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Peter R. Beatrice Jr. and Peter Sack were remembered in October by town residents as  passionate people who were generous with their time.

Beatrice sired a family that became a part of the town’s athletic royalty and Sack left his mark as an educator and ardent supporter of that town’s sports program.

Beatrice died this past June at 93, but his obituary wasn’t published until mid-October. Meanwhile, Sack, who was principal at Swampscott High for 20 years (1983-2003) and who spent much of that time as the public-address announcer at the Big Blue home football games, died on Oct. 10 at the age of 76.

“That’s the one thing I think defines Peter Sack,” said Frank DeFelice, who was the baseball coach at Swampscott High during Sack’s tenure as principal. “He had a passion for whatever he did, whether it was as an educator or as the public-address announcer at football games. He put his all into it.” 

The Beatrice family has been a part of the Swampscott athletic picture for three generations. Peter Jr. coached Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball, mentoring, among his players, former Channel 5 lead anchor Mike Lynch. His sons played football at the high school, with Greg starring as an defensive lineman for the 1972 team that won the inaugural state Super Bowl. 

“Peter, his son, was one of the best quarterbacks we ever had,” said Lynch, who took over the signal-calling duties after Beatrice graduated. “His record over three seasons was 27-0. You can’t get much better than that. 

“Tom went to Harvard and Johnny (to) Colombia,” Lynch said. Moreover, Peter III’s son Kyle set a state record for passing touchdowns while leading the Big Blue to the 2003 state Super Bowl.

But Lynch preferred to speak of the patriarch of the family, who, though born in East Boston, settled in Swampscott after becoming a lawyer, making his mark as a baseball coach.

“(Beatrice) was very generous with his time,” said Lynch. “He always had time for youth sports. He was one of the first to volunteer.” 

Lynch said when he played for Beatrice’s legion teams, as many players as possible used to pile into his wagon “because he was the first guy we knew who had a phone in his car.

“I also remember that after every game, win or lose, he’d take us out for ice cream afterwards. The whole team. They’d be a caravan of cars all going to the ice-cream place.”

Former Lynn Superintendent of Schools Nicholas Kostan first met Sack when he asked the Swampscott principal to discuss a new scheduling matrix he had devised.

“I was interested in it, and wanted him to show it to me,” said Kostan. “He was always for the kids. I have fond memories of him.”

Kostan and Sack eventually worked together on the scholarship committee for the Harry Agganis Foundation.

“He did a terrific job on that committee,” said Kostan. “He was always aware of the qualifications of the candidates. He was a man of great character.”

The Beatrices, said Lynch, were an indelible family in the history of Swampscott sports, much the same as his own was, as well as the Jaurons. 

“Oh, definitely,” said Lynch. “They’re a huge part of the town’s legacy.”

More than that, he said, Beatrice was generous with both his time and his money.

“I’m sure he wound up buying equipment himself,” Lynch said. “I don’t know who came up with all the equipment. Maybe he collected some from the high school, but I’m sure he dipped into his own pocket for most of it. I don’t know who paid the umpires. He probably paid out of pocket for them, too.

“All I know is the year I went to Exeter Academy, I came home looking forward to Legion ball, and it was there because of him,” Lynch said. “Whether it was manager, general manager, field manager, third base coach … he did it all. And he never wanted anything in return.”

Sack, said former football coach and athletic director Bill Bush, was a “regular guy” as well as the high school’s principal. 

“He was very firm, but very fair in what he did,” said Bush. “He loved being the PA announcer, even though some in the town, at the time, wondered why he should have that job.

“But he did a very professional job,” Bush said. “And he was fair and impartial, not like some of the homers you saw back in those days. He just announced the game as it was played.”

“(Sack) was a legend in Swampscott Public Schools,” said current Superintendent of Schools Pamela Angelakis. “I met him as a young teacher and was at first intimidated by his intelligence and dry sense of humor. I later learned that he was a warm and caring individual with a great sense of humor. 

“I had the privilege of seeing him annually until a few years ago and I always learned something new in his presence. I will treasure the memories of those times,” she said. “He will be missed.”

