Celebrating a Slice of Americana

Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette June 14, 2022

On July 4th, 2026, our United States will celebrate the 250th Anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence. Yet, we kept Britain’s ideals, like representative government and the English language. 

Today, years seem longer than they used to be. We’ve been home for two now, and, as the song goes, ‘Don’t get ’round much anymore.” We could use a dose of good news and I’m here, as the town crier, with sweet nothings all the way from Williamsburg, MA, USA. While the country must wait four years for its 250th Anniversary. “Burgy” 250 is all but here.

Everyone’s  invited to share our town’s joy this July!

We wanted to celebrate in 2021. Along came Covid-19, which took away many a plan. 1771, plus 250 has morphed into 2022. Williamsburg and Haydenville will be twice celebrated. Friendliness is a small town attribute to those who mock goodness when, in fact, it’s what the world needs now. One example is that all three churches in town often find seasonal events and fund raisers attended by each other’s parishioners. The Williamsburg Church and Our Lady of the Hills combine to deliver free home-cooked meals to seniors on Saturday. Each one of those volunteers deserve a shout out!

In 2013, The late Dave West proposed that the best way to celebrate the town’s 250th was to ask its citizens to submit real stories. “Our Town” comprises 464 heartfelt pages of growing up in Burgy, interviews, arrivals, leavings, histories and photos. American’s reputation for short memories is shattered by its warm narratives of love and service. Hilltown folks may appear reserved at first, but a friend made is yours for life. Rightfully, our 250th book is dedicated to David and Nancy West. 

A town’s spirit lives in vox populi, the voice of its people.

Williamsburg is a slice of Americana. It’s foundation combines strong people and rocky soil. My shovel echoing a “ding” whenever I tried to plant a bush is as true now as in 1995. Determined pioneers moved many a stone to create fields and erect walls. Hardy New England poet Robert Frost found physical labor underpinning for the words that followed. 

America was an English colony when Burgy was born. The United States declaration of independence from empire was a dream unfulfilled, and a nightmare for others. Loyalty to the crown was a default status from birth. Across the sea were a King and Parliament making rules and laws with no regard for its subjects, enforcing them with red-coated troops.

Restless Massachusetts colonists rebelled. Farmers of Concord and Lexington became Minutemen, and the die was cast.

I know more about Northampton’s 300th anniversary in 1954 than I do of Williamsburg’s 250th. In 1952, the Air Force sent me to the UK. I was my dad’s Jimmy on the spot to hand-deliver an engraved invitation to the mayor of Northampton, England. “Big Jim” was Hamp’s mayor; I missed the big parade.

My initiation to civic service in Northampton carried over to the good people of Williamsburg. A town with 2500 souls versus a city of near 30,000 requires similar duties but without the paid workforce. I wasn’t long here before I joined the Council on Aging advisory board. Much later, a talented group of artists created our entry for the State House Hall of Flags. Dozens of “Burgy” natives have shared their stories in the 250th Anniversary book. I will only quote excerpts of my own.

Memorial Day always found Dick Hillenbrand, Dave West and more at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in the center of town. I was honored to speak there in 2012. Afterward, I began a poem that appears in our 250th book:.

Taps On A Drum

Consider a village that honors its past
Men & women to whom Country-Last
Never crossed their mind when a call
To duty came in youth's season. Ball
Games put away like fielder's gloves
In a winter drawer. Prom-night loves
Would rarely survive the deep distance
Created by typewritten military chance. (etc.)

Our first friends here were Jack and Lorraine Barrack. I admired Jack  for his quiet dedication to poetry. Jack’s leaving is recalled in the conclusion to, “Postscript to a Poet:”

Fenced-in words, desiccated, nearly lost
		To hard-won readers consuming black teas
			Choosing life's latest token books by post.
		Goodbyes had fled his vocabulary,
			Tip-toeing aloft with nary a glance
		Our way. No published obituary
			For hoi polloi: RI.P. Jack. Bonne chance!

Northampton friends questioned Maureen and I about our retirement move to Williamsburg after forty Northampton years?  Our hope was that time itself moved slower in the hilltowns. 

So far, so good!

Burgy 250th Calendar of Events

          Williamsburg, Massachusetts–America the Beautiful–life size.

Sunday, June 26th, 6:30 p.m. Ecumenical Church Service, Williamsburg Congregational. Light refreshments, display.

Friday, July 15th: Burgy celebrations begin with fireworks  on River Road at 9: P.M. 

Saturday, July 16: Williamsburg for wanderers: Say howdy and find your interest: Crafts, Circus performers, book sale, Air Conditioned fun at Meekins Library, Ice cream social, at The Grange,  Tasty food trucks, Live music at Burgy Brews, and 7 p.m. Square Dance at The Grange.

Sunday, July 17th. 9: 30 to 11:30 a.m. 250th Anniversary Parade–Haydenville to Williamsburg center. 1:00 p.m. Chicken barbecue, American Legion Post 236 with music by Patrick Callinan.

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