The Way it Was – May 5, 1851

United States Capitol 19th century before being enlarged after 1850.

In anticipation of the arrival of four sisters, distant cousins brought together by the Internet and convening soon at my house, I began to scramble around looking for family memorabilia to share with them.  In the process, I came across a cherished letter from long ago.  I sat down to reread it and saw the date, May 5, 1851.  After reading it and noticing the coincidence of the dates, I knew I wanted to share it.

These days we are so filled with despair and disappointment. Every day brings another blow to democracy.  Integrity, happiness and a sense of well-being are at an all-time low.  It wasn’t always this way!  Read on!

The writer of the letter was George Bryant from Paris and Oxford, Maine.  He was born in 1830.

George Bryant with his quill pen.

His great-grandparents had settled in Maine, still part of Massachusetts, soon after the Revolution with several families making the trek to the District of Maine from Plymouth County, Massachusetts.  They cleared the fields and built their houses; the hardest days were over and twenty-year-old George was in Virginia, having traveled to Washington by train from Boston.  He had wonderful penmanship; you could call him a calligrapher, and it was said that he wished to write calling cards for the senators.  I have no knowledge that he did.  He called himself a teacher of chirography or penmanship.

This is one of two pages of his handwriting that survive. On one he practiced.

The year was 1851 and he wrote a letter to his grandfather, Arodus Bryant, back home on a hillside in Paris, Maine.  What follows in the letter is his account of the trip.  The excitement and the patriotism he felt as he saw the nation’s Capitol for the first time are almost palpable.  The letter was saved and a copy miraculously came to me from another descendant in New Jersey, also an Internet acquaintance.

 

Dear Grandfather,

   Thinking that a letter from “Old Virginia” might interest you while sunning yourself by those front windows, I have resolved to write you one and give you a short account of my travels thus far and to describe to some extent the manner and customs of these people here.  Yet I hope to give you a more detailed and interesting account when I return home as this must necessarily be very limited and superficial.

    I intend to make you a long visit of one week when I get back in order to make up for what I have lost.  I as much intended to make you a visit while at home, as one could, but the day appointed was stormy and the only day I could before starting if I went at the time agreed upon.

    I will give you a line about my journey. 

    We started from Boston at 1 o’clock in the morning with an excursion party bound or Washington.  The tickets were for the whole trip to Washington and back so I had to buy a ticket for the trip at risk of not being able to sell the back half, which it was my good luck to do before I got to New York.

    We arrived at New York about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and could have gone to Philadelphia that night if our tickets had been on this route so we were obliged to stop until the next day at noon. We then started for Philadelphia and arrived there at 5:00 P.M. and after waiting three or four hours, we took the cars for Baltimore and after riding all night we arrived there about 5 in the morning.  We then took the cars for Washington and in less than 2 hours we were in the City of Washington.

    And according to the nature of all Americans, the first thing to look for was the magnificent building known the world over as the CAPITOL OF THE UNITED STATES.  As we got out of the depot behold, there it stood, a most magnificent edifice upon a rise of ground not more than 40 rods from the depot.

    Without further ceremony and with hurried step we all rushed up the avenue which led to its entrance and, after ascending many stone steps, more noble than I ever before imagined, we came to the long anticipated spot.  And here we beheld architecture approximating as near to perfection, seemingly, as art or science ever can produce.  But with this we were not satisfied.  We longed to see the great men and renowned patriots of the ages, but this session hour being at the late hour of 12, we spent our time exploring the building and examining the (illegible word) connected with it.

   These alone are enough to interest one for days.  At length the session hour drew nigh and we all repaired to the House and Senate galleries.  You can scarcely imagine our feeling of sublimity as we mused upon the scene. 

We were in the far-famed apartment that for many years has thundered with a nation’s eloquence and poured forth a nation’s sentiments: here too the courts transpire which fill the public print throughout the land stimulating every mind from the school-boy to the gray-haired veteran, and here is, where men have gained a distinction that shall render their names immortal and mingle them with a nation’s glory in all coming time: here too, is concentrated the political strife of more than 20 million of the human race.  Here Clay and Webster are wont to raise their voices resounding from Maine to Mexico.

    As we were thus wrapped in sublime meditation, Thomas Benton came in with a lion’s authority stamped upon his countenance.  He took his seat and began looking over some books and papers.  He had come in a little before the rest and we soon learned that he was about to make a speech.  In a short time they all came in and took their seats, many of which we recognized by their likeness in books and frames.

    If you have a picture of Henry Clay you know just how he looks.  I think he has the best shrewd, self-possessing and eloquent expression every beheld.  Cass wears an expression very intelligent and noble in appearance but I suppose you would have one speak about a Whig rather than old Lewis Cass, if he is a much smaller man.  I would gladly go on giving a description of things connected with the Capitol but it is getting near bedtime and the sheet is nearly full.