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These days, Clem Schoenebeck is renowned for his poetry ― but that hasn’t always been the case. 

The Swampscott resident attended Pennsylvania State University and was a part of the school’s track and cross-country teams. He met his future wife, Bonnie, at Penn State and they were married in his senior year. 

After spending two years in the Army Dental Corps in California, the couple settled down in Swampscott where he opened a family practice in 1966.

Schoenebeck credits the spark for his poetry to the birth of his granddaughter. After seeing his daughter Kristin and newborn Alexa lock eyes for the first time he felt compelled to write a “letter of welcome” to his granddaughter. After Schoenebeck’s daughter read the letter, she told her dad that he should write more often. 

“Looking back at it, you could probably wring the page out like a sponge to squeeze all the sentimentality out of what I have put on the page,” he recalled.

Schoenebeck said his granddaughter’s birth also coincided with his search for a creative outlet. He thought about watercolor painting before delving into poetry.

He signed up for poetry workshops and the educational investment into his craft paid off. Schoenebeck has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize in Poetry four times and has had a collection of his poems published by Encircle Publications. The Swampscott resident also joined the Tin Box Poets, a local collection of poets that meets once a month. 

Beside getting ideas from his own life, Schoenebeck also said that he is inspired by music.

“It sort of stirs up my creative juices and sometimes I’m more productive writing when I have choir rehearsals once or twice a week,” he said. “If the music is getting into me, it often gives me some ideas for writing.”

One of Schoenebeck’s better known works was published in 2013. “Dancing with Fireflies,” a memoir, was an honest account of growing up with a schizophrenic mother. The poet said that he was able to find healing thanks to the writing process.

“I think it’s the biggest gift,” he said. “Every day I think of my mother and it’s no longer with anger or fright.”

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Calling all Swampscott electricity users! You may be helping the planet in more ways than you think. 

That is if you are using Swampscott Community Power, a community-based program under National Grid, created to meet the town’s sustainability goals, and also hopefully help you save a few bucks.

Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) rates (such as National Grid) fluctuate in the summer and winter, because of the difference in electricity needs during each time of the year.  

With Swampscott Community Power’s long-term (28-month) pricing, compared to National Grid’s short-term (six-month or three-month) pricing and fluctuating rates, Swampscott Community Power offers stable, predictable rates for customers.

Although savings can’t necessarily be guaranteed because of National Grid’s unknown future costs, savings do come with the program.

“Looking at the published rates, I’m saving about 10 percent at the moment compared to current National Grid rates,” said Swampscott resident Eric Nothnagel, who would recommend the program to anyone not currently using it.

Vice President of Communications & Program Management Marlana Patton from Peregrine Energy Group who runs Swampscott Community Power encourages people to check out the program this winter, because the prices will be competitive with National Grid.

Swampscott Community Power is not only aimed at giving customers more stable rates, but is also being used to meet the town’s sustainability goals. And not to fear! Although residents are automatically enrolled into the program, they can leave or join whenever they please. 

Participants are automatically signed up to receive 100-percent renewable energy with the Standard Green Plan. Under this plan, the energy is provided by wind power outside of New England.

“The best-kept secret in Swampscott is that individual residents are reducing the carbon footprint,” said Ryan Hale, chair of the Renewable Energy Commission. 

Hale said customers can ignore all that “you-have-dirty-electricity” junk mail, because the electricity being provided by the program is far from it. Especially if you upgrade to the New England Green Plan, which also provides 100-percent renewable energy, but right from your own backyard — maybe not literally. 

The New England Green Plan provides energy from, you guessed it: New England!

Although a bit pricier, the perk of this plan is that it creates a market demand for energy suppliers in the area, which will in turn create more sustainable energy providers in New England.

More than half of Massachusetts towns use a community-power program, also known as a community-choice program. Swampscott Community Power currently serves 4,397 community members. 

“I think it’s great,” said Nothnagel. “It saves us a little bit of money and it’s a great way for the town to engage in public policies to help curb climate change.” 

