Opinion

Jourgensen: Marching in lockstep for the GAR

A lot of promises get made at the start of a new year and ranking high among them is a local commitment to ensure the past is not forgotten even as the future unfolds.

The Friends of the Grand Army of the Republic Hall (GAR) and Museum of Lynn, Massachusetts Inc. could have picked a shorter and catchier name for their campaign to preserve the Grand Army building at 58 Andrew St. and the collection of photographs, books, uniforms, weapons and correspondence inside the building.

Friends members Dexter Bishop, Chris Bibby, Carolyn Cole, Darren Cyr, Michelle Guzman, Wendy Joseph, Paul Kentworthy, Dick Parker, John Sherman and Nancy Whitman are wearing their hearts on their sleeves when it comes to translating their love for Lynn into a good cause.

The Friends’ goal is to hire a professional fundraiser this year to start the process of mapping out plans to begin paying for what Joseph said is $10 million in improvements to the building.

Owned and maintained by the city, the GAR “is not in great shape, but not in terrible shape,” according to city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan. Anchored by big bolts and a heavy wood framework, the building’s brick facade needs repointing and other work.

Architects Spenser, Sullivan and Vogt will be updating a previous assessment of the GAR’s condition prepared by the Boston firm and City Council President Cyr said the building’s recently-accorded inclusion on Preservation Massachusetts’ top 10 endangered historical sites list throws a spotlight on the GAR’s condition.

Forty years of gradual decline in its condition means the GAR building needs a multi-year renovation plan to ensure future generations can visit the building and browse its collection to study and understand history.

The renovations, said Donovan and Joseph, will involve installing an elevator and undertaking other expensive disability-compliance improvements, but it will be worth the money spent.

Tune in to Lynn Community Television to view one, maybe more productions, featuring “treasures of the GAR.”

***

Speaking of history, Meili Clark recalled the golden age of soda fountains in Lynn when Burke’s Pharmacy on South Common Street, Chamberlin Pharmacy on the corner of Market and Liberty streets and Western Avenue Pharmacy on Franklin Street served lime rickeys, strawberry frappes and hot fudge sundaes. A dive into the 1965 city directory revealed Lynn had no fewer than 44 pharmacies and drug stores back then. Sweet days indeed.

***

It’s sad noting Jim Clancy’s passing last Sunday. An informed source who went to school with Clancy credited him with giving brother and former Mayor Chip Clancy his trademark “put the bell on the cat” line. I maintain Chipper can take full credit for his old answering machine message informing callers he was either at the church or the library.

I miss having Chipper around town and seeing him plugging along on a run out to the Causeway or through West Lynn. I always enjoyed his response when I asked him how he was doing. Without fail, he pulled a tattered envelope out of his suit pocket covered with the scribbled names of people who called him looking for this or that.

***

Is Jan. 14 really National Clean Off Your Desk Day? The odds are against me plowing through the 3 inch-high stack of papers sitting for the last two years in a wire desk basket a foot away from my laptop. Still, hope springs eternal.

More Stories From Lynn