Thursday, January 30, 2014

Boston in Photos

Boston is a gorgeous city marked by brick reds, copper greens, blue windows and black details.
Harbor That Was the Scene of the Boston Tea Party

Reflection of Downtown Boston from South Boston

Boston Public Gardens

Make Way for Ducklings Sculpture

Read This Story Many a Time

Haven in the Rain, Bridge over Garden Lake.. Ice Skater Just Out of Sight!

Wreath on a Door in Beacon Hill

Original Antique Glass That Has Turned Purple, Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill Street
Pay Attention

Ben Franklin's Hat

Plaque Honoring First School in Boston

Commonwealth Neighborhood
Copper Roofs, Chimneys, Ironwork

Memorial to Fallen Firefighters of 1700's Hotel Fire on Commonwealth Ave.


       I came to Boston and found knights.  The knights above are getting walloped by Sir Galahad in a painting in the Boston Public Library.  I have often thought that I might have knights in my family.  The name Templeton has been attributed to meaning "place of the Knights of Templar".  I've spent the last three days mostly at the Library researching names.  

Sir Galahad in Red Rescuing Women
       Yesterday I spent hours trying to trace a family lineage.  It seemed to have some ties in Massachusetts back to the 1600’s.  The story just got better as I worked… one ancestor a founder of Concord, Massachusetts.  He had sent three sons to Harvard University, one whom married the daughter of the President of Harvard.  But here was the tricky part.  My relative’s wife’s name was Mary and that didn't match with the name of the President's daughter.  Not uncommon to have two wives back then and multiple children.  At the moment of discovering this discrepancy, the library announced that it was closing time.  I had been there since about 10:30 in the morning and it was now 9:00 in the evening.  All the way home I wondered about these two wives.  Why did he have one in Concord, be so well connected and then move to North Carolina to have more kids?

   At home I took up the search.  The answer was that there were two men, similar names, similar birth and death dates and nary did their paths cross. If I am related to this illustrious family that I researched for hours, I’ll have to go back further to the Netherlands.  No guarantee.  After laughing at having spent so much time chasing “unattached guys” I went to sleep content at having a timeless day at the library.
Stairs of the Library Leading to the Room of Sir Galahad
     My seemingly “lost” hours researching unrelated people felt timeless.  Early afternoon I had noticed the sun drenched skyscrapers outside of the window.  When I looked up again, it was darkness of late evening.  Hours like these have such a special quality.  The beauty of them is the intensity with which one works while time passes.  Hours like these are rare.  I'll likely remember this day.  I suppose if I could keep this day as if it were a ball in a bowl of special days, it would be blue ball with gold tracings and fake jewels!  
Knight Sculpture in the Victorian and Albert Museum, London
     Knights.  Back to Knights.  Today I returned to the Boston Library once again.  Carefully checking lineage a bit closer, I began looking for names in a book called "English Origins of New England Families From The New England Historical and Genealogical Register".  Ralph Denham, Esq. married Elizabeth Wentworth, daughter of Sir Thomas Wentworth, knighted for his bravery at the battle of Spurs, 16 August, 1513.  A knight, a knight, a knight!  In fact, in a glance I can count at least eight knights of Elizabeth's family lines, my family line.  

     Ralph and Elizabeth grandchild was the first of their family to immigrate to America.  How far back has Elizabeth's family been traced?  Back to the Doomsday Book of 1066.  The Doomsday or Day of Judgement Book sounds pretty grim.  It was a compilation of names of all of the people and their assets collected essentially for purposes of taxation by William the Conqueror.  William stated that it was to be an irrefutable judgement.  (Sounds like an early IRS.)

     Knights were brave, but I think that the ones who crossed the ocean in the 1630's had to be as brave... both the men and the women.     

Post Script:  Visiting the Boston Library has allowed me to get a temporary two-year library card.  Today I used it in the Map Resource Room (22,000 maps) to find maps of Plymouth and of Leiden, Netherlands.  As one passes the lion on the stairs, one is supposed to stroke it's tale for good luck.  I did that yesterday and I think it helped.


