Love of local history boosts local resident’s second career

WALKING THE WALK: Barry Singer, a local historian who forged a second career as a volunteer leading walking tours and speaking about Princeton’s Revolutionary War history, pauses outside Nassau Hall from Princeton University, a stop on the Princeton Historical Society walking tours. .

By Wendy Greenberg

When Barry Singer retired, he took his love of history and forged a second career. He volunteered to give walking tours for the Princeton Historical Society, developed a history course, and created a lecture series about Princeton during the Revolutionary War, which he gave to clubs. , libraries and centers for the elderly. Along the way, he wrote a book, a fictionalized personal memoir about leaving home during the Vietnam War.

“I’m a case study in how to be lucky in retirement,” he said. He offers this advice: “Do something you really love. You never know where it might lead.

Singer will speak Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. at the Stockton Education Center in Morven in front of the Women’s College Club (WCC) of Princeton on “Princeton: The Nation’s Capital 1783.” The WCC reaches out to new members, welcoming them to monthly meetings, a spokesperson said. Since its founding in 1916, the mission of the WCC has been to provide scholarships to local high school senior women at Princeton High School, Princeton Day School, Stuart County Day School and The Hun School for those who need assistance in attending college. ‘university.

Supplemented by historical footage, Singer’s speech describes how, in 1783, the colonies were waiting for peace negotiations in Paris to result in a treaty, but due to delays in negotiations across the Atlantic, Congress could not dissolve the treaty. army without a treaty. Congress, fearing an army mutiny demanding back pay, moved to Princeton from Philadelphia and remained in Princeton for four and a half months. Singer talks about what happens at Princeton as it provides the backdrop for historic events from June to November of that year, when Congress met at Nassau Hall.

Other lectures prepared by Singer are “Princeton and the American Revolution” and “The Battle of Brooklyn”.

He was excited about what he had learned about the battles of Princeton and Trenton. “The most important point it was that there was a culmination of three victories in 10 days, at a time when all the Patriots were disillusioned and thought the war was over. But the perseverance and bravery of George Washington and the Continental soldiers changed everyone’s perception. The colonists were invigorated by the belief that they could earn and earn their freedom.

Coming from a totally different background, Singer had worked on Wall Street and was a technology manager at Merrill Lynch when he worked “for pay” until 2005. He looked around to fill his time and, how he loved walk, he volunteered to lead the march. Princeton tours. He loves meeting the people from all over the world who come on the tours, which are organized about once a week by the Historical Society.

Some of his favorite places? “If I had to choose one, I particularly like Nassau Hall, Maclean House and the Presbyterian Church of Nassau,” he said, choosing three. “Architecture relates so well to history,” he added.

Singer’s love of military history was sparked while he was a student at the City College of New York in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (better known as ROTC), and attended a course in military history. “As I started doing walking tours, I realized how amazing our rich local history is. My love of military history led me to an interest in the Revolutionary War and its impact on Princeton.

After six years leading the walking tours, he also realized that not everyone was doing well, and to bring the rich history to more people, he developed his own lectures. Many have been given on Zoom during the pandemic. An initial five-session course on Princeton and the American Revolution is now segmented into hour-long interviews because Singer thought it could “reach more people.”

The singer, whose age is “mid-70s”, grew up in the Bronx, NY, and later moved to Princeton with his family. The Bronx was never far from his mind, and a few years ago he decided to write a fictionalized memoir. “I always wanted to tell this story,” he said. “My father died in infancy and I didn’t know enough about him. So I wanted to tell this story based on my own experiences. The book, Leave the Bronx: come of age in the middle »60s During the Vietnam War, was released last January. He’s been accepted into a few libraries, and soon he’ll be giving a lecture on the book.

The coming of age story is about a Bronx resident who never left the Bronx, but is drafted and sent to Heidelberg, Germany, the headquarters of the United States Army in Europe, as was Singer. After the experience, which includes a foray into East Berlin, “there is a transformation as he grows. He later comes home a different person,” Singer said.

The 283-page paperback is available for purchase on Amazon.com. “I think a lot of people could enjoy this story,” he said. “Any parent who has seen their child leave home and come back great. It is a story of transformation and triumph,” he said.

The book process took about 18 months to write and six months to publish. Singer had a close friend who had just published a book and had recommended a publisher and jacket designer. While those collaborations were important, he said, his best advice for writing a book is to “make sure you have a real purpose.”

With the book, walking tours, and lectures, Singer’s Retreat is anything but a retreat. “It was one of the most fun chapters of my life,” he said.

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