Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Flags in the Old North Church - Boston, Massachusetts

Inside Boston's Old North Church the flag of New England, and the flag of the United States (when there were quite a few less states).  The bold colors of the flags stand out from the pristine white of the ceiling and columns, and the pure white natural light coming in from the clear windows.  We always equate the Old North Church with Paul Revere's famous ride during the opening days of the Revolutionary War (see this previous post here). 

But it's modern day solace, quietly keeping the faith and the heritage, is just as monumental, if more serene.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer stock, July 1935

The second week of July 1935 brought another round of traveling actors to New England’s numerous summer stock theaters (or town halls or barns, or whatever happened to serve as a theater in those golden months between mud and snow).

Most of the players on stage were unknowns then and continued to be unknown, but a few, like character actress Mary Wickes, who appeared in a supporting role in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in John Willard’s mystery “The Cat and the Canary”, would become familiar to moviegoers in the coming decades.

Down in Westport, Connecticut, stage veteran Ina Claire wowed first-nighters in “Ode to Liberty” by Sidney Howard, in which she had appeared on Broadway the year before. The New York Times critic noted, “Miss Claire received an ovation at each curtain.”

Ina Claire appeared in very few movies, but you may remember her as Dorothy McGuire’s mother in “Claudia” (1943), and playing opposite Greta Garbo in “Ninotchka” (1939) as The Duchess Swana. She began her career in vaudeville, working her way up to the Ziegfeld Follies. Summer stock in Connecticut wasn’t too good for her.

Over in Cohasset, Massachusetts, a comedy “Meet the Prince” by A.A. Milne, who is probably more familiar to most people as the author of the “Winnie-the-Pooh” stories, played to a capacity audience.

Down in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, the Town Hall was the venue for the drama “As Husband’s Go”, where, according to The New York Times, “The cast received numerous curtain calls.”

Over in Branford, Connecticut, the Stony Creek Players performed “Tea for Three”. Up in Skowhegan, Maine, Frankie Thomas of Hollywood B-movies and the future “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” on TV played in “Remember the Day” with the Lakewood Players. One of the auspicious members of the audience that evening was Humphrey Bogart.

It was an era when staying at home on a summer evening shut up in air conditioning was not favored, and not possible. The summer dress, the white trousers, the straw hats were donned and each newcomer to the audience was announced by the slap of the screen door in the back of the house (or barn, or town hall, or tent) where they sold tickets.

Even more telling and poignant, is that The New York Times gave space to summer stock performers and audiences in small towns in New England that warm second week of July 1935.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Amtrak 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train

This past weekend the special Amtrak exhibit train rolled into Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts. There are six more scheduled stops throughout New England this summer, so if you missed this event, you’ll have many more chances to see it.

Amtrak, the national railroad service for the United States, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and as part of the celebration, this several-car special train is being sent as a kind mobile museum on tour of some of the towns and cities Amtrak services. Climb aboard and walk through four decades worth of nostalgia and memorabilia. Equipment and vintage ads are displayed, menus and dinnerware from the past in the lounge car, uniforms, photographs and videos to see.

There were some freebees offered by staff on the platform, and items for sale in the “store” car on the end.

Lots of train buffs meandered through the train and all around it, taking photos, and kids sharing the grownups’ love of trains. All of this activity much to the surprise of the passengers alighting with their rolling suitcases from the regular train that pulled into the station as this event was going on.

Each weekend for the next six weeks gives New Englanders a chance to catch up with the special exhibit train. Here are the upcoming stops:

Union Station - New Haven, Connecticut: July 16-17.

Union Station - New London, Connecticut: July 23-24.

Amtrak Station - Providence, Rhode Island: July 30-31.

South Station - Boston: August 6-7.

Depot Avenue - Freeport, Maine: August 13-14.

Main Street - Burlington, Vermont: August 20-21.

After that, it’s Albany, New York and points west. For more about Amtrak’s special exhibit train and the 40th anniversary celebration, have a look at this website.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Outer Light - Old Saybrook, Connecticut

It seems a long way out, the Saybrook Breakwater Light, also known as the Outer Light, but it’s only about 3,000 feet from the Lynde Point Light we discussed in this previous post.

Placed here in a sandbar, later linking to the shore with a stone jetty, the Outer Light was established in June, 1886. One of its most memorable events was when lighthouse keeper Sidney Gross noticed a sudden breeze from the southeast on the afternoon of September 21, 1938, perhaps one of the first New Englanders to catch a warning sign (utterly without knowing it) of the horrific Hurricane of 1938, discussed in a three-part series, beginning here.

The hurricane took much away from the Connecticut coast that afternoon, but left the Outer Light tower.

The light was automated in 1959. For more on the Saybrook Breakwater Light or Outer Light, have look at this website.