She left her small town of Saxtons River, Vermont a handful of times during her life, but managed to be extremely worldly. She was just amazing. Her name was Alice Austin Packard. AKA: Miss Penny Nickels.
Penny Nickels was her stage name, but she was known to us as Aunt Alice. She’s the Aunt of some close family friends.
Aunt Alice began doing stand-up comedy in small Vermont towns when she was in her 50’s. Her last performance on the “big” stage was when she was 86 years old at the Main Street Arts Center in Saxtons River. We had front row seats.
Come see a few clips of that rare and special night:
Local entertainment at Granges, community centers, and special village gatherings were and probably still are, a natural form of entertainment for many small communities. It gave Aunt Alice a stage for what she loved best…making people laugh.
She died at the age of 89 on May 20th, 2005. It was her choice. She deliberately stopped eating. Said she didn’t want to live sickly or as a burden. She controlled what she could of her life to the very end.
I inherited one of her antique record cabinets. I have it stuffed with historical newspaper articles and publications that I’ve collected over the years. On the first anniversary of her death, the cabinet door opened and wouldn’t shut. I had to finally wedge the door closed with a folded piece of paper. I’ll never know why that door opened, but I can tell you that it jolted me into thinking of her, how great she was, and how privileged I was to know her.
She’s been gone now for 8 years. On May 21st – just 2 days ago – 8 years and one day after her death, that door opened again for no apparent reason. Once again, I’ve collided with a flood of thoughts and remembrances of this special lady. Try as I may, I can’t get that door to shut without wedging it together.
I’ve been told by some spiritual gurus that there are signs all around us. Signs that relate to so many things, not just the departed.
I’d love to know if you’ve experienced signs that can only be explained by spiritual and intangible meanings. Be Brave, like Aunt Alice was — share your story with us.