Between Thanksgiving, a quiet council meeting last Tuesday, and no meeting this coming week, today is a good opportunity to step away from the day-to-day political life of Lowell and remember the big picture. To me, understanding the big picture is all about history, because as Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in the world is the history you’ve not yet read.” That’s especially true for Lowell.
For instance, in researching my upcoming book on Lowell during World War One (co-authored by Eileen Loucraft and to be published by Paul Marion’s Loom Press in time for the centennial of Armistice Day), I learned that in 1916, there was a big fight over whether to take privately owned property on Kirk Street by eminent domain for the expansion of Lowell High School. I also learned that in 1916, the Lowell city council endlessly debated the need for a new bridge over the Merrimack to deal with the traffic coming from Pawtucketville.
Fast forward to present day and we’re at the launch point of a big political campaign to select our next member of Congress. This race was prompted by the decision of Niki Tsongas to not seek reelection. Tsongas has served for a decade, having won a special election in 2007 when incumbent Marty Meehan left Congress to become chancellor of UMass Lowell. That race featured, in the Democratic primary, Tsongas, Eileen Donoghue, Barry Finegold, Jamie Eldridge and Jim Miceli (and although they dropped out early on, Steve Kerrigan and Jim DiPaola were in for a while). Tsongas defeated Republican nominee Jim Ogonowski to win the seat.
It was that 2007 Congressional election that launched this blog. In the ten years since, we’ve accumulated thousands of posts about all manner of topics. About a year ago, Paul Marion and I decided to compile the “best of the blog” in a book which became History as It Happens: Citizen Bloggers in Lowell, Mass.
This coming Saturday, December 2, 2017, from noon to 4 p.m., Paul and I will be at Mill No. 5 (250 Jackson Street, fifth floor) selling copies of History as It Happens (and other Lowell books). If you can’t make it to Mill No. 5, the books can be ordered online from Loom Press.
To give you a flavor of what is in History as It Happens, here’s a sketch of the best of the best of the blog:
How blogs and social media transformed the way political information is shared in Lowell. Remembering the “golden age” of Lowell blogging which included Left in Lowell, New Englander in Lowell, Right Side of Lowell, Art is the Handmaid, Lowell Handmade, Mr. Mill City, Kad Barma, Lowell Shallot, and other blogs by Jackie Doherty, Corey Sciuto, Bernie Lynch and Gerry Nutter.
Marty Meehan becomes chancellor of UMass Lowell, Steve Panagiotakos becomes chair of Senate Ways and Means Committee, the subprime mortgage crisis hits, a dispute over the opening prayer at Lowell City Council meetings, a Massachusetts Constitutional Convention voted against challenging the legality of same sex marriage in a ballot referendum, Niki Tsongas elected to Congress, Red Sox win World Series.
Barack Obama elected president, Chris Augusta Scott replaces Karla Brooks Baehr as Lowell School Superintendent, Café Aiello closes, Elliot’s Famous Hot Dogs closes, gasoline tops $4 per gallon, a December ice storm knocked down trees and knocked out electricity for several days. Celtics are NBA champs, Patriots lose Super Bowl to Giants.
Hamilton Canal visioning sessions, Hollywood comes to Lowell to film The Fighter, swine flu scare, Doubletree Hotel becomes UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, UMass Lowell takes ownership of Tsongas Arena, Elliot’s Famous Hot Dogs reopens, Mass Poetry Festival in Lowell, Target opens on Plain Street.
Apple releases the first iPad, Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley in special election for US Senate, Eileen Donoghue elected state senator when Steve Panagiotakos declines to seek reelection, Lyle Lovett plays Lowell, Deval Patrick reelected governor, debating neighborhood schools.
Grand Street Peace March protests gun violence in Lowell, Paul Marion joins Facebook, a guy in Abbottabad, Pakistan, live tweets the Bin Laden raid, Bruins win Stanley Cup, final Space Shuttle mission, Halloween snowstorm knocks out power for 106 hours, Occupy Wall Street, Billy Joel in Lowell, Fifth Congressional District becomes the Third, Jean Franco replaces Chris Scott as Lowell School Superintendent.
Barack Obama reelected, Elizabeth Warren defeats Scott Brown for US Senate, “riot” at downtown bar, Stephen King at UMass Lowell, Charles Dickens museum exhibit.
Bob Dylan in Lowell, Boston Marathon bombing, Ed Markey elected to US Senate, replacing John Kerry who became Secretary of State, opioid epidemic hits Lowell, Cambodia Town, Richard Howe Bridge dedicated, Tewksbury says no to slots.
Remembering Moody Gardens, Lowell’s 1950s era gay bar, deadly fire on Branch Street, preserving the South Common, fight for control of Market Basket, Kevin Murphy replaces Bernie Lynch as city manager, Rady Mom elected state representative, two-way traffic returns to downtown, Charlie Baker defeats Martha Coakley to become governor.
The blizzard of 2015, Lowell has snowiest winter in entire US, “Jack’s Corner” dedicated at Pollard Memorial Library in honor of Jack Kerouac, opioid deaths continue to soar, Lowell Walks begins, Salah Khelfaoui replaces Jean Franco as Lowell School Superintendent, Deflategate, Patriots beat Seahawks in Super Bowl,
Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative lights up the canals, new Lord Overpass plans released, after citizen protests, City Council rescinds invitation to Cambodian General Hun Manet, history of Clemente Park, City council (and many residents) join the transgender bathroom debate, National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday, President-elect Trump,
Remembrances of deceased Lowellians and of others with Lowell connections, including Paul Sullivan, Ted Kennedy, Tony Conigliaro, Ed LeLacheur, Peter Stamas, Patrick Mogan, Nelson Mandela, Paul Sheehy, and John Ogonowski.
Fred Faust contributed a half dozen posts on Initiative which featured Sovanna Pouv of CMAA; Francey Slater and Lydia Sisson of Mill City Grows; George Duncan of Enterprise Bank, Meg Chase, Carrie Carolan and Kelliann Basemore and the Shedd Park splash pad; and Dorcase Grigg-Saito of Lowell Community Health Center.
There are more than a dozen poems, mostly about Lowell, by Lowell poets Tom Fitzsimmons, Michael Casey, Jacquelyn Malone, Tom Sexton, Paul Hudon, Mary Sampas, Matt Miller, Chath Piersath, Joe Meehan, Paul Marion, Jean Le Blanc and Kate Hanson Foster.
Steve O’Connor wrote about World War Two heroes Edwin Poitras and Jack Flood. Henri Marchand and Paul Marion wrote about Franco-American holiday traditions and history. Marie Sweeney remembered her Irish roots in Lowell, Bopha Malone told her story of coming to America, and Bob Forrant thanked his dad for many lessons learned for Father’s Day. Bob Hodge recalled his driver’s ed training with Ray Riddick at Lowell High. Sengly Kong described Cambodia Town. John Wooding wrote about becoming a US citizen on the Fourth of July, George Chigas wrote about the Khmer Rouge Terror, Juliet Haines Mofford wrote about Whistler’s Father, and much, much more, including a portfolio of Lowell photos by Tony Sampas.
So please head down to Mill No. 5 next Saturday for History as It Happens and ten years of events in Lowell.