By Cholthanee Koerojna, Guest Columnist
The sweet harmonies of 14 little girls singing the US national anthem and a Thai student in traditional dress intoning her national anthem stirred the hearts of over 100 Boston-area residents last Sunday, 18 October 2009, as they honored the memory of the infant King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family at His Majesty’s first American home at 63 Longwood Avenue in Brookline.
The cold rainy weather did not dim the joy of Thai and American citizens who had gathered to witness the installation of the plaque (see accompanying photo) created by the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation that marks the apartment building where Prince Mahidol and his wife Mom Sangwan lived with their children Princess Galyani Vadhana and Prince Anandha when Bhumibol was born. The bronze plaque was unveiled by KTBF president Cholthanee Koerojna and Joanne M. Sullivan, one of the homeowners in the building. Thai Buddhist monks from Wat Boston Buddha Vararam blessed and anointed the plaque.
After the unveiling the choirmaster of Park School, the elementary school of Princess Galyani Vadhana, led her choir of 14 in opening the community proceedings with the American national anthem. Ms Duangpon Phongphasuk, a music graduate who has performed for royal audiences in Bangkok, sang the Thai national anthem.
Proud of its history of resident Siamese royals, the Town of Brookline had proclaimed the 18th of October as “Trail of Thai Royalty Day”. At the ceremonies, Town Selectman Ms Jesse Mermell read the proclamation and presented a copy to KTBF.
Honoring Thailand’s longest-reigning and most beloved monarch and his family, the Massachusetts House of Representatives had passed resolutions that recognize the Trail of Thai Royalty of 10 historic sites in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where Siamese royals had resided; and the day of October the 18th as the Trail of Thai Royalty Day. Ms Sarah Van Auken, resident of Gloucester where her great-grandparents had owned one of the original such residences, read the proclamation on behalf of Representative Frank Smizik. The Commonwealth is keen to promote knowledge of the historic relations with Thailand and its royal family and to encourage visitors to follow the Trail.
For two years from 1926 to 1928, the family of Prince Mahidol lived in the first floor of the three-story building at 63 Longwood Avenue in Brookline, a town near the Charles River surrounded by metropolitan Boston. Prince Mahidol, known as “Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health in Thailand”, was completing his medical and public health studies at Harvard. His commoner wife Mom Sangwan was studying nursing and home economics at nearby Simmons College with practical work at local hospitals such as Boston Lying-in Hospital (now part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. Little Princess Galyani experienced her first school days at the Park School in Brookline.
The mystery of precisely which apartment the young royal family occupied was solved the day before the ceremonies after one of the audience, Ms Susan Wolkon, read in the Boston Globe about the event to take place on October 18th and called KTBF. Ms Wolkon announced that in 1960 King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit had visited her grandparents Ira and Rose Einstein at the 63 Longwood apartment they were occupying at the time, where His Majesty had lived as an infant. She displayed documents and pictures that showed that the entire first floor with six rooms and a sun porch had been the future king’s first home.
Rounding out the community celebrations were talks by Brookline residents and by Mr Rob Crawford of the Park School, who read out a touching reminiscence that Princess Galyani’s teacher had written to Mom Sangwan on the eve of the family’s return to Siam in 1928. Thai residents performed dances and music on the kheem and demonstrations of vegetable- and fruit-carving as well as songs composed by His Majesty. The audience tucked in to a lunch of Thai food offered by local restaurants.
The next event of KTBF, whose mission is historic preservation, cultural exchange and community service in commemoration of the Thai royal family history in Massachusetts, will be the dedication of a plaque at King Bhumibol’s birthplace, Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, and his 82nd birthday celebrations on 5 December 2009.
Cholthanee Koerojna is President of The King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation based in the Boston suburb of Burlington, Massachusetts; e-mail: email@example.com; Web link: