First day of school
Click on any picture to enlarge it.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first day of school in Sudbury, as it was so traumatic for me. I must have been 5 years old in September of 1951. The day started normally enough, showering, breakfast, you know all the normal sort of activities. What wasn’t normal, for me, was that at 7:30 that morning I was told to brush my teeth, put my jacket on and get ready to leave. Everyone had been building me up, getting me ready for this day. They had used all the positive reinforcement techniques and it all seemed to work. That is until I actually heard those words, “get ready to leave.” The nervous tingling began as well as the fidgeting of my fingers. I did as told, without speaking a word. Shutting down is normal when I get into this state. About 10 minutes later Peg and I were standing at the bus stop, waiting. Peg was taking me because she attended the White School right next to the elementary school, so it made sense. In my mind, I came up with every reason for the bus not to come, from the driver needing to mow his lawn to an alien invasion. Kids certainly do have active imaginations! However, unfortunately for me, none of my reasons came to fruition. For, right after my thoughts of the alien invasions the bus came bumping down the street and screeched to a stop in front of us. OK, I needed a plan B and quick. I knew the mechanism to open the door would fail. Or the engine would blow up. Better yet the bus would catch fire right there in front of us. Alas, the door squeaked open, Peg gave me a little shove from behind and onto the bus, I went. Drats!
I had made the trip from the farm up to Sudbury Center many times and I knew how long it took to get there. Not this old bus though. I think it set a new land speed record; it was there in less than 15 seconds. I swear that is the truth. The one time you want something to go slow or to have something go wrong, noooo not this time! The bus came to a stop, opened the door onto the set of three or four concrete steps up to the foyer of the elementary school. As I walked toward the door of the bus, each step was closer than the last. This of course slowed my pace down, much to the chagrin of all, including Peg, who was behind me. She kept nudging and pushing and finally got me out the door, off the bus, up the stairs and into the building. She was relentless. We had entered the building at the end closest to the high school and immediately took a turn to the right and I was awe struck and scared as we faced down the long corridor. Of course, to a kid my size, it was LONG. I felt like I was looking into a long tunnel. Naturally, as luck would have it, the first grade was at the extreme other end. The sixth grade had its classes in the near end with grades descending to the first. I always wondered if this had been done on purpose to intimidate the new students.
There we stood. After a tug, nudge and a pull we started walking down the corridor. With each step we took, I felt like each student in each classroom that we passed joined in the common effort to stare in order to see who the new kid was. Well, for me it was a very embarrassing time. I just wanted to run away and go home. However, Peg, being older was able to ensure my inability to escape. Down that corridor, we went and finally at the end we turned into the classroom on the right. It would have been nice if I had simply been able to sneak in and sit down. But, no! With one final shove, Peg said her good byes, turned, and left. There I stood scared, crying, and just wanting to hide. Every head turned to see who just came in and of course, the teacher needed to make special note of the new student. Please God, make me invisible. Welcome to first grade!
Before I get into my memories during this time, one thing that has traveled with me through the years and I believe that it began back here. I never learned good study and reading habits. I’d like to say that this was caused by someone else, but I can’t. In the end, the fault is all my own. But, I do know that to this day I just can’t study well. During my career, I needed to read technical information and could manage to get about two paragraphs into it and my mind just wandered. For reading, I just have a short attention span. Whenever I try to read a book or article in a magazine, it’s the same thing. Fortunately, this seems to be changing as I age and I read more and more books. I still cannot read for long and short paragraphs work best. I am just so sorry that I didn’t learn this at a very early age. I do have to say that Peg certainly did not contribute to my failure. She sat with me hours on end, trying to teach me.
A lesson in Self Esteem
You might think that by second grade I’d know all the ropes and how to get along. For the most part that is true, but one thing came up that I had just not prepared for. I’m not sure that it’s possible to prepare for this, but here we go.
We were at recess, which meant that during good weather, we could go outside. All sorts of activities were available to us, but those most chosen were the jungle gym and swings. On the jungle gym were all sorts of climbing and jumping stuff, including monkey bars, ropes for climbing, and a great slide. There were actually two swing sets. Each having three seats and they were attached together to make it look longer. These were all set up on a slight hill just outside the first grade classrooms. All the while I was running, jumping and sliding I knew that I had to go to the bathroom. But, hey I was having a lot of fun and what kid wants to stop right in the middle of having fun. So I just held my cheeks together and kept on going. Just before recess time was about to end, I just couldn’t hold it any longer and started walking to the door. Once inside I was shuffling and I did ok for about half the way to the classroom and then there was no stopping it. Fortunately, I had underpants on. But, unfortunately they didn’t hold and the mess started running down my pant leg. About two steps further and it started dripping onto the floor in increasing piles. I got into the classroom and just sat at my desk, thinking how lucky I was that it was empty.
Three minutes later, I heard the noise of the other kids returning from recess. Hoping that no one would notice, I just sat there, quietly staring at the intricate woodwork grain of the top of my desk. But, that was quickly dashed when I heard little Mary say “Hey, what’s that smell? Has there been a dog in here? Sure smells like it.” My heart began sinking, which got worse as she continued, “Look there’s a pile of it on the floor. And there’s another. They’re leading right into our classroom!” Oh No, was all I could think, as she was followed by everyone else following the trail directly to my desk. Things went a bit blank after that. There was some commotion, as the teacher seemed to coral everyone to their seats and me into the little boy’s room.
I can only hope that I alone, am not the only one in the history of the Sudbury School System, to have made that teacher endure cleaning a little boys pants and the janitor having to clean the floor and chair of my desk. This is an incident that truly helped my self-esteem and again, isn’t school fun?
Hay and Candles don’t mix
I was about seven or eight when this happened and it was very stupid, but at the time, we just did not know any better. This is one of those cases where it needs to be said, “Don’t try this at home.”
A farmer, unknown to me, had rented space in the barn in order to store his hay. A couple things about the storage of hay when I was growing up, 1) it was tied into rectangular bales and 2) air circulation was needed to prevent spontaneous combustion. When they stacked the bales, they would crisscross them with each layer for strength to prevent them from falling over. Then at certain heights and widths apart, they would leave a half bale width open, thus providing air circulation. I actually witnessed spontaneous combustion with some hay. There was a pile of it outside the barn in the spring and it had some snow on top of it. We got up one morning and it was smoking. Very quickly, pitchforks were used to pull the pile apart to stop any active flames.
While stacking these bales, they thought fire was the problem, but it wasn’t. Kids were! The space between the bales of hay formed a series of tunnels, in which we kids loved to play. Now, you need to understand that the whole bunch of us had been in these tunnels many times. They were the best thing for a bunch of kids. We all spent many hours in them building new “forts” and traveling through them. One real neat place was kind of a big pit that had a tunnel into the top and the bottom. We’d travel through these tunnels playing hide and seek or whatever we could think of. Of course, when being chased by someone and headed for the “pit,” you most likely had to jump from the top tunnel down to the bottom of the “pit.” For a little kid, it was quite a fall. Another great thing was that there was loose hay in the center of the barn floor. This was perfect for jumping off the top loft down into it. Boy did we have fun!
Maidie and I had been playing in the barn forever and we were always looking for new adventures. Well, one day we were alone and in the large open second floor room, which, at the time, had one wall of hay. We decided that it might be fun to investigate the tunnels. We crawled in for a bit, but soon realized that it was really dark and we didn’t want to go in much further. We needed some sort of light. But, what? Then I remembered, “Hey there’s a candle over in our room.” Our room was one of the two on this same floor. Over we went and sure enough there was the candle and as luck would have it, a match. Going back to the tunnel, we lit the candle and got all set for our new adventure. Getting down on our hands and knees, we crawled in. We went from tunnel to tunnel and finally ended up at the “pit.” Instead of jumping down, we decided to head back. Holding the candle up for light, we turned around and crawled back out to the large open room.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that we actually did this and lived to tell about it. I have no idea why we thought that it would be ok or why we needed a light at all. This is one of two things; I did that truly upset Maidie’s mother. I honestly wonder if her mother was ever able to forgive me.
I take flight
Every once in a while, I’d grab the frame of Mum’s ironing board and take it outside. I’m not sure that she really approved of my playing with it, but she never actually said I couldn’t, so it was fair game. Anyway, the top flat surface that clothes were placed on to be ironed actually just sat on top of the frame. So taking the frame was a very easy chore for me. I’d take it out and open it up and turn it upside down. Certainly not by design, but by placing it upside down like this, it formed a seat that I could sit in with a cross bar right in front of me. By pretending that there was a steering wheel there, I became that World War I Flying Ace from the Peanuts cartoon. I flew all over Germany with my red scarf flying boldly behind me fighting the enemy all day long or until I was called in to eat.
