A new history book about Lowell by Richard P. Howe Jr and Chaim Rosenberg to be published on March 11, 2013. To order a copy and to learn about local readings and book signings, check out our Legendary Locals of Lowell page.
There’s a new blog in town – Room 50 which has “alive, unique and inspiring tales from the Office of the Mayor, Lowell, Massachusetts.” The inaugural post, written by first-day-on-the-job mayoral aide, Jennifer Myers, tells the tale of Dr. Moses Greeley Parker, not for his accomplishments in the field of medicine, which were considerable, but for his world-changing invention – The Telephone Number. That’s right, the telephone number was invented right here in Lowell, Massachusetts. Don’t believe it? Well read the post and you’ll be a convert.
Dr. Parker is buried in Lowell Cemetery and his mausoleum is on our cemetery tours (dates and times of this fall’s tours will be announced soon). While I’ve told the tale of the telephone number on the tour, Jen’s post has considerably more detail which I’ll be incorporating into my future tours (so thanks for that research assist). Below is Dr. Parker’s final resting place:
About a month ago I opened the Sunday Boston Globe and saw an ad for an event that would feature Globe political reporter Glen Johnson (who used to work at the Lowell Sun) interviewing outgoing Congressman Barney Frank. While attending would require traveling to Morrissey Boulevard and the Globe’s headquarters, it was also free so I signed up. The journey was easy thanks to public transportation: Commuter rail from Lowell to North Station and then a couple of short subway rides and a 5 minute walk was all it took. The nearly 200 people in attendance were treated to 90+ minutes of Barney’s analysis and philosophizing in response to Glen’s prompts as they sat in two easy chairs on a small riser at the front of a long, narrow room on the third floor of the Globe’s building (as shown in my fuzzy cellphone photo above).
Here are some of the points made by Congressman Frank:
Same Sex Marriage. He was somewhat critical of the LGBT community for being too ambitious in its legal strategy regarding same sex marriage. “Being right is a necessary condition for winning but it is not sufficient by itself,” he said. He had great praise for Attorney Mary Bonauto who, among other accomplishments, was the lead lawyer in the Goodrich case that established same sex marriage in Massachusetts back in 2003. Frank called her the “Thurgood Marshall” of the same sex marriage movement, saying that the LGBT community should study and adopt the strategy and tactics employed by Marshall while head of the NAACP in its pursuit of voting rights. Frank was very optimistic, however, stating that “within 10 years a majority of Americans will live in jurisdictions that recognize same sex marriage.”
Kevin White. Glen asked Congressman Frank to assess Kevin White, who as mayor of Boston was Frank’s first political employer. Here’s Frank’s assessment: Kevin White was elected in 1967 when Boston was very divided on race and that forcing the city to acknowledge that racism had been built into the operation of city government was very painful to acknowledge. White did this and he also hired many very capable women into very important positions in his administration. Another major accomplishment of Kevin White was blocking Interstate 95 from going directly through downtown Boston (that’s why Route 95 piggyback’s onto Route 128 for a good portion of that road’s existence). White was the first big city mayor to see that putting a super highway through the middle of your community was not a good thing.
But in the 1970s, White “became very angry.” The first factor in that was his non-selection as vice president by George McGovern. In Frank’s telling, McGovern had all but announced White as his selection, but the Massachusetts delegation to the Democratic National Convention protested because White had supported Muskie in the primaries and not McGovern. McGovern relented and hurriedly selected Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton without fully vetting him. Within hours it became known that Eagleton had undergone electroshock therapy for depression which led McGovern to drop Eagleton and select Sargent Shriver. In all, it was a damaging fiasco. Next came busing in Boston to achieve racial integration in the schools with all the disruption that entailed. Then White and his administration became the subject of an aggressive (and ultimately futile) corruption investigation. Finally, in 1975 he only narrowly won re-election versus Joe Timilty. In Frank’s view, all of these things combined to make White very angry and he focused on consolidating his political power to the detriment of other things. Viewing White’s career it it’s entirety, Frank said Kevin White was a very positive figure, having integrated and humanized Boston.
Congressman Frank also spoke at length about the financial collapse and “the Tea Party Summer”. Check back tomorrow for my report on those comments.
On this day – July 30, 1942 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill creating a women’s auxiliary agency in the US Navy known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – WAVES. Mildred McAfee, President of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander in early August of 1942. She was the first female commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history, and the first director of the WAVES.
Massachusetts Fifth District Congresswoman Edith Nourse Roger’s Women’s Army Corps Bill, which granted official military status to the volunteers by creating the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) within the Army successfully opened the way for other uniformed women’s services in both the Navy (WAVEs) and then in Air Force – WASPs.
President Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare amendment. Former President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess are on the far right. Truman recieved the first Medicare card.