    I will just say that we heard Benton make a speech followed by one from Clay.  As I had but little time to spend in Washington I made it in my way to visit most of the public buildings but was the most interested in the Patent Office where I saw the old original Constitution, the military coat and equipment worn by the immortal Washington, Franklin’s old printing press, and a thousand other things of interest which have not room here to insert.

    I am now in Virginia enjoying myself pretty well.  It is cold here for the time of year and very changeable.  There is not so much difference between seed time here and in Maine as I supposed.  Many are not half through planting yet.  It was as warm here the last of February as it is now.

Darkies are plenty here, but I shall have to leave that subject until another time.  I will write you another letter by and by, giving you a description of the Virginians and slavery.

    I should be happy to have a letter. I have written this in great haste and you must not take it to be a fair specimen of my writing but excuse it.

Yours ever,

George Bryant

 

Sadly, this young man, born May 9, 1830, educated and with such promise and enthusiasm for life died a year after he wrote the letter, June 17, 1852.  He was barely twenty-two years old but had experienced more that most his age, brought up on rural farms in the District of Maine.  He was buried in the neighborhood cemetery just over the stonewall from the house he called home.

George Bryant celebrated America and rejoiced in being an American.  He was in awe of the leaders in the Senate and thrilled to see them, hear them and witness them in action. Back then there was no hint of division, disorder or protest on the streets of Washington.  Respect for their leaders was the order of the day.

On this May 5, 2017, one hundred and sixty-six years after George expressed himself with such joy, passion, and patriotism Washington has become a different place.

RIP  George Bryant

The old homestead where George Bryant lived and died.

Prudence Fish
May 5, 2017

 

Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses. Read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.

 

 

 

 

Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories by Eric Schoonover

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Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories by Eric Schoonover

A Review by Peter Anastas

(Dogbar Publications, Gloucester, 2016, 142 pp.,  $15)

 

“We tell stories for as many reasons as we live. They celebrate the beginnings and endings of our lives. They are the hand that rocks the cradle, the hand that wraps the shroud. They give meaning to the long or short haul of our lives.” –from the Preface

 

In Telling Tales, Gloucester poet and novelist Eric Schoonover has given us a collection of essays as finely written as they are delightful to read.   Each essay explores an arresting theme and tells a particular story, so that in reading them we are doubly rewarded.

We experience the taste of dates in Egypt with their author, who shares his thoughts about the role of memory in our lives.  In an essay that dramatizes issues of class and companionship, we accompany Schoonover as a young college instructor, who travels from his Eastern American classroom to Washington State to join a fire fighting crew in the Palouse hills.  We’re with him in a car race in which a relationship is also explored, and we assist him in building “Tuva,” his Micro sailboat, which still plies the waters off Cape Ann (he also builds a bed for his grandson Jacob to whom the book is dedicated).  Most powerfully, we climb into the mountains of Switzerland, where Schoonover travels to scatter the ashes of his parents near the small Genevan village where the family spent several memorable vacations.

Yet for all their variety and Schoonover’s scintillating prose, these essays are seamlessly constructed, as befits the boat builder who wrote them.  The word essay comes from the French essai, which means “an attempt.”  In writing an essay one begins by setting down tentative thoughts about a subject.  In the process we may also be trying to discover what we actually think about that subject, and what we want to say about it once we begin to write.

Essays have generally been categorized as “formal” or “familiar.” Formal essays usually consist of an impersonal analysis of a subject, while familiar essays are generally written from a personal point of view and  tell us as much about the writer as his or her subject.

Our era may well be one in which we have witnessed the primacy of the familiar essay, through the popularity of personal essays and memoirs, the profusion of Op Ed columns, and, more recently, the explosion of individual blogs, in which writers write as much about themselves as they do about their subjects.  Yet the new digital technologies (not to speak of texting and Twittering) with their inherent demands to think and write fast, and therefore more superficially, have helped to create a literary culture in which care of construction and thoughtfulness of intent have often been eclipsed by the pressure to post or respond to other posts.  While this has arguably afforded more democracy of access and expression (everybody is now seen to be a writer), the inevitable consequence has been a sacrifice of depth.

