Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009 - Hobartville, Hull, Massachusetts

It was a Kennedy kind of day. I spent my lunchtime hour watching President Obama's inaugrual address from a seat in the restaurant of the clubhouse of the Camp Edwards/Otis Air Force Base golf course. Otis, because of its proximity to the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport, was the secure home airbase of choice for JFK during his presidency. When I started my walk later in the day, I was standing in the shadow of the Hull Memorial School clock tower. The building was dedicated by then-Representative Kennedy in the late 1940s. The Obama-Kennedy connections are, of course, self-evident. For those of us too young to remember JFK's inauguration, was the energy of hope and optimism comparable to that felt today around the world? After all, in some ways, the message delivered in both speeches was the same.

But Hobartville, you ask? I walked north, backwards through the alphabet streets, from "L" to "A," along the water's edge. Before these streets were paved, before these blocks were crowded shoulder to shoulder with houses, "Citizen" Hobart, as he was known, was one of the first summer visitors to invest in the future of Nantasket as a seasonal resort. He convinced friends to join him on the bay shore north of Strawberry Hill and together they built a string of similar looking homes in the Second Empire style, many of which still stand today. It was the first summer colony on the plains of the Nantasket peninsula.

But Sunset Avenue, the road that hooks the coastline here, has a previous history. Once a hill, it had a name derived from the results of a great Native American battle: Skull Head. The area was supposedly scattered with skulls of lost warriors when the first European settlers arrived. The "head," or low hill, was cut down to make Nantasket Avenue in the 1870s.

It was cold again today. The bay was active with horned grebes, surf scoters and common eiders, signs that summer is far, far away. That and the ice, of course. Two horned larks surprised me at the end of K Street, almost the last creatures I expected to see there.

The pier at A Street will always bring back memories. Swimming lessons, dropping lines off the side to catch fish, even riding my bike out to the end with a baseball bat across the handlebars and a glove dangling off the grips.

My final quest for the day is to walk the Central-A-Cadish-B Street loop. I want to see just how big John Mitchell's coal and lumber empire was. The whole block was once his, before he ran afoul of the town's boss in the 1910s. Now it's condos and private homes, with no memories of those politically-charged days.

I was still recovering from the damned cold that's had me since Saturday, so it was another short one today. Just glad that my mind still works at full speed, even if my lungs won't.

Time: 33 minutes.

New species: Horned lark (88).

Stranger hellos: 1 (35).

The rest of the day: Spent most of it at Otis, scanning pics for a new book due to the publisher in April; reviewed page proofs of another, due out in May; scanned more pics for a third book due next year.

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