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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Talk on my book on Mt. Tom Summer Theatre - South Hadley, Massachusetts

I will be giving on a talk on my book, Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts, at the South Hadley Public Library, Wednesday, June 27th at 6:30 p.m.  A slide presentation of several photos from the book will accompany the talk.

The book covers the history of summer theatre on Mt. Tom from1895 to 1965.  For some seventy years the playhouse created magic on the mountain above the city; from vaudeville, operetta, WPA-sponsored shows in the Great Depression, and its heyday from 1941 to 1962 with a resident repertory company called The Valley Players.  In the early 1960s, two new incarnations: The Casino-in-the-Park, and finally, the Mt. Tom Playhouse with touring packaged shows featuring well-known stars from television and movies.  Many stars of stage and screen, and many newcomers who would one day become stars, performed over several decades on Mt. Tom.  Through interviews, newspaper reviews, and nearly 250 photographs, relive their performances, and go backstage for personal experiences that were both comic and tragic, and enjoy again the excitement of opening night.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Save the Date! - Celebration of Mt. Tom in art, literature, science, and ice cream! - Easthampton, Massachusetts

Save the Date

The MAP Gallery shines a spotlight


“The Mountain and Mother Nature”

A father and son exhibit of oil pastels by Ken Gagne and sculptures by Matt Gagne creating an entertaining and thought provoking experience traveling over Mt. Tom witnessing Mother Nature’s power to create, destroy and preserve the beauty of this local resource. 

Opening Reception
Saturday, July 14th 2018
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The MAP Gallery
 The Eastworks Building in Easthampton

Also featuring:

·              Arcadia Sanctuary

·              Jacqueline T. Lynch – local author of  “Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain”

·              Mt. Tom Ice Cream

Easthampton City Arts / Easthampton Cultural Council

Monday, April 30, 2018

Reading with Valley Eye Radio and Valley Gives Day!

I'll be reading from my book Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts at the Tower Square food court in Springfield, Mass. on Tuesday, May 1st in support of Valley Eye Radio and Valley Gives Day!

Valley Eye Radio broadcasts local news and information to reading impaired listeners throughout the Pioneer Valley.  Around 50 volunteers read live or record in the studio, and I am one of them.  It's a very worthy, and necessary, program that delivers information that reading impaired listeners will not find anywhere else. 

Please support this endeavor with your donation on Valley Gives Day - Tuesday, May 1st, and if you have some time between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., join me and others at our display table at Tower Square, 1500 Main Street, Springfield, Massachusetts.

To make your donation to Valley Eye Radio through the Valley Gives website and help us to receiving matching gifts and prizes, go here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Talk on the Mill Girls - South Hadley, Massachusetts

"Sophie" photo by Lewis W. Hine, 1911, Library of Congress

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I will be presenting a talk on “The Mill Girls” - Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. at the South Hadley Public Library.

At the dawn of the Industrial Age in the early nineteenth century, New England mill owners coincidentally spawned another economic revolution:  The hiring of thousands of young, unmarried women to work in the cotton, woolen, and silk textile factories.  A huge workforce was needed for the burgeoning mill towns, and women comprised the biggest untapped labor force in the United States.  The women changed the economy, they changed society, and they created new opportunities for themselves. Come follow the adventures of the mill girls of Chicopee, Holyoke, and South Hadley at the South Hadley Library, 2 Canal Street, South Hadley.  For more information, see the library website at:, or call 413-538-5045.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Chicopee Historical Society Seeks New Members!

The Chicopee Historical Society will hold its ‘2018 Opening Organizational Meeting’! 

All are welcome; members, residents, and anyone with an interest in history.

The agenda will plan and prepare for this coming year’s programs and events and enlist new members, including board members and club officer positions, so needed to enable this worthwhile community endeavor to continue.

With its rich history and varied contributions to American industry and culture, Chicopee deserves a vibrant historical society to educate, entertain, and share the story of this city’s history and memories and the Pioneer Valley’s part in the making this happen.

Join us at the Chicopee Public Library, 449 Front Street, Chicopee on Wednesday, March 7th, at 6:00 p.m. in the conference room.

See you there!

