Past Columns Archive #1 -
June 1999 --> January 2000
February 2000 --> June 2000
September 2000 --> May 2001
June 2001 --> February 2004
This column includes articles of local interest, on a myriad of topics of local interest written by Betsy Huber Port. As a writer, parent, and resident of the Town of Longmeadow for many years she covers many areas. Betsy welcomes comments or suggestions from readers.
Tree City USA
We love Longmeadow’s Trees! Our town has received the official designation as “Tree City USA” for most of the past ten years. Mature and elegant, the various trees of Longmeadow line every street, road and lane in town. With a heavy heart and worried mind we went turned in at nine p.m. on Saturday, October 29th listening to the Halloween Blizzard’s icy snow crack and snap limbs, branches and completely topple trees! Bark split, trunks thudded; the sounds were loud and haunting. As a tree hugger and homeowner, I just prayed that none of the trees in our yard would slam into our house. We were lucky, but it was not a peaceful sleep.
The Halloween Storm of 2011 was actually called Alfred, although I read in the Longmeadow News someone called it Albert! The name does not matter, but the date did…I do not ever remember a winter storm in October! In the last half century, there has not been an October N’or Easter that anyone I know can recall.
Now, it is six weeks later and the clean up is still ongoing. FEMA funds will help to pay for a portion of the work putting the town back together again, but we will pay the rest. It was such a mess that storm chasers from the south came our way to find lucrative work cutting hanging limbs and sawing trees that blocked sidewalks and thoroughfares. Healthy trees were lost because they were still full of leaves that caught the ice and broke non-rotten branches. In some cases the dead trees fell or were uprooted. Neighbors lost fences, cars, and even roofs to the storm. Isn’t it ironic that the tornado and hurricane were not as damaging as the October blizzard? What a year we have had!
The problem is this: many of the neighborhoods here were built up in the 1920s and 30s. Young saplings were planted along “tree belts” and surrounding the new construction. Many mature trees are actually at the end of their life spans and have a limited time on this earth. The town has a responsibility to trim and prune their own trees, and these numbers are staggering! Thanks to the DPW for doing such a good job!
We planted a beautiful Japanese maple tree about ten years ago and a yellowwood tree about seven years ago near our house. Their shade and colorful leaves attract various birds and keep our home cool. We sit in the backyard under the yellowwood and enjoy the shade in the summertime. Both trees were hurt and lost branches but we knocked icy snow off the branches to save them. They may look different but they are survivors.
Speaking of survivors – The town’s holiday tree has had a makeover this year. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or another December holiday, the centerpiece of the holiday season is the lighted tree near the First Church on the green. For over fifteen years I have admired it. This year it is especially beautiful but smaller. It seems that it had experienced serious damage in the Halloween storm and could not be saved. The top was removed, about halfway up, and the top was moved a little westward, towards the center of the green off Williams Street. It is shorter, wider and just as special…yet we must plant a new evergreen for the years to come. That is, unless the doom and gloom of 12-21-12 actually is a reality…Can we really believe the Mayan Myth? I hope not!
December 21, 2011
The Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
Winter Wonderland - or not?
Endings and Beginnings
The Waiting Game
A Disappointing Meeting
2008 Musings at Betsy's Corner
The Cost of this Terrible War
The Road to Nowhere
Simplify - Simplify - Simplify!
Asleep At The Wheel/ Wake Up Longmmeadow!
Be Safe and Watch Out!!
Like a Death in the Family
Having It All
Longmeadow's Messy Streets
Reminiscing With The Old Emerson Archives
Anti-Mansionization in Longmeadow
Water, Water Everywhere!
A Piece of America We Should Save in Longmeadow
Consider Chandler Avenue's Impact on the Historic Town Green
End of Summer
Trimming of the Trees
Counting the Bugs
Who Was John Warner Barber?
Demolition Delay on the Warrant in 2005
Speeding Through Longmeadow
Our Town At A Crossroad
Tanks A Lot
The Obstacle Course
Big Y Remembers Old Longmeadow
As The Train Passes By
Autumn In The New England Air
Thanks for your patience since I have not posted a new on-line column in Betsy’s Corner since April 2010. That does not mean that I have been away; it just means that gathering ideas and making observations takes time in between ministering to others’ needs. So what’s up in Longmeadow these days? Despite the protracted and discouraging downturn in the nation’s economy and a flat post-bubble real estate market, our town seams to be in fairly decent financial shape for now. The new LHS construction is gradually giving new life to the uninspiring slab-like late 1950s structure and well-worn local thoroughfares have been fixed.
This recession or depression seems endless, yet Federal and state money was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Money is being spent, yet we are in fact borrowing from our future! Funds are being used to support local infrastructure jobs, including repaving deteriorated streets; and we had some good ones! It’s a bit of a mixed blessing. Encouraging as it is, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the irony here. Quality of life in any town or village is multi-factorial. Case in point: Converse Street. Beat up by heavy trucks and strewn by potholes from icy frigid winters, it was long overdue for restorative work. Converse is overwhelmed with traffic at rush hours. The pitted patchwork texture along the length of the state road slowed vehicles down. Converse Street was bumpy and treacherous! Now it is sleek and smooth and our main east-west thoroughfare is like a high-speed track. Instead of the finish line we have the stop light at Laurel Street!
Cars and trucks zoom along at unsafe speeds. Has anyone tried to cross Converse at 7:30 am lately? This simple maneuver has become difficult and dangerous or altogether impossible. Traversing the artery from the south side into Colony Hills is a question of luck and good timing, some mornings allowing for an opportune crossing, other times forcing a quick turn east on Converse to find an accessible way north. Good luck to pedestrians, and especially school children on foot attempting this at intersections without traffic lights. Is this progress? Over the decades, the lack of strategic traffic planning has resulted in our main roads getting very congested with folks going to I-91 from the eastern suburbs. We have observed a progressively increasing volume of commuter traffic snarling our town’s major streets, despite flex-time and working at home. This will get worse when the economy improves along with more homes sales to the east. Some side roads still need attention before we get another bad winter.
Now for a word on weather. After record snowfalls earlier in the year, we had a surprising tornado on the first of June. Only three miles north of us, in the area near Red Rose Pizza and the McDuffie School, our Springfield neighbors got the worst of it! Parts of Monson, Wilbraham and East Longmeadow were hit quite hard! It is still unbelievable what happened next. In the month of August we felt the Washington, D.C. earthquake and then waited for a hurricane to make it’s way up the east coast. Irene struck with a force, but our town of Longmeadow was missed again! It is sobering to see the damage nearby areas endured. It has been quite a year. We are fortunate if all we needed so far is some repaving and renovation.
Don’t you like to sleep with the windows open? On a cool Spring night, the sound of the train passing by our town echoes through the breeze. On a very windy night it is quite loud. It is a reminder of time passing and days gone by, like an antique clock striking the hour. I wish the train would stop here in Longmeadow like it used to.
Long ago, residents of this small farming community could hop on the train, or even take a trolley up or down Longmeadow Street to the City of Springfield, the Hartford area, or point farther away. Now we are linked by cars, highways, the interstate highway system and the computer’s internet. Times have changed and they will change some more!
How long was Longmeadow linked to the outside world via train track? Well, history tells us it was almost 100 years. The World War II era ended the trolleys, when the metal from the tracks was used for the war effort. The local train travel ended in the 40’s, but our curator remembers traveling from NY City’s Penn Station to Longmeadow to surprise her parents on a snowy Christmas Eve in the 1950s. The engineer stopped at the long forgotten Longmeadow stop to let her off…calling it a flag stop.
The invention of the automobile ended the need for train travel, since drivers wanted independence. But I still miss the train! It would be a welcome relief to hop on a train in Longmeadow and travel to Boston, Manhattan or even Northampton via Amtrack trains, or maybe high speed rail in the future! From the 1840s to the beginning of the 1940s the train connected us to the outside world! Many of us would welcome its return!
We are half a century on this earth - and it was not the same place where we landed long ago. The entire world and changed, and America is going through a very bad recession now. Dire reports and gloomy articles in the news are challenging my internal optimistic attitude. That is why I have stopped reading the daily paper and keep pessimists at bay.
I am questioning the resiliency of our government to help the economy recover and protect the middle class taxpayer. Too many people are loosing their jobs and small businesses are closing down. The America of my childhood is a memory, and unfortunately our children will be saddled with a national debt that will be hard to bear.
Yes, we were born in the 1950s, were Flower Children in the 1960s when the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Woodstock provided distraction from the turmoil of the Viet Nam war, we were Dazed and Confused in the 70s as styles, morals and lifestyles morphed and conservatism faded into the past. In the 1980s we worked in a wild and crazy decade of greed and inflation, and many of us married and settled down with kids in the 1990s as we delayed childbearing for a while. In the 2000s we continued to grow up and face challenges in an age of Internet connectivity and cell phones forever changing the way we communicate and relate to others.
What has changed in Longmeadow? It is still a beautiful place to raise a family and educate children, but forces beyond our control have changed the demographics. People are living longer and costs are rising. Will we be able to fix-up the high school and other school buildings? What are the priorities for the community? It is a historic place, full of special examples of period architecture in the Pioneer Valley. How will we protect our special place for future generations? Consider how our grandchildren will live and what their needs will be. It is scary to project that far into the future, but it is necessary. I am sure my parents never realized how different our experiences would be from theirs. We have progressed, yes but what have we lost? Are you participating in making the changes you want to see in this town and do you appreciate this special corner of Massachusetts on the long and winding Connecticut River?
February 15, 2010
Maybe it all started in 2004 or maybe it really began in my early childhood. I have always had an on again off again relationship with animals. We have had all kinds of pets over the years, and now we have a new puppy.
First it was the four goldfish when I turned 4 in 1963. That's how I learned about death - which was not the intended lesson. My parents wanted me to enjoy my four little pets for my birthday and learn about taking care of others. But one by one, night after night they died. Within a week the fish bowl was empty. It took almost 40 years until I got a real fish tank for our kids. It was pretty traumatic, but I survived the loss of those orange fishes. I guess its all part of growing up and accepting loss. That's what we all must do.
My favorite book was called "A Fish Out of Water" by P.D. Eastman; and it was part of the Dr. Seuss series in the easy reader's collection. After fish, my parents moved on to turtles and they were very small ones. I named them Jack and Jill and prophetically they ended up walking up the hill and away from our house! They had been around for well over a year, when one day they escaped from their bowl while sunning in the backyard. The problem was they never came down the hill and went somewhere into oblivion. I wonder what ever became of them.
Then I briefly had a pet salamander - or was it a chameleon? It came home in a shoe box from a Caribbean vacation probably an illegal activity these days with air transport regulations being much stricter. I don't think that warm weather creature enjoyed the frigid New York suburbs in February. He didn't last long.
We then turned to mammals. Sam and Schmo were a hamster and a guinea pig respectively. Katy the Cat, Patrick Henry the Shetland Sheepdog who was born on the 4th of July, was a very patriotic and neurotic dog. He was chosen by my parents since I had loved the Lassie TV show as a child and he was a miniature collie-type dog. Both the cat and the dog lasted well over a decade and became fixtures in our family. Pets are the glue that keeps a family unit close.
When I moved away to college my permanent cold disappeared, low and behold it returned when I went back home on vacations. I was allergic to the cat and maybe the dog. Antihistamines would forever be my companion when going to see my parents.
I moved away and never wanted pets. Boo-boo kitty wandered into my parents' life and stayed for ages. I was hardly ever at my parent's house, so the cat allergy didn't get in the way of my life. I did not miss having a dog to cuddle with. My parents got a Dalmatian puppy named Patches when I had our first child so it was fun and we watched the Disney movie "101 Dalmatians" about a million times. Now they have Shadow the black Labrador. Our kids love to visit the dog but I was not ready to have a dog in our life, and neither did my husband. Too much work! Too much attention needed! And the most important question would the kids help?
Let's fast forward to 2008. We have five tropical fish, one bunny named Pedro and the newest member of the family is Ruby. She is a golden retriever puppy full of love and energy - just what we need right now as we prepare to launch our oldest child. I wonder how I will handle it all, the walking, the training, the vet visits, the fun and the work.
Somehow it's all falling into place. Now we have more animals than people in our home. It may not be an animal farm - but it's a suburban menagerie that completes our family. Just don't look at our messy house!
Winter Wonderland - or not?
I am just not cut out for the New England winters anymore! No I am not! Every year the effect of the cold and snow makes me want to hibernate, hiding inside and avoiding any travel. January and February are just too icy and snowy around here! Why would anyone want to get in a car and drive on these roads? I learned of a 59 car pile up on a slick New England highway over the weekend!