A lesson in Kissing
My next experience with the Jones girls, Patty and Donna, I must say was a much more pleasant one. To the side of their house was a row of overhanging bushes that hung right to the ground. This overhang formed caverns of sorts, from which nobody could see you from the outside. The three of us would go in there and play some variation on the house theme that we had started in the barn, but without the sewing machine. If I remember correctly this took place when we were around 8 years old. Patty and I anyway, Donna was a year or two younger. I was at the stage that I was just starting to like to look at girls, but, of course, I had no idea why.
Part of playing house this version anyway, included taking a nap. The three of us would lie down with me in the center. Initially I was facing the younger sister, Donna. After a while though, I turned over to face Patty. To my surprise she had her eyes open and was staring right into my eyes. For a few minutes, we lay there smiling, twitching and generally moving closer to each other until we were in an embrace. Then our lips met in a kiss and then a few more. About then we heard Donna say, “Hey, I know what you’re doing. How about me? I want a kiss to.” I was really enjoying myself, but reluctantly rolled over to face Donna and kissed her a few times as well. Back to Patty, who was clearly the better kisser and I continued until again that voice from behind, “Hey, it’ my turn now.” So back, I went and repeated the cycle. This time when I went back to Patty though, I stayed there just too long and we heard those bad words, “If I don’t get to kiss as much as Patty, I’m going to tell mommy!” Zoom and I was back paying special attention to Donna. We did this for a while, that is until we tired of it and moved onto some other activity.
One could call this a dream come true for a guy, but looking back on this it really wasn’t. I mean yes, I certainly did enjoy laying between two girls kissing them. But, that was it. For me, I had no idea that there might more to this than what it was.
In 1954, two hurricanes roared up the east cost of the United States. The first, and most severe, was christened, Carol. It came ashore on August 31, 1954 and was followed shortly thereafter by Edna on September 11, 1954. Carol had the most impact on Sudbury as Edna veered off in a northeasterly direction towards Nova Scotia. Hurricane Carol, one of the worst hurricanes to hit New England, was so ferocious that the name ‘Carol’ was retired for a decade after it struck in 1954.
This was the first hurricane that I remember seeing and at the time, I had no idea of its significance. I was sitting looking out the window in the TV room, watching the wind blow all the trees. Watching this, and hearing the howling of the wind was beginning to frighten me, but not too badly. Then, I saw one of the two apple trees in the yard get uprooted and go over. This got my attention, as these two trees were my favorites for climbing and picking apples. About five minutes later, the second one went over. They never were replaced. It was total chaos outside! Everything was blowing around. Sometime later, I heard a loud crash! Everyone was running around trying to find out what had happened. A large limb from a big old ash tree out front had come down right through the roof of the house.
We woke in the morning and went out to assess the damage. Fortunately, all the buildings were ok. Just a few trees had suffered. Then we looked down Concord Road, which had been lined with trees. Most of them were either down or leaning on the power lines. The electric company had arrived and had begun the work of clearing the wood off the lines. With one of the trees, its entire weight was on the line. When this weight was cut free, the wire shot up carrying a man with it. It was as if he had been shot from a slingshot. Dr. Hooper ran down there with his bag. The only thing that I was told was that the man had swallowed his false teeth. I never heard any more of what had happened to him. As I think back, I can only imagine that it was not good. For someone to swallow their teeth means that their jaw must have been broken or worse.
Another little thing that happened in 1954 was that I discovered my musical side, or at least I thought I had. I’m not sure who I was trying to impress, or whether I was trying to be one of the cool kids carrying an instrument to school. I decided that I should take trumpet lessons. Now, parents have options when it comes to supplying instruments to their prodigy musicians. One would be to purchase a nice shiny new instrument and that’s exactly what most parents of serious music students did. Then there was the second option; buy a used instrument, which was mostly for those music students who may or may not be serious about music. Now a used one might not be quite as bright and shiny, but it would play fine and had a case. My mother, a wise person, did not purchase an instrument for me. She selected and rented a used one instead.
That first day on the bus, I felt like the cool guy. I carried that trumpet around the entire day at school and then came music class time. I went into the class, sat down and the teacher announced, “Ok children, get your music books out. The first thing we’ll be doing is learning to read music.” I looked around thinking, “Wait, we’re doing what? I thought we’d be playing the trumpet. I don’t want to learn how to read music.” I think that you can probably imagine how long my trumpet lessons lasted. If I said, three weeks, I’d most likely be exaggerating.
Adventures in the septic tank
Outside the backdoor of the house and above the gardens was a set of clotheslines. Beyond them, and a little farther away from the house was the septic tank, which we all had been warned about and told to stay well clear of. For the most part, we certainly did this, because no one wanted to end up in there. On several occasions, kids had avoided this fate, solely because it was covered with wooden planks. This was before I was actively playing in the area and, as we know wood does begin to rot when it’s around moisture.
Clark and I were playing tag or some such game that involved chasing each other around the yard. We covered the area between Old Lancaster Road and the lawn in the front of the house and everything in-between. On one chase around the end of the house, by Concord Road, we ended up in the garden. The only good way out was at the top by the clotheslines, which is exactly the direction I took. Clark was in hot pursuit and closing. After going through the hedges at the top of the garden, still running, I turned to see where Clark was. This was my fatal mistake. I lost my footing slightly and instead of traveling in my intended straight direction to the lawn and the driveway, I swayed slightly to the right into the tall grass that surrounded the septic tank. Realizing what I had done, I tried to stop as fast as possible. For a second I thought it was ok, but then I felt my feet begin to slide downwards, through a separation in the planks and into the muck below. As my feet began sinking into it, I made a heroic last-ditch effort, and desperately grabbed for a bunch of tall grass. Thank God, it held and momentarily stopped my decent. While I was still hanging there, Clark arrived and was able to grab my arms and pull me up. Thank goodness! When we went into the house, Mum of course knew right away, what had happened and dragged me right into a hot shower. In the meantime, all my clothes went to the washing machine. If I remember correctly, soon after new planks appeared over the tank.
My first Cigarette
My first cigarette or maybe I should say Ouch, my first cigarette! You may have already guessed who was involved in this adventure. I mean, who was my least favorite person? There were three of us, Dick, John who was a friend of his and I, heading out to the pond in the woods behind Lem’s Shanty to try to catch some frogs. We never kept the frogs we caught, but it was real fun trying to catch them, because they were fast. You’d try sneaking up on one and if they felt you were there they’d jump real quick and be gone. You really had to come up from behind, real slow, and not step on anything that would make a sound. When and if you got close enough, you had to sort of jump and reach ahead of them, because again, as soon as they felt you, they jumped, and landed hopefully into your hands.
We had jumped over the stream that runs down to the Jones pond. We stopped and had a quick drink of water and then continued into the woods. When we reached the clearing and were about to go right to the pond Dick said, “Wait a minute, I feel like having a smoke.” He reached into his pocket, got out his pack of cigarettes, took one out, and lit it up. After a few drags on it, he asked me, “Hey Tommy have you ever tried a cigarette?”
“Well, here take a drag off of this one and see what you think.”
“No, that’s ok. I don’t think so.”
“Come on,” he said “don’t be a chicken. You know you really want to try and see what it’s like, don’t ya?”
I slightly nodded and he put it between my fingers. Then, trying to be one of the guys, I put it to my lips and sucked at little, and I mean a little, smoke into my mouth. I immediately blew it right out again. As was Dick’s way, he announced that that was not good enough. “If you’re going to try it you need to take a big drag and then inhale it”. What did I know? I took the cigarette, put it to my lips, and took a big drag. Suddenly, I thought that I was going to die! My mouth and throat felt like they were on fire and I started coughing and ‘gagging to death’ uncontrollably. Believe me I did not do that for another 15 years. Unfortunately, when I was 18, a friend of mine, Jack, convinced me that I was old enough to do what I wanted and if I wanted to smoke I should. Of course, he was smoking and when a friend is doing something…I guess you know the rest of that statement. I started smoking then, and continued until the mid-1970s when I was about 27 years old; I was finally able to break the habit. Let me take a quick side turn here. I stopped smoking because I went out one night and got drunk. Ugh, I woke up the next day and could not face food, let alone a cigarette. Well, that continued until that night. I guess I just decided right there and then, if my body had needed a cigarette it would have made me have one, but it didn’t, so I just stopped. Peer pressure, ain’t it grand? Let me tell you, now that I’m a little older and wiser, I can assure you that it is not!
