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Sundial celebrated at the Brookside Museum along with promising future

A Ballston Spa museum took time Tuesday to celebrate a bright future for the location.

“Somebody says, ‘howdy’ you’re supposed to say, ‘howdy’ back. Howdy?” asked Jere Blackwelder.


Atlanta native Jere Blackwelder is standing in front of a packed room in the Brookside Museum.

He’s the first to admit that he’s no scientist or mathematician. His fascination lies in the history of time. His lecture, which he’s given to numerous local Rotary Clubs, tracks the transformation of the sundial alongside humankind.

“Why am I telling you all of this stuff? Because, folks, we still use that system. There’s 60 minutes in an hour. There’s 60 seconds in a minute. A circle has 360 degrees. Nothing’s changed, well we use a decimal system out of 10, we still use things that were done 10,000 years ago,” said Blackwelder.

Going from Sumerians, to Babylonians, through Egypt, Greece, and Rome, Blackwelder tracks the evolution of timekeeping.

Apart from ancient history, timekeeping has a significant local history as well — Saratogian Charles Dowd played a major role in establishing time zones to reduce accidents across the country’s burgeoning rail systems.

“The thing is railroad time and local time. And the local time, people wouldn’t give it up, they weren’t going to accept one common time. But here, Boston to Albany is a dangerous route if you don’t have common time. And I looked into that a little bit. Charles Dowd did that and he put together, must have been a good salesman too because he sold that idea and it went through Congress and it was passed,” said Blackwelder.

The museum is the home of the Saratoga County History Center and helps educate locals about the history of the region through programs and exhibits.

Pat Peck is an avid supporter of the museum and is happy to see such a large turnout.

“I think it’s fantastic. I think we really have made such a turn-around in the last five years maybe four years. And we’ve had so many new, innovative programs and brought so many additional people. And something like this I was really amazed and I said, ‘I have to go to that program,’ just to be able to learn a little bit more about sundials,” said Peck.

Leading into the pandemic, according to one of the museum’s Vice Presidents, William Allerdice, the museum was on the brink of collapse.

“And when the community found out that we were failing, everybody was like, ‘wait, what’s going on? Why isn’t it going to be there?’ and it really was a great launching pad to come in and go through everything and get together with a group of people that really had a passion for this place,” said Allerdice.

According to Allerdice, Brookside has gone from fewer than 90 to more than 400 members over the past three years; unlike some other organizations, it thrived in the era of virtual events.

“You know with COVID there, everybody’s looking for something to do. And they put together a whole Zoom thing, all these programs that got people more interested because you were sitting there doing nothing. It’s like, what do you do? And you were looking for things. So that helped us actually, and then once the programs were actually going people wanted to get out and then come here, see the museum. We went through—redid this entire museum. Redid the upstairs, redid the downstairs,” said Allerdice.

Allerdice says the large turnout for recent programs goes to show the sun isn’t setting on the museum anytime soon.

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