Tag Archives: Lowell Sun

What’s Your Sign, Man?

3 Sep

I went to Philly the other day and visited the site of printer and author Benjamin Franklin’s house. To get there, I had to pass through this little tunnel:::

franklin

The sign made me laugh. Imagine being so famous that historians noted not just the site of your house but the little passageway you walked through to get there! His house is no longer standing, but excavations show aspects of the infrastructure. The signage there is equally humorous, as it seems to reveal a strange relationship between Franklin and his wife, Deborah Read. He seemed very concerned about her ability to manage the household and seemed to think she might burn the whole place down. I was so fascinated by his strange letters to her that when I got home I did a little digging into their relationship. It turned out that our Founding Father wasn’t in a traditional marriage! Apparently, he had proposed to dear Deborah but her mother didn’t approve of him so while he was traipsing through merry old England, Deborah married some rake who took her money and ran, never to be heard of again. Ben and Deb technically then entered into a bigamous, common-law marriage. They had two children together and also raised Franklin’s illegitimate child. They don’t teach that in the history books in school!

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Maybe one day Lowell will put up a bunch of signs pointing out where Jack Kerouac went to church and where he wrote while he drank. My friend George Koumantzelis, who is the nephew of Kerouac’s friend Billy Koumantzelis, recently brought Grant Welker’s article “Is Lowell missing the Kerouac beat?” for The Sun to my attention. Welker writes:

Lowell has a small park with a memorial on Bridge Street dedicated to Kerouac and has a walking tour organized by the National Park Service, but it doesn’t have a permanent center — a museum, library or open-to-the-public childhood home — dedicated to the writer, whose popularity continues to grow here and abroad more than 45 years after his death.

In the meantime, we can still laugh about the signs Constantine Valhouli made!

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What books on Benjamin Franklin would you recommend?

 

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Hot Tip: 7 Kerouac-Related Places to Visit in Lowell Not Covered by Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

10 Oct

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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) has done another fantastic job creating an itinerary that explores the town in which Kerouac was born and where he was laid to rest. If you’re spending time in Lowell and want to explore a few places off the beaten track, though, there are still many Kerouac-related places to check out. This is by no means an inclusive list, but it’s a few options if you’re staying in Lowell longer, creating your own tour, or looking to dig deeper into Lowell’s history.

1.  Kerouac’s typewriter is on display at the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit at the Morgan Cultural Center … unfortunately, due to the government shut down you probably won’t be able to see it right now.

2.  It seems fitting that the National Streetcar Museum is in the hometown of the author of On the Road. Visiting the museum will give you context to the transportation history that played an important role in Kerouac’s life and literature.

3.  The  Pow-Wow Oak Tree is believed to have stood for 300 years! It was a sacred meeting place for Native Americans. Given Kerouac’s Native American ties, this may be a unique stop on your tour. Unfortunately, the tree was cut down just this year, but you can still visit the place where it stood.

4.  Kerouac’s birth home, which is on the LCK tour, has yet to be made into a museum, but painter James McNeill Whistler’s birthplace has been owned by the Lowell Art Association since 1908 and is now a museum. Kerouac would have walked past it and known about this famous artist. In 1993, John Suiter showed his photographs Rumors of Kerouac here.

5.  The Sun is important to Kerouac’s legacy. Kerouac worked for the newspaper, and journalist Charles Sampas reviewed Kerouac’s work in its pages. It used to be located in Kearney Square, but more recently moved to the American Textile History Museum.

6.  Visit Monument Square, and you’ll pass by the same statues Kerouac once did.

7.  Dana’s Fruit & Confectionery has been around since 1914. We all know Kerouac had a sweet tooth, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he stopped in here. …Just don’t try to take any pictures inside!

You may also like:

My photographs of places in Lowell from Kerouac’s time that are still around today

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Lowell of Yesteryear

11 Oct

It’s so much fun to attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac and visit this great American literary icon’s old stomping grounds, many of which still exist today.  However, much of Lowell has changed over the years.  The streets are smoothly paved.  There’s a color television in almost every home.  UMass Lowell continually expands its presence.  New restaurants serving delicious food have opened up.  Even new communities of immigrants have moved in.  Instead of rotary phones plugged into the wall, people have iphones with apps.  A new family lives in Kerouac’s birth home.  Experiencing Kerouac’s Lowell is about more than just dots on a map.  You have to step back from the tour group, close your eyes and really listen to the rush of the Merrimack River.  You have to imagine a time period when chocolate chip cookies were a novelty, Art Deco looked crazy modern, and women used menstrual cups instead of tampons.  You have to imagine the Great Depression.  You have to imagine a gallon of gas costing 10 cents.  You have to hear swing music.  The NFL draft is a new concept.  Ball-point pens are invented.  And you are just a kid soaking it all in.  Jack Kerouac was born in 1922 and was a kid growing up in Lowell in the 1930s.  Here are a few nostalgic photos of Lowell….