Friday, December 06, 2002

I much prefer historical place names to ones that commemorate those who lived more recently. Or maybe a person doesn't seem significant until 50 years have past, kind of like the value of an antique or collectible.

There was some commentary and letters in the papers recently about the naming of the new veteran's cemetery in Stillwater to honor former Congressman Jerry Solomon. I guess it shouldn't be a controversy, as he was a big supporter of veteran's rights. On the other hand, it does seem a little inappropriate to me. I'm not trying to dishonor the dead; I recognize the importance of the rituals we associate with life events; I am an advocate for traditional memorials. In fact, I like cemeteries. Gettysburg should stay Gettysburg and I'm not sure what was wrong with calling this one Saratoga. Certainly it is a more honorable thing to be known for than horse racing.

Perhaps the fact that I was the recipient of a very nasty response letter from Mr. Solomon when I wrote to him colors my perspective. On the other hand, in years since I have come to appreciate any response at all, for when I more recently wrote in support of Amtrak, I heard nothing back from Senators Schumer and Clinton. Jerry's staff may have been mean, but they sure weren't lax.

This makes me think of some place names in Albany. Of course, prominently, there's Rockefeller's name; Empire State Plaza, with its modern utopian design, and its controversial beginnings, seems, somehow, a fitting tribute to his vision. Then there's the Pepsi, although I stubbornly still call it the Knick. A can of soda or Washington Irving's wit. Now what's a more appropriate moniker for an arena?

In the Town of Olive they have built a pricey and beautiful new swimming pool. There is talk, and maybe it is already a done deal, of naming it for a late councilperson. He was active in the community, and I suppose it is a nice honor. Maybe he liked swimming, I'm not sure. I worked at this pool's predecessor as a teenager and I don't remember him coming there. This naming strikes me as inappropriate, too.

I believe the funds for this pool came from the NYC Watershed Agreement. My sister sent me this link from the Ulster County Archives to a list of people who were paid for lands when the Ashokan Reservoir was built. It got me thinking about those folks. If someone is to be honored, why not Lillie Jamieson? I don't know anything about this person, except that she was displaced. But that displacement makes her more worthy than any politician.

Better yet, honor one of the lost places. Ashton is such a pretty name. But it wasn't part of Olive township and so I guess we must leave the commemorating - or neglecting - to the Town of Hurley. So how about Bishop's Falls? There's a beautiful place that was among the first to be sacrificed. Erased from history, resurrected as a swimming pool, built with NYC's money. Let's have the courage to tell the story.

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