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East Longmeadow: A place where possibilities abound

Date: 7/26/2011

July 25, 2011

By Amanda Butcher

Special to Reminder Publications

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great mind of the nineteenth century, once said, “America is another name for opportunity,” and he was right. Living in this country has given us chances that we wouldn’t have living elsewhere. We have freedoms that other countries don’t give and opportunities that others wouldn’t dream of having. East Longmeadow has been a place where possibilities abound.

Almost a hundred years ago, East Longmeadow was the place to be for Eastern Europeans looking for work. Their new opportunities involved East Longmeadow brownstone and the multiple quarries that were in town. In 1915, a fourth of the population was made of first-generation foreigners, most of whom were here to work the quarries.

The quarries in East Longmeadow, especially the quarries owned by the Norcross brothers, were some of the most productive in New England. The extensive quarrying, however, wouldn’t last. According to a thesis written by a student attending the International Young Men’s Christian Association College (currently Springfield College), “the population [of East Longmeadow] had steadily grown” until 1895. Between 1895 and 1900 though, East Longmeadow lost a little over 25 percent of its population because the quarries were out of business and people had to look for employment elsewhere.

The population loss wasn’t the end of East Longmeadow. People came in waves when the trolley system was completed, almost doubling the town’s population by 1940.

Today, the population of East Longmeadow is over 16,000 and still growing from past years. Most of the population isn’t first-generation foreign-born; most people have descended from the original settlers of Western Massachusetts. A little less than five percent of the current population of East Longmeadow is foreign born, instead of the hefty 25 percent almost a hundred years ago.

Though people don’t often move in from overseas, I’ve met a lot of people who have moved in from elsewhere like New York City and Washington State, and there are some who have moved out of town to places like California and Great Britain.

Perhaps the reason people move into and out of East Longmeadow is that they are trying to find a place to make a difference. A lawyer may leave because East Longmeadow is too far from D.C.; a doctor may come back because of our proximity to the Springfield hospitals.

Times today haven’t changed much from the days of the past: people still move in to East Longmeadow because of opportunity. Almost a hundred years ago, citizens of Western Massachusetts flocked to East Longmeadow because of the weight early townspeople put on education; today still, families looking for a great education for their children need look no further than East Longmeadow.

Even though some of the 236 of us who graduated this year may be moving out to go to college or join the service, there are also people pouring in. East Longmeadow is still a land of many opportunities. We just have to look for them.

Amanda Butcher of East Longmeadow is a college freshman and contributing writer to Reminder Publications.

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