Bring History Home
On October 16, 2011, the Historical Society of Watertown hosted a Sunday brunch and auction of select bound volumes of The Watertown Enterprise and The Watertown Sun newspapers dating from 1879-1941. The theme was “Bring History Home” and the event was held at The Talk Restaurant.
Several years ago, when the Watertown Free Public Library was undergoing renovation and expansion, the administration offered over 100 volumes, bound by year, of newspapers to the Historical Society. The Library was not interested in keeping the newspapers, as they have most of the volumes on microfilm. The Historical Society was excited to receive these original newspapers and they have been an invaluable resource for historical information about the Town over these last few years.
The Society’s Collections Committee is in the midst of cataloging all of the items in our collection. Last winter we began cataloging the bound volumes of newspapers and discovered that we had duplicates of 54 volumes. We thought we might auction them online or offer them for sale during our next yard sale.
While looking through the 1939 volume, we discovered a 4-week series on the then brand new Police Station on Cross Street (now John Sonny Whooley Way). We remembered that former Town Council President and current WCATV news anchor Pam Piantedosi was working on a documentary history of the Police Department and thought she might find some useful information in these articles. Collections Committee Chair Joyce Kelly called Pam and arranged for her to visit the Fowle House to look at them. The Council also voted to let Pam take the volume home and use it for research, then present it to the Police Department in their new location at 552 Main Street.
Watertown Chief of Police Ed Deveau at the auction
holding the 1939 volume of The Watertown Sun
Pam was captivated by the 1939 newspapers. As she put it, "Within these historical volumes reside family names, events, the history of the emergence of land from farms to industry and the growth of a population of a town that thousands of people call home." She felt that people in the Watertown community would find these newspapers fascinating. When we told her our plans for the duplicates, she suggested an auction fundraiser instead. And she volunteered to chair it!
Pam Piantedosi, David Russo and Matthew McNeff standing
among the newspaper volumes available for silent auction
Preparation for the event began immediately. In order to interest the public, we needed to promote the content of the newspapers. A bulk email went out to the Historical Society membership, asking for volunteers to comb through the old newspapers looking for stories of interest to the public. Each volunteer typed up his or her notes and sent them to Joyce Kelly, who compiled them in a searchable PDF document. The 108-page document is the result of many hours of work over a period of months by the team of volunteers who scrutinized the 54 bound volumes. You will find references to new buildings, family names, industries, town events, infrastructure, real estate transactions, personal profiles, local politics, obituaries, photographs, advertisements and other items of interest. We hope that this document will serve as a valuable research tool for future historical inquiries.
Many thanks go to the volunteers who donated weekend hours over the spring and summer of 2011 to complete this project: Peggy Anderson, Ron Beaver, Don Berg, Audrey Jones Childs, Catherine Chvany, Kathy Downer, Joyce Kelly, Bob Leathe, Tom Melone, Lynne A. O’Connell, Tom Perry, Marilynne Roach, David Russo, Mary Spiers and Ted Wayne.
There are so many people to thank for their help in making this auction the huge success that it was, including Kaz Keuchkarian, who offered to hold the auction at his restaurant, The Talk; John Madden, who did a fantastic job as our auctioneer, selling every volume!; and the many volunteers and donors who made this event possible. Of course, we can’t forget the guests who attended and bid on these exceptional treasures full of Watertown history.
Our auctioneer, John Maden, looking
over his notes prior to the auction
A huge thank you goes to Pam Piantedosi, who developed the idea for the silent and live auction fundraiser, then followed through and made it happen. We couldn’t have done it without her.
Peggy Anderson and Clare Murphy greeted guests at the check-in table
Proceeds from the fundraiser will help the Historical Society preserve its collection, including the Edmund Fowle House. The auctioned bound volumes of these historical newspapers will be centerpieces of conversation for years to come.