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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Giving Jit a proper goodbye

By JOE McQUAID
Publisher

August 06. 2017 9:19PM
At the Mt. Washington Cog Railway, we knew “Jit” as one of the Vermont school teachers who would move themselves and their families over to the mountain each summer. Their kids played outdoors (imagine that) while their fathers ran trains seven days a week. 

VERMONT was calling last Sunday afternoon. A friend and mentor to me and hundreds of boys and young men in the White Mountains a half-century and more ago had died in the spring, and his family was holding a memorial service.

It being for Norm “Jitney” Lewis, the service was like none other.

At the Mt. Washington Cog Railway, we knew “Jit” as one of the Vermont school teachers who would move themselves and their families over to the mountain each summer. Their kids played outdoors (imagine that) while their fathers ran trains seven days a week.

“Jitney” (the nickname came from his jitterbuggin’ skills) took his job seriously, but not himself. He was all business with his crew and his train. But he could crack wise and loved to laugh.

He once sent to my father, here at the Union Leader, a picture he took of me reading the paper while standing in the “honey bucket.” (It wasn’t filled with honey.)

We would learn years later that in Vermont, Norm Lewis’ day jobs had included being a superintendent of schools. Come political season, though, and he would morph into “Danny Gore,” an independent running for governor from the imaginary hamlet of “Avery’s Gore.”

He loved to tweak the real politicians and sprinkle his jokes with common sense.

His son and daughter put together a wonderful program of videos and music as dusk overtook Jit’s home in Danville, Vt. It ended with a fireworks display so loud and vivid that a friend leaned over and asked me if the North Koreans had invaded.

Jit’s son, Tim Lewis, was generous with his time and fact-finding when I was writing my “Cog Days” memoir last year. He had helped his dad amass their own wonderful history of the Cog, which I hope will one day be commercially published as well.

As for me, I’m a rookie at this book thing. But if you would like to hear about it, I am scheduled to be on Ken Cail’s WTPL FM (107.7) radio program tomorrow afternoon during the 3 p.m. hour.

Write to Joe McQuaid at Publisher@unionleader.com or on Twitter @deucecrew.


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