Arbor Day At The Library
By John R. Greenwood
I visited the quaint little village of Chatham N.Y. once before and it was on business. Today's return was not work related it was for pleasure, and it met the criteria in every category. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was on my way to the Chatham Public Library to attend a book event that was being presented by author Jon Katz. First of all let me explain the title of this piece because to be accurate Arbor Day 2013 arrives on Friday April 26th. This was mid March, and there are no trees in the library. What I did discover just inside the beautiful oak doors was a small discreet plaque on the wall of the vestibule.
I have been known to pause and read the signs along the way. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read this one. The sign was brief and to the point. It said that the spreading red oak gracing the front walk out front was the oldest recorded Arbor Day Tree in New York State. It had been planted in commemoration of Arbor Day by the 1902 Class of the Chatham Central School. Since I walked right by it on my way in, I slowly turned and looked back out the antique window behind me. There in its leafless grandeur stood a piece of history. Had I not stopped and read the plaque, I surely would have missed the opportunity to learn about this historic red oak. The story of this majestic tree is yet another lesson learned, another sign, another slice of Americana slowly fading away.
It's our responsibility to insure these small but important stories are not lost forever. Far too often we wait too long. We say someday. We procrastinate, sometimes for a lifetime.
The photographs in this post begged for a black and white presentation. The story is stark in that we are sitting on a cliff of lost stories. Here in Chatham stands a grand old oak tree. It has stood guard over thousands of school children. Both tree and children chock full of colorful history and deep seated roots. Day after day young minds thirsty for knowledge pass by and stroke the rough bark of the oak that hovers above. These are the stories we should be telling. These are the lives we must celebrate. Those born in the years when Arbor Day was a more remarkable event need to be recognized and praised for their contribution.
They would be well over a hundred years old today, but isn't it intriguing to think of the possibility that there could be a student of that 1902 class sitting in a room nearby waiting for a knock at the door. Waiting for a curious student from the Chatham community to be standing there in the doorway, pad and pen in hand, asking if they, "Remember the day?"