From Worcester State College

Hey guys,

Eight days, and I am done with the first leg of my journey! I started yesterday in the center of East Brookfield at 7 am. It was still too dark to walk safely, so I stopped for breakfast at the Trolley Stop Diner. Left about 7:30 and walked along Route 9 into downtown Spencer. Stopped again at the Kenwood Diner, a real old school diner that looks like a train car (I think I’m going to make it a point to stop in at every diner in Massachusetts that I come across.) The gentleman next to me offered to buy me my breakfast – waffles and strawberries. Thanks! We talked about Leicester, Spencer and St. John’s – he had coached Pop Warner Football for forty years, and knew most of the kids from the area who went on to play high school ball. Forty years – that’s dedication!

Continued East along the Old Post Road and managed to stay dry, despite the occasional drizzle. Browsed around the colonial cemetary behind the Congregational Church and found one of the oldest headstones I had seen so far – Mrs Mary Worster, d. April 25 1762. I expect I will find older stones as I walk closer to the Eastern part of the state.

A few blocks later, I was waylaid by the impeccably dressed Brianne Mallaghan of WCTR-TC Worcester Channel 3. “I’ve been looking all over for you!” she said after she pulled the station’s SUV into a side road. We did a short interview (she was the cameraman AND the reporter!). Then she filmed me talking to a few people I had met and filmed them writing in the notebook. Coincidently, two of the guys that I had talked to while she was filming, went to school with me in Leicester. We went to seperate high schools, so I hadn’t seen them since eighth grade – 16 years ago. Weird!

What’s even more odd was Brianna would drive ahead to to film the actual walking, but she would pull over WAY up ahead. So a while later, I would be strolling along, minding my own business then I’d look up, and like 20 yards ahead, she’s there with the tripod and the camera, tracking me. Funny!

Anyways, she did a really good job with the segment, considering we filmed at noon and it was on just a few hours later. Ceck it out on the New England Cable News’ Worcester News Tonight (try saying that 5 times fast!) Page: 

http://www.boston.com/news/necn/Shows/worcester/

And by the way, Kim Ring’s article for the Telegram and Gazette can be found here:  

http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061012/NEWS/610120531/1007/NEWS05

Thanks, Brianna and Kim!

After passing into Leicester, I stopped at the venerable Soojian’s Farm, which has been selling roadside produce for 58 years. Mr and Mrs Soojian doanted some delicious fall apples to get me through the rest of the afternoon.  

I passed Breezy Bend, passed the sight of the new Super Wal-Mart, set a little way off Route 9. I didn’t realize it before, but the facade, and I assume the whole building, is already standing. I guess now they are just doing the road work and adding in the utilities. It’s set to open next year.

While I was walking on Main Street through west Leicester, I passed house after house with For Sale signs in front. It seems everyone is trying to beat the predicted traffic and sell to commercial developers while the prices are up. It should be interesting to see what that side of town looks like in 5 years.

Another thing I found interesting were the police details. Two officers were directing traffic on Route 9 yesterday afternoon. I think Wal-Mart is paying the tab for those details. But I also spoke to another cop from the neighboring town of Spencer. Remember, Route 9 feeds from Leicester right into Spencer. Apparently, when Leicester is short of police for those details, they ask Spencer to send an officer over to help traffic. While he was telling me this, I was thinking, I wonder if Spencer would be so willing to cooperate if they knew what that Wal-Mart was going to do to their downtown business district. Those big department stores have a way of shutting down little center-of-town shops. There are a lot of those businesses in downtown Spencer, less then ten minutes away, so I hope I’m wrong.

 After coming down off Strawberry Hill, I met with Leicester Historical Commission Chairman Mr. Donald Lennerton. He was kind enough to chat with me for about 30 minutes about the history of the town – the Underground Railroad, the lost cemetaries, the pauper graves. The rivers, the mills, and the Nipmuc deals. Col. Henshaw’s men “Ready at a Minute’s Notice.”

Here is some exciting news – the Historical Commission just received a $50,000 grant from the state to renovate the May House, located within the Becker Junior College Campus in the Leicester’s Washburn Square (which was has just recently been listed in the National Register of Historic Places). When the house is finished, it will be the only stop on the Underground Railroad that is open for public viewing. Sweet! Turning history into tourism – if enough towns in could get on board, this could turn into something. Think a “Freedom Trail,” done by car, that connects towns like Auburn (for the Pike connection), Leicester, Spencer, the Brookfields, the quaint common in Barre, Paxton, maybe the Clara Barton House in Charlton, get back onto the Pike in Sturbridge, after a visit to Old Sturbridge Village … Think tourists flying into Boston, renting a car, getting off at Exit 10 on the Pike and making a day trip, following a well-marked loop all around the backroads of Central Mass.  And with tourists, restaurants and little shops would spring up as well. I think the besides Boston and Plymouth, the rest of Massachusetts could parlay their historical heritage into attracting revenue, but the key is better transportation.

Anyways, just an idea..

Well, the computer lab here at WSC is about to close.  I am home for the weekend, working on this blog, trying to post some photos, resting my sore feet, and going to a cousin’s wedding tomorrow night at the Worcester Art Museum. I love the WAM and it should be fun to attend a wedding there – and since I’ve just walked 140+ miles, I finally have a valid excuse why I can’t get up and dance!! Ha haha!!!

PS. Ware is named after the the weirs, the baskets the Nipmucs used to catch fish. It seems it is one of the few towns around here that is not named after a person or a town in England.

Next question:  Why did Auburn, Massachusetts have to change its name? Hint: The answer is relateD to Ware…

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