The Stage (Sudbury and Clarklands)
Click on any picture to enlarge it.
My playground is in the state of Massachusetts. Ok, not the entire state of Massachusetts, but the small town of Sudbury, which is, located about 20 miles west of Boston along the Old Boston Post Road, now known as route 20. Incorporated in 1639 it included what was to become the town of Wayland and parts of Framingham, Marlborough, Stow and Maynard. It’s known for its contribution of men to the militia during King Philip’s War (1675–78) and, the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. The population of the town, has grown over the years. In 1947, when I arrived, it was a lazy town of about 2,000, by 2010, the population had grown to about 18,000.
There are really two centers of the town. The commerce center for the town originally, when I arrived, was around the intersection of Route 20 and Concord Road. In recent years, it has expanded westward along Route 20 towards the old railroad track bed.
As a side note here, I supply a quote from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framingham_and_Lowell_Railroad. “These tracks were part of the Framingham and Lowell Railroad system, but ended up owned by CSX. In June 2001, CSX applied to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) for approval to abandon the line. In October 2001, the STB approved the abandonment, although the town of Sudbury filed notice with the STB to request that abandonment be postponed in order to allow negotiations with CSX for acquisition of the line as a rail trail. On August 2004, CSX had removed the rails and ties, leaving bridges in place in the event a path is be built. By late 2005, all of the grade crossings had been removed by the Massachusetts Highway Department. Today, the line is in various stages of being converted into the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.”
While this track ran north south, it intersected with the former Mass. Central Railroad that ran east-west roughly paralleling Route 20. They joined just west of Union Avenue and about 100 feet to the north the old South Sudbury Station, which is still standing today.
The other center is the official center of the town and is located about two miles to the north up Concord Road where it crosses Route 27 or Old Sudbury Road. In it’s own right the Centre is a historic district for the state of Massachusetts. You can see more at: http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/?cat=125
The buildings there today are:
- First Parish Church, now housing the Unitarian Church (1797)
- Sudbury Town Hall (1932)
- Methodist Church, now the Presbyterian Church (1835)
- Sudbury Grange Hall (1846)
- The Loring Parsonage (1700)
- Hosmer House (1793)
These buildings surround ‘the Common’ where Militia and Minutemen mustered there the morning of April 19, 1775. Then, just beyond the old Town Hall is the Revolutionary Cemetery and Monument and to the east of the Centre is the Haynes Garrison site where the people of Sudbury defended their lives and frontier settlements against the allied Indian forces of Philip of Pokonoket.
With a history such as this, would you expect it to have any ZIP code other than 01776?
During my stay in Sudbury, there were three schools in town. Just down Sudbury Road from the Centre of town and on the left were two schools. One was a three story white building, which was the original high school. Across the driveway was a newer brick single story building that housed grades one through eight in the early years. By the time I began attending school, the white building had been turned into the Jr. High school housing grades seven and eight. The brick building being scaled back to housing grades one through six. A new regional high school is located about two miles to the north of the Centre along Concord Road. It serves grades nine through twelve, for both the towns of Sudbury and Lincoln, and named appropriately Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.
About halfway between these two centers is a farm that was for years known as Clarklands. For the most part, this is where my story takes place. Its address is 150 Concord Road, but sadly, the Clark family no longer owns it. An unfortunate sequence of events led to its sale. I spent about 17 years growing up in that farmhouse in Sudbury and have many fond memories, to this day. Life was simpler then as I’ll be trying to explain to you. They were very good years and I believe that anyone brought up on the farm feels the same; it was just a different life and time. One I’ll cherish forever. So that you’ll have an idea of the layout of my playground, I drew the following for you. Of course this is just part of the farm which we well used, but our actual play area included most of the town itself. You can click on the drawing for a better view.
Before progressing too far here, I should explain the use of two words, “house” and “farm.” As far as I know we never wrote or said this out load, but when we were on the farm property, the building that we slept and ate in is called the house. Therefore, if I were in the barn I’d say that I’m going to the house. When we were off the property, it was the farm, kind of inclusive of all. Within this writing, I will be sticking to this, unless of course I forget. While I was there, there were four primary buildings, each in their own way being a playground, the house, the barn, the garage and the corncrib.
The house itself is very typical, I would assume, for houses of that era. If I remember correctly the left portion, that section that is set forward, was built in the 1640’s- 1670’s . The second story, after a fire in 1797 was rebuilt. After completion an existing old barn-like structure got redone and became living space. This is the section of the house, sitting back on the right. When I first lived there, the house was heated with coal. I remember having the coal man deliver and watching it run down a shoot, placed over the cellar stairs, and onto the floor in front of the furnace. We spent many a day shaking down the burnt coal ash and removing the clinkers, prior to shoveling fresh coal into the furnace. If I had to guess, I’d say that this coal furnace was replaced with one that burned oil in the mid 1950’s.
The house had a warmth about it that just can’t be matched today. I’m really not sure it if it was the physical building, the smell of it or the people that moved in and around it and there were certainly a lot. Maybe it was just a combination of it all. For a kid, there were so many places to hide or investigate. Goodness, you could spend a full day up in the attic alone. There was so much neat stuff to investigate there. Here is a picture of the main fireplace which shows some of the physical charm of the building. This was most taken in the 1950s or 60s.
The cellar of the house was always an interesting kind of place. It was just an old damp cellar with a lot of lumps and bumps caused by adding more cement at different points in time. The area that the furnace occupied was lower than the rest. I assume that that was to allow room for more coal. Typical of these old houses with cellars, this one leaked whenever it rained a little harder than normal. Most of the time this was not a problem, as the water would collect at the other end of the house. This is where Mum had all of her canning supplies up on shelves. Doing nothing to prevent flooding in this area, and it did, seemed best, as stuff would get wet and eventually dry out. When it really got bad, was when the water level rose and finally started pouring down the stairs into the furnace room. If the level around the furnace rose high enough, the fire in the furnace would go out. Of course, if the oil furnace got flooded, it would need repair after pumping the water out. There was a sump pump located in a hole that had been broken into the cement floor. It was always scary to me to have to go near that pump. It was a freestanding unit, just supported by a solid wire tied to the ceiling. Running down that wire was an extension cord, supplying electricity to the pumps plug. I was always nervous about walking around in the water with that electric motor running. To me it seemed like an electrocution waiting to happen. However, at times it was just necessary, like when the inlet to the pump clogged with some floating debris.
How do I describe the barn? In my mind’s eye, I can see it from each and every angle standing majestically, ready for the cows or a child’s play. I can still feel the dust and dirt and smell the aroma of it. It smelled something like a mixture of old, hay, wood, aged manure, dirt and most anything else you might imagine. I have seen many barns in New England and this barn would be similar in design. It was red with high peaked metal roofs. One roof facing north south, while the other east west. Entering at the front, two large doors swung outwards, as you entered the expanse of it. To the left and right were lofts running the entire length of the building. About two thirds of the way in another loft joined these two, making a giant U. These lofts or floors were about ten feet high. At the center of it, about one third of the way in, was a third level at about another ten feet. Lowering this top level or loft to join the others, the piece would fix exactly, thus making the U smaller. I’ll guess that the peak of the roof with a cupola was about 20 feet more in height. The cupola was to provide ventilation when hay was stored in the barn. However, when I was there it was the nesting area for pigeons.
Under the loft to the left was an area with a cement floor. From this picture, you can see the cows held in-place by their necks, while being milked. While it has not been used in years, this is what it would have looked like in the day. When the farm was at capacity there were about 30 head of cows to be cared for.
Continuing to the left along the front of the barn, you enter the other area facing north south. The first level here contains stalls for the cows while inside. At the far end closest to the house is a set of stairs going to the second floor. In about 1895, Dad erected a silo outside this wall. For a reason not known to me it came down in the 1920’s. The farm suffered a major setback due to World War II with the loss of available manpower. It just could not continue.
Describing them loosely, there were two rooms covering about one third of this floor. The other floor area was open and extended over the loft of the main barn.
Built on the side of a slope, the entire barn on the rear side had outside doors leading into the cellar underneath. This would have allowed wagons and later trucks to take away waste. Under the section that I described as having the stalls, cow manure piled up to just about to the ceiling. In the floor was a scuttle, which when open allowed you to clean the stalls.
The cellar under the main section of the barn was very open, except for the support columns holding up the main floor. I saw wagons, farm machinery and old cars stored there.
The garage and corncrib
Across the yard from the front doors of the barn, there sits a four bay garage. It’s original use was an ice house. Ice would be brought in and heavily covered with sawdust. After this it was used for wagons, and then years later, cars. Close on the backside of the garage there is a corncrib. The walls of which were wire netting, like fencing. This allowed ventilation for corn stored within it. The combination of these two structures and their roofs provided us with yet another playground. Jumping between the roofs and crawling through every crevice and hole was a joy. This picture taken in 1948 shows three of the children taken in by Mum, Dorrie, Betty and Dick. The fourth, Clark, is a relative and lived in Maynard. Betty and Dory Moore were the daughters of Mum’s nephew Roger Moore. Dory was severely learning disabled, but a good natured kid.
Running along the left side of the garage as well as the barn Old Lancaster Road runs past the corncrib on the right. There was an opening to the left in the stone wall that led to a small house. This was knows as the “Shanty” or “Lem’s Shanty” to be more precise. It was used to house seasonal farm help. Lem of course was the farm manager and the last to leave when the farm ceased operation.
There was a stone rock or ledge sticking up out of the ground in front of the shanty, surrounded by fine tall grass. To the left of it was a path that led to the woods. At woods edge was a stream that we used to drink from. The freshest, sweetest water you’ll ever taste. The path continued into the woods and in a clearing snaked to the right and ended at a small pond that had a very small island in the middle. From one side we could walk in about three inches of water to the island. In the winder, we’d skate on it. Swimming was out of the question as it wasn’t deep enough, but you could lay in it to cool off.
Continuing up Old Lancaster Road, which had stone walls on both sides, up into the fields above. In my early years there, this road ended and narrowed into a path, about a quarter mile up. Up in these fields were scads of blueberry bushes. Dotted along the way there were apple and pear trees. I’d be extremely remiss if I failed to mention an area that not many people are aware of. Across the path from the blueberry patches was a slight rise. Surrounding it, and upon it, were soft white pine trees. Once you entered the small clearing at its center, any outside noise just faded away. The only noise you might hear, if a slight breeze was blowing, was the gentle sound of pine needles rubbing against each other. Additionally, if the day was hot, inside the trees it was noticeably cooler. It’s no wonder why this was Mum’s favorite place and she called it Whispering Hope.
On the other side, to the right, of the garage, there was a big old spruce tree. Mum loved to name trees. An interesting side story here. It seems that in 1925 Mum traveled to Grand Manan in Canada and brought back a sapling, planted it, and it became known as Belinda. It was another playhouse for kids, which was great to build forts underneath and to climb in up to the heavens. Its branches hung all the way down to the ground. Which was very neat, because when you were inside it, near the tree trunk, no one could see you from the outside.
The gardens at Clarklands were a masterpiece of art. The gardener that created and maintained them was a gentleman called Archie Dadmun. He was a strange sort of fellow in that many ways, one that sticks out though. His hair was balding with a white fringe that he dyed red with vegetable coloring that ran down his neck when he sweated. I would say we each have a small streak of vanity within us. He drove around in an old Hupmobile with a steamer like trunk on the back, which I understand he kept immaculately clean. He was so good at gardening that a neighbor even tried to steel him away from Mum with no success. She would have none of that.
What you see here is an image of the main garden, which is between Mum’s clothesline and Concord Road.
Then there was the hill. Heading east away from the house and passing between two apple trees, a path led to a hill that we all used in the winder for “sliding.’ Nowadays, people say that they go sledding. However, growing up we all went sliding on a sled. From the top of the hill by the Hooper’s house we’d sail right down to the back door, even sometimes into the back hall. If was icy, there were several apple trees to stop us, not always, but sometimes painfully. We built “jump mounds” by piling snow and then pouring water over them and letting it freeze overnight. The next day, when we hit those we’d become airborne, adding to the likelihood of more sled to tree collisions. The Flexible Flier sleds, which I owned, with metal runners also meant we had to pack down new snow. That’s where the big old fashioned rollers came in handy even if there was no way to steer their course, more collisions. At the top, it was widest and it slowly narrowed to that path at the bottom. Often we’d have races to the finish. Everyone would line up across the top of the hill and start down. As the hill narrowed, sleds would be lost to the left and right, ultimately leaving only one the victor. What fun it was! At the bottom was an old pump station fortunately, out of the way of our sliding. It was more like a bunker with most of the concrete room being below the ground. It even had steel rungs in a wall so that one could climb down into it. The machinery had long since been removed, but that did not stop its use as a fort or whatever. It even had a hole in the top for venting exhaust fumes.
On top of the hill was the house that at the time was called a camp. Mum’s daughter Bernice and her husband, Dr. Raymond Hooper built it as a summerhouse. Some interesting information on the development of this camp. Originally it was built as a two car garage, with a breezeway to the left. This breezeway was to attach to the main house that was to be built in the future. The design of the new house was done by a Walt Whitman, possible related to the famous poet, but we really don’t know for sure. However the Hooper’s decided that they just wouldn’t need a large house like their main residence over in Maynard, in their retirement years. So the garage became a three bedroom house for them. Other than that, the entire area was just open fields on both sides of Old Lancaster Road.
Of course, there were areas of the playground that were not on Clarklands property itself. One such was the Jones’ property directly across from the intersection where Old Lancaster Road joined Concord Road, which I think at time was Clarklands property. Anyway, their house set back a bit from the road and had rows of bushes bounding the south property line. Originally dammed up to pump water to the house and farm land, in the back of the house was a small pond. I spoke of this stream when speaking of Lem’s shanty; it runs down and under Concord Road to feed this pond. Going not far north on Concord Road you run into a three corner intersection where Concord Road, Union Avenue, and Old Lancaster Road join. When I first arrived Warren Hunt’s Farm sat on the right corner and his chicken coops sat right opposite across on Concord Road. The farm was sold in the early 1950’s the land is now the home of the Lady of Fatima Church. Union Avenue, we’ve talked about. Old Lancaster Road is one that I’ll be using a lot when I meet my best friend in fifth grade. Of course, there were more places, but that should give you a start and the scope of our playground.
I hope that I’ve provided enough information so that you have some sort of idea of where I grew up. Now we’ll move on and see how I finally ended up there.