PLAYING THE GAME: Inspired by Marblehead

I moved to Marblehead in 1965. In 1974, I finessed the self-delusional ephemera of “award-winning ad honcho” in corporate Boston in favor of … freedom. I set up my creative services shop here in Real Dealtown. In addition to coming up with branding and marketing ideas for fun clients, I’ve been able to p-l-a-y The Game of Life and indulge in some Marblehead-iconic doings along the way:         

— 1975: Marblehead Chamber of Commerce foot-with-holly Christmas Walk logo. 1976: Landing wine glass-with-sail logo. Late-’80s: Marblehead Bank seagull logo. 2016: Marblehead Female Humane Society Victorian woman/lighthouse logo.

— The NERCOM New England states tourism special section in the May 11, 1980, New York Times Magazine, in which I recounted experiences in each of the six states. Massachusetts began: “Marblehead, a craggy seacoast village beyond fascination and beauty, where I make my home, where I shall forever be at home.”

— 1988 Best of Show, Marblehead Arts Festival Writers World (an excerpt from my unpublished novel, “Reflections in O’Mara’s Mirror”— O’Mara’s is a fictional late-’60s Maddie’s). Title of the piece, “July 4th, 1976” — The narrator, Elicia Stein-Watkins, a woman of 37, reminisces:

    “Fourth of July, I’m seven. On Dad’s beautiful white schooner, Ondine.. It’s about 7. The harbor’s already filled to overflowing with boats from Boston and Gloucester and Manchester and Beverly and Salem. They all come here, because Marblehead really is the Fourth … the fireworks and illumination … the fisherman’s town on the one side of the harbor and the Merchant Princes’ on the other … the Old Glory of it all …

     And I had on my white dress with the red-white-and-blue sash and Mom had braided my hair and finished off the braids with red-white-and-blue ribbons. And the thrill was growing throughout the harbor, the boats all dressed in flags from bow to mast to stern, the star-spangled dissonance of horns and rockets and firecrackers and ships’ cannons; and Dad said I was the prettiest girl in the harbor, which he always did; and we had picnic there in the cockpit of the Ondine, sliced chicken sandwiches and deviled eggs and potato salad, and sarsaparilla for me and scotch and soda for Mom and Dad, and nothing ever tasted better or even as good; and Mom looked so beautiful in her long white dress, with her hair up and a beautiful tortoise shell comb in the back, and she had a red-white-and-blue sash about her waist, too, and I felt so good that we were dressed alike, and Dad told us that he was the luckiest man in the harbor, because he had the two most beautiful girls in the harbor to escort that evening; and Dad was so handsome in his white trousers and black blazer and King George tie, and Mom and I told him so, of course …

     And at dark, the harbor illumination. Hundreds of dim red flares set out by those whose houses rim the harbor. A glimmering rose necklace encircling the hundreds on hundreds of boats now quieted in expectation of the thunder and lightning to come.”

— 1997. I was awarded an honorary lifetime membership by the Marblehead Chamber of Commerce

— 1997. The incredible visit and sail of the iconic USS Constitution. I created a proposal for a coffee table book of reminiscences, and produced an evocative poster of “Old Ironsides” at the mouth of the harbor.   

— 1999. I created a branding line (“350 years proud”) for the town’s 350th anniversary celebration and recalled the impact of the Constitution’s visit in the commemorative program. An excerpt:

    “For two whole days time stood still — we were allowed to swim in the purity of a better time.  

    An air of the supernatural over all. The unreality of the haunting reality. The impossible grandeur of the majestic vessel which ought long ago been but a ghost of memory. Resurrection, rebirth. So many who would scarce darken the inside of a house of worship save for weddings and funerals would recall it as ‘a religious experience.’

     Celebration. Streaming tears of joy and pride, newfound neighbors at every turn. Tower bells, cannons, bands, bunting, flags waving, tens of thousands of voices at full throat.”

— 1999. I had official site approval from Marblehead Park & Rec for my copyrighted Marblehead Naval Memorial design — the memorial to be adjacent to Marblehead Light at Chandler Hovey Park. At a 2002 meeting I had with Daniel Finamore, curator of Maritime Art & History, Peabody Essex Museum, he said, “It’s thrilling. Contemplative but engaging. As unique, in its own way, as the Vietnam War Memorial. It would be a tremendous draw.” My surprising reaction to that was to officially withdraw my site request from Park & Rec — for fear of traffic congestion on the Neck.

Bob Baker was”dubbed” an official Marbleheader by Marblehead native Jackson Tremblay in an unusual ceremony at the Barnacle bar on Nov. 18, 1986.

Bob Baker
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Bob Baker is a creative resource in Marblehead whose memoir-in-progress is “Outlucking Gatsby: From Greenwich to The Green Light.”

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