Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Friday, June 24, 2011
Forks in the road.
Taking the road less travelled.
Colloquialisms all, but when you look in the rear view, they were all real places where a decision was made in your life that led you to another place, and then to another. Eventually, those decision GPS directions led you to where you are sitting today. Now for the analogies: that road that brought you to where you are had some bumpy parts, some down right smooth as fresh pavement parts, and some parts that were wash boarded, washed out, and rutted enough to cause you to bump your head more than once.
I took some turns that weren't the best. They took me onto some bad terrain. Some bad land, but I did learn to make better choices. I still am, and I am putting those lessons into practice.
I guess most of us do learn from our experiences, and choices, and change our direction accordingly. I could have done better at times, a whole lot better, but there have been times I have done very well. We've all been told that experience is the best teacher, and I can confirm that. It is just a question of whether or not we will listen to the teacher.
Recently I drove over to the town where I grew up to check on my step-mother. Since my Dad passed away in March, she has been alone, and doing the all the things he protected her from all those years together. Things like doing all the banking, paying the bills, talking to lawyers, and the like. She has done very well. He would be very happily surprised. All those years, watching him, listening to him, and watching the results he obtained was like a classroom. A course in learning to survive by dealing with things to come. She learned very well.
Who'd a thunk it?
After my visit, I called an old friend, I had know since first grade, and I had not seen in years. I asked him if he wanted to get together and grab a bite. It was 11:00 in the morning, and my call had woken him up. He was sleeping in. Really. A fifty-plus year old guy sleeping in till 11 on a Sunday morning. I can't remember sleeping in long, even after a rough night, and there was a time, when I had my share of those. He said grabbing a bite would be great, and asked me to give him an hour.
Okay, an hour it is.
An hour later I arrived at his apartment, I found my way up to his place, and he met me in the hallway. He led me into his modest home. A kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom. Modest may not be the right word, but to my old friend, it was home, and he seemed happy. He owned his own company, paid his bills, and made his own choices, and he was happy. That is what counts the most.
We went to a local restaurant that was offering brunch, and ordered a great meal. While we ate, my friend shared some stories of other local old friends that had fallen on hard times over the years, and weren't doing that well in life. I think he was using their bad times as a barometer in which to measure his own life against. Something we all do from time to time.
He prefaced his stories by telling me that their tough times had nothing to do with the current economic climate, and went into detail about what these guys were up against, and it all had a common theme. Poor choices, and bad decisions, something we all make, but the theme here was not learning from the results of those choices. What made it worse was their not knowing how to correct the issue, how to find help, not having the strength to fix things, or becoming so despondent as a result that they became paralyzed. There was a time I was in a similar place. I could feel for those guys, those former classmates, and friends.
After we finished brunch my old friend looked relieved. He had spoken aloud about things that he had only been thinking about for some time. He had received feedback in the form of my head shaking, and mild expletives, and according to his Barometer of Life, he had risen a few points. He was in a better frame of mind than when he was when I called him, and all we did was talk, and have some awesome Eggs Benedict.
I guess the purpose of all this rambling is to maybe stimulate some reflection in you, and in me, as well. Living in the past is never good, but learning from it is what we are meant to do. Otherwise, we will languish back in the day, and never move on to all those adventures we promised ourselves when we were younger.
Yes, we do pay some dues along the way. It's inevitable. We loose jobs. I have, and not by choice. We suffer through bad relationships. Our children will disown us, call us lame, ignore us, and cause us to age four years to every one we actually live. Creditors will call us at some point when we forget a car payment, or the electric bill. Life will always be there, but it is by our choice how we live it, how we respond to it, and that choice will determine how our ride will be.
I guess that is really the whole point. Life will always be there, but it is our choice how to live, and respond to it. It is also our responsibility to share our experiences with those that are in a position to learn from them. That is one reason why we have been blessed with memory, and our children are number one on the share list.
