By SKEETER TOWER
Special to the OBSERVER
The Dunkirk Free Library recently conducted a competition inviting both kids and other participants to share "Why I love Dunkirk." I started thinking of things that I really like about Dunkirk, and there are many. For example, I like its walkability, some of the historic houses, our proximity to the lake, magnificent sunsets, the visibility of approaching storms, our ethnic diversity, 21 East Bookstore in the restored Sprague building, Spoke Folk and the bike trail, Papaya Arts, Randy's Antiques, the Garment Gallery, the leaded glass windows, neighborhood gardens, Washington Park, the fascinating history and its people. Pinpointing my top choices was hard but I eventually decided that one of the things I most cherish about living in Dunkirk is being able to hear church bells ring throughout the day and early evening.
Illustration by Jermain Willburn.
Depending upon the direction of the wind, I can hear the carillon from the Methodist Church on Sixth Street, the hymns from the Presbyterian church on Fourth Street or from St. John's United Church of Christ on Central Avenue while sitting on my porch. On a calm day practically every corner of the city has access to chimes ringing forth from Holy Trinity, Blessed Mary Angela, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Hyacinth or First Baptist. There may be others. There once were more. There is a certain sadness in seeing the glorious, now silent, bells from Sacred Heart Church (1876-1975) at the corner of Ruggles and Main Street, a gift of the Dotterweich family. They not only have lost a home but also have lost their voice.
The word carillon stems from the Old French quarregnon which meant "a set of four; a set of bells in a tower played from a keyboard or by some other mechanism." Today most are electronic and can be programmed according to the season or the occasion, such as Christmas, Easter, a funeral or a wedding. Real bells still operate and those who attended that wonderful tour of Dunkirk's five historic churches had the opportunity to not only hear the bold and joyous bell of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church dating to the 1800s but to experience what strength it takes to get that bell started.
There is something very calming and focusing when the chimes begin, marking the time of day, alerting kids about their curfew and bringing one's attention, maybe even subconsciously, to quiet, contemplative and meditative moments. They speak to happy family gatherings and celebrations or sounds of lives changing with births and deaths and community celebrations and, most importantly, an invitation to the spiritual and the holy, a dimension of our lives sometimes neglected.
One other Dunkirk bell I love to celebrate is the bell mounted near the Dunkirk High School. This bell was salvaged from the Dunkirk Academy bell tower on Fifth and Eagle before the demolition of this first institution of higher education in Dunkirk, to make way for a new high school. Today it is rung on victorious occasions celebrating a Dunkirk sport team win and the announcement of a new graduating class. I love the symbolism.
What do you love about Dunkirk? I am sure the library would still hope to inventory your responses even though the competition is over. The exercise was amazingly therapeutic and ego enhancing for the city. The library itself received many kudos from the public as a font of knowledge and resources. Winning selections can be viewed on the library website www.cclslib.org/dunkirk. Director Janice Dekoff was kind enough to share some of the responses, abbreviated here.
There are many reasons why I or anyone would like Dunkirk. The museum in the lighthouse is always fascinating. - Jermain Willburn (drawing included)
There are at least 1,000,000 reasons why I love Dunkirk. It starts with the places to go ... swimming, fishing, walking, playing on the playgrounds, softball, baseball, the Fair, bike riding, shopping and much more. It's a small place to live; it has a lot of people with big hearts. - Isabella Surma
I love Dunkirk when the sunset comes up and it looks really pretty because it is bright and cool and it makes the water shine in the light. - Madyson Welka
There's fishing, food, Lake Erie, creeks, a Boardwalk, concerts, contests, shops, Big Dipper, fireworks, hotels, parks, playgrounds, work, woods, hunting, pier and sports. That's everything I like about Dunkirk. - Bryson Pacos
I love watching the Little League games and I love the tasty restaurants. - Andrew Schrantz
Precious memories. The love of Dunkirk is deeply etched in the hearts of those who lived in the story-book days of long age. I was born at Brooks Memorial Hospital several (75) years ago. I would pick up pretty shells and in the spring pick purple violets in the woods. ... Lake Erie can either be a roaring lion with wind and rain or a sparkling dancing ballerina with sun and sparkling waters. - Beverly Cobb
... A magic wand must have created Candyland, our favorite place to be (downtown). As youngsters, just sniffing at the chocolate treats was satisfying enough. ... - Lorraine Bailey
I like to go to Gratiot Park, the lighthouse, and the Boardwalk. I love to listen to music on the pier. I love to see the Christmas trees they light up at city hall and go to the fair. Dunkirk is the best place to be! - Mia Piede
I love Dunkirk because it's a small family community. The Resource Center allows me to work at the age of 75 and accepts that I am blind. - Lillian Johnson
Knowing the names of your neighbors, the parents of the children your own kids play with, the couple who sits in front of you in church, and the people you pass by as you walk along the lake is very unique to our city and makes it a great place to call home. - Lori Felt (third generation Dunkirk resident)
What I love and admire about Dunkirk is its passion and support for athletics. As a competitor in my youth against Dunkirk teams, as a participant on local softball teams, and as a coach in the Dunkirk schools and recreation programs, I have seen this terrific passion firsthand. - Tom Phillips
Dunkirk has great potential for leadership and cultural diversity. JCC and SUNY Fredonia are accessible for higher education and offer the community opportunity for cultural events. - Doreen Bumpus
The library, fireworks, and lots of events and Lake Erie! We ride our bikes at the park, go to church and go swimming. - Kamaron Rose Hillman
Me and my grandma walk along Lake Erie all the time. I look for beach glass, shells and fish near the currents. I love the Dunkirk library. I read and read. My favorite books are bug books. I love where I live. I catch frogs with my dad and catch insects by myself like praying mantises, beetles and so many more. - Caleb Sullivan
The Dunkirk library is the best because you can play with the pets and play on the computers along with the big selection of books they have. We have a hospital right in the city. Not all cities have a hospital right there for when we need care. - Mariah Glowniak
I love Dunkirk because of its trains, even its trains that rumble across the town bring a special character to the town I love. - Nancy Jager
Skeeter Tower is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org