April 1, 2009
Hopedale History
No. 129
James Roberts

Hopedale in March  

Franny Spadoni – Pictures from the Pacific, World War II.   

Looms return to the Little Red Shop  

Larry Bird visits Little Red Shop.  

See a Draper loom in action at the Slater Mill – a YouTube video. Thanks to Sue Ciaramicoli for sending this.

“Rabies Day” - Saturday, April 4, at the town highway barn, Depot Street. Dogs, 1:30 – 2:30.  Cats, 2:30 – 3.

The Friends of Upton State Forest website  


James Roberts

I recently received the following from Elinor Roberts:

I am the lucky inheritor of some diaries kept by my grandparents, James Percival Roberts (1874 - 1960) and Myrtle (Freeman) Roberts (1884 - 1981). They lived in Hopedale from sometime in the 1930’s through Grampa Jim’s death in 1960. My grandmother kept her apartment there until 1979 or 1980. My grandfather worked for
Drapers as well as for the G&U Railroad at different times.

My grandfather was trained as a lawyer so he was an excellent writer and a keen observer of detail. He also had a wry sense of humor and lots of interests. All these are qualities I learned about from the diaries -- he died when I was 5, so all I remember was his “enormous” height (probably 6 feet), bald head, and that he liked hot cereal. I treasure these crumbling diaries -- not only because he’s a wonderful source of my family’s history, but also because I find the same joy in the ordinary details of life that he apparently did. (Oh, and I’m trained as a lawyer, too -- probably just a coincidence.)

A note on November 16, 1946 caught my eye: “38th Free Saturday.” He went on to write about attending the funeral of Freeman Lowell (of Lowell’s Dairy.) I paged back through 1946 and every Saturday was counted as “Free” until Saturday, March 2, 1946 -- the first Saturday holiday for Draper employees. He wrote about his first Saturday off! What’s so cool about this is the impact of big events on daily life in Hopedale: the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1939 -- also known as the “40-hour work week” -- wasn’t implemented until after the war because of labor shortages -- my grandfather would have known the enormity of this change and he cherished its benefits.

Here is a little key to some of the references:
Alan = Alan Roberts, his grandson (died as a toddler)
Myrtle = Myrtle F. Roberts, his wife (my grandmother)
Paul = Paul Roberts, his son (my father)
Philip = Philip Roberts II, his first grandchild (my brother)
Virginia = Virginia B. Roberts, Paul’s wife (my mother)
penthouse = their 4th floor unit in
the Apartment Building (he used “penthouse” tongue-in-cheek)
SS = Sunday School; (he taught it at
Union Church)

Saturday, March 2, 1946

Here beginneth the first, full Saturday holiday for me in many years -- say from H.S. days, back in 1892.  For Draper Corp. at Hopedale, where we now are, begins today a regular, 40-hour, 5-day week.  Myrtle and I used it as follows:  Rose before 8; started breakfast of orange, toast with (eggs for me) and coffee.  Then I walked to Hopedale P.O., got mail -- chiefly the Plymouth Record -- and then down RR Street to the G.&U.R.R. station where Paul’s Dodge stood waiting.  Then with Jim Smith of
Brae Burn Inn as a passenger drove to Milford.  Dropped him at S. Bow St.; then down it to the Railway Express office where Agent LaBounty (h. of Mrs. LaBounty of Draper office) had a bushel of Florida oranges @ $4.00 ready for us.  Paid for ‘em; drove home to 37 Dutcher Street and our penthouse (Apt. 7).  Found 128 oranges to the bu.  Then I took Myrtle to 62 Bancroft Park so she could stay with Philip and Alan.  Took Virginia to Patrick’s shopping (I read in the car while she shopped) [I bought a gallon of Puerto Rican molasses at Pat’s Corner store on my first trip to Milford @ $1.05.]  Chauffeured V. home; got Myrtle and took her shopping to the A&P and Stop & Shop in Milford.  The “lady” at A&P slipped Myrtle, without a word, ½ lb. of butter, now very scarce! 

Soon after 12 N. I took Myrtle for dinner at the Quality Restaurant in Milford.  She ate baked ham; I scallops.  Then home with the groceries.  Put in 5 gals. of gas at
Fred Woolhiser’s (Draper Corp.) station across Dutcher St., took the car to P. and V. in the Park before 2 P.M. [They drove Alan to an M.D. in Framingham as he as a “rupture.” ?  M. and I then had naps; at 3 P.M. to Bancroft Library where we read the London Illustrated News, Life, Harper’s, Am. Homes, etc.

Supper at 6:  oyster stew with crackers; green salad with mayonnaise (Hellman’s), coffee rolls (bakery), peanut brittle and chocolate peppermints.  At 5:30 had listened to John W. Vandercook on WBZ on the Russian and Asiatic situation and the UNO.  Studied the Sunday School lesson (Joshua entering the Promised Land), read till 9 or more -- and so to bed -- completing my first, free Saturday since the gay ‘90s.

                                                                                   (signed with a flourish) James P. Roberts

Saturday, November 16, 1946 - 38th Free Sat.

Went to Freeman Lowell’s funeral in Mendon’s Unit. Church.  He was very friendly man, a great Granger; amazed himself by the money he made in his dairy biz.  as our “milk man” and in his immense servings of ice cream at “Lowell’s.”  He would have been 73 today.  He was a State Deputy Patrons of Husbandry [
the Grange] when I first met him 20 years ago; I was then Chaplain of Dedham Grange.
In eve., Myrtle and I went to the movies -- wild Western -- at Ideal in Milford.
Sunday we moved back to our penthouse after church & Senior Class and dinner of tenderloin steak (the first post-war) at Paul’s.


Recent death:

Fred L. Sprague, 85, March 23, 2009.

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