My brother Richard often stops by my home to drop off an interesting item he has found along the way in his travels, often a photocopy of a news article or a brochure that is not to be missed. Yesterday, he unfolded a large piece of paper that turned out to be page 19 from The Lowell Sun of June 16, 1954, that he had copied on a machine where blueprints are reproduced. The newspaper had surfaced in his apartment while he was looking for something else.
Two items fill the page: a large Father’s Day sale ad (“Dad is King!”) for Enterprise Stores at 117 Merrimack St., offering, among other clothing, sport shirts for $1.99, chino pants for $2.98, and men’s boxer and brief swim trunks for $1.99. The store hours include Monday and Thursday until 9 p.m. To the left of the ad is a wide column the length of the page with the daily “Sampascoopies” column by Charles G. Sampas. The subheadlines of the day are “Wednesday’s Little Notebook, Faces in Lowell Places, Some Songs Remembered, Life in the Lowellland, Serenades in the Twilight” to give readers a hint about the day’s topics. June 16, 1954, is one day among the thousands that Charles G. Sampas wrote for the people of his city.
What’s interesting in this column that appeared randomly in my kitchen this week is that it is full of observations and comments that resonate today. For example:
“The new Lowell Tech buildings have certainly given LTI that university touch . . .”
“Someday, the Hunt’s Falls bridge will be ready—and it would certainly speed up traffic more. The traffic problem has been a prime one—and it is rapidly being solved. Lowell is way ahead of other cities in this—way, way ahead.”
“Strange, all these years, I’ve had the collected works of most famous authors—and only five volumes of Dickens’s Works.”
Of all the columns to materialize, in this one Sampas reflects on his own legacy: “I have this distinction in Lowell fame: I have written more about Lowell history than anybody else in my time. I am not talking, of course, of the quality of the content—what I am grateful for is this: My small writings, in their very small way, have served to ‘pep up’ interest in Lowell history—and I am sure there will be plenty of young people who will do a lot of research in Lowell history in the future. And that makes me very happy.” (This is such a prophetic statement made 24 years before Lowell would be named a National Park and added to the official list of great American places like the Grand Canyon, Concord, the Statue of Liberty, the Everglades, and Gettysburg Battlefield.)
Charles Sampas wrote about 1,000 words for this column. I’ll return to it another day with more excerpts from his rambling, encyclopedic mind and boundless intellectual curiosity. For example, “The great pleasure it was, the other night, chatting with my old friend, Jimmie Durante. We discussed his TV show and his au courant plans, and Jimmie looks younger than ever. And still the greatest comedian in the war—no question about that.”