Park has enduring effects; Towtaid celebrates its 110th birthday.
Byline: Betty Lilyestrom
COLUMN: LEICESTER NOTEBOOK
June 16 was a special anniversary for the folks in the Cherry Valley section of town, but chances are very few people have any idea what it commemorates. This writer was one of them, until our recent mail contained an old newspaper clipping from T&G columnist Albert B. Southwick.
Al spends a good bit of his time going through old microfilms looking for historical items he can use in his column. And every once in a while, he comes across a bit of Leicester history he thinks could provide material for the Leicester Notebook and sends it along.
The latest offering is dated June 16, 1900, and the event it describes was the formal dedication of Towtaid Park. Folks today may not celebrate the anniversary, which this year was the 110th, but they certainly celebrated the park's beginnings, according to the article.
Towtaid Park is on five acres next to Kettle Brook in the Cherry Valley mill village. It was donated to the town by one James Logan of Worcester, who apparently owned one of the mills in the village. Bylined simply as "Special to The Telegram," the clipping was accompanied by not one, but two drawings of Mr. Logan, one on the front page and the other on the page with the continuation.
There was no mention of how many folks attended the afternoon dedication other than to note that 136 of them were children from the nearby Cherry Valley School who came over at 3 p.m., after their school closed for the day.
There were several speakers, all of them greeted "by a perfect volley of applause," according to the reporter. And there was music, provided by the Spencer Brass Band and the Cherry Valley School children, who sang songs.Mr. Logan was one of the last speakers on the program and his remarks, according to the reporter, were "brief and given in his usual modest way."
"Mr. Logan explained how he came to give the park, thanked the people for their appreciation, and said that he hoped it would ever be so," the story said. "The school children then sang `Hail Columbia' which was followed by three cheers for Mr. Logan, `the Cherry Valley factory boy,' led by George Legg of George H. Thomas Post, G.A.R."
Though its anniversary has not been celebrated, Towtaid Park is important not just to Cherry Valley but to the entire town of Leicester. It was one of the areas responsible for the vote by the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission to include Leicester in the corridor.
Research on the park and planning for its care and future also helped the Leicester High School Environmental Club earn special honors at the Massachusetts Envirothon in 2006.
And another look into the past - dimly for many of us, but still clearly in the memory of those involved: the heyday of Leicester Junior College.
Leicester Junior ceased to exist under that name in 1977, when it merged with Becker College. But it still holds periodic reunions on the Leicester campus that was once its home.
The latest Leicester Junior College all-season reunion was just over a month ago and it was attended by more than 70 alums, many from the class of 1960, for whom it's the 50th anniversary of graduation.
Also on hand were grads from the class of 1964, a year when the school attracted national attention for its basketball team, which became the first New England junior college team to reach the national championships. That team, as were many LJC teams, was coached by Paige Rowden.
Two years ago, Becker invited members of that team back to the campus for an all-class reunion, during which the college unveiled a monument to the late coach Rowden, who also taught and coached at Leicester High School. He has also been voted into the National Junior College Coaches Hall of Fame.
This year's reunion had no special event planned, but featured tours of the Leicester campus, which has expanded considerably since they were in school and has plans to expand still further. The alums also had an opportunity to visit some area spots with which they may be familiar - the Worcester Art Museum, the Basketball Hall of Fame, Higgins Armory and Tower Hill Botanic Garden.
And a reminder of something that's in the future.
The first of this season's concerts on the Leicester Common bandstand will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. Performing will be the group that has become a traditional season-opener in Leicester - the Blackstone Valley Concert Band - presenting an evening of Fourth of July favorites. In case of rain, the concert will be held the next evening at the same time.