Southborough – We'se seen it on television, and read about it in books – the days of five-cent movies, one-room schoolhouses and children working the family farm. While it might feel like fiction to many people, these realities and more are familiar memories to many Southborough residents.
The newly published “Southborough Memories” shows how life was very different just 70 years ago. With a focus on stories and events from 1900 to 1940, the book contains interviews of 40 Southborough seniors, many over 70 years old and two nearly 100. By capturing these oral histories in her book, author Donna McDaniel has crafted a friendly, easy-to-read account that brings readers snapshots of a life that seems very different from the present.
McDaniel explained that early in her career, she was a history teacher, and often lamented how most people think learning about history is boring.
“Part of the problem is that many history books are boring … too many focus on war and politics, and other aspects are left out … One of the reasons I wrote this book is to show people that history is interesting when it reflects the lives of people, not just institutions.”
At the Southborough Historical Society Museum Nov. 13, McDaniel, a Southborough resident, read from her recently published book, and some of the interviewees were also present.
Her research was supported by a grant provided by the Community Preservation Fund.
“People were generally open to the interviews,” she said, although she added that it can take a surprising amount of time to get the interviews scheduled and completed.
McDaniel herself is a relative newcomer to Southborough compared to the people she interviewed. She moved to Southborough in the 1970s, but quickly became involved in the community. She became the town's first female selectman in 1978.
McDaniel pointed out that she was able to gather so many rich stories because there are many longtime Southborough families. Several families have been in Southborough for generations, and family members have accounts of events they have experienced as well as those shared by relatives. Interviewees included Willy Mauro, whose family has been in town for generations and is known to most residents thanks to the eponymous café and store. Eleanor Onthank Hamel, whose family has been in Southborough since before the American Revolution, was also included in the interviews. Other interviewees include two retired firefighters, retired town government members and other long-time residents.
McDaniel will be giving another presentation at the Southborough Library Wednesday, Dec. 7.