman to work there, and she was there at the time of the Crash (1929). She graduated from high school — it is now the Evans store — in 1927. My father, G. Fred Tenney, was a veteran of World War I. He was 52 when I was born. With no siblings and older parents, I soon became a little adult. I loved working in the stores!”

In December 1959, a supermarket came to Townsend, where the present Family Dollar is located. Her father’s store closed the day before the P&C opened its doors. But Betty Mae’s cash register experience paid off; graduating with the first class to go through four years at the present North Middlesex Regional High School, she went on to Fitchburg State College and became a math teacher at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, where she taught until 1990. Today Betty Mae works at the college — at a cash register in the book store.

”Going to school in Townsend, I went half-days for six of my twelve years. Spaulding was so crowded that two sixth-grade classes met in the bottom floor of Memorial Hall. Some children from Mason, New Hampshire, went to school in Townsend then. I guess history does repeat itself; today we are again thinking about Mason joining our schools. When the new high school was built for Townsend and Pepperell, my parents worried I might be badly influenced by the ‘out-of-towners’!”

”I had friends in the Townsend Military Band, so I was happy to be invited to join it in July of 1966. I still play the clarinet. When David Ormsby left for New Hampshire in 1969, I became manager. I guess I tend to stick to things once I get into them.

”Today a small portion of the band is from Townsend. As manager of the band and band concert coordinator, I hire and pay the musicians, arrange concert dates, write newspaper articles, and try to preserve the history of a band that began playing in 1838, with roots to 1817. Now the musicians come from about 17 towns, both in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I hope the town continues to support traditions like the band concerts and Memorial Day.”

Betty Mae’s work is not always easy. According to the Lowell Sun, at a town meeting in 1990, cuts to the annual budget left $1 out of the $3,000 allocated for Memorial Day observances. Voters took up a collection on the spot. Even a police officer who had lost his job handed her money. In the end, they raised $2800. The tradition continued.

As the daughter of a veteran with foreign service in a war zone, Betty Mae was eligible to become a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, and in 1979 she joined: “I had always worked with them in coordinating Memorial Day observances anyway, so this just made things easier. I jumped in with both feet, of course.”

In addition to being the current Ladies Auxiliary president of the Townsend post, Betty Mae is a past state president. The post recently turned 60 years old and, having absorbed membership from Groton-Devens and Ashby, is quite active. All war eras since World War II are represented: Veterans of both Gulf wars have joined the post.

Today Betty Mae remembers the accidents she has witnessed on the corner of Routes 119 and 13. “It was always busy, and there were always crashes!” She also owns the brick house on the corner across from the appliance store.

”My father had taken out a life insurance policy in my name. When I was in high school, it matured. He told me I could use the money to go away to school, or he would pay off the mortgage on the brick house, which he owned, and it would be left to me when he died. I liked living at home, so I decided to go to Fitchburg State and have the mortgage paid off. He died in 1966 and I have owned that house ever since. It proved to be a wise decision for me.

”I enjoy traveling but I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else,” Betty Mae says. “I hope Townsend continues to have a small town charm to it. I hope we never stop having Memorial Day observances and band concerts.

”I know we need new business, but I would prefer ‘mom and pop’ operations rather than big chains. I like to shop locally whenever possible, because I feel it is a way I can support my fellow townspeople.

”What do I wish for our future? That parents didn’t have to work so hard, had more time to spend with their kids, attend the kids’ games, know what they’re up to. I’d like a slower-paced life for families, so that we all have the time to enjoy things.”

Like band concerts and parades.