Today it was 19 degrees and I went out without gloves. Boots, layers, coats, hats, mittens they all clutter our hallway and mudroom .but this a.m. my gloves were not to be found. I really do like beach and bathing suit weather better - it suits me- I hate the frigid temps and I love the sun and water! How can anyone have a sunny personality when the world is covered in thick snow and ice? Our yard looks like the Alaskan tundra these days!
Why are we raising kids in this environment? Why must we scrape caked on ice off the cars and walk the dog on slick sidewalks? The answer is simple - this is where we live - for now - but for how long? Will our future include Florida or California at least on a part time basis? Will I transform into a snowbird for part of each year?
The winter gives us a hostile environment to deal with, yet spring, summer and autumn are all glorious in Longmeadow! Three out of four ain't bad, right? I am only miserable for a few months almost unable to wake up on a cold morning. I just want to hide under the covers! It gets worse and worse every year could it be that I am aging and old age and snowy ice do not go together?
Looking forward to buds on the trees, the first snowdrops and crocus sightings in late March or early April give me hope! Love and hope are all we need and a strong winter sun to melt the blues away. The bright sun shining through the front windows helps me to remember that it is all just a cycle of life and renewal. We do get to start over again in the springtime! Treasure those little moments of winter that warm the soul. Just wandering through my neighborhood at night, looking at the holiday lights on the trees and gazing at the big beautiful full moon is heartening. Our puppy dog Ruby sure enjoys a good walk at any time of the day or night but she wears a warm coat all the time. Remember to bundle up and find those mittens before you go out!
January 11, 2009
Endings and Beginnings
A blast of cold air blew down Broadway from the north and sent a chill through my body. Another cold day in Manhattan - and here I was at the center of Times Square. It took almost fifty years for me to become a tourist, and now I truly feel like one. I am an ex-New Yorker and the electricity of the city is in my blood. It felt good to be back, but now I'm a true visitor buying half price theater tickets for a play and waiting in a massive line. Recently, we went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to see where the huddled masses from the past came to America.
It is a pull and push sort of thing, like the ying and yang of my existence. I love the pulse of the city, the thrill of the snowflake covered holiday windows and the big tree at Rockefeller Center. Just walking down Fifth Avenue near St. Patrick's Cathedral brings back countless memories and sensations from the 1980s. It was the perfect place for me when I was a carefree younger woman in my 20s.
But now, things have changed, and I realize that I have changed as well. After the theater, shopping, walking, people watching and dodging the construction barricades I stop and remember where I really live and who I am now. I am no longer the same person, I'm the mother of two teenagers and my responsibilities include a puppy, a bunny, five fish, a house that is our cozy home, a yard, a garden, and a husband - this is a different life! The city is no place to raise a family! It is unaffordable and the suburban countryside is a better lifestyle for us now.
How did I ever make the transition from city girl to New England woman? Well, it sure wasn't easy! The path was full of hard choices and detours that are for sure. All of us carry baggage from our past, both positive and negative from years of growth and maturity. Some of the twists and turns can tie a person up in knots - or it can be clear sailing on a clear crystal lake in cloudless sunshine for awhile. It's never smooth all the time, but some people weather the bumps better and seem to age less.
All of us experience confusion at forks in the road. Some of interludes or detours are dangerous and tricky, but as we push on, we realize that those hard parts make us stronger.
I am a woman at mid-life, approaching the half century mark and wondering how to navigate the next few years in a terrible economy. The view ahead isn't all that clear, looks like a storm overhead, at least that's what the politicians and newscasters predict. This is a phase of endings and beginnings, saying goodbye to the year ending in December and saying hello to new challenges ahead as our children grow up and move out. As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say "it's always something!"
December 9, 2008
The Waiting Game
Patience is a virtue they say. Well, I am practicing the art of patience by learning how to wait. My mantra is peace, Om whatever .. The pile has grown almost two feet high; in fact it's over 22 inches now. The words of inspiration are printed on each brochure, invitation, application and fact sheet. "Apply now! Explore, Think, Plan! Create your future now! These are the positive messages printed on college and university literature.
Our daughter is applying to college!
We are all waiting!
The stress level waxes and wanes as the clocks tick.
We are waiting for the acceptances to roll in .and maybe she will apply to some more.
Now we just wait for fate, destiny and luck to decide our high schooler's future. She has made her cake, it has risen, and now a college experience will be the "frosting" before she gets to experience the real world of grown-up adulthood. What kind of world will she encounter after four years in college? There are days that I have completely lost confidence in the American Economic System. The Republicans, under Bush and Cheney have let our debt rise to astonishing levels! Now what will the Democrats do? I fear for our children and grandchildren. What a mess to inherit!
Was it all so much simpler in 1976 when I was applying to college? Yes and No. Location and reputation always mattered, in addition to the quality of the professors and the curriculum, but were we all blind to the unforeseen forces of economics? Salaries? Grants? What did any of us know? It was long before the internet and my life revolved around handwritten letters, phone calls and not email, texting and cell phones. We did not even have answering machines!
So we wait. Please love our daughter as much as we do! Take her! She's amazing, bright, talented and hardworking, capable and kind - just what you want! We wait! Keep your fingers crossed and try not to be neurotic, stressed out and insane! No, I'm not crazy, but yes the system is!
All the seniors applying are motivated and want the same opportunities as our daughter - but the world is scarier and more competitive now! It is more fragile and confusing!
Practice the art of patience!
This too shall pass ..are we ready for the next milestone to occur? Then we will be waiting for something else graduate schools, jobs, grandchildren? All in due time. Patience is just part of the game.
Happy Thanksgiving one and all!
November 22, 2008
A DISAPPOINTING MEETING
The last Tuesday night in April was a late one in the quiet little Town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. No, I did not attend a party, but there was a gathering of over 200 souls in the high school. There were a smattering of intellectually curious students, but most of the folks in attendance were older folks like me in the 40 plus age group. Sad to say, many of us are approaching 50 plus and that means AARP material!
The 20-somethings and the 30-somethings were doing their own things, somewhere else, either at work or at home. Making dinner, traveling, commuting, caring for children no time to attend the slowest and most painful town meeting of the 21st Century (in my humble opinion.)
The whole night was SLOW and painfully embarrassing to our "educated" community. I attribute that to the Town Leadership's apparent "lack of a clue" and their obvious "lack of preparedness" on the debatable issues. Who's on first? Who's running the show? She said, and then he said ..What kind of budget do we really want anyway? Balanced or unbalanced? The whole thing was out of kilter and definitely out of whack! Are the leaders of this idyllic oasis of a community out of their minds? What ever happened to communication and the art of listening to the other side!?
Did you stay home and watch it on television? After enduring over two grueling hours of nasty, rude and almost unruly discussion we had only wrestled with the first 6 articles on the warrant! I escaped the confines of the school gymnasium and went home. From 10:15 until after 11 pm I watched the gladiators on my television screen. Many did not have their scripts written out .it was all ad-lib. At least our excellent and eloquent moderator kept his head and steered people in the right direction, keeping them under control!
It is an inefficient and antiquated process! I love democracy and the fairness and openness that are the intent of the New England town meeting, but I am sincerely afraid that our system is failing us. It did not work last week! It is evident and obvious to me that we need to fix the format and hold our leaders accountable to a higher standard.
First of all, everyone needs to agree that the numbers are correct before the warrant is printed! Secondly, the information must not be misleading! And third, time management must be a priority! Longwinded and directionless speakers must be put out of their misery with a specific time limit. Let's ensure that people can be home by 10 pm. It is disrespectful to expect the citizens of our town to stay out so late, without even providing some form of refreshment. For some, it may have been an entertaining evening, but for me, I left frustrated, bored and confused. Town meetings are important but we should not be asked to waste our precious time with an ill-planned warrant and ill prepared elected and/or appointed officials.
May 1, 2008
The halls of Longmeadow High School are clean and new! All the windows and doors close and open easily. The heating and cooling systems are state of the art! All the lockers are brand new. This is not a dream this is exactly the way it was circa 1960. That was almost 50 years ago!
Fast forward to 2008 and today the facility and school grounds both need some love and care. But there is no budget to keep the building and the surrounding fields in proper shape. We must not give up - let's get creative and find a way to fund what we need! We are talking infrastructure and computer systems .are we also talking about a new structure?
Inflation is part of the problem. Things just cost too much these days! Prices keep going up and we must work harder to make ends meet. Saving for college and retirement feels like a constant struggle.
We must find new ways to fund school building issues and the poor condition of our grass practice and playing fields. I have been told that $11,000 is our total budget to care for our numerous field hockey, football, lacrosse and baseball fields. For a town that is obsessed with sports - the condition of our fields is an embarrassment! What can we do?
First, lets do what is best for our kids. Let's think of what they want and what they need. Organic fertilizers are needed - no toxic products on our soil! Some community members wish for an artificial turf - let's do more research to see if it's cost effective. Let's find a way to look for private sources to fix our fields, since state aid is dwindling. Our sports teams can be proud of our fields and facilities.
I dream of lush, green well-cared for fields around town and new or renovated school buildings. The elementary schools were repaired, restored and added to. What can be done with the two middle schools and high school? We also need to fix the Community House and the Longmeadow Town Hall the list of building projects seems endless!
Think outside the box!
Get creative! Let's raise private funds for our schools - outside of the LEEF foundation let's try new things!
We need to find new sources of funding for future generations, without increasing real estate taxes. Where there is a will - there is a way!
April 29, 2008
2008 MUSINGS AT BETSY'S CORNER
So, here we are. It's 2008 and that means's that forty years ago I was 8. It is impossible to wrap my arms around the idea that 1968 was four decades ago!!!! So much has happened .
That memorable year of 1968 was full of good and bad. Great music and great tragedy fill my brain banks. It was a year before the Woodstock Music Festival mud and merriment. The awful deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy and all those American soldiers were in the news constantly! I recall the feel of anxiety as I visualize the old TV images flashing before my young eyes. It was also the year that someone tried to kill Andy Warhol! Why would anyone assassinate an artist you ask? Well, that is a long story for another day. In 1988 I helped to orchestrate the auction of Warhol's estate collection and that will figure prominently into a book that I am writing about New York City in the 1980s. If Warhol had died in 1968, my life would have been so very different. He lived almost 20 more years, and I received my 15 minutes of fame!
And what would the world have been like of Robert Kennedy lived into old age? Cause and effect - these deaths changed our world and our little everyday lives. I wonder who will live and who will die in the upcoming year. What will grow and what will change in the days ahead? What will be built and what will be destroyed? Is there Astroturf in the football team's future? Do we really get to plan a new High School structure? I dream of miracles!
On a local level, it is time for Longmeadow to prioritize. Water bills have dramatically increased, a pergola has caused a controversy in a historic neighborhood and people go one with their lives in a frigid northeastern winter. Snow blanketed this corner of the world for the winter holidays and two special snow people grace our front yard. I am being politically correct, but also uncertain of the figures outside my front windows are snow men or women. Across the street I see a snow woman in a hula skirt and a cocoanut bra with a lawn chair by her side. Another white figure with a lobster next to a plastic pail and shovel! My neighbors obviously think like I do .we'd rather be at the beach!
I hope our town continues to improve on the communication, education and appreciation of historic issues in our residential town. We are a suburb that started out as a rural farming area along side a big river, next to a big city. Now we are just another bedroom community, linked by highways and not the railroad, as in ages past. What do we want our hometown to look like in forty years? Do we want to preserve the past? Should we encourage development and change the way the town looks? Older homes are coming down and new structures change the scene. Should private money be spent improving and beautifying public land? Can we set aside more open space to be saved forever into eternity?
What will our children and grandchildren experience in 2048? Will the world be linked by cell phones and email at that point in time or will there be the next new thing? I obviously have many too many questions. I wish I had the answers, but unfortunately Andy Warhol's crystal ball belongs to someone else. I wanted to buy it at the Sotheby's auction twenty years ago but someone else bid higher and won the chance to see the future. I'll be almost 89 in forty years and I may not achieve that level of senior citizen-hood who knows. What I do know is this! Change is good but preservation is important to all history lovers who appreciate the past. I say - speak out and tell our community leaders what you want Longmeadow to be in 2018, 2028, 2038 and 2048!!! Vote on your priorities at the Spring Town Meeting when we have a chance to review proposals for our future as part of the Community Preservation Act! Get involved! Take action to make positive changes for us all!
January 10, 2008
THE COST OF THIS TERRIBLE WAR
I am tired of it! Like a huge weight hanging over our heads the cost of the war is affecting us at home and it makes me sick and tired! It is depressing, frustrating, aggravating and confusing - the war has taken a psychological toll on our country. Have we gone too far into a misguided war - how can we retreat now? It feels like danger looms whatever way we turn.
