In Mass., you might say ‘parochial’ is our middle name (but someone would correct you)

A sign for Route 20 in Western Massachusetts.
A sign for Route 20 in Western Massachusetts.Christopher Muther

I enjoyed Billy Baker’s commentary “In Mass., where you live is all just a state of mind” (Page A1, Oct. 31) about the parochial ignorance of some New Englanders.

His mention of the response from a guy from Dorchester to someone he met at Disney World who said he was “from Boston” but really lived in Chelmsford reminded me of residents of Boston neighborhoods such as West Roxbury who refer to venturing into downtown Boston as “going into the city.”

Baker referred to people who claim to live on the North Shore or South Shore, even though their communities do not touch the coastline. How about the North End or South End, neither of which is located due north or south of the city center?


I conclude with a story of my culture shock upon moving to New England more than 40 years ago: Soon after I relocated from Seattle to Boston, during the hot summer of 1973, I was invited to a dinner party on Commonwealth Avenue, at a town house in Back Bay.

One of the party guests, a well-established Boston Brahmin, asked me where I was from. When I told him Seattle, he took a couple of puffs from his pipe and glanced at the mansion’s fireplace. After a few moments, he looked me straight in the eye and declared, “As far as I know, there is no civilization west of Worcester.”

Years later, when I told this tale to a friend who grew up in New York’s Westchester County, the friend said, “Everything is correct, except there is no civilization west of the Hudson.”

Dan Kraft


We have yet another stab at a well-worn premise in Billy Baker’s recent commentary, which asks: What is west of Worcester, anyway? We stoned day-hikers (as Baker sees us) appreciate the effort, I guess. Indeed, it is nice to be remembered at all by our Hub overlords, even if only to be immediately forgotten. Perhaps it’s better that way.


For interested readers, instructional videos on the Commonwealth’s four great westernmost counties may be found here and here. Should Baker ever venture west of Route 128, whether on purpose or by accident, he will find a warm welcome, even if he can’t find Holyoke.

David Fromm


The writer lives in Longmeadow. “Ripton” is a fictitious town devised in the 1980s by people who wished to demonstrate and protest how little the state bureaucracy in Boston knows about the Commonwealth’s rural communities.