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Legacy of Progress
Gone Sour

How a Renewal Project Destroyed Moodus Center

Part 1: The Grand Plan

Part 2: Renewal Flops

Part 3: Might Have Beens

Resorts of Moodus

When Moodus Was Connecticut's Playground

Resort List & Pictures

A Day at Banner Lodge

Old Ads & Flyers

1950s Banner Brochure

1950s Hilton's Brochure

Orchard Mansion Lessons

Mills Along the River

How Moodus Became the "Twine Capital of America"

A Maritime Success

Ed Stolarz Made the Best Nets in East Haddam

Burning the Coops

The Simon Farm Disappears

Memories of Meat

Coming of Age at Bury's

The Last Whaler

E. Haddam's Captain Comer

Old Chimney Stacks

The First Families in Town 

East Haddam History

As Told in 1913

Early Views of Town

How It Looked Back Then

Ode to East Haddam

"It's just the place to live""

Coming of Age at Bury's Meat Market
The Bury Brothers Ran a Place Like No Other

(Continued from previous page)
The guys in the back talked incessantly about the usual subjects: sports, women, the meaning of life, sports, women.  Joe almost never participated in these meaningful debates. If he had a contribution, it was far removed from popular culture or gossip of the day -- stuff like business ethics or moral decline in western civilization. It was always a conversation stopper. We went back to our work. It wasn’t that Joe was unfriendly or didn’t enjoy the company of others, even us high school guys. You could always be certain of a big smile and warm greeting when you came in the door. He just had a self-imposed isolation when the rough, gruff real world came into the shop, as exemplified by his brother.

While Joe was slight, gray, formal, and fussy, Julian was rotund, slicked-back black, expansive, and down to earth. If Joe was marketing and customer relations, Julian was production, single-handedly manufacturing homemade kielbasa, smoked shoulders, bacon (regular and jowl), veal loaf, and other sausage kinds of things. Julian’s world was the rear room and its mixing vats, smoke cabinets, grinders, and carts.  It was a place of varied music or Boston Celtics radio – “Havlichek steals the ball!” -- and apprentices sticking their heads in the doorway to cheer. Julian was a willing participant and instigator in all topics of earnest discussion, always as an adult, an experienced authority. Never as a vicarious teenage wannabe.

Get the conversation going the right way with Julian, and you might get an unexpected tidbit of information. Case in point: Just up the road from our home in Hadlyme lived “Aunt” Flossie in a two-room shack. Well advanced in age, she fed pet raccoons and other forest creatures, and hauled water for washing and cooking in buckets from the brook down the steep hill. Her shack’s interior design was male beefcake calendars on ancient peeling wallpaper, illuminated by one naked hanging bulb. After she passed on, Julian revealed in a totally unrelated conversation how Flossie, back in the day, could drink the young men of the town under the table and keep on going. I had to know more and it led me to reassess the life and identify of my grizzled but bright-eyed former neighbor. Julian waxed large on big bands, politics, and phonies. His grumbling and facial expressions, when next-door relatives made their demands known, or when his and Joe’s worlds collided, were always a source of stifled amusement for the apprentices.

The weekly cycle of production always came to a climax on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. The entire complex was full of the cooking and smoking smells of Julian’s creations. The end of the week was also top-to-bottom cleanup time, when apprentice energies were turned loose on all the vats, pans, butcher block, floors, and sundry other items that needed a good scrubbing. The music got louder, the repartee got boisterous. By this time, it was usually dark outside, and Joe was preoccupied with late customers.

With the cleaning half done, Julian would invariably slip inside the back refrigerator room where one or two six packs were tucked behind the pickles. With understated camaraderie and a knowing raised eyebrow, he would slip a cold one to each of the apprentices. If the night was warm and the mood was good, a second round usually followed. Intentional or not, cleaning crew productivity would soar, accompanied by intense discussions about the deeply meaningful issue of the moment. We knew Julian was exercising a certain measure of corporate risk in celebrating the end of the week with us underage types. We would not have betrayed his trust even under torture.

My last days at Bury’s were just before heading out to orientation at an Ivy League university and, ostensibly, a different sort of life. As cleanup ended and some task would take me outside, I would pause and stare across the valley in summer twilight. Some far-off dog would be barking amidst the cool stillness, and I’d ponder the moment, with regret and contentment. Regret at knowing that this rare experience and its moments would soon end; contentment at the existential poetry of it all, however fleeting.

It may be hard to understand how working in a meat market can rise to that level of meaning, emotion, or introspection. But when you take into account how severely judgmental adolescents can be, how conscious they can be of what’s cool and what’s not, it must be understood that humble Bury’s market engendered pride among its lowly teenage workers. If some village lovely made her way into the shop with her mother and I was manning the counter, my blood-splattered apron and chicken-entrailed hands became badges of honor.

I was proud of the institution and my role in it. It produced products with a quality and authenticity available nowhere else, as far as I knew. The Bury brothers were artisans in a time when artisans were the stuff of history books. One summer night near closing, the parking lot was full and a man’s head appeared suddenly at the screen window of the backroom where we worked filling orders. From the darkness, a disembodied voice asked some questions of us in a tone of wonderment and then said, “Wow, this place would do a hell of a business in New Jersey.” Well, precisely. But New Jersey can’t have it. It’s ours. Or it was.

That was 1966, and neither the market nor the brothers still survive. Always having been a packrat of bits of personal and family history, at about that time I resolved that when I reached some doddering old age, I would put all the bits together while rocking on some front porch. Actually, not “some” front porch. For decade after decade, as the bits of history accumulated, the porch image that informed my resolve to write it down in retirement was the porch on the house in front of Bury’s Meat Market. So wherever you are now, Bury boys: Here’s to you, Julian, and thank you very much indeed, Joseph.


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Last modified: September 03, 2012