The Hit List
Drum roll, please … and now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for as the Millennium Countdown continues: the TOP 5 events in Bristol’s history … and at #5 – the birth of Lake Compounce … checking in at #4 – the miracle of ESPN … and in the #3 spot – the Flood of ’55 … appearing at #2 – World War II … and now, the moment at long last has arrived to recognize #1 – the single most important event in Bristol’s life – the reason that you have been hanging on to your seat all this time in anticipation … okay, enough is enough -- my #1 pick -- the day that Bristol became a town in 1785! Well, there you have it … now, let’s take a closer look at THE TOP FIVE.
You’re probably curious as to why I picked the birth of Lake Compounce as #5 on the history charts. Well, I figured that anything that can rival the longevity streak of the likes of Cal Ripken (He broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games; remember?) deserves to be up there in the charts. When it was first introduced to the public by Gad Norton in 1843 as a picturesque "picnic" park, who would have thought that it would still be around in 2000 – as an amusement park and not as a condominium development – the oldest continuously operated amusement park in the country -- 157 years young! Obviously it has played an important part in the economy, entertainment, and arts of Bristol. It made Bristol a destination in the "early days" – a town visited by people from towns far and wide to enjoy the rides, to picnic, to dance to the music of the big bands, and to listen to the songs of the stars. Even Frank Sinatra performed there! It was the place to be. After some lean years, Lake Compounce has had a multi-million dollar facelift and is ready to face the future.
Now, on to the miracle of ESPN -- #4 on the history list. When Bristol adopted ESPN in 1979, the brainchild of Bill and Scott Rasmussen, who would have ever thought…? It started in one building with a scrap metal yard sitting across the street to greet its visitors. Today that one building has grown to a campus to house its global operations; the scrap metal yard is gone, but with the 20 satellite dishes sitting on its front lawn, you can’t miss this miracle. Today it employs 5000 people and its expansion plans will add another 1000 employees – not to mention that ESPN is #1 on Bristol’s Grand List as its highest taxpayer!
The #3 pick, the Flood of 1955, brings back some sad memories to the "older" folks. It was the most devastating storm to ever hit Bristol; can you picture Park Street, School Street, and Memorial Boulevard covered with three to five feet of water? This flood brought death, destruction, and the threat of disease to fourteen towns throughout the state, costing billions of dollars. On the plus side, the ’55 Flood showed the character of the community to survive and spawned such flood prevention projects as putting the Pequabuck River in conduit as it makes its way through Bristol’s downtown area, part of the redevelopment project that left us with what we know as downtown today.
Now my #2 choice is Bristol’s involvement in World War II. Because of New Departure, Bristol played a huge role in the production of war material. If it weren’t for New Departure building the ball bearings needed by planes, jeeps, ships, trucks, and tanks, things might have been different on the battlefield -- not to mention that with a depletion in the male labor force because of the war, women swapped their roles as homemakers for that of production workers which changed the face of our culture forever. On the battlefield, Bristol supplied 5,000 men and women, of whom 139 gave their lives. As a matter of fact, two Bristol military companies made up most of the 43rd Division in the Pacific. Proudly, Bristol stood tall for its country.
And finally, my #1 choice (and probably an obvious one) – the day Bristol became a town in 1785. Now, if Bristol hadn’t become a town, I would not have had to do this report! (Not a bad idea now that I think about it….) Anyway, Connecticut’s General Assembly breathed life into Bristol when it incorporated the parishes of New Cambridge and West Britain (today, Burlington) at the request of families in the western part of Farmington … and like any newborn, a name was needed that the infant could grow into – Bristol! … and Bristol did grow, becoming a city in 1911. Why the name Bristol? Now that’s a good question … I’m still searching.…