Took this photo on Sunday while taking a walk at Stage Fort Park.
Scuba divers heading out 8am Sunday morning 11/22/2020
Covid-19 and summer brought an old post to mind. Reposting summer 2020; First published in July 2016.
Are you up for a Gloucester beaches challenge?
A mid-week vacation day is the easiest. Oh, and you’ll need your resident beach sticker. We prepped our car with a picnic blanket for the seat, extra towels, and ice waters. Start early and grab a big “lobsterjack” breakfast because you’ll need the fuel. End late.
Let’s establish some base rules here.
First off, you need to spend at least 15 minutes at each beach. (You can tweak this a little if you want.) Next, you need to dive under. We suggest a ritual for each beach, e.g. ‘The Five and Dive’. Finally, you have to stop for ice cream and candy. Remember, you can do these beaches (or others or quarries in Gloucester) and jumps in any order. Be flexible for different ages and unexpected delays like staying at one beach for hours, or a friend asking you to drop off a sub (*cough* Joey *cough*). Most importantly, you have to do at least 13 beaches and 2 jumps in one day. Mind the tides. Be grateful we have so many choices.
Annisquam lighthouse. Coffin’s beach. Good Harbor beach. Long beach. Magnolia beach. Niles beach. Pavilion beach (by Beach Court). Pavilion beach bonus (by the cut). Plum Cove beach. Rocky Neck Oakes Cove beach. Stage Fort Park (1) – Cressy’s beach ( our alt. title ‘sea serpent’ big beach). Stage Fort Park (2) – Half Moon beach. Wheeler’s Point. Wingaersheek beach.
Annisquam bridge. Magnolia Pier.
*We did this challenge at least once each summer. (In 2016) we started off with breakfast at Willow’s Rest and continued from there. Our timing was random especially as we spent hours at Wingaersheek. The second meal to get us through the day came from the sandwich counter at Annie’s by Wingaersheek. Yes, they have a sandwich counter.
This excerpt has been adapted from 1918 Pandemic: Reconstructing How the Flu Raged Then Flattened in Gloucester, Massachusetts when 183 Died in 6 weeks, HERE by Catherine Ryan. Mini posts like this one highlight select weeks during the outbreak as serialized quick reads about this Gloucester history.
World War I guaranteed that the end of summer of 1918 wasn’t carefree and innocent. Still, the traditional Labor Day weekend in Gloucester, Massachusetts, was a big one with residents and visitors traveling to-and-fro thanks to its long established destination reputation. Families hosted guests from in state and out of state. Pleasure boats and fishing boats set out and returned. Art fans were encouraged to Rocky Neck studios and the Gallery on the Moors before their summer season exhibitions closed.
Despite a one-day traffic study banning cars that Sunday, to compel gas rationing, Stage Fort Park was packed:
“A large crowd participated in the picnic at Stage Fort Park yesterday, under the auspices of the Wainola Temperance Society and Waino Band. Two fine concerts were given by the band under the direction of Charles A. Glover. There were several tents for the sale of ice cream, tonic and lunches. Two baseball games attracted a large throng in the morning and afternoon…”40
On the pages of the Gloucester Daily Times and Cape Ann Advertiser and the Manchester Cricket, two local newspapers established in 1888, cultural events, casualty lists, and letters from enlisted men were published –unavoidably and disconcertingly –on the same page at times. Public notices and benefits in support of the war were broadcast over the long weekend, like this striking appeal for fruit stones for gas masks:
Every peach stone counts: Patriotic barrel at board of trade will receive your contribution
“The Board of trade peach stone campaign is meeting with wonderful success and the patriotic sugar barrel which has been placed in front of the rooms of Main street is rapidly being filled with the precious stones. Not only save the peach stones, but plum stones, olive pits, nutshells of all kinds except peanuts because they all make the best charcoal for making the gas masks our soldiers in France wear…One hundred peach stones makes enough charcoal for one mask and peaches are right in the height of their season. Get busy now and bring them…”41
The Gloucester Daily Times (GDT) regularly published submissions from the community on one or two inside pages, too. The individual joys & sorrows, boasts, and whereabouts were sorted by town and neighborhood with subheadings Rockport, Pigeon Cove, and Manchester; and in Gloucester, West Gloucester, Riverdale, Annisquam, Lanesville, Magnolia, and East Gloucester. The columns are chatty and informal, a bit Facebook meets Page Six depending upon the neighborhood. Downtown, or specifically the Fort and Portuguese Hill, did not have a section.