What happens in a cemetery
Let’s see, about half way between South Sudbury and the farm is Mount Wadsworth Cemetery on the right hand side of Concord Road, if you’re heading towards the farm. I mention this because going through the cemetery was a shortcut home. Today, there is a development above the cemetery, but it used to be just open fields, after a short walk through a small stretch of woods. Walking along the other side of these woods, you’d be in the backyard of the Hooper’s camp. We all used to use this shortcut quite often, unless we were on bicycles.
One day, when I was about eight or nine, as usual, Maidie and I were taking this shortcut home. Walking along talking away, little did we realize what was about to happen on this nice summer day? I have asked Maidie for her thoughts on it and instead of changing her words; I’ll quote her directly here;
“My memory isn’t really good as to what happened (but I still can envision it and found it traumatic at the time)!
You and I were just walking through the cemetery as we often did when John approached us with his BE-BE gun and told us to go into the structure with the cement benches. He made you expose yourself to me and then he made us look at his penis. I think he made me touch it too! He then made me lie down on the hard cold cement bench and take off my pants. He then made me spread my legs and probed me showing you my private parts! We were so young and it was so traumatic at that time! Then he told us to go and never say anything because he would come after us and shoot us! He then did shoot me in the rear several times and we ran home! I did eventually tell me Mom and she reported him to McGovern(sp?).
So..there it is! I know it could have been worse but it sure traumatized me and has been on my mind ever since it happened! What do you remember?
We used to do you show me yours and I’ll show you mine but that was different!”
I do need to add something that she didn’t mention. Dick was there as well and a willing participant. In addition, there is a reference to McGovern. This was the chief of police at the time.
Now the question that I have as an adult is, what affect this experience had on the two of us? I have been trying to find the answer to that question for years. Thus far, I have not been able to. Even without that answer, I do know, with certainty that this experience played a role in shaping me into who I am today.
The trip to Florida
In 1955, I was nine years old and in fifth grade. As usual, my grades were not great, but they were at least passing grades. For about six months, my mother had been planning to take me with her on a trip to Florida. There would be five of us driving south for a month. Included would be our pet parakeet, named, Patricia, myself, my mother, my mother’s friend Martha, and my grandmother. Everyone considered Patricia to be a member of the family. The amount of time it spent in its cage was minimal, it was usually there only to sleep. All waking hours it was free to fly around the house and it normally perched itself on the light fixture in the downstairs bathroom. The downside of this is that it chewed the wallpaper off the wall. However, my mother did nothing about it as she thought it was cute. Another thing she thought was cute was the red feathers or fur above its beak. When the bird first arrived it was white, but my mother continually kissed it with lipstick on. Hence, the red look. Therefore, with that said, the thought of leaving the bird at home was just not possible. On the trip, it did bring up some interesting moments, like when checking into motels that didn’t accept animals. Have you ever tried to hide and keep a parakeet quiet?
The trip itself was indeed a good one, which we all enjoyed. We toured Miami, Cypress Gardens and many other sites. None of us really wanted to head north, but with all good things come responsibilities as well. So north, we headed, loaded with lots of souvenirs and memories.
We all came back to the real life of my mother’s apartment, the farm and school. However, it was different for me. For one thing, I just couldn’t seem to get warm. It was spring and everyone was going around in shorts and t-shirts. I, on the other hand was wearing jackets. Real or imagined who knows? There was something else going on for me though. I just could not concentrate. As much as I might try or as much as Peg might push, I just couldn’t focus. This went on for several weeks until my mother and I were called into the school for a parent teacher meeting. We were told that I was not doing well and I needed to improve, and if I didn’t, there was a possibility that I might be kept back a year. Time went on, I was not able to change, and as the end of the school year approached, another meeting was called. This time it wasn’t a warning.
Fifth grade again
At the age of ten, in September of 1956, I started fifth grade for a second time. Some would say that there is a plan in place for each of us. It would seem that my staying back in fifth grade, which at the time was devastating, in the end brought two people together who became best friends.
Below is a table with the names of those classmates that I remember. This table relates to the position of individuals in the picture below.
|Herbert James||George Enos||Myself|
|Celia Cavicchio||Janet Long?||Jean||Betty Haskel|
That guy in the upper right corner, is John Austin or Jack to his close friends. I don’t remember exactly when he moved into town, but here he is. No one really liked him in the beginning, including me. Initially it was because he was from the big city and moved to the country. His father worked for Hood Milk Company and they had bought a brand new house in a new development down Lancaster Road. It always seemed that they had everything. His family included his mother, father, Jim (his older brother) and Jack. When they had arrived I understand that his dad
was driving a 1950 Ford Custom Tudor. In 1958 he got a new car and then in 1960, he bought a 1949 Willys Jeepster as a second car. Jack tells me that he thinks his dad payed $300 for the Jeepster. His dad then had to overhaul the engine which was in bad shape. They also did the body work and repainted it themselves. It was a great learning experience for them. Jack, to this day is still heavily into the automotive scene as you would say. Just in case there are some of you that don’t know what a Jeepster is, May I present a 1949 Willys Jeepster:
The family seemed very happy. I guess I was jealous of all of that. At Halloween, they always had new ‘store bought’ costumes, while mine were just these handmade things. In the beginning, Jack and I fought over the dumbest things. One day when we were walking home from school, we found a milk crate. I went over and picked it up off a front lawn and before you knew it, we were fighting over who was going to carry it home. It was really a struggle of strength to see which of us had the most power or authority. Like, I can do this and you can’t. He on the one hand used the fact that it was a Hood milk crate and therefore he had to carry it and give it to his father. I on the other hand, claimed that I had picked it up and therefore should carry it. Who knows which one of us ultimately carried it? This was the type of silly stuff we’d argue over. Ultimately, we did become the best of friends. After that, I remember that we would always play together during recess in elementary school. If any kind of conflict arose with anybody else, we would support each other completely. Funny how those things work out.
Hunt’s farm goes religious
At the intersection of Concord Road, Union Avenue and Old Lancaster Road sat Warren Hunt’s farm house. If you were headed north on Concord, in was on the right hand side on the road. It had a wonderful wrap around porch along the front and along the entire depth on the right side of it. I don’t remember Mr. Hunt, but I was at his place several times. Once I remember being there with Bernie Scofield. To introduce Bernie, he is the husband of Mum’s granddaughter Joanne, whose mother was Hazel Clark. We had driven there and after Bernie had gotten out had said, as he was shutting his driver’s door, for me to wait a few minutes, that he’d be right back. I sat there and started getting impatient, as kids do. Reaching for the door handle, I pulled it up to open the door. It would not. I tried again and no luck. After several more tries, I gave up and just sat there. Finally, Bernie came back, hopped in; started up the old car and we were off back to his house. Taking the left turn from Concord Road onto Lancaster Road, the door on my side suddenly sprang open! I started sliding towards the opening, but fortunately, Bernie was quick enough and managed to grab ahold of me. I can’t remember if I ever told him about trying to open the door or not, but most likely not.
Directly across from Mr. Hunts farm house, were some old chicken coops. Now kids just love to investigate places like this. The problem is that once you get inside and see the old chicken bones laying around, your skin begins to crawl. Your imagination can certainly run away with you also, it’s dark in there. Even it’s a bright day outside, it’s dark inside and every whistle or rustle gives you the creeps. You just know that there are ghosts behind every corner.
That’s about the extent of my experience with the Hunt farm other than Mr. Hunt passing away and the radical change in the use of the land.
Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, established Our Lady of Fatima Parish on September 15, 1955. At the time, there were about 800 Catholics in the town. Father Robert H. Hurley was appointed as the founding pastor. Up until this time, Catholics in Sudbury attended Mass at the parishes of Saint Ann Wayland, Saint Bridget Maynard, and Saint George Saxonville. It was a challenge to develop a unified parish in those early days amongst parishioners who attended three different churches. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Church were held on January 22, 1956. The cornerstone laying and first Mass was celebrated in the Church on December 15, 1956. By this time over 400 Catholic families lived in the parish. Many of the original founding parishioners still reside in the parish and attend Sunday Mass. Our Lady of Fatima consists of 1500 registered families.
Please go back and look at my segment on “A lesson in Prejudice”. I’m going to follow-up on that a bit here for you, in relation to the Catholic Church. When the Catholic Church wanted to build a church next to the farm, Mum actually advocated for them with the town. You see, Sudbury had always been a Protestant town, but Mum saw beyond that. Therefore, I can’t imagine my thoughts came from the family in Sudbury. I can only imagine that it came from someone in my biological family or one of their friends.
I try not to judge a book by its cover or a person by their looks. Sometimes it’s hard to maintain this, but I try. When you come across a bunch of, I’ll use the word thugs, hanging around the street corner, it’s tough not to cross to the other side of the street and also to not make judgments about them.
