Friday, January 23, 2009

January 23, 2009 - Gun Rock, Hull, Massachusetts

Oh, the stories I could tell you about this place. I started at Town Hall. Built in 1922 to accomodate the political boss, John Smith, who lived across the street, and didn't want to have to travel too far to work. And look atop the building. That's a Viking ship weathervane, and it's symbolic of the town's long-held belief that Thorvald the Viking played out the Vinland Saga here amongst the Skraelings (Native Americans) on the seven hills that make up the town.

Down Valley Beach Avenue I passed the spot where the Pacific House used to be. George M. Cohan once performed there in front of a crowd that included Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and her husband Joe. Those echoes are long gone. At the base of the street, off the rocks, a dovekie appeared two years ago, a little seabird that rarely visits these shores.

Around the corner, the St. Mary's Church, now condos, brings back the story of its construction in 1890. Boxer John L. Sullivan offered up $5000 for its foundation in 1885, but the church felt there would be too much blood on the money, as it would be coming from one of his bareknuckles prize fights, and raised funds on its own. Around the corner on Stony Beach Road, a jeep and a tea cup from Paragon Park rides melt into the landscape, as memories of the park itself fade away with age.

At Gun Rock Beach, the candle house is changing color again, being freshly painted. The facade facing the beach looks fantastic; the rest of the house is, let's say, awaiting treatment. This area has been hit hard by so many storms that some of the locals have smartly purchased and installed electric exterior roll-down shutters for seaward-facing windows. The Blizzard of 1978 nearly wiped this place off the map. Two years later, during the Winter Olympics, I remember riding through Gun Rock Avenue with my dad listening to the replay of the USA-Russia game in Lake Placid.

Straits Pond is frozen and covered with snow. Soldiers from Fort Revere used to skate here a hundred years ago. This summer I'll help the Straits Pond Watershed Association launch their floating tree swallow boxes for another big year.

Oh, the stories I could tell you about this place.

Time: 34 minutes.

New species for the year: King eider (lifebird), harlequin duck, red-necked grebe, lesser black-backed gull, black guillemot, snowy owl, short-eared owl, eastern meadowlark (98).

Stranger hellos: None.

Other items from the day: Co-led a three and a half hour bird walk in Plymouth and Duxbury; returned to the ivory gull; went to bed early in anticipation of an early morning.


  1. New here. Just happened to find you hitting 'next blog' and happy I did. I'm a Native Massachusetts-an (is that even close to a word?), crap, what is the right terminology anyway?

    Love your blog... I'll be back. I remember the Blizzard of 78!! I wondered if this recent nasty ice storm put it to shame, but if the birds are still speaking of the former, than it mustn't be so!


  2. Oh, the Blizzard was much worse. I was only 6, but the memories still scare me. We lost power and had to be evacuated. It's actually scarier in retrospect, as I don't have any recollection of being afraid back then. And, officially, someone from Massachusetts is a "Bay Stater." I guess the officials learned a long time ago to not even try to mess with the name!

    I'm glad you're enjoying what you're reading!


  3. Yeah, we lost power too, I remember it was right after February vacation, so we had an extra week off of school which was great! haha!

    Bay Stater, how did I forget that? I've only been in California for 6 years!

  4. It was actually the week before, (February 6), which meant we got that extra week either way, so schoolkids everywhere were happy, We didn't realize that more than 50 people had been killed and thousands displaced. Ugh, what a tragedy. There'a actually a really good book out by my friend Chris Haraden on the whole thing.

  5. I don't want to monopolize your comments here, but I had to respond... in my youthful ignorance I had no idea that 50 people died, I'm shocked. I'll have to look into your friends book, thanks.

  6. No worries about monopolizing my comments. I'm always happy to chat with other writers. Most of the deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning out on 128, trapped in their cars.

  7. NO WAY! I had no idea! Makes sense though. Now I feel like yelling at my parents for not telling me about this when I got older!!

  8. Oops, sorry to start a family war... : ) There were also three men killed in a shipwreck and at least one child that got buried in the snow right outside the front door of the family home. But I'm with you - had I just held onto my own memories of it and never learned anything as an adult, it was just a lot of snow, a power outage, no school and, in Hull, physical destruction of property.