Meanderings

I am constantly surprised at the things that were so prevalent in our day that are totally different now. We never had a word for “recycling” or a concept like a wooden bridge on Lawrence Street. When I was a kid, they used to recycle pop bottles (Tonic), and you collected them for 2 cents apiece, and brought them back to the Grocery Store, where they were thoroughly washed out and reused with new tonic in them. During the sixties, no deposit bottles were introduced, and the death of the refillable pop bottles was introduced. Then Maine and Vermont started to require 5 cent refunds on bottles bought in those states, and recyclables were introduced.

Hundreds of items have been changed or their names have been altered. Remember “Old Mother Hubbard” dog food? It was there. So was “Drewery’s beer” and “Bubblers.” We keep tearing down buildings. I literally took pictures of an old decrepit building and it was torn down the next day. The University of Massachusetts has ripped down neighborhoods. Some of it is progress, but replacement of a neighborhood for a parking lot seems to be akin to that song about tearing down something to ‘put up a parking lot.’ We have to be careful of what we allow to be torn down. Jack Kerouac’s bridge on University Avenue should never have been torn down if there was even the slightest chance that it could have been saved and used for pedestrian foot traffic.

It seems like every day, I get some mail from people looking for money for this cause, or some other. My favorite charity is the Civil War Preservation Trust, which buys old Civil War battlefields for public use. I cannot give them alot of money, but I can give them some once in awhile. That makes me feel good.

In one of my favorite movies, “The Field of Dreams,” the character played by James Earl Jones tells the character played by Kevin Costner that the game of baseball was one constant. It has not basically changed since its inception. It is an interesting conversation and is heightened when James Earl Jones goes out “with the fellas.”

In my city, Lowell, Massachusetts, the one constant since the inception of an educational system in the city has had one constant, and that is an academic curriculum. While national educational standards were important, the need for an academic curriculum was paramount. Prowess at the high school level was rewarded by the Carney Medals, three to the top boys and three to the top girls. This was instituted in 1859 when girls had no civil rights.

Records in the School Department show a tenacity in our adherence to an academic curriculum. Our school department has experienced its share of valleys and its share of peaks. The question is, how did we press on? We just did. We incorporated grading at its inception. Records show we did so through sheer tenacity. Our country was in a fratracidal war, but we continued to offer an excellent education. Lowell was a leader then, and can be now.

Not that there weren’t times we let up on expectations. At one point, we allowed one of our principals to take his students en masse to St. Rita’s Shrine to partake in Holy Day Masses. Of course, today he would be fired for doing that. God has one outlet for today’s children in school, and that is in private and Catholic schools. At one point, the Archbishop of Cleveland told his parents that they would be excommunicated if they sent their children to a public school. He stated that “Protestant values” were being taught in Cleveland’s public schools. The Catholics were, he felt, being undermined. As Archbishop, he felt it was his duty to protect his congregation. This was his way of doing it.

Well, those are my meanderings for today. I hope you found something useful in them.