Monday, August 13, 2007
Want to Make a Miracle Happen?
A modern-day fairy tale. Once upon a time, there was a small town in Massachusetts called North Adams. North Adams was once a part of Adams, but partitioned from Adams long ago. The birth of the town goes back to the 1700s.. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 14,681, making it the least populous city in Massachusetts. Now perhaps best known as the home of the largest contemporary art museum in the nation, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams has in recent years become a center for tourism, culture, and recreation. That’s the positive spin. The truth is, times are hard for folks in North Adams. For many years, North Adams was an industrial center, first as a mill town before the Revolutionary War, and then marching along with the Industrial Revolution right up through World War II. During WWII Sprague Electric Company bought out Arnold Print Works, which specialized in printing cloth; the company had suffered greatly during the Great Depression and still had not recovered despite the advent of WWII. Sprague physicists, chemists, electrical engineers, and skilled technicians were called upon by the U.S. government during WWII to design and manufacture crucial components of some of its most advanced high-tech weapons systems, including the atomic bomb. After the war, Sprague's products were used in the launch systems for Gemini moon missions, and by 1966 Sprague employed 4,137 workers in a community of 18,000, existing almost as a city within a city. From the post-war years to the mid-1980s Sprague produced electrical components for the booming consumer electronics market, but competition from lower-priced components produced abroad led to declining sales and, in 1985, the company closed its operations on Marshall Street. After Sprague closed up shop, North Adams’ population gradually dropped from 18,000 to the 2000 census level of 14,681. People could not find work. The 2000 census data tells the tale of the impact of Sprague’s closing: The median income for a household in the city is $27,601, and the median income for a family is $37,635. Males have a median income of $30,292 versus $23,012 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,381. 18.2% of the population and 13.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 30.1% of those under the age of 18 and 9.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. Chess has a place in North Adams. Jim Eade, National Chess Master and best-selling author of Chess For Dummies, was born in North Adams. As part of a fund-raiser in 2001, Eade held a simul and gave a lecture on chess in conjunction with a chess tournament held for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art located in North Adams. North Adams has two chess clubs, the Ahern Chess Club and the North Berkshire Chess Club. And there is the YMCA. The Northern Berkshire Y in North Adams is a going concern, sponsoring swimming lessons and summer camps – and kids play chess there, too, although it’s not really advertised… The Y maintains a website. Thanks to grant money, the Y’s computer room was revamped and new computers obtained in September, 2006. This is a great accomplishment, considering that a few years ago, the North Adams Y was in financial trouble, and considered closing its doors. The Y survived, but grant money is uncertain. It’s staff recently started talking about a major fund-raising project – the goal - $1.2 million – to build a new Youth Center. Impossible! Pipe Dream! Back to cold hard reality – right now, Jan! How, you ask, do I happen to know about the North Adams, Massachusetts YMCA? I’ve never been to North Adams, never been to Massachusetts. I have no friends or family who live there, or visited, or have ancestors there, or any connection whatsoever. It’s just that I happen to believe in pipe dreams and, chess goddess that I am (albeit Junior Level Minus Grade 2), goddesses have a way of communicating with each other when there’s a pawn to be passed. And, so a certain Fairy God Mother let me in on the story of the North Adams YMCA. I am asking you to open your hearts and help the North Adams Y raise money for its Youth Center. I am asking you to please, if you can, if the Chess Goddess moves your heart, contribute a few dollars. Here is the address to which to send contributions: 22 Brickyard Ct North Adams, MA 01247 Miracles do happen. Pipe dreams do come true. Be a part of it, and may the Chess Goddess bless you.