Torrington Stories

January 9th History Lessons

East of Waterbury on I 84 we listened to Tracy Walton’s “Brand New Again” CD while making our way to the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. The morning’s precipitation had wreaked havoc on the car antenna that I broke one winter when shoveling the roof of the car after a particularly intense snow storm a few years back and every station was mostly static so my son’s request for music and my daughter’s request for no static was amicably resolved by a local legend’s 2011 solo album.

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“You met Tracy Walton,” I said to my daughter as we listened to Too Far Gone, the opening track. “Do you remember?” Last year I took my daughter to Performance Hub in downtown Torrington for a Belle of the Fall concert, a duo made up of Tracy Walton and Julia Autumn Ford.

She remembered and in true pre-teen fashion answered, “Yeah, Cool.”

We exited onto Sisson Ave and after a number of turns, made it to Elizabeth Street to the historic Veeder mansion, the home of the Connecticut Historical Society. To celebrate the 228th year of Connecticut becoming the 5th state to join the United States of America, the museum was providing free admittance for “Statehood Day”.  Our family had been members for a number of years but it had been a long time since we had visited since I had begun to purchase the Torrington Historical Society membership instead so I looked forward to see what was new.

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Many of the galleries on the second floor were closed for installation of upcoming exhibits but the main exhibit area of family life in Connecticut history was on display, many of which are hands on and kid friendly. My daughter tried her hand at “assembly line” work while my son played in the colonial kitchen and everybody got in the man-made canoe.  An exhibit on 1920’s (Downton Abbey referenced) clothing provided fodder for discussion, especially what type of hat from that time period my daughter would probably wear. We finished our visit looking at the giant collection of tavern signs, many boasting depictions of lions or eagles or horses which my son liked.

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Already in Hartford, I took a chance and drove north to the Museum of Connecticut History which sounds almost exactly the same and yet is entirely different from the Connecticut Historical Society. The Museum of Connecticut History is within the majestic Connecticut State Library and as it was a Saturday, I found that the main entrance facing the state Capitol building was locked and we had to walk to the southern entrance to get inside.  The exhibits are less for children (a coin collection, series of historical portraits of the Governors, etc) but the stately edifice was a treat to behold and all of those who worked there were helpful to us.

As we drove home, contemplating the day’s discoveries, I ruminated about how great it would be for Connecticut and for Hartford to have an American “Downton Abbey/Deadwood” style show filmed in Hartford with subject matter taking place during the time of Twain, Beecher Stowe, inventor Curtis Veeder who were all contemporaries even though the Veeder’s mansion was apparently built in 1928.   Such a venture would take more than my limited knowledge of the era, more research than I could promise to undertake, far more experience in putting something together than I have presently not to mention where a budget might come from but considering that when a location is featured on a popular television show or movie, the spigot of tourism dollars is never fully turned off and it would seem that the Mark Twain House, the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and the Connecticut Historical Society would all benefit by a joint venture of that sort.

Out of the blue my daughter voiced, “I’d like to write a song.”

“What is it?”

She told me the title. It’s her song, her story and it’s not for me to share. But as a parent it’s my role to foster the imagination, shepherd her creative ideas and help her to build her own creative legacy.

I have her the phone which has a voice recorder so she could record her ideas but she wanted to wait until she got home and we were only 10 minutes away at that point anyway.

What brought out the idea of the song? Was it listening to Tracy Walton in the car, or the memory of seeing the Belle of the Fall show live? Was it seeing others in history create things that others can use and enjoy? Perhaps it may simply have been the ability to be outside of the house for a while and let the imagination go, one of the main reasons I enjoy driving.

Sometimes a visit to a museum isn’t what a young person wants to do and sometimes ideas aren’t gleaned directly from that source but through a creative experience we are given permission to expand our visions a little further, take in new perspectives with new stimuli and when the imagination is cultivated we can process what we discover in our own unique ways.

We entered the house and my daughter found a notebook immediately.

She started to write.

And so did I.

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