Historical Society President looks to Future Projects

BRISTOL — Mike Saman began his tenure as the new president of the Bristol Historical Society Friday, but his involvement with the organization stretches back more than 46 years.

Saman, who was vice-president of the Bristol Historical Society under his predecessor Tom Dickau, has held a passion for local history from an early age.

“There are a lot of things here that people don’t know about or aren’t aware of,” said Saman.

Saman said his father was part of the last class to graduate from the high school that was once in the Bristol Historical Society building. He went to school in the building, which became the freshman building, in the 1958 to 1959 school year.

Saman also serves as the chairman of the city’s Cemetery Commission. Local grave­yards, he said, are one of his favorite subjects to study. He hopes to get more Bristol Historical Society members to participate in the annual Lantern Tour of West Cemetery, which features actors and actresses portraying local historical figures as the tour visits their graves.

“There were so many famous people in Bristol,” he said. “Although you can’t ask them questions now, you can read about them in the archives of the Bristol Press or by visiting their headstones. Graveyards are like time capsules, and in addition to famous people you can also find people who were buried at around the same time.”

Saman’s goals for the Bristol Historical Society include purchasing an elevator, renovating the second floor of the building and creating a second point of egress. He said the second floor could become a permanent home to Cortlandt Hull’s Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum as well as an exhibit on a traditional classroom with a blackboard. He also aims to have Bristol Historical Society members visit local schools for presentations.

“People will usually come to us when they ,get older, but I’d like to get them involved before that,” said Saman. “I would also like to try to bring back some of our older members that we have lost over the years. I know that they can do a lot to make our organization more vibrant and interesting.”

Additionally, Saman hopes to establish a five-year plan for the organization and a clear set of rules and regulations

“When we first came into this building 12 years ago, we applied for a 50/50 grant and our board members participated in a study,” he said. “When that report was released in 2012, one of the things that were needed improvement was our lack of clear rules and regulations. Our governance committee established our bylaws in 2014 and I think we should follow them. I was an engineer for many years and I like to follow a clear process rather than making spur of the moment decisions. Establishing a five-year plan is very important; it will help us to define and meet our goals and we will become much more organized.”

Saman said he wants to host programs that are interesting, educational and will appeal to a wide audience.

“The Flood of 1955 program we held and saw great turnout because there are still people around who lived in that period,” he said. “When we hosted the World War II roundtable with the Memorial Military Museum, this place was packed with World War II veterans and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When we’ve hosted programs on the Civil War or World War I, there weren’t that many people. We want to hold programs that people can relate to.”

One program that Saman has in mind will examine the history of buttons.

“They are something that people use every day and have come to take for granted,” he said. “Before buttons, people’s shirts had pins. There was a big brass industry in Waterbury that produced buttons that were used by soldiers in World War I, World War II and the Spanish American War. This is the sort of program I want to hold, where a lot of people might not know about a particular subject but are likely to be curious about it.”

Tom Dickau said Saman will make an excellent president, praising him for his ability to “think outside of the box.”

“When Tom became president, I became vice president,” said Saman. “I learned from him and he learned from me, it was a joint effort. Our organization has become much stronger since.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.