Fifty years ago, John DeCosta Jr. was a little boy whose father was deeply involved in all things local. As a selectman and member of various clubs and organizations, DeCosta Senior was there lending support. What his son witnessed was the importance of community involvement.
When DeCosta Junior became selectman in 2020, one of the fun things he had hoped to assist with was the opening of a time capsule planted during the construction of what is now known as the gazebo but to longtime residents more affectionally known as the bandstand. The laying of the time capsule capped a year-long labor of love that would manifest itself into a new, far more visually appealing bandstand in 1971. DeCosta passed away in April, thus never seeing the time capsule opening that took place at 7:30 pm on July 17, 2021.
But before we get to the opening of the time capsule, let’s walk a little further down Memory Lane to how this landmark, situated on the banks of Mattapoisett Harbor, came to be.
As the history goes, the 1938 hurricane took out the original bandstand on the southwest corner of Shipyard Park, necessitating the rebuilding of that structure. After all, the town band, under the leadership of Bandmaster John Pandolfi, needed a place to play, and the popularity of square dancing still held its charm with many people flocking to the bandstand during long summer evenings to dance and watch others twirl to live music.
But the replacement bandstand, which looked something like a raised deck, would eventually also need replacing. Armed with a conceptual design created by John Doran, Bruce Rocha Sr. brought that concept to the band and the Lions Club. Soon the concept began to take shape. In November 1969, the Bandstand Committee was formed. Along with Rocha, committee members were Paul Alves, Jr., Mrs. Louis Corey, George King, Archibald Lammey, Donald Finley, and Mrs. Alden Kinney.
Rocha was appointed as clerk of works and spent time researching design concepts. The group would eventually accept a design by Doran. Fundraising became a critical activity and would ultimately raise the $6,000 needed for the project. The committee members reached out to local businesses for support and also sold ceramic plaques and director chairs that helped to generate interest and the much-needed cash. Rocha recently confirmed, “The town didn’t pay a dime; it was all through donations.”
Presto Press coverage of the year-long effort was frequently published. The Presto Press would become an integral part of the final story.
“In an effort to gain public support for the proposed new bandstand for Shipyard Park, members gave unanimous approval to the suggestion that an invitation be extended to each leader of a local civic organization to meet with the Mattapoisett Band Committee for a discussion,“ The Presto Press reported in 1970. One group stepping up to meet the financing challenge was the Mattapoisett Woman’s Club. This organization alone donated $1,000, reports recorded.
A meeting with Pandolfi in the early weeks after the committee was established was reported by The Presto Press this way: “Pandolfi presented his view, necessary requirements such as proper acoustics and floor space for some 50 players … also present was Mr. Winfield Jenney, president of the Square Dance Association, and Mr. Samuel Bertram, president of the Mattapoisett Improvement Association.”
Volunteers of all stripes helped to make the dream of a new “gazebo-like” structure possible, a place where the town band could hold concerts and where the community could gather for various events. From fundraising to donating labor and equipment, Rocha recalls, “The community came together.
“It wasn’t just one person,” he reminisced, “everyone stepped up to the plate.” Of the people who donated their time and or money to the community project, Rocha said, “They worked nights and weekends willingly.”
The Presto Press reported in June 1971 that Rocha stated, “Progress on the build is going well after a wet winter and spring. Electric was been installed.” As clerk of the works, Rocha reported the progress to the committee saying, “Nineteen months of hard drive on the part of not only the committee members but also that of the numerous volunteer townspeople, fund collectors and workers at the site…” Completion was a mere few weeks away at that point.
The idea of placing a time capsule under the completed bandstand became a reality when Dr. Donald Nahigyan donated a copper capsule into which notable items were placed and then buried under the structure.
When recently asked what was inside the soon-to-be-opened time capsule, Rocha said, “Mostly paper,” but without stating what kind or why. The secret remained well-guarded until the opening.
Back to John DeCosta Jr. – he wanted the capsule opened on the 50th anniversary of its placement. To honor his memory, the Lions Club did just that.
With an eager crowd of onlookers cheering him on, current Lions Club President Ross Kessler descended into the murky pit where the capsule had lain these five decades. Rocha accepted the contents and read from several pages of The Presto Press. The capsule contained a type-written ledger of all who had donated their time, talents, and money to the building of the new bandstand. It also was crammed full of articles written by Presto Press reporters about the inception and final creation of the bandstand.
Kessler didn’t commit to when the Lion’s Club might refill the capsule for a future opening, but he said he felt certain it would happen and should include the placement of “a cellphone,” he said with a hearty chuckle.
One final note, in honoring John DeCosta Jr.’s memory with the capsule opening, it was disclosed by Rocha afterwards that the intention was to open it in 100 years, not 50. Methinks John would have found that rather funny.
By Marilou Newell