By Matthew Ferreira/Staff Writer
Posted Mar. 5, 2015 at 2:22 PM
MIDDLEBORO — It’s no secret to residents who are privy to matters of town government that there’s been a push over the last couple of years to “put Middleboro on the map” as a tourist destination. That endeavor may have gotten a much-appreciated boost last Tuesday when Middleboro became the subject of syndicated news program Chronicle’s “Mystery Town” segment — where the cameras explore a town’s local sites and offer viewers clues as to what town is being visited before revealing the location.
“There are towns that like their anonymity; the peace quiet and lack of traffic it brings. Not here,” said Chronicle anchor Anthony Everett in his introduction to the segment. “In fact, this town is on a mission to be discovered. This mystery town doesn’t really want to be a mystery.”
Middleborough Public Library employee and originator of the “Middleboro Mess Movers” group Melissa Guimont, who is responsible for drawing the network’s attention to the town, says the feature had been a long time coming.
“I wrote a letter to Chronicle and asked them to feature our town back in 2012, and they got back to me mid-January this year,” she said. “I explained in the letter all of the wonderful things that we had to offer. I mentioned to them that we were in the middle of everything and that we are often overlooked by the passerby on their way to the Cape or Boston.”
The segment featured distinguished local businesses, both past and present, and pointed out elements of Middleboro’s colorful history.
“People should be spoiled, and I’m a nurturer,” On Cranberry Pond bed and breakfast owner Jeannine LaBossiere told the cameras after showing off her “puffy pancake,” which she serves guests for breakfast with a scoop of ice cream.
“Carlton Maxim, back in 1914, he didn’t like what was available to the community for fire apparatus and he decided that he could build it better himself,” said Middleborough Fire Lt. Lawrence Fahey. “Apparently he did because they lasted right up until 1989 before they out of business.”
“These are meals that are very affordable, they’re not huge,” said Dave’s Diner owner David Fisher, explaining his “Tom Thumb menu”. “Tom Thumb was a little bit of a smaller individual so it kind of fit the concept.”
Speaking of Tom Thumb, Middleboro Historical Association member Gladys Beals shared some of her extensive knowledge on the esteemed circus performer from the 1800s who made a summer home in Middleboro where he lived with his wife Lavinea, a Middleboro native who, like Thumb, was a dwarf.
“He came here to see for himself this lovely little lady who was like the resident china doll,” she said. “He was very, very dignified and when they came to town he was decked out in a top hat.”
Though the company (Alden Shoe Co.) wasn’t identified in the segment, Chronicle also made mention of a particular shoe made in Middleboro due to the model’s appearance on Harrison Ford’s feet in Indiana Jones films.
Selectman Leilani Dalpe, who the show acknowledged as one who is pushing to get Middleboro recognized as a destination town, served as a liaison and key source to the Chronicle crew during their visit, showing them around Middleboro and providing local insight on what they saw. One thing she was sure to show them was the town hall and some of its lesser-known features.
“People come to the town hall all the time but it’s just to handle their business and leave, so a lot of people aren’t aware of things like the historic jail cells in the basement, or the beautiful ballroom we have upstairs,” Dalpe said, mentioning that the ballroom is available for private functions for a low rental fee. “I know for me, our architecture is something I really wanted to emphasize.”
Dalpe said she was also happy with the show’s interest in Tom Thumb, as the wee circus performer from Middleboro’s yesteryear has become a big part of efforts to market the town today.
“Tom Thumb is a really big draw,” Dalpe said. “Overseas in the UK people are fascinated with Barnum and Bailey and Tom Thumb so we’re really trying to market that over there especially.”
Guimont, who noted that the crew made due despite difficulties stemming from one of the area’s many recent snow events, says her hope is that the segment conveys to outsiders why Middleboro residents feel so fortunate to live where they do.
“The motivation I had for doing this is that I think our town fits into the typical ‘old-timey New England’ feel,” she said. “We are one of the largest towns in the state with one of the best communities I’ve ever seen. We want people to share our rich history with others and we want people to explore what we love so much. I think having people come to visit our town will help generate some revenue here. Also, if people see our river and our natural landscapes, they might come to respect them and cherish them as much as we do.”
If you missed the segment, there will be a public showing of it at the Middleborough Public Library, 102 N. Main St., on Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m.
On another note, Middleboro will appear on television again at some point, this time nationally, although anonymously, as the popular chain restaurant corporation Friendly’s selected Middleboro’s Friendly’s location on Bedford Road to shoot their new television commercial. Filming took place last week.