Just yesterday, I posted a story about Bangor’s James F. Doughty Middle School’s focus on the 1940s for its MCHP exhibit. Scroll back a few years, and you’ll hit the era being studied at Bangor’s other bastion of early teenhood–the William S. Cohen Middle School. By the end of the school year, 130 students in Ron Bilancia’s 7th grade Maine Studies classes will have worked on an exhibit for the city’s MCHP team that examines the 1937 apprehension of the infamous bank-robbing Brady Gang in downtown Bangor and the larger impact the event had on local business owner Everett “Shep” Hurd, who aided the FBI in catching the criminals.
A post from December featured student work from last fall. As new classes rotate in each quarter Ron re-introduces the subject matter, but the new students largely pick up the research and MCHP activity where the previous students left off. In this way, all 130 students will have played an integral, and unique, part in constructing the final exhibit, regardless of when they took Ron’s class over the course of this year.
One of the most exciting things to happen recently was a show-and-tell session hosted by Bangor History Museum curator Dana Lippitt and local historian Dick Shaw. Dana brought in period clothing and accessories–hats, coats, pants, stoles, even dog tags–and let the students try them on for size. As you can see, they relished the opportunity to slip into the duds that Bangor folks, circa 1937, would have worn. (Let’s face it: Dress-up is as fun as it is educational at any age!)
They also got to examine items specifically related to the Brady Gang that Dick has collected over the years. One of particular interest was a sign in the window of Dakin Sporting Goods, Shep Hurd’s business, that received a bullet-hole during the firefight.
Ron’s a big believer in utilizing local experts to, as he says, “create as rich an experience as possible.” To that end, he has scheduled three more guest speakers in the coming weeks. On March 26, Bangor resident and World War II veteran Charlie Colburn will talk about the Depression era and his memories of the Brady incident. On April 2, vintage car expert Dan West will bring his Buick Roadmaster to the school–the same car the Brady Gang got around in–to discuss why the model would have been appealing to gangsters. West will also help students analyze whether a particular photo they’ve dug up features the real Brady car or not. Finally, on April 9, three of Shep Hurd’s grandchildren will join the class for a discussion of the businessman’s life and the role that made him a local hero. In preparation, the students will draft a series of interview questions based on their research.
Stay tuned for some fun photos from those visits, and mark your calendars for a glimpse of the final exhibit, which, with the entire Bangor MCHP website, will be unveiled at a community event on June 2.