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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Ashland’s Gabe Mugerian a Familiar Face Around Town

By Sean Sullivan
Ashland resident Gabriel Mugerian has seen some changes.
Known to friends as Gabe, he’ll celebrate his 98th birthday on March 20th, born on that day in 1925.
“The Great Gatsby” was published the same year, along with the inaugural issue of the “New Yorker” magazine.  The first hotel for motorists (motel) was opened in California, and Mount Rushmore was dedicated.    Born and raised in his early years in the Roaring 20s, Mugerian began life amid the zeitgeist of that decade, and all the trappings associated with it. Film and human flight were fast becoming part of culture, along with jazz, automobiles and women’s suffrage. As a mass medium, radio defined the decade.
To Mugerian, the deprivation that then came with the Great Depression must have seemed routine. That environment was the water he was raised and swam in. Born in Southborough, he attended school in Ashland in a class of 25, later enlisting in the Navy during World War II when he turned 17.
During his grade-school days and the war years, said Mugerian, Ashland residents numbered in the very-low thousands. The 2020 census put the town’s population at just under 19,000. 
“The town has grown so much,” he said.
During the war, Mugerian served out of Floyd Bennett Field in New York City, its first municipal airport, which had been converted to a naval air station. He was tasked with ferrying seaplanes from New Orleans to New York, where they were armed before being shipped off to the west coast, bound for battle in the Pacific theater.  
After WWII, Mugerian returned to Ashland and sought to build a life for himself. He never married. 
An avid listener of the “Lone Ranger” radio show as a boy, Mugerian jumped at the chance to purchase a local horse named “Silver” he saw for sale. Five different actors voiced the Lone Ranger over its 3,000 episodes and more than 20 years running. Mugerian’s father owned a poultry farm at the time, providing a place where Silver could be stabled. 
Though the rule doesn’t always hold true, lore has it that a horse’s pose in an equestrian statue is meant to communicate the ultimate fate of beast and its burden.
If the horse is rearing, the story goes, then the rider perished in battle. One raised front leg, on the other hand, means the rider was wounded in the fray. Four firmly-planted hooves indicate that he or she lived to fight another day and died by other means. Finally, a dismounted rider tells the story that both met their end on the battlefield.
It’s an appealing fable, and one might wonder where Mugerian and his Silver might place in the storied pantheon of horseback history. Legend has it that Mugerian was known for riding Silver around the thoroughfares of mid-century Ashland, a town whose streets hadn’t yet seen the advent of the traffic light. 
At the goading of friends, as he tells it, Mugerian once managed to squeeze Silver through the entrance of a local pharmacy, alarming and astounding everyone inside. There he bought an ice cream, and then horse and rider departed.
What sort of statue would best suit such a stunt is left for readers to decide. Some local entrepreneurial spirit might brand a line of ice cream, its pints emblazoned with the side-profile of Mugerian atop his horse, a cone of tutti fruitti raised in salute. 
“Everybody was shocked,” said Mugerian of his pharmacy foray, who earned “Mugsy” as a moniker, befitting his surname and rebellious spirit. “I was one of those guys. Someone dared me to do it, I did it.”
His father passed on Christmas day as the war decade drew to a close in 1949. The poultry farm was sold, and with it the space necessary to house Silver. Mugerian’s four-legged partner in crime was sold.  
America’s car culture had taken center stage in defining the country’s mid-century character, and Mugerian soon found freedom in that mode of travel. He had driven a tractor at an early age on the farm, and later was keen to get behind the wheel of a car.
“As soon as I turned 16, I got my license and that was it.”
And after the war, the road trip became all the rage. The car-camping craze of the 1920s preceded it, but unpaved roads, primitive autos, and the Great Depression pumped the brakes on the movement’s potential.
But during the postwar boom, cars became icons, those motels had multiplied, and the family road trip was born. Having traded his trusty steed for mechanical horsepower, Mugerian was among those automotive explorers, crisscrossing the country.
“Just to see the different states,” he said.
Over the course of about 12 road trips in Cadillacs and Chryslers, he visited them all, save Washington and Oregon. Too distant to make the trip, he said. Mugerian still drives today, mostly to and from Ashland’s senior center where he’s a fixture and somewhat of a celebrity.
“If I couldn’t drive, I’d want to die,” he said.
Mugerian’s parents and his sister Rose passed on, and his prime working years were spent mainly in the building and bar-keeping trades. Marrying the two occupations, he built a tavern he would run for several years before selling it. 
Until recently, Mugerian drove a bus that ferried passengers to and from the senior center. It was a charge he held for nearly two decades.
“That was my last job,” he said