I have had some fun the past few days! Way back in the busy days of my life as a young wife and mother, a community volunteer, and a daycare mom, I usually stashed away issues of the local newspaper — a year’s worth or so at a time — because I thought I was too busy to clip articles about our family and put them into logical order. So I saved the papers, planning to sort out birthday party announcements, athletic and school endeavors, and other items about our lives in Peabody when I was coasting through my retirement years with hours of time on my hands.
This past week I grabbed up two boxes of those papers and began reading through them. The boxes are not labeled and do not seem to be in any particular order. The first contained 1975 and 1976 copies of the Peabody Gazette-Herald.
If you will remember, 1976 was the Bicentennial celebration for our country. Peabody was involved in the festivities by virtue of our July Fourth celebration and because of the many programs sponsored and encouraged by the federal government.
The Peabody newspaper charted the progress of local activities. Peabody Chamber of Commerce and the city took the lead, assisted by Peabody Jaycees, Peabody Historical Society, PRIDE Committee, Sorosis Beta Club, Kiwanis, and Peabody Senior Center. Women’s clubs, service groups, and youth organizations were all a part of our celebration that year. Some of the activities continued after 1976 came to an end. Local involvement was pretty amazing.
By the same token, some things have more recently been made better by generous groups and individuals. Some are merely running neck and neck as Peabody fights the same things it fought 39 or 40 years ago. Read on.
Scholarships available to members of the Peabody High School class of 1975 totaled just a bit more than $3,000. Today the dollar amount of scholarships is more than $20,000.
The annual meeting and dinner of the members of the Walton-Peabody Co-op was held at the Brown Building Gymnasium and drew 650 members in April of 1975. Imagine getting 650 people to attend anything in this day and age!
Members of Peabody Chamber of Commerce and Peabody Jaycees donated time and personal equipment to help city employees with a citywide cleanup twice a year. There were no restrictions on what could be picked up from the curb and hauled away.
Peabody City Council met twice a month, as it does today. Before the summer of 1976, Peabody City Foreman Doug Fisher presented the council with a list of streets in dire need of repair. The estimated cost of those repairs was roughly $14,000, but available money was just less than $8,000. Council members agreed to personally drive the streets in question and bring recommendations back to the next council meeting about which streets need the most attention. I can almost guarantee the list of street repairs was trimmed to meet available funds, just as it would be now.
A recurring discussion for the council was how to deal with junk cars, curb the accumulation of junk on private property, and decide how to deal with decrepit houses that devalue neighborhoods. Generally, more discussion was required and there was talk of creating strict ordinances to control blight.
Another hot issue was illegal dumping at the burn pit. Peabody citizens were in danger even then of losing the privilege of burning tree limbs and yard clippings because residents abused the rules and dumped garbage, demolition debris, and other prohibited items in the burn pit. The council was looking at more stringent punishment for those caught violating state and federal regulations.
I am not sure what all of this means to my six regular readers and any others who follow Peabody news these days. However, I hope you will look at this information and realize that we always have been lucky to have individuals willing to support programs in our community. I also hope you will realize that some questions before our governing body have no easy answers and still are being debated today.
I plan to dig out more of these newspapers and share the information with you. There is even an interesting Bill Krause editorial about the actual vote of council members who decided not to join the Newton Rural Water district. Stay tuned!
— SUSAN MARSHALL