Around Town

‘Chat’ to focus on city elementary schools

WESTFIELD-Westfield elementary schools will be the focus of the next History Chat on Jan. 21, sponsored by the Westfield Athenaeum.

“In an effort to share our local community resources so that we can maximize the benefits for all involved, the Westfield Senior Center will be the host for the Westfield Athenaeum’s history program,” said Tina Gorman, executive director, Westfield Council on Aging. “The monthly sessions will have a distinctively local flavor and will replace our Historical Perspectives group.”

Susan Creighton, archives and museum coordinator, Westfield Athenaeum, shared a similar sentiment.

“We’re moving the history programs to the Westfield Senior Center to make them more visible,” said Creighton, adding, “we’re hoping the move will entice more folks in.”

Since the “history chats” started last fall, Creighton noted that area residents have been “very eager” to share their stories during the program.

“I’ve even seen folks who come in, intending to just listen for a bit, but then get pulled into the conversation with stories and memories of their own to share,” said Creighton. “The conversation is fun and informal and – I think – draws people in.”

The 2 – 3 p.m. topic this month is “Going to School – the Elementary Years.” 

“We’d love to hear more about your experiences attending elementary school in Westfield,” said Kate Deviny, director, Westfield Athenaeum. “Your participation helps add to our understanding of Westfield history, and the Athenaeum’s ability to tell that story for others.”

Elementary school life in Westfield is the topic of the next History Chat, sponsored by the Westfield Athenaeum. This photo was taken around 1890-1910 at the Ashley Street School. (Submitted photo)

Creighton and Deviny will be bringing a variety of historical artifacts including school books, student work, school records, diplomas and photographs from the Athenaeum Archives to share with attendees depicting elementary school life in Westfield.

Both women are hoping that those attending will be interested in talking about their favorite teacher, a memorable classroom, a typical school day, and school subjects.

“We would love to have you bring a photo that shows something about your elementary school experience, and be prepared to tell us a little bit about it,” said Deviny. “If you would like to donate it to the Archives, we would love to accept it, but donation is not required.”

Creighton, who grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Seneca Falls, N.Y., added that anyone is welcome to attend the program, whether or not they attended Westfield elementary schools.

“I unfortunately do not personally have a history of attending Westfield elementary schools,” said Creighton, adding “all the more reason we want to learn from folks who did attend.”

Deviny concurred.

“We are trying to capture Westfield’s history for posterity,” said Deviny. “Many seniors have photographs and memories of their lives here, and we need to make sure that is available for another 150 years. We are the city’s museum, cultural repository and people do share stories, memorabilia and memories every week.”

For more information on the program which is free and open to the public, call the Athenaeum Archives at (413) 568-7833, ext. 110. 

“No advance sign-ups are necessary,” said Gorman. “Just drop in and join the discussion.”

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