What’s that in the sky
I remember one night staying up later than usual and lying in my single size bed looking out the window, which was right next to the bed. The Soviet Union had recently launched a satellite and it was said that you could see it going overhead at night. I didn’t really expect to see it, but ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, as they say. After watching for some time, all of a sudden I saw something moving slowly across the night sky. It was a shiny ball that kind of twinkled like a distant star, but you knew it wasn’t a star because it was moving across the sky. Below is a picture and quote, from the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Office of Policy and Plans History Office Internet site.
“History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.”
It is absolutely amazing to me all that has transpired since that night back in 1957. The thought of putting an object into space was beyond our imaginations. Today, we have the spacecraft Voyager leaving our solar system. Mum rode around in horse drawn carriages. Today we have carriages powered by the power of four or five hundred horses. I used to listen to scratchy little transistor radios, today, a device that size lets me communicate with anyone in the world and has the computing power of the early IBM computers. If this doesn’t amaze you, I think you may need to dig yourself out of your sandbox.
How to start a career
There were two kids, I truly cannot remember their names, who lived on the opposite side of Concord Road and about three houses south. In a strange twist of fate, I should probably be thanking them for my career in electronics and then computer technology.
They had been at the farm, in the barn several time playing basketball. So this day I had gone over to their place, and we were shooting hoops in their driveway. After getting a bit hot, we went inside to get a drink and to relax a bit. The older brother asked, “Hey Tommy, want to see our radio setup down in the basement? It’s really my dad’s, but he lets us use it sometimes.” “Sure.” I didn’t really know what it was all about, but I was willing to take a look, so down into the cellar we went. At the bottom of the steps I faced a blank wall and had to turn all the way around. What I saw then, was awesome! I hadn’t even gotten close or touched it, but it drew me like a magnet. In front of me was a large sloped panel. I’d say it was about eight to ten feet wide and it was covered with dials, gauges and switches. Yes, and wires. More wires than I’d ever seen before. I just stood there in amazement. The older brother went over to it and I followed, slowly. He flipped this switch and then that. Then, he moved to the right and started twisting a dial, and we could hear noise as he moved the dial, intermixed with spots of voices. He stopped at one spot and sort of rocked the knob back and forth a bit, fine-tuning it. When it was all set he said, “Well, what do you think? You’re listening to the BBC, the British Broadcasting Company in England.” I was dumb-founded and could just utter, “Wow, I am?” After that, he tuned in several more stations from around the world and I was hooked. We went outside to shoot some more hoops, but I just could not concentrate and headed home soon.
Several weeks went by and I just couldn’t seem to forget that panel; it had impressed me so much. I started tinkering with this and that. I also started taking the cabinets off radios trying to see how they might work inside. I really didn’t have much idea what I was I was doing, but I learned some by trial and error. As you can see in the picture, this is my first attempt to replicate it in my room, although very simplistic it was a start. It’s funny because as time went on, I started hearing that people were sort of nervous about coming into my room for fear of being electrocuted. I knew, of course, there was no danger of that happening.
It’s hard to imagine that this one visit was able to set the course of my lifetime career. I say this changed my life, because I went on to study radio and electronics, then computer technology and then onto computer programming. Ultimately, I ended up owning my own computer consulting business.
Throughout my life, I’ve known of people who struggled for years, moving from one job to another, trying to find a lifetime career path. Some never really find one. My question is, how is it that I was handed a career path at a very young age while others struggle with this for years?
We go sailing
Just south of where Codjer Lane crosses Union Avenue is a small stream called Hop Brook. It meanders through Cavvicchio Farm property, under Union Avenue, through the fields and behind the Goodnow Library and then under the Boston Post Road or Route 20. I tell you of this stream because it became the path taken by two adventurous sea faring men trying to find the great Northwest Passage. Something like Henry Hudson had done, but on a much smaller scale.
Bernie worked in a Ford auto body shop over in Framingham and had access to all sorts of tools unknown to the average man. One such implement was a gas-cutting torch. Somehow, Clark and I had convinced Bernie that he should cut an old oil tank in half for us. Not sure if we told him what we planned on doing with it. Bernie wasn’t really the type of guy to do this sort of thing for anyone, which makes me really wonder why he would do it for us, but he did. I think it was most likely a 500-gallon tank and on the fatefully day, the truck, from the auto body shop, arrived at the Hooper’s camp and dumped it in the middle the driveway. Clark’s dad was not too pleased over this at all.
We pulled it out of the driveway and there it sat for a few weeks. During this time, it sort of cleaned itself out and was getting ready for the maiden voyage. Also, this was giving Clark and I time to work on his dad. He certainly needed a little softening up for this one. First, he didn’t want us to do it at all and second, he didn’t want to transport it to the stream. This meant dragging it behind his car, because it had a hitch for their boat. On our side though was this rusting hunk of metal in his yard, which he did not like there, one bit. Of course, there was one little question that everyone seemed to be asking about this little endeavor, will it float? There’s only one way to find out.
After several weeks of bugging, being good, demanding and just plain smooth talking his dad finally relented and agreed to it. On the next Sunday morning, so that road traffic was at a minimum, we hooked our “boat” to the trailer hitch on the back of his father’s car. After a quick prayer, we were off with the “boat” bobbing up and down making a real racket on Old Lancaster Road, which was a dirt road. When we finally hit the paved road, it didn’t bounce up and down so much, but dragged along leaving a long trail of sparks behind. I’m sure that it would have matched any Fourth of July fireworks display had it been at night. Stopping the car by the stream, Clark and I unhitched it and dragged it down the slope to the water’s edge. Clark held onto the rope as the three of us watched in silence, while we slowly pushed it out into the water. It was time to know, sink or float. Well, it floated!.It ever looked like there was enough free-board that it would hold the two of us as well as some supplies as well. I ran up to the car and grabbed our bag with water and sandwiches. We both got in the “boat” and pushed off. Looking up at Clark’s dad, I swore I saw a tear run down his cheek, which he quickly wiped away. It must have been tears of happiness, right? With the same movement of his arm, his hand gave a simple wave, wishing us well. Waving back, we turned forward to our duties at hand.
Now the duties for these two sea-faring men were somewhat limited as this was half of an oil tank freely floating at the mercy of a flowing stream. There was no rudder to steer or even a paddle to guide our path. It was wonderful though, no one to bother us as we just drifted through the fields, under the roads, around trees. We just lay there, drank our water, and ate our sandwiches in total relaxation. Finally, we ended up stopped behind the Goodnow library. Of course, we hadn’t thought far enough ahead to realize that once our ‘boat’ had run into something that there was no way to drag it out of the water, let alone getting it home again. Well, reluctantly we had to abandon our trusty craft and walk home. We never saw it again. I wonder if anyone else ever found and used it. On the other hand, if it just rested there, it has most likely rusted away.
One thing I do need to report. This expedition failed to find the Northwest Passage.
While we’re discussing events that included Clark, Bernie and I, let me tell you another tale of a prank that we played on Bernie. Now, you need to realize that Bernie didn’t have a real big sense of humor and Clark and I should have taken this into account in our planning. I was at the Hooper’s camp one day when Clark produced this very large firecracker! I was ready to run, but he pulled the fuse out and showed me that it was really just a red empty tube with a hole in the end for a fuse. You could light the fuse and it would look real, but eventually would just fizzle out. Our prank was that we were going to walk into Bernie’s house with this thing lit. Well, we did just that and Bernie went ballistic yelling, “You get that #^*)*$%& thing out of this house NOW!” There was no trying to explain that it was fake or nothing. It was just out of the house, period. Lesson of the day kids: You should think pranks out, and consider whom the target is.
As a note here, if this happened today and if this had been a real firecracker, I’d be out the door..
The Road Kill Incident
Previously I had told the tale of Peg and I going on our adventures with the red wagon to McKinnon’s supermarket in South Sudbury. Since that time, the store had moved to the intersection of Concord Road and Route 20. The market had also grown so it now had about seven or eight aisles, a fresh produce department and a meat department. The town was certainly growing up.
Clark and I were innocently walking down Concord Road one day and happened to come across an animal that had obviously hit and killed by a car, which looked to be a woodchuck to us. We were young and really knew nothing about the supply chain of meat to a store. We just figured that meat was meat. With that in mind, we thought we might be Mr. McKinnon a favor by giving him some free meat. So we picked up that woodchuck and carried it to the back door to the store, which was right at the meat department. We banged on the door and Mr. McKinnon opened the door asking, “Hey boys, what can I do for you?” With pride we held up that animal and stated, “We thought that you might be able to use this fresh meat in your store.” Well, his face got red and all he could do was to yell for us to “get out of here with that!”
We really did not understand and went away feeling real dejected. I guess he lost a couple of customers that day, because the door opened directly into the meat department and several people heard our conversation. Need I say more?
