Looking Back a Quarter Century

 1984 in Falmouth

The Falmouth High School Class of 1984 celebrated its 25th reunion at Highfield Hall this past weekend.  Although I crossed the stage in the FHS  field house a couple of years after those weekend revelers, I still enjoyed seeing old friends and catching up through Facebook and a visit from former Falmouthite and scribe Julie St. George. 

As I surveyed the smiling faces and absorbed the updates on kids and careers, my thoughts drifted back to the Falmouth of twenty-five years ago.  The very location for the reunion, a beautifully restored Historic Highfield, demonstrates how the passage of time isn't always an enemy to us.  Indeed, the magnificent, Queen Anne stick-style mansion was a neglected shell of its once grand self in 1984.  Today, it shines as a beacon of preservation and example of what a responsive local government and a few determined citizens can accomplish together.

After Julie's visit and a few glimpses at an old yearbook, I took a few minutes to reflect on the  Falmouth during the year George Orwell made famous.  Thanks and kudos go to our ever-resourceful Town Clerk and native Falmouthite Michael Palmer for supplying me with a snapshot of a year in Falmouth's past.
Falmouth's overall budget in the year Amadeus swept the Academy Awards was just over $26 million.  Today, the buzzards are swirling overhead on our annual spending that is just about four times that amount.  In 1984, a stroll down Main Street and a gaze skyward would be obstructed with unsightly poles and wires; In 2009, our downtown is known widely as one of the finest in the Commonwealth largely due to the efforts of Peter Boyer and Heather Harper, names unknown in Falmouth in the year Michael Jackson won eight Grammys.  

If you gazed at your fashionable Swatch to check the time of day and dialed your not-yet-antique rotary phone to reach the Selectmen's office back then, you would likely chat with Andy Dufresne, Heather McMurtrie or Lenny Costa, as there was no Town Manager.  Falmouth wouldn't yield the tradition of full-time Selectmen for another seven years.  Andy, of course, is still a fixture in Town Hall and at Town Meeting, and Heather ended a long and distinguished career as our Town Collector just a few years ago. 

George Lebherz banged the gavel at Town Meeting that year, as today's Moderator Dave Vieira was dutifully and assiduously attending class at Morse Pond School, no doubt peering out of "Town Meeting Time" long enough to catch a ride on a BMX and watch the year's #1 movie, Beverly Hills Cop.

A call to the DPW to fix a pothole would probably be returned by Director Bill Owen (sound familiar?), although you had an equally good chance of catching him enjoying laughs and lunch at Christopher's Restaurant with Highway sage Ronnie Nielsen as you did leaving a message (there was no voicemail) at Town Hall.  Ten years later, I considered it a treat to be invited to those memorable repasts.

As the leaves fell and the Detroit Tigers were celebrating their World Series victory in 1984, Fire Chief James Rogers was preparing for the Fall Special Town Meeting.  Today, son Glen wears the white shirt of a Fire Rescue Department Deputy, while equally dedicated sons Sgt. Mike and Patrolman James proudly represent the family as members of the Falmouth Police Department.  Speaking of the FPD, it was led in the year of the Sarajevo Olympics by East Falmouth mainstay Paulino Rodriques.

There was no Ben & Bill's to enjoy a lobster Ice Cream on Main Street the year LeBron James and Prince Harry were born, but downtown fixture DQ was there to offer a dilly bar while we contemplated the passings of Ethel Merman and Marvin Gaye. 

As we watched news coverage of vigilante Bernie Goetz on our TVs and weighed the pros and cons of this new thing called HBO, we focused locally on whether our FHS football team would triumph on Thanksgiving (they didn't) and if our still new Superintendent Bob Antonucci would stay in town and make a long-term commitment to Falmouth (he did).

As for me, I was enjoying life in Paul Cali's English class and Joe Studley's Band practice at FHS, camping with present-day computer guru Chris Alves and my fellow Scouts of Troop 42 at St. Anthony's in East Falmouth, and wondering if my on-again off-again romance with my girlfriend Barb would last (we've been married for 19 years).  Life was and is good in Falmouth.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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