For this reason Eric Schoonover’s Telling Tales is all the more welcome.   The personal voice is here in these wonderfully luminous essays, which are both autobiographical and a history of the sources and growth of a literary sensibility.  We come to understand who the author is through the gathering details of his life—fishing with his father as a child; experiencing his first misunderstanding by a teacher in the rural Western Massachusetts school he first attended, in a town where he was the only paperboy; teaching English and literature in a variety of settings; and traveling to remote places whose cultures fascinate him, with his family as a child and later as a mature traveler and writer

With this collection Schoonover has in effect restored the essay to its proper place as an invaluable yet ever flexible mode of expression and exposition, a means of coming at the world in multiple ways, while sharing with the reader what the writer has discovered during the journey.

In describing what he has set out to achieve in this rewarding book, Schoonover quotes Joseph Conrad’s own reason for writing: “I want to make you see.”   And we do see through Schoonover’s eyes some of the world he has experienced and remembered, just as we feel through language that rises to poetry what he has felt and wishes to share with us.

Telling Tales may be a slender book in terms of page length, but it is brimming with the kinds of wisdom, humor, insight and sheer intelligence that are certain to make a lasting impression on the reader.

 

eric schoonover

Eric Schoonover is a writer, boatbuilder and watercolorist, who lives in Gloucester in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, also a writer. He is the author of the award-winning The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea. His latest book, Telling Tales, has just been published.

TRAINS, BUSES AND SUMMER ON CAPE ANN

Children on the Beach. Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)

Children on the Beach.                                Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)

The Boston and Maine trains played an integral role in my summer vacations in Gloucester.  Now after reading the pieces written by Peter Anastas and Eric Schoonover I wondered if Enduring Gloucester’s readers could stand one more train story!  I hesitated then decided to take a chance. Trains seem to have played a memorable role in the lives of my generation.

1Pru - Train Depot

Each summer my mother and I would take the train from my small hometown in central Massachusetts to rendezvous in Boston at North Station with “Auntie” with whom I would spend my long awaited summer vacation days in Lanesville and Folly Cove.

While in Boston we shopped at Jordan Marsh and Filene’s for a new bathing suit for me and a new dress and shoes for the first day of school in September.  Then if I was lucky enough we might visit to Jack’s Joke Shop before riding the subway back to North Station and the Rockport line at Track 2. There I would say good-by to Mother and board the train to Gloucester with Auntie. In the early years engines were formidable, behemoth locomotives belching clouds of black smoke, later replaced by streamlined diesels.

2Pru - Train

My happy anticipation grew as we left the cities of Boston and Lynn behind and approached the Salem station.  At that point in our journey the lights were turned on in the passenger cars.  I knew what that meant. We were about to enter the tunnel.  How exciting that was to a four or five year old!

That event was followed by a sharp change in scenery.  After leaving the Beverly station there were glimpses of big houses, and blue ocean water.  And what was that funny sounding station…Montserrat? That stop was followed by Beverly Farms and Pride’s Crossing; then Manchester with sail boats in the harbor.

After passing the Lily Pond and the West Gloucester station, none too soon for me, the conductor would call out, “Gloucester, Gloucester.”

As we alighted from the train the familiar sights, sounds and smells left no doubt that we were really in Gloucester. Auntie and I then proceeded out to Washington Street to wait for the bus with me sitting on my suitcase in front of the Depot Café to wait for those big orange busses of the Gloucester Autobus Co.  We must watch for the bus that said “Lanesville, Folly Cove.”  That was very important. 3Pru - Orange bus Heaven forbid that we get on the wrong bus!

While impatiently waiting on the sidewalk I stared at the big house on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and thought it was quite wonderful.  It was almost new then.  It is still wonderful but, like me, showing its age.

The landscape soon became more and more familiar.  As the bus made its way along Washington Street Auntie, always a teacher, pointed out the old Ellery house and, on the opposite side of the road, the big yellow Babson house.  The construction of the rotary, Route 128 and the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge were still a distant idea.  Little did I know that these historical landmarks pointed out to me as a child would be so important to me as an avid preservationist many decades later.

Way down the road we traveled under the Riverdale Willows, saw the abandoned Hodgkins Tide Mill and crossed the causeway to Annisquam.  After a few more miles we passed the Consolidated Lobster Company at Hodgkins Cove. I was told with a slight tone of disapproval that their lobsters came from Nova Scotia and not as good as our Ipswich Bay lobsters.  Our lobsters would come from George Morey at Lanes Cove.

Shortly thereafter we went down one last hill and there was Plum Cove and the sandy beach!  Oh happy day! We’re almost there.

After stops in Lanesville the big orange bus traveled down Langsford Street until it approached Butman Avenue and Ranta’s Market.  It was extremely important to pull the overhead cord at just the right moment to tell the driver we wanted to get off, not too soon and not too late.

From there it was a short walk with Auntie dragging my suitcase (without wheels of course) up Butman Avenue to Washington Street after which it was downhill to Auntie’s house. The magic of my summer vacations was about to begin.