Because the general public was not informed about the severity of flu deaths in the military that spring and summer, and even the experts missed possible tell tale signs, the busy destination season continued into September, as did the dreadful war.
The comings and goings over Labor Day were detailed within a September 3rd East Gloucester column. Residents hosting summer guests, including young men on furlough, were quite possibly literal harbingers of doom or vectors. Visitors on Mt. Pleasant returned to Worcester and Watertown, and back to Somerville from Chapel Street.
“…Joseph Ehler of the U.S. navy transport service is spending a brief furlough with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Ehler of Mt. Pleasant Avenue. Walter Peterson of Camp Devens, Ayer, spent the holiday weekend on 8 Davis Street with his mother, Nina. Mrs. Charles E. Locke and family returned to Worcester from Mt. Pleasant. Miss Suzanne Parsons of Mt. Pleasant back from a visit in the South to resume duties at Watertown High School…Mr. and Mrs. Fred Benson and little daughter Elizabeth of Somerville were the weekend and holiday guests of Mrs. Benson’s parents, Lewis Rowe on Chapel Street.” 42
The East Gloucester column published on September 4th reveals a few more threads of what’s to come. East Gloucester would be hit particularly bad.
“…Walter Fenn, the artist, is improving gradually from his illness and at present he is at Rocky Neck.” (At the Chapel Street church school) “a full attendance is requested as business of importance is to come up for consideration and plans for the year made…There remains one more day to view the exhibition of paintings and sculpture at the Gallery-on-the-Moors…Members of the Chapel Street Baptist Sunday School will gather (for the end) of the summer season…” 43
The first day of school commenced Wednesday, September 4, 1918. Headlines from the paper pronounced a hopeful beginning,
“Teachers and Pupils Enter on Work of the Year with Vigor”. That evening, the city hosted a huge public event, “Community Sing at City Hall”.
Community Sing Filled City Hall: Voices Raised High in Patriotic Song
The Community Sing at City hall…combined with the addresses by Dr. M. M. Graham, district service manager of the United States Shipping Board and Corporal Fran A.H. Street, a returned soldier who was twice wounded and later gassed while serving with the Canadian forces, attracted an audience which filled City Hall. Patriotic music was sung, opening with the “Star Spangled Banner,” following which a proclamation was read by President Antoine Silva of the municipal council, representing the city, after which the vast audience joined in singing “Speed Our Republic”…Among those on the platform was Private Joseph Merchant, who has recently returned from “over there” on a furlough after being wounded. The meeting closed with the singing of “America.”44
This special event revved up attention for the draft registration two weeks away. Under the Selective Service Act, all men ages 18 through 45 would be required to register on September 12, 1918, the third and final registration for WWI. 45 Local volunteer committees handled registration for this mandatory conscription and dispensed draft cards and exemption rulings. Booster efforts like the Community Sing in Gloucester were successful. About 13% of Gloucester’s total population would show up at the polls to register.46
Two days later, the first article about a lethal flu in Massachusetts was published in the Gloucester Daily Times on September 6, 1918 with the state surgeon general’s warning. There was no mention of the disease striking Fort Devens, or any other camp or military branch. The spread of the virulent flu was aptly described as a “pandemic”. Though small and buried on the inside pages of the GDT, it was printed– ahead of other papers—, “Lookout Now, Old Mr. Grip is Around”. 47
Old Mr. Grip was already here.
Sam Novello asks GMG, “Joe, what happened to the cannons at Stage Fort Park—— two are gone?”
The cannon(s) are undergoing restoration (cleaning, chemical treatment and re-painting). In 2018, the CPA Committee awarded $22,705 of an estimated $46,000 to the Stage Fort Park Advisory Committee to refurbish the Parrot Rifle Cannon for work scheduled to commence spring 2020. The project is led by the Stage Fort Park Advisory Committee. The grant application project summary indicates the scope of work as follows:
“Our final goal is to restore the Fort area as a historic feature of the Park and its importance to our local military history.* Repairs and restoration of this site are long overdue. The ramparts are overgrown with vegetation**. The cannon barrels are suffering due to neglect. The barrels are subject to trash, dirt and debris. We hope to preserve this site for future generations. The cleaning, capping and painting of the cannon will protect the barrel against future damage. We have proposed an annual stipend in the city budget of $2000 for maintenance of the Fort as well as a security plan for the Fort which would include lighting and security cameras. *Our ultimate goals include a visitor education center with historic references to the Fort and its history. It is expected that the entire Stage Fort Park will be used as a centerpiece of the city’s 400th anniversary celebrations.”
