Looking Backwards and Forward

Sep 26, 2011

There is much to be learned from looking back at our history. Recently, I have been reading about Wareham's Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, which was an entire year of events (every month had at least one major event, and most had more than one). A special commission had been created to plan and coordinate the events, and every single organization, committee, board, school, and business was involved in some way or another. Even the Wareham Militia was re-activated, and they practiced their drills. The school children attended at least one day of school at the one-room schoolhouse, wearing colonial costumes, to learn what it had been like for children their age in 1776. There were parades, dinners, dances, and commemorative events. The photos and stories about this year show us a town which came together for a common goal to celebrate our common history.


The 1970's were a time of hard work in restoring historical buildings and other infrastructure. The Fearing Tavern, the Capt. John Kendrick Museum, and the Old Methodist Meeting House were all completed during this time. The state made funds available to support many projects during this time and communities worked together to honor the sacrifices and celebrate the cooperation of our ancestors in fighting for our independence and creating this country.


The climax of the year was a visit to Wareham by the mayor of our sister town of Wareham, England. She (yes, it was a woman by the name of Gwen Broughton) attended several events, the towns exchanged proclamations, and her two-week stay was, by all accounts, very successful. An interesting side-note here, which pertains to another discussion going on regarding trailer parks and affordable housing, is the accomodations that the town of Wareham and the Bicentennial Commission provided for Mayor Broughton. She and her husband were provided with a trailer in one of the trailer parks in town. Today we might be shocked at this. The attitude appears to have been much different in 1976. While we have no way of knowing what Mayor Broughton's private reaction was, there was no outward sign of dissatisfaction. The general sense of togetherness and celebration ruled the day and the year, and it was a period in Wareham's history that can serve as an example to us today of what is possible.


Looking forward, we have an opportunity to experience some of that camraderie, of that experience of coming together for a common purpose that is equally important to all -- the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims is coming up in 2020 !!! It seems like a long time away, but in terms of event planning, the eight years between now and then is not long at all. Planning is already underway in Plymouth and there are plenty of opportunities for Wareham to be involved. Plymouth is inventorying its hotel rooms to determine how much capacity they have for both visitors and the "important personages" who will be attending any of the several events already being planned. Wareham has the opportunity to also take advantage of this economic boon, if we plan for it and work to create the conditions that will help us do so. There are many ideas that come to my mind, and probably to yours also. The point here is that we can learn from the past -- that the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration not only brought the entire town together, it also produced a great many benefits that we still enjoy today -- and we should look towards the future -- the 2020 celebration will bring people from all over the country to this area and Wareham has the opportunity now to decide how we want to be seen by the rest of the country.


Let's start by brainstorming some ideas -- what resources do we have -- what resources do we need -- what do we need to do and how do we want to be seen -- what do you think?