Unearthing Local History & Scientific Samples

There are plenty of gems in our historic postcard collection, from views of old Falmouth industry to vacation spots that survive only in memory. Even among them, this 1984 membership postcard from the MBL is unusual! The front image of this postcard is an 1897 photograph of MBL students performing fieldwork at Quisset Harbor, and the woman in the center is Gertrude Stein. Her brother Leo holds a sample jar up beside her.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) is best known as one of the central figures of the Lost Generation: an unconventional poet, writer, and artist who pushed the boundaries of her arts during the chaos of the World Wars. But before she became the Gertrude Stein the world remembers, she considered a career in medicine. In the summer of 1897 she came to Woods Hole to take an embryology course at the MBL. (Read more here!)

She never did receive her medical degree. Instead she left the United States for thirty years, and went on to publish, provide wartime medical aid, and befriend and inspire the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse, and James Joyce.

Between their pictures and messages, postcards unearth some unusual samples of history. Take a look at our collection and see what you can discover about Falmouth!

A Gertrude Stein reading sampler from FPL:

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein: Selections, edited by Joan Retallack
Gertrude Stein Has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend, by Roy Morris


Postcards from Falmouth is made possible through a LSTA grant administered by the MBLC.

An Update on “Postcards from Falmouth,” a Local History Project

It was just about one year ago that Library staff kicked off the creation of an oral history grant and began recording local historians discussing landmarks and locations inspired by the Library’s collection of historical postcards of Falmouth. Although recording remains suspended in an effort to keep our community safe during the pandemic, work on the project carries on in various ways.  

First, we wish to introduce Mary Loftus, our grant assistant, who has hit the ground running and brings much experience to the project as well as a  neighborly manner and a keen interest in local history. Welcome on board, Mary!

Aside from planning more programs with speakers on local history topics, we are also completing post-production work on the oral histories we have recorded.  These recordings not only include Revered Jonathan Drury,  Reverend Will Mebane, and Rabbi Elias Lieberman; but they also include locals Donald Fish, Bill Swift, and Kevin Doyle. 

On an unhappy note, however, we were very sad to learn that one of our historians, Dick Kendall, recently passed on. Mr. Kendall grew up in Falmouth and served the town in many ways.  His account of playing baseball on the Falmouth Heights ball field is not only priceless but illustrates perfectly the exact goal of the project—preserving Falmouth’s history as told by its residents.

While we have many more local historians on deck to record as soon as we can get back into the studio at FCTV, we invite all of the community to contribute in our effort to capture and preserve memories of our beautiful town!  Here are ways you can help take part in the project:

  • Visit the Postcards from Falmouth digital exhibit and share your memories in the comment sections.
  • Interview your favorite Falmouth local historian about Falmouth “back in the day,” or share your own recollections with the Library.  Send submissions to postcards@falmouthpubliclibrary.org . Submissions may be included in the Library collection or shared through our social media.

Be sure to contact Mary if you have any questions at postcards@falmouthpubliclibrary.org or call (508) 457-2555 ext. 2951.

Tom Turkington’s Before I Forget: A Boyhood of Little Drama

It is always a pleasure to catalog the works of local authors, and Tom Turkington’s Before I Forget: A Boyhood of Little Drama is no exception.  Recently interviewed by Ken Gartner for The Enterprise, Mr. Turkington points out that his book is not simply about growing up in Falmouth; he does, after all, portray life in mid-20th century America, a time in history when families watched television together and  kids ran around freely and played throughout the neighborhood until the dinner bell rang.  Indeed, Before I Forget portrays a time when the pace of life seemed to pass so much slower—perhaps even for noted local runners such as Turkington and Gartner!

However, for those who are interested in local history, Turkington’s chronicles reference many of the unique characteristics of bygone Falmouth: the Fire Station whistle and the raft at Surf Drive Beach, to name just two.  In fact, for those who did grow up in Falmouth years ago, reading Before I Forget will certainly be a nostalgic walk down Memory Lane, as well as Scranton Avenue and Mill Road.  To be sure, whether remembering such teachers as Miss Mullen with her red hair and purple outfits on the Village School playground or reminiscing about Mr. Kalperis (also known as “Kalpy”) and the Lawrence High School track team; Turkington’s memoir not only depicts what it was like growing up during the fifties and sixties, but it also offers a rare glimpse into what it was like growing up in Falmouth, glimpses that may not be included in local history books and therefore often do run the risk of being forgotten.