Monday, June 20, 2016

Massachusetts Amusement Parks: Present … and Past

Hot summer days remind me of my childhood years fondly spent at local amusement parks near where I grew up in Connecticut —Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury and Lake Compounce in Bristol.  I would also beg (usually, unsuccessfully!) to go to Riverside Park in Agawam, now known as Six Flags New England, which is certainly the most famous and popular amusement park still operating in New England today. Opened in 1870 as “Gallup’s Grove” and known as “Riverside Park” until being rebranded as “Six Flags” in 1999, it is the oldest amusement park in the entire Six Flags chain of parks. Of course no amusement park is complete without its signature wooden roller coaster--the Thunderbolt roller coaster at Six Flags New England dates from 1941 and was built with cars and plans purchased from the 1939 New York World’s Fair’s Cyclone roller coaster and is still the oldest original coaster operating in any of the Six Flags parks.
  
Memories remain too of beloved amusement parks of yesteryear—especially those dubbed “trolley parks” that were established at the end of the trolley lines to encourage ridership on the weekends, exactly as their name suggests. One of the longer lasting and more famous of these was Whalom Park in Lunenburg which opened in 1893. If you were living in Massachusetts (or New Hampshire) during the 1990’s you might remember the catchy “For a Whale of a Time” Whalom Park commercials airing on television. At the time of its closure in September of 2000, it was the 13th oldest continually operating amusement park in the United States (for the record, my hometown’s Lake Compounce is the oldest, dating to 1846!). Another famous “trolley park” was White City on Lake Quinsigamond in Shrewsbury which opened in 1905 and closed in September of 1960 to make way for a shopping plaza. In its heyday it was called the “Land of Fifty Thousand Electric Lights” which was rumored to be the source of its name, however it is more likely that its namesake was the famous White City of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

 
The Massachusetts seashore has always been a big draw for summer crowds in the past and remains so to this day. Like many other seaside towns in the United States, amusement parks were built alongside Revere Beach (the nation’s first public beach) and Nantasket Beach in Hull in the early 20th century. Wonderland Amusement Park in Revere was only open from 1906 to 1911 and probably its most lasting legacy is the Blue Line T station that still bears its name but what is also noteworthy is the rumor that Wonderland was possibly the inspiration for the most famous amusement park of all: Disneyland. As for Paragon Park at
 Nantasket Beach, opened in 1905 and closed in 1984, all that remains is the 88 year old Paragon Park Carousel which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and today gives a small glimpse into what the “golden age” of summers spent along the Massachusetts coast was like.

You can read about the fascinating history of these “lost” amusement parks in these books found  in the State Library’s Collections: 


Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, June 13, 2016

State Library’s new exhibition on the fishing industries in Massachusetts is now in Flickr

The State Library is newest exhibition, “Exercised in Fishing”: A History of the Fishing, Whaling, and Shellfish Industries in Massachusetts is now available in FlickrThis exhibition, drawn from the collections at the State Library of Massachusetts, traces that history from before the European settlements to the present.

The exhibition runs from June 6 through August 31, 2016. It can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

New exhibition on the history of the fishing, whaling, and shell fish industries in Massachusetts

Opening this week at the State Library of Massachusetts is a new exhibition entitled “Exercised in Fishing”: A History of the Fishing, Whaling, and Shellfish Industries in Massachusetts. When William Bradford described the Plimoth Plantation settlers’ first harvest celebration in 1621, he wrote: “For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.” The harvesting of animals from the ocean continued to support Massachusetts and its residents for hundreds of years. This exhibition, drawn from the collections at the State Library of Massachusetts, traces that history from before the European settlements to the present.

The exhibition runs from June 6 through August 31, 2016. It can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

June Author Talk: The Memoir Project: a presentation by instructors and memoirists from GrubStreet


The Memoir Project: a presentation by instructors and memoirists from GrubStreet

Tuesday, June 14, 2016—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House


The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to join us on June 14th for a presentation on The Memoir Project, which provides writing workshops for Boston’s senior citizens, whose memoirs are then collected and published in anthologies. This project, launched in 2006 by the City of Boston and GrubStreet, a Boston-based creative writing center, has touched the lives of hundreds of seniors from each of Boston’s neighborhoods, allowing them to share their personal narratives to create a living history of Boston.

Chip Cheek, Head Instructor at GrubStreet, and GrubStreet writers Michelle Seaton and Kerrie Kemperman will speak about The Memoir Project and how it gives Boston’s seniors a meaningful artistic experience and allows them to share their memories of Boston throughout the decades. Joining the GrubStreet instructors will be four Boston-area memoirists: Carol D. Carter, Walter B. Jones, Alfred Stinson, and L. Madison Tucker, who will be sharing both their experiences with the Memoir Project and their special memories of life in the Boston area.

Our June Author Talk is free and open to the public, and copies of the Memoir Project’s publications will be available for purchase at the event. Please register online and join us June 14th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Massachusetts’ Tornado Alley


This week marks the 5th anniversary of the last deadly tornado to hit Massachusetts on June 1, 2011 that killed 3 and devastated parts of Springfield and central Massachusetts, hitting especially hard in the small town of Monson. Although tornadoes are a rare occurrence in Massachusetts, the state has had a number of deadly tornadoes throughout history with Worcester County claiming the title of “Massachusetts’ tornado alley” with 42 tornadoes recorded since 1950. In fact, the first probable recorded tornado sighting was made by Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop in his journal on July 5, 1643 of a “sudden gust” in northeastern Massachusetts that downed “multitudes of tress” and “lifted up [a] meeting house at Newbury.” He reported that one Native American was killed by a falling tree as a result of the storm.


The most deadly tornado to hit Massachusetts rated a strong F4 on the Fujita Scale and occurred 63 years ago on June 9, 1953. The tornado formed over the Quabbin Reservoir in Petersham and tracked through Barre, Rutland and Holden, continuing through the city of Worcester and then through the central Massachusetts towns of Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Southborough. The storm left 94 dead, 1,300 injured, and 15,000 homeless in its wake and still ranks as the 20th most deadly tornado in the United States to this day. The fury of the storm even carried debris over 110 miles to Eastham on Cape Cod. The day of the 1953 Worcester tornado was the first time in the history of Massachusetts that a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued and although forecasters at the National Weather Service office in Boston believed there was
a possibility for a tornado, they did not issue a warning to that effect for fear they would cause a panic among local citizens. As a result, this failure was the impetus for the implementation of a nationwide radar and storm spotter service by the Storm Prediction Center to provide daily storm predictions and advance warning of potentially deadly storms that has definitely saved lives in the years that have followed.

The State Library’s collections contain a fascinating, eyewitness chronicle of the 1953 Tornado by John M. O’Toole called Tornado! 84 Minutes, 94 Lives, a photograph collection of views of the devastation at the Great Valley Housing Project in Worcester, as well as two pictorial books on the destruction caused by the 2011 tornado:  Path of Fury and The 39-Mile Path of Destruction.


Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Historic View of the Massachusetts State House exhibit


Our current exhibit, A Historic View of the Massachusetts State House, will close at the end of May, so if you haven't had the opportunity to view it in person you have one more week before it goes away. This unique exhibit displays historical images of the construction of the new State House. You can also check out parts of it in our Flickr page.