On this day July 30, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnsonsigned the Medicare bill into law. Congress created Medicare under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history. In 1972, Congress expanded Medicare eligibility to younger people who have permanent disabilities and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments.
At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.
We were lucky about the weather, given the unsettled skies all weekend. Twenty-six years later, the event feels more like a street festival than a music and dance festival, which is fine. The audience is determining what the experience will be. Food from around the world, sidewalk entertainers, storefront buzz, pop-up cafes, people as cast-members, and ambient music pumping out of the various stages—that’s a lively combination for a street festival.
The dance pavilion at the National Park parking lot continues to be one of the best recent innovations. I was there with Rosemary and friends for klezmer, polka, and cajun sets, all of which sparkled in sound and stampity-stamped in rhythm. Turning the parking lot into a party space has added a magnetic point on the festival compass—matching JFK Plaza and Boarding House Park in scale and energy. The venue also draws people to another section of the city for different views of the architectural game-board. Shattuck Street was jumping at 4 p.m. on Sunday; a wide circle of folks had formed around a magician or acrobat, some kind of street circus showman. Radio Disney was on Mack Plaza leading dance-offs of eager kids. Hoop games and box hockey had no trouble getting players. The Quilt Museum’s booth with make-your-own-paper-quilts kept busy. When the downtown core is closed to most traffic, you can really appreciate the “slice of nineteenth century life” concept of the urban design for the National Park as you take in the variety of preserved buildings from Market Street to French Street: mill, bank, storefront, canal gatehouse, church, town/city hall, more businesses, residences, school, mill agent house, cotton storehouse, boarding house, more mills.
What did I try on the food front? Brazilian skewered beef with rice-bean combo and later Jamaican curry (vegetable and chicken combo) on rice. The Greek baklava sundae was popular on French Street, opposite Boarding House Park, as was the fan-favorite Filipino booth offering small piles of noodles, rice, and more. Rosemary had top-of-the-line Thai food at the dance stage—bright yellow rice and large fresh spring rolls.
Lowell rolled out its best again for the world to enjoy. There’s an item going around Facebook about urban revival strategies involving the use of streets as public spaces. We’ve got that one down pretty well. Next.
The 2012 Lowell Folk Festival ended several hours ago and I want to record my observations before they fade. My vantage point was different this year. I had volunteered to staff the Elizabeth Warren information table in the Free Speech area in front of Lowell City Hall. I was there Friday night, all day Saturday (or at least until the heavy rain came) and all day Sunday. Although that spot wasn’t on a heavily traveled route, it was a great place to see people who passed by so I enjoyed it very much. When relieved of duty occasionally, I ventured forth to other corners of the Festival, feasting on Armenian and Polish cuisine with Heritage chocolate ice cream for dessert. Although the crowds didn’t seem huge by past standards, several ethnic food vendors told me they exceeded their income from last year. While the weather often looked ominous, only late on Saturday afternoon did it rain. I’m sure there were some glitches but from everything I saw, it was another very successful Lowell Folk Festival.
Regarding the Free Speech zone, next year is a municipal election and candidates for those offices would probably do better roaming through the crowd than hanging in one spot. But I do think the space in front of City Hall has great potential as a temporary gathering spot for those who want to temporarily step away from the music and discuss politics, perhaps while enjoying a pierogi. Maybe next year we can set up a “blogger’s table” in the Free Speech zone as a way of promoting Lowell’s blogosphere. Bloggers are experts at speaking freely, so it would be a perfect spot for them (us). Something to consider.
Gertrude Bailey and Karen LeForge at the Information Tent at JFK Plaza
Frequent contributor Jim Peters shares this essay:
I was watching television this evening, the news on ABC to be exact, and Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of the City of New York was featured for a new program in the city. Bloomberg has, apparently, dictated that new mothers be given a stern lecture on breast-feeding while formula is locked-up in a separate part of the nursery. Eight million people of New York City are being denied a basic right, the right to choose. If a Democrat had come up with this, they would be figuratively crucified. Since a Republican did it, ABC just reported that information. Conservatives often say that the press is leaning towards the left on the issues. This bit of information and the way that it was reported, indicate to me that the press is leaning towards the right. No comment was made on the constitutionality of this program. No comment was made beyond reporting the facts of the program. I believe in breast-feeding, I just find this to be somewhat puzzling. Women, for millions of reasons, make the decision to breast feed or not based on a number of good reasons. Job requirements, schools, and family considerations all play into this decision. It should not be dictated by the Mayor of New York.
Speaking of women’s rights, Scott Brown has lost any consideration for my vote based on his decision to support the Bond Amendment, which dictates that a women not be reviewed for, I believe, cervical cancer more than every five years. Cancer is something I have, and I do not believe that doctor’s orders for tests should be tempered by a law which is detrimental to basic health. How he explained this vote to his wife, Gail Huff, or his daughters is beyond me. read more »