June 14, 2010
Groton village celebrates 150 years in style
GROTON — Smiling and acting as though nothing was out of place, Charles Rankin and several other village officials wearing 19th century clothing cheerfully greeted visitors and posed for the occasional camera at the village office Saturday.
It was all part of the fun in celebrating the village of Groton’s 150th anniversary, which continued Sunday. An opening ceremony was held Friday evening at the village office.
Rankin, who is the village clerk and administrator, sported black and white dress clothes, a top hat and a cigar Saturday during an open house of village offices.
He laughed and said he would prefer sticking with T-shirts.
“One of my beliefs is, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been,” Rankin said. “It’s simple in its theory, but a lot of the times, it works.”
The village of Groton was founded in 1860 and has transformed from an industrial center into a quiet community.
It was home to a bridge manufacturing company, as well as the Corona Typewriter Co., which became part of the Smith-Corona Marchant conglomerate.
The Groton typewriter plant employed about 1,500 people before shutting down and moving to Cortlandville
Parked in front of the Groton Historical Society, a milk delivery truck from 1935 served as a reminder of sorts about how daily life has changed over the decades, such as a home milk delivery every other day.
“It’s important to know how our predecessors lived, and their lifestyles,” said Charles Butts, president of the Groton Historical Society. “We’re basically a throw-away society nowadays, and items that we use are not worth repairing.”
Throughout the week, seven classes from the Groton school district toured the local museum. Daily life was much different 150 years ago than it is today, Butts said as he recalled the school tours.
“You had to heat water in a wood stove for a bath and you were lucky for a bath once a week,” he said. “When we tell them (students) that, the girls go ‘ewww’ — they can’t fathom it.”
An approximately 4-foot-tall Victrola from the late 1800s, which plays music, towers over its modern day counterparts such as iPods that can fit in a person’s pocket.
“This was probably top of the line, you’d put it in your parlor, have company over and you’d entertain on the weekends,” Butts said of the Victrola machine.
A seven-minute video titled “Groton: Then and Now” played for visitors in the village office.
It featured photographs from around the village taken over the past century and contrasted them with their modern look.
“A lot of the stuff was mostly the same, except some buildings were torn down and it was dirt roads,” Groton resident Leah Sheldon, 20, said after watching the video.
Other changes were more noticeable.
The former opera house has been reduced in size and now contains the village’s fire and police departments.
Rankin said the turnout for the 150th anniversary demonstrates the village’s pride in its heritage. About 200 people stood and sat outside the village office for the opening ceremony.
The industry might have come and gone, but the closeness is as strong as ever, he said.
“I think it’s the small community of people that help their neighbors when the chips are down, and I don’t think that’ll ever die,” Rankin said.
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