Bored sitting through class after class of material he did not think he would ever use, led to some . . . uh . . . “outspoken” behavior that left Dave Ouellette off the invitation list to return to Lowell High School his senior year.
Instead, he was placed in a program with, as he recalls, “the 40 worst kids.” Essentially it was a type of alternative high school program for the troubled kids who were not progressing in a traditional educational model.
It was in this program that Ouellette, the 17-year-old kid from the Acre, developed an idea for a board game based on the historical attributes of his hometown . . . The Old Mill Town on the Merrimack River. It was an idea supported by Superintendent of Schools (and Father of the Lowell National Historical Park) Pat Mogan, who mentored Ouellette and assisted in the development of the game that takes players from the County Jail on Thorndike Street to the Ladd and Whitney monument, Lowell City Hall, the Old Post Office and beyond . . . purchasing souvenirs along the way.
Take a ride on the Whistler Train or on the James B. Francis canal boat. Learn when the Middlesex Canal began operating (1803) and when the cornerstone of Lowell City Hall was laid (1890).
“I wanted it to be a fun game where you could learn little facts about the city as you go,” said Ouellette.
Young Dave, today the Senior Code Enforcement Inspector for the City of Lowell and President of ACTION (Acre Coalition to Improve Our Neighborhood) , did manage to graduate from Lowell High School in 1979. Upon his graduation, he was presented with a check for $500 from LHS teacher David Delisle, who had become his mentor and friend. The money was for start -up costs to have the game printed.
“He really believed in the Old Mill Town Game and that I could do it,” recalled Ouellette.
Twenty-Five hundred games were printed by Nancy Sales Company of Watertown. Dave signed and sold hundreds of them through the Lowell Museum. Ouellette Enterprises also designed and sold Lowell ashtrays, bells, coffee mugs and jigsaw puzzles.
When the feds moved in and took over the Lowell Museum for the Lowell National Historical Park, “they killed the business of a young entrepreneur” Ouellette said.
They would not sell the “knick-knacks” and were slow in ordering and paying for the games, no longer making it profitable to produce them, despite continued demand.
The dozen games that remained were stored in Dave’s basement; the edition he gifted to me this week is the first to be opened in more than 20 years.
Given the renewed interest in Lowell history, Dave is considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to create an updated version of the game. Anyone interested?
Thanks for the post. I have the game I purchased back in the day when I was teaching the History of Lowell at what was then U Lowell but I didn’t know the backstory so it was nice to discover it. Hats off to Dave.
I found a game at a yard sale and it’s all there – going to put it for sale – hoping someone for Lowell will buy it!