The 'Headers In Life & Legend
by Russell W. Knight

The 'Headers Paint
the Old Town House

The history of our storied town is a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, a fount from whose inexhaustible depths flows a never-ending stream of memories of days long past. A harbor that once sheltered scores of staunch fishing schooners, sturdy weatherbeaten coasters, and broadbeamed cargo ships, now mothers hundreds of sleek yachts, spit-and-polished cabin cruisers, and noisy outboard motor boats. Its shores once lined with cavernous warehouses, gear-strewn wharves and flourishing shipyards is today a hodgepodge, a mixed blend of uninspiring condos, yacht clubs, and dwelling houses and subdivisions. No vessels laden with sun-cured fish, barrel staves and fish oil weigh their anchors and lay a course for Europe and the ports of the Far East.

Sadly, the changes wrought by time and the dynamic growth of our nation also changed good old Marblehead.

Yet despite an influx of "foreigners" (people from other towns and cities) and money-hungry developers, all was not lost. In fact the one trait that has survived is, oddly enough, a trait that, though roundly condemned in many circles, often wins the plaudits of those within earshot of the speaker.

To the uninitiated, this unique trait is known as Marblehead's "second language" - an awesome blend of soul-searing curses, blasphemous oaths, earthy jibes, unrepeatable expressions, scurrilous comments, and Rabelaisian slurs. Needless to say its constant use by both men and boys rubbed the more persnickety the wrong way. But on one occasion it was put to good use.

This occurred many years ago, when a motion to repaint the Old Town House was introduced at an Annual Town Meeting. Though none questioned the need, picking a color promptly sparked a heated controversy. Some of the voters insisted it be painted white with a gray trim; others wanted it painted yellow with a white trim; while others argued for this and that -- coffee-brown, olive-drab, brick-red, plus a wide variety of hues and shades.

Eventually, the squabbling, nit-picking, and bickering caused tempers to flare; within minutes this meeting was in complete disarray, an uncontrollable bedlam.

At this point an Old Timer decided to bring the matter to a head. Leaping to his feet and in a voice that rattled the windows he shouted, "Mr. Moderator! Mr. Moderator! I, by Jesus, move that we paint it calf-turd yellow!"

"And by Christ, I second the motion!" thundered another Old Salt.

Gavelling the meeting to order, the Moderator declared, "Ladies and gentlemen, it has been moved by Jesus and seconded by Christ that the Old Town House be painted calf-turd yellow! Will those in favor of this motion, please raise their right hand!"

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