Brief video of 1977 Pittsfield triggers wave of nostalgia

A video of PIttsfield, Mass., from 1977, posted by Jim Joseph three years ago, has suddenly caught the attention of Facebook viewers.
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PITTSFIELD — Why take a walk down Memory Lane when you can drive?

Just hop in Jim Joseph's Thunderbird — his dad's, actually — and take a two-minute drive through 1977 Pittsfield.

A video of Joseph's ride, shared on Facebook more than 1,000 times, has triggered a wave of nostalgia among residents from back in the day — and a glimpse into the past for newcomers.

The drive starts on West Street, by Berkshire Community College, and meanders eastward through downtown and eventually out Dalton Road. The camera only falls over twice.

"It's interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed remarkably the same for the past 40 years," said Will Garrison, executive director of the Berkshire County Historical Society.

Garrison was struck to see how urban renewal had "already wiped out West Street," he said, though the road's office buildings had not yet been built. And he noticed two car dealerships on Center Street that have since moved to the city's outer edge.

"I saw a couple of surviving elm trees on Tyler Street, reminiscent of an even earlier era of shady streets," he said.

A lot of people are finding interesting landmarks and noticing economic and landscape changes around Pittsfield as well as noting personal points of interest, such as childhood homes and favorite hangouts.

For Kimberly Gritman, Downtown Pittsfield's marketing coordinator, the video reminds her of her parents and the year they got married — 1977 — and moved into their home off West Street.

"[I] can imagine what they saw every time they drove around Pittsfield," Gritman said. "I thought it was such a unique video."

Joseph, a New York City architect with a home in upstate New York, took the video in 1977 using a Super 8 movie camera on a small tripod. The video captures a significant number of businesses on West and North streets, and in the Allendale section, that aren't there any longer. Joseph did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

The video was taken at the height of Pittsfield's heyday, when the population was about 52,000. People were drawn to Pittsfield by economic opportunity with General Electric and the local manufacturing industry.

Economic and population decline took place alongside GE's reduced activity and eventual exit from Pittsfield. There are now about 43,000 people living in Pittsfield.

Through the grainy, shaky film you can see a lush, green Pittsfield bustling with Buicks and carpeted in tall, lazy grass.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini on Twitter, (413) 629-4621. 


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