So when you’re pumping that window air-conditioning unit this summer, you can feel a little bit better about yourself, knowing the power is coming from an environmentally-friendly source, and that it will keep an extra dollar or two in your pocket. 

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Can you imagine a boy who wants to attend high school at 11 years old being told that he has to wait until he is 13? Can you imagine that boy being told he is not allowed to have books for two years? Imagine that 11-year-old boy saying, “If you do that, you might as well kill me now, cause I’ve got to have my books!”

This was Elihu Thomson, future great American inventor and prominent resident of Swampscott. He used those two years free of formal schooling to study “The Magician’s Own” book, which contained tricks and puzzles, but also experiments in electricity and chemistry.

“The electrical chapter was what struck me at once,” recalled Thomson.

The book explained how to make an electrical machine out of a wine bottle. Young Thomson made the machine and was able to get his first electrical sparks out of it.

“My father rather poo-pooed the magnitude of my efforts and I thought I had to get even with him somehow,” said Thomson in a 1932 interview with Edwin W. Rice Jr., his student, assistant, and ultimately the president of the General Electric (GE) Company. 

Thomson made a bigger battery for his wine-bottle device, which shocked his father when Elihu prompted him to touch it. 

Thomson was born on March 29, 1853, in Manchester, England. He was the second-eldest child of a Scottish father, Daniel, and an English mother, Mary Rhodes, who had 11 children, six boys and five girls. Four of the children died in their early youth.

In 1858, his parents decided to emigrate to America due to scarcity of work. They settled in Philadelphia, the second-largest industrial center in the U.S. at the time. Thomson’s father was a skillful mechanic, who traveled to Cuba and other places to set up sugar-refining machinery. However, he struggled to support such a large family. When Thomson finished high school, the family could not afford to send him to college.

Thomson showed curiosity and extraordinary abilities for a child from a young age. His mother discovered that he knew the alphabet and could recite it both forwards and backwards at 5 years old. Young Thomson taught himself.

He was highly influenced by his father’s work as an engineer and machinist as well. By his own account, he was able to visit various industrial establishments and witness the industrial processes going on, both in chemical work and also in mechanical constructions. He actively studied the two volumes of the “Imperial Journal of Arts, Sciences and Engineering,” which his family had at home.

“I was always interested in what was going on around me, such as the laying of water pipes and gas pipes in the streets, the building of sewers, etc., and spending hours watching the operations,” said Thomson. 

When he was 10 or 11 years old, he constructed a small model of cupola furnaces with fan blowers and succeeded in melting cast iron; however, the iron that was melted was not sufficient enough to run into a mold, which was Thomson’s ultimate goal.

He also had a great interest in astronomy. In the summer of 1858, when he was 5 years old, Thomson saw the Donati’s comet, and in 1867 he witnessed spectacular meteor showers. In 1878, he published an account of a method of grinding and polishing glass specula, and in 1899 he began the construction of a telescope for his private observatory, including making the optical parts for the 10-inch reflector. The observatory was located on the lawn near his house, which is now the Swampscott Town Hall, but was later removed and donated to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. 

Thomson attended the boys’ Central High School in Philadelphia. He graduated with honors and accepted employment in a commercial laboratory which analyzed iron ore and other minerals. After about six months he returned to Central High School with a title of adjunct professor to the Department of Chemistry and a salary of $500 per year (about $10,730 in today’s money).

Student Edwin Rice was 14 when he met 23-year-old professor Thomson at Central High School, who was keen to teach the eager student. 

“To me he has been ‘my professor’ ever since I first met him,” Rice said. “It is my recollection that there was no question that I asked to which I failed to obtain a satisfactory reply, expressed in language that I could understand.” 

One of the senior professors whom Thomson assisted at Central High School was Edwin J. Houston, who held the chair of Physical Geography and Natural Philosophy. The two soon started to collaborate in the evenings on investigations and formed a long partnership,   inventing devices, especially in electricity. 

“Not infrequently I would leave home after breakfast and not eat or drink anything until I got home again at 11 in the evening,” wrote Thomson. “I’ve always believed in long hours. It’s the only way to get things done.”

