GRAY – The Town of Gray has revived an old tradition and broken new ground in the process by awarding its Boston Post Cane to 96-year-old Charlotte E. Frost, the first woman in town history to receive the cane.
“I have a cane, but it isn’t a Boston Post Cane,” joked Frost during an interview at her house on Yarmouth Road, where she’s lived since she was 3.
Frost, a lifelong Gray resident, will turn 97 on March 16. Town officials believe she is the oldest current Gray resident based on voter registration rolls, and the first woman ever to receive the town’s cane.
The New England tradition of towns awarding Boston Post Canes to their oldest residents dates back to the early 1900s, when the editor of the Boston Post newspaper decided to gift hundreds of canes to towns across New England as a publicity stunt. According to the Boston Post Cane Information Center, the canes were meant for the towns’ oldest living man, but belong to the towns.
The original cane belonging to the town of Gray is believed by some to have been lost in a fire in the 1920s, though that is not confirmed. But there is no doubt that the town tradition had been on a very long hold.
“We’re just so thrilled to see this tradition come back,” said Gray Deputy Town Clerk Elizabeth Bullen, who led a small group that worked to re-establish the town’s Boston Post Cane presentation.
Bullen worked with Karen Taylor of the Gray Historical Society, fellow deputy clerk Ann Elkanich, and town web administrator Debi Curry to bring the cane tradition back to Gray. The group worked learned more about the town’s original cane, proposed its reinstatement to the Town Council, had it approved, and then put out a call for nominations from local residents to determine who should receive the cane.
Frost’s granddaughter, Sandy Foster of Raymond, nominated her for the cane after learning about it from Frost’s neighbor who visits for coffee every day.
“She’s only 15 minutes away,” said Frost about her granddaughter. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
The first recipient of Gray’s Boston Post Cane, according to the town website, was John Frank, a Civil War veteran who died in 1923 at the age of 89, around the time that the original cane disappeared. Much of that cane’s history is shrouded in mystery.
The Gray Historical Society “couldn’t really dig up much information on it,” said Taylor, who is a member of the historical society’s board of trustees.
But Frost says she knows exactly what happened to the original cane.
“Oh yes, there’s a story on that, and I’ve told them about it,” Frost said. “And I know all about it, because I was there the night that house burned.”
Frost is “quite sure” a man with the last name Skillin had the cane in 1927 when it was destroyed in a fire.
Given the original cane’s disappearance, Bullen says that the town has decided it’s safest to keep and display the new one at the Town Office. She also says that a display will be built that will include plaques with the names of each recipient.
“That bugs me, that I can’t have my cane. But that’s all right, they’re afraid it might get lost or something,” Frost quipped.
Though the original cane was made from ebony and contained 14 karat gold, the new one bought by the town is a simpler replica. Bullen estimates that the town spent about $200 for the cane and its engraving.
Frost was recognized during a Feb. 23 ceremony in the Town Council chambers. Foster says about 30 family members and friends joined the celebration.
“It was quite a nice group,” said Frost. “I got flowers, I got balloons.”
As for her secret to a long life?
“I don’t think about it. I don’t think I’m old,” she said with a smile. “I just take one day at a time.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Charlotte Frost, 96, is the first woman to receive Gray’s Boston Post Cane.