Ringing the bell closes a circle
Westborough – I've wanted to live in Boston since I was 12, when my parents gave me a copy of "Johnny Tremain" to read prior to a trip to Ben Franklin's hometown.
I still remember walking to the Old North Church, feeling cobbles beneath my feet and admiring the old, beautiful buildings. I grew up in a postwar suburban development, and the North End was no place like home.
Add the excitement and world-changing events that took place here, captured so vividly in Esther Forbes's novel, and I was smitten.
More than 30 years later, my husband, son and I moved to a hillside in Westborough, the result of my husband's new job. I started writing a mystery novel about a family who discovers Paul Revere silver hidden in its new, centuriesold home.
I made visits to the Paul Revere House more than once and bought Forbes's classic biography of the great patriot and silversmith.
When I discovered that Esther Forbes had called Westborough home, I felt a circle of my life had been completed. I now call home the little town that was birthplace of the author who inspired my desire to live near Boston.
But I was wrong. Because the circle hadn't closed quite yet …
Recent news revealed that Westborough is home to one of the few church bells cast by Paul Revere. I decided to write about it. I called Paula Skog of the Historical Commission and visited the commission offic e an d secretary Sue Speckman. I spoke with Bob Walker of the former First Baptist Church, where the bell hangs.
In my first phone call with Bob, I asked to see the bell. He discouraged me, telling me the tower was not fit for anyone with claustrophobia, and the ladders were long and rickety.
Several phone calls and weeks later, I made one more plea to see the bell.
This time, Bob agreed.
Early one morning, I met him at the classic, white New England church on Main Street.
He wasn't kidding when he warned me about claustrophobia. We were climbing in a tunnel. The first ladder was about 25 feet long.
The second ladder, only 16 feet, ended in a tiny space, with beams and a few planks the only footing around the huge bell and with a powerful wooden wheel that allows it to swing. Bob tapped the bronze so I could hear its rich tone, and I touched the words: Revere and Company.
The experience wasn't about a newspaper story any more. It was about something both much larger and much more personal. My father, never happy lounging on a beach, spent our vacations dragging my grumbling sisters and me out of the sun and into museums and historic buildings.
And here I was, touching the work of one of America's greatest patriots. It seemed a fine tribute to my late father.
Finally, we climbed down the shaky ladders through the dust and dark, and Bill locked the tower door. Then he stopped.
"I didn't show you this," he said, and unlocked the door, explaining that at one time, the bell had operated through an electric device. Eventually, that failed.
"Before that, and after that, we rang the bell this way." He stepped over to a thick rope hanging down and looping on the wooden floor. He pulled it several times to start the bell swinging, and I heard the bell's rich notes ringing fully this time. My hands shaking, I asked if I could try. Of course, but it's hard work, he warned me.
I didn't care. Reaching up, grabbing and wrapping the rope around my hands, I pulled. Using my whole body, bending my knees and reaching up again, I pulled.
And I rang Paul Revere's bell, another circle completed.
Editor's note: The members of the Baptist Church hope to keep the bell in Westborough, and have priced the bell at $200,000, including removal, in the hope that a local group can raise the money and keep the bell in the town that has heard it ring for nearly 200 years.
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