Buckley's blog

HIT AND RUN HISTORY GOES POWER POP

 WGBH series finale features music of Tommy Keene

Theout-of-the-blue online phenomenon of Hitand Run History continues to smash the wall between pop culture and history.

Tommy Keene on Hit and Run History

In amusical coup, the Gumshoe Historians at WGBH have landed Tommy Keene.  Theoriginal indie power-pop artist's "Places That Are Gone" will be featured inthe finale of the PBS-powerhouse's web series "Hit and Run History:  The Columbia Expedition."

"Thisis a dream come true," says Andrew Buckley, series creator and host.  "I first saw Tommy Keene sing ‘PlacesThat Are Gone' at a concert in a record store in 1984.   As a campus DJ at AmericanUniversity, I heard it everywhere, and it stuck with me."

Being able to use the track marks a breakthrough in the series. Keene's EP was voted #1 in the Village Voice Pop & Jazz poll, and received four stars from Rolling Stone. As proof the song's staying power, eight years later Keene would be performing "Places That Are Gone" during Conan O'Brien's first season.

Hit and Run History in New LondonTheseries at the centerpiece of WGBH's History page, Hit And Run History is profilingcharacters in the story of the Columbia Expedition - the first American voyage Voice Pop & Jazz poll, and received four stars from Rolling Stone. As proof around the world.  Leavingpost-Revolutionary War Boston in 1787, this risky private trading venture wasfinanced and crewed by former privateers, slavers, refugees and POW's.  Buckley and his crew have been takingaudiences on the road to tell their stories in a hip, approachable fashion.

"It'ssnackable history," says WGBH's Kyanna Sutton, who first raised the idea ofbringing the series to the station. "And the use of local bands together with music video-style pacingreally sets Hitand Run History apart."

Shea Rose on Hit and Run HistoryLocalmusic has been a key element to the series' success.  Boston's Shea Rose (featured on the December 9 broadcast of WCVB's Chronicle)and Sidewalk Driver join RhodeIsland's Mark Cutler and Jenn Vix on episodes throughout theseries.

ButBuckley nursed the idea that notoriety would open the door to favorite songsthat would truly resonate. "‘Places That Are Gone' works well for a history show, doesn't it?"

Keene also resonates withthe other musicians. "His power pop paved the way," says Rose.  And Cutler notes, "'Places That Are Gone' was one of myfavorite songs in the 1980's. It's great to have my songs sitting beside hisand the other talented folks whose music graces Hit and Run History."

Columbia and Washington Medal

For the ten-episode series, Hit and Run History has been using the Columbiaand Washington medal as a touchstone. The names of those profiled appear on the coin - the rarest of allAmerican medals.  In the seriesopener, "The Medallion", the Massachusetts Historical Society opens its vaultsto show off their copies.

Inthe series finale, "The Auction", the crew learns that one of the remainingtwenty of these medals is going up for sale in Philadelphia.  In their trademark "Gumshoe Historian" style, they headdown to the auction, interviewing experts and stumbling upon clues to theirstory along the way.  Throughout,"Places That Are Gone" moves the action ahead.

Hit and Run History on WGBH

Buckley is theforemost authority on the Columbia Expedition.  The Cape Codder hasfollowed the story since 1995, starting with research for his novel The Bostoner.  To bring this little-known topic to younger audiences, he began Hit and Run History in 2008. Its two full episodes have won over a dozen Massachusetts CulturalCouncil Grants.

Up next, Hit and Run History will continue following the track of Columbia. Having hit Cape Verde in their second full episode (aired this spring), they plan on reaching the Falklands and Cape Horn in spring of 2011. Buckley observes, "The sort of attention we're getting with WGBH and Tommy Keene will definitely help us get there." 

Hit and Run History The Columbia Expedition logo

 

 

For more information about Hit and Run History, the Columbia Expedition or John Kendrick, check their Facebook fan page.

Image of the Columbia and Washington medal courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

 

 

THE BLACKBIRDER: Hit and Run History on WGBH

Crowell Hatch

The subject: Captain Crowell Hatch, another investor in the Columbia Expedition. Hatch grew up in Marshfield, Mass. During the American Revolutionary War his family split apart when Crowell became a Patriot (Patriots are also known as Whigs) and his brother, Noah, sided with the British.

Crowell Hatch had, like other men who commanded privateers during the Revolution, a background in another risky and profitable market: the slave trade. Crowell Hatch was one of the most notorious "Blackbirders."