Every day was filled with fun at Plum Cove or Folly Cove.  Cloudy days were fun, too, with hikes through the woods on the Rockport Path to the Paper House in Pigeon Cove, picking blueberries, walking to Dogtown or a bus trip to Rocky Neck.  On Rocky Neck there was a wonderful shop that I loved called the La Petite Gallery.  Other trips to Bearskin Neck or shopping in downtown Gloucester filled the long summer days.  One trip to downtown each summer always included a stop at Gloucester’s vast City Hall so Auntie could pay her taxes.

It was with great sadness that at the end of August the trip by bus and train was reversed.  I huddled by the window hiding my face so no one would see my tears.  Next summer was such a long way off.

Every detail is forever burned in my brain.  Little did I know that Gloucester would become my permanent residence and that I would be living in Auntie’s house or that my children and grandchildren would also know the magic of summer in Lanesville.

Little did I know that in the warmer months I would be standing in the now so- called 1710 White-Ellery house, no longer across the road from the old yellow Babson house.  The ancient house is now located behind the Babson house and here is where once a month  in the summer I tell  visitors about the construction of the house and explain to them how it was moved across the road in 1947 to save it from demolition as Route 128 became a reality..

And that is where I was on the first Saturday in June as another summer on Cape Ann begins.

 

Prudence Fish

Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses. Read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.

Proud to be Greek

Peter Anastas

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You gotta love it.  Due to the success of the Academy Award-nominated film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Greeks suddenly found themselves to be “in.”  According to the New Yorker, Greeks, who once rushed to Americanize themselves, were “now adding syllables back to their names.”  So, in keeping with this new ethnicity, let me tell you a secret.  My real name isn’t Anastas, it’s Anastasiades.  Yes, there really were a couple of syllables dropped from our original family name.

It happened to my father like it did with so many other Greeks.  Upon his arrival at Ellis Island in 1908 at the age of nine, the immigration authorities couldn’t handle Dad’s given Greek name, Panos Anastasiades.  So they changed it to Peter Anastas.  My actual first name is Panayiotis, which means “little Peter” or “junior.”  But my parents only used that for my baptism, after which they reverted to Peter, like my dad.

If you are wondering what Anastasiades means, let me explain.  Anastas is the past participle of both the ancient and demotic, or modern, Greek verb “anisto-anastasis,” which means “to stand up, rise or be resurrected.”  So Anastas means “having stood up” or, like Christ, “having risen.”  The final syllables, “iades,” stand for “the son of,” like the Russian suffix “ovich.”  Therefore, my name literally means “son of the one who stood up” or “son of the arisen.”  Not bad for the child of an immigrant, who arrived in America at the age of nine wearing his mother’s shoes.

Ah, but it wasn’t “in” to be Greek in 1908, anymore than it was hip to be Italian or Jewish.  When my father arrived in Lowell to join his father as a laborer in the Massachusetts Cotton Mill, he witnessed some horrendous battles between the newly arrived Greeks, the French-Canadians and the Anglo-Americans, who made up the primary workforce.  They were turf battles that later became labor struggles, eventually driving many immigrants to other towns, or even back to the “old country,” as the Greeks called home.  In fact, my father, whose own father had actually died before Dad arrived, soon left Lowell to sell newspapers and shine shoes in downtown Boston, where he remained until his induction into the army during World War I.

From boyhood I heard these stories about my father’s arrival and subsequent life in America, stories which I’ve passed down to my own children.  Dad’s story is the story of many Greeks, who came here penniless or orphaned, went to work, educated themselves, and eventually started their own businesses, not untypically lunch rooms or grocery stores.

Some immigrants, like my uncle Cyrus Comninos, who was a physician, or the sculptor George Demetrios, whom Dad knew when they were both young men in Boston, became successful in the professions or the arts.  Yet, while Greeks, like Theodoros Stamos, have become major painters in America, and Harry Mark Petrakis has written powerfully about Greeks in Chicago, we have not produced a novelist of the stature of Jewish American writers like Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, or the Italian American novelist Pietro di Donato, whose Christ in Concrete is one of the great novels of immigrant experience in this country.  But look how long it took for Greek American life to make its way into the movies!

For all its popularity, which led the New Yorker to compare the film unfairly to a sit com, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a remarkable picture of Greek American life, pitting first generation children like me against their foreign-born parents.  On the afternoon I happened to be seeing it, the audience was comprised mostly of Greek Americans.  There were a lot of little old ladies in black dresses, whispering to each other in Greek before the film began.  And once it started, I listened with delight as many in the audience anticipated the words before they had even come out of the mouths of the characters, especially the father, who, naturally, owns a restaurant at which the entire family works.