Monday, January 27, 2014


     John F. Kennedy would say, “Arvard” and we all knew that he was referring to the venerable college, the rival of Yale.  Over my lifetime I have made a mental stack of the mentions of Harvard and built them into a myth.  Riding the T-line from Boston I knew that my stop would be Harvard Square and I prepared myself for my first view of this revered American institution. 

      Disconcertingly the Square is a triangle with the first view mostly of what seems to be the backside of a brick dorm.  There is an odd assortment of tacky buildings edging the remaining sides of the Square.  A newsstand hunkers down in the middle of the triangular island obscuring the entrance into Harvard.  Once one can see the entrance, it seems more fitting to a back entrance than a front and so it is. The original entrance was farther up the road.  Not to be deterred I made plans to cross the campus at a later date.

       To be fair the “Square” began as a village center with a stream curving along side of it making it into more of a triangle.  The Square once had a stone marked with "eight miles" as the distance that it would take a coach to travel to Boston. When a bridge was finally constructed over the Charles River, the new mileage "two and a half miles" was carved on the back of the stone.  The stone remained until construction on the subway system relegated it to a rubbish heap.  Fortunately someone noticed it and rescued it.  The stone now stands nearby in God’s Acres, the old burying ground by the Common.

       A short distance into the campus one begins to feel the elegance of the old buildings.

       Harvard Yard, situated a hundred yards into the grounds, is lovely.  I crossed it late one evening with snow falling.  Not knowing precisely where I should be going, I followed the paths with the most footprints in the snow. 

Harvard Yard

       A lone yardman swept the high steps to one of the libraries as the snow fell, trying to keep it safe for late-night studies. The library is open only to students and professors (unlike some other university libraries).  Here is a view taken the next day from those well-swept library steps. 

        The campus of Harvard has now spread across 209 acres, some of which are located across the river on the Boston side.  Harvard is one of seven research colleges in the Boston area.  The total of seventy or so colleges in the greater Boston area is impressive. As I ride around on the transit system, there are college students on every route.  Today I spoke to a student from Turkey.

       Puritans founded Harvard in 1636.  (It is unlikely they would have appreciated the co-ed dorms now standard.)  The success of the school in promoting excellence is astonishing.  Harvard has produced 47 Nobel Laureates, 32 heads of state and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners.

      Betty, who I stayed with in Cambridge, a friend of hers and I walked Mt Auburn Cemetery, the oldest landscaped cemetery in the United States. Harvard presidents and many of its illustrious students are buried here.  The chilly sunlit snowy grounds were perfect for a quiet walk.  The day was glorious.  We enjoyed each other’s company stopping here and there to point out a particularly poignant headstone or tree. 

Mt. Auburn is noted for it's variety of trees.

Betty and Her Friend

Not sure who is buried here... certainly unique.
     Cambridge had been a most enjoyable place to visit.  I loved the feeling of tradition.  Betty was an exceptional host.  She had many varied activities planned.  She took me to a Thursday Morning Talk.  These benefit a Mt. Auburn hospital.  The Talks have been a regular event for about 113 years!  Beef broth is served in teacups from silver urns prior to the talk.  The talk on the day I attended was about the role that philanthropy takes in Boston's wellbeing.  Improving the education levels of young African Americans is their current most pressing task.  

     Bread and Butter Puppet Show

      The intellectual and creative atmosphere of the Boston area is impressive.  I’ll finish this entry with a nod to the Bread and Butter Puppet Theatre.  I don’t know if anyone involved in the most recent show had a Harvard connection, but the show was at least Harvard worthy.  The depressing theme of oppression was conveyed by the large-scale background drapes of black and white drawings, the huge grim puppets (sometimes reaching fifteen feet in height) and the archaic machines. 

     The audience walked about during the entire performance following the puppets, musicians or the people as they acted out the play with puppets appearing from behind the drapes, or dropping from the ceiling.   I am sorry that I didn’t get any photos during the play, but maybe these photos will convey its strange sadness.  The large room was dark during the play with various kinds of spotlights directing your attention. 

   At the end of one week, Betty helped me move to Winthrop-by-the-Sea.  (I think we both shall miss our late night talks.)  For the next two weeks I am living about a block from the water in a community north of Boston.