Robarts presented Boston Post Cane
Camden — Vernette Cross Robarts, 101, was ceremoniously presented with Camden's Boston Post Cane by Select Board Chairman Martin Cates July 18.
The cane was bestowed on Robarts as the oldest living long-term resident of Camden and her name was added to the list displayed at the town office, where the actual cane is also traditionally kept. Robarts was awarded a plaque stating the designation, which she can keep in lieu of the cane, Cates said.
Cates and Robarts traded tales of days in Camden gone by and joked extensively, also speaking of Robarts' love of dancing.
In addition to Cates, Town Manager Patricia Finnigan and Robarts' daughters, Connie Parker and Diann Henderson, were present.
Robarts has lived in Camden nearly all of her life; for nearly 70 years in the same house she and her husband built in 1944.
"I was born in Camden, got married, came back. Camden is my home," she said just after her 100th birthday last May, noting Cross Street is named after her grandfather.
According to her daughters, Robarts enjoys spending time reading books, completing puzzles and playing cards. They noted their father, Myron, also reached the age of 100 and they credit locally-raised meats and other foods for their parents' longevity.
Robarts also credits a can-do attitude.
"Ask me something that needs to be done and I can do it," she said.
She and her late husband, Myron, spent hours "fishing, fishing, fishing. We had a wonderful life. We liked to do all of the same things."
As a young woman, Robarts worked at Crockett's 5 and 10 in Rockland until she and Myron married. She then worked as bookkeeper for her husband's tree and landscaping business. For a time, the couple also built and rented cottages on the High Street property where Robarts still lives. She worked as well for a local hospital, sewing hospital gowns and baby gowns for 12 years.
About the Boston Post Cane
According to several historical societies, on Aug. 2, 1909, Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post, a newspaper, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 700 towns in New England a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town, to be used by him as long as he lived (or until he moved from the town), and at his death handed down to the next-oldest citizen of the town. The cane would belong to the town and not the man who received it.
The canes were all made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York manufacturer, from ebony shipped in 7-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa. They were cut to cane lengths, seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, coated and polished. They had a 14-carat gold head 2-inches long, decorated by hand, and a ferruled tip. The head was engraved with the inscription, — "Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) — To Be Transmitted.” The Board of Selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and keep it always in the the hands of the oldest man. Canes were shipped in a purple velvet sleeve along with a letter of instructions.
In 1924, Grozier died, and the Boston Post was taken over by his son, Richard, until competition from other newspapers, radio and television contributed to the Post’s decline and it went out of business in 1957.
The custom of the Boston Post Cane took hold in those towns lucky enough to have canes. The most common question regarding the awarding of the cane was whether both men and women were eligible. According to an article printed three weeks after the distribution of the first cane, the intention from the outset was that the cane should be presented to the oldest male. The word "citizen" had been intended to mean the oldest registered male voter.
Aug. 26, 1920, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, the Equal Suffrage Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Grozier strongly believed that women should not carry his Boston Post Cane. That was OK with some women, as they did not want to divulge their age, anyway. But in the late 1930s, after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well. Today, more women than men receive the honor.
As years went by some of the canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town and not returned to the Selectmen or destroyed by accident. As of January 2013, only 411 original Boston Post Canes have been located. Of those 411, Maine has 179, Massachusetts has 121, New Hampshire has 97 and Rhode Island has 14.
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.