Shortly after college, I spent a few months tramping around Israel and the Sinai, hosteling, thumbing and generally doing the post-college vagabond thing. At one point, I met a girl (no, not like that) who was doing her graduate work in archaeology at an excavation at a tell in Northwestern Israel. A tell is a hill that has been formed through the accretion material from ongoing human occupation: one civilization built on top of another on top of another.
Having nothing better to do with my time, I followed her there and spent a week digging and sifting through the detritus of millenia during the day and drinking cold Maccabee beer with the grad students at night. (On second thought, I can barely think of a time in my life when I did have something better to do with my time than that).
This particular tell had been continously occupied from the Copper Age through modern times, over 7,000 years, Ghassulians under Canaanites under Jews under Romans under Byzantines under Arabs, so every square foot had something in it: bits of glass, shards of pottery, so much so that we didn’t bother with the toothbrush and dental pick, simply shoveling hard under the hot sun looking for walls and floors.
Ah, would that Wallingford had history like that on hand. The native cultures that lived here before European settlement built mostly in wood and tread lighter on the land, so there are no ruins to excavate.
Still there’s a bit of history to be found, if you redefine history to something more manageable. Scott sent me this link to Paul Dorpatt’s excellent History of Wallingford dating back to the 1890′s, before it was even took on John Wallingford’s name.
The history is full of depth and background on all the local institutions we take for granted today, including the Durn Good (right), QFC / Food Giant, and Gas Works, including this interesting tidbit about the latter:
If the wind blew from the south, gas manufactured from the high-temperature cooking of coal sent showers of sparks and soot over the neighborhood. Now any Wallingford excavation for a new basement or water service will uncover a sample of the plant’s gifts dropped from the sky during its ordinarily round-the-clock manufacturing until 1937 when the company substituted the cleaner oil for coal.
I’d love to hear stories from old-timers, if there’s a blog-reading old-timer out there wants to share.