I don't have the answers. I am not sure anyone has a way of solving this dilemma. A peaceful solution is the goal. What I do know is that we need to solve the local problems that are within our control.
The international crisis caused by oil, greed, radical ethnic politics and the age-old struggle for territory is taking funds away from our local communities. A global disaster with a local impact; that is what we are now experiencing! We still have responsibilities to our families and our community! We need to be creative about meeting our costs.
Communities like Longmeadow do not have the state funds they need to run our towns. Real estate taxes have climbed precipitously over the last decade. The school teachers have not been paid their agreed upon cost of living raises. We do not have the cash available in our budgets to meet the rising costs of managing this town. The town of Longmeadow is asking for a little over $2 million for an over-ride. Please come out and vote in the November 6th election. We need funds to pay for the vital expenses of running such a fine community. This is not just about the schools; funds are needed to take care of business in the Town Hall.
Look around you! Do you like what you see? The town is being fixed up! Trees have been trimmed, sewers repaired, streets repaved and long overdue maintenance has finally begun. The Community Preservation Act will give us some funds to meet our needs to take care of the older town buildings and historic infrastructure; it will not pay for yearly expenses.
Envision how you want Longmeadow to be! Education is vital to our survival; and residents need to be educated on what it really costs to run a town like this in this day. It is expensive! Rising costs of insurance and health care, not the mention special education and inflation that annually eat into in our savings!
We have had two over-rides in the past 16 years in 1991 and 2002. We cannot deficit spend! Unfortunately, our country is spending a huge portion of our funds on a war far away from home. The cash is being diverted away from our cities, towns and away from local government. Towns all over Massachusetts are in the same boat! No one wants taxes to go up - but it will cost the average Longmeadow homeowner only $1 per day when the over-ride passes. That isn't too much to pay! The alternative is a huge budget crisis, and we cannot afford that! Think of the future!
October 10, 2007
THE ROAD TO NOWHERE
My friend and I took a walk on the road to nowhere. We were not wandering aimlessly .we wanted to explore the new road that seemed to be a dead-end in the middle of Longmeadow. This wide and newly paved road is near the town cemetery, adjacent to Strople Field off Williams Street. This road is also called Sherry Lane.
The road to nowhere leads to somewhere in reality - it leads to a small sub-division of five lots. Each lot will have a modern house built on it, but no specific plans have been submitted yet. I do not believe that any of these lots have been sold yet.
One older house, dating from circa 1910, was demolished to make way for this new corner of our town. Countless mature trees were sacrificed and as Joni Mitchell would agree, they paved paradise and put in an asphalt road! Another home was demolished over the summer on Shaker Road. The historic Barnabas Knox house will be razed in the near future. The skyline of Longmeadow is changing, growing, modernizing, and we are becoming more densely populated and less rural-feeling. Additions and renovations abound in our small community!
Many homes are now on the market. Several have sold during the summer months - as new families come to our town to escape the pressures and expenses of big city life. There is a peaceful way of life here far away from the hustle bustle of a Boston or New York-style place we are even mellower than Hartford! Demographics are changing, and people live longer lives. This creates a pull and push between the generations; each with their own priorities and needs. A new retirement community that had been built on a farm site called Blueberry Acres was mysteriously burned to the ground. It appeared to be a positive development to the East Longmeadow community.
And where will the road to nowhere end up? No one knows .but we need to have a direction for our communities no more endless and aimless paths in the dark are acceptable. What about the long range plan? What about the teachers' salaries? Let's make a plan for the future and follow it! Go to the upcoming town meeting and election!
September 30, 2007
Long ago, postcards were the best means of long distance quick communication - sort of like email today! A display from a local collection of hand colored and early printed postcards recapture days long gone in this area. Back in the days of horses, carriages and streetcars these photographic reproductions were mass produced for sale across the country. Many of the early cards were printed in Germany prior to World War I. Images of the good 'ole days in The Springfield environs including Longmeadow and Forest Park will be on display at Storrs Library in Longmeadow during the months of May and June 2007. Hours at the library are Monday-Wednesday 10-8, Thurs-Fri 10-5 and Saturdays in May from 10-4. The library is closed on Saturdays in June and every Sunday.
The collection usually sits in archival shoebox sized containers in the closet of local resident and history enthusiast Betsy Huber Port. When she moved to this area in 1996 she discovered a vast amount of postcards that had been left to her from late grandfather. He was a Connecticut ephemera collector that specialized in historic valentines and other paper collectibles. The estate of Carroll Alton Means contained many unlabeled boxes, that took ages to open and over the years many visual treasures were found. She soon realized that the well lit glass display cases at the Storrs Library were perfect for her collection to be shared with the public. In 1997, 2001 and again in 2004, parts of the collection were on display. She has also displayed her postcard collection of Boston, Hartford, Christmas, Easter and Halloween postcards in the past. She has continues to collect special cards finding them at Brimfield, local antique fairs or on the internet.
Most of the images date from the first quarter of the 20th century, when a postcard could be mailed for one penny. In those days, postmen service usually delivered the mail twice a day. Many of the cards are in excellent condition since they were never mailed, and were stored in postcards albums as souvenirs. Since many tourists did not own quality cameras during this era, a postcard was the best way to capture a memory in a printed form. Things have changed dramatically in the last century, and now most of the mail we receive is junk mail, catalogs and bills not postcards unless a friend is traveling.
For further information, please see the books: As We Were: American Photographic Postcards 1905-1930 by Rosamond B. Vaule, Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People's Photography by Robert Bogen and Had a Good Time by Robert Olen Butler. Questions and messages can be left at the library regarding the collection.
April 20, 2007
SIMPLIFY - SIMPLIFY -SIMPLIFY!
These days that's my mantra Simplify! How can I keep focused and get everything done? The only way is to simplify. As they say: "Keep it Simple Stupid" that's the KISS rule, and it works!
In the winter months, there are days when I wish there was an OFF switch, so I could just stop time and hibernate until the warmth comes back. There are very few simple ON and OFF switches left in my life .things are so complicated electronically speaking. I cannot turn on my television anymore since there are three remote controls they are just too much for me! Someone else is in charge of starting all the DVD's in the house, and the kids do a better job than the grown-ups. It seemed that as soon as I understood how to tape a program on the VCR, it became passé.
Event he phone isn't simple anymore! We have call waiting and an answering machine which most 21st Century families feel are necessities in addition to a cell phone for each person in the family. We are all reachable all the time! There are days that our lives are so busy that cell phones are used more than the regular phones. Is this progress or is it mass confusion? Then I remember my mantra ..KISS, simplify, simplify
The learned to simplify long ago! It is the way I have survived the pressures of life. My life is simpler because I live in Longmeadow instead of the big city. But, how simple can anyone's life really be in this day and age? If I forget to read my email for a few days, I really feel like I may have missed something important! If the kids forget to write down a message, what will happen?
The last six years, since the Twin Towers turned into a huge graveyard, life certainly has seemed less stable. You never know when bad news will strike! I worry about the war in Iraq. I worry about the lives lost and the cost to our once thriving economy. We are no longer spending on the public schools in this country. I fret about tsunamis and hurricanes, not to mention terrorist attacks. People are loosing sleep over our nation's financial situation and what our "leaders" in Washington are doing or not doing. Somehow, I am able to sleep like a rock, but that is sheer exhaustion I believe!
So how can each of us relax and escape? It may not be possible but springtime is a season of new possibilities and hope. I try to help others by donating my time or funds to good causes that life my heart the public schools, The Longmeadow School Foundation LEEF, The Longmeadow Beautification Committee, The Storrs Library and Friends of Storrs, The Rays of Hope Walkathon for a Breast Cancer Cure, and more Kids are often overwhelmed with homework, and there is so much for them to learn, but we need to set a good example by being involved in causes that will benefit future generations, and our actions will guide the children towards personal responsibility.
So, sit back and breathe. Do yoga. Walk, run, skip and jump! Read a book, contact an old friend, write an old-fashioned letter, call your parents, and spend time hugging your children. Go to the beach, hike in the woods, and soak up the salty wind of the ocean.
Tonight I'd like to practice what I preach, and just stay home instead of going to meetings. I would like to sit in front of an old black and white TV with my family and watch Bewitched or Gilligan's Island and reminisce. The actresses and actors may be long gone, but they are still alive on that screen.
Today a pair of mourning doves greeted me in the snow covered driveway. The melted white winter debris was piled along side the evergreen bushes. One bird just sat there and stared at me, while the other flew up to the roof of the garage to get a better view.
Now that spring has arrived, I hear birds all the time. Their sweet tunes were missed during the winter cold. At night I often hear the whip-or-will. This nocturnal bird has a haunting voice, heard only in the dark hours. In New England there is a superstition that this bird can sense a soul departing, and the whip-or-will can capture it! So, where are those souls that we've lost since last spring? Not lost, living again in memory, like those stars above and on the TV re-runs.
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL/ WAKE UP LONGMEADOW!
"The more things change,
The more they stay the same "
Who said that? Well, in this corner of New England it is true today as it was in the past. If we bury our heads in the sand, we won't notice anything is wrong!
Who is driving around here anyway?
Are they asleep behind the wheel of speeding car?
If we are talking about Boston, then the Big Dig Mess tells the story of management asleep in the driver's seat. Wasn't this highway construction supposed to ease traffic problems and make the city run smoother? Well, I think we spent too much money for nothing!
If we are talking about the management of Longmeadow, who is asleep and who is awake? Did you happen to see a group of four signs near the south end of our town this week? The signs have been removed, but one of them said "Wake Up Longmeadow!" The issue was concerning the destruction of a 19th century structure. The zoning board will decide the fate of the historic home next week.
If you were asleep, you probably did not notice the fabulous Longmeadow Resource Book, recently published by LEEF, The Longmeadow Educational Excellence Foundation! I congratulate all the LEEF volunteers who tirelessly work together to keep our school standards high. Thanks to them, we will try to get the best for our kids through generous donations for school programs. Since the state wasted so much money on the Big Mess in Boston, we need to be creative now!
Are the voter's awake?
The turn out for November's election was pretty good, yet the turn out for the meeting last night was sort of disappointing. A total of only 200 residents showed up, yet that's pretty good for a "minor" or was it called "special" meeting. Many people stayed home so they could go to sleep early.
Is the average Longmeadow resident sleep deprived?
We have had a hard working town manager for one and one half years now, so internal communication has improved. Things are heading in the right direction! From 9-5 there is someone in charge of Longmeadow's administration and overall organization! If I have a question, concern or problem, I stop by Robin Crosbie's office to chat.
She listens and thinks about my comments and suggestions. She cannot help the average town resident if you do not tell her that something is wrong! The town meeting is not the place to start a conversation, it is the place to vote and resolve issues.
Over 100 trees were cut down on the north side of town; a historic house will soon be removed from the Historical Society's list and replaced with modern construction of mysterious design. The local neighborhoods will be forever changed by developers out for profit. Local residents are starting to speak up, but we need a stronger voice. The Planning and Zoning Boards need your ideas and feedback at the evening meetings which are open to the public. Have you been attending board meetings and helping with the local government as a citizen should?
Were you asleep or just too busy?
Think about how you want Longmeadow to look and operate in the future.
Make your dreams a reality and participate!
Am I making you tired?
Someone has got to stay awake!
BE SAFE AND WATCH OUT!!!!!
Traffic patterns, increased volume and high speeds threaten pedestrians and all town residents. I have seen it time and time again. New people move into our beautiful tree lined neighborhoods and enjoy the sidewalks with their small children. Soon they are asking me about the cars cutting through local streets to miss traffic lights. I shake my head and show them the new SLOW sign that I bought for my front yard! We were able to get the speed limit lowered and signs were posted yet we still have a big problem. Unfortunately, the problem is growing.
Have we abandoned our duty to protect our town for future generations? Can we join together to do something about the traffic, which has recently increased in volume to a staggering degree? It's not just the cars. Motorcycles scare me - always have - especially when I see drivers riding without helmets. Locally, even children biking are beginning to scare me! They go a lot slower than cars and motorized vehicles but are we watching out for bike safety?
A 6th grader on a bike was hit by a car while going to school. He was close to an elementary school and an unsupervised crosswalk. There was hardly any newspaper coverage, and if there was I missed it! A letter to the editor appeared and now there is a petition for a crossing guard. That child was wearing a helmet and it probably saved his life. Are most kids wearing their helmets? No - see for yourself! Can we encourage them to do so?
It is my hope that all those drivers cutting through our beautiful side streets, both in town residents and those from other areas, should SLOW down. Be aware of the kids on bikes, scooters, in strollers and walking. Don't be in such a rush!