Share your failures, don't hide them. Don't pretend to be perfect. They see right through us. By sharing our experiences, good, and bad, we might just help someone avoid being the topic of conversation at brunch someday.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
|Very much alive Sturbridge, MA veterans |
standing where their monument once stood
in the front of the Town Hall, and may
soon be again.
On Tuesday evening, the selectman voted 4-1 to restore the Veterans Monument that had stood outside of the Town Hall for years until it was dismantled during the recent restoration of the Town Hall. The bronze plaques were then moved inside of the hall, and placed on the wall of the second floor, out of sight of all those except those that happened upon them in that out of the way place.
This did not settle to well with those that have family, and friends on the plaques, and above all, to those actual veterans whose names were on the plaques. They felt slighted, hurt, and as if they had been put away on a shelf.
Honoring those that have served is a public honor, a full time, twenty four hour a day honor, and not something that is turned off when the Town Hall is closed for the night, or weekend, and restored on Monday morning.
Some feel that the plaques should remain in the Veterans Memorial Hall in the Town Hall, and there may lie part of the problem. A "memorial" is associated with those that have passed, or a past event. It is the difference between Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. Many of those listed on the plaques are still with us, alive and well, not ready to be memorialized. There is a "memorial" across the street, on the lawn of the Center Office Building for those killed in combat. What the veterans had was a monument, not a memorial. And, yes, in time those on the plaques will join their comrades at final muster, but new names will continually be added as well. It is truly a "living monument".
On Tuesday night there was only one dissenting vote against the restoration of the monument. It was also mentioned that evening that the cost of restoring the monument would be $20,000.
Now, that is something I feel may be accurate, but if done right, won't cost the town much at all. Veterans are a resourceful group, with an enormous network of bushiness people, and tradespeople. I can see volunteers donating their time to rebuild the monument.
This is only the beginning. Now comes the real work of designing the replacement monument, deciding on a location, and organizing the construction. The focus cannot be diverted, the passion must be just as intense, and I am sure it will be.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Happy 1st day of summer! Just a quick reminder that the Oliver Wight Tavern at Old Sturbridge Village will be hosting a Tornado Relief Dinner tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 22) from 4 – 8 p.m. All proceeds will be donated to the CMS Chamber’s Tornado Relief Fund to assist those in our community who were affected by the storms of June 1st. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children and may be purchased at the door or online here: http://www.osv.org/orders/listprograms.html?ID=55
From the OSV website: The National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts has confirmed an EF3 tornado from Westfield to Charlton, Massachusetts on June 1, 2011. A super cell thunderstorm developed over western Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon. This storm strengthened and produced a long lived... very significant tornado... that did extensive damage across southwest and south central Massachusetts. This storm will be noted not only for its intensity... but also for the length of the continuous damage path...approximately 39 miles. The tornado was also very wide at some points...reaching a maximum width of one half mile.
Thank you and we hope to see you Wednesday evening! (6/22/2011)
Alexis P.D. Conte
Director of Sales
Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
Friday, June 17, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thank you for your continued hard work. While you are here, though, could you just take 2 minutes to jot a sentence down, if you know where our stone monument for the Veterans of WWII, and the Vietnam and Korean conflicts ended up? Can the stones be reused to rebuild it?
We have people here who are hurting from this loss, too. Yesterday we picked up the Town Common Newspaper and saw the huge picture of the "Sturbridge Colonial Militia" on the front page. The headline was "Sturbridge Honors its Real Heroes." One would think that a headline like that would have been over a picture of the parade stopping by our stone monument at the town hall which contained so many names familiar and dear to us.
In speaking with local heroes we know and love, living heroes from the wars from the 1940's to the present, I can tell you they are hurt. Please, just a sentence or two, to let them and their friends and families know why the monument disappeared, and what can be done to bring it back. Thank you.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
- Stallion Hill Road, Douty Road and Holland Road Area: June 20
- Fiske Hill Road, Whittemore Road, Regep Lane and Farquhar Road Area: June 27
- Willard Road and Streeter Road Area: July 11
- Only tree branches, limbs and logs (the longer the better) will be accepted.
