Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 21:10
Suffolk University hosted its annual Family Weekend Oct. 11-13. Amidst the harbor cruise, Fall Fest, and Duck Tours was an educational lecture by author and Suffolk history professor Robert Allison.
Allison was the author of A Short History of Boston, which was given to the Class of 2016 at their orientations.
This lecture was held in question–and-answer format in the Donahue Cafe. Although, he only had time to respond to three questions, each answer he gave was about 20 minutes long. Filled with interesting trivia, Allison always managed to conclude his answers by referring back to the original question.
Allison began by explaining the purpose of the Franklin stone in the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street, as opposed to it being in Philadelphia. He reminded the audience that Benjamin Franklin grew up in Boston, and his family remained here. Beginning with the story of Franklin’s childhood, he explained that the inscription on the side of the tallest monument in the burying ground is actually a memorial to Franklin's parents. The poor family raised six children, but through their values, they also raised the wealthiest man in Boston at that time.
He also spoke about why the landfills are in Boston - the reason being that the city created a dam that flooded. In response, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filled the lake and created pile-ups upon which to build houses.
Allison made the point of the problems left with these houses by giving the audience a real estate tip - if you are looking for a house in the Back Bay, make sure to look in the basement, because those pile-ups have been known to break and cause flooding.
In concluding his Boston history lecture, he described the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, during which a 2,300,000-gallon molasses tank overheated and exploded in the North End, resulting in 21 deaths and 150 people injured. The two-week cleanup took the work of 300 people, and Boston Harbor was left with molasses in it until the following summer.
During this one-hour session, Allison tried to focus on the positive aspects of Boston, rejecting a question about “Whitey” Bulger, a famous local organized crime leader, by simply replying “I don’t want to answer that”.
Before the lecture, audience members were given a copy of Allison’s book and after, he offered to sign them. The majority of the parents and students at the event waited in line to tell the professor how knowledgeable he was about the city that they live in.