Autumn in the North Cemetery.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Any Good Recipe Takes A Bit Of Tweakin'

I have to admit, it's gotten better.

When I first arrived here in town, back at the beginning of the new millennium, I observed an old Yankee attitude that had been in place for generations.  Nothing wrong with an old Yankee attitude, it is one of thrift, ingenuity, pragmatism, and responsibility. All excellent traits, but unyielding, unswerving, unchanging, and being resistive are also part of being a Yankee.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

This is how some cultures last for so long without much change when challenged by the rest of the world.  They don't always last as long as first planned, though, look at what happened to the Shakers.  Small towns and villages, can be very much the same.  They function day to day as they always have, only taking on new projects, or change, when so mandated by necessity, such as when a bridge is out, or a school needs building.

This is New England, and we move with much well intentioned forethought before acting, and then fix a situation very well so we will not have to move that fast again for some time.  This is where our pragmatism, and ingenuity come into play.  It is also being responsible.

During the last ten years I have witnessed some nice changes here in town.  At first it was if it was like a chowda on the boil, and a new ingredient had been put into the batch.  All hell was bubbling over!  Soon, the angry bubbling began to subside, and become just a constant boil.  Still, it was something that needed to be dealt with, and it was.  New elections, new candidates, new townsfolk serving the residents with new ideas.

It's been a helluva ride, but what has happened is a liberation, and rebuilding of our small town culture.  We have decided not to watch society roll by in tour buses, we have decided to join their world.

That in itself is a humongus step in the right direction.

We are almost like a chick breaking out of its shell, and getting our bearings, and balance fine tuned.  We're a bit wobbly.  We are still making mistakes, but admitting them more often. We are also acting on them like the Front Door Debacle at the Town Hall.

And, then there's that "chowda".  It's still bubbling, cooking with the hope, and promise of something really good.  Like any recipe, there will be additions to the pot, and if they survive the tasting spoon of the townsfolk, they'll stay, if not, they'll be voted out of the recipe.

We've already tossed out a few ingredients.

What's your take?  Are we headed in the right direction?  Have we made progress over the last few years?  What is the one ingredient you would add to the pot for the ultimate chowda?


  1. Hi Wally,
    The next ingredient I would like to add is Saturday daylight town meetings, giving more people the opportunity to vote on expenditures. Driving up to Tantasqua at night is impossible for many seniors, and others as well. Also, many folks have to leave because of the lateness of the hour before some things even come to the floor.
    Hopefully this will be brought up at the special town meeting and then brought to a vote.

  2. How about televising school committee meetings?

  3. Timely posting of minutes?

  4. I would like to have the school committee explain their rationalization for all day kindergarten. (I don't believe in it.)

  5. Is it true that there is a third floor without air conditioning but including a skylight, or skylights, at the new elementary school? Wouldn't that be unbearably warm on hot days in autumn and spring. The next ingredient I would like to see is someone with good explanations about heating and cooling our town buildings, in relation to the "energy saving" talk going around.
    Uninsulated windows at the town hall, and skylights above the third floor of the school both seem to already call for costly remedies.

  6. Excellent ideas! Keep them coming!

  7. We need more truly affordable housing. Taking an average of the incomes in Sturbridge and finding an affordable rent mathematically from that figure doesn't realy work. It may be a legal way of using numbers, but people who need "affordable" housing often don't have "average" means in a fairly wealthy town. Lower wages for some, age, and costly health issues keep many people's monetary funds at a level not quite low enough to qualify for assistance, but not high enough to afford "average" housing costs. Besides that, we don't even have the minimal percentage of "low-income" housing required by law.

  8. Televise the Finance committee meetings.

  9. Our veterans monument (honor roll) needs to be "reclaimed, and restored" to its former location, on the lawn of the town hall.

  10. Follow the money. Most of our money goes to the schools. The school committee meetings need to be televised.


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