Hometown Homage

I’ve lived in my hometown of Greenfield, Massachusetts, for close to 45 years now. When I was in my teens and early twenties, like most young people I couldn’t wait to leave it. The world was out there, waiting with new experiences, people, and adventures! But somehow, it never happened. I lingered, giving in to my fear of leaving my comfort zone. And then I met my husband, who had children from other relationships here. I became bound to the area. Part of me was relieved. Family obligations let me off the hook of going “out there” and doing something impressive with my life. Instead, I built a life here. For the most part, a good and happy life.

Truth be told, I don’t regret it. Maybe the writer part in me wonders how I can be a writer if I’ve never ventured past my front door (I have gone a bit further than that). The challenge is, how to see home with fresh eyes?

In tenth grade Spanish class, our teacher was a Frenchwoman named Ms. Zewinski. I loved her french accent, her blonde wig, and the circle of orange lip liner around her pale lips. She waxed rhapsodic about our little town of Greenfield, MA. “Oh, eet’s zo beautiful!” We students stared at her, dumbfounded. Or laughed in ridicule. Greenfield, beautiful? It’s just our dumb town. We’d grown up here, and so were blind to it being anything but boring and predictable. We dreamed of “out there”.

Over the years, I did come to see how beautiful it is here in western Massachusetts, and in New England in general. It really hit home when I traveled with a friend to visit her family in Kansas (see, I have been somewhere). I was stunned at the flat, uninteresting landscape (sorry, Kansas, but really). Miles and miles of nothing but flat land, cows, and the occasional gas station. Manhattan, Kansas, where her parents lived, was a tiny, dusty town in the middle of nowhere. The most interesting thing I can remember was a water tower with a big red apple on top (“The Little Apple”, get it?). I couldn’t imagine living there. I had a good time with my friend and her family, but was glad to get back home. On arrival, I was floored by how lush, green, and hilly everything was in comparison. It’s true that only by going away from home can you truly come to appreciate it, even love it.

Lately I’ve been interested in the history of my town, and I’m just starting to dig into it. I’ve learned bits and pieces over the years, and there really are some fascinating people and events that have populated it. In the next two blog posts, I’m going to share two of the more interesting figures in our town’s history, at least in my opinion. Until then, I have a few fun facts and some photos concerning Greenfield:

  • I think the  most famous person from Greenfield may be Penn Jillette, from the comedic magician duo Penn and Teller.
  • Peter Bergeron was a baseball player who played in the Major Leagues with the Montreal Expos in the late 1990’s and early 00’s.
  • Theodore Judah was a civil engineer who played a big part in the first transcontinental railroad. He was born in Bridgeport, CT, but married Anna Pierce, from Greenfield, in 1847. He died of yellow fever while in Panama. Anna brought him back to Greenfield, where he’s buried in the Federal Street Cemetery:

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This is the cemetery Judah is buried in, but not in this crypt. I’ve looked at this crypt all my life, and now I want to know, who IS buried here?

 

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Judah and Anna Pierce were married here, in the St. James Episcopal Church. We have so many lovely churches, I want to photograph them all and make a study of them.

 

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This is a mural in the Veteran’s Mall depicting some local landmarks: the inside of the old Garden Theater, Poet’s Seat Tower, Eunice Williams Bridge. It’s on the side of the Borofsky building. The budding local historian in me wants to know: why is it called the Borofsky building?
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The sign outside of our public library (the Leavitt-Hovey House) about Asher Benjamin.
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The Greenfield Public Library, one of my favorite haunts. The statue commemorates those who served in the Spanish American War.

I took several more pictures as I wandered around my  hometown, trying to see the buildings and landmarks that have always been there with new eyes. People have lived, loved, fought, and died here since 1686. I want to know them, learn their stories, appreciate the contributions they made to this town, my home.

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