Greenfield golden Cane head repaired and safe; town to resume tradition of awarding to oldest resident

  • The Boston Post Gold Cane of Greenfield has been recovered and restored.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    The Boston Post Gold Cane of Greenfield has been recovered and restored. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • The Boston Post Gold Cane of Greenfield has been recovered and restored.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    The Boston Post Gold Cane of Greenfield has been recovered and restored. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • The Boston Post Gold Cane of Greenfield has been recovered and restored.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • The Boston Post Gold Cane of Greenfield has been recovered and restored.  Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — The town plans to resume its tradition of awarding the Boston Post Cane to its oldest resident, but first it must find him or her.

In October 2011, it was discovered that, although the cane sat locked in its display case in Town Hall, its golden head was missing. The discovery was made when the town’s Historical Society was first considering resuming the tradition of giving the cane to the town’s oldest resident. It had been a decade since the tradition had been celebrated.

Local historian Lindley Wilson, a former member of the commission, said the cane top was returned to Greenfield early last May and was restored by local silversmith Stephen P. Smithers.

The rolled-gold top of the Boston Post Cane mysteriously disappeared from its case in Town Hall in fall 2011, and its return was almost as much of a mystery.

Local historian Peter Miller found and returned the top. He said a well-known person, who had it in his possession for some time, gave it back.

Wilson said the rolled-gold top was damaged before it was returned. Its engraved surface was scratched and dented and the collar that holds it to the shaft of the cane was torn where it had been pried off.

“A big chunk had been taken out of it, so we had to have it completely restored,” said Wilson.

She said the focus should now be on the positive as the town begins its search for its oldest resident, rather than on what happened to the cane a couple of years ago.

“The cane is safe and in a vault,” said Wilson. “That’s where it will stay, except during the ceremony, so I don’t think we’ll have any more worries.”

“I’m thrilled we got ours back,” she said. “We’re one of the lucky ones, because about half of the towns that started out with canes have lost them over the years.”

Wilson said either families keep them because they didn’t realize that they were supposed to return them, or canes were lost in fires or some other type of disaster, or people stole them.

Wilson said the cane belongs to the town, but has a lot of emotional, historical and sentimental value for many residents, including its recipients.

Wilson said once Greenfield’s oldest resident is found, a ceremony will be scheduled.

“The mayor wants to be there,” said Wilson. “People used to come to the society to receive the cane, but we’ll travel to homes or nursing homes, if we need to.”

Wilson said the person who receives the cane must currently live in Greenfield. She said that person will receive the cane and photographs will be taken, but then the cane will be returned to the vault .

She said the person will take home a pin and a certificate instead of the cane.

Wilson said people should write to her or the Historical Society with their request to be considered the town’s oldest resident.

“We’d prefer not to just get names, but to read a little about the people applying,” said Wilson.

The tradition of giving a Boston Post Cane to the oldest resident in towns throughout New England was started in 1909 by the Boston Post newspaper. The popular newspaper folded in 1959.

In 1909, hundreds of canes were given to each of New England’s towns to present to their oldest male residents. In 1930, that was expanded to include a community’s oldest female resident.

Many towns in New England, and in Franklin County, carry on the tradition, many with original canes, while others have had to replicate them, because they were lost.

Candidates for Greenfield’s Boston Post Cane should mail personal information to: The Historical Society of Greenfield, Attention Lindley Wilson, P.O. Box 415, Greenfield, MA 01302-0415.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.