Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Driving Around Fort Rodman and Other Tales From New Bedford

From a central base camp of Middleboro, the remaining "to do's" of our Vintage Marilyn tour were ready to begin. The first stop was Plimouth Plantation and the Rock by the same name. Now if your thinking that "Plymouth" looks a little more familiar spelled like this- I'm with you. But that is not what they use on the signage and brochures for the tourists. The original governor of the state apparently spelled it with the "i" instead of the "y" and I suppose that just adds to the mystique of the place. It really was quite fascinating. So with Marilyn as my tour guide, off we went to see the sights around the area where she grew up and still thinks of as "home" in one way or another.
I doubt very much I have to tell you the history, so I won't. Every year when you sit down to a turkey and some corn on the Thanksgiving Celebration table, you no doubt think back to the Pilgrims who sailed here on the Mayflower and landed at Plimouth Rock...and the Indians who broke bread with them for that first celebration. It hasn't always worked out so well for the Indians, or native Americans, which is a much better term in all truth, but slowly things are falling into correction mode and hopefully everyone winds up getting a fair shake, even if it takes all too long to be accomplished. The replica of the Mayflower that sits tied up to the dock is a fully functional ship and crawling around the inside and standing on deck looking out to sea puts the task of arriving here safely after a cross Atlantic sail into a perspective you are not likely to have if you don't do just that. As for Plimouth Rock- ah, well, more like Plimoth Broken Stone, but they do house the curiosity in a rather grandiose monument which hit me like a cross between The Lincoln Memorial and Alcatraz. At least we know that now it can't escape and afford it some honor and protection.
It is, however, not that big a deal as far as I could tell. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me there were just as many other rocks around that also could have been the focus of the hoopla....

But the replica colonial village and Indian village at the Plimouth Plantation were very worthwhile bits of "re-enacted" history and life there goes on today as sort of a living museum much as it did in the day of the Pilgrim's Landing. It was every bit as enjoyable as it was educational. Below, Marilyn sits in the dugout canoe which reminded us of our cayucos that we used in Honduras.

The Pilgrim buildings were great to look at and explore, but it was all too easy to see how hard a life that had to have been. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and dependent upon a lot of elements that were not easily controlled in the day.
Flounder on the spit and a pot of beans simmered away over coals in the Indian village.
Indian huts were covered with bark in contrast to the rush thatched roofs of the Colonial settlement buildings. Of the two types of structures, the Indian domiciles were much more energy efficient.

Now a tavern and ice cream shop in large part, we also took a look at Jenny Grist Mill, one of Marilyn's favorite places to hang out.
Then off to visit Cousin Bobby and his wife Susan who have a remarkably beautiful and pastoral property right in Middleboro and not very far at all from our campground. Bobby's classic wooden sailing vessel was in his shed for some work and a paint job and we climbed aboard for a tour.
Boston was less than an hour away, so into the city for a day we went. Lunch at Cheers, an exact replica of the set from the famous TV show of the same name as the original Boston Pub on Beacon Hill was excellent. Norm was at the bar, as always, sipping a cold one.

We have always enjoyed a stroll around Quincy market and Faneuil Hall so for sure it had to be part of the activities on this vist as well. There is always plenty to do and see at the market.

Monday at the Boston Aquarium. The special jelly fish exhibit was open.

It was time to hand feed the sea turtles int he big tank....

and scrub down the rocks in the penguin pool.

I don't think I have ever gone there in all the times I have been in my life, without seeing a fish I have never seen before. Same held true on this day.

Now about Fort Rodman!!! It's actually Fort Taber now, but that really doesn't matter one iota. When Marilyn lived and went to first St. Mary's and then Bishop Stang in New Bedford before her family relocated to Maine, it was indeed Fort Rodman. And it is no whale of a tale for me to tell you that in nearly every meeting with family in the area that we have had along the way- and you have met a lot of the friends and relatives right along with me- I have heard the extended family refer over and over and over again to "take a ride around the Fort before we go back to the house.
"Daddy, on the way home from the Cape, can we take a ride around the fort?"
" We went out for pizza to 'Me and Eds,' then we took a ride around the fort before we went home."
"Uncle Arthur and Auntie Louise took us to Six Gun City and Santa's Village on a very long trip, but we all took a ride around the fort before they took me home."
"Remember your date with So & So and the big party in my garage, and we all went out and took a ride around the fort?"
I heard it, yes! But I didn't really "get it." Until, that is, until I took the drive around Fort Rodman. The drive "around" the fort is actually a drive around the outer limits of New Bedford, where the old fort still stands protecting the town from the onslaughts, whatever they might be, other than hurricanes of course. It loops outside the jetties past Clark's Cove, where the Luckraft home looked over the fields to the Cove and onward to sea., around the tip of the land mass and the fort itself, then winds back beside Buzzard's Bay and into town proper. It is as pretty a ride as you can take, and I see now why they always wanted to take that ride one more time. As it is easy to overlook that which is right before you, I am glad now to understand that neither Marilyn nor her family ever did. They took "the ride around Fort Rodman", at every opportunity, and I am sure they are all the better for having done so. It was a privilege for me as well, if only for this one time.

And on our ride around the fort, we stopped at the fishing pier and the City Sailing School Beach and came across a "Boat with a flat tire."

It seems that a wheel fell off the school's sailboat dolly. "No big deal", the instructor told me. "We are many so if we all lift a little, no one will have to lift a lot, and the boat will still get where it needs to go...."
The simple lessons are usually the easiest to demonstrate.
And off they, and it, went!

In the heyday of the whaling industry, New Bedford was the highest per capita income town in America. Sadly for the "per capitas" that is no longer the case and jobs are an issue here now as they are in many places where one industry was once the name of the game, and no longer is. But on the other hand, the whales are feeling pretty good about things as they stand and the pendulum is trying to swing in a direction that brings tourists and their money to town to learn about the whaling industry. The biggest and best Whaling Museum anywhere is right downtown. It's a great way to spend some time!

From the observation deck atop the Whaling Museum, there's a great view of New Bedford Harbor as it looks today- a mix of commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft. Note the "chimney cleaning widow walk combo" on the roof in the foreground.

The house that Henry Luckraft and his family built in new Bedford. Although the neighborhood is a lot more built up then it was when Marilyn lived there with her family, the house still has commanding water views and appeared to be in great shape. She tried knocking on the door to see if anyone was home, but unfortunately no one was, so no super picture from the back yard, where the view would have been the best.
We finished off our time in New Bedford area with a visit to the home of Marilyn's best friend from high school, Susan, and her husband Michael. Barbecue on the back deck and dinner around the pool, then sitting around the country kitchen to look at old photos of the two of them made for a wonderful wrap on the trip to the old hometown.

No comments: