Good Neighbors?

Good Neighbors?

Relationship between Colby and the community marked by tensions, community service, mutual economic interests

By David McKay Wilson '76


 

Historic Preservation

%towngown2%right%The last time someone published a bound history of Waterville was in 1902. A lot has happened since then, and Stephen Plocher ‰07 was determined to get it down on paper,and the Web.

Plocher, an English major concentrating in creative writing, turned his skills from fiction to reality in January. As a member of the Colby South End Coalition, an organization that works with Waterville teenagers, Plocher knew more about Waterville than most Colby students. With the encouragement of Tom Longstaff, Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies, emeritus, and a member of the Waterville City Council, Plocher got Elizabeth Leonard, the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History, to sponsor a Jan Plan so he could roll up his sleeves and set out to learn the whole story.

Researching at Special Collections in Miller Library and at the Waterville Public Library, Plocher found honors theses on aspects of the city‰s history, including its labor market and rich Franco-American contributions. He read the 1902 history, by Edwin Carey Whittemore, and Earl Smith‰s history of Colby, Mayflower Hill. And he perused the special section published by the Morning Sentinel on the occasion of the city‰s bicentennial in 2002.

What emerged from the work of the Corvallis, Oregon, resident, is titled ,A Short History of Waterville, Maine.Š It begins in prehistoric times, recounting the first industrialization of the city with the construction of Lockwood Mills in the 1860s, incorporation of the city in 1888, the modernization of the city, from World War I to the 1950s, and the federal urban renewal programs and mill closings that shaped the city of today.

Looking to the future, Plocher cites the redevelopment of the Hathaway Shirt Co. factory (spearheaded by Paul Boghossian ‰76), regional cooperation, and industrial and recreational development efforts that are ongoing.

City officials were pleased with Plocher‰s contribution. ,I was very impressed with the research effort and with his writing style,Š said City Manager Mike Roy ‰74. ,We don‰t see making any changes at all.Š

A downloadable version of the 24-page history, which includes current and historical photos, is on the city‰s Web site (www.ci.waterville.me.us/). Plocher, who was planning to move to Baltimore after graduation, wants his work to be a resource for years to come. In the short term, it has changed the way he sees the city. ,The names on all the streets have a lot more meaning now,Š he said.
But it's different today. The party's host, who had volunteers checking ID's at the door, held the affair knowing that he risked arrest if police raided the soirée and found underage drinkers. His guests were prepared to be Breathalyzed by the police—not for driving while intoxicated but for having consumed a beer.

But the party that night never got too loud, neighbors didn't complain and the police never showed up, with the taxicabs and designated drivers ferrying everyone home safely early that morning.

Dean of Students Terhune, who came to Waterville in 2006 after spending 15 years at Colgate University in upstate New York, says the alcohol issue remains a troublesome topic at campuses across the country and can color town-gown relations.

He said following the September booze busts, relations have improved, with students moderating their behavior in response to the crackdown.
"The bottom line is that this is how we have made headway with the students,— Terhune said. "They know this is what the police are going to do, and they have to change their behavior to avoid getting in trouble.—

Students have done just that this year, with no repetition of the September incidents as of April. And as Colby was going to press, students, staff, and faculty were readying events that were intended, in part, to bring the College and the community closer.

Students oversaw a reconfigured version of "Champagne on the Steps,— an end-of-classes tradition that was marred by arrests for disorderly conduct last year, but this year was relatively trouble free.

A student production of Wonder of the World, a tragicomedy, was staged at The Studio Theater in The Center on Main Street. Students in Assistant Professor Tilar Mazzeo's English 413 course, with the help of the Goldfarb Center, created a living history event, culminating in a Jane Austen gala at the Waterville Public Library.

The Colby South End Coalition was recruiting student entertainers for its annual ice-cream social at The Center. And the annual Colby Cares Day, on April 21, brought hundreds of student volunteers into Waterville to rake leaves, ready city playgrounds for spring—and prepare some of those same garden beds students planted with bulbs in the fall. And the incoming Student Government Association president and vice-president, Nicholas Cade '08 and Jeffrey Mullins '08, were meeting with Waterville Main Street, a downtown civic group, on plans for a day-long Waterville-Colby festival to be held at Head of Falls in September.

"We are citizens of this city, ...— said Mears, the senior class representative. "We want to do our part. It's all about giving to others.—
 
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Comments

  • On March 7, 2009, Rich Garrett wrote:
    My mother lived in Waterville from 1923-1944. She graduated from Colby. Her Father worked at he LockWood Mill. My Aunt worked at the Hathaway Shirt factory for years,. The history was interesting and well written. I have a picture of the1940 Freshman Colby College Orientation Class if the author or anyoneelse would like a copy.