MANCHESTER -- A group of 23 Australian high school boys bustled into Crowell Chapel, honked the horns of fire trucks at the station, checked out the library and old fire department, and slurped up some ice cream in Masconomo Park — all during a tour of the town where many of them will stay for the next week.
Seventeen Manchester, Essex and Beverly Farms host families have taken on the task of hosting the 15 to 17-year-old boys in the first leg of their three-week U.S. trip. Two history teachers at the private all-male Australian high school in Melbourne, St. Kevin’s College, have led groups of students, who elect to study the history of America, to the United States every other year for 20 years, this being their ninth trip.
“We have made the contacts and they host us very generously,” said Rhona Scott, who organizes the trip every other year with another history teacher, Kerry Jolly.
Prior to the tour, the boys visited area schools with their host sisters and brothers, Scott said. Manchester Essex Regional High School, known in the area for its new campus and academic excellence, was special to the boys for another reason entirely, according to Scott.
“To have girls in the classroom is really quite a novelty, you see,” joked Scott.
Tim Weber, a 15-year-old tenth grader back in Australia said, though he looked forward to the national historic sites the teens will soon visit in Washington D.C. and Virginia, Manchester has its own touring charm.
“The town is so cute,” Weber said. “Even just going around with my host brothers and sisters and seeing the houses is cool.”
Plus, Weber said, this weekend — during the visitors’ last days in Manchester before jetting off Monday — his host siblings will be treating him to an All American Rejects concert in Boston.
But for Monday, Weber and his fellow students followed Selectman Mary Hardwick and Christopher “Woody” Kelly of the Manchester Historic Trust around town, learning about Manchester’s historic buildings, statues, and its famous Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream.
The teens packed into Dusty’s in the early afternoon, filling the shop’s square waiting area. Some pointed up at the menu, making suggestions to friends, others jumped to the counter ready to try New England flavors.
Daniel Langton tried two scoops, one rum raisin and one black raspberry, both with sprinkles, called “hundreds and thousands” in Australia.
Though the Australians call their sprinkles by a different name, and black raspberry flavored is pretty rare, the Aussies value their ice cream just as much as New Englanders, Langton said, adding that Dusty’s ice cream matches up to his Australian favorites.
“It’s great, It really is good,” Langton said, struggling to lick the dripping mound of ice cream before it could reach his hands.
Walking down Union Street, the teens marveled at a large, white pick up truck buzzing past, noting the expanded size of vehicles and food portions in the states.
At the fire station, Interim Chief Bob Loomer and Capt. Tod E. Biggar watched the teens clamor around the garage, some even climbing to the truck roofs. The teens piled into trucks, blasting the horns, checking out the gauges and suiting up in firemen’s gear: helmets, pants, gas masks, boots and jackets.
During the rest of their week staying with Cape Ann families, the group will travel to Lexington, Concord and Harvard, follow the Freedom Trail in Boston, visit Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth and the Kennedy Library, and spend a day in Salem. Then, it’s on to see the Smithsonian, tour the Pentagon, and learn about Gettysburg.
“I came here just to experience the American life,” said Daniel Littinzir, leaning on the fire station’s garage door. “It’s good, I like it so far.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.