In 1876-77, Thomson gave lectures on electricity at the Franklin Institute, an important center of American science and technology in the 19th century. The following year, he and Houston tested dynamos of different types at the institute, which prompted Thomson to design and build a dynamo for a single-arc light. 

That formed the basis of the later development of the Thomson-Houston arc-light system that involved several unique features, including three-phase winding and the automatic regulating system, which kept the current in the light circuit at an even value, no matter how many lights were on that circuit.  

Next, they invented an air-blast method to extinguish an arc, the magnetic blowout which employs a magnetic field to extinguish an arc and a lightning arrester.

Thomson and Houston were able to get business backers to market their lighting system. They have created a lighting system for a bakery that was open all night long and for a brewery. 

In 1880, Thomson was approached by Frederick Churchill, a young lawyer from New Britain, Conn., who had just organized the American Electric Company. The American Electric Company bought control over the Thomson-Houston patents and Thomson resigned from Central High School to become an “electrician” at the company.

When leaving Philadelphia for Connecticut, Thomson took Rice with him. In New Britain, Thomson focused on improving the arc-lighting system but since the market for commercial electric-lighting systems didn’t exist yet, the company was struggling.

Meanwhile, in Lynn, a group of investors, including Silas Barton, Henry Pevear, and shoe-manufacturer Charles Coffin, were looking to invest. Electrical lighting looked like a promising new industry for them. 

In 1882, Barton and Pevear went to Boston to examine an electric-lighting system that had been installed in a shop on Tremont Street. They slipped down the back stairs to the dynamo that was powering the system and located a brass plate that read “American Electric, New Britain, Connecticut.”

The next day, they traveled to New Britain, where they met Thomson and his associates. They convinced Thomson to let them buy the American Electric Company, leave New Britain and form a new company with them in Lynn. 

Coffin became the president of the new company. With Coffin assuming the burden of finance and management, Thomson was free to give undivided attention to research and technical development, and for the first time he was able to surround himself with competent assistants. 

The Thomson-Houston Electric Company installed street lighting at 166 Market St. in Lynn, and the merchants in the area began to subscribe to their service. Market Street became the first street with commercial lighting in New England.

The Thomson-Houston Company grew rapidly. In 1884, it employed 184 workers. By 1892, when it merged with its competitor, the Edison GE Company of Schenectady, N.Y., the number had grown to 4,000 employees. The result of the merger was the GE Company, with Coffin as president and Rice, who had been manager of the Lynn plant, as vice president and technical director. 

Thomson’s contributions to the success of this great industrial organization was in industrial research.

Thomson married his first wife, Miss Mary Louise Peck, in 1884. Together they had four sons — Stuart, Roland, Malcolm and Donald. They lived in Lynn until 1889, when Thomson purchased a prime piece of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the Swampscott Land Trust.

The Thomson house was designed by architect James T. Kelly in the Georgia revival style and was built in 1889. Thomson designed and built a steam boiler to heat the house, installed his electric-lighting system, but also included eight fireplaces in the house.

The second floor of the carriage house was designed and built to accommodate a laboratory for his work. 

He also installed a pipe organ — the one that he built as a teenager, which he had brought to Swampscott from Philadelphia.The pipes were installed in a grid above the second-floor ceiling. 

He also built a miniature railroad of about 100 yards for his sons.

He donated the land next to his home to the Town of Swampscott for a town library to be built. 

One might think that a scientist of his intellect and intense work ethics would be reserved and strict. But Thomson lived a rich family life, actively engaged with his sons, and went camping and hiking in the Adirondacks and Catskills.  

There is old video footage showing him playing with his grandchildren in the large front yard of his Swampscott home and reading to them. 

The Thomson’s house was always open to visitors, including other outstanding scientists of the time, including Nikola Tesla. 

Thomson’s friend and MIT president from 1909-20, Dr. Richard C. Maclaurin, said that Thomson showed an intense desire to help all who were struggling earnestly with scientific problems. Many engineers came to him with their secret projects.