And, if you see a dangerous area or spot that is just waiting for an accident to happen - don't just sit there! Say something! Speak up! Just this morning, it was a mess around the polling place at the Community House. I saw too many cars, and not a single police officer directing traffic. The school crossing guard had a bigger job than usual.
Call the Police! We have a safety officer named Mr. Kirby and it is his job to supervise the traffic patterns in Longmeadow. Do we need more sidewalks? Do we need slower speed limits? Do we need signs in additional places? Be careful! That's the best advice to give our families. So sign that petition, write a letter to the editor or just go to The Town Meetings and be a part of the solution!
LIKE A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
"The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration of the whole system."
-- Fredrick Law Olmsted
We love our neighborhoods in Longmeadow. I just saw a friend who, unlike me, grew up here and has lived here almost her entire life. She said, "Yes, it's like a death in the family. I almost cried." We were talking about what is happening at the corner Forest Glen Road and Laurel Street. The discussion centered on the Colony Hills neighborhood's hole in its heart.
I walked over to the north end of town, on this beautiful sunny autumn day. There was a two year old watching the activity from his stroller. He was fascinated by the red truck knocking over trees and a huge flat bed vehicle backing up at the dangerous corner. The noise was deafening.
The scenery is changing. The trees are coming down! You can go see them falling over today, Wednesday, October 25th, 2006. I hear the cutting of the tall old trees right now, as I write these words. The lots are available for sale and the land is being clear cut. There will be wide open space for five homes that will border the Town of Longmeadow and The City of Springfield. The area is now known as Colony Gate, and there are still some lots available.
There is a new tree committee in town. At this point, I do not believe there are any rules or regulations regarding trees on private property. Today, I did notice a sign posted on the Springfield side of the land. It was a public notice regarding the trees, and a date for a public hearing for city residents. I did not see a similar sign on the Longmeadow side of the lot.
When Colony Hills was planned in the early 1920s, Olmsted and Sons were the designers and planners. Little did Frederick Law Olmsted's son know how much the world would change in only 86 years. The shade, filtered sunlight and ambiance are gone for a long time. How long will it take to grow more mature trees? I shudder to think what my grand-children will encounter in the town of Longmeadow when they visit in 86 years. I won't be here to see it, but I care.
It's a familiar route now - driving up and down I-91 through Western Mass. My car knows the way. Another autumn in New England; we're used to them now. This has been my routine for a full decade now, during the fastest moving ten years of my entire life. A few acorns fall, then more, the leaves start to yellow, a few dance downward, then more, and they accumulate and then overwhelm my landscape.
I have done this drive so many times, up and down, north and then back to the south - back and forth. The Pioneer Valley is beautiful during the changing seasons. I appreciate where I live at moments like these. Driving alone is a time to think, ponder and reflect on the swiftly moving years and the changing needs of my family. There are no interruptions here. The rhythm is so comfortable; humming along changing the music on the radio when a rap song comes on. Oldies are the best - tunes from the 70s and 80s - with a few exceptions.
The road weaves back and forth, east and west over the long Connecticut River. The car crosses the lovely body of water and I savor the view - a view I can only see from my car in motion. Light bounces off the shining water and colorful leaves frame the edges of the scene. The signs along the interstate provide exits or escapes from the wave of traffic going 65 mph or more. Often, I am tempted to take a longer way back home - a detour of sorts - just to get lost for awhile. An explorer at heart, discovering unique places is a passion of mine. There are days when I have the urge to slow down and relax. The sign says "Ingleside" ahead!
Images of an Ingleside in England come to mind, but have never seen a real one getting off at this exit. I conjure up an image of hearth and home, of a cozy spot near a welcoming fire. I wish such a warm secluded spot existed off the highway - it would be nice to rest and enjoy a quiet corner in New England. What is an Ingleside anyway? The dictionary has a definition for inglenook - maybe that is what I yearn for every autumn when the leaves drop and the temperature dips. A fireplace, a seating area, a chimney corner, a comforting rest area would be the perfect answer to the loss of summer.
Going south into the next state, I leave Massachusetts and enter Connecticut; crossing an invisible line of demarcation. "Hazardville" is up ahead. What adventures of doom or peril lie ahead for the weary wanderer if they get off on this exit? Will they encounter a treacherous area of quick sand or an invisible obstacle course with a dead end? Was there a disaster of sorts long ago? Will there be evidence of the dangerous spot? A flood zone, an ancient fault-line, or was it simply a manmade hazard? A worn bridge, a broken fence, a secret mystery a hidden answer, lost to history.
In an hour's time, I reach Woodbridge. This is an exit that I know well, as I turn off the two lane parkway and head North on a single lane road. My mother grew up here, my cousins run a farm here, I went to church here as a child, my ancestors inhabit the old graveyard here. What about the name of the town? It conjures up a rustic spot by a river, but there is no river here that I can remember .and certainly no bridge. I have never seen a wooden bridge here in Woodbridge, only a big cliff called East Rock and a stone-faced tunnel that cuts through it. We always hold our breath when we go through the double-holed tunnel. Who were the heroes who have a tunnel named for them yet another puzzle to ponder until someone gives us the answer.
A little further south is New Haven. Sounds nice, doesn't it? I always wondered if there was an Old Haven when I was younger. There isn't. When I paid a visit to England, the real England, the authentic England, the Old England .years ago, I saw a sign for New Haven. It was pronounced New-'aven. Maybe havens are always new because anything old or antique cannot be a haven, a safe place, a refuge, a sheltered spot in a port a place I'd want to visit and rest for while in a storm or in a season of falling leaves. Maybe this whole world is my respite. My home in New England is where I escape and get lost. That is my answer. For all other answers I must wait.
HAVING IT ALL
There has been much talk these days about women stepping down and leaving the workplace. High profile leaders making changes may make the headlines but to the average woman it is often a silent battle. We find it is possible to have it all, at the same time! Choices must be made, and can be forced upon a woman by her bosses. Corporate culture usually entails competition and endless hours; which doesn't necessarily fit into a successful family life. We pave our own destiny, yet we're influenced by our husbands, children, co-workers and parents.
I tried it, and you know what .it did not work out too well. In hindsight, leaving my old job was wonderful, yet my decision to leave came out of left field at first. What was I expected to do? Working mothers are still treated like 2nd class citizens in many places. We are expected to stay home and be attentive to our growing children, yet we are also expected to contribute to bringing home the bacon. Part-time opportunities would solve many of these issues, but well-paying jobs that are not full time are impossible to find in some regions of the USA. If you do not live near a thriving metropolis, you need to carve out an unconventional and creative alternative. Thus, most women volunteer in their communities or work as doctors, lawyers, artists, writers, decorators, educators and office assistants where there are part-time options. Corporations and large companies do not always offer alternatives, or even daycare. Women all need to reinvent ourselves and experiment, which is what the younger generations have found they must do to survive in this crazy world.
What can women who graduate from college now expect as they seek higher degrees and promotions in a job hierarchy? The world is not fair, but society expects most women to have families eventually; if they are married or not. We expect most men to become fathers someday as well, but do we automatically expect them to stay home? Do we expect them to choose? How can women fulfill their intellectual potential and have time to nurture their children? Husbands need some flexibility in the workplace also, if not, many women feel they need to give up and quit! The diapers years are time consuming, but young mothers you just wait! The teen years and the chauffeur years are almost overwhelming. Until someone invents a way to cook and do laundry while in the car, it will take ingenuity to get it all done. Family life is a stressful juggling act!
If women propose marriage to men, and men get pregnant how would we react? It is impossible to predict what will happen in the 21st Century. Some things will change, slowly and surely. I know I will tell my daughter not to give up, and that she can have it all! She needs to seek equality and love in a supportive marriage and some sort of a successful career. There needs to be a balance and not too much sacrifice for either wife or husband. Many women like me, born in the 1950s and 1960s postponed parenthood and then took time off. We did not want "retirement", but there was no middle ground. It is hard to leave a good job and become a full-time mother, but it is what I did. It is part of a complicated picture that is my life, but every Mother's Day I think about how glad I am to be at home with my two children. Remember to thank your mother this weekend. Whether she works at home, or works in an office, she is working for the good of her family! Give her a hug and let her know how much you appreciate her!
Why are the streets in our town such a mess these days? It's because of the garbage! After the garbage trucks take your recyclables and trash can contents they litter the streets with your trash containers! Last week I could not even pull into my driveway! The empty garbage cans blocked the entrance to my driveway and the cans weren't standing up either!
What's to be done? Should we spy on the trash collector culprits with surveillance cameras and take videos of these sloppy incidents? I understand that this new company that the town of Longmeadow has employed since July 2005 was the lowest bidder by $200,000. This contract sure is saving us money, but at what cost? How many people have seen the streets littered with trash cans these days? Have you? They are usually rolling across a street providing an ever changing obstacle course, which is even more challenging on a windy day. If the cans are placed upside down, they won't blow around, but they are heavy for older residents to turn over and maneuver gracefully.
The empty plastic containers are not left on the tree belts, where they are supposed to be. They are tossed carelessly into the streets or driveways. They are NEVER standing up anymore! BFI and Waste Management did a better job than this! Was the Central Massachusetts Trash Disposal Company, really highly recommended? A professional is always proud to do a job correctly, even if it is as simple a task as emptying a garbage receptacle.
I hope things will get better! The Select Board has some ideas that will increase the recycling efforts in our town. I am skeptical. It sounds to me like limiting the trash we can produce will unfairly penalize the families in town. If someone lives alone they produce far less waste. If a family of four to six people is limited to only 40 gallons of trash, I hardly imagine they can live within the limit. What if they have kids (or an aging relative) in diapers? They would then have to purchase additional special trash bags and fill those up with their overage. Sounds like a confusing and labor intensive process, although our leaders may have good intentions.
Will this be on the warrant for the next town meeting? No! Is this just about saving money? Yes, this town has to learn how to cut costs somehow. We need to live within our budget! I know our taxes have increased a lot in the past decade, but I think that garbage services should be completely included in our tax bills. We recycle as much as we can already, and fear that our family of four will go over the maximum garbage limit every week! If this goes through, will there be a grace period? Will there be special amnesty weeks during the December holidays? Do the residents have any say in the matter? Can we vote?
Can't we think of a better way to get people to recycle? What a frustrating mess !
REMINISCING WITH THE OLD EMERSON ARCHIVES
The history room at Storrs Library is full of treasures to take you into the past. One such unique window into our local history is called the Emerson Archives. One summer day, I took out Volume Two to read and it inspired me. It seems that the writer, Annie E. Emerson was full of news concerning the years 1927-1928. She mentions both a huge forest fire and a remarkable flood among other news. The population of the town had reached to over 4,000 people and for the first time, Longmeadow had a school superintendent of their own!
What struck me is how things have remained much the same, as the years have passed. Our special three miles of road, named Longmeadow Street, is the best part of Route 5. It remains largely residential and is similar in feeling as it was in the early part of the 20th Century. The centerpiece of Longmeadow is the Historic District, which was officially approved by the residents of our town after the Bicentennial of our nation. The flavor of the two entrances into our historic corner of New England today is similar to the way they were so very long ago. Annie Emerson recalls her visual impressions of 78 years ago as follows:
"As you approach Longmeadow from the north, the entrance is one for satisfaction. A wide, clean, hard, well made road extends the full length of the old street. The wide lawns have been green all the season and the trees have been beautiful. As you enter Longmeadow from Connecticut there is some thing to notice. As you come near the State Line from the south you see a motley group of places where the signs call your attention to "Bogey Drinks', whatever that may be, or a blue plate dinner for $1.50, silhouette dancing or advice to drink Light Rock."
The state and the town each spent $25,000 to pave more than a full mile of road on Longmeadow Street that year. "A big job" she reported. Mrs. C. S. Gates a resident on "Gates Hill" who is described as having "bright eyes and a nimble pen" described the noise and dirt involved in the huge undertaking. The "electric light people" appeared after the old street was torn up to put the new electric wires underground. "In the center of town the wires were put 3 feet from the trolley track but in the suburbs, for some reason, they elected to lay them about 6 feet from the track, which brought them in the middle of the sidewalk!"
Progress dictated that the wires be hidden from view. Signal lanterns were added which made the roads safer and helped the traffic patterns. A total of five traffic lights were installed from the City line to the green in 1927 and more thereafter. Cars were still a novelty in 1927 and although some drivers were slow and careful others seemed to "hurry up and beat it!" Accidents still happened, especially when a trolley and cars were both involved. There were six fatalities in 1927, and luckily none in 1928. I find it hard to imagine how any traffic could be controlled without signals. The archives states that "one year ago, the traffic officer was run down and a leg fractured at the corner of Bliss and Longmeadow Street. Now you can cross leisurely as the red and green lights flash."
