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Flea market is great 'dig' for history buffs

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Charlie Ryan has been taking some major heat lately from people with legitimate complaints city retirees about their health plan and police and teachers who are operating without a contract.

I can certainly understand their anger and, in the case of the teachers and police, I would be remiss to remind them just who set them up in the mess they are in the previous administration of Mayor Michael Albano.

Ryan has to try to cash the check that Albano wrote with the "assistance" of the state appointed Financial Control Board.

Of course the Control Board was set up in such a way that Ryan and City Councilor Timothy Rooke can be out-voted on any issue. It's also clear that the Financial Control Board and the Romney Administration have no problem spending considerable money on staffing for itself, but are willing to drag their feet on the union contracts.

There is no excuse for these delays. The services represented by these employees are simply too valuable to sacrifice for some sort of short-lived political gain by the Romney crew.

I think both unions would be better served, though, by telling their side of the story I certainly offer them space on this page than by harassing people at a Ryan election event. I know I'm more open to listen to a person when he isn't stopping me from going some place I want to go and yelling at me.

Let's hope these two contracts are resolved as soon as possible for the good of the city.


My mom gave me a book about Roy Chapmen Andrews when I was in first grade and the adventures of the globetrotting paleontologist made a deep impression on me. Perhaps that's why a woolly mammoth bone sits on my desk. Perhaps that's why I love the Old Hadley Flea Market.

When ever I go I know I have the chance of digging up artifacts that relate to our local history. Granted it's not the same as discovering dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert, but it's a thrill for me.

About every other Sunday my wife and I travel up to Hadley to the outdoor flea market on Route 47. It's a great ride through South Hadley and the old village of Hockanum where my family lived for about two years in the mid-1960s.

The market has hundreds of dealers some professional, some folks who are just getting rid of stuff they no longer want. Any old pile of books, magazines or paper draws me like a moth to a flame.

I'm always amazed at what I can find and how affordable these items are.

For instance, this past Sunday, I found a postcard in pristine condition of a scene on State Street in Springfield. It shows the building that now houses the School Department and next to it a magnificent church in what is now the parking lot next to that building. I had heard of that structure, but this was the first time I had seen a photo of it.

In previous "digs" at the market, I found a thick program book without a front cover. It was for the 250th celebration of the founding of the town of Hadley from 1909. It's a wealth of information and photos of not only Hadley, but South Hadley and Granby as well. In fact, there is a great photo of the house in which we lived in Hockanum and the author of the essay declared it the oldest house in that section of Hadley.

The ads sponsoring the program book are also a delight for the history buff. There's a half-page ad for Skinner's Satins, the fabric manufactured by the William Skinner Company in Holyoke. Merriam-Webster of Springfield touts its new dictionary in another ad.

In the mid-1940s, the city of Springfield published digest-sized booklets explaining what services the city provided and how the city tax dollars were spent. They were annual reports to the residents of the city and I found two of them at the market. They're fascinating in depicting the state of the city 60 years ago.

My favorite postcard dealer had a box of prints on his table this week. They were wood and linoleum block cuts and were quite handsome. A Granby woman I had known when growing up there made them. She ran an auction house near Five Corners and I had no idea she was a fine artist, but the dealer told me that she had formal training and the prints showed it. I'm going to get one the next time I see him.

I visited a table several years ago that had a variety of local items on it, including a large embroidered patch that undoubtedly was manufactured for use on a jacket or uniform. It's a single word "Rialto" and I know that it was from the Rialto Skating Rink that had been a fixture on Walnut Street in Springfield for many years. The rink is now gone and the property is the home of the expanded Mason-Wright retirement community.

I know that for many people history was not their favorite subject in school. But for me, history explains where we've been in the hopes of understanding where we are going. And finding these little time capsules illuminates that process.

Standard disclaimer applies. These are my thoughts, so don't blame the Buendos.