Introduction

Holyoke is an incredible city that over the years has given me great joy and many challenges. I’ve enjoyed many seasons in the beautiful Ashley reservoir area. My family home abutted these massive reservoirs, which are surrounded by a sprawling forest. It was a special place in which to grow up because we were allowed to romp around those lush forests unhindered by the outside world. We felt assured and protected by the gentle swaying of the oak, maple and pine trees.



In the winter, the iced over reservoirs would take your breath as they glistened in the sun and in the fall, I used to sit on my favorite rock to study for an up-coming test. It was so tranquil and beautiful, especially the stunning colors of the fall foliage. Peering into the pristine water you could see the bottom of the lake, with its throng of abundant fish. The only thing you could hear was the wind or a flock of soaring Canadian geese as they called out to each other. If the wilderness is not your cup of tea - Holyoke has many other treasures to explore. The Holyoke Dam is a stunning feat in itself, and home of a fish lift that will fascinate and amuse children as well as adults.

While you’re in the downtown area, visit Heritage State Park to see the Visitors’ Center which features exhibits about paper manufacturing and Holyoke’s industrial history. A slide show celebrates the city’s rich blend of cultures and people. Then take the kids to the Holyoke Children’s museum where they will not only learn from interactive exhibits, but exercise on a play structure that looks somewhat like a puzzle.

As you enter the parking lot across from the Holyoke Police Station to ride the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, you will see a a monument dedicated to slain officer John A. DiNapoli, reading to children. He was a beloved police officer who was tragically killed in the line of duty just three days before Christmas in 1999. I remember seeing him at different functions around the city. He was always kind and pleasant. It is a senseless loss for the entire city.

It is an appropriate place to erect such a touching tribute to this great man because his love of children. The Merry Go-Round has some of the most beautiful carousel horses in the country. The horses were repainted by hand by the talented John Hickey when it was brought to downtown Holyoke from the now defunct Mountain Park. The Merry-Go-Round has an Auchy patented drive system which is still considered to be the best of its kind ever devised. There are only three left in the United States that are still in service. The band organ music sounds wonderful as you view the whimsical art work that adorns the inner walls of the Merry-Go-Round. It brings back happy childhood memories. My children love this park!

One must also visit the beautiful and always interesting, Wistariahurst Museum. They are currently renovating this beautiful historic building that once housed the extraordinary Skinner family. The museum promotes an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events.

Go to www.holyoke.org and click on www.passportholyoke.org to find out more about Holyoke’s finest attractions.

Holyoke is also home to the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside which attracts people from all over New England. I love the Barnes and Noble that is located at the entrance of the mall in the Holyoke Crossing section.

While there are so many interesting places to visit, Holyoke from the 1960s to the 90s, suffered a great deal. Through fires, gang violence and poverty, it struggled to survive. Today there is still poverty, but the situation is nowhere near how bad it was in the past. The burning of the old apartment blocks was very hard for the city residents. I can still remember when I was a city lifeguard in one of the poorest sections of downtown and the blocks were burning. The poor Spanish children would come to the pool and hope their building wasn’t going to be next as smoke and ash permeated the air. They were so sweet and kind. I used to pray that they would survive those harsh times.

In 2005, I decided to write about the city of Holyoke for The Republican. Being a “Holyoker,” I felt it was important to tell the story of the city I was privileged to be raised in. What does it mean to be a Holyoker? You must have a great sense of humor and be a rascal, of course.

As I delve deeper into the history of Holyoke, which can now be found at Holyoke Community College and the Holyoke Public Library, I am constantly amazed by what I find. I wish they had taught a class in high school about the city’s fascinating history. It’s so inspiring. The many men and women who worked so hard and never gave up should be highlighted, as well as the historical buildings and places that still exist. Today, the city is now home to a new and emerging force, promising to once again make Holyoke shine. I hope that these articles amuse as well as enlighten you on Holyoke’s interesting and extraordinary past.