“They have done this, knowing that they had only to ask in order to get the full benefit of his imagination and his power, and that they need have no misgivings that he would take any advantage of their confidence or any credit for their work, for he has no touch of selfishness,” Maclaurin said.

Thomson was asked to become the MIT president as well, but declined the offer because he felt that the research he wanted to do would be hindered by the administrative work the position would require. Still, in 1920-23, he was convinced to assume the obligations of the acting president because the president of MIT at the time became ill.

After 32 years of a happy marriage, Thomson’s wife died in 1916. In 1923, at 70 years old, Thomson married again to Clarissa Hovey of Boston. Together they began to travel a lot.

The prominence of Thomson is indisputable. He took a prominent place among the brilliant group of scientists who worked on solving the problem of generating adequate current, including Brush, Edison, Siemens, Stanley, Tesla, Van Depoele, Weston, and others.

Over his inventor’s career, Thomson patented almost 700 inventions. He is still one of the leading patent holders in America.

His awards include the Franklin Medal, the Faraday Medal, the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society, the Edison Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Rumford Medal, and the 1889 Great Prize from the Paris Exposition.

Thomson died at 84 on March 13, 1937. His home was partially donated to the town by his heirs in 1944.An ongoing exhibition of the artifacts of the inventor’s career and life, “Elihu Thomson’s Inventive Life,” can be viewed until April at the Swampscott’s Town Hall during normal business hours.

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Two years ago in pre-COVID times, many of us didn’t even know about Zoom — a cloud-based communications app. Although it provided convenience and changed the way we work and connect, some say that they are tired of virtual meetings.

Still, it is undeniable that Zoom has been instrumental over these two years, not only in supporting 9-to-5 jobs and our personal lives, but also in furthering the reach of the arts. One such example is a Jane Eyre play that was adopted by a local actress and writer Julie Butters and produced by Connecticut-based nonprofit Flock Theater.

Butters, who works as a part-time circulation aid at the Swampscott Public Library, has been acting since she was little, primarily on a volunteer basis. She was involved with children’s theater when she was younger and participated in a lot of plays while studying English at Harvard in her college years.

In 2019, Butters adopted the “Jane Eyre” novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë into a script for a theater play. She worked with a nonprofit Flock Theater in New London, Conn., for many years in the past and they were interested in staging the play. 

“Jane Eyre was actually sort of my re-entry into theater after a long time,” said Butters. “The first major project I had done in quite a few years.”

The theater began rehearsing “Jane Eyre” with Butters in the main role in March 2020. However, they managed to hold only a few in-person rehearsals in Connecticut before everyone’s lives got halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And so at first, I remember those rehearsals; we had some hand sanitizer on the tables. And we were careful to use that before interacting with each other,” Butters said. “None of us really anticipated it would become the huge pandemic that it is now.”

Soon the schools started to shut down. As things with COVID-19 got worse, the director of the play, Derron Wood, made a decision to continue the production online over Zoom.

“Initially, I was skeptical of the idea of doing a Zoom presentation of this play. It was a new thing, and I wasn’t sure how it would work,” said Butters. “Our director took a leap of faith with it. And I am so grateful to him for that because it was amazing to still find a way to act and be creative and connect with other artists and performers to create something to share with the community.”

The production involved 18 people playing various roles. To create a more consistent look, all actors were asked to use a black background and wear light clothes.

Butters used a spare room in her condo. Her husband helped her set up some wooden boards propped up against chairs with a black material draped over them. She put her iPad against shoe boxes and books stacked on a desk.

“I really had only a little more than maybe a foot of playing space between the backdrop and my desk,” said Butters. 

To light the scene, she blocked the window light with some fabric and put shading over lamps to soften the fluorescent light. For some of the night scenes, they decided to use handheld electric candles to create the ambience and atmosphere of a gothic novel. 

“You obviously can’t tell from watching the program that that’s what the setup was. But it was definitely a challenge I had not experienced in acting before,” Butters said.

All the actors were used to performing in the same space with each other and having a very personal interaction. Instead, they found themselves isolated in their own locations, performing via the screens of their devices. 

