NORTHAMPTON — Who knew there have been so numerous interesting spots and tales in Western Massachusetts?
Robert E. Weir — a retired member of the record department at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst — understood, and now you can as well, many thanks to his e-book, “Who Realized? Roadside Revelations in Western Massachusetts.”
The e book visits Heath’s Burnt Hill, Conway’s library, Goshen’s A few Sisters Sanctuary, Pittsfield’s Discipline of Dreams, Curling in Petersham and South Hadley’s Skinner Museum.
Did you know Indian Orchard has a museum devoted to issues from and about the Titanic, housed in the back again of a jewelry retailer. Were you knowledgeable the house of 19th-century utopian author Edward Bellamy — whose prescient novel expected the invention of radio, credit rating cards, browsing malls and e-commerce — is in Chicopee? Who knew that the Springfield Museum of Wonderful Arts’ sprawling visionary portray by folks artist Erastus Salisbury Industry, a just one-time Springfield resident, was rescued from a storage shed at the rear of a pig sty?
“Who Knew?” is a journey tutorial, an available heritage and an offbeat appreciate letter to Western Massachusetts. It explores nearby oddities, explodes tall tales and explains the background of sights locals may perhaps have wondered about but never ever stopped to respect.
Weir nioted his ebook “is not a “dry textbook of any sort.”
“I tried to continue to keep the tone mild, add some offbeat asides and make it a fantastic browse,” stated Weir, creator of 10 non-fiction textbooks.
In determining what to involve in “Who Knew?,” Weir, who has also taught at Smith University in Northampton and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, selected topics that ended up “in simple sight or an quick wander.” They had to be in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, or the western edge of Worcester County and have some form of appealing backstory.
And they had to intrigue him.
“The key target, though, was that most of what I chose fell into the book’s ‘who realized?’ class. That is, most of them were items that we go by and ponder what the heck they are or why they are portion of our built environment,” Weir stated.
Born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Weir acquired his bachelor’s and master’s levels from Shippensburg University. Due to the fact 1978, he and his spouse, Emily, have lived in New England, first in Vermont, in which he taught large university for 7 several years, then in Western Massachusetts. He expended a yr in New Zealand as a Fulbright scholar and attained a doctorate in American social historical past from UMass Amherst in 1990.
For reasons that are mysterious even to him, Weir has extensive had a fascination for the quirky points he encounters.
“I as soon as insisted on a journey throughout I-70 in Kansas that we go away the interstate to stop by what experienced been heralded for in excess of a hundred miles as the ‘world’s greatest prairie pet,’” reported the resident of the Florence part of Northampton. “It was actually a snack bar, the leading of which was a concrete rodent that kind of seemed like a prairie dog, but I was smitten. Plus, I’m a single of those men and women who wander all-around, see a statue of a individual unidentified to me and promptly want to know who it is/was. But the crazier the structure, the additional it intrigues me!”
Weir knew from chatting to people today in Western Massachusetts that numerous were unaware of items about which he wrote in “Who Understood.” Nevertheless all spots have stories to tell, he claimed that what occurs to most folks is that they “exist in a kind of tunnel,” driving to their standard sites and becoming “so endeavor/aim oriented that they are unsuccessful to see matters correct in front of them,” he said. “Or, if they do question, their issues are overlooked in the blur of every day life.”
So he preferred to develop a guide individuals could study straight by or tuck in their backseats, backpacks or briefcases to respond to their possess thoughts additionally a several that possibly hadn’t still happened to them.
Looking into the book played into Weir’s tendency to be what he phone calls a “serial fascinationist,” a time period that aids him make clear that his most loved entry in the reserve was usually what ever he was operating on at a presented second.
(“Who Knew” is available in delicate include for $18.95. It can be ordered at Collective Copies in Amherst and Northampton or requested from levellerspress.com/product-tag/robert-e-weir).