It was December 20th on a Sunday afternoon. As always, I had a childhood sense of excitement as I entered Malden's Historical Museum. The familiar "antique" smell greeted me as I walked down the hallway toward a small room where the microfilm reader was located. Inside the room located in the middle of the museum, shelfs are filled with many delicate scrap books. There are scrap books from the 1950's. Each scrap book is bulging with carefully crafted memories of music clubs, art clubs, and civic clubs. The scrapbooks reminded me of soldiers as they "guarded" photos and hand written notes in a different time.
These were times of simple communications. You knew your neighbors on your street. You saw them outside in early summer evenings and it was not unusual for you to spend an hour visiting over the fence or sitting on the porch. Reading the weekly hometown newspaper or watching a black and white television broadcast the CBS evening news anchored by Walter Cronkite was fairly routine in the 1950's. The museum is now home to these memories. It's easy to recall the past as you pour over the ages in print. It's a pleasant time to see images long forgotten.
In this same small room, there is a vaulted file cabinet on the floor next to the entrance. The cabinet holds Malden's newspaper history beginning in 1904. Rolls of film are stored in small white boxes. Inside the box is microfilm reels of legal newspapers. Because of their legal stature, they are an important historical records of Malden. My respect for the film holds an important place in my heart. I know the hard work that went into creating such an important archival collection. I remember being fascinated and proud when my Dad, Allen Black, editor and publisher of the Malden Press-Merit, told me about his discovery of the earliest editions of the Malden newspapers dated in 1904.
He said, after he bought the Malden Merit in the early 1950's, he found the papers stacked in a large room. He said the earliest editions of the Malden Merit were brown and brittle. He said one had to be very careful to not tear them. The next several years he spent countless Saturdays sifting through the collections. His goal. . . to find each complete edition and have them bound in newspaper size books. After collecting each year of publication, the newspapers were packed in wooden boxes and shipped off to be bound in large blue books. Just as important was the decision to have each page photographed for microfilm. Allen Black donated the film to the Malden Historical Museum and the books are the property of the owners of the Delta News Citizen and Malden Press-Merit.
Allen Black loves history. He found a treasure of literature and stories that could be shared with generations of Malden citizens and this was a true labor of love. Over the forty years the Press-Merit was published, hundreds of people would come into the back of the "shop" and open the wooden cabinets that housed these special books. They would carefully lay the large blue books on the counters and pour over pages of Malden history. Many were searching the papers for their own family history. Because of Mr. Black's respect for journalism and history, one can search through the archives of Malden's printed history from 1904 up to 1994 using the microfilm reader in the museum.
I reviewed the year 1956 on that quiet Sunday afternoon on Beckwith Street. The flame of recognition was blazing with memories of Christmas in Malden 53 years ago. Maldenites have a great historical collection for research and pleasure thanks to Allen Black's love of journalism, history and his hometown of Malden. Today anyone can enjoy reading about Malden and researching family history. Visit the Malden Historical Museum at 201 N. Beckwith Street. You'll be glad you did. Merry Christmas!
Malden Historical Museum: http://maldenmuseum.com/