Native vs. Newcomer, Newburyport, Massachusetts

Native vs. newcomer in Newburyport, Massachusetts–“oy veh” (here we go with the Yiddish again, which is a definite clue that the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog is not a “native.” People in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a good New England Yankee town, don’t usually go around using Yiddish phrases.) (And btw, “oy vey” means “oh no” or “oh dear” in Yiddish.)

The editor of the Newburyport Political Blog (me) was born and raised in New York City (hence the propensity for Yiddish phrases) and moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1981. I was part of the first wave of newcomers in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that “discovered” our city after the renovation of Newburyport’s historic downtown had taken place.

What I have experience over the years is a tension between the “natives” of Newburyport and the “newcomers,” something I have thought about for 25 years.

Anyone who has seen the pictures of what Newburyport looked like before Urban Renewal knows that Newburyport, Massachusetts had fallen on really hard times. Even when I moved here, it still wasn’t safe to go down to lower Lime Street in Newburyport’s historic South End. In fact it was called “Slime Street.” No matter what you think of Al Clifford’s building project at lower Lime Street, because of that project the South End of Newburyport radically changed for the better. I’m sure that the people who live in those very expensive houses cannot imagine how much of a real slum that area was for decades.

My experience is that the people, who grew up here, experienced Newburyport as that very run down and often dangerous community to live in. The natives couldn’t imagine that the property that they had grown up in or now lived in could be worth much money. Even though they loved their hometown, they often did not consider it a desirable place to live.

The people like me who have “migrated” here, found Newburyport and thought they had discovered an amazing “gem.” They couldn’t believe their unbelievable luck at finding such an extraordinary small New England City.

The natives and the newcomers experience Newburyport from two completely different points of view.

There is still a good amount of distrust between the natives and newcomers in Newburyport, Massachusetts. My hope (and it really may be hopeless) is that they could gradually appreciate each other’s point of view and some of the distrust might dissipate.

Maybe the newcomers could realize what the people who have lived here all their lives have lived through. And maybe the old-timers could value the fact that the newcomers think that what they have preserved is amazing. And it would be nice if we could work together a little bit more easily to help the City of Newburyport move into whatever its next phase may be. That we can help the City of Newburyport to continue to flourish and grow and to make sure it doesn’t ever again experience a downward spiral.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport