Local author and historian to appear at Tatnuck Bookseller Feb. 29
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – In 2014 Michael Perna Jr. released his popular book, Shrewsbury Through Time. In it, he showcased a number of black and white images that he had collected over the years, illustrating such things as old homes, schools, and businesses as well as residents.Since that time, he has collected so many more rare images, either through purchases or donations that he decided to do another book. The new Shrewsbury Through Time II, illustrates through “then and now,” images, just how much the town has changed over the generations.
Perna will be at Tatnuck Bookseller, Saturday, Feb. 29, from 1-3 p.m. to sign copies of his new book.
There was also another thing different about this new book, Perna said; he had four “assistants” working on the project with him. Grandchildren Tyler, 14, Katlyn, Anthony, 10, and Jack, 8, helped out in various ways, including voting on proposed cover photographs, taking photographs of modern day scenes, and transcribing captions.
“It was really fun working with them,” he said. “They did a great job and I hope it helped to enhance their appreciation for local history.”
For Perna himself, learning about Shrewsbury’s past has been a passion. Through his collection of old postcards, photos, and other items he has helped bring to life for current residents what Shrewsbury was like in days past. His works are not just of interest to the town’s residents though – others have been delighted to learn about things such as elephants swimming in Lake Quinsigamond, the White City Shopping Center’s beginnings as an amusement park, various military heroes, and early businesses and restaurants that are now long gone.
Perna has also shared many of those stories in a semi-regular series in the Community Advocate.
A lifelong resident of Shrewsbury, he was named as Town Historian in 2017. He has also served as past president of the Shrewsbury Historical Society, a member of Shrewsbury Historical Commission, and for many years as a member of the town’s Historic District Commission.
For 36 years Perna served in the Air National Guard, retiring in 2004. Since then he has served as chief of military records for the National Guard. He also works part time as the regional veterans affairs officer for Shrewsbury, Westborough, Northborough and Grafton.
Perna’s father, also named Michael, was among the first group of students to attend the Calvin Coolidge Elementary School after it opened in 1927. His two sons, Richard and Nicholas, were the third generation and now his grandsons, Anthony and his brother Jack are the fourth generation to attend the school.
Perna has written five books: “Shrewsbury in the Civil War” (1986), “Remembering Lake Quinsigamond – From Steamboats to White City,” (Chandler House Press, Worcester, MA – 1998) and the Arcadia books “Shrewsbury” (2001), “Lake Quinsigamond and White City Park” (2005) and “Shrewsbury Through Time” (2014).
And after he recently was given a treasure trove of photos of the Bigelow family, one of Shrewsbury’s wealthiest and most known families at the turn of the 20th century, he is hopeful to write a book about them as well.
“I just have to find the time to do it!” he laughed.
Perna will also be at Barnes & Noble, 541 D Lincoln Street (Lincoln Plaza), Worcester, on Saturday, March 7 from 1-3 p.m.