My wife, Judy, and I and our son, Ted, who was quite young at the time, had actually visited Cape Cod a year before moving here in September 1977. We came from Boston and on our way to the Cape stopped at Plimoth Plantation. When we visited Sandwich, Judy noticed that there was a Heritage Plantation—but we decided we weren’t going to visit because we had already gone to Plimoth Plantation. We had no idea it was totally different.
I worked at Heritage Plantation for 24 years. I was called in to create and look after the educational programs. One of the roles of a museum in the community is to really educate the population. You collect, you protect, and you preserve at a museum. But collecting and protecting and preserving don’t mean very much if you don’t make use of those objects and interpret them for the public.
I would have lunch with Bruce Corson, who was the director of the Sandwich Glass Museum, and we’d commiserate on the museum world and what was happening in the museum profession. One day, Jeanne Johnson, who was the executive director of the Thornton Burgess Society, joined us for lunch. I made an off-handed remark that I saw an ad in the newspaper looking for a director of development. She knew I was retiring from Heritage and said, “Yes, are you interested in the job?” So I actually retired from Heritage and came right here to the Thornton Burgess Society as its director of development in August 2001. In the fall of 2007, Jeanne announced she was leaving. The board approached me and said, “Since you have been executive director before, would you be willing to become director of the Burgess Society?” And I’m still here.
Thornton Burgess was born in Sandwich in 1874. His father passed away when he was not very old, and he and his mother lived in 10 different houses here in Sandwich—nine of those houses still stand. Burgess followed his mother to Springfield and got a job as an office boy with the Phelps Publishing Company. Phelps took over Good Housekeeping magazine, and Burgess worked his way up to become one of its editors. He was also a newspaper reporter and had a column on bicycles, which later translated into automobiles—he may have been one of the first automotive writers in the United States, but we’ve never been able to prove it or not. He married a young woman by the name of Nina Osborne, who tragically died in child birth. That left Burgess with a young son to raise, and the boy would not go to bed at night unless he was read a bedtime story. Burgess read him Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories. When he ran out of them, he made up stories about the animals he had seen when he lived in Sandwich.