“That was very different for us,” Butters said. “But there were some advantages to that as well.”

She found the fact that she wasn’t worried about a sudden block or the physical movements or dealing too much with props interesting and rewarding. Without an audience in the room, Butters was able to focus solely on the face on the other side of the screen — her scene partner. She looked at their face and saw what they were expressing, focused on their eyes and what they were saying in a very intense way. 

“I tried to use the challenges of the medium as an opportunity to enjoy that intimacy between performers,” said Butters.

The director and assistant director were recording over Zoom, as the actors were giving their performances from their homes.

However, filming over the internet had its technical challenges. Not everyone in the cast was familiar with Zoom at that point in time. Sometimes the internet connection would lag and people would freeze on screen.

“If someone’s screen froze, we would have to stop and then do another take,” said Butters. 

She believes that the production turned into a wonderful project and a wonderful experience for everybody.

“It was not something that we had traditionally done, but I give (the director) credit for being forward thinking,” Butters said.

The filming was finished in the spring of 2020. The Flock Theater staff moved on to editing and recording the shadow-puppetry scenes, which formed a big part of the project and took quite a bit of effort, time and ingenuity, Butters said. To film the shadow puppetry, give it depth and create different effects, the crew used a DIY multiplane-camera setup.

The film was released on Nov. 6, 2020, on YouTube.

“In person, we would have, of course, reached the local community,” Butters said. “But because the pandemic forced us to find another creative way (to make) and present the film, we ended up having a much larger audience than we would have had.”

To date, the almost two-hour video has been watched more than 4,200 times. Butters reached out to a lot of Brontë appreciation associations around the world. The Brontë Society in England posted a note about the project on its blog. The Italian Brontë Society posted about it on its Facebook page. The Australian Brontë Society shared information with its members and posted a review in one of its newsletters.

There were also a few virtual screenings and a presentation for a group of international scholars who are members of the International Gothic Association. 

“We are still hoping and planning to perform the actual stage production at some point,” said Butters. “Theaters are still struggling with COVID right now. Some of them have done in-person performances, but it is always risky.”

Even though the pandemic continues to be a challenge, Butters said, it has also offered new ways to come together and her experience with “Jane Eyre” is an example of that.

“This project has been, and continues to be, for me, very joyful, fun, creative and just a soul-filling project,” Butters said. “I love the story so much and playing Jane and being involved with this project has been a dream come true.” 

Since finishing the project, Butters has participated in other theatrical projects over Zoom. She continues to write for Flock Theater and is looking forward to finding more ways to act, whether over Zoom or in person.

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By Sandi Goldfarb

Dick Symmes and Dick Murray have built a lifetime of memories, one postcard at a time. The Swampscott natives, who each celebrated their 91st birthday last summer, have been close friends since meeting in junior high school in the late 1930s. Despite busy lives that included military service during World War II, college — UMass for Symmes, Wesleyan for Murray — marriage, children and successful careers, their love of Swampscott has kept them connected.

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Rene Ravaud and Gerhard Neumann and a few other key people in 1974 founded CFM International, which was a successful company producing jet engines for single-aisle aircraft. The French aircraft company partnered with GE Aviation. | Photos: Courtesy of GE.

By David Liscio

Long before a newspaper obituary summed up his life, barrels of ink were spent documenting Swampscott resident Gerhard Neumann’s kaleidoscopic adventures.

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The annual Fourth of July Parade and Strawberry Festival was held Saturday, July 2. Hundreds of residents, friend and family members attended the festive event, which also raised money for several worthy town causes.

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Then and now: A librarian helps a visitor to the Swampscott Public Library in the 1950s and, in the photo on the right, longtime directors Susan Conner, left, and Alyce Deveau man the main desk earlier this month. 


Construction of the Swampscott Public Library, which opened its doors 100 years ago, unveiled an unprecedented world of knowledge and literary entertainment to all town residents.

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Raffaele Balducci of Raffaele’s Hair Salon has been snipping hair and styling do’s on Humphrey Street for four decades.

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