After much anticipation and hundreds of people asking: “When is the Friendship coming back?”, the beloved Friendship returned to Salem on Monday, April 22 to the cheers and excitement of everyone waiting for her on shore. The Phoenix School students were there to greet her in the less than perfect weather, holding up banners and singing songs about the historic ship.
The original Friendship was built in Salem, Massachusetts by Enos Briggs’s shipyard at Stage Point on the South River for owners Aaron Waite and Jerathmiel Pierce and was originally launched on the 28 May in 1797. During her illustrious career, the Friendship visited Batavia, India, China, South America, the Caribbean, England, Germany, the Mediterranean, and Russia before eventually returning to her home in Salem as a museum as part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
The Phoenix School history is also intermingled with the Friendship’s recent history, as in the 1990s students from the School traveled as part of Essex County’s “Kids Build Friendship” to Washington D.C. to lobby alongside the National Park Service and Salem Partnership for funds to bring the Friendship to Salem. They were successful in their endeavors and were able to raise more than $1M, an amount which would eventually be matched by the state of Massachusetts.
To prepare for this, the kids at the time drew up business plans and partnered with local business leaders to help raise the funds they needed. Part of this was having local businesses put dedicated recycling bins out which the Phoenix School kids would collect, rinse out bottles and cans, and take them to recycling centers for money. As a result, the community raised $18,000 and the Friendship’s figurehead was dedicated to the students involved with this project. And in 2019, the current students of the Phoenix School were present to welcome their old friend home.
What’s Coming Up for the Phoenix School
The Phoenix School is also excited for their upcoming May Day Performance and Grandfriend’s Day on Friday, May 3 where Phoenix students will perform traditional dances, maypole and all, and sing lovely songs to welcome Spring. Following the performance will be intergenerational activities and a luncheon, prepared by the students, as part of Grandfriend’s Day.
May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries. It is associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility (of the soil, livestock, and people) and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings. One of the most significant of the traditions is the maypole, around which traditional dancers circle with ribbons.