This webisode of Hit and Run History takes on a more sinister tone as the crew heads to the South Coast of Massachusetts, following up on an interview from 2009 with James Lopes at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Producer and host historian Andrew Giles Buckley's discussion centers on the brutality of Hatch's day. To better understand how people can become so deeply involved in the dehumanizing business of slavery, we only need look to the pre-war events of Hatch's hometown to see how differently Americans regarded their fellow man in the 18th century. 

Matt Griffin and Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History at Fort Hill Roxbury

Watch THE BLACKBIRDER here on WGBH.

Andy's Note:  This was a tricky one.  First, we had no portrait of Crowell Hatch.  That makes doing something as visual as a film bio pretty tough.  And as we looked into his background, there seemed to be plenty to suggest that Hatch was not an obscure individual.  Rather, he was a fairly prominent and wealthy player in Boston.

At the time Columbia and Washington left Boston Harbor on October 1, 1787, Hatch was shown as "Captain Crowell of Cambridge."  But that must have been a short-time residence.  On our first day of shooting this summer, while at the Boston Public Library we came across plenty to show Hatch lived much of his life in Roxbury.  In fact, his home there was reported to have been atop Fort Hill -- headquarters of American forces besieging British-held Boston during the war -- was so extensive as to descend in terraces practically all the way to Boston Harbor.

Cochituate Tower Fort Hill Roxbury

At the Mass. Historical Society, we found records of a Crowell Hatch who was buried at the Two Mile Cemetery in Marshfield.  But this was clearly a child.  Plus, a trip to the Mass. Archives showed our Crowell Hatch died in Roxbury many years later.  But if there was someone of the same name buried at a tiny boneyard in Marshfield, we thought maybe we could learn more by heading there.

What we did learn is that Marshfield was split, and Crowell's brother Noah remained loyal to the British crown.  He's not buried in Two Mile cemetery, however.  The place is full of Hatch graves, and tells the familiar story of generation-upon-generation of growing up in a Yankee environment that valued perseverance, ingenuity, self-reliance, independence and thrift.  If Crowell found a way to make money and succeed on the Patriot side of the War, and Noah was jailed and fined for being on the losing side, well, clearly Crowell made the right choice.  

Hit and Run History's Andrew Buckley in Marshfield

The irony of all this becomes so much more poignant when we visited the State House.  Atop Fort Hill in Roxbury is a the Cochituate Standpipe - one of Boston's first water towers.  Looking more like something out of Disney World, it has no connection to Crowell Hatch except for location.  We had been told the person to speak to would have been State Rep. Byron Rushing, who represents the district, about getting up into the tower.  But we always had bad timing.  And then for our episode on John Derby we ended up ascending the Washington Tower at Mount Auburn Cemetery -- and we didn't want to have successive episodes of us in a tower.

Slaves on board ship

The interesting thing is that we later found that Crowell Hatch was himself State Representative for Roxbury.  Considering the racial makeup of the place these days, it is entirely likely that Hatch, in his role as a blackbirder, transported many of the ancestors of Rushing's constituents -- if not Rushing's own.

As a slave trader, and without children as we later found, there isn't much of Hatch's legacy to survive.  So with precious little to go on, in contrast to our preceding episodes on Charles Bulfinch, Joseph Barrell and Derby, we felt it was time to take a new turn.  Halfway through our series with WGBH, it was time to get serious. 

Jim Lopes of the New Bedford Whaling Museum on Hit and Run History

My vision for this episode was the make our audience stop and think about brutality.  The brutality that is in everyday life for these people pervades their existence.  What is pouring boiling tar on a naked wealthy white man when you make your money selling poor black men?  Or vise versa.  What is any of that when even in richest of homes, child after child after child will die in the first year of life from nothing more than a cough?  When all your cherish and have worked so hard for can be taken away so quickly, do you really care about anyone else?

So we recalled what Jim Lopes said during an interview for our second full episode from this spring.  "It was commerce."  I had saved his analysis of how differently people looked at slavery back then.  I was saving it for an opportunity just like this.  And follow it with a simple sit-down with our viewers, just to say, "Hey, look, there's just no way to make Crowell Hatch fun.  We're not even going to try." 

Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History

Hit and Run History:  The Columbia Expedition is the centerpiece of the history page for PBS-powerhouse WGBH.  Watch THE BLACKBIRDER online at wghh.org/history. Soundtrack generously provided by Jenn Vixx.  For more information on Hit and Run History following the story of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition visit hitandrunhistory.com.

Photo credits:  Jay Sheehan, Matthew J. Griffin

The Captain, The Council, And The Creators

Andrew Buckley and Matthew Griffin of Hit and Run History

It had almost become a habit. The October rush. For two years running, we would rush to get application materials in to various local cultural councils. These were for grants to support production and screenings of another episode of our documentary series, “Hit and Run History: The Columbia Expedition.”

But this year was different.

This year, your local band of historians and filmmakers decided to let someone else get a turn. I cannot say enough about this program.

Every year, local cultural councils, supported in large part by disbursements by the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Cultural Council, receive applications from local individuals and institutions for community based arts and humanities projects. In my many discussions with MCC
 staff, I learned that there are two key components.

Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History and Naomi Arenberg of WCAI

One is there must be an opportunity for the public in the granting community to access the project. This is not to commission a painting that will then hang on the wall of someone’s private library. The other part is, naturally, that the money is to cultivate the grassroots. It is to nurture and encourage people within their community to pursue their talents.

Two years ago, in this very column, I discussed our own efforts to take an obscure chapter of local history and bring it to the world. Armed with only a MacBook Pro, video equipment borrowed from the Cape Cod Community Media Center (with the barest idea of how to use it), and my decade and a half of research and writing on John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition, Matt Griffin and I probably didn’t look like the most promising candidates.

Andrew Buckley Matt Griffin and Kane Stanton of Hit and Run History at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural HistoryOn that first day of production on a warm, sunny September day, 
our audio with Mary Malloy, PhD of the Sea Education Association was coming in much too strong. Next, with Thornton Gibbs of Wareham who had led countless tours of Captain Kendrick’s house, the sound was just right. Wrapping the day up with Ben Dunham, former chair of the Wareham Historical Society, the playback volume was so low that we had trouble making out what he was saying.

No wonder that of the 10 local cultural councils we applied to in the first year, only three funded us. This despite our filming in their towns, talking with local historians and commitments to not only hold screenings, but to broadcast to tens of thousands on the local access channel. More often than not, the rejection cited our lack of experience in filmmaking. We realized however, that these were paper rejections. They were based on resumes, not on the importance of the story, work samples, or an understanding of what filmmaking has become. So we set out to prove those three towns right, and the other seven wrong.

Hit and Run History in Cape VerdeThe following spring, as promised, we began screening our first installment. Not only in the towns that funded us (Marshfield, Wareham and Chatham) but in the ones that didn’t (Orleans, Harwich, Edgartown, to name a few). We did so because we felt this was an important local piece of local history, and the people of that town shouldn’t miss out just because their local cultural council didn’t believe we could pull this off. And thank God we did.
The original uncut interview with Thornton Gibbs, in his 90s, ran over 40 minutes. He passed away a couple months after we spoke. Captured on tape was his complete account of a tour through the last home John Kendrick knew on this side 
of the continent.

With our second episode, we were able to fulfill the promise of the first, take that seed money and actually follow Kendrick across the Atlantic to Cape Verde. And using that same Yankee ingenuity, when adversity struck in the form of an epidemic of dengue fever there, we were able to turn the situation around by bringing an aid worker with several boxes of relief supplies to a hospital there. In so doing, we added a new element of journalism when our editor Alex Schwantner shot, edited and uploaded a video of our visit to the overcrowded hospital. Not only were we making a good film, we were doing good. That just would not have happened without that grant money to start us off.Jay Sheehan Matt Griffin Ben Dunham and Andrew Buckley

And following on the heels of that, with 10 more cultural council grants the second year, we held the screenings and made the broadcasts to hundreds of thousands in Eastern Massachusetts that led us to our current web series on WGBH today. We can now use the platform of this PBS-powerhouse to fundraise for Hit and Run History’s continuing journey on Kendrick’s seven-year track -- as well as plenty of more information on all the supporting players.

This is a local cultural council success story. We hope you show the same foresight for the round of promising, untested applicants whose requests are currently before you. You gave us a hand up to the next level, which exactly how the process is supposed to work. And we Gumshoe Historians, we scrappy band of intrepid Cape Codders, thank you.

Hit and Run History on WGBH


Hit and Run History is now the centerpiece of WGBH’s history site, wgbh.org/history.

