By ROD LEE
Saturday, July 16th was not just the occasion for a parade and related activities to mark the town of Northbridge’s 250th anniversary.
Above photo, Steve Byron talks with officials from Access TCA during their visit to the Massachusetts State Police Museum on July 20th. A 1951 Indian motorcycle is prominently displayed on the floor of the museum. Bottom photo, Jack Crawford helps lead representatives of Access TCA through the Massachusetts State Police Museum. A team from Access TCA played an important role in crafting the displays and exhibits at the museum.
The date also represented a soft opening of the Massachusetts State Police Museum and Learning Center in the historic former Whitinsville Bank Building at Memorial Square.
MSPMLC President Stephen F. Byron, VP Eric S. Bernstein and Jack Crawford—three principals at the forefront of efforts to relocate the museum from its previous home at the State Police barracks in Grafton—are in an understandably celebratory mood, knowing that they were able to get the premises ready for area residents to enjoy as part of festivities associated with the municipality’s big milestone.
“We started this in 1995 as an idea. It took until 2007 to get it organized as a nonprofit,” Mr. Byron said on July 20th. “We have more stuff than we know what to do with.”
His comments came as he and Mr. Crawford ushered Amy Sondrup, Scott Williams and Dean Cerrati of Access TCA through the premises.
Mr. Byron and Mr. Crawford had high praise for Access TCA, which was largely responsible for creating the atmosphere that has been achieved in the 6,000 square feet the museum occupies on the first floor of the building. As Mr. Crawford told Ms. Sondrup, Mr. Williams and Mr. Cerrati, “we’re police officers, not design experts.”
“They’re incredible,” Mr. Byron said of Access TCA’s crew.
They are indebted as well to Vincent Osterman of E. Osterman Gas, the building’s owner, for providing them with a two-year lease.
“We landed here in eight days and we had to be out of the building we were in a month,” Mr. Crawford said. “This is one of the most beautiful buildings in town. We thought it was too big when we first saw it. It is a bases-loaded home run. It’s perfect. Everything meets our requirements for a public building.”
Mr. Crawford, a longtime prominent townie who now lives in Uxbridge, believes the museum will quickly be embraced as an important addition to Northbridge’s downtown historic district. Initial response from those who are checking the museum out indicates his optimism is well-warranted.
The museum is open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and by appointment.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” to assist with shepherding visitors through the museum and explaining the exhibits, Mr. Byron said.
In giving the Access TCA team a guided tour, Mr. Byron and Mr. Crawford were pleased to offer remarks on many of the artifacts that have been arranged for viewing. There are vintage and current State Police uniforms, helmets, countless photographs (including some of various State Police troop locations), scanners, license plates, telephones, a holster with bullets (“twenty-four rounds, loaded individually,” Mr. Byron said), patches, the learning center (a separate room), pennants, firearms (“we had a pistol team”), a board room, a replica canine, and a 1951 Indian motorcycle—for instance.
“At one time,” they said, “every trooper was required to learn to ride a motorcycle.
“Most motorcycles have the throttle on the right, these were on the left, so an officer could shoot with his right hand if necessary,” Mr. Byron said.
Exhibits include a lunch counter dedicated to Artist Norman Rockwell’s famous painting “The Runaway,” which appeared on a cover of the Saturday Evening Post. It depicts a trooper and a child sitting side by side on stools.
“Rockwell approached a trooper who lived nearby, Dick Clemmons, to help him with this,” Mr. Byron said. “Dick Clemmons became a goodwill ambassador and is now deceased. The boy, Eddie Lock, is still alive.” Mr. Lock was an eight-year-old third grader at the Plain School in Stockbridge in 1958 when he was selected to pose for a picture Mr. Rockwell used to create his painting.
Addressing his new tenant on the morning of July 22, Mr. Osterman said “I think the museum is going to be a great asset for the town. It fits well in the historic district to have a facility like that. My hope is that they will get the education community involved.
“We’re very happy to have them as a tenant.”
Persons interested in learning more about the museum and learning center (“preserving a history of service to the citizens of Massachusetts”) can do so by going to the website, www.mspmlc.org