Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 8, 2009 - Central Avenue and Q Streets, Hull, Massachusetts

I prepare a weekly column for the Hull Times, but I do it monthly. I used to do it annually, but that got too confusing. People would stop me in the streets and say, "That was pretty funny, what happened in the column this week," and I'd have to think to myself, "What the hell did I write about this week?"

It's an old-fashioned, gossipy news column, excerpted from the Hull Beacon of a century ago. It's become a town soap opera, now in its tenth year. Readers have been following the lives of their ancestors and predecessors through cake walks, progressive dinners and bal masques for a decade, laughing along with me at the antics of our former citizens.

A hundred years ago this month, the columnist noted that the town should consider oiling - laying oil on the dirt roads to keep the dust down - Central Avenue and Q Street, as they were among the heaviest used highways in town. Today, they're side streets, bowing reverently to the mighty Nantasket Avenue. Had that sentence been written in 2009, the townsfolk would have scratched their heads, called the authorities, and gotten men in calming white suite with big butterfly nets to take the editor of the newspaper away to a nice, quiet, padded room. But this was 1909, and Hull was a different place.

I walked the route today to refresh my historical memory. At the time the roads were laid out in the 1880s, there was nothing to interfere with their placement. The place was barren, known, in fact, as the plains of Nantasket. The village settlement, even into the early 1900s, was near the end of the peninsula, several miles away. So why was this area so important?

Pick up the Hull Times to find out.

Oh, that's cold.

Time: 36 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 2 (164).

The rest of my day: Read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak to my baby boy; found an engorged deer tick on me, and checked into South Shore Hospital in Weymouth for the morning, which meant I spent the rest of the day on antibiotics; bank, post office, pharmacy, etc.; worked on an article for Ships Monthly, a British magazine, for my editor Nick; gave a lecture based on my Boston Harbor book with my coauthor Don at the annual meeting of the Historical Society of Old Abington.

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