Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day from my former neck of the woods

The older I get, the more nostalgia rolls in, through and around me. I am missing my mom, my family and my hometown today.

When I was 11 months old, I was adopted by a couple who, at the time, lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It is the largest city and county seat of Berkshire County. This small-in-size-but-big-in- talent Western Massachusetts city was to become my home for many, many years.
Most of the population occupies roughly one quarter of the city's land. Pittsfield lies at the fork of the east and west branches of the Housatonic River, which heads southward from the city towards Long Island Sound. The eastern branch leads down from the hills, while the western branch is fed from Onota Lake and Pontoosuc Lake (which is on the Lanesborough town line). Like much of western Berkshire County, the city lies between the Berkshire Hills to the east, and the Taconic Range to the west. To the west of the city also lies Pittsfield State Forest, a 65-acre park with hiking and cross-country skiing trails, camping, picnic areas, and a swimming beach. Sections of the Housatonic Valley Wildlife Management Area also dot the banks of the river.

Dad was an electrical engineer for G.E. He designed and oversaw the building of a very nice home in an up and coming development. Purchasing a lot in that neighborhood came with swimming rights to a lot on a nearby lake. It was a nice bike ride on a hot day. There were no fences designating property lines.

When Mom and Dad became “empty nesters” and decided it was time to sell their rather large house, they moved less than a mile from that home. Meanwhile, I had lived in some nearby “hill towns”, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and San Diego, CA. Always, always… I found my way home to Pittsfield. I used to say it was like a vacuum cleaner and just sucked me back into its hug. But what did this place have, that I found nowhere else?

Comfort? Yes, like a puffy comforter in the middle of the winter (oh! and do they ever have winter there!).

Family? Yes… Mom, Dad and many other relatives within a 2-hour drive.

Beauty? OH MY YES!!

History? Here is just a little of it…

Pittsfield was first settled in 1752 and was officially incorporated in 1761. Royal Governor, Sir Francis Bernard named Pittsfield after British nobleman and politician William Pitt. The town was a bustling metropolis by the late 19th century. In 1891, the City of Pittsfield was incorporated, and William Stanley, who had recently relocated his Electric Manufacturing Company to Pittsfield from Great Barrington, produced the first electric transformer. Stanley’s enterprise was the forerunner of the internationally known corporate giant, General Electric (GE). Thanks to the success of GE, Pittsfield’s population in 1930 had grown to more than 50,000. While GE Advanced Materials (now owned by SABIC-Innovative Plastics) continues to be one of the City’s largest employers, a workforce that once topped 13,000 was reduced to less than 700 with the demise and/or relocation of the transformer and aerospace portions of the General Electric empire.

Other interests in the area:
Berkshire County (known as the Berkshires) is a historic area that includes Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Not far from Pittsfield is Stockbridge, a small New England town and home of the Norman Rockwell Museum. Rockwell moved to Stockbridge in 1953. I had the pleasure of meeting the artist in person in 1970. I remember this because I was 7 months pregnant with my first son at that time. The extent of our conversation was a ‘please sign this print’ that I am purchasing and a ‘thank you’ for doing so.


And, how can I forget the Popcorn Wagon parked all summer long at the curbside of Berkshire County Savings Bank.
There is much much more that I will share in subsequent Saturdays. The marvelous thing about this “neck of my woods” is the amazing variety of wonderful things to do and see in a basically easy to navigate area. Maybe it’s easy because I lived there for so long. There are NO freeways so ALL the traffic that needs to get from any direction to any direction MUST go through the city. That can be frustrating at times.

And so this is where my heart is this weekend… even though I am told that it is cold and gray back there and even though I SWORE I would never be tied to a hometown… part of my heart is there.

thanks for stopping by... have a great day


  1. interesting! i'll bet your day is mortified at what ge has become, it is such a shame for a wonderful company like that to have the problems it has now...

    smiles, bee

  2. I know how you feel about being homesick. One more month and we will be back in beautiful Calif. No more thunderstorms or tornadoes. I just hope that last one we had is the last we will see. Can't hardly wait.

  3. carol, thanks for the introduction to Pittsfield. Sounds like a really nice area to be from! Happy Mother's Day! :)

  4. I so understand. I too miss my mother and my hometown today. :)

  5. What a wonderful description of your home town. You are so fortunate to have long memories of a place. Hope you had a wonderful mother's day.

  6. Don't forget about being a Hot Air Baloon Mecca for years... The first place in the WORLD that artifical snow was made (on the summit of Mt. Greylock)


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