By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A local college student is spending his summer deep in Derry history.
Dominic Ziolek, 19, is taking on the past, working this summer with town historian Richard Holmes. The pair hope to create a video history lesson on the upcoming 50-year anniversary of Interstate 93.
Ziolek is a junior at Wheaton College, majoring in history. He is a 2011 graduate of Londonderry High School.
Choosing to spend a summer deeply rooted in volumes of archives, old photographs and other historical artifacts is just what Ziolek wants.
“I was looking at summer internships, saw the Derry historical group and emailed Rick,” he said. “I didn’t know much about Derry history or local history at all. I’ve learned so much already.”
Teaming up with Holmes is a daily history lesson in itself. The town historian is never at a loss for a good story about Derry, its people and the generations that came before.
Taking on the I-93 project is near and dear to Holmes’ heart as he feels strongly about the major roadway’s impact on the area and those who made it happen.
“I was looking for a project that would excite me and would also do some good,” Holmes said, “as far as explaining history.”
Holmes wrote in a recent Derry News column that early on in the I-93 project the decision was made to name a segment of the highway after Derry native and first American in space Alan B. Shepard Jr.
Shepard actually took a tour of the construction area in 1962 not long after his famed flight and got to drive some major machinery, including a crane and gravel spreader.
Shepard also pushed the plunger to set off the first dynamite charge to begin construction of Exit 4A. The moment was memorialized in a photo showing the astronaut and his wife, Louise, at the scene. That photo is now on display at the Derry history museum in the Adams Memorial Building.
Doing a cable program on the highway history is a perfect project, Holmes said, and he’s happy to have Ziolek on board.
“It’s one of those things, it’s a milestone year and then Dominic came into my life,” Holmes said.
The two are currently traveling here and there to do research, and talk to people who either worked on the project or remember details.
The project will include filming interviews, doing slide shows of old photos and also doing studio work to complete a finished project by the end of the summer to run on local cable.
Ziolek will work as many hours as he can keep him, Holmes added.
“We’ll be as good as Ken Burns,” he said.
For Ziolek, it’s a chance to learn a lot and the experience will look good on a future resume.
“I don’t have a chance to learn much local history at school,” he said. “I think this will be a very interesting summer for me.”