“It is always quietly thrilling to look at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.” - Bill Bryson
If folks recall, I always set myself up for a challenge each summer by aspiring to read a book a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Invariably, I fall short and experience some disappointment; this summer, for instance, I read nine—my record is eleven and a half. The disappointment has yet to stop me from setting the goal each year, aspiring to achieve it, and enduring the conspiracy of schedule and energy against my aspiration. As I reflect on it, reading over 3000 pages in 14 weeks is something to celebrate after all.
Brooks’ March, French’s The Trespasser, Wheal and Kotler’s Stealing Fire, and McCullough’s This American Spirit, powered me through June. Launch and blended (which, to be fair, were assigned summer reads for our whole faculty, but they still count in my total) provided an inspiring start to July. Then I found myself in conversation with my father about his book group, and discovered my book of the summer: One Summer, America 1927, by Bill Bryson. For a bit of color, it is worth noting that 99% of the book recommendations I have received from my parents have come from my mother. (It was, in fact, her copy of Tana French’s The Trespasser, that I read.) So, that the recommendation came from my dad meant the stars were truly aligned. I doubt he knew that the summer of ‘27 was Belmont Day’s first, nor that we are celebrating our 90th anniversary this year.
According to Bryson’s text here are some of the highlights of the American summer of 1927:
Charles Lindbergh would become the first person to successfully fly across the Atlantic and vault into a national stardom rarely seen since. That is saying something, by the way, because Lindbergh shared his summer with the ‘27 Yankees and Babe Ruth, who would hit 60 home runs that season. The nation watched Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer revolutionize motion pictures, and we were introduced to the first iteration of the television with a message from Herbert Hoover. Speaking of Hoover, a small handful of global banking magnates under Calvin Coolidge’s leadership would make a financial decision that paved the way for the Crash and Great Depression. Although it is doubtful that Hoover knew what was happening at the time, history has largely blamed him, as last year’s production of Annie reminded us. And, locally, there was the case of Sacco and Venzetti, two immigrant anarchists who were put to death for a crime they clearly did not commit. The power of fear, stereotype, and nationalism that had taken hold in our country simply wouldn’t allow for their innocence.
Into this context—that of a nation discovering itself, of innovation and ground-breaking achievement, and of political decisions with decades-long implications—imagine the opening of Belmont Day with eighteen students whose parents sought a school that might provide “[a] richness of subject matter, building up with a a consecutive plan from the earliest grades a fund of interest in and appreciation for the natural sciences and history… [a] variety of expressions of this interest and appreciation involving the technicalities of writing, reading and arithmetic as well as dramatization, music and hand work; and an opportunity for working to individual capacity possible in small groups.” (Boston Evening Transcript, March 13, 1928) So began Belmont Day School’s proud history in a context that would fundamentally inform the national landscape. What a great place and time to get started.
Each year, our students arrive in search of excellence, innovation, and the discovery of something new. They are curious about the world around them—everything from Elon Musk’s Space X pursuit, to a total eclipse of the sun, to the Patriots’ chances to repeat can captivate— and they are eager to play their role in it all. That, of course, explains why we, their teachers and parents, are here: to guide and inspire them along the way.
Have a great weekend everyone, and welcome back to school.