– Stage Fort Park Advisory Committee CPA application excerpt, photo from packet and phasing goals
Read the full application here: 2019 CPA Application SFP Parrot Rifle Cannon Carriage
*There is no finalized plan for this area overall. (See photographs then/now below.)There IS a history of Fort use and restoration for historic battles –as well as city celebrations– honoring this legacy and the kind souls who volunteered to do so.
For example: I’m not sure if the 187th Infantry Brigade was paid for the work they did in 1973, which I’m assuming was the last big overhaul. The CPA grant is just about the work on the cannons. The Historical Commission wrote a letter of support stressing replica accuracy using period materials (wood and metal)
**The area is overgrown at the moment because of various DPW work on the boulevard and future plans. (When I photographed the area annually it’s cleared.)
Stage Fort is the oldest fort in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
As part of the city’s 350th celebration prep, the cannon site area (earthworks, entrance area, powder magazine, and gun embrasures) was restored by an engineer brigade from Wollaston. The design intent turned the clock back to how the fort would have been built out in the 1700s. Julian Hatch, the chairman of the 350th, had been director of public works for the city. The project was decades in the wishing and sensitively designed at long last.
In 1930, the Fort was spruced up from its formal design post Civil and Spanish war. Fisherman’s Field Stage Fort information plaques were commissioned and unveiled.
Bronze tribute plaques embedded in Tablet Rock at Stage Fort Park detail the site’s history and were commissioned and unveiled at different times. The monumental and stunning Founders plaque from 1907 on Tablet Rock itself is in fantastic condition. Two DAR plaques were inlaid on the glacial outcroppings past half moon beach on the way to the cannons. The Fisherman’s Field (ca.1930) is so worn it’s nearly indecipherable, though that’s part of its charm. The plaque compels close inspection, lingering and discovery. It’s a fun family activity for anyone who likes a challenge. For those who want help reading the content, I transcribed it back in 2010. ”
Printable PDF of the plaque translation here
Read more about historic battles and Gloucester Stage Fort Park in this trivia quiz designed by Shaun Goulart, GHS history teacher, in this prior GMG post.
copy of Frank L. Cox fine art photograph (pre dates 1921) he used to illustrate his pocket Gloucester guide “The Gloucester Book”, and sell prints
Wonderfully fun and funny, heartfelt, quirky, original, and fabulous musicians all, Guster headlined Gloucester’s first Riverfest Seaside Music Festival. Montage of highlights from the show with favorite songs “Amsterdam,” “Happier,” “Satellite,” “Stay With Me Jesus,” “Homecoming King,” “Ramona,” “Do You Love Me,” “This Could All Be Yours,” and more.
For information on upcoming shows, tickets, store, and to see Guster’s latest hit video for “Overexcited,” go HERE to www.guster.com
Riverfest presented by 92.5 The River and the City of Gloucester, Stage Fort Park. See photos from the show at Kim Smith Designs
Headlining act Guster gave a fantastic and fabulous-in-every-way show at the Riverfest Seaside Music Festival Saturday afternoon. They played all the fan favorites for a wonderfully fun and eclectic audience. Some of my favorite songs from their beautiful repertoire of music included “Amsterdam, “Do You Love Me,” “This Could All Be Yours,” “Homecoming King,” “Satellite,” “Stay With Me Jesus,” and many, many more. Video with music highlights to come later this week 🙂
Although I had to work most of the day and didn’t get to the event until after 3:30, the festival went fabulously well, from this fan’s perspective. A huge shout out to Donald St. Sauveur and radio 92.5 The River (the best rock radio station, bar none!), Mayor Sefatia and her team for bringing Riverfest to Gloucester, to Jill Cahill and Gloucester’s stellar DPW for the advanced planning and organizing (Stage Fort Park looked absolutely gorgeous!), to all the sponsors, and especially to the fans. Everyone was having a grand time-enjoying the music, dancing, spending time with family and friends, and just having fun.
Thank you festival organizers for a wonderfully new and exciting event for Gloucester! I hope it is the the first of many Riverfests to come!!!