Read this and Andy's other columns at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

HIT AND RUN HISTORY on WGBH: The Opportunist

Joseph Barrell

Boston has come a long way since Revolutionary War days, when it was just a small peninsula, ringed by wharves and criss-crossed with cobblestoned cow paths.  So the crew of Hit and Run History heads down to the Outer Cape to learn about Joseph Barrell, a grocer who made his fortune in the war and then seized upon the idea of global trade that his contemporary, architect Charles Bulfinch, seeded in him.

Watch The Opportunist here on WGBH.

Andy's Note:  One of our hallmarks is to take viewers to the places that history happened and show how you can still find living there.  In the case of Joseph Barrell, we were challenged.  He lived in the outskirts of downtown Boston during the 1770's and '80's.  "Downtown" at the time meaning the area immediately surround the State House and Fanueil Hall (which was then fronting on the Town Dock, where Quincy Market is today).

Barrell's home and farm was where Downtown Crossing is now.  There are streets here now that didn't exist then, gaping holes where building have just been torn down to make way for even larger ones.  Asphalt, glass, brick and steel.  On the one hand, if there hadn't been a Joseph Barrell and his ilk of venture capitalists, Boston would have probably ended up more along the lines of New Bedford, Portland or New Haven.  A small city of regional note.

Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History and Pleun Bouricius

But to bring you the story, we headed down to a place that would have looked very much like Boston at the time of the Revolution.  In this case, one of my favorite places in the world -- Fort Hill in Eastham.  We were in luck when we shot here in August, since Pleun Bouricius, a humanities scholar whom we had talked to previously in our first episode, was visiting Wellfleet from her home in Western Mass.

The contrast could not have been more different from these interviews with Pleun.  From a cold, windy, narrow Boston street last time to a lush, green sweeping panorama of the fields of Fort Hill and Nauset Marsh beyond.  What a great setting to walk and talk about the senior partner in the story of John Kendrick (who hailed from Orleans, just down the shore) and Columbia Expedition.  

Watch The Opportunist online at wgbh.org/history. For more information on Hit and Run History following the story of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition visit hitandrunhistory.com

John Derby hailed from a wealthy merchant family in Salem, Mass. He gained fame during the Revolution for delivering news about the war across the Atlantic. The Hit and Run History crew tracks down how Derby turned to the profitable service of raiding English shipping fleets as a privateer.

Exploring Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., the crew stumbles upon the grave of John Derby, then heads over to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, to talk with historian Emily Murphy about Derby's life.

Watch The Privateer here on WGBH.

Andy's Note:  We've been to Salem three times now.  First, in December of 2008, for some heavy-duty scouting at the Peabody Essex Museum and talking our way on board the then-closed tall ship Friendship

Then we returned on a brutally cold day to speak with Emily Murphy, PhD, who is the historian for the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.  We were filming our pilot episode at the time, and we wanted to mention something about John Derby.  Towards the end of the conversation, she mentioned that there was a portrait of Derby in the house next door, but we'd have to wait on permission.

Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History and Emily Murphy of Salem Maritime NHS

Jumping forward to this summer, one the same day we were filming inside the Special Collections room at the State House (see our episode The Architect), I got a call back from Emily.  She was excited to hear about the new web series on WGBH, and wanted to set up a time to speak more extensively on John Derby.  

So on the Saturday scheduled for the interview, Matt Griffin and I headed up to Salem on the hottest day of the summer.  96 degrees when we arrived.  We were desperate for some shade, and we ended up grabbing a bench and plunking it down in a corner surrounded by nice, cool brick.

John Derby

Editing this episode was a bit of a challenge, too, since we had so much good material from Emily.  But also because we had earlier gone to Mount Auburn Cemetery looking for some of our missing owners.  We found two:  Charles Bulfinch and John Derby.  But as we already had plenty on Bulfinch, we had to leave our visit to his grave out, and used the discovery of Derby's grave as our intro to Emily's interview.

Using Mark Cutler's "King of the World" let us have a little fun, too, with our footage of going up the Washington Tower at Mount Auburn.  Best line from Mount Auburn:  Jay Sheehan's "WHOA!" on reaching the top.

Hit and Run History:  The Columbia Expedition is now the centerpiece of the history page for PBS-powerhouse WGBH.  Watch The Privateer here online at wghh.org/history. For more information on Hit and Run History following the story of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition visit hitandrunhistory.com.

Photo credits:  Matthew J. Griffin

THE ARCHITECT: Hit and Run History on WGBH

Charles Bulfinch

The crew of Hit and Run History hits the Massachusetts State House to reveal the role its designer played in the Columbia Expedition. Charles Bulfinch grew up privileged in British-occupied Boston during the Revolution. On a walking tour amidst the architecture of Bulfinch's Boston, Duane Lucia of the West End Museum tells how the budding architect visited Paris and brought back a global trading scheme after breaking bread with Thomas Jefferson.

Andy's Note:  This background of this episode takes us to origin of this web series.  Last January, we got wind of a program called "

Charles Bulfinch: a virtual tour" in Boston.  So after hitting Boston Beer Works for dinner, Matt Griffin and I walked the few blocks over to the West End MuseumDuane Lucia gave what was essentially a walking tour of Bulfinch's Boston, the architect whose work is still in evidence two centuries later around the West End and Beacon Hill.  Afterwards we got to speak to Duane, tell him what we'd been doing with our full episodes of Hit and Run History, and how it connects in with Charles Bulfinch.

Hit and Run History at the West End Museum

We realized it would be great to film an interview with Duane talking about the background of Bulfinch and his role in the Columbia Expedition.  But staying true to our timeline in our series, we'd already left Boston and brought John Kendrick and the crews of Columbia and Lady Washington to Cape Verde and beyond.  To head backwards in time and place to cover Bulfinch would pull audiences out of the experience.

Hearing that we'd be holding screenings in the spring of our 2nd episode, Duane offered to hold one at the West End Museum.  Up to that point, our calendar only included venues in town that have awarded us Massachusetts Cultural Council grant (ten in all), but only on the Cape, South Coast and South Shore.  So we were really happy to put Boston on our schedule.

Matthew Griffin and Jay Sheehan of Hit and Run History

Jumping ahead to May, we were headed up to the screening at the West End Museum when I began to discuss ideas with Kyanna Sutton at WGBH.  She had attended our show at the South Shore Natural Science Center and had asked about a web series.  So while on the road, I pitched the idea of a series of short bios.  She asked that I write the up the concept and send it to her.  It was a good thing I brought my trusty MacBook Pro with me, because while sitting at the back of the screening at the West End Museum, I was punching out a two-page outline of the web series.

Jump ahead another month, and on our first day of production, Matt, Jay Sheehan and I are in the sub-basement of the State House, looking at original copies of the Massachusetts Centinel, Boston's newspaper in 1787.  Having done a college internship for the House of Representatives years ago, it is always fun showing off the building to others.  This time, though, we had a purpose.

Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History and Duane Lucia of the West End Museum

Then following on, we were able to film that interview with Duane.  All it took was heading up the block to the Harrison Gray Otis House.  Designed by Bulfinch in 1796, it was the perfect setting for us to talk with Duane about the privileged kid from Boston who brought back from Thomas Jefferson's Paris salon the idea of a new global trade -- the genesis of the Columbia Expedition.  It was trying to rain most of the time, too, so the trees there gave us a little shelter.

Setting the whole episode to The Sun Shines by Boston band Sidewalk Driver really made it, too.

Watch online at wgbh.org/history. For more information on Hit and Run History following the story of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition visit hitandrunhistory.com.

Hit And Run History Series Featured As Centerpiece of WGBH Site

More press on our web series with WGBH.  Check out this week's article by Jennifer Sexton in The Cape Cod Chronicle:

Jay Sheehan and Andrew Buckley of Hit and Run History:  The Columbia ExpeditionThe response of WGBH web audiences is roundly enthusiastic to the placement of Chatham filmmaker and historian Andrew Buckley’s Hit and Run History series as the new centerpiece of the history site of PBS’s single largest producer of Web and TV content. The fourth episode of the series, “The Columbia Expedition: Joseph Barrell,” is currently featured at www.WGBH.org/history.

Buckley and his crew of gumshoe historians, including assistant director Matt Griffin and sound engineer Jay Sheehan, embarked on their mission in 2008, intending to tell the story of Captain John Kendrick and the 1787 Columbia Expedition, the first American circumnavigation of the globe. First envisioned as a book proposal, the project has gone through numerous transformations and taken its creators halfway around the world.

“I didn’t want to write the standard nonfiction treatment of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition, because it has been done and done and done, and more than likely will be done again,” explains Buckley...

Read the rest of the article online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

THE HERALD: Hit and Run History on WGBH

Andrew Buckley atop Fort Griswold, Groton, CT

HIT AND RUN HISTORY begins its WGBH web series of biographies on the Columbia Expedition.

