By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – About a 20-year process of collecting artifacts resulted in the opening of the nonprofit Massachusetts State Police Museum and Learning Center (MSPMLC) in the former barracks built in 1931 at 44 Worcester St. (Route 140) in Grafton. While the building’s renovation is still “a work in progress,” the time and energy is deserved, noted Charlie “Shirl” Alejandro, a retired trooper and museum director.
“The Massachusetts State Police is the oldest state police agency in the country,” she said. “It has a rich legacy intertwined with American history.”
On Sept. 19, the MSPMLC hosted its first Vintage Police Vehicle Show, featuring 28 cruisers from 1941 through the 1990s. Joining them were current vehicles of the Grafton Police Department (GPD). A portion of the proceeds benefitted Sgt. Mike Mazzola, a 20-year GPD veteran, who is unable to work while battling cancer.
“Two of our volunteers, Mike Slepetz and Phil Masso, told me that they could make this happen,” Alejandro relayed. “They know everybody who is anybody in the car show community.”
Alejandro also credits volunteers and board members whose longtime mission has been to preserve the state police history. In the 1990s, retired Lt. Edward Montague Jr. and retired Lt. Col. Ron Guilmette began collaborating toward that goal.
“They collected as many artifacts as they could and said we need to find somewhere for them,” Alejandro explained.
After the building’s first floor was refurbished to become handicap accessible, Montague was among participants of a ribbon-ribbon cutting ceremony to preview the MSPMLC in June 2014.
“The board had the ribbon cutting then to ensure that Ed was here to see it,” Alejandro said. “At that time he was really sick.”
Nine months later, Montague passed away and Alejandro was hired as museum director.
The MSPMLC opened May 16, the date when the Massachusetts State Police marked its 150th anniversary. It was the first day of a week-long celebration at the MSPMLC.
Alejandro is hopeful that funding will be secured to make the now-closed second floor handicap accessible. There, she’d like to show visitors the former troopers’ living conditions.
“Up to the early 1970s, troopers were required to live in the barracks even if they weren’t on duty – there was such a dedication,” she said. “We have a lot of pieces from what bedrooms looked like back in 1931.”
The museum also has two cells from when the barracks were operational. One contains wanted posters for Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.
“We have an actual copy of the original wanted poster and another that states, ‘Captured,’” Alejandro said.
Visitors can view vintage communication equipment including a manual typewriter with a police log dated 1942, a Teletype machine and traffic radars spanning decades.
“The state police has always pushed to be on the cutting edge of technology,” Alejandro noted.
Among other artifacts are decades of uniforms on display and illustrated in photographs.
“We have one uniform on exhibit from the 1930s, and photos showing the progression,” Alejandro explained.
A 1968 Ford wagon is displayed on the property. A carport might be built to display additional vintage vehicles. Also planned when the second floor becomes handicap accessible is an archive and research space with authentic articles, books, photos and reports.
Looking toward the MSPMLC’s future, Alejandro said, “My vision is to expand the museum, and have everybody come check it out and realize what a rich history we have here.”
The MSPMLC is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment for groups. Admission is by donation. Contact 978-606-7933 or email@example.com.
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.