Patricia (McKeon) Johnson
I grew up at 185 Dutcher Street. It's the last duplex on the street. My parents lived there from the time they
were married. My grandmother (my father's mother) lived with us. She died the year before my brother was
born. I was 14 at that time. My father worked in the payroll department in the Draper Main Office. My mother
had worked part time at the hat shop in Milford. When they put in health insurance in Drapers, she went into
that. She was called the insurance lady. She did that from the time she went to Drapers until the time she
In his spare time, my father was a band leader. They had a swing band like the Fantasy Band is now. It was
called the Henry Brigode Orchestra. That's what they called my father. He never played an instrument in his
life, but he did love music. Some of the best musicians in the area were in the band. A couple of them went
on to play with some of the big bands of the time. Whoever got the band together evidently wanted a front
man. My father would wear the tux and tails and stand up there with a baton looking like Lawrence Welk. The
used to play for college groups a lot. The bass fiddle player would leave his instrument at our house when
they were going to play. He'd come by to pick it up after work and get ready for the performance.
I was born during the Depression. I'm sure it wasn't easy on my parents. My mother would be pushing me
down Dutcher Street in the carriage, past Ferguson's where Mrs. Reid's daughter lives now, and Mrs.
Ferguson would tell her that she felt so sorry for her, having a baby in those times. My sister came along four
and a half years later, and things still weren't that great. For Christmas, you'd put your stocking up and there
was always a big orange and walnuts in the toe. You might get a couple of little gifts, but not like today. They
did what they could. .
Margaret Symonds lived next door. She taught kindergarten for many years, and I was in her first class. She
wasn't married at that time. When she was married, her name was Mrs. Stanas. One thing from kindergarten
that I've always remembered is that we churned