British Royal Marine under Captain James Cook and First American travel writer, John Ledyard witnessed the death of James Cook in Hawaii, and went AWOL to return to his native United States with the scheme of global trade. Hit and Run History heads down to Connecticut to investigate the carnage wrought by Loyalist and Hessian troops prior to Ledyard’s homecoming.

Andy's note:  We actually filmed this episode before did the introduction to the series, The Medallion.  Our first day of production took us first to the Massachusetts Historical Society to meet with Librarian Peter Drummey and Curator of Art Anne Bentley about the series.  From there, we headed down Boylston Street to the Boston Public Library.

Main Staircase, Boston Public Library

It was a real surprise to find an original edition of Ledyard's account of his time under Captain Cook. On a following day of production, we hit New London and Groton -- on the first really hot day of the summer, and wouldn't you know my Rav4's AC would pick that day to stop working.  Hot, muggy and barely a puff of a breeze off Long Island Sound.  That climb up Fort Griswold was definitely a workout.

Watch online at wgbh.org/history.  For more information on Hit and Run History following the story of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition visit hitandrunhistory.com.

(Photo credit:  Andrew G. Buckley atop Fort Griswold , Groton CT by Matthew J. Griffin; Main Staircase, Boston Public Library by Andrew G. Buckley)

Shotgun Regionalization

“It’s OK to look.” That was the slogan of Match.com, the online dating site. A little creepy, I thought when I first saw their ads on TV. You know, it’s not OK for some people to look. Like if you’re married. Or in prison. But the ad didn’t discriminate. Clearly, the idea was if they could get people to look, they might find someone attractive enough to prompt an initial membership – paid by credit card set on auto-renew.

That’s pretty much how regionalization of schools in Harwich was put to Chatham voters at town meeting a year and a half ago. We’re not voting on regionalizing schools, we were told – just looking. Just taking a look. Let’s look. It won’t hurt to look. That sounds reasonable. OK, form a committee for that purpose. It’s OK to look.

But what wasn’t mentioned at the time was that this committee was empowered by state law to call a town meeting to vote to regionalize all on their own. An unelected committee of three able to put a major portion of the taxpayers money on the table was given this authority without any disclosure to the voters.

That town meeting would be called without the consent of the selectmen. It would be called by far less than the minimal number of voters as required by normal petition. It would be called without a single hearing by the finance committee on the fiscal soundness of the claims of great savings being made. And although it could have been done with ease, it would be called without ever asking the parents of the roughly 600 children in Chatham schools what they want.

I’m a parent of a Chatham student. The school has my e-mail. They have my home phone and cell phone numbers. They send home reams and reams of paper every day of notices for this, that and everything else. So if anyone actually wanted to know what I wanted for Sofie, there were many ways to go about it. I am only left with the conclusion that they haven’t asked parents because they don’t want to hear what they have to say.

And holding a public hearing – during the information age – is the barest of efforts, and about the most pathetic attempt at civic engagement available. But this isn’t about what students need, or what parents want for them, or consent of the governed. It is about rushing to the altar before we have a chance to think this through.

This was about looking. Just looking. It was not getting into an arranged marriage. Sorry, no, Harwich, I like you. But as a friend. I know we’ve lived next door to each other, and some well-meaning people who don’t know us very well think we’d look great together, but, well, you’ve gotissues.

I know you need a new high school, and I feel for you and your kids. But marrying for money is not the solution. And you know what they say, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Really, I can’t take your protestations of a rosier life for Chatham’s kids and your kids together when you seem to be in a perpetual state of economic meltdown.

Honestly, this seems like nothing more than a money grab by you, and power grab by Chatham school officials who don’t want their budgets as closely examined by their own finance committee and voters at town meeting.

You see, I look up the road a little from you and I see Dennis-Yarmouth. And that’s just a disaster. But you say we don’t have to be that way. We’ll get along. We’ll have a nice new high school. Well, that’s the thing – we already have a good high school in Chatham. And a new middle school. We paid a lot of money for it. A lot, and it was not without some headaches to build it. What’s more, if you want to talk about cost savings, look at Falmouth, who ended paying an extra $19 million in cost overruns for their high school.

Sorry, Harwich, but we in Chatham have our plates full as it is. We’re doing a lot of building right now, what with a new police station, a new town office annex, a new fire station, and a major sewer expansion. Getting into a permanent, open-ended commitment just doesn’t seem like the wisest thing right now.

