Prime Time: The man who earned national renown for Bristol's mums

Published on Sunday, 4 February 2018 22:47
Written by BOB MONTGOMERY

STAFF WRITER

Among the biographies written by family members and local historians on those who made Bristol the town that it was is of Arthur Bird, Sr. I wrote in it 2003 as part of The Builders of Bristol - Millenium Edition, stories that began being penned starting in 2000 to update “The Builders of Bristol” series. I’ve update my original story with a couple changes and here it is:

“Among the well-known businessmen of Bristol during the 20th century was Arthur C. Bird, Sr., of the Bristol Nurseries. He came to Bristol in 1923 to work at the nursery before becoming its sole proprietor in 1947.

“Born in Waterbury on July 25, 1894, he was the son of Rollin and Augusta (Patch) Bird. He was a graduate of the University of Connecticut, class of 1918, and did post-graduate work at the University of Massachusetts. He worked as a nurseryman in Waterbury prior coming to Bristol. During his early years at Bristol Nurseries, he became an associate of Alex Cummings and, later, Paul M. Hubbard, two respected nurserymen known throughout the country.

“Active outside of work, he was president of the Connecticut Nurserymen in 1936, and continued to serve as its secretary-treasurer for 25 years. In 1955 he was the recipient of the organization’s first ‘Man of the Year’ award.

“Bird, who was a longtime member of the Mattatuck Drum Corps of Waterbury, one of the oldest outfits of its kind in the country, also played an important part of what is now known as the annual Mum Festival in Bristol, a nearly weeklong affair which attracts people from all over to its events, including it’s highlight, a parade in downtown Bristol.

“In that effort, he had the assistance of his three sons, Robert S. Bird, later president of the nursery and Kenneth and Arthur C. Bird, Jr. The festival was launched first as the ‘Bristol Fall Festival’ in 1962 and was timed with the peak of chrysanthemum displays at the nursery. There were long rows of the flower in the nursery fields. The following year at the recommendation of the Chamber of Commerce, the event’s name was changed to ‘Bristol Chrysanthemum Festival,’ and now it’s known by both the ‘Bristol Mum Fest’ or Bristol Mum Festival.’

“In addition, under Bird’s initial direction, the Bristol Nurseries exhibited its mums annually in the Connecticut Building at the Big E in Springfield in September.

“Upon his death in 1968, The Bristol Press wrote the following about him in a editorial:

“Arthur C. Bird, who died last Saturday at the age of 74, would be the first to say that there were several others, besides himself, who played an important part in developing Bristol’s famed chrysanthemums to the point where they have become regarded as tops in the field. Not alone statewide but from coast to coast.

“With accustomed modesty and sincerity, he would have acknowledged the roles of Alex Cumming and Paul Hubbard in the era before Art Bird took over the direction of the Bristol Nurseries. Granting all that, the point we make is that Art Bird did take over the nursery directing role at Bristol Nurseries 20 years ago. Since then, in these past two decades, Bristol mums have gained considerable eminence far and wide.

“The editorial ended with: And as each October rolls around, and once again we are privileged to view the colorful acres of mums on Chippens Hill fields, we will be prompted to think of the dedicated devotion that Art Bird gave in his lifetime to these beautiful products of nature, the Bristol mums. Each new season’s Chrysanthemum Festival from Chippens Hill point of view, will serve as a living memorial to Art Bird Sr.

“Bird left his wife Mildred (Pierpont), his three sons and 10 grandchildren. Mrs. Bird has since passed away as has their sons, Robert and Arthur Jr. Ken Bird, who left for Florida some years ago, remains remains there today at age 90.

“The Bristol Nursery property was sold in sections during the 1980s and some of it now belongs to homeowners on Hollyberry Road, Nursery Circle, and Winterberry Circle. Bristol Mums, located on Pinehurst Road on property also once owned by the nursery, was operated by Jerry Heresko, until his death a few years ago. This became the official end to the Bristol-grown mum.

Write to Bob Montgomery, ℅ The Bristol Press, 188 Main St., Bristol, CT 06010. Call 860-973-1808 or email: bmontgomery@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 4 February 2018 22:47. Updated: Sunday, 4 February 2018 22:49.