As a pediatrician in Holyoke, Massachusetts, for the last two decades, I greatly appreciated your profile of Alex Morse ’11, the city’s new mayor (“The Hometown Mayor,” January/February). I believe that Alex was elected because he captures the underlying dynamism of this city whose youth I serve. Despite the poverty and the high rates of teen pregnancy, unemployment, and school drop-outs, Holyoke has a proud history and spirit.
The same canals that once helped make Holyoke the nation’s first industrial municipality now help make it one of the few with its own electric power grid. After a freak snowstorm last October darkened other towns for a week, our office in Holyoke was up and running within a day.
Holyoke was the city where the sport of volleyball was invented. The YMCA where the game was first played is no longer there, but the new Y, which serves inner-city families, is only a few blocks away. It has one of the best Olympic-sized swimming pools in New England, with a swim team that regularly goes to national championships. Nearby, there are still miles of forested mountains where you can find bears, deer, beautiful ponds, dairy farms, and miles of trails. Mayor Morse should encourage Holyoke schoolchildren, many of them suffering from nature deficit disorder, to gravitate there instead of to video games and the huge Ingleside Mall.
Holyokers refuse to be stereotyped. While Amherst, the politically correct college town to the north, banned West Side Story because of its allegedly racist portrayal of Latino culture, Holyoke High School, where the majority of students are Latino, put on a production in which the Puerto Rican Sharks were played by white students and the Italian American Jets were played by students of Puerto Rican heritage. The pride and diversity that characterize Holyoke are best captured by a YouTube video, I am a Holyoke, narrated by the new mayor. I urge everyone to check it out.
Dave Gottsegen ’77