100 Years of Messinger FieldBy Holly Erickson
The faces of children were painted with guitars and butterflies. Adults and kids alike nibbled on popcorn and hot dogs. Fire trucks were there to be explored by curious, wide-eyed children. A clown made pink poodles out of balloons. This could’ve been — and quite possibly was — the scene at Messinger Field nearly a century ago. But this past Saturday, it was the scene of the 100th anniversary celebration of that very field.
In 1912, Dr. Arthur Cabot, one of six children and the only one of his siblings not to pursue construction, decided to leave the 4.5-acre parcel of land to the community. In addition, he handed over a check of more than $10,000 to establish a trust that would ensure that the field and its playground would be maintained and preserved in the years to come. Thanks to the hard work of the field’s trustees and the Canton Recreation Department, that wish has certainly been honored.
Today, Messinger Field is a Canton staple, a neighborhood field and playground visited and enjoyed by many on a daily basis. And this past Saturday, it was transformed into an old-fashioned picnic.
“For the 100th anniversary, we figured we’d have an old-fashioned picnic reminiscent of 100 years ago — simple foods, popcorn, pony rides,” said Mary Levrault, chairman of the committee that put together the event and a mom who saw her kids grow up at Messinger Field.
Indeed, both of her grown daughters were there helping out with the day’s festivities, and they, in turn, brought their own children.
The celebration featured a barbeque catered by Queen Anne’s, the ever popular moon bounce, face painting by current Canton High students, and the aforementioned pony rides.
The Marcelonis family, who moved to town from South Boston about a year ago, decided to take part after noticing a sign promoting the event when they were visiting the playground. Attracted to Canton for its schools and to be closer to family, Joe and Dana brought their 2-year-old daughter Parker to the celebration. Parker usually enjoys the swings and the monkey bars, but on this day she could be seen eagerly awaiting her balloon animal from Dr. Scrubbles the clown.
Ann and Simon Baranov of Sharon brought their two boys, Tomer, 3 ½, and David, 1. Ann had heard about the event and thought the flowers that the Canton Garden Club had put together in the water trough “looked lovely.” For Tomer, the big attraction was the moon bounce, while David, donning a red fire hat, relished the chance to tour a real fire truck.
While families were omnipresent, the older generation was also well represented. Committee member Al Callahan explained the role of the trustees and that of the Recreation Department, which mows the lawn and schedules activities at the field. He also recalls its former use. “Back in the day, this was the main field of the football team,” he said. “They would run from the Hemenway over here. We still have old films of both the baseball and football teams on this very field.”
Bill Dickie, another committee member and neighbor to Messinger Field, spoke of the generous trust left by Dr. Cabot and how the funds have been used through the years. “Since 1912, the trust has been self-sufficient,” he said. “It has been overspent but not misspent.”
When the trust did get drained, it was for a very worthy cause: the healing of the community in the aftermath of World War II. “In 1946 and 1947, after the war closed, the field was host to all weekend-long celebrations,” Dickie explained.
While it did take many years to get the money flowing, the trustees did indeed build up the trust again.
Eighty-three-year-old Donald Podgurski, a Canton resident, strolled down memory lane as he sat at a picnic table, munching away on a hot dog.
“I played football here 65 years ago, and I played here as a kid 75 years ago” he said. He remembered being “6 or 7 years old, walking from Rockland Street to use the only playground at the time.” And he explained how on Sundays, thousands would descend upon Messinger Field for football games.
To this day, Podgurski still looks back with affection on his time at Messinger Field. And this past Saturday was a day he and many others will look back to with a similar affection — and store in their memory banks as a day to be remembered.
Messinger Field Celebration Committee: Chairman Mary Levrault, Elizabeth Levrault, Diane Callahan, Al Callahan, Maureen Dickie, Bill Dickie, Jason Dickie, Debra Dickie, Bob Stubbs, and Mary Gill
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