“Oh, God, how I know that world!” I exclaimed during the film, tears of recognition streaming down my face.  Tears, too, of immense sadness because the father, who is constantly reminding his children of their Greek heritage, was so like my own father, now dead.

Of course, the power of the film, and, indeed, its immense appeal, is not only because it’s about an ethnic group that many Americans know very little about.  It’s also because the film depicts family dynamics that we all share—a child’s need to separate herself from an overprotective family, a traditional father’s conflict with modernity, and the terrible difficulty we all experience in letting go, no matter what our ethnic backgrounds may be.

If anything, the film’s sequel, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” just released in time for Greek Easter, is even more relevant, as it explores the relationship between the teenage daughter, Paris, and her mother, Tula, who, in the first film, was struggling to individuate from her Old World parents. In choosing to leave Chicago for college at NYU, Paris separates herself from her loving, if often stifling, Greek family; but in the process she learns that they will always be part if her life.

And, yes, even for the strength of their critical insights into the crippling aspects of Greek American culture that so many in my generation tried to escape from, these two films, which I highly recommend, still made me proud to be Greek.

 

Peter at Museum (1)Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

 

 

 

THE HOPPER PAINTING

(Rooms by the Sea, 1951)

By Dan Wilcox

Rooms By The Sea. 1951 Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

Rooms By The Sea. 1951 Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

I get up and go to the window,

The sea is right outside

there is no beach, only the sea.

The white is not foam, it is light

the sun reflecting from the high side of the waves

while the deep part is blue, bluer.

Where the black blue meets the white sky

is the same line as the wall that meets the ceiling.

I sit on the red couch and think

of immensity, of infinity

of the edges between the door and the sea

the two pieces of the sky, the doorknob

the latchwork of the jamb.

I walk from the window, around

the wall to the door

step into the light

watch the shape change.

If the door closes, I will fall into the sea.

 

(Dan Wilcox will be reading from his new collection of poetry, Gloucester Notes, at the Gloucester Writers Center, on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 7:30 PM. Reading also on the program will be Alan Casline.)

 

 

dan-wilcoxDan Wilcox is the host of the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, N.Y. and is a member of the poetry performance group “3 Guys from Albany”.  He is a frequent visitor to Gloucester and his book of poems Gloucester Notes is forthcoming this year from Foothills Publishing.  You can read his Blog about the Albany poetry scene at  dwlcx.blogspot.com

 

A Special Place

Seesaw, Gloucester. published 1874. Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

Seesaw, Gloucester. published 1874.                                                                    Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

Gloucester’s U10 Extreme (Soccer) Team lost a close one last Saturday at Danvers Indoor Sports.  Following the match, parents from the opposing side yelled at our players and, after much ado, we were encouraged to “go back to our stinking fish city.”  Aggressive, condescending and delivered to a crowd of young boys and parents who were gathering to celebrate the birthday of one of the players, this insult was jarring.  After the initial shock, however, the incident inspired us to feel something important and enduring – intense pride in our hometown.

Gloucester is a special place.  It means something to be from this island, on the edge of the continent, sometimes seemingly far from Boston and suburbs “up the line.”  We love its natural beauty, its light and art, and the way it embraces characters of all kinds.  We are proud of our fishing history and the continuing work ethic of our residents, which is evident across industries today.  We recognize our socioeconomic and ethnic diversity as essential to our strength and future prosperity.  Among our fans on Saturday, cheering on a sweet and talented group of 9 and 10-year-old boys, were a surgical assistant, a neuroscientist, a lobsterman, a communications strategist, attorneys, an office manager, a fitness coach, local business owners and a teacher, representing a broad range of ethnicities and including first-generation Americans.  On the soccer sidelines, as in our city at large, diversity catalyzes empathy, strength, creativity and cohesion and results in something bigger – a community.

One does see Gloucester in our kids out on the soccer pitch.  They play hard, have heart, focus on teamwork and celebrate and support each other.  They are strong and spirited.  They have grit.  Fishermen – every one of them – and every one of us.

So, yes, we’ll happily return to our “fish city.”  Gloucester.  Beauport.  Call it what you want.  And we’ll see you at the playoffs!

Liisa Nogelo and Doug Kerr

Magnolia

 

This post appeared as a Letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Times on Saturday, April 4, 2016.  We reprint it with the permission of the authors, Liisa Nogelo and Doug Kerr.

Star of the Show

Lori Sanborn

Dedicated to Mr. Z

This coming September my daughter will start kindergarten. Emmy will join hundreds of other adorable, curious, playful and crafty five year olds in the Gloucester Public School System. I know public schools pretty well because I have dedicated 13 years of my life to teaching in one. Although my classroom is not located here in our beautiful city, there are some commonalities and truths that exist in all public school settings.  Let me share a story that highlights the most important one.

