Loose Ends: Placing a date in time

Every now and then a significant date comes to mind. Usually it has personal significance, as it marks a birthday or anniversary celebration for family and friends. Other times it is of a wider significance — a national holiday or a day that is etched in everyone’s mind.
Different generations remember events differently, yet all of them are marked in some way with a remembrance of where they were when the event occurred. The Challenger explosion, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, or the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., on 9/11. Dates marking significant local events are remembered as well, yet barely as the number of people alive in the community who can remember a personal connection to that event is so small.
Local history buffs can reel off so many dates that it is hard to remember the significance of each. Yet others can only give an estimate for the year’s that events of town’s significance occurred. Many of the descendants of the pioneer families who settled here remember the date marking their family’s arrival in the valley. Usually lengthy stories accompany the remembrance of those dates.
At least the year of one very important event in our community should be part of our shared memory. November 1969 was the first meeting of the Freeman E. Fairfield Trust Committee. One would think we would be grateful to a local native son who shared his wealth with this community time and again. Freeman Fairfield’s gift to the town after his passing should be one we all remember, but we don’t. Each year, thousands of dollars are given for scholarship grants to local students, so that they can further their education. So many other local projects have been funded that it is surprising there hasn’t been a committee formed to change the name of the town to Fairfield.
Dates never become part of our shared history, unless there are personal stories attached to each of them. If we designated an event as worthy of remembering based on this measurement, the local calendar would include such noteworthy events as the day the electric lights first lit up the downtown or the day our streets were paved. My personal favorite is the day the rogue elephant broke away from his circus handlers and was shot, killed and buried on the outskirts of town. These events are all remembered clearly by number of our old-timers, although the dates are fuzzy.
Thinking back to a certain period of time is not difficult, when personal events come back to mind. Placing the date is an empty exercise, until the memories link with the past and it all becomes clear again.