Phyl Newbeck, Contributor
Tom Scatchard built his own house for just over $5,000 without an engineering or architectural background and designed two golf courses without having previously golfed.
Much like the starship Enterprise, he has a tendency to boldly go where he hasn’t gone before.
Teaching is where his heart and expertise lie. He spent almost four decades in front of classrooms at Charlotte Central School and has continued his affiliation with the school as a volunteer.
Scatchard started his teaching career with second graders in 1975. He taught combined third and fourth grade classes and fifth and six grade classes, enjoying the variety of moving back and forth among the different ages.
For a time, he had another title. “I was the computer coordinator at the dawn of the technology age,” he said, noting that cutting edge technology at the time was a Commodore 64.
Scatchard’s focus was on the computer’s word processing program although the school found other uses for the machines. He took part in a conference on information technology in 1990 to help set guidelines for how Vermont students could use the new technology.
For many years, Scatchard was the only man teaching at the elementary school level but that didn’t bother him. “The young grades are where you can have a powerful impact,” he said.
Scatchard’s favorite group was his third and fourth grade classes. He felt that at that point in their academic careers they had been given the basics by previous instructors and were then able to use some of that knowledge.
A year after he started teaching, Scatchard and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Ebeth decided to build their own home, a process interesting enough to have been written about in a book called Green Lumber Building. Scatchard described the 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom home as a log cabin made from 4×12 rough lumber pine beams, joking that his experience playing with Lincoln Logs as a child prepared him for the work.
The home’s foundation only cost $200 because it was built out of Sonotubes which are cardboard tubes into which concrete is poured. The $3,000 worth of lumber was the most expensive part of the $5,200 home.
Thirty-five years and several additions later, Scatchard sold the house and built another 100 yards south on the same property. Just like the first iteration, he and his wife designed on graph paper. This time the beams were 6x8s, but the basic construction was the same with Scatchard, his sons and one of their friends doing the work, aided by a more knowledgeable builder acting as the foreman.
Scatchard’s property extends for several acres, and over the years, he has tried to figure out what to do with it. Although he had never played golf before, Scatchard decided to design an 18-hole course, mowing the areas where he thought a ball might be hit. The course had some challenging terrain including a pond, a cliff and a swamp.
Since then, Scatchard has opened up another section of land and created a nine-hole course which he refers to as the archaeological site because the land in question was used for pasture and haying and had several barns which burned down. As a result, there are pieces of old farm equipment and vehicles which Scatchard has mowed around. He concedes that calling it an archaeological site is tongue-in-cheek, but the various pieces add to the enjoyment of the course.
“The only reason I’m golfing is to do something with the land,” he said. “If I was a real golfer, I wouldn’t consider what I’m doing.”
After he retired from Charlotte Central School, Scatchard spent a few years volunteering for the after-school enrichment program. He subsequently waded back into the technology field by working on a process where kids could share things about their lives with students in other states or countries. Unfortunately, the sharing part of that program never got off the ground, but Scatchard is still proud of the work he did with the kids.
Another connection to the school is Scatchard’s work condensing a weekly Charlotte Central School column created by the school secretary for publication right here in The Charlotte News. He also helps deliver the paper.
Scatchard became a mentor for an eighth-grade student who is now at Champlain Valley Union High School. “We share our music with each other,” he said. “I’m learning about the 21st century and he’s leaning about the 60s.”
He may be retired after years of teaching, but Tom Scatchard is still looking towards the future.