I know you like all this talk about regionalization and cost savings and such. Maybe you’re right. You could be right. So prove us wrong. Go tell the state that we turned you down. They said you had to first ask around before they’d give you money for a new school. So you did. Go build that great new school, and put in all the cool things you mentioned. Show us you can stay within budget. That will impress Chatham.

But what’s more, show us and everyone else on the Cape that you are top-notch educators at your spiffy new school. Beat us in graduation rates and test scores and college placement.

Do that and, because of school choice, Chatham parents will be beating down your doors. And DY parents. And Nauset parents. You’ll have more students – and more money – than you’ll know what to do with.

I know, I know – a few people from Chatham came to you and got you all up for this and want to set a date for town meeting vote and everything. But they don’t speak for us. Regionalization with you just seems like too big a risk. We were just looking.

 

Read this and Andy's other columns at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

Note:  A snap vote has been called for 4 PM on Thursday 10/21 by the Acting Chair of Chatham's Board of Selectmen.  To voice your opposition, go to the meeting, call (508 945-5100) or email their office ([email protected]).

HIT AND RUN HISTORY on WGBH

Andrew Buckley and Matthew Griffin at the Woods Hole Public LibraryIt has been a crazy ride for this scrappy band of Cape Codders.  Our series, Hit and Run History:  The Columbia Expedition, has gone from just the barest of documentary ideas in 2008 to today as the centerpiece of the history site of a PBS-powerhouse.

With a great reception by audiences to our second episode this spring, we caught a break. At one of our last screenings, held at the South Shore Natural Science Center, we were approached by a content producer at WGBH.  She asked if we would consider doing our show as a web series.

We started in a month later on a collection of eight short biographies.  This series wouldn't be our old episodes cut up for the web.  Instead, they'd be profiles of lesser player in the story of the first American voyage 'round the world.

Captain John Kendrick, born on the shores of Pleasant Bay, may have commanded Columbia when she left Boston Harbor on October 1, 1787, and Third Officer Robert Haswell of Hull may have written the log, but we were looking now to the men behind the venture. The dreamers who inspired it.  The capitalists who financed it.  The other officers who would run it.

That brought us up to the Massachusetts Historical Society and Boston Public Library Special Collections Room in June, the Massachusetts State House and Fort Griswold outside New London in July, Manhattan and Brooklyn in August, and to the Naval War College in Newport in September.

Columbia and Washington medal

The series premiered in early October with our introduction on "The Medallion" -- the rarest and oldest of all American medals, the Columbia and Washington Medal.  It was minted in Boston in 1787 to commemorate the first American voyage around the world. Today, less than 20 survive. 

I've been working on the story of John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition for 15 years, and it is great to be able to bring this story to a wider audience.  Books have been written in the past, but the story has always seemed to elude the greater public consciousness.  As we worked on Hit and Run History, we realized it was because, despite a compelling story of adventure at the dawn of the American republic, it was being told in the typical armchair historian style that would typically drive away younger audiences.

We needed to get out there, show how this story can be encountered here and now in small places.  Be Gumshoe Historians and as we say "Practice History without a License".

Hit and Run History in Cape Verde

 Talk about what motivated these guys.  Visit their homes.  Show how you do this.  Make them and the story relatable.  And from what we've been told time and time again my audiences, educators and museum staff -- we've done it.  We've cracked the code of Columbia.

Plus, we get a chance to use the music of local bands.  For this one, we were very happy to set it to Boston rocker Shea Rose's "Free Love".  

The 10-episode series runs weekly through December.  Check back at WGBH.org/history or on the Hit and Run History fan page on Facebook at facebook.com/hitandrunhistory.

Photo #1 credit:  Jay Sheehan; Photo #3:  Feleke Astatkie

Storm Stories, Tall Tales

 

Who the hell invited these jokers?

Last summer, when Hurricane Bill was approaching on through, Matt Griffin and I headed out to see if we could cover the upcoming story. The story in this case being the pre-storm hype. That and all the news trucks camped out in the half-hour parking spaces in front of the lighthouse and none sporting a single orange ticket on their windshield of a violation for overstaying the half-hour limit. Never mind the network camera equipment set up on the same beach that the local yoga class has to pay hundreds of dollars for a permit to use.


The lesson being, we supposed, that you can do whatever you want in the New Chatham as long as you are a) from out of town, and b) famous.

Poor locals are expected to follow the rules and pay. A perverse reverse logic.

