1934 photo of assessors is snapshot in time  
Thursday, March 22, 2012


WEBSTER X The photograph taken Aug. 8, 1934, in front of the one-time Indian Inn at Webster Lake was rediscovered a few years ago in the walk-in vault to the Webster Board of Assessors office.

We don't know much about the picture, but it's sure neat, says incumbent Assessors Chairman Marc D. Becker. The people in the photograph were at a summer meeting of the Worcester County Assessors Association, and most of them were sporting top-shelf gear. The women had full-length, lightweight dresses and summer hats. The men wore suits and ties, and some held Panama-style hats in their hands.

There was one guy with an undershirt and two women without hats, Mr. Becker observed, citing exceptions in the crowd. Possibly a couple of hundred people were in the picture, kneeling, crouching, standing in uneven lines and some partially hidden.

Indian Inn was a summer venue at Colonial Park on the lake. Constructed in the early 1930s as the Webster Lake Hotel, the facility was in its second genesis as a dine-and-dance, and/or outings place. It was on the lake but removed from most developments, with access through North Thompson, Conn. Time hasn't changed this.

Still, location wasn't the major impediment for the enterprise: It opened about the start of Prohibition, meaning short-term liquor sales. This predicted failure from the grand opening.
It subsequently became a major union center, a Lutheran youth camp, and a private boys' school, first as Webster Academy and then as the Brightwood School.

The facility burned down years ago and was finally redeveloped for housing.

While it is probable that people in the photograph purchased copies of the print, with a mix of young to middle-aged, to truly old, for the different offices in the county or for personal use, the Webster photograph might have been typical of what happened to the lot: It was probably displayed in the Town Hall quarters assigned to assessors and subsequently placed in the vault for safekeeping, maybe when the assessing department was moved from second-floor quarters to the first floor.

There was an obvious discrepancy in the age of the crowd, probably because retirement laws for town workers weren't mandatory at the time.

The Webster photo was shown about, and the county group decided to make it a traveling display, leaving it with the president of the association. The big photograph, really an example of fashion in 1934, was on display last year in Dudley Assessor Lisa L. Berg's office.

It was moved to Sturbridge Assessor William B. Mitchell's office when Ms. Berg became the immediate past president of the association.

While he supported the traveling show on assessor's lore and fashion, Webster Chairman Becker first secured a copy of the print. It's on display near a doorway to the Webster assessors mapping room.

I spent some time examining the 1934 take on county assessors last week. I couldn't find any Webster assessors, though the 1934 Board of Selectmen was front and center in the photo, probably because the town was host to the Worcester County Assessors Association. Edward H. Wagner, Joseph A. Patenaude and Dr. John W. Stochaj, a physician, were on the select panel. A couple of Dudley assessors, Victor J. Billings and Richard Hejwosz, were close by. Mr. Billings was a well-known candlepin bowler in those years.

Peter Bannister, owner of Pete's Oil & Tire Co., on South Main Street in Webster, mentioned the Dudley display last year, when Ms. Berg had custody of the great picture.

To stay with art and the different materials stored in the various town office vaults, a print of Daniel Webster's death scene, with a virtual corps of observers, was found in the basement of the old Bartlett High School after the new BHS was dedicated and before the old structure was rehabilitated for elementary use.

It wound up in the Board of Selectmen's rooms, and was kept in their walk-in vault for some time. This was quite a while ago, and the print was said to have some value and some damage. I doubt that anything was ever done with the line print in an official sense. There's probably no one at Town Hall that remembers Mr. Webster's death scene engraving.



Approaching the Webster Town Hall Super Tuesday, a lone figure appeared in a political mode at the west side to the auditorium.

Rep. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, had the political stage to himself, chatting with voters who parked in the lot generally reserved for town hall types.

It gave him a leg up unless his likely Democrat opponent, Webster Selectman Donald Bourque, was doing the same thing in Sutton.



Going through the Oxford Market Basket Supermarket on a recent morning, I noticed Webster native Thomas P. Minarik, one of the department managers, hard at work.

The reminder was of another Tom Minarik, his grandfather, who ran Mid-Town Market on Webster's South Main Street many years ago. It's a generational skip, I decided.

Continuing along, I turned a corner to bump into the switch in Minarik ranks, retired Webster Police Chief Paul J. Minarik, providing a father-and-son visual, and thoughts of an earlier generation.
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Telegram & Gazette

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