- The above material must be placed within ten feet of the edge of the roadway.
- A one foot setback from the edge of pavement is required for safety and vehicular access.
- Lawn waste including leaves, twigs and other raked material is not included and will not be removed by the Town. It is recommended that this material be placed in compost bags and properly disposed of by landowners.
- Burnable material (plastic, glass, carpeting, etc.),
- Metals (metal siding, sheds, swing sets, lawn furniture, screen doors, etc.), and
- Construction and Demolition debris (wood siding, doors, shingles, pressure treated lumber, windows, etc.).
- Selectman Thomas Creamer: (774) 696-0903
- Selectman Priscilla Gimas: (774) 230-5572
- Christine Jensen, Volunteer Resource Coordinator Asst.: (508) 365-7227
- Susan Waters, Volunteer Resource Coordinator: (774) 402-4387
- Selectman Thomas Creamer - 774-696-0903
- Selectman Priscilla Gimas - 774-230-5572
- Christine Jensen, Assistant to the Volunteer Resource Coordinator - 508-365-7227
- Susan Waters, Volunteer Resource Coordinator - 774-402-4387
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
|Damaged trees along the Quinebaug River on |
Old Sturbridge Village Road.
Now, the reason I take my camera with me is to record the events of the day here in town. Today it's the present, the happening now, and tomorrow, on Wednesday, it will be history.
We will always need to record the present in order to have an accurate history. That's the way it has been since we drew on cave walls. There have been times in our history that there have been folks that have actually tried to stop the recording of history, mostly for political purposes. Expect it. That will always happen, but in a free country. There should never be a reason to stop a person from recording history, or current events in the United States. I am not talking about paparazzi, or people crossing the line and invading the space of people in disaster. That is a different story. I am talking about surveying aftermath of a storm, and recording it for posterity just as the Hurricane of 1938 was recorded, the floods of the 1950's were recorded, and the Blizzard of '78 was recorded. Nothing more.
So imagine my surprise when I parked my car on the side of old Route 15, and walked over to the front of the Days Inn with my camera. I had just driven down the Publick House Road beside the motel, parked in several places, and had taken photographs, and was now approaching the corner of the Publick House Road, and Haynes Street with my camera. As I approached, two National Guard soldiers approached me, and asked what I was doing. I told them I was taking photographs of storm damage in my town. The sergeant then told me that the "state does not want pictures taken".
I'm sorry, say what? I asked her if she was saying I could not take photographs of the storm damage, and she said, "That is not what I am saying. I am saying that the state does not want pictures taken. They want people to respect those that have had a loss".
That goes without saying. Respect for those that have suffered any kind of loss is paramount, but I am not taking photographs of people, I am taking photographs of broken trees, and the front of a broken building.
The sergeant stepped back, nodded, and thanked me for understanding.
I smiled back and started to walk down the Publick House Road. A few steps down the road I was called by a Sturbridge Police officer leaning on a motorcycle in the parking lot of the Days Inn. I walked over to the officer, some 50 feet away from the road, in the driveway of the motel. He asked me where I was going. I told him. He asked me what I was doing. I told him that, too. He then told me, "OK, but stay out of everyones way, and stay on the road, not on private property". Except for the two soldiers, the officer, and a couple of workers on the roof of the motel, there was nobody else around. Nobody. I would not be in any ones way, and would remain on the road, I assured the officer.
They all may have been awkward in saying it, but I knew where they were coming from. Respect those that have lost the world around them. Don't put camera lenses in their faces, or bother them with asinine questions like, "What are you most thankful for after the tornado now that your car is on its roof, your house flattened and your dog missing?"
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Behind me, across I-84, there was a large highway sign knocked part way to the ground. It was like I was standing somewhere in tornado ravaged Missouri, and the evening news was playing all around me in 3-D.
