The horses galloped as I breathed in and took in the sites. It was my town and it was summer. The streets were now crowded with trees that had bloomed into a myriad of green leaves, almost forming an arc across the road. It was quite funny to be seeing my town this way. I had driven through it countless times in the morning, yet from a horse drawn carriage it somehow seemed different.
As Dan’s voice echoed through the speakers, I closed my eyes and imagined what Beverly was like 100 years ago. He said, “This is the site of the old coal mine.” Right now it was a park, overgrown with some trees and shrubs. It was hard to imagine that a coal mine existed here, and that there still might be veins of coal underneath where we were standing.
There were many sad stories associated with this town, Dan said. After land prices started to fall, the town decided that starting a coal mine would help to reignite the economy. The only problem is that the town did not have money to invest into such a venture. So they issued debentures, and started a company based on the little amount of savings that Beverly’s residents had left. The people must have been excited, reinvesting their savings into the town that meant so much to them, hoping that their little contribution could save things. A Company was set up, equipment was purchased, and the coal-
Dan nodded his head in the direction of the driver. At this signal, the driver made a kissing sound with his lips, and the horses started into a trot. It was almost 40 degrees with the humidex. Surprisingly, the heat didn’t bother us. We were in the shade of the carriage and the fresh breeze was invigorating. As the horses were pulling us down the street, some people stopped to gawk at us. Some waved. We waved back. It was an odd intersection of history meeting modernity; a carriage pulled down the street with two horses was a rare site in this neighborhood. I smiled, realizing that every driver who passed us did a double take. Was that just a horse-
There were about twenty of us in the carriage, and then Dan, a seventy-
“This is where the second school in Beverly was built,” he said, stopping the carriage so we could all see. “Beverly experienced a massive boom in its earlier years when land was cheap. There were many more children so a new school needed to be built.” He explained how the school didn’t quite turn out as planned. Before it even opened, there were leaks in the basement. Pieces of plaster would fall from the walls and ceiling, and the school was closed three years later.
Wow, this is one unlucky town. I thought to myself. It experienced economic demise, broken schools, and was even run by a government administrator for four years. But like areas that have experienced an earthquake, some hope started to emerge out of this rubble. I, like most people, didn’t see it at first, but after working in the area for a while I started to see a glimpse. The carriage ride is what did it for me, really. It provided me a perspective of a community of people that were bound together by economic hardships and challenges. These were often people who came here from other countries, lured by the price of cheap land. They worked hard, and things still did not always work. But some managed to persevere, and they shared the carriage with me. They were Beverly’s seniors, getting together once a week to talk about how things used to be.
As the carriage started moving again, I turned and began conversation with the woman sitting next to me. Her name was Bertha, and she told me that she grew up in Beverly. She got excited as we passed a playground said said, “Oh! That’s the old Anderson farm. I remember playing there as a kid.” It was hard to imagine that this used to be all farmland. Right now we were surrounded by a quiet suburban neighborhood and a row of shops on 118th Avenue. These people had memories here, childhoods. When they grew up, this was a montage of farms and empty land. I couldn’t imagine the change that they witnessed in their lifetimes.
My thoughts were interrupted by cars honking. We were turning onto 118th Avenue, and apparently were in the way. The horses went from a trot to a gallop. I hadn’t been in a carriage pulled by galloping horses before. Up ahead I saw the farmers market, where we departed from. We were nearly done our tour. That was one fast hour, and a very relaxing one. Something about being pulled by horses and having a warm breeze in your face made an excellent end to any day.
A lineup of children was already starting to form. Everyone was excited to see the horses and have a chance to ride in the carriage. I saw families milling around the farmer’s market and heard the kettle corn machine popping fresh popcorn. This is how families should live, I thought… getting together for a communal event, and sharing in the experiences of generations past.