Sorry Bob, the intentions of “Pride City Wide” may have been good ones but the results were anything but. It’s tough to take pride in almost anything that took place during your tenure as Mayor. On top of that the Fall River seal always seems to go through some occasional ridicule and having the city wide/citywide controversy was just plain embarrassing.
However, speaking of pride, there is plenty to be proud of in our official seal!
I hate when people make fun of and mock Fall River’s official motto.
It was July 2, 1843. The day was hot with a strong wind blowing in from the southwest. Two boys playing with a small canon behind a large warehouse near the corner of Main and Borden fired it, igniting some nearby shavings. With the help of the wind the fire quickly took hold and spread from building to building. Sparks and cinders whipped by the blowing wind allowed the buildings not yet touched by the fire to burst into flames. The fire was so fierce it couldn’t be contained and it was only by the luck of the wind changing direction that the fire was finally brought under control.
When all was said and done the heart of Fall River was destroyed. 291 buildings lay in ruin. Fall River no longer had any public offices, or banks, or hotels. The post office and most of the grocery (think “general store”) were gone. Roughly 200 families were homeless many with nothing left to their name.
So in the aftermath of this devastating fire, the people of Fall River wondered could they rebuild. Could they come back from this? The task seemed hopeless but the citizens proclaimed “we’ll try”.
The thing is, the Fall River did rebuild and within a decade Fall River was bigger and better than ever. “We’ll Try” is something we should be proud of and something that should inspire us, by reminding us that we can achieve great things but only if we make the effort to achieve them.
“The Scholarship City”
I suppose it’s easy to knock Fall River’s nickname. After all we are a city with a struggling education system and where higher education is too often considered not an option. But the nickname is about more than just scholarships. The nickname is about vision and inspiration. It’s about dedication and selflessness. It’s believing in something and then working to make that belief a reality.
In 1957 Dr. Irving Fradkin ran for a position on the school committee. He ran on a platform that called for some sort of scholarship plan and he lost. Undeterred, Dr. Fradkin began wrestling support for his plan. He prodded patients, and local business. He solicited civic groups and just everyday people. He even wrote to former-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who responded by sending the requested dollar donation and this letter:
"I was interested to get your letter and to learn of the effort being made in your community to make your people more aware of the opportunities and advantages of a college education. I congratulate you and am happy to send you a dollar toward the effort."
In the first year he made enough to award 24 scholarships.
Fradkin’s idea of a community sponsored scholarship fund spread from town to town, by 1961 his vision had spread to “50 small towns in eleven states scattered from Rhode Island to Kansas and from Minnesota to Louisiana.”
Today, Fradkin’s vision is a national organization represented in over 3,600 communities. Scholarship America has distributed over 2 BILLION dollars in a quest to make higher education a reality for over 2 million students. Scholarship America started as the idea of one man, right here in Fall River, MA. Today, Dr. Fradkin is still working, often in Fall River, for the belief he first shared over 50 years ago. When I see the words “Scholarship City” on our official seal I think of Dr. Irving Fradkin and the legendary work he has done and the millions of lives he has touched. And I’m proud to know that it started here in Fall River, the Scholarship City.
Lefty's View: I'm glad to see Bob's alterations dumped, and never thought they should have been there in the first place. It's interesting to view the history of our motto and our nickname and to realize how closely they're related. "We'll try" wasn't an empty promise it was backed with resolve, passion, and faith. Over 100 years later Dr. Fradkin displayed that same sense of resolve. He worked tirelessly, never taking no for an answer to build an organization that made higher education obtainable to millions. 50 years ago he had no idea if he would be successful, but it was something he believed in and whether he realized it or not he embodied the spirit of "We'll Try". I think it's time we stop complaining about our motto and nickname and instead start trying to live up to what they represent.