June 14, 2002
Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise
Fitchburg could use a nickname.
An essay in "Commonwealth" magazine about Massachusetts cities and towns
with nicknames got me thinking about it. The essay actually started by discussing Leominster,
which has been known as the "Comb City" and the "Pioneer Plastics City," and
went on to recount other Bay State monikers, both official and unofficial. "Lynn,
Lynn, city of sin," for instance, has never been authorized by that city's government,
but it has stuck as well as "Tool Town USA" for Athol or "Toy Town" for
Some cities also pick up mottos -- Lowell's police cruisers, for instance, will tell
you that, in the Spindle City, "Art is the handmaid of human good." (No,
I have no idea what it means, either.)
Good nicknames, the "Commonwealth" essay pointed out, "have the ring
of truth about them." They also play a solid role in marketing the city to the
rest of the world.
Under former Mayor Mary Whitney, Fitchburg took a stab at a nickname: Signs proclaimed
the city "The Home of the First Easter Bunny," after the book by the Rev.
Richard Lewandowski. It didn't really take, though, and many of the signs are now missing
(I suspect some hopped off to local dorm rooms, but I'm not pointing fingers).
Picking a nickname would seem like a natural thing for, say, the Chamber of Commerce
-- but you can just guess what the chamber would come up with: "Fitchburg: Home
of the Future Four-Lane Route 12." The City Council might take it up, but it'd
probably be referred to a committee for a while, and then there would have to be a
majority nickname and a minority nickname (how about "Fitchburg: I know you are,
but what am I?"). And the legislative delegation might weigh in, in which case
Fitchburg could be dubbed "The Home of Fiddlesticks and Hogwash," which wouldn't
do at all for a marketing brochure.
Besides, as "Commonwealth" said, nicknames are "stubbornly democratic." They've
got to come from among the residents, and be accepted by the residents, if they're
to survive on more than someone's letterhead.
Fitchburg made paper, but "Paper City of the World" has already been taken
by Holyoke, which once had 25 such mills. Fitchburg High has put up a bunch of stellar
football teams, but Brockton is the "City of Champions" (so named for boxers
Hagler and Marciano) and Natick is the "Home of Champions" (actually, only
one -- Doug Flutie -- and a little one at that).
I've been randomly gathering suggestions -- apparently from the more cynical elements
(imagine, a newspaperman rubbing elbows with cynics). "Home of the Multicolored
River" suggested one, in reference to the local paper industry's onetime colorful
treatment of the Nashua. "Rock City" suggested another, I presume meaning
the Rollstone boulder and not the music -- or, indeed, the professional wrestler. "Land
of the Parking Garages" suggested yet another who has enough parking tickets to
prove that he's never taken advantage of the same.
So what should Fitchburg call itself? Or does "Fitchburg" stand alone, proud
enough not to need embellishment? Send suggestions. And please keep them on point.
The issue is a nickname for Fitchburg; this writer already has enough, thank you.