The red and green stop lights we have today were probably instituted before the World War II era.
In 1923, Laurel Street only went south as far as Farmington Avenue. In the year 1927 Laurel Road was extended and a house was moved that allowed for a connection with Shaker Road. The 65 acres to the south that had been set aside for a development was now called "Glen Arden." This new neighborhood provided easy access to the Longmeadow Country Club and was made up of expensive homes. The setting was planned by Olmsted Brothers, similar in design and feeling to the Colony Hills Development of 1921 on the City Line. There were fifty-four lots set aside and a new suburban community was planned to include stores and other services. In the end, only homes were built there. Take a drive through Glen Arden and appreciate this special section of Longmeadow.
December 18, 2005
Anti-Mansionization in Longmeadow
Our historic community is built out! This once rural area, near the Connecticut border and the City of Springfield, Massachusetts is no longer full of open farmland. It has been a suburb for 100 years and counting, and now it's a crowded suburb! In the past few years, houses have been squeezed onto odd shaped lots in creative ways. Our by-laws allow for certain setbacks, but perhaps our by-laws need to be updated and revised. Can the Planning Board and the Zoning Board work together to anticipate what developers may do to this setting? Can we extend out historic district? Please feel free to contact the leaders of these town boards or the selectmen to voice your opinion.
Although the population is pretty flat at 15,000 plus people - the families are smaller and the houses are bigger! Additions are springing up right and left and there have been at least three teardowns in recent memory. Architecturally non-descript homes being razed is not the problem we are facing. What many residents fear is the loss of a historic landmark and the changing character of this community. A large new and modern-style edifice does not necessarily fit into the street-scape in an older neighborhood. In fact, it can stick out like a sore thumb! Some people fear loosing the character of this town to developers who may not have the town's best interest in mind. We need to have foresight if preserving and protecting our residential neighborhoods is something we want to do. The future look of Longmeadow will be decided by the people in power right now.
Of course, this is not only a local problem. Real Estate in much more expensive areas is in even higher demand. Look what is happening in Westchester County, New York or in the Boston suburbs. Just this week, a special segment on the TV Show "60 Minutes" dealt with this situation of teardowns near our state capital. Some people feel the need for increasingly enormous houses. Is another small suburbia turning into a 21st Century "vulgaria"? On some streets in Chevy Chase, Maryland there have been a total of seven houses destroyed and replaced with larger structures of architecturally eclectic designs. The town has finally said "NO" and there is a moratorium on all demolitions. Square footage in some homes has left the four figure range and is in the five figures now! In this situation, bigger isn't always better.
It's a free country and legally you can tear down any property you own in Longmeadow as long as you have a permit for demolition. There is no waiting period. Developers want to maximize profits by putting more than one house on lots that might hold more. The Planning Board should not make exceptions and waive the rules for special sub-divisions. If someone wants to build something new, when an older home is torn down they must meet with the local Zoning Board first, prior to demolition. Watch out for those non-conforming lots.
A home at 52 Chandler Avenue will probably be torn down sometime soon. There could be six McMansions built on a slippery slope behind this narrow lane. This special spot is adjacent to our Historic District and the Town Green. A large home, dating from 1912 is ready to be demolished on Laurel Street if the land can be sub-divided and the lots sold. The Barnabus Knox home, from the early 1800s, may be torn down in the future, but plans are not yet in place for this southern Longmeadow Street property. There is a new house going up in the Glen Arden section, after an older cape-style home was torn down last winter.
Watch out for a revised demolition delay by-law at the spring Town Meeting to be held on the last Tuesday in April. The suggested changes include a nine instead of twelve month waiting period for homes over 100 years of age. Only the real "antiques" will protected for a temporary period of time. This will give neighbors and the Historical Commission a little time to explore other alternatives. Some historic buildings can be saved by moving them to other locations. It is up to Longmeadow residents to insure the integrity and historic character of this part of New England.
As for me, I'm happy to live in my cozy home of less than 3,000 square feet for a family of four. I really don't know what I'd do with an 11,000 square feet house it certainly wouldn't feel like home.
December 1, 2005
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE!
Are you feeling a bit wet? Is your house water-logged? Can you believe the rain? On October 15, 2005 the highway going through Enfield, Connecticut flooded and anyone driving North or South on I-91 had to get off. The backstreets were overwhelmed with cars that were lost! I was in the middle of it on Route 5 when I attempted to go from Longmeadow to Windsor. Normally the ride takes 25 minutes. That day, it took over an hour and 15 minutes!
There has been a total of 15.6 inches of rain here so far in the month of October! After eight solid days of rain, we had a little sun. Then, it all started again, and the skies opening to more wetness and wind. Streets caved in, storm drains clogged, basements flooded and yards of soil and sand were changed forever by erosion.
The worst situation in Longmeadow, the result of all this rain, was a huge 30 foot deep hole in Captain Road. Where did the land go? It looks like a sink hole in the midst of a quiet neighborhood. Imagine if a house, a car or a person fell in! Luckily, no one was hurt .or lost! Homes nearby lost their electricity.
Another big hole took a sidewalk and a piece of Longmeadow Street with it. It was amazing to see a chunk of pavement missing as I drove south, passing Bay Path College. Limbs were falling, leaves covered the earth in a thick blanket and puddles were everywhere! My boots were damp for a week.
We have had more rain here than we did in 1955 when two huge storms hit this area. In a year that will be memorable for the trio of hurricanes named Katrina, Rita and Wilma - we will always remember the nameless storm that almost washed away pieces of our town. How many homes had extreme flooding in their basement? Too many to count
The Chairman of the Select Board, John Papale, called Longmeadow "In a State of Emergency." The town can now claim FEMA funds. Homeowners who can document the damage expenses paid from their pockets can possibly be reimbursed for the cost. Contact the Town Hall if you have any questions.
For now, I am bringing my raincoat and umbrella wherever I go. October is finally over, and November will be colder and drier I hope. I am also looking forward to a new and drier year ahead. I don't think it will be easy to forget the fall storms of 2005!
November 2, 2005
A PIECE OF AMERICA WE SHOULD SAVE IN LONGMEADOW
Chandler Avenue is threatened and The Old Button Factory may not be here much longer. Surprisingly, this special corner of New England, next to a Historic District, is not protected. The nearby town green is the heart of Longmeadow and it is lined with early American architecture to be treasured.
There is a proposal to lengthen this narrow street and build six new houses on a steep slope. This would rip through a quiet and historic neighborhood that in it's self could be called a Historic District. The safety of the schoolchildren, who walk to the Center School, are of great concern to us all. The center of Longmeadow Street is already a busy thoroughfare and the intersection at Williams Street is not an easy one to maneuver through. A traffic study has not been completed.
The Chandler family's roots go back to the 17th Century when they came to the West Parish of Longmeadow. They lived along the Connecticut River in Hampden County, Massachusetts in an area with fertile soil. The land was settled in 1644 when puritans from Roxbury, near Boston, took The Bay Path westward to establish a trading post with the Agawam Indians.
Freelove Chandler, a daughter, was born in July 1781. Two years later Longmeadow was incorporated; being the first Massachusetts town established after the American Revolution. Her brother, Dimond was born in March 1799. During his long and prosperous lifetime he became a successful local businessman.
The old nameless dirt road, that meandered up from the shore and through the meadows to higher ground was where he worked. It was named Chandler Avenue in his memory. The site of his button and thimble factory was located in what is now an antique yellow clapboard house at 19 Chandler Avenue. The structure dates from circa 1800, but was moved to its present location in 1840. From 1840-1855 his business produced 85% of all buttons in America. By 1861 his factory moved to the city of Springfield and continued to produce buttons during the Civil War era. Samuel Franklin Chandler, a relative, made watches, spectacles and spoons in the Longmeadow building. The Historical Commission will find out if this structure is eligible for National Register designation, as soon as possible.
The old house stands close to the narrow 15 feet wide lane. There is no curb or sidewalk in front of the home. Trees line the street at the edge of the pavement. It is the last Nantucket-style spot remaining in our town. Developers want to "improve" the roadway by widening the paved portion to gain access to the land at the end of the quiet lane. They are planning a long cul-de-sac that does not meet with local laws, on four acres. They are also required to add a sidewalk that is five feet wide. They propose a four foot wide sidewalk that would be precariously close to the Button Factory's 150 year old foundation. A fence, wall and front stoop could be altered forever.
The current owner bought the place in the late 1950s and restored the home; adding electricity and a kitchen. A redstone front stoop and stone wall, made from local red sandstone were added. In the 19th Century, local quarries supplied stone used across our country on college campuses, at Trinity Church in Boston, and best known for the New York City and Back Bay brownstone row houses characteristic of a bygone era.
Not far from Chandler Avenue, across the town green and behind the white painted church is the Old Burying Ground. The early carved headstones, dating back to the late 1600s tell us about the lives of the early American settlers. The redstone markers show death by childbirth and heartbreaking stories of illness and misfortune. Some of the Chandlers are buried there. I bet they're rolling over in their graves.
How does the public feel about this proposal that cuts through a section of our historic district? I hope that Longmeadow citizens will write to the Select board and tell them their thoughts on the subject. If this came before the town as a vote, who would be in the majority? We need to ask each member of the Select board how they would vote! They can stop this development before it happens. The Planning Board oversees the approval of the plan when it is revised to meet certain criteria. It is the Select board that will decide whether the old part of Chandler Avenue should be widened. It is the Department of Public Works that will decide if 5-7 of the town's own trees will be sacrificed. Everyone has a role to play in this story. The way in which it will unfold over the next few months depends on the residents of Longmeadow and their will to speak up! Please stay informed and stay tuned. The next Planning Board Hearing will be during their regular meeting on Thursday, October 20th at 7 pm in the Community House.
October 5, 2005
CONSIDER CHANDLER AVENUE'S IMPACT ON THE HISTORIC TOWN GREEN
The safety concerns of building new homes off an existing narrow lane, not wide enough to support the increased traffic, could stop this project today. There will be an adverse impact on the center of our town and more specifically the historic town green and historic district. Please consider the following:
As a board member of the Historic Commission, I will speak today regarding the history of this section of town. There is no demolition delay law in place. Perhaps in 10 months there will be. A house with parts dating from 1854 will be destroyed by this proposed construction. The White Tavern on the NW corner of Chandler and Longmeadow St. dates from 1713. The Old Country Store dates from 1805. We believe that the Newell Button Factory is National Register Eligible.
And I will quote from "The Historic Homes of Longmeadow" written in 1988:
"#37 The Hartigan House
The original road connecting the riverfront settlement of Old Long Meddowe was the main road into town and went diagonally across this land. Later the whole of Chandler Avenue, names for local entrepreneur, Dimond Chandler, was a bustling commercial street. Along it were two button factories, a spectacle shop, an inn, blacksmith shop and livery stable." Dimond Chandler was born on March 7, 1799.
"#38 The Old Country Store (now Doctor Brook's office and Spa on the Green)
"This store was built in 1805 by Calvin Burt and Stephen Cooley. This has always been a commercial structure. From 1839 to 1848 it housed a post office and the Gold and Silver Thimble shop. In 1848 Dimond Chandler established his first button factory here. By 1863 his business had grown so large that he manufactured 85% of the buttons sold nationwide."
#35 The Newell Button Factory/19 Chandler Ave (Samuel Newell)
#33 The Old White Tavern/now a private home
built for Nathaniel Bliss who had eleven children, and later used as a tavern
There are few places in this town that give one a feeling of "timelessness" - Chandler Avenue is one of them ..it should be called a lane that is what it is. Stroll down the narrow path and go back in time if you will. It is a quiet spot near the main north/south street in Longmeadow. It is a place that has been mostly undisturbed over the generations. I understand it is 24 feet wide at it's maximum width. Our laws require 50 feet of width for a road. This is a sub-standard byway.
I ask you to take a walk tomorrow - or later this week - before the planning board has it's hearing on Thursday, September 29th at 7 pm at the Community House. I ask you to consider the following-
I have a printed image, from an antique postcard, of the Old Country Store as it looked exactly 100 years ago. This is the corner in question that will be directly affected by the construction of this new-subdivision.
What will this place look like in 2105? I won't be here.
Most of us will be long gone I doubt my ten year old son will still be here.
My children's children might be here, or my great grandchildren
What legacy will this development leave behind for the future residents of this fine town?
What dangers lay ahead for school children going to and from Center School?
The Historic Commission is concerned with preserving and protecting the history of the town of Longmeadow. This development is a direct threat to the town green. It is the biggest threat to the center of our town since the 1950s when the interstate highway almost came through the center of Longmeadow Street.
I ask you to consider the past and the future before you give the developers the green light. And while we are talking about lights ..Will a traffic study be done before we say "yes" to this development? Will a Historic Impact Statement be filed? Will the lawyers for the developer be required to file any State or Federal permits? I look forward to learning more about these plans in the coming weeks.
October 10, 2005
END OF SUMMER
We are waiting at the edge of August for summer to end. Our plans for autumn are in place - but we don't really know how it will turn out. There are new people to meet, a different school schedule to adjust to and a host of new experiences around the next corner. One last day at the beach is all I want or need. I dream of breathing in the salt air and feeling the wind in my hair. I'd like to snap my fingers and be transported to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard or Block Island for just one more time!
I wash the big thick towels and store them in containers. All of the beach bags are emptied and tucked into the back of closets. I take the suntan lotion and put it away. The backpacks are full of new notebooks, pens, pencils and a shiny ruler. It's time to give away clothing the children have grown out of and buy things on sale a size or two too big. They are growing so fast now. It is a miracle that takes my breath away. I don't want to miss a minute of their childhood, but in a blink I fear they will be gone.
Cleaning off my desk, I turn the page of the calendar. Someone told me that September's days shorten more rapidly than any other month. Now September is really here and the summer blooms have faded. Mums brighten up the path to our side door. A few leaves fall on the driveway and I pick up more debris from the rain shower from last night. The sun feels less intense and the evening hours are cooler. Are the bugs disappearing? Yes, I say with relief.
Fall is slowly creeping into the atmosphere. We can all feel it and see it if we stop and take it in. Some leaves have turned yellow. A few birds fly south and I miss the morning songs of the familiar doves. My son grabs a sweatshirt as he leaves today. Tonight I spy a sliver of a crescent moon with two planets low on the horizon. Jupiter and Venus float in the sky together.
I capture memories of our summer together as a family in a special photo album. I fill up the pages and save it on a shelf. Then I find a small pile of sand in the bottom of my purse and decide to leave it there. The small hard grains of white sand will remind me of the sunny afternoons by the shore, leaving footprints on the beach. We enjoyed such a peaceful respite away from the hectic days at home during the school year. As I look at the collection of shells on the counter I am transported back to the beach. A postcard of a Vineyard sunset is glanced at again. Little reminders of the summer will keep it alive.
Although the seasons will continue, and the months will pass and I will look forward to July coming around again. The circle of the seasons is reassuring. There is always a beginning after every ending.
September 8, 2005
TRIMMING OF THE TREES
Dappled sunlight was filtered by the towering old leafy trees that surrounded me. As I drove around town this spring, I began to notice some deadwood. It was hanging over the streets, and over my head! No leaves sprouted on those limbs. No flowers bloomed on those barren branches of older trees. Their time on earth was over, but they were holding on. It made me sad. It was bittersweet to see such a stark contrast amidst those lush green tree-lined streets of Longmeadow. This is a town that was voted to be a Tree City USA.
I notified the Tree Warden here in town. Mike McCarty promptly arranged to have two dead trees taken down on Burbank Road. Across the street from us, our neighbor's lost a huge limb that had rotted. It fell into their driveway one night, and luckily no one was hurt. In the older neighborhoods the situation is worse and getting more dangerous each year. These old trees, many of which are ancient oaks, have reached their life expectancies.
It makes me angry to lose any tree around here. Yet, we must be realistic. Old trees can become an accident waiting to happen. I am furious when people cut down healthy young trees for simply aesthetic reasons. Someone cut down a special copper beach tree on Bark Haul Road to make way for a new house that is being constructed. There is now a hole in the tree canopy on that block. Could it have been saved?
Less than one month ago, a huge old oak that lived in the center of our backyard was hit by lightning. No one in the house was hurt, but electronic systems in our home were damaged. We are still dealing with the insurance paperwork. At least the tree was still standing but the bark had split and the crack was deep.
Unfortunately, the tree had to come down. We did not reach this decision easily. We got three opinions and all the arborists agreed. It towered over our yard shielding our garden and swing-set from direct sun. I am deeply disappointed to loose that tree, yet I know our house was in danger if a limb fell on our roof with all the summer storms we have had this year. In fact, after every storm I find myself playing pick up sticks in the yard. Each storm brings the smaller deadwood down.
So, what can be done? Is there a local group called "Tree Huggers of Western Massachusetts"? Sign me up please! In the meantime, the town should inspect and trim old trees on the tree belts. Its town owned land and a hazard to pedestrians if something should come down suddenly.
So please urge the town to do something! Ask the Town Manager and the new Tree Warden, Mike Wrabel of the DPW to create and implement a plan. Tell them to please find a way to check out these old trees for safety reasons, in the months and years ahead.
Trimming trees is usually thought of as a Christmas holiday tradition. But, no, I'm not talking about evergreens to be decorated with lights and glittering glass balls! I'm asking for trees to be trimmed around Longmeadow on the tree-belts. And, please think about trimming your own trees as well. In addition, we should all be planting new trees to replace those that are ending their life cycles. Thank you.
July 26, 2005
COUNTING THE BUGS
An old light blue one used to park on Ellington Road. A copper colored convertible parks at the Shell Station. We love to see the shiny new one that parks on Burbank Road that we pass on the way to school. They are everywhere now! The bugs have invaded! I am not talking about insects, I'm talking about bug cars, beetles (not Beatles) .I mean Volkswagens!
Our family enthusiasm for these cars has been reignited since the arrival of all the newly redesigned Volkswagens on the road. It's been about six years now, and the new Volkswagens swarm the highways and byways of New England. They are small in size, so that means good on gas mileage and easy to park! They compete with the Mini Cooper for the cutest cars around!
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, my brother, sister and I used to play a game in the car to pass the time on long trips. On our monthly trips up and down the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, we would count beetles. The first person to see one would scream a the top of their lungs, "bug car", and we would add the car to out total. In the old days, we would get up to 50 or 60 cars a day if we were lucky. The best ones we saw had those colorful daisy shaped stickers on them that reminded me of the days of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on TV. They were called "Ricky Ticky" stickers.
Over the years, the number of Volkswagen bugs on the road dwindled. We stopped counting them and were distracted by more grown-up pursuits. Sometimes I would hear one drive by with its distinctive front hood motor hum, and I would wave. Every once in a while you'd see an old bug cruising along in the right lane with it's windows down and the music blasting out...or a Volkswagen bus tooling down the highway with Grateful Dead stickers on the rear windshield. I would always get a little nostalgic when I saw one and remember the old one my friend had in high school. He used to play the song from Brain Salad Surgery at top volume and make us sit in the back seat to get the full effect. I never owned one but I often thought it would be fun to have one of my own.
A few years ago at Kiddly winks I bought the kids toy-sized models. My daughter got a red one and my son got a bright blue one. Now they have revived the game of counting them on the road because there are enough to count again. We count both the old ones and new ones and we always talk to anyone who has one.
On the way to Maine during the summer of '98 we counted six within one hour. Two old vans, two new black ones and two new red ones. This was a record at the time! There is a silver bug car living near us now in Longmeadow. The bright yellow and light green ones are eye-catching! Our daughter even has a poster in her room of a yellow one on a psychedelic background of swirling purple and green design. She wants a silver one as soon as she can drive. That is, only if there isn't a pink one out by then.
The people who used to live in our house in Longmeadow in the 1970s came by for a visit. We were looking forward to their arrival, not knowing what car would turn into our driveway. The kids were looking out of our front window to see them when they arrived. I was in the kitchen when I heard, "It's a bug car! A red bug car!" The kids were so excited that it was at our house! They ran outside and our daughter got to sit in the driver's seat! Inside the new models there is a unique feature. There is a flower vase, and the owner of the car had put a Gerber daisy in the vase. I guess that Flower Power still lives!
Happy Summer to Everyone! Save driving too!
June 21, 2005
Every year this town compiles a report titled "The Street List of Names". At a cost of $10, anyone can buy this reference booklet at the Longmeadow Town Hall. The booklet includes a listing of every street, every precinct by street, and every resident over the age of 17 by name and occupation and an alphabetical list of all names according to the census. An asterisk denotes registered voters. All of this information is compiled from the census sheets mailed to every resident in January. Usually the book is printed every May, but this year it is late. I am hoping to have my copy before the end of June 2005.
If you doing local historical research, older copies can be found at the Storrs Library in the reference section that date back to around 1930. Before that time, "The Springfield Street List" includes the Longmeadow residents. I have reviewed the reports from previous years to see who was listed and who was missing. This year, with the outcome of town elections being so close it is becoming more and more important that everyone vote. It is obvious to anyone reading the report that many people are not listed and some who are listed cannot vote or attend the Town Meetings. The next Special Town Meeting is now set for June 21. Tell your friends to vote!
For stay-at-home moms everywhere, there is that sinking feeling when you need to list your occupation on a questionnaire or application. What should you write down? When you meet other moms, do you hear yourself saying, "What did you do in your past life?"
I traded in my business cards, expense account, plane trips, strategy meetings, late nights and long commutes for a few years of spending time with my young children. It was a natural choice that I was happy to make at the time. I had tried to do both at once and had failed. Being a part-time executive is impossible in this day and age; although I know some people do it successfully. I was miserably frustrated working part-time, doing just as much work as before in fewer hours. The salary was smaller and the stress was bigger. I retired at the age of 33. However what is my occupation now?
I am a scheduler, master organizer, chauffer, volunteer, grocery shopper, cook, cleaner, laundress, wife, mother, daughter, friend and now a writer; not necessarily in that order. This brings me back to "The Street List of Names." Most women in my position filled out the form with the words "Housewife" or "Homemaker" depending on her generation. Several women wrote "unemployed" or "At Home." A large group of women left the occupation spot blank or wrote "unknown." A few people wrote in what I did, "Mother" or "Mom."
Recently, I received a telephone call and the caller asked what my occupation was. I must have paused before answering the question just long enough for the woman on the other end of the line to answer it for me. She said, "I know, you're CEO of the House!" That is how I should describe my occupation from now on.
June 13, 2005
WHO WAS JOHN WARNER BARBER?
The American engraver, John Warner Barber was born in East Windsor, Connecticut in 1798. He died in 1885 after a long and successful career producing books. He was known as an amateur historian, writer and artist who produced countless woodcuts during the 19th Century. His historical books, published in the 1800s can still be found today in book stores specializing in historical material, but they are becoming rare.
John Warner Barber is best known for his local, state and national history volumes illustrated with his engravings. His rendering of the Town of Longmeadow is dated from 1839. It includes a man, woman and child in front of the church on the green. It is titled "North View of Congregational Church, Longmeadow, Massachusetts" The reason that his books are becoming so rare is because they are bought and divided up so that his individual scenes can be framed and resold. If you can find an original J.W. Barber book, in good condition with the original binding you should treasure it forever.
May 20, 2005
DEMOLITION DELAY ON THE WARRANT IN 2005
Historic preservationists across the country are trying to balance conflicting priorities in many communities. Real estate development vs., preserving and protecting our architectural heritage. Should we be demolished homes in Longmeadow? Should we be demolishing architecturally important buildings and changing the character of our established neighborhoods? We need some time to think about what may be lost forever. You will have a chance to vote on this question at our Town Meeting on May 10, 2005.
An early 20th Century home was recently demolished in the Glen Arden section of Longmeadow. Another historic home, dating from 1913 will be torn down soon to make way for five new homes. There is nothing to be done to save what is already gone to the wrecker's ball. There IS something we can do for the future homes that may be demolished.
Over one hundred Massachusetts communities have adopted a demolition delay in the hopes of saving structures of architectural or historical significance. There is an item on the Longmeadow Town warrant by petition, which addresses this issue. We are hoping to delay demolition of these structures for a period of 12 months. Please come to the Town Meeting and also to a special hearing on the subject, to be held on Thursday, April 28th at 7:00 pm at the Center School Community Room.
Please come to the hearing to learn more about protecting the integrity of our streetscapes. At this time, if a house receives a permit to demolish a home, it is not necessary to notify the neighbors. Please support changing this by-law for the Town of Longmeadow.
April 14, 2005
SPEEDING THROUGH LONGMEADOW
We have a problem in our neighborhood. Lots of people like to cut through our side streets, as quickly as possible, to avoid traffic lights on the main streets. You probably have heard of this problem in several neighborhoods. It is especially treacherous in the older neighborhoods where stop signs are few and streets have several turns. Colony Hills and the Kibbe Tract (also known as Forest Acres) both have this problem with fast cars and it's getting worse.
