Plymouth Rock Honors Charniak Milestone  
Thursday, August 5, 2010

John F. Cunninghan of Dudley is no ways near old enough to recall when the Webster based Charniak Insurance Agency was established in 1960.

But Mr. Cunningham, employed in the marketing department at Plymouth Rock Assurance Corp. of Boston, recognizes an insurance story when he reads one, especially when the business he works for has a service interest.

When Stephen H. Charniak, current owner of the business established by his late father, Henry P. Charniak, hoisted a 50th anniversary banner over the the company’s Main Street office, the observance was reported in this corner.

Mr. Cunningham read the column and his marketing sense flashed “recognition.” This is why Plymouth Rock president Chris Olie visited on a recent Thursday in Webster, presenting a nice gold-on-black plaque to Mr. Charniak.

So I’ve Heard provided some of the history to the Charniak story, established and grown by two generations in the local family.

The Pilgrim plaque reads: “Congratulations to Charniak Insurance Agency Inc. For 50 Years of Service and Dedication to the Community of Webster 1960-2010 Plymouth Rock Assurance.”

Mr. Olie added a few comments of his own. It was a short but appropriate ceremony, suggesting that insurance companies appreciate the multiservice agencies that represent them.

The special commission that developed the list of “1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts” probably did the best they could, considering that 13,000 places were nominated.

Yet they included some memories, such as Webster’s Main Street Historical District. The “great” places proclamation came out July 13, while conduit work for 19 new streetlights, designed to look old, like the 13 completed in recent times, was in progress. The idea, I guess, is to reawaken interest in the downtown as a commercial center.

A planned riverfront park behind Main Street, on the French River, hooked again to state-managed dollars, looms as a plus — if it can be monitored. I’m betting “likely” because a dedicated, hard-working group of volunteers, The French River Connection, is in on the planning. If the thought is history as in the years before and after World War II, when retail activity really flourished, the “great places” designation seems more a case of what was than what’s current.

Now, let’s offer a few “great places” of our own in largely overlooked Dudley. The Black Tavern Historical Society Museum at Dudley Center, to mention something live with activity and truly historic, and the Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library, to suggest something absolutely new. Fundraising, planning, review, site development, rehabilitation or from-scratch decisions, and more fundraising stood front and center for more than a decade, and finally, construction occupied the curious for months. So nominators lost an opportunity to identify a current project as “great,” and library certainly is that. Then there are the views from Dudley Hill, the Nichols College Campus, and the historic Stevens Linen Mill, organized as a textile facility around 1812.

Oxford’s “great places” include the Clara Barton Birthplace Museum, certainly a national treasure; the Huguenot Fort on Mayo’s Hill, antedating the U.S. as a nation; the Hodges Village Dam, an Army Corps of Engineers contribution; and Carl’s Oxford Diner, to stray a bit, but certainly “great” for anyone in search of more victuals than some people can digest. A great owner, Paul T. Brenner, cook Gordon Cook, and a fantastic staff make Carl’s great, says our friend Irene Savageau. So, she works there but she encouraged a “fun” approach to largesse before the state got in on the routine. Guys that end up short in consuming their purchase get a painted fingernail to highlight the attempt. The other criteria is they have to volunteer.

If there’s been any word about completion of the Perryville Road bridge, one of the five Webster-to-Dudley-and-back-again spans (there used to be seven before a Dudley industry sealed off a couple), I haven’t read anything.

The project has been ongoing for years, and it finally looks like work could be wrapped up before too long, says Dudley’s Dan Healy. He’s not too impressed, though. The area might be new and better overall, but the bridge doesn’t seem much wider than the one it’s replacing.

Mr. Healy estimates width of each lane at 13 sneakers. Dan probably hopped around on one foot to take a photograph of the bridge with a sneaker set sideways off a center stripe. He moved it 13 times to get his estimate.

Friend Charlotte Brisbois, now of the great state of Colorado, e-mails: “I really enjoyed Al Zackiewicz’s reminiscences (July 8) of the old days on Upper Lake Street (1930s). He was a classmate of mine at Bartlett at the time we (her family) lived on Emerald Avenue, a few houses from his family home. He sure had all the facts right. Those were wonderful days.”

Two years ago, when Webster’s Robert E. Moore celebrated his 88th birthday, his family went with the numbers 8/8/88 , celebrating with a gathering at the 88’s restaurant in Dudley.

Garrett R. Moore of Clifton, Va., the oldest of Bob and the late Mary Moore’s six children, says his Dad’s 90th birthday, actually this Sunday, will be observed Saturday, probably in a tent at the family home on Englewood Street. “We are celebrating a day early to allow for travelers to fly or drive back to their homes on Sunday,” says Garrett.

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Telegram & Gazette

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