Super Senior: Trueman Bryer

Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 5:07 PM EDT
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SAINT ALBANS TOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - Trueman Bryer lives on the lake but he made a living working the rails.

The Saint Albans Town resident had a unique career. For close to two decades, Bryer was a telegraph operator for the Central Vermont Railroad. “It was kind of an elite job because everybody couldn’t do it,” Bryer said.

What many consider a relic from the 1800s was still in use by the railroads well into the 1950s.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Why not use a phone?

Trueman Bryer: Well, they had their own private system.

A system of direct and reliable communication on wires up and down the tracks. “You never go faster-sending something than the man on the other end can copy it,” Bryer said. At 93, Bryer hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How do you feel?

Trueman Bryer: With my fingers, yes.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How’s your memory?

Trueman Bryer: No good.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Well, then you’re fooling me.

Until recently, Bryer’s telegraph machines and other memories were collecting dust in the attic.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You were good at this, huh?

Trueman Bryer: Oh yeah, I was good at it. Yeah, that was years ago.

He learned Morse code as an Eagle Scout in Northfield. At 17, he entered the Navy towards the end of World War 2.

“They taught me the way to do it,” Bryer said.

He came home and married his sweetheart, Terry. They raised three girls and a boy.

Dawn Densmore-Parent, a close friend of Bryer, is like a daughter. “It was like finding a treasure chest of the history of Vermont,” Densmore-Parent said.

She has known Bryer since she was a teen and came back into his life when she was working in home health care. She helped take care of Terry towards the end of her life. The two would talk for hours. “And as he was telling me the accounts of things that happened, I found it was just extremely interesting,” Densmore-Parent said.

Interesting enough to put on paper. It turned into “The Trueman Bryer Memory Book,” a collection of his stories. From shooting his first deer to making caramel pudding at Christmas.

“Because I thought there were life lessons that were being presented and the experiences that he was going through or telling me, as a child,” Densmore-Parent said.

They included stories of Terry growing up on a farm. Life for her was chores, not hugs and Bryer says she didn’t have much of a childhood. Densmore-Parent says the writing process was therapeutic. “It was, because when I was writing this book and interacting with this family, I could see a functional family,” she said.

The book may never make the New York Times Best Sellers list, but it’s an honest Vermont story, and a message from a time gone by.

“I think your sitting talking to a remarkable man with a remarkable life,” Densmore-Parent said.

“The Trueman Bryer Memory Book” can be purchased on Amazon as well as at The Eloquent Page Bookstore in St. Albans.

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