History and Development are Celebrated  
Thursday, September 1, 2011


Major ceremonies -- the 150th anniversary of Civil War service, and dedication of a downtown park — took the better part of the day Aug. 20.

It was history and development, one in reverence and patriotism and the other in volunteer service, hope and promise. Robert Ducharme of Dudley, the region’s leading Civil War historian, retold the story of the “Departure (July 19, 1861) of the Slater Guards,” actually the 15th Mass. Company 1 for war service. The guards honored S. Slater & Sons Co., then the town’s leading manufacturer.

They had trained for several weeks at Eliot’s Shore on Webster Lake, now Beacon Park and managed as a condominium project.

•Slater’s Guards distinguished themselves at the battle of Ball’s Bluff Oct 21, 1861. Forty-nine members were killed in action or died in the service. The locals had been on active duty 3 months and 2 days. Once organized, Nathaniel Lyon Post 61, Grand Army of the Republic commemorated the date of the battle. E.P. Morton Camp No. 85, Sons of Veterans subsequently held a Battle of Ball’s Bluff memorial breakfast. The Sons of Veterans Camp disbanded after Christian Holly, the town’s last Civil War veteran, died in 1936. Several of the Sons held unofficial meetings on or about the battle date for another 15 or 16 years, meeting for coffee and pastries at McGeary’s Restaurant on Main Street in Webster. Michael Ryan, Laurence J. Daly, Richard J. Dwyer, Charles Leavens and three others attended the final breakfast.

•The Riverway Park, promoted by The French River Connection and financed mostly through the Webster Office of Community Development, is located behind Main Street, not far from the town post office and the Town Hall, really at the foot of the Main Street parking lot.

The park offers parking spaces, picnic tables with benches attached, quiet seating, and an area to launch canoes and kayaks in the river; and illumination. The area was selected because it has a natural grade to the river’s edge. Slopes inhibit access otherwise.

The significant points are the town never had any recreational activities or park programs on the river, although ice skating was long possible on some of its almost-causeways; and volunteers have cleared the riverbed and sections of its shoreline of all kinds of debris. Construction of wastewater treatment plants made this possible. It took many years of volunteer effort to go from the stench of pollution to clean waters in the stretch of river that sets the dividing line between Dudley and Webster.

The area containing the new park never had any real use in probably the last 100 years, except as temporary sites for carnivals. Waterhouse Co. made custom automobile bodies from the building end of Tracy Court. It has housed a series of businesses, from auctions to an exercise place, in recent times. There was once an open-face dump on the west side of Tracy Court, from an auto repair shop to the river. They disappeared with an awareness of potential to come.

It looks like all of this made the recent park dedication possible.



“Chronicle,” WCVB-TV’s evening features program, had a “useless information” segment on the show Aug. 19.

Webster Lake and its 45-letter name came in near the top of the show: Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg aired ahead of a segment on toilet paper, “under or over the top.”

I’d hesitate to rate the Boston station’s take on the lake’s name as useless info, mostly because it has generated so much debate and wonder over so many decades. I thought the insert with friend Carla Manzi, the owner of Webster Lake Gifts, was good TV. Ms. Manzi, a real estate agent with Sterling Realty Co. on Thompson Road in Webster, has her store in the same building, meaning a trip bell alerts her to to the arrival of gift shop customers.

So the place is generally open, except when Carla’s out showing somebody a prime piece of lake or vicinity property. And, the Bartlett High choir’s rendition of the Webster Lake Song, interwoven in the program, gave the students something to be proud about.



Cool Country Radio, WGFP 940 of Webster, will transmit football coverage of all the high schools in our section of TelegramTowns at different times this season.

This means Auburn, Charlton, Dudley, Oxford and Webster, starting Sept. 9. Live coverage will feature veteran sportscasters Pete Gianis and Matt Morway, both public schoolteachers.

The seasonal card goes:

Sept. 9: Bay Path at Oxford

Sept. 10: Auburn at Shrewsbury

Sept. 15: Oxford at Worcester South

Sept. 16: Quabaug at Bartlett

Sept. 23: St. Peter-Marian at Auburn

Sept. 30: Tantasqua at Bartlett

Oct. 7: Auburn at Shepherd Hill

Oct. 8: Bartlett at Uxbridge, 1 p.m.

Oct. 14: Shepherd Hill at Bartlett

Oct. 22: Keefe Tech at Bay Path, noon

Oct. 28: Shepherd Hill at Fitchburg

Nov. 4: Oxford at Shepherd Hill

Nov. 11: Worcester South at Bartlett

Nov. 14: Leicester at Oxford

Nov. 19: Bay Path at Worcester Tech, 1 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day, Bartlett at Southbridge, 10:15 a.m.

All games will get under way at 7 p.m., unless otherwise noted.



I’ve long assumed that John “Jack” Gardecki was a Worcester Telegram or Evening Gazette carrier as a kid, drawing that line because Louis J. Blanchart, one of his uncles, was a distribution manager for the newspapers in Webster and Dudley over several decades.

“I never carried newspapers for him,” said Jack when we met recently in a town supermarket. “I was too busy on my father’s chicken farm. It was just off Lake Street (in Webster).”

Jack remembers Uncle Louis because he was one to offer a big buss to kids in the family. His playfulness generated usually “when he had a four-day growth of beard.”

Jack managed bicycle deliveries, though, bringing fresh baking chickens to customers, going off with as many as seven at a time.

He remembers a time when an epidemic claimed a neighbor’s flock of chickens, and others in the upper Lake Street area with small- to fair-size flocks lost all or most of their chickens.

His father beat the impending disease by inoculating all of his chickens. It was an emergency action, and all available hands, including Jack and couple of his friends, “Barracuda” Gajewski and his brother worked into the early morning hours.
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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