Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March 4, 2009 - Scituate Center, Scituate, Massachusetts

Today's concept of a town center just isn't what it used to be. In a way, that's a real shame. We've drifted apart as communities, and while cell phones and emails may be shrinking space and time, they can never replace face-to-face interaction.

A hundred years ago, the crossing of Country Way and First Parish Road in Scituate brought together everything the community needed. Sure, there were other neighborhoods - the West End, Greenbush, North Scituate, Humarock, the Harbor, etc. - but this was the town seat. The town hall was here, until it was torn down for the new one out on Route 3A. The first high school in town, now behind the Gates School, was on First Parish. Sprinkle in a couple of churches to add religion to education and government. Then, on Country Way, the meeting places, the Masonic Lodge and the Grand Army Hall, which became a community gathering place. All within walking distance of each other. All the communal buildings of the town. Even Country Way has significance, or did back then. It was the "country way" to Boston.

Anybody hoping to get anything done in town walked these streets, or clip-clopped by on horse and carriage, to pay taxes, attend a minstrel show or drop a few nickels in the collection plate. Today, I didn't see a single sole on foot. And I think you know how many carriages I waved to.

Today, Scituate Center boasts another treasure, the historic Cudworth House complex. The house was built by Zephaniah Cudworth in 1797. You can tell it's definitely old. After all, how many two-year-old Zephaniahs do you know? The barn came from Norwell. And the cattle pound is as it should be: horse high, hog tight and bull strong. Just don't try to keep sheep in there. The historical society found out a few years ago that "horse high" does not necessarily translate into "sheep high." The annual Heritage Days celebration has never been so raucous since.

But the Cudworth complex has one more oddity to share. Out the front door, standing in the snow and now just waiting for the chance to pop its leaves is a ginkgo tree, one of the oldest species of trees we'll ever see. It's not supposed to be here, planted long ago by someone who had the cash and will to import it from China. But in a world of pines, oaks and maples, it sure made for an interesting change in scenery on this unseasonably cold late winter's day. I just wish someone was there to see it with me.

Time: 48 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: Worked with a coauthor on a book all morning; four hours at work; worked on a magazine article at night.

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