For more information, email:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Model Train Show at the Big E - West Springfield, Massachusetts

 Photo by JT Lynch

It's time again for the Amherst Railway Society Hobby Show on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.  The show, which hosts exhibitors, displays over 60 model train layouts, and has welcomed over 20,000 visitors annually from around the country, is a very popular event for both model railroaders and anyone who gets a kick out of seeing an elaborate train layout recreating a city or village from the golden age of train travel.

Photo by JT Lynch

The show runs through Sunday the 28th.  For more information, see the website here.

Photo by JT Lynch

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dickens, and Christmas, come to New England

English novelist Charles Dickens came on a book tour to the U.S. in 1842, the first of his trips to America. He was already famous, but it was still some five years before A Christmas Carol was written.  While New York and other parts of the young United States were celebrating Christmas, New England at that time still did not observe the holiday; here Thanksgiving was the big day. In some small measure, the popularity of his yuletide ghost story would help bring Christmas to New England, one of several factors that turned the Puritan tide.

When he was in the Boston area, they took this former workhouse victim to Lowell to show him the factories.  We mentioned his excursion there in this previous post on mill girls.

When Dickens left Lowell, his next stop was Springfield, on February 7, 1842, when accompanied by his wife, he toured the Springfield Armory.   This was before the impressive iron fence was constructed around the Armory.  That was made at the Ames Company in Chicopee, and the project was started in the early 1850s and not completed until 1865.  We may assume at the time of Dickens’ visit, the cows of local farmers continued to stray across the quadrangle and the lawns of the Army officers’ quarters.  

After his brief tour of the Armory, Dickens traveled down the Connecticut River to Hartford aboard a steamboat.  We discussed that journey in this previous post.

Though Dickens apparently felt favorably toward Massachusetts, the United States on the whole did not impress him on that trip, and, of course, he was particularly angered and disgusted by slavery.  He wrote of his impressions in American Notes.  He had made two trips here in 1842, but did not return until after the Civil War, when in 1867 on his next trip, both the war and slavery were over.  

Something else was different, too.  New England had adopted the custom of celebrating Christmas.  He could see this for himself as he arrived in late November and remained for the following month, giving readings from his novels in Boston and in New York.

The following year, 1868, he returned for another book tour, this time commencing in February and returning to England in late April.  He gave his readings in Boston, New York City and upstate, as well as Washington, Philadelphia, and in Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  He read from many of his books, including A Christmas Carol.

His first public reading of A Christmas Carol was on December 3, 1867 at the Tremont Temple in Boston. According to this article at the New England Historical Society website, his agent noted the audience reaction at the end of the first chapter:

When at least the reading of The Carol was finished, and the final words had been delivered, and "So, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us every one," a dead silence seemed to prevail -- a sort of public sigh as it were -- only to be broken by cheers and calls, the most enthusiastic and uproarious.

He spoke at Tilly Haynes’ Music Hall in Springfield on March 20, 1868.  For a long time, the Tilly Haynes Music Hall on Main Street was the only theater in Springfield, built in 1856.  It burned down in 1864.  Haynes rebuilt it, and in 1881, he sold out to Dwight O. Gilmore, who established Gilmore’s Opera House there, until it burned down in 1897.  Twentieth century audiences would remember this as the site of the Capitol movie theater that showed Warner Brothers films. That has long since been demolished and is now the site of One Financial Plaza.

He arrived here on the train during a snowstorm, and stayed at the Massasoit House (part of this building remains in the building that was later constructed in 1929 for the Paramount Theater).  The Music Hall was packed for his appearance, as he was probably the most famous author of his day.

The Springfield Republican reported,

“Mr. Dickens is not a reader... He is simply and emphatically a very natural and delightful actor, gifted with the power of throwing a whole personality into his face.” He spoke in the voices Scrooge, the Cratchits, Mr. Pickwick and other characters from his novels. “There walks on the stage a gentleman who gives you no time to think about him, and dazzles you with 20 personalities.” 

He was “slightly bent, in the street not a remarkably noticeable man.” His face “bears signs of incessant toil.”

The tour was successful, but has been described as grueling, and Dickens died only two years later in 1870 at the age of 58.  That year, President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a national holiday.

We discuss two classic film versions of A Christmas Carol in my post “Mankind Was My Business” here at Another Old Movie Blog.

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