The Public House billboard that stood back from the roadway for decades was now lying flat, it's steel girdered legs bent over in submission to the storm.
I returned to the car, pulled a u-turn, and headed back towards route 131, and towards Southbridge. I got as far as Hall road, and was detoured down that road because all of route 131, as far as I could see was a mass of tree service trucks, downed trees alongside, and in the road, utility cables strewn about, and men working. It didn't look good.
Down Hall Road a short way and then took a right onto Whittemore Road, and up to the top of Fisk Hill. There, at the top of the hill the damage I had seen on the way up the hill was magnified a hundred fold. Two hundred year old trees pulled out of the ground, and onto their sides. Some trees split in so many pieces that they had to be taken down completely. Tall one hundred foot tall pines snapped in half, de-limbed, and standing at attention as if they were war weary soldiers surveying the field after the battle. The more I saw on the top of that hill the more I realized that was exactly what they were.
I parked my car on Fox Run Road, and walked around with my camera for a long while. I saw the damage, the people, the lost looks on their faces, and the nods, and small smiles on their faces as they acknowledged me as I walked by. The smiles were not so much meant to greet a stranger in their midst, but acknowledging to themselves that on this particular morning they were actually alive, and very glad they could greet anybody.
From Fiske Hill Road I drove down and onto Route 131 and headed towards Shaws Market. 131 was blocked off in front of the plaza, and I headed down the road, on foot, towards the common. The scene that lay before me was disorientating. Landmarks gone. There was sunlight where there had only been shadows at this time of day for decades. All the old growth trees were gone along route 131. A third of the auto body building was gone. The newly planted trees across from the Sturbridge Service Center were untouched as if there was a predestined master plan in place all the time, and those trees were planted to fill the voids soon to be left by the storm.
It gives me shivers if I read too much into it.
We lost our lights for about six hours. We were lucky. We've lost power for twice as long for one pole being down last year, never mind an entire town being knocked out. National Grid did well for those of us on Brookfield road that night, and for restoring the rest of the town in the time they did. They deserve a lot of credit, and thanks. The same with the other utility companies. They worked non stop to get the essentials back up and running.
For days we have been had the National Guard, Mass Highway, the State Police, the Environmental Police, Army Corps of Engineers, the Red Cross, the countless trees services, and cable companies amongst us. Helping us. Thank you, all.
Tomorrow is the Town Meeting at the High School. Mary and I will be there. We'll bring some non-perishable donations, participate in the meeting, and most importantly, acknowledge others we see with a nod, and a smile.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Per National Grid Conference Call I participated in earlier: 1,166 (approximately 25%) of Sturbridge customers without power. It may be up to 2 1/2 days for power to be restored fully due to Transmission + Distribution damage along the route of the tornado.
Residents should be aware that National Grid crews are working as quickly as possible, as are local and State assets. Please be advised that trucks and crews in the area does not necessarily mean power restoration is imminent as Transmission damage further away is likely.
Additional information can be found on Town website and via National Grid's website Storm Center, which will be periodically updated.
As there is no power or internet access from many locations, it is hoped that residents receiving this information will be able to update those with no access.
Minor to significant damage to homes, property, trees, and infrastructure (i.e. power, phone, cable) along Fiske Hill Rd., Whittemore Rd., Willard Rd., Rt 131 between Farquhar and Hall Rd., as well as Stallion Hill Rd., and Holland Rd. has resulted in road closings or reduced access in order to address issues.
Residents are encouraged to refrain from traveling those areas unless absolutely necessary in order to reduce any possibility of hindering work crews as they strive to bring relief to those most affected by.
Fortunately, despite the extensive damage to areas of our community, we have experienced no loss of life and only a small number of minor injuries reported.
Our thoughts and support are with those struggling to cope with the damage they have sustained.
Thomas R. Creamer