I run away
I remember, out of anguish, trying to run away from home twice. You know it’s a very interesting notion, running away from home as a child, where might you possibly go. As an adult, you certainly have options and can plan for such a thing, but as a child, you can only act on impulse. There typically is not a great amount of planning done when impulse is in charge.
The first time I tried it; I packed up a few things and headed down the bottom front lawn. The bottom front lawn was a triangle on the other side of the driveway from the house. I actually got all the way to the southern tip of it. I most likely sat there for a short time and then, as any kid would do, gave up and walked back up to the house. No one said a word and I just went up to my room. Again, after some time, Mum arrived with her smooth voice and offered some cookies and milk. The matter was over.
The next time I ran away, was about a year of two later and I was a lot wiser by then, for I actually did some planning. Stupid and very dangerous planning as it turns out. I guess I wasn’t quite old enough to look beyond the immediate plan and think about the results. So, here goes.
This time, no one else was involved. I managed to pull this one off all by myself.
I got real mad, at something, one day and started forming my plan to run away. As you now know, I had done this before, but had never gotten further than the front lawn. Well, for some reason this time was different. I remember packing an old tarp that I was going to use as a tent, some pots and pans (well, maybe one pan), and I was on my way. I went all the way up to the field across Old Lancaster Road from the Hooper’s house. I quickly set up my tent. Actually I built some more like a lean to thing that was held up with two sticks. After that, I decided that you can’t camp or cook without a campfire, so I proceeded to do just that. First, I had to make a clearing, so I walked around in circles to smash down the tall “dry” grass. In the center of the circle, I built a pile of sticks leaning on each other something like an Indian teepee is built. I then needed something to start the wood for the fire, so I went into the tall “dry” field, pulled up some straw, and put it underneath the leaning sticks. Now, it most likely won’t take a rocket scientist at this point to imagine what happened when I struck that match and lit the “dry” grass on fire, surrounded by a field of tall “dry grass!
The next thing that I knew, I was running down the road back to the house. When I got there, I heard Mum ask what had happened on my way by her. I said nothing on the way to her bedroom and under her bed to hide. Not much later, I heard the sirens from the fire engines roaring up Old Lancaster Road. I just lay there hiding and hoping that no one would know that I had set the fire. I don’t know exactly how much time passed when I heard the heavy feet on the floor that stopped right next to the bed. Looking over I could see big boots covered with soot. A very deep voice told me to come out, which I did with my head hanging to my feet. It was a firefighter! He stood there and talked with me about what might have happened and that I should not play with matches. Yes, sir, no sir was all that came out of my mouth. I don’t even remember for sure if there was room or time for an, I’m Sorry. But, as big and mean looking as that fireman looked to me that was nothing compared to what was still coming to me from, Bunny Hooper, Maidie’s mother!
She yelled up one side of me and then down the other about the fact that I had almost burned down her house. I think that was the last time that I played with matches and to this day, I have a real respect and fear for fire. So, I guess in one way (after all these years) I might say that the episode had really done me some good. Of course, I’m not sure that Bunny would agree with me. This is the second thing that I’m not sure of, is whether or not she was ever able to fully forgive me. If you can hear me up there in Heaven, Bunny and I’m sure you are up there, please forgive this stupid kid.
Mum’s soothing song
When I got into trouble or got hurt, there was always one person that I could count on to soothe my wounds, both mentally and physically. It seemed that I could do no wrong in her eyes that she wouldn’t help me get back on the right path, even if I was wrong. One thing that I’ll never forget is her soft voice in song, especially one. It’s called “The Old Grey Goose is Dead.” She would lay me down in bed, stroke my shoulders, and neck while singing this tune in a very mellow voice. I just couldn’t stay upset for too long. Sometimes, and I remember one specific moment, we’d just be outside and she be close and start singing it. I never did ask her why it was so special to her, but it must have been something because she’d just go on and on. Of course, maybe she was repeating the words but to me that would not have mattered one bit.
I have discovered that here are many different sets of lyrics to this little song. So if these are not the ones you remember, do a search and you’ll most likely find yours. The lyrics that I have chosen, which are below, are from a collection called “American Songs Of Revolutionary Times And The Civil War Era by The Union Confederacy”
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
The old grey goose is dead.
The one she’s been saving,
The one she’s been saving,
The one she’s been saving,
To make a feather bed.
She died in the mill pond,
She died in the mill pond,
She died in the mill pond,
Standing on her head.
She left nine little goslings,
She left nine little goslings,
She left nine little goslings,
To scratch for their own bread.
Run and tell Aunt Rhody,
Run and tell Aunt Rhody,
Run and tell Aunt Rhody,
The old grey goose is dead.
Here is a link, if you’d like to listen to the song on YouTube: https://youtu.be/X31qicrMPiE
Much to my benefit, over time Mum brought me into her kitchen and taught me how to cook. I didn’t learn anything real difficult, like a soufflé. But if I needed to feed myself I certainly could and actually have during my lifetime. I even enjoy getting into the kitchen now and then to this day. She had taught me enough so that today, I’m able to use recipes from cookbooks as well.
My greatest accomplishment in the kitchen was the apple pie. Working with Mum, it seemed so easy so one day I asked her if I could make on myself. She suggested that I might do it on Friday. Then when my mother arrived we all could sit down and have a piece of it. That sounded good to me and the wait began, you see it was only Wednesday. Waiting is not a strong suit for kids. Friday afternoon was finally here and I arrived home from school. Mum had all the tools and ingredients ready for me. I was so excited to get started. The one thing I did need help with was the dough. Rolling that out was just something that I had not mastered yet. So, she mixed it up, rolled it out and put into the pie pan. Then it was up to me and she left the room to go and read the newspaper. I peeled the apples, cut them up and put them into the pie pan. Then all the other ingredients went on top, covered by the top crust. Of course, tiny fancy slits had to be cut to allow air to escape. Then into the oven, it went. The room started smelling very good and in about 45 minutes, it was done and out it came. I set it on top of the stove to cool until my mother arrived.
At 5:00, I heard her car drive into the driveway. Shortly she was at the back door to which I ran and I asked, “Do you want a piece of apple pie? I made it.” Sort of caught off guard she replied, “Sure, I guess so.” She sat down at the table with Mum as I cut them some pie. Acting the waiter part, I served then along with silverware and stepped back waiting their response. Expecting a smile on their faces, I was put off a little when instead of that smile their mouths sort of puckered up a bit. With a strained voice, my mother said something like, “Very good Tommy. It seems to have a different taste to it.” Mum with a similar voice said, “Tommy, how much cinnamon did you put in the pie?” “Just like you do Mum, a cup.” Both of them coughed at the same time. Mum announced, “Tommy, you’re only supposed to put in a teaspoon of cinnamon not a whole cup!” Needless to say, we didn’t eat much more of my crown jewel.
Beets! Let me tell you about my great dislike of this vegetable. I have never liked them and will always turn them down whenever offered. On one occasion, I did not get the opportunity to do this and, I think I can honestly say, everyone suffered because of it. We, Peg and I, were having dinner up the Hooper’s house and Mrs. Hooper was serving beets that night. When passed to me, I said no thank you. But, Peg got into her mind that it was silly of me not to eat beets and put some onto my plate and told me that I had to eat them. With each chew, I got more and more nauseous, until finally it became obvious to everyone that I was beginning to gag and wretch. I jumped up and made a straight line to the bathroom, where I ‘expelled’ the red stuff in my mouth. It was terrible, but at least no one ever asked me to eat beets again. To her dying day, Mrs. Hooper loved telling that story.
One of our favorite pastimes was to go down to South Sudbury for a tonic. I use the term tonic here, because that’s what sodas were called growing up in Massachusetts. If you don’t like it tough. We also pronounce scallops differently, like true New Englanders. It’s pronounced like scollops, with the ‘a’ being pronounced as an ‘o’. In fact there are really two ways to pronounce the word, that which I indicate as someone from New England and the other is scallops, where that ‘a’ is pronounced as an ‘a’. Oops, slight sidetrack there, and now back to the subject at hand. If we found ourselves in South Sudbury, by bike or walking and we had some money in our pockets, we were good and headed to the pharmacy on route 20, or later on the new one on Concord Road. After sliding up onto a stool at the counter the big decision of the day was, what flavor or flavors would we choose today? There were manual pumps with all sorts of flavored syrups, strawberry, vanilla, raspberry were just a few available. Sometimes we’d say all of them. After pumping a little syrup into your glass, the coke added under pressure of CO2. I think my favorite was the strawberry coke. Yum! Some produced very strange results, but once ordered we had to pay for it and therefore we had to drink it. Oh the price you had to pay…
During Clark and my playtime together, we played all sorts of things. Cowboys and Indians was always a great one and done often. On TV, we witnessed the ritual of two men becoming blood brothers, thus joining them as brothers for life. Well, Clark and I felt that we should follow this and perform this ritual as well. Out in the fields we knelt down on our knees and uttered some Indian utterances that one would utter at a time like this. We then drew our knives, placed them upon our fingertips and were about to… “I can’t do this.” I said. “I’m glad you said that. Because neither can I. But, what about the ritual? How do we become brothers?” Clark questioned. After thinking about it, I asked him, “Do you think it has to be real blood?” “I don’t see why, maybe any bodily fluid would do?” “How about spit?” “Ya, I bet that would work just fine.” So there we were, kneeling with spit on our fingers held together, uttering those Indian utterances. So, I guess we’re actually spit brothers instead of blood brothers. I know, it lost some of its significance along the way.