Our neighborhood is located south of Colony Hills, below Converse Street, and east of Laurel Street. It is where you will find beautiful winding roads through a forest-like setting. The streets used as cut-throughs are Farmington, Ellington, Eton, Rugby and Oxford Road. Clifton W. Kibbe laid out Ellington Street in 1917 and Farmington Avenue in 1922, naming them after two of his favorite towns in northwestern Connecticut. He later bought the heavily wooded land east of Laurel Street, to begin a new development called Forest Acres.
Following a construction delay due to the crash of 1929, Farmington Avenue and Ellington Street were continued east of Laurel Street as Farmington and Ellington Roads. Kibbe envisioned Farmington Road as a dead-end, not as a thoroughfare to Burbank Road. He died in 1956 and obviously the plans were changed. If Mr. Kibbe had had his way, I would not be so concerned about the speeding traffic along our roads these days.
The problem is the speed limit here is still too high on a group of dark and winding roads that are narrow. With some luck and a lot of hard work, the town was able to post speed limit signs a few years ago. I took around a petition and a traffic study was conducted. I am very thankful for that. The streets are safer now, the signs say 25 mph. There are still those who think driving over 30 is ok. It isn't. And 40+ mph is definitely a no no!
I had originally requested a "Children Slow" sign be placed near our front yard when my son was three years old. Despite the fact that I found several such signs on Converse, Dover, Greenacre, Maple, and Greenwich Roads, I was told that the signs are unenforceable. Just because the town does not want to put up any new signs saying "Children Slow" because they stopped this in 1973, does not make me feel safer. Isn't this sort of sign useful if it saves one child's life? Maybe we should just ask for more stop signs. Are my neighbors interested? Please call me and let me know! Someone said we should buy our own speed bumps! Sounds good to me .but not a good idea for the local snow plows.
Do you have a solution? Do you have a creative idea for slowing down the cars so our kids will be safer? We went out and bought a "Slow Man" from Step2 and it has helped. His nickname is "SloBro". This little neon man carries an orange flag and is portable. We keep him near the sidewalk in front of our yard. Although we usually take him in at nightfall, we forgot to do so one night last week. He was gone the next morning! I was very disappointed and almost called the Longmeadow police department! Luckily, he was found on a neighbor's tree belt. Although he had lost his flag, it was returned to us the following morning. Thanks to the anonymous friends who returned it to us! Perhaps everyone on our street should buy one of these little men and keep them all along the street to tell people to slow down.
Happy New Year wishes to all and safe driving!
January 4, 2005
OUR TOWN AT A CROSSROAD
Longmeadow changed in the past decade! A lot has happened, both good and bad. Often, the view depends on where you sit and how you see things around here. Progress to some people has meant loosing some traditions and institutions to the growing development of our town.
Which direction should we go? Which path should we take? What does our new Long Range Plan hold in store for the community? There are more questions than answers these days. Which ever way we pick will move us ahead, but we need to decide what to do as a group. Let us look at our past to see the seeds of change at work.
This settlement by the Connecticut River started in 1644. In 1703 the original residents moved from the meadows to the hill when flooding of the Connecticut River occurred. By 1714 we were a parish of Springfield. In 1783 we were the first town incorporated after the American Revolution, but our setting was still fairly rural. Train service came in 1844, and it linked our small community to greater New England and points beyond. We became a geographically smaller size town, close to the booming city of Springfield in the late 19th Century.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, we became a suburb, and residents could commute to the city by streetcar or trolley. Now, in the 21st century, cars link us to the rest of the country though the interstate highway system. The information highway links us via the internet. Our form of government is still the town meeting form, typical of a New England village of long ago. Changes are coming, as our government tries to keep up with the times.
It was in 1894 when our original town decided to split in two. The East Village's "new" town hall had been built in 1882, so that residents could meet in one place for a town meeting. This brownstone landmark still stands at the East Longmeadow Rotary next to the library. The town of Longmeadow was getting too big to govern and a vast area separated the two parts. Our Longmeadow Town Hall was built in the 1930s, and the Community House, built in the 1920s for the church, became a town meeting place years later.
Do we want out town to split again? I say "NO"! We are already split into several groups around here. Let's work together for the future of Longmeadow and keep it the special place that it is, yet help it to thrive by incorporating some new ideas from the residents. The high school is now the place where we hold the town meetings, yet the space is inadequate. On a hot night there is no air circulating and it is hard to see or hear what is going on from the back of the gym. The space is not big enough for the more crowded meetings and we all know that the building is not up to code for handicap access. Have you attended in a town meeting lately? The numbers are down, and participation involves the same few community minded people and our elected leaders.
What are the issues that we will need to face in future town meetings? I think communication is the number one priority. People need to speak out and get involved. If you read the local papers, or keep up with news on the town website, you know the issues at hand. Traffic safety near the schools and in the shopping triangle can be improved. Let's get some new signs and some additional crosswalks to help pedestrians get around. Overcrowding at the elementary level has been eased, but the population is changing. There are many more children here than a decade ago.
What services do the residents of Longmeadow need? Unique stores like the Community Market and Cock o' the Walk are disappearing. My young children appreciate what we have lost. Residents are sad. They are being replaced with banks and chain stores. This is typical is what is happening across the country; we are not alone. Do we want a bookstore in town? What kinds of foods do we want available in town? Do we need more clothing stores? What do you want? How about a sit-down bakery?
What can we do to help the Planning and Zoning Boards? They both are committed groups that want the best for the town, but they need to revise the by-laws and keep ahead of trends. The Planning Board needs to "plan" and not simply react to the proposed developments by real estate interests. What do we want our town to look like? As residents, we have a unique opportunity handed to us. Do not miss the chance to make things happen. Both newcomers and old-timers must work together!
Most of us want to maintain the special and unique town we moved to. The large town green is a real gem in the midst of several architectural treasures. Let's work together to preserve and protect the center of our historic community. The whole Route 5 corridor, in addition to the Historic District, must be saved from over development. How can we help the local Historical Society to build the space they need to store antiques, documents and other treasures for future generations?
Can you, the reader, think of a way to bring people together to discuss the issues? A town meeting is the place to vote. Real discussion must occur in smaller groups at another time, yet these groups must work together and form a common vision. Are we all on the same page? With new select people and a larger Select Board, things should be set in motion. We have a new enthusiastic school superintendent and a new town manager on the horizon. Let's be pro-active and plan for the future.
Happy New Year to You and your families! May 2005 be a productive year for this fine community!
December 16, 2004
TANKS A LOT
Thank goodness our oil tank is out of our yard! The 67 year old rusted metal 550-gallon hulk was dug up and hoisted out of the ground in 1997. We are not alone. Every year between 30 and 50 oil tanks have been taken out of Longmeadow yards, and the local fire department has inspected each site and taken a soil sample. Why is there this flurry of activity? Well, I guess it is true that bad news travels fast and there have been a few disaster stories floating around town.
We bought an older home in 1996 and during the contract negotiations the subject of the underground oil tank came up. We said, Take it out! The sellers did not comply, and by law did not have to. Someone should have warned us of the dangers involved with taking on such a potentially huge liability, but we wanted the house and ended up getting part of the cost of removing it. In hindsight, we made a stupid move. We were naïve. Now all banks will not give you a mortgage, but at the time this was not the case. Luckily, our soil sample came up clear, but Massachusetts is one of the strictest states in the nation when it comes to lead paint and oil tanks. The EPA gets involved if the tank has been leaking and before you know it, you may be spending tens of thousands of hard earned buckaroos, making your yard safe for kids and other living creatures.
This brings us back to the disaster stories. At least five local residents, and probably many more, wish they never bought homes with underground oil tanks. One leaker has polluted an underground stream and another resulted in the cancellation of a sale of property. There is a real risk in disrupting an oil tank if you wish to test the soil for contamination while it is full. It is now necessary for all tanks to be removed before a transaction for selling the house can begin. A new oil tank can be placed in a basement area, or a house can be switched to gas heat. In other states an abandoned oil tank is ok and can be filled with sand and sealed. Here it must be removed soon after the last bit of oil is pumped out. Some people have insurance to cover oil tanks issues, but not everyone.
Well, our sill sample results were supposed to be ready 5-7 days after the removal of our tank. We ended up waiting almost three weeks for our test results because the lab was too busy testing samples from sites where commercial tanks had been removed. We did not have a leak in our tank, but we were not free and clear. The fire department smelled oil in the soil, and I had smelled it also. It seemed that for years, the oil company that delivered the oil was sloppy in filling the tank. Thankfully, we did not have to remove contaminated soil and enter into a relationship with our local EPA representative but I would rather not have to have the stress associated with the situation at all. If you are thinking of selling your home in the near future, please take the tank out now before the bad winter weather hits this area. In some states, people can get insurance policies, but not in Massachusetts any more.
If you have natural gas heating your home, be thankful, since oil prices are high again this year. If you have already taken out your oil tank, just be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
November 18, 2004
THE OBSTACLE COURSE
Note: About a month ago, my side street was paved by the Longmeadow DPW. They did a great job in the end, and this story was written during the paving process.
This is a true account of what happened when I left the house yesterday morning, October 5, 2004. I noticed dense thick air that shrouded our leafy neighborhood; and checking the window thermometer, I noted the temperature was less than 50 degrees. Summer was really over. The kids got dressed, put on sweaters, and had something to eat. They filled their backpacks with homework, books and lunchboxes and we were ready to go! It was 8:17.
We backed out of our leaf strewn driveway very carefully, as our neighborhood was still enveloped in fog. Missing the bright orange cone over the manhole was easy; it glowed in the dim light of morning at the end of our driveway. The teams of bikers were avoided and we crept down the curving road in our station wagon. We dodged several deep holes piercing the pavement as construction trucks were strategically located along the street. Paving our road, I have learned, is at least a three week process. I had to figure this out myself. No one notified me about the work or when it was to be done. It needed to be paved badly as patched sections covered the street from end to end.
During week one, the skim coat was done and holes were filled. The second week, the manhole covers were dug out and raised to prepare for the new surface of tar. The following week the surface should be completed. I think I will miss the old bumpy road at least it slowed the speeding cars down.
The car moved ahead in the suburban landscape with two schools being our final destinations. We passed more trucks pulling up sidewalks on Laurel Street and getting ready to pour concrete. We took a left onto Bliss Road and encountered more bumpy surfaces and raised metal disks. This road is being redone also, at the exact same time.
The traffic builds as we get closer to the middle school. I finally turn right after the cars ahead of me crawl ahead. Before my eyes are two huge trucks on this narrow street. This is the only way to get to the school's parking lot from my house. Two homes are getting renovated. Traffic stops. The trucks back up and park. Finally, Kid #1 is dropped off and it's 8:24; right before the bell rings.
We wind around the school lot and head north to the elementary school. More cars, more traffic, more delay. The fog is still thick. Several kids on bikes maneuver around the cars and construction trucks. It all looks a bit dangerous but the kids make much better time than the rest of us waiting behind a sea of SUVs. The crossing guard is doing a great job, as usual, bringing order to the chaos. We move along.
It is now 8:29 and I stop the car by the side of the road. Kid #2 is scootering to school, but I don't want him to go the whole distance alone. He cheerfully scoots away and waves, "I love you mom" he says. I feel warm inside despite the chill in the autumn morning.
I drive to school #2 with his backpack and deposit it in a place we have agreed upon so he can bring it to his classroom. Some days it is just too heavy to lift and even I have trouble lifting it myself. Besides, it's simply more fun to ride a scooter without encumbrances.
Now I am alone in my car with the greatest hits from the 60s and the 70s. Something familiar comes on the radio and I smile. It's the Allman Brothers lyric-less tune from Eat a Peach. For a moment, I am transported back to a similar morning in 1974 when my mom and dad drive us to school in a navy blue Buick wagon. I turn onto my street and encounter a deep ditch and my tires bump down into it. I need to wake up! Its 8:37 and I'm now living in the 21st Century!
I go back home dodging more raised manhole covers, orange spray-painted streets and realize its 2004 - 30 years later and I haven't had my coffee yet. I had just completed my 20 minute obstacle course in record time no I'm kidding it usually takes 15 minutes or less. This was not a dream! This is Longmeadow, Massachusetts under construction, again!
November 19, 2004
BIG Y REMEMBERS OLD LONGMEADOW
Have you been waiting in line lately at the Longmeadow Big Y? Well, next time you are shopping there, please look UP from the checkout line at the memorable set of four historic photos of old Longmeadow. These large sepia tone prints were created in November 2001 from glass negatives preserved in the Archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society.
