‘Wakefield 150’ Time Capsule


Kudos to the Wakefield Independence Day Committee for deciding to go with the 150th birthday of the Town of Wakefield as the theme for the 2018 Fourth of July Parade.

This was the decision I’ve been hoping for since I wrote a column about it last April. But I can’t claim credit for the idea. I hadn’t done the math and was not even aware that 2018 was Wakefield’s 150th anniversary until I heard it from Bob McLaughlin, who heard it from Jeff Wakefield, the great grandson of Cyrus Wakefield II. The Cyrus Wakefield for whom the town is named had no children, but Cyrus II was his nephew and ran his uncle’s vast business empire after the original Cyrus’s death.

So, credit Jeff Wakefield, now living in Canada, for coming up with the idea of celebrating the Town of Wakefield’s 150th anniversary.

“People might wonder why I would care,” Jeff wrote to me in an email last April. “But it is very cool having a connection to the town’s name and history, despite not living there.”

Of course, the town existed before 1868, but under another name: South Reading (boring). People were tired of being just another Reading, so the men of the town determined that we needed a new identity to set us apart, and decided to rename their town after one of their own: business titan Cyrus Wakefield. It didn’t hurt that Cyrus employed half the town in his rattan furniture factories on Water Street and that he had just donated the money as well as the land for a new Town Hall.

Residents back then saw the name change as a very big deal. The official change took effect on June 13, 1868, so it made perfect sense to combine the celebration of the town’s rebirth as Wakefield with the nation’s birthday party on July Fourth.

And it makes perfect sense to celebrate Wakefield’s 150th anniversary on July 4, 2018 – 150 years to the day after the original celebration.

It is customary on auspicious anniversaries such as the one we are approaching to create a time capsule to preserve our moment in time in order to help future generations to know what life was like way back in 2018.

I’m a helper, so I’ve created a short list of some of the items that should be included in a time capsule for 2018.

The first thing I would include in our time capsule would be a thin-film, single-use plastic bag. They will still be legal in Wakefield until mid-2018, at which point they will be banned. People in 2118 will marvel at the human ingenuity that created this invention and wonder what possessed their forebears to deny themselves this consummately utilitarian item. Our plastic bag will also serve a practical purpose. We won’t need a specialized container to preserve our time capsule items. We’ll just bury everything in a plastic bag, since, as you may have heard approximately one million times over the past year, they never, ever decompose.

And what could possibly better represent the year that retail marijuana sales became legal than a lovely artisan hookah from one of the shops along our Albion Street Arts and Vaping District.

And just to be fair and balanced, we’ll include a Juul from one of our fine retailers of vaping accessories, along with a raspberry-lemon-marshmallow flavored nicotine pod. It’s a favorite with the kids!

Every time capsule should include a video with a message of advice or warning to future residents. Ours will include the following digitally recorded message from 2018 Town Moderator Bill Carroll to be played for the attendees of the 2118 Annual Town Meeting: “This is not a pep rally, folks!”

A must for the time capsule would be a matching pair of MEN and WOMEN restroom signs from one of our public buildings. Our 22nd century descendants will be greatly amused at these relics of a gender binary era when people still believed there were only two sexes and (even more hilarious) that there were meaningful differences between them!

A copy of the 2018 Wakefield Street List, autographed by Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran, is another absolute must for our time capsule.

We might as well throw in a few items with the Wakefield Warrior logo on them. It looks like the Warrior will limp his way into 2018, but in today’s tradition-hating climate, is anyone willing to bet on him surviving another year, much less another century?

And no 2018 time capsule would be complete without the official photograph of the very last Board of Selectmen in the history of the Town of Wakefield (taken, appropriately enough, by yours truly).

All joking aside, it’s great news that the Independence Day Committee has chosen Wakefield’s 150th birthday as the 2018 parade theme.

Now, who’s going to bake the cake?

[The column originally appeared in the Dec. 28, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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