Hopedale History
    July 15, 2015
    No. 280
    Vanilla Coke

    Hopedale in July  

    Additions to hope1842.com during the past two weeks include: The Water Cure House (Article by Peter
    Hackett written shortly after it was razed.)    A Walk in the Parklands - Saltbox Road (Proposed Powder Hill
    Estates development discussed by Planning Board, 1970)     Now and Then - Griffin-Dennett Apartments
    (News photo of the board members in 1962.)     Deaths   

    On July 4 and 5, there were over 50 hits on the Floods in Hopedale page. All of them said, "Referrer:
    Facebook." Normally that page gets one or two hits a month. I can't imagine what must have been said about
    it on Facebook that prompted so many to take a look. It seems that among those of you reading this page,
    there must be a few who saw the link to it on Facebook. I'm hoping someone reading this can satisfy my
    curiosity and let me know what it was that sent so many to look at the articles and pictures of the floods.
    Email link.

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    In spite of the apparent adequacy of this schoolhouse (the original Hopedale High School), it was not many
    years before classes were being held in strange corners under the roof, and below the stairs, and my temper
    was being permanently soured by being tramped over by pupils squeezing their way to class. So in 1926,
    Princess Boncompagni gave the site of her father's house, with its fine trees, in the heart of the town for the
    fine building of which you are all so proud. Lucy Day, History of Hopedale Schools (The link goes to two
    histories of the early years of the Hopedale schools: one by Lucy Day, and the other by her sister-in-law,
    Rachel Day.)

    The possible acquisition of nearly 20 acres of land on Plain Street for future recreational development was
    discussed by the Conservation Commission at a meeting in the Town Hall last night. Milford Daily News,
    September 2, 1964

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                                                                               Vanilla Coke

                                                                                By Mike Cyr

    The old Thomas Wolfe quote “you can’t go home again” came to me this week. But not with its traditional
    meaning of once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis
    you cannot return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive
    youthful memories will always fail. But more that those youthful memories are what makes “home” so
    special. Anyone who grew up in Hopedale can go back and still see basically the same streets and buildings
    and of course some additions and some cosmetic changes. What’s missing is the people, the happenings
    of the time, the tastes and the smells.

    For me, this week was the occasion was my 62nd Birthday and my wife and I had stopped by a Florida
    franchise fast food joint called PDQ. There they had one of those new Coke mixing/dispensing machines.
    Giving a choice of literally hundreds of flavor combinations, I chose the Coke Zero with vanilla flavor and as I
    munched away at my Buffalo Chicken Finger Sandwich, I  drew the vanilla Coke through the straw and almost
    immediately was brought back to the lunch counter at George Mongiat’s Pharmacy, and as if it was yesterday
    Stella Williams behind the counter with not a fancy computerized mixing station but a line of chrome covered  
    syrup dispensers with flavors for ice cream, frappes, milk shakes and that special vanilla Coke. There was a
    pair of kind of goose necked shaped dispensers with big black handles on for just water; the other for the
    carbonated water. And Stella was the master of mixology there.

    So here in the 2015 Florida PDQ Chicken place, on my 62nd birthday, I begin to visit home. Because truly that
    is the only way you can visit the home of your childhood.

    The Hopedale Pharmacy is a great place to start.

    Now we are talking about 1960’s Hopedale. The Shop - not the Draper Mill Complex – The Shop was going
    guns of fire. As a country we were still living large in those Post WWII victory years.

    The Hopedale Pharmacy was such an interesting place. The building, the Harrison Block, had the pharmacy
    and luncheonette downstairs and apartments upstairs. I know because my Great Aunt Gladys lived up there.
    Upstairs there were two additional floors with I think only two apartments on each floor. Two things that really
    stick in my mind was the fact that the stairs going up were so awfully steep that I think each step was 16
    inches tall! Once up to the first floor to the left was Gladys’ apartment. Only two rooms, a living room and
    kitchen. The really neat thing was the big closet that had a Murphy Bed that folded out. I always thought that
    these beds were only in the movies. I often wonder if they are still there.

    Down stairs on the Pharmacy side, on the outside was an old Rexall sign hanging from an old rusted pole
    protruding from the building. As you walked in it was a quiet, perhaps more quiet than the Library up the
    street. The mixture of medicinal odors would greet your olfactory senses. Now this was the days before the
    phone company installed a pay phone outside the building. Tucked away in the corner was a very sturdy
    phone booth that had to have been installed in the twenties. Solid walnut wood on the outside metal on the
    inside with a light that came on as you closed the bi-fold glass doors. I would always check the coin slot for a
    nickel left behind…. And yes, a phone call was a nickel as long as you were calling in the GReenleaf 3
    exchange. From the front of the store you would walk past displays with all kinds of strange medical devices
    from hot water bottles to your grandmother’s support hose. Then a line of greeting cards. At  the back counter
    he had an offering of candies and various remedies like single serve packets of Bromo-seltzer and
    powdered aspirin. George Mongiat stood high above it all, behind the upper counter with the prescriptions
    and formulary concoctions he would blend. Always with a serious look on his face – you felt he held the
    health of an entire community in his hands. His hair always neatly parted in the middle, crisply starched shirt
    and bow tie. He and his side of the building seemed to fit so well together; quiet, neat and the serious side of
    the business.

    As you turned the corner and crossed over the luncheonette side of things, that’s where Stella reigned. Stella
    was such gregarious personality. A classic depression era lady. I remember she was a tall buxomly woman
    with a bright smile, sparkling blue eyes and light blond hair which I always suspected was compliments of a
    rinse from the other side of the store.

    Lots of guys from The Shop went to George's Pharmacy or the Town Hall Spa for lunch, so the lunch counter
    was always hopping and Stella was always quick with a smile or a laugh and all these WWII Vets loved
    coming over for lunch. It seemed like everybody was dressed in jeans and a blue denim CPO shirt.

    My memories of Stella are how well she made grilled cheese sandwiches and how perfectly she mixed a
    vanilla Coke. I also remember one day in particular;  a really different day at the luncheon counter. Remember
    we were only about 20 years away from VJ Day, when Drapers had some Japanese engineers visiting the
    Shop.

    You could cut the air with a knife. I was at the back end of the lunch counter to get a vanilla Coke before going
    to Billy Draper's to pick up the papers for my paper route and there at the end of the counter were three
    Japanese guys in short sleeve white shirts and ties. The rest of the place was filled with WWII Vets being
    polite enough, but there was a real uneasiness that even I, the 12 year old, could feel.

    Stella comes to the back of the luncheonette with the sternest look I had ever seen on her face and she said
    to a couple of the guys, “I never thought I’d see the day I would have a couple of Japs sitting at my counter.”
    With that she turned to me and with a big grin said, “What will ya have, Hon? I’ll bet a Vanilla Coke.”

                                              
The Harrison Block                       Ezine Menu                         HOME   

    Vanilla Coke by Mike Cyr tells of the Hopedale Pharmacy in the mid-1960s.
    The picture above was taken in 1983. Duino Ruscitti (left)and Sten Hattersley
    (3rd from left)  have been identified.
Stella Williams