Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving in Tri-Town.

Having returned to Philadelphia, I would like to share some photos taken on Thanksgiving Day in the Tri-Town Area, a group of mostly coastal communities in Southeastern Massachusetts comprised of my (non-coastal) hometown of Rochester and the adjacent (coastal) towns of Marion and Mattapoisett. Rochester is the oldest of the three towns - it was first settled in 1638 - but it is also the smallest of the three in terms of population and the most rural. The fields seen here represent a typical Rochester landscape; as you can see, I really did grow up in the country.

As a child, I was fascinated by this stained glass window in my home parish - in fact, the experience of staring at this window from a nearby pew is one of the three most vivid religious memories of my childhood, the second being the ringing of the handbell at the consecration (I wasn't yet tall enough to be able to see the kneeling altar boy who rang the bell, so I wondered where the sound came from) and the third being the sensory impressions that accompanied my first confession (the dark yet comforting environment of the confessional, the feeling of my knees on the cushioned prie-dieu, and the pastor's silhouetted profile seen obscurely through the mesh of the grille). In other words, my earliest religious memories are all linked to confession or transubstantion - make of that what you will.

This is not my home parish, but rather the First Congregational Church of Rochester and its vestry, which dominate the historic town green. The physical prominence of this church building offers a reminder that Congregationalism was once the established religion of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; thinking of this church and its heritage leads me to recall the description that Nathaniel Hawthorne gave of his Puritan ancestors in The Scarlet Letter - "bearded men, in sad-coloured garments and grey steeple-crowned hats" - for I imagine that Rochester's founders were men like these.

Here is another view of the First Congregational Church, captured in the sun and shadows of a bright Thanksgiving morning.

The American flag seen here is reflected in a window of Rochester's Town Hall, which is next door to the church vestry seen earlier. For more photos of the Town Hall and other highlights of 'downtown Rochester,' consult this post from May 2009.

This photo wasn't taken in the Tri-Town Area, but rather in Wareham, a larger town immediately east of Rochester and Marion where many Tri-Town residents shop and work. This new liquor store opened just a few weeks ago in a space formerly occupied by a Borders bookstore. When I saw Wines & More for the first time, I remarked to my sister that, while the book business may be suffering, plenty of people are apparently still willing to spend money on alcohol.

Getting back to Tri-Town, this is Marion's Silvershell Beach. Residents of landlocked Rochester have water rights in Marion, so this is the beach that I went to growing up. The strip of land visible at left, across the Harbor, is also part of Marion; though it's hard to tell in this photo, in person one can also see Cape Cod in the far distance.

Here are two seagulls at play, seen from Silvershell Beach. If you look very closely, you can also see a narrow strip of land on the horizon, across Buzzards Bay - that strip of land is Cape Cod, more specifically West Falmouth.

Moving on to Mattapoisett, the youngest and most populous of the Tri-Town communities, this is Salty the Seahorse, who has loomed over U.S. Route 6 in central Mattapoisett since the 1950s. Mattapoisett businessman Henry Dunseith built this 36-foot-tall sculpture to draw passing motorists to a small store he ran specializing in nautical souvenirs; appropriately enough, the store was called the Sea Horse Gift Shop. Following Dunseith's death in 1988, the Mattapoisett Land Trust assumed responsibility for Salty's care. The dilapidated remains of Dunseith's home and store were later torn down to make room for a public park now known as Dunseith Gardens, offering locals a pleasant place to relax in Salty's shadow.

Finally, this is the place where my Thanksgiving Day came to a close: Gilda's Stone Rooster, a venerable Marion bar where I had a midnight drink with my sister (note her purse at right, next to my Red Sox cap) before taking her to a nearby shopping center where she sought to take advantage of early-bird Black Friday bargains. In case you're curious, the "Stone Rooster" moniker is derived from the Italian surname of the bar's owner, Gilda Pietragalla, who is still going strong - and running the Stone Rooster on her own - at the age of 87. To learn more about Gilda and the Tri-Town institution over which she presides, read this June 2010 story from the Wareham Observer.

I hope that readers who may have been traveling for Thanksgiving have made it safely back to the places where they normally reside. I also hope that those readers who live according to the academic calendar are ready for the final weeks of the semester. Lastly - and most importantly - prayers and good wishes for all readers who begin the Season of Advent this weekend; may this time of preparation for the Feast of the Nativity be spiritually fruitful for us all. AMDG.


At 11/28/2011 12:42 PM, Blogger Robin said...

Oh,I enjoyed this. My husband's first job was in New Bedford and his boss lived in Mattapoisett, so we have picnicked on the beach there. Oddly, I was thinking about that for the first time in years the other day. And the only church my father ever officially joined was the Congregational Church in Williamstown when he was in college -- and he joined it mostly because of that starkly wonderful New England architecture.

At 11/28/2011 2:21 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


Small world! I didn't know you had personal ties to the SouthCoast. If you ever get back to Mattapoisett, I hope that it's just as you remember (it may well be, as it hasn't changed much in my lifetime).

I also like the comment about your father and church architecture - I find that Congregational church buildings in Massachusetts often seem to be organically rooted somehow, as if they naturally belong there. The Congregational tradition that the Puritans brought has definitely had a lasting influence on the local culture, even though the churches themselves aren't as prominent in society as they once were.


Post a Comment

<< Home