The Country Schoolroom. 1871. Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

The Country Schoolroom. 1871. Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

The overwhelming majority of school teachers love their job and their students. Once I enter my classroom each day, I am fully present. My students get all of my attention.  I notice them.  I know when they didn’t get enough sleep.  I know when it’s their birthday or when they won their big game the night before.  I know when something is bothering them.  I am always in their corner.  I am their number one fan when those that love them the most can’t physically be there to cheer them on.  My students make me laugh daily and every so often one of them makes me cry.

Just recently, one of my students brought tears of happiness to my eyes.  Every year I strive to help my students improve their public speaking skills.  This is something we work on all year long, starting in September, so we are ready for our big debate on the death penalty come March.  Most middle schoolers hate standing in front of the classroom.  Long gone are the days where they thrived off of sharing their prized possession during “show and tell.”  The majority of my 8th graders squirm at the thought of having all of their peers focusing solely upon them.  But none of my students hated it more this year than Finn.

I still remember the expression that came upon Finn’s face when I told all 80 of my students that my personal goal was to help them all improve their public speaking skills.  A panic stricken Finn fidgeted in his seat and planned for the worst.  During his first experience in front of the classroom his fear weighed heavily upon this performance.  He rocked side to side, from left foot to right foot.  He spoke as fast as a student exiting the building on the last day of school in hopes that his suffering would soon end.   He barely looked up at his audience.  When his turn was over, he sighed in deep relief and listened for my critique and suggestions for improvement.  Finn listened intently to my words and all I could do was hope that they would resonate.

Since that day, Finn and his classmates have had multiple opportunities to speak in front of the class.  Each time I observed Finn with a watchful eye and afterwards highlighted his strengths and weaknesses.  Each time, Finn listened hard and showed slight improvements with his next delivery.  The swaying was becoming less extreme, the “ummms” were almost a thing of the past.  No more sweaty palms.

Fast forward to March 17th, a day rumored to be laced with luck.   It marked the second day of our death penalty debate.  Eli, a naturally strong orator, took to the podium to prove that the death penalty is far too much of a financial burden on state taxpayers.  Upon hearing his classmate and opponent finish his introduction, Finn rose to challenge him.  What happened next was magical, despite having happened on a day shrouded in Irish luck, there was nothing lucky about Finn’s performance.

Finn delivered a strong rebuttal to Eli’s argument.  Eli came back even stronger.  This pattern continued for 18 minutes straight.  For 18 minutes, I watched two young men demonstrate eloquence, passion and intellect.  They became the educators in the room.  Their peers reacted in such awe that it brought tears to my eyes.  After 13 years in education, I was immediately reminded of why I wanted to teach in the first place.  I have always believed that all kids can truly achieve academic excellence. But I also wholeheartedly know that all kids can experience that “magic” during the years they spend in the public school’s system.  And when it happens, the student will gain the type of confidence that will transfer far beyond classroom walls.

Although I would not want time to pass any faster than it already has, I do look forward to the day when Emmy has her transformative moment in school.  The moment that inspires her to come home beaming, not because of a crush or because she got invited to a dance, but because her teacher made her feel brilliant, like the star of the show.

This magical moment is different for all.  Finn’s came loud and openly in front of his peers.  My moment was a silent exchange between a student and teacher.  When Mr. Ziergebel marked my fictional piece with an A+ and told me “you sure can write,” my mind was forever altered.  It may have taken me almost 20 years later to gain the courage to actually share my writings with the world, but I know it never would have happened had my 9th grade English teacher not made me feel that kind of special.

 

lori sanbornLori Sanborn was born in Gloucester and returned to live permanently in our seaside community three years ago. She has been a public educator for 12 years, teaching eighth graders.  Lori is most proud of her role as mother to her children, Emerson and Ryder.

Interested in Learning More About the State of Our Oceans?

cape ann pic

All are invited to the Rocky Neck Cultural Center for an informal talk with noted Geologist and Environmental Consultant, Dave Lincoln. The topic, Corporatization & Privatization of the Ocean, will no doubt be of great interest to all residents of America’s Oldest Seaport.

Dave Lincoln

 

Topic: Corporatization and Privatization of the Ocean

Who:  Dave Lincoln, Geologist and Environmental Consultant

What: Informative Session

When: WEDNESDAY March 23, 2016

Time: 6:00 PM

Where: Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester, MA 01930

The Consequences of Unplanned Growth

Peter Anastas

“Stop this renewing without reviewing.”

