Bruce Gellerman & Eric Sherman,
Massachusetts Curiosities, 2nd: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff
(Globe Pequot Press, 2008)

My mother-in-law recently bought this for my husband to read while he was out on a temporary disability and, since he only reads his car magazines, guess who settled down in front of the wood stove to read it? In Massachusetts Curiosities, authors Bruce Gellerman and Erik Sherman, both Massachusetts residents, write with an amusing, tongue-in-cheek humor that is both engaging and entertaining. They traverse the Bay State to bring us all kinds of interesting "curiosities" that show us just how interesting this state is to learn about.

In Boston, "The Tortoise & the Hare" sculpture calls Copley Square its home, and Boston's Public Garden is where the famous "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture resides, a favorite of children and adults alike. The State House is topped by a gilded pine cone, the symbol of Maine, which was part of Massachusetts until 1820 -- and a "Sacred Cod" and "Holy Mackerel" reside within. (Who says stuffy politicians don't have a sense of humor?) The Great Brinks Robbery happened in Boston's North End in 1950, and the North End is also the location of the great molasses tidal wave of 1919. My grandmother used to tell me stories about that one, and until I read this book, I always thought it was an exaggerated bunch of hooey. (Or is that gooey?)

But the fun doesn't stop with Boston. We learn about the "bugging" of Natick, the Museum of Burnt Food in Arlington, and the birthplace of Fig Newtons, Necco Wafers and Marshmallow Fluff. (How long has my husband been eating that goop and I didn't even realize it's still being made in Salem?) Easton lays claim to the world's largest (and possibly only) shovel museum, and the Toll House Cookie (of Nestle fame) was invented in Whitman. We learn the history of the "chair wars" that began in Gardner in 1905, and discover that, yes, there actually is a Podunk, USA.

I learned so much history about my state. This book holds a lot of sweet memories for me, too, like eating at the Union Oyster House with my Dad, riding the carousel at Paragon Park with my much older neighbor who was, well, 5, and taking my parents to a restaurant at Minot Light for their 25th wedding anniversary (which cost me a king's ransom of $25). Battleship Cove ... Lizzy Borden ... Nantasket Beach ... Is this reading more like a memoir that a review? Sorry, where was I? Field trips to Plimoth Plantation ... the Mayflower ... summer vacations on Cape Cod ... eating at the Toll House Inn with my grandparents....

This is much more in depth and meticulously researched than other curiosity books I've read. The authors' love of the state is evident. Let's face it, Massachusetts is cool. I've always known it. Now it's been proven. From the Vested Grasshopper atop Faneuil Hall (his vest is actually a time capsule) to the Toilet Museum in Worcester (pronounced "Wisstah"), if you decide to join the authors for this wacky trip around the Bay State, rest assured you won't be missing a thing.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

3 June 2017

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