Fittingly, the media machine that seems to have become much too familiar with Chatham during the summer, and the non-stories that can be inflated in order to rationalize a long weekend here (sharks, storms, a house painted green), was duly skewered in our film on the pre-storm frenzy. Likewise, when Bill failed to materialize as any real threat because, as predicted, it was 300 miles offshore, we went out again the next morning. Assessing “storm damage” for this installment, we were able to interview CNN personnel from New York about, well, the whole bunch of nothing they came here to cover.

Then they were back the next weekend for Tropical Depression Danny. That turned out to be just a whole lot of rain. From what I could tell, the worst it did was to deposit in my skiff a couple inches of rain and, somehow, a large rotting horseshoe crab. For the media, I’m sure the breakfast brunch at Chatham Bars Inn was impeccable as always. That’s a commitment to the news.

But with such a low opinion of the media and those who believe them, I felt it was only a matter of time before they would be, at long last, proven correct. This broken clock had to be right at least twice a day. And so I came to wonder if that would be Earl.

This wasn’t because of anything I saw on television or observed locally. Rather, it was far from the coast, at over 6,000 feet above sea level in northern New England. For our end of the summer trek, like last summer, Sofie and I drove to the top of Mount Washington. We timed it just right, as the highs in the surrounding area were forecast for the mid-90s. The day before the observatory at the summit was reporting 54 degrees and gusts of 76 mph. I was wondering if the narrow, windy road, free of guard rails or shoulders with drops down sheer cliffs, would be closed. No.

It was a brilliant day, with temperatures in the 60s. Gusts were up to 50 mph. We took a hike 1,200 feet down to the Lake of the Clouds. The whole time we remained above the tree line.

Following our way back down, we made the necessary stop at Dairy Queen, then continued our cross-country journey to the coast, ending up in Freeport for some lastminute back-to-school shopping. Passing through Naples, Maine, I saw an LED sign out front of the fire station with “101 F” in glowing red. I assume it did not mean one hundred and one feet.

Record high temperatures down below and with hurricane-force winds combined with sunny, mild temps at the nexus of four weather systems high above gave me pause. Perhaps, yes, this time this might just be the storm we’ve been looking for.

The next day, following our day at Water Country, I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Portsmouth, N.H. to pick up several packs of D batteries. Not so much because I thought I would need them, but because I had been informed that they were now non-existent in Chatham. I imagined myself in a bulky sweatshirt, hood up and skulking darkened street corners while people slowed down their cars and ask, “Hey man, you know where we can get some D?”

After all, those fall dresses from LL Bean and Peanut Buster Parfaits weren’t going to pay for themselves.

Once home, we moved furniture off the deck and waited for the rain to start. It was forecast for noon. I felt lucky that I was able to squeeze in a run up to Sofie’s pediatrician in Wellfleet. On the way back, the rain began, and followed us down to Orleans. Once in Harwich, it stopped. Back in Chatham, it was almost sunny. But oppressively humid. I considered for a moment that my last column about a rain shadow surrounding Chatham might not be as far off as I had thought. But I saw the radar. Something big coming.

Yeah. The rain here finally hit at 8 p.m. Yes, it was heavy. But we still didn’t get as much as Yarmouth. And the wind was barely more than a breeze for most of the afternoon. Although I read in the Boston Globe of “a deafening wind” down at the Chatham Lighthouse, I can report that a mile away on the Oyster Pond the wind was not audible from inside our home. That is pretty unusual for any windy day.

So, having partially succumbed to the belief that this could be a real hurricane, I looked back at the real weather indicators. We were on the weak side of the storm. It was a Category 3 off North Carolina, and as it moved north it was likely to be a Category 1 by the time it got here. The barometer (remember that, National Weather Service?) was not dropping precipitously.

The “Better Safe Than Sorry” crowd really needs to take it on the chin this time. Are we to go on alert for any level of risk? Well, crying “storm” one too many times undercuts credibility. We want the public to listen when the threat truly is serious and credible. And saying it is hard to predict these sorts of things when we can send probes to Mars and stuff powerful handheld computers into tiny little phones strains credulity. It seems that as the ability to accurately predict weather increases, so does the need to be frighten Americans with the greatest extremes of it. So it would be refreshing to use our best intelligence in making smart choices next time a hurricane or snowstorm heads our way. Perhaps weather forecasters and public officials could set an example by noting the words of Edward R. Murrow: “We are not descended from fearful men.”

In the mean time, if your flashlight’s batteries are dead I’ve got a nice supply of high-grade Copper Top. 


Read this and Andy's other columns online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

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