–Charles Olson, “A Scream to the Editor”

Prospect Street, Gloucester. 1928 Hopper, Edward (1882-1967)

Prospect Street, Gloucester. 1928 Hopper, Edward (1882-1967)

What do the proposed “Soones Court” Back Shore luxury housing project and the recently floated ideas for the development of Ten Pound Island have in common, aside from the fact that they have provoked vociferous public opposition?

These are projects that have no foundation in planning.  They were neither anticipated nor considered as part of an overarching plan for the growth and development of Gloucester or the protection of our natural resources.  Why is this?  Simply put, it is because the city effectively does not have a Master Plan that is currently valid.  Our Master Plan is neither valid nor relevant because, having last been drafted and voted upon in 2001, it is fifteen years out of date.  As such, it does not—and did not—anticipate major projects like Gloucester Crossing or the Beauport Hotel on the Fort, both of which also stirred divisive public opposition.

The purpose of good planning is to avoid such controversies as much as possible and make clear in a democratically created document what is needed for the orderly growth and development of the community; in other words, what should be built in the future and where it should be built.  Such a plan also provides for what the community wishes to preserve in  terms of landforms, historic sites and buildings, neighborhoods, or cherished places— iconic locations like the shore side of our Back Shore, Ten Pound Island, Dogtown, or the Magnolia Woods.  It is possible through planning to set aside such “magical places,” as Janice Stelluto, who shepherded Plan 2001 from the talking stages through to its completion, called them, so that they would remain undisturbed to be enjoyed by future generations of Gloucester citizens and visitors drawn to the natural beauty of our city.

Good planning also anticipates the impact on the economic and social well- being of the city of foreseen growth; for as a community considers what it hopes to live with in the present—which amenities it needs, what kinds of new business might be provided to create necessary jobs, how new growth and development will affect tax base—it also looks at what is not wanted.   It provides for the preservation of what is valued like the untrammeled view out to Thatcher’s Island from the Back Shore, or Ten Pound Island left in its natural state for students to study its geology and birdlife.

Plan 2001 did not call for a shopping plaza adjacent to the Fuller School, nor did it consider the marine-industrial Fort as an ideal location for a “boutique” hotel or conference and function center   These were not developments growing out of the community’s pressing desire to have them (there was consensus about a downtown hotel but not on the Fort); they were developer-driven projects, coming, as it were, from a vacuum created by a lack of planning.  Taken by surprise, as the community was when these unanticipated and unplanned for projects first surfaced, many in the community reacted like we all do when we are confronted with the unexpected.  There was anger, frustration and, naturally, resistance, creating rifts in the city, which deepened as one unanticipated and unplanned for project followed another.

To be sure, the planning process cannot anticipate or parry in advance every controversy; nor can it satisfy all sectors of the community.  But it can help us to avoid the divisive acrimony we now experience in Gloucester with the concomitant anger against and distrust of government and public officials, neither of which help to promote or sustain our wellbeing as a people, collectively hoping for a deserved quality of life in the place we call home.

Without good planning a city is helpless in the face of the relentless drive to develop that we and many seaside communities like Gloucester are facing, just as a family that does not budget its finances or plan for the future is stymied when there is job loss or catastrophic illness.  Good planning can help to avoid the raucous public hearings that have been a sad feature of local life, pitting neighbor against neighbor and ward against ward, only fueling the enmity and distrust of government that have come to characterize national life as well.  Good planning can also help the community avoid costly litigation that drains both public coffers and private citizens of funds that could be more wisely and creatively spent.

So, before we get into another battle royal over the next development proposal to come down the pike (and there will be many), would it be too much to ask if we, as a community, could take that superannuated Master Plan off the shelf and revise it?  Or better: couldn’t we begin again, utilizing all the experience we have gained during the past fifteen fractious years, and write a new one?   Call it a roadmap for the present, or a GPS helping us to navigate our way through the complex terrain of the future.  Call it what you will, but for the sake of all of us let’s not move forward without knowing what’s ahead.

(On Thursday, March 4, 2016, the Gloucester Planning Board said “No” to preliminary plans for Soones Court.  However, developers have announced that they will return in July with “a more definite proposal.”

On Monday, March 21, there will be a community meeting hosted by Ward One city councilor Scott Memhard, at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson Street, at 7 p.m., to discuss “Ten Pound Island: Recognizing its Past, Planning its Future.”  All are invited.)