The Big Y features these four important old landmarks from our town's history:
DOANE ORPHANAGE - Photo taken April 19, 1915. The orphanage was located on Longmeadow Street near Forest Glen Road. Originally built as a home in the 1860's it later became a Boarding House in the 1880's. In 1903 it was converted to an orphanage and expanded. The Doane Orphanage was closed in the 1930's and the building was later lost to fire.
COLONADE DRUG STORE - Photo taken June 3, 1918. This Spanish-revival style structure was located on the northeast corner of Longmeadow Street and Bliss Road where Hampden Savings stands today. It was later known as Smith's Drug Store into the 1960's. The building has been extensively remodeled.
THE COMMUNITY HOUSE - Photo taken April 27, 1923. The building still stands on Longmeadow Street at the northeast corner of Williams Street. It was built by the First Church as a meeting hall for activities. It was sold to the town in the 1930's during the depression era and stands on the location where our first minister's, Stephen Williams, house stood in the 1700's. It was also the location of the parsonage.
FIRST CHURCH - Photo taken May 2, 1916. The church faces Longmeadow Street on the south side of Williams Street in the center of town. In 1874 the church was moved from the center of the green and remodeled to this appearance. In 1932 it was remodeled again to its present appearance. The church, which stands today, is actually the fourth structure.
Please take a look! These photographs may bring back memories of days gone by.
November 10, 2004
A collection of historic Springfield Area postcards are on display at Storrs Library in Longmeadow during the months of October and November 2004. These cards are from the collection of Betsy Huber Port, a local resident. She inherited a collection of postcards from her grandfather, Carroll Alton Means, of Connecticut. During the past few years, she added to it, finding postcards at Brimfield and on eBay.
Images of early 20th Century Springfield are captured in these chromolithograph and hand-colored postcards. Before telephones, e-mail and fax machines, postcards were the quickest, most efficient and economical way to get a short message to a friend. With many areas having one or two deliveries per day from the postman, and tourists buying souvenirs, the market exploded about one hundred years ago.
The first postcard was introduced in Austria in 1869. By 1873 the first American postcards were made, following in the tradition of greeting cards. The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, which celebrated the four-hundred year anniversary of Christopher Columbus arrival here, provided a large audience for postcard distribution. Records show that from June 1907 to June 1908, almost 678 million postcards were mailed in this country. At the time, the population was less than 89 million in the USA. The golden age of postcards ended by World War I and later cards could never match the printing quality of these earlier examples.
Most of the cards on display are in "near-mint" condition and unused. They were bought to save in scrapbooks as souvenirs and were not intended to be mailed. We cannot find stamps or postmarks on most of them so we must look for other clues to date them. Cars, clothing, signs and architectural styles provide landmarks to place the scenes in the right era. An "undivided back" means that a postcard was made prior to 1907, when an address was all that was allowed on the back. Starting in 1907, the backs were divided as they are today, with a line delineating the back side) to accommodate a message in addition to the address. Most of these cards date before 1917, when high-quality chromolithography, with six or more inks, was the finest printing method used in Europe. With the advent of war, tariff regulations changed and foreign produced became too expensive and fewer cards were made.
Many scenes of Forest Park are illustrated. The 738 acres of Forest Park separate the town of Longmeadow from Springfield. Planning for the largest park in the city of started in 1883-1884 when the City of Springfield Park Commission was formed. The local landscape architect, Justin Sackett started work by 1990. Frederick Law Olmsted, who is often incorrectly credited with the design of Forest Park, created many late 19th Century parks across America. As a Massachusetts resident, with friends in the Springfield area, he may have played an informal role in the planning of this park. Forest Park was in it's heyday in the early 20th Century and even the Forest Park Zoo was there in those days. The streetcar line was extended to the Sumner Avenue entrance which provided easy access to all city residents. Over the years, the entrances from the south were closed and admission is now charged.
Today the winter "Bright Nights" celebration, organized by the Spirit of Springfield, has welcomed many people to Forest Park and given much needed funds to restore the park to its original beauty. The paths, hills, gardens and landmarks are a nice way for us to appreciate nature without going too far away.
Every June, the city celebrates Founder's Day. The four men who are credited with making the park a reality were John Olmsted, Walter Wesson, James Kirkham and John Dwight McKnight, all prominent businessmen who had the foresight to buy the original 39 acres and save the land for the benefit of the people living in this area.
Over the years, the size of the park expanded. Sixty-five acres of land were given to the city in 1883 by Orrich Herman Greenleaf, a paper manufacturer and often forgotten benefactor. Everett Hosmer Barney, the ice skate magnate, donated another 178 acres in 1890 which included his mansion, known as Pecousic Villa. Barney's home stood on a hill overlooking the city until 1959 when Interstate 91 came in its path. Although James Bliss Burbank donated 103 acres along the Longmeadow line in as recently as 1917, his important contribution is not often remembered. Barney's sizable acreage, with the carriage house and Laurel Hill mausoleum still standing, has overshadowed the other gifts.
These postcards remind us of a time in history when the daily arrival of personal mail was a common occurrence. I long for a time when bills, catalogs and junk mail do not overwhelm the postal system and letters from old friends arrive more often. The postcards capture a simpler time and provide us with a unique window into the past of Springfield.
November 4, 2004
Almost every year, Longmeadow's third graders have a chance to visit the town cemetery. The graveyard is fondly known as the Old Burying Ground and it is located behind the First Church on Williams Street. As part of the school's local American History lesson, the kids sometimes do grave rubbings. There's a lot to learn there, so don't be afraid to check it out yourself.
The grave markers date from the 1700's and early 1800's in the older section towards the front of the area. These early stones are truly beautiful. Graceful willow trees, winged deaths heads and poetic verse embellish these antique stones. Longmeadow's cemetery is an important piece of American history; and Halloween is always a good time to visit graves. I haven't met any ghosts there but I usually go there in daylight hours to read some stones and to appreciate a bit of our own history.
The Burt Family was some of the original settlers of this town, and their descendants still call Longmeadow home. If you pay a visit to the burying ground, look for the Burt graves. The deaths heads are unique and striking. Note the ornate crowns and wings that adorn the slate.
One of my favorite verses commemorates the life of Jonathan Burt. It is the best arguments I have ever read for getting all of us to stop procrastinating.
The stone reads:
"In memory of Jonathan Burt, who departed this life in a sudden and surprising manner April 18, 1794, in his 56 year. How short, how precarious, how uncertain is life, how quick the transition from time to eternity, how soon the thread of life spun, a breathing gasp, a groan or two, and we are seen no more, yet on this brittle thread of life hangs a vast eternity."
As you walking among these grave markers you will notice words that look unfamiliar. The word 'relic' is seen and the use of an 's' instead of an 'f' is often seen. The dates are often alarming. You will come face to face with some very short lives. Unfortunately, children often did not make it into their teens, and women often died in childbirth. Men became widowers several times, and women often married at very young ages.
If you happen to enjoy looking at the carved artwork on these stones, notice the different types of local geology evident in the graveyard. You will see slate, brownstone or dark red sandstone, marble and granite. Every May, during Long Meddowe Days, you can get a guided tour of the Old Burying Ground during daylight hours. If you aren't scared of the dark, you can also get a special historic tour of the sacred ground before Halloween. For the past two years several ghosts have been seen on the Friday before All Hallows Eve telling the stories of their lives and deaths in olde Longmeadow. If you dare, walk into the cemetery on any night .you never know who you might meet.
October 24, 2004
AUTUMN IN THE NEW ENGLAND AIR
We wore big comfy sweatshirts each night as we walked along the rocky coast. To stretch out the season, we went to Maine very late this year, at the end of August. Our son ran ahead and climbed on the jagged rocks. He quickly turned and looked back at us with a huge grin. It was the end of summer and he was loving it! Looking a bit wistful, our daughter knew that the cooler weather meant back to school time, and a new more rigid schedule. My husband and I wanted to capture the moment and we took a snapshot of the kids.
Autumn does not mean getting out cashmeres and tweeds to me. Wool makes me itch and I'd rather wear jeans and a fuzzy cotton top any day. My mom had her rituals, involving moth balls and heavy hand-knit sweaters in the cedar closet. Not for me! I take all the shorts and t-shirts, wash them and pile them in clean containers in the attic. The smell of moth balls and wool makes my skin crawl and my nose sneezes uncontrollably, but it brings back to my mind the old days long ago.
The oak trees are brimming with acorns in our yard. The light is filtered through the leaves in the fall, and I hear the acorns hit the driveway. Ping, plop, thud. The squirrels own our yard during this season. We watch them feast on the bounty and then scatter as we open the front door. They look up, startled, and then sort of freeze. Then they drop the prized acorns, or quickly hide them in stuffed cheeks and scamper away. Many of them run across the street, hoping no cars invade their path. The rest run up into the trees and wait for us to leave. They need their privacy.
I sit on the brick step out front and watch the traffic. The cars zoom by and the bikes travel in twos and threes toward school. The birds sing or squawk and fly over the umbrella of oak leaves. I sip my coffee, and sigh. Taking a nice deep breath, I pause, and wonder how I got here. Then I thank my lucky stars that I no longer live in the city and don't have to deal with the hustle and bustle and honking noises of a day in my old urban environment. The quiet landscape is an oasis and a refuge.
But beautiful things are seldom easy. I place my mug of coffee down by my side and walk over to the garden and start to do some weeding. The autumn bulbs are just starting to grow.
Sept 3, 2004
AS THE TRAIN PASSES BY
Every night we hear the evocative train whistle in the distance. The sound floats over the summer breezes towards our home. The Amtrak train travels north or south and as it enters the area known as "the Longmeadow flats" or "the Meadows", the engineer blows the whistle several times. The train flies through our town without stopping. The low lying land along the shore of the winding Connecticut River is a flood plain. Both the interstate-91 and the train track are hidden from our view down there near a few lone homes.
I find it a little sad that the train does not stop here anymore, but it is nice to hear the whistle as it passes the crossing by Emerson Road. As we sit safely in our homes at night, in our private havens, it is a reminder of the past. Train travel was the best way to get around in the late 19th Century, and the rails connected the town of Longmeadow with the outside world. For a while, it was the quickest way to travel.
In the romantic era of the steam locomotive, the train made regularly scheduled stops here from 1844 to 1908. The Hartford-Springfield line headed north to Northampton and Amherst and beyond. Travelers could make connections to Boston in the east or New Haven Connecticut shore points and Manhattan to the south.
For local residents who commuted to Springfield, a trolley was the easiest way to get around from 1896 to 1940. The trolley rails were right down the middle of Longmeadow Street through the center of the town green. At the Connecticut state line one could switch to another trolley for the next leg of the journey. I hear the metal was used for the war effort, and the tracks were removed in the 1940's. Nationwide, this was the fate of many American cities that had streetcars, as they were often known. By the middle of the 20th Century, the automobile won popularity and gave travelers a new and more efficient way to travel independently.
This freedom to travel on our own unique schedules came at a cost. Pollution and high gas prices are still problematic and the cost of many vehicles is prohibitive. Traffic continues to be an issue and roads continuously need upgrading. Springfield natives enjoyed the motorcycles manufactured by the Indian Motocycle Factory for over 100 years not to mention other fine manufacturers.
I would have enjoyed traveling to Longmeadow by rail in the 19th Century. The mail was also transported by the trains in a very efficient manner compared to the early horse drawn vehicles traveling along Americas "post roads" in the early years.
Although I did not live here long ago, I feel connected to the sound of the train. On a clear night, the sound comes to my window loud and bright, bringing good memories with it. The train is a reminder of the way things were in the past, evoking days-gone-by from the history of Longmeadow. It is like an old friend from childhood that went in another direction. A stalwart friend never really does leave, he may pass by on another track, but the whistle means they are thinking of you. The train is like a shadow or a mysterious ghost, elusive but ever present.
As you walk by the green, notice the historic homes around the perimeter. Many of these houses are adorned with new star markers which correspond to the Longmeadow walking tour booklet available at the Storrs House and the Storrs Library. Please pick up a copy of this handy reference book and enjoy a new perspective on our town's past. Think of what life was like for the Coltons, Burts, Hales, Keeps, Coombes and others.
These are the people who rode in the trains, or perhaps it was their children and grandchildren riding on the trolleys. Travel by rail connected these ancestors to other states and a network of people. Remember the trolley coming through the center of town and look for remnants of the old trolley tracks.
It can be hard to imagine life before email, fax machines, telephones and telegrams before motorcycles, cars, SUV's, before planes and jets became commonplace .and just try to picture what it was really like. You will envision a simpler and quiet time, when hours passed more slowly and neighbors did not need to rush. A time when the peaceful silence of this rural community became the setting of a 19th Century suburb of Springfield and the noise from the train was the loudest sound there was.
August 18, 2004