As you had previously read when I told the tale of the sewing adventure in the barn, you may have guessed that back in these days safety was not such an issue as it is today. Of course, personally I believe that it’s being carried way too far today. If a child gets his or her hands dirty, it seems like it’s off to the doctor’s office for some anti-biotics. We used hand soap and it was bad enough some mercurochrome was applied. Somehow we have managed to live through it. Did we get a little banged up more? Most likely yes, but we all looked out for each other and it was just ok.
Mum had gotten a new refrigerator to replace the old ice box that she had been using. The ice box was simply moved into the garage to be stored there. I have no idea how long it had been there, but it was in the wide open and it looked kind of like neat thing to play in or at least to be investigated. The refrigerator was a three door white porcelain model. On the right was one large door going almost the entire height of the unit, with the hinges on the right or the outside. On the left there were two doors, both of which were hinged on the left or the outside. The lower door took up about two thirds of the space I’d say, which the remaining door occupied the other third. The two left compartments had a separating floor and I would assume the ice was placed in the smaller shelf on the top. When I approached the refrigerator all three doors were open and I crawled into the large right compartment. While I was looking and moving around, somehow the large door swung closed and latched shut. Nowadays, you can simply push on a refrigerator door from the inside and it will open. This was not true back then, as the latch was on the outside only and once shut there was no way to open if from inside. I realized I was in trouble. My only hope at escape was to reach through the open door of the small top door and hopefully reach around to the latch on the large door. I maneuvered myself so that I was able to lean slightly out of the small door, but just couldn’t reach it. I tried and tried leaning just a bit further each time, but also realized that if I leaned out too far the refrigerator might lose it’s balance and fall over face down, trapping my underneath. If that were to happen, there would be no hope for me unless someone came by right away.
Finally, somehow and I don’t honestly know how, I did manage to get the door open and got out. I will say that this was one of several times that I have really prayed for God’s help. Did God help me? I‘ll never know. I think I remember that the doors were taken off that ice box that day or the next.
I struggle with this question to this day. Is there a God?
Somewhere around 1952 or 1953 I remember my mother had an apartment on the second or third story, which sat up on a hill in Marlboro, Massachusetts. The most important thing that I remember about this place was the day when a friend and I decided to have a ‘snowball fight with the flowers from what we called a snowball bush, which was on the front walk to the apartment building. I remember being caught and having to spend the rest of the day picking up each and every flower from the front yard. Unfortunately, my friend had gone home by this time and therefore not punished. The landlord was really mad and I had to bear the punishment all by myself. I don’t remember much else about this place, except that my mother used to have people come in and receive shots. She was a nurse and I assume doing this to earn extra money. I also remember that a family, the McGuiers, who were friends of my Grandmother (Wynell Lucy Knight), used to come to visit quite often. I don’t really remember my grandmother living at this apartment with us but, I guess she must have, because the McGuiers were her friends.
My mother did try
You know, to be fair my mother did her best to bring me up. I know that now as an adult, but as a child it was really tough. A kid wants to be with their parents and be special and loved unconditionally by them. Well, that didn’t work on my father’s side as I was told that he had died during the war. I had asked about him and was simply told that he was a wonderful man, but tragically had been seriously wounded and eventually lost his life serving his country. We talked about him once in a while, but not all that often. She did keep a series of about eight pictures on her dresser, which contained shots of my father holding me as a baby. I’ll never know if those were for memories of him or me.
One weekend while at my mother’s apartment, we were talking about what sorts of stuff I did on the farm. I happened to mention that we went fishing quite a bit at several neat places. Surprising to me, she asked, if I would like to go fishing with her. You could have knocked me over with a feather duster! Being caught off guard and excited about the possibility of actually going fishing with my mother, I responded, Yes! A problem raised its ugly head right away, all my fishing equipment was in Sudbury. So to overcome this obstacle, my mother tied a safety pin to a ball of twine. The pin she opened up to look more like a hook and off we went. The Charles River snakes its way through Dedham, Mass and runs right alongside of Needham Street. This was our destination for our great fishing trip. Stopping and parking the car, we got out. It was then that I realized that we had another problem, no worms. We needed worms of course, to attract fish. This certainly was not something my mother could solve and neither could I with worms, we had no shovel. So, the only thing I could do is to grab some grass and attach it to the hook. I really wanted to make this work so that my mother would be proud of me, but in my heart, I knew better. I think she did as well. But, I said that I thought it might work and tossed it into the water, with no bobbin attached so of course the pin sank to the bottom. We stood there, both hoping beyond hope that something would happen. Nothing did of course. Finally, we packed up and headed home with our heads hanging low. That was my last fishing excursion with my mother, but heck she did try.
My mother liked to take me for ice cream. She’d arrive on a Friday afternoon and we’d get into the car and pack Bobbin into the back seat and head for the ice cream shop. Bobbin, of course, would hang his head out the window drooling down the side of the car. By the time we got back, it was really a mess. At the ice cream store, mother and I would go in leaving Bobbin waiting in the car, and get three dishes. You might be able to guess whom the third one was for. If you had guessed me, you would have been wrong silly. Of course, it was for Bobbin. Whenever we went for ice cream and took my dog, my mother doted over him a lot. At the time, I didn’t think too much about it, but it did become sort of a pattern. As an adult remembering back, my mother has always doted over and spoiled her dogs. Even to the point of killing them, in my mind. Certainly not on purpose, but she’s feed them sweets over and over and you could just watch them change. She thought she was being kind and they loved it, but in reality, she was doing them in. Fortunately, she didn’t spend enough time with Bobbin to really do him any harm. After we’d finished our ice cream and headed back to the farm to drop Bobbin off, he’d again hang his head out slobbering down the side of the car. The only difference being, that now his snout was filled with melted ice cream, which added a nice hue to the already messed up door. I’m adding this here, because I have often wondered if we went for ice cream as a treat for me or the dog. I guess I’ll never know for sure, but I’ll go with, me. She tried anyway.
This section will show the general type of fun that we used to have at and around the farm. Some got us in hot water some did not. Other stuff has been listed as individual events sort of because that what they were. But these are things that I did over and over with one or more friends.
At the time that I was in Sudbury, the railroad track were still there. I would assume by now that they’ve been removed, but in my time there they were yet another playground. Trains had stopped running so that it really was safe for us to be there. We’d pick up the tracks going down Old Lancaster road towards Jack’s house. This is the portion of Old Lancaster Road opposite Hunt’s farm. Actually if you went over the tracks and took the next left turn you’d go to Jacks house. Walking the tracks, was just fun. Just being with a friend and talking, nothing exciting. Sometimes we’d pack a little lunch. Sometimes we’d grab an ice cream or something at the pharmacy. You get a rhythm into walking alone railroad tracks. You might step on each tie or you might step on every other. You might walk on one rail or the other. You might jump back and forth between them. Or a combination of all the above. It was just something we enjoyed at the time. And we had no timetable to get anywhere. Sometimes we got to Boston Post Road, sometimes to the railroad station or somewhere in between. Can kids enjoy this today?
I’ve mentioned the lower triangle front lawn before. Just south of the tip of this lawn was a culvert pipe that went under Concord Road. This became another playground for us. It was cool to crawl through from one side of the road to the other. The only problem was that when a car went overhead, it was a little scary. Not that I believed anything would really happen, but just the noise and knowing how heave cars really are. But, mostly just the noise echoing through the culvert pipe.
One evening, I think it was Jack, and I decided it would be fun to play a prank on some unsuspecting driver going by. Bad idea!! Anyway, we got this large sheet of clear plastic, filled it with leaves and tied the corners. Very stealthy we dragged our newly created approximation of a human body down to the culvert pipe. This night we wouldn’t be going in the pipe though, the body would be going on the road. We sat in waiting until we heard a car coming around the corner in the distance. At this point, we thrust the body up onto the road and started running. As we ran up the hill, all we heard was the screeching of tires and then silence. After hearing, a car door slam a voice rang out with such profanity you’ve never heard! We just ducked down in the bushes and kept quiet for a while. Then we snuck to the safety of home.