 

Peter at Museum (1)Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

Gloucester’s Resounding Echo: A Tribute To Kay Ellis

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Kay Ellis, the girl could cook, and I’m not talking about a meal where you push back your seat and say “Boy that was good.”  I’m talking about the kind of magic that happens in that first bite when your taste bud’s reaction is to beg for more and all the while you’re telling someone, “You have to try this, it’s amazing,” the left side of your brain is telling you to be quiet so you can hoard it all to yourself.  Kay would gladly give you a recipe if you asked for it, but one she couldn’t give you from her kitchen was that recipe for living life.  It’s not something she or any of us have written down anywhere, on how to do it well, but she sure nailed it.

I’ve known Tom since I was a little kid, being introduced to his wife Kay years later was an added bonus.  She was so easy to get to know, what you got was Kay, no pretentious facades, nothing shy, or boastful, just a comfortable, pleasant person, a person you’d want to spend more time with.  I could easily see how she and Tom were best friends and successful business partners.  One of my father’s expressions comes to mind when I think of them together, “They work like a well oiled machine.” That doesn’t make their relationship sound very romantic, but all you had to do to see that side of them, was to look out on the harbor, they were living one of the greatest romance novels ever written.

With so many reasons to be proud, I think her face shined brightest when she was talking about her boys.  Laughing, she’d tell you Tom was her biggest, but kidding aside, it was ever apparent whenever she spoke of them.  Some moms stow away things their children make when they’re little, to be brought out and reminisced about, perhaps on a winter’s day.  In Kay’s home, they were proudly displayed, from pottery balanced on a beam; awards of merit framed and hung on a wall, to homemade paper chain garland adorning the Christmas tree year after year.  Ask her about a photograph of them and you could see and hear in her voice that she was back to the time and place the picture was taken, enjoying the moment all over again.  It is always nice to see the boys quiet pride, reflected right back at her in their respect and admiration for their mother.

I have no reason to say that Kay was my best friend.  We didn’t have lunch together every week, or double date, or go shopping together, like girlfriends do.  We did share a love of books, dogs, flowers, art…our conversations just flowed at an easy pace.  “Have you read this book?  I think you’ll really like it.” She’d be right, ten times out of ten.  Having the same birthday, our gifts to each other were more often than not, books, and she never failed to give me one I would enjoy from beginning to end.

I’d pop in at the Schooner Sail’s Office down at Seven Sea’s Wharf while out walking my dog “Pal.” It was a nice stop along the way to have a friendly chat, see how things were going.  Pal would come over to the house with me too.  Kay was quite fond of the little guy.  One day she called me over to the house because there was someone she wanted me to meet.  That someone was “Lanny,” a cute little Chocolate Lab pup, who soon grew to be a big part of the Ellis family, and a welcoming hostess aboard the Schooner “Thomas E. Lannon.” Kay told me that “Pal,” played a part in the deciding factor for them to get a dog.  Seems Tom had wanted another one for years, but the time was just never right, seeing the relationship I had with my dog had made an impact.  I am so very glad of that and for her telling me so.

It has been my great privilege to have my phone ring with Kay’s cheerful voice on the answered line saying, “Hey Laurel, we’re going out for a pot luck dinner sail, can you and Jimmy make it?” An invitation that I would be foolish to pass up.  How nice to be with Tom, Kay and their blend of friends, sailing with the sunset off the stern, and the moon slowly rising off the bow, with nothing but the sounds of the sea, splashing the hull, some wind rattling the sheets filling the sails, and the voices and laughter of friends sharing a special moment in time.

None of us will forget her kind, giving soul and all that she gave to Gloucester and those that visited this treasure we call home.  There must be thousands upon thousands of photographs people have taken aboard the Lannon to stow in their album of favorite memories.  One can’t help but wonder how many of those young students they brought aboard over the years were influenced to become sailors when they grow up, may their dreams comes true.

It was so nice to visit her, albeit briefly at Christmastime.  Sitting close to the warmth of the wood stove, patting her faithful companion “Lucy,” as she told me how she and Tom would be packing up for their annual trip out West to spend time in the mountains with friends.  There was that smile in her voice again as she spoke, and that shine on her face, the one you saw when she talked about Tom, her family, her friends, and her adventures with all of them.  With a heart as big as all outdoors, may she soar into her next adventure encompassed in love and her next home be as beautiful, warm and inviting as the one she made here.

The impact Kay has left in the hearts and minds of those who knew her is something to be treasured and she will be greatly missed. From all of us at Enduring Gloucester, it is with great heartfelt sympathy that we say, fair winds and following seas, to Kay, Tom, the entire Ellis family, and her family of friends.

 

Laurel TarantinoLaurel Tarantino, is happy to live in her hometown, Gloucester, with her husband, James, “Jimmy T,” daughter Marina Bella, and the family dog, Sport. She is known for “stopping to smell the roses” and loves to photograph and write about her beloved waterfront community.