Photo project to preserve memories
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Apr. 19, 2011
Peter Billard’s family had a lot of old photographs pertaining to life in the small town of Hebron. Those photos, and the stories behind them, inspired him to embark upon the Hebron Heritage Photo Project. The purpose of the project is to preserve photographs pertaining to life in the town, as well as to record information “from the people who can still describe them,” according to the project website, found at http://web.me.com/peterbillard/Hebron_Heritage_Photo_Project.
On April 16, Billard held the second of four workshops scheduled to scan photographs and collect information. “We’ve worked out a pretty good system,” he said, waiting for his next visitor in the meeting room of the Douglas Library. “I’m scanning, and my wife Nancy is interviewing people, so that we don’t lose any information.”
Billard said that the workshops so far have been a big success, producing many photos of farming, townspeople, town events and buildings and homes. “There’s been a good variety,” he said, “but there are still gaps we want to fill.” One of those gaps is photographs related to the railroad that used to run through town. Billard would also like to preserve more photographs of town events such as early fairs, as well as natural disasters. He has collected some photographs of the hurricane of 1938, but would love to have more.
An interesting development resulting from publicity surrounding the project was a phone call that Billard received not long ago. A 92-year-old Connecticut resident had been a pilot in 1937. On a flight from Boston to Hartford, he became disoriented due to weather and was forced to land in a pasture owned by Everett Lord, across from what is now the town hall. “He wanted to know if I was interested in some photos,” said Billard. “I said that I was.” Billard was able to scan photocopies of a photograph of the airplane, as well as news articles describing the event. “I’d love to have the originals,” he said.
One of the residents who showed up during the April 16 event was Betty Gonci, a longtime Burrows Hill Road resident. Gonci brought with her photographs from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. The photos depicted Gonci’s life at home with her husband, Al, and her sons, Robert and Donald. Included were photos of the family preparing their garden for planting, as well as introducing a piglet onto the homestead. “Look at the difference in what I’m wearing,” said Gonci, comparing a 1937 photograph to another taken in 1944. “Look how much the dresses changed.”
There is a third scanning day planned for May 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Douglas Library, and a fourth in June, details to be decided. “The way it’s been going, I think we should hold another one,” said Billard. “I don’t think there’s any foreseeable end in sight. We can keep adding to it for as long as people keep finding things.” Billard also plans to hold a slideshow “party,” to help with identification of some of the people and events that are still in question. Contact Billard at email@example.com or 860-633-6300.