Jack lived on Gerry drive, which is off Old Lancaster Road. In his back yard was wonderful pile of sand. I believe that when they moved into the house it was new, so I don’t know if this was just left from the construction crew or if his parents had it put there. But, either way it certainly was another playground for us. We spent many-a-day building major road systems up through the mountains and down in those valleys. Then we’d invent people that needed to use these roads to move goods, or to just go on vacation. The only boundaries for our adventures in cars and trucks were in our own imaginations.
Then of course, there was the Highway Department sand pit. At the entrance sat an old steam powered steamroller. This was always an abject for kids, with good imaginations, to play on. It did’t go anywhere so you did need that good imagination. If you went down the driveway a bit, you’d come to the sand pit itself. It was a large open area surrounded by walls of sand. On one side was a shoot used to load sand onto a truck for use on the roads. Along to one side was a road going up the side that a truck could go up and back up to the top of the shoot and dump it’s load of sand for use later. A manual lever would open the shoot and allow sand to flow into another truck parked below. One time when we were there, one of the kids decided that it would be fun to suspend himself within the shoot and have someone pull the lever, thus allowing sand to flow. I can’t remember who did this, but I have to wonder if Dick was involved. Anyway, he was having fun, until it was time to shut the shoot down. The lever was jammed with his body and he was stuck there. Everyone started panicking, I quickly assessed the situation and I ran as fast as I could and got help. I must have been successful, because the sand pit continued to be a source of play for us.
Fishing, we used to go fishing all the time. Interesting that now as an adult, I have no real interest in it, but back then, we all did. One great fishing place needed us to use out bikes. We went down Old Lancaster Road, opposite the Catholic Church, to the four corners of Old Lancaster and Peakham Roads and took a left. Then about 100 yards down is Hop Brook. We’d go in on the right to a little dam and fish there
Another spot we’d go was near Al’s, Mum’s son, house over on Dutton Road. I don’t remember catching anything there but we had fun anyway. We also used to go swimming in this water hole. That is until the day that I looked to my right and saw a snake swimming right next to me. I think I treaded water that day getting to the shore. I’m not sure why I was so surprised to see a snake there, I mean it was just a dumpy little pond in the woods.
Another spot was behind Goodnow Library. As we know the Hop Brook snakes around behind the Goodnow Library on its way to pass under route 20. In there a small pond had formed and Peg and I would take a picnic lunch packed by Mum and go fishing. Mostly we’d get just sunfish and horned pout. Peg thinks that it was a good deal for Mum, she pack a lunch in trade for a quite house for a while. As an adult, I now understand this totally.
The garage was another great play area. While we did do a lot downstairs, most of our activities were on the second floor or in the eave of the roof in the rear. Above the stalls of the garage were open rooms that we used for many purposes, cops and robbers, hide and seek, playing house, and cowboy and Indians to name a few. Above the righter most stall was an open loft, where all sorts of stuff had been stored, like furniture type stuff. While we investigated it thoroughly, not much of it was used unless it fit into other activities elsewhere. There a make-shift path way around this and ended at the eave at the back of the garage where there was a nook in the building. Within that space we had placed some planks to make a floor for ourselves. This became our fort. There were two ways into it, the one I just described and a ladder on the back wall of the garage. This ladder was just some boards about a foot or so long nailed to the wall leading up to the fort. The garage sat right in from of the corn crib, which had walls made of a heavy duty chicken wire. This would be filled with corn for drying and then used as feed for the cows. The buildings were only separated by a few feet and became one huge playground for myself and all my friends.
A great thing to do as a group was to climb up a ladder on the back of the garage and get on the roof. Unfortunately the ladder didn’t go all the way so you’d need to climb into jour fort under the eaves and kind of wrestle the rest of the way up, holding onto pretty much nothing. To get down it was a bit trickier, as you had to hold yourself onto the roof, again by pretty much nothing, until you got your footing back under the eaves. Because the corn crib roof was so close to the garage, freely jumping back and forth between the roofs became great fun. The opposite edge of the corn crib roof, away from the garage, was probably about 1 story off of the ground and again, was easily jumped from to the ground. We played this game was played for hours, without fear at all.
Then came the day that I didn’t have any friends around and decided to partake in these games alone. I climbed up the ladder and was shortly on the garage roof and then was back and forth between the two. Eventually I tired of the game, mostly because I was alone, and decided to get down. I jumped over to the corn crib roof and was ready to jump off when fear struck me. I just couldn’t do it. I jumped over to the garage roof to climb down to the ladder. Again, fear filled me and I couldn’t do it. I was all alone and afraid. I jumped back and forth trying the corn crib roof and the garage roof and just couldn’t do either one. Finely I sat there on the garage roof trying to decide what to do. I mulled over this plan and that and just couldn’t come up with any sort of solution. From somewhere deep in my mind, came a thought from my small amount of attending church. The thought was, that maybe if I prayed to God I could get some help. So, this is exactly what I did. Of course during that prayer I made promises that I could never as a child honor, but a child is a child. Amazingly just after that prayer, I was able to hold myself to the roof and climb down reaching the ladder and then the ground.
First I’d like to say that from my perspective, the barn was more than a barn to most of us, it was almost a small town in it’s own right. It had many different areas, each one I used for a different purpose. It’s interesting how I just wrote “each one I used”. There were certainly other kids and adults that used it as well, but again, I’m writing this from my perspective so I guess it’s ok that it’s written this way.
The main section of the barn, containing what I’ve described as the U had for a long time hay stored on the lofts. This provided much fun, from climbing through the ventilation tunnels to jumping off the lofts into the center of the U, the main floor, which was covered with unbaled hay. Most likely this was due to the shenanigans of kids, however I just knew it was there. Certainly I wouldn’t have been involved in any such thing. Nope, not me.
There was a heavy rope hanging from the peak of the barn, about midway between the front doors and the third story loft. The older kids would get up on that loft and swing out over the open floor below, having lots of fun. I really wanted to try, but I just too afraid to do it. Bravery had never been one of my strong suites. I was able to get up onto that loft, sometimes. However, I could not get near the edge as it was a long way down and it really felt like there was a big magnet pulling me towards it.
There was a basketball hoop put up on the face of the second floor loft and we certainly took full advantage of it, whether I was alone, there was two of us or a whole bunch. It was just good fun for us all. Of course falling and getting hay dust and hay itself all over yourself kind of stunk, but what the heck, just part of the game.
There was a set of stairs, at the end of the barn closest to the house. This led from the area where the cow stalls were up to our playrooms upstairs. One day Jeannie Stover and I were sitting on those stairs talking. As a side, according to my mother, Jeannie and her sister Anna lived at the farm for about a year. A friend of my mothers, a Marion Neally lived across the street from another friend Martha Sheehan, in Acton, Mass. The three of them sang in the choir together. Marion had two stepdaughters, Jeannie and Anna, and somehow had found out about Mum and placed the girls with her. I don’t remember much about Jeannie except we’d go out in the barn and play. One day, we were sitting on these steps. It was during the time when I was first figuring out about this thing called girls and sex and I tried to tell her that there ways of being dirty other than using dirt. She kind of looked at me with a blank stare not understanding anything that I was saying. I of course was too shy to come right out and say what was on my mind. Not that I actually knew what was on my mind. So, I hemmed and hawed about this and that and tried to imply about the “other” ways of being dirty. Really, she asked, how? We went around on the subject for a bit, but finally gave up and got onto other subjects. A while later, we headed for the house. I thought the subject was over. When we got into the house, the first words out of her mouth were, how can you be dirty without using dirt? Tommy tried to tell me, but couldn’t explain it to me. Something was over all right, me! I just stood there blushing and denied everything. Gulp!
Upstairs was a room that we used for lots of stuff. Mostly I guess it was kind of a house for Maidie and me. We ‘fixed it up’ with furniture and all kinds of stuff and made it into a place to play. If I remember right, we even managed to get an old couch up there. And it was old, there were holes in it with the springs popping through. The guys and I would play in there also, but I think that it was really Maidie’s and mine.
One time that we were in there I got a real shock or scare. I know that Clark was there. I’m not sure who else was, but I do remember that we were jumping around and causing quite a riff. Well, I ended up hitting against the outside wall, sitting on the floor. At that moment, a big old hand auger (see picture) fell off the wall and stuck into the top of my head. I was a little woozy for a few minutes, but did get up. Clark immediately took me up to his house, as if this were a life or death situation. He insisted that his father, Dr. Hooper, look at it. Fortunately, it didn’t go in too deep. I bled a little bit, but I survived.
Then there was the time that I caught a bullfrog. I had brought it up into the room and was playing with it. Well, when it was time to go into the house, I didn’t want to lose my play thing so I got a Crisco Oil tin can with a tight lid, went out and got some grass from the lawn for it to eat. I put a rock in the middle and a little water in the bottom. I was going to take good care of the frog or so I thought. It seems that I forgot one major thing; I didn’t poke any holes in the can for air. I don’t know exactly how long it was before I thought about that frog again. But let me tell you, when I finally did open that can, did it stink!! I guess that you can well imagine what happened to my little friend the bullfrog. In defense of us kids, we do have the best of intentions. It’s just that darn lack of attention span that keeps getting in the way of our follow through to completion.
Farm foods were not limited to the summertime, as you’ll read below, because in the winter after a good snowfall there was Snow pudding. We looked forward to snowstorms for lots of reasons, but this one didn’t require any physical activity other than collecting some snow and then getting a bowl and eating it. I’m not sure if you’d actually want to do this nowadays, with all the pollutants in our skies. When I was a kid, the snow was actually very white and clean. There were also raw eggs involved.
The exact recipe has faded into history, bit I do remember that it had the following ingredients:
I know that Mum would add all the ingredients, less the snow, and beat them in a large bowl with her Mixmaster. Once mixed, we’d then start adding the snow, mixing it right in until you couldn’t add any more. I’ve searched quite a bit for the original recipe but so far, no luck. I believe that Peg has even looked, with no luck. Boy, was this ever a wintertime treat!
Then there was my short stint in the Cub Scouts. Yup, hat, shirt, scarf, and all the rest. I don’t remember the exact motivation for my joining, but somehow I can’t imagine that it was self-induced. I also cannot imagine that Mum would have done this to me. In my mind, that left only two possible culprits, Peg and my mother, or it could have been a joint effort. Anyway, I suddenly found myself going to regular meetings and doing all sorts of strange stuff, that only Cub Scouts know about in order to achieve the next level of merit badge. Yes, the mighty merit badge, sewn onto your shirt and worn in all its glory.
Meetings were held weekly and would end up prior to the end of the school year with the glorious father/son festival. OOPS, did I say father/son? Therein lies the problem, I didn’t have one. Mine had died in the war. I could tell that this was going to be another of those events that was to simply suppress any sort of self-confidence that I might had gathered. Everyone else would have a dad and I again would, just sit over in the corner by myself. With all this in mind, I simply stated that I was not going to go. As you might guess, there was a lot of yelling and crying on my part. Eventually we all just gave up.
A few days later, I was told that a solution had been found and that I would be able to go. There was a friend of a friend, which would be happy to take me to the event. Reluctantly, after thinking about it for a bit, I agreed to go. On the appointed evening, I put on my uniform and Peg drove me up to the school. There I was introduced to my substitute father, or should I say my rent-a-father. We milled around together a bit, while he tried to make small talk with me. The problem was, we didn’t know each other and had nothing to talk about. Periodically I’d run off with friends only to return. At the end of the evening, we shoot hands and said the usual stuff, nice to meet you, etc. In actually, I’d have had a better time if I had not gone. As I had predicted, this did absolutely nothing to build up my self-esteem. This was the end of my Cub Scout career and I never did go on to Boy Scouts.
When a good snowfall occurred, we’d build some of the best igloos. Certainly, the snow couldn’t be light and fluffy, nor could it be just a few inches deep. It had to be a good deep heavy story. Which, during these years happened quite often. We’d go and grab the shovels and start preparing an area. The best shovel for this was a coal shovel, because of it’s square shape. This is the same shovel used to shovel coal into the furnace in the house. So, you’d first pound the shovel, flat side down, onto the snow in order to compress it as well as you can. Then using the tip of the shovel you’d slice down into the snow on four side forming a block. The block would then be removed, with your shovel, and then placed where needed on the wall of the igloo. The interesting part was sloping the walls inward so that they joined in the center, thus sealing the top. For access, we’d dig a hole into one sidewall. After it was completed, we’d spray water over it so that it would freeze. They were actually strong enough that we could climb up on top of them.
Sliding down the hill from the Hooper’s to the house was always a great time. I had a great sled; known as a flexible flyer and boy did it fly down that hill. Sometimes, we’d all line up next to each other at the top of the hill and see who could get to the bottom. What made this ‘race’ interesting and fun was the fact that the top of the hill was wider than the bottom. So, as you went down the hill the sleds all got closer and closer to each other until there was no room and it became a survival of the fittest situation. Just a few would actually get to the bottom. Most would end up in a snow pile or just in a pile of sleds.
We’d even go for long distance runs at times. We might end in the back hall of the house, if the door happened to be open. Of if we made it to the driveway and the door was closed we could turn and head down towards Concord Road. Of course, until that hurricane in 1954, those two apple trees in the side yard were hazardous to our health at times, like if you happened to be fending off attackers and not watching where you’re going. Making jumps were a special treat, I guess. When we’d have a heavy snow we’d build it into mounds with a slow ramp up on the uphill side and then a sharp drop-off on the downhill side. When the exact shape was created, we’d go and get a bucket of water. Sprinkling water over it, it was then allowed to settle and freeze overnight. The next day, jump-o-perfecto. Our sleds would go flying off of those jumps. Wow! There was, of course, a down side of this, because if you weren’t lined up quite right you’d come flying off croaked and crash. Or if you didn’t crash, you might just head into a tree. Oops.
The demise of my flexible flyer was sort of traumatic to me. I was sliding down the hill, but not on the section where we normally played. I was sliding over closer to the woods, dodging around this tree and that having a great time. Well, I saw this pile of snow and thought what fun it would be to jump over it. We did this all the time over on the normal section. We actually built jumps and poured water over them so that they’d freeze over. So, anyway I was flying toward this mound and braced for the jump, when all of a sudden I, less the sled, went sliding over and down into the snow. You see, that mound or pile of snow was actually a tree stump covered by the snow. That was the end on my flexible flyer. The bottom just got ripped out of it. Sliding was never the same to me.
Ever since I left Sudbury everyone that I have ever met calls the activity of going down a hill covered with snow on a sled, sledding. We used to always call it sliding. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong, but for me it is remains one of life’s great mysteries.
Somewhere in here, my mother was dating a man called Bill Cameron. Whenever we’d ride in the car with him, he was always yelling at the other drivers when they did something that he didn’t like. When I say yell, I mean yell out loud. Interestingly, I do this myself today. I guess I know where that came from. He took me skating on the Charles River once. We got onto the ice by what now is a skating rink on Route 1 in West Roxbury, which used to be a beach and we’d swim there. That was before the Charles had become polluted and they had to close it to swimming. Anyway, Bill wanted to skate over to the bridge where Ames Street in Dedham crossed over the river. I’d have to say that is about 2 miles. We started out fine, but he probably got tired of waiting for me and just skated ahead. There I was skating all alone. I was so cold and tired that my skates were bent over. You know how kids can’t stand up on them and usually their ankles are bent over so that they’re no longer really skating on the blades. It’s more like walking on the side of your skates, actually your ankles. I think I met him on his way back and just turned around. That’s the last time I went skating with Bill. It was terrible.
Roller Play consisted of using large drums that were probably 6 or 7 feet in diameter. Of course, when I was a kid they were an awful lot bigger than that or at least they felt that way. Originally, these drums were pulled behind horses along roads in order to flatten the snow down so that roads were passable. This was certainly was before the invention of the snowplow. You can see this in the picture to the right. These drums were no longer in use when I was in Sudbury so they became fair game to play with and in, all except for one that is. One had been placed in a corner of the lawn, upended onto its side with small pitched roof erected. Above its open top, it looked just like a wishing well. I’m embarrassed at the number of times I looked down into that thing looking for the water. Now, I knew that there wasn’t any there, but I just had to look anyway. I wonder if anyone ever saw me doing that. Gee, I hope not.
There were probably three more of these drums on the farm. They were great fun to roll in or on. It was simple to walk inside them, making them roll along. Of course, you couldn’t steer them, so you had to get out once in a while and repoint them in the direction you wanted to go. The tricky part was to walk on top of them, once you were able to get up there. Again, you had the same problem with steering them. But, the problem here, that you really didn’t have it you were inside one, was controlling the speed. To go forward you needed to walk down over the front of them so that your weight would force it to move. But, when it started rolling too fast you could easily fall off in front of the thing and have it roll right over you. So you had this constant balancing act in motion for the forward and backward motion. Then it’s down and off to steer it. Lot’s of work, but lot’s of fun. The lower picture, shown here, are of these rollers stored for winter use. Ours had all of the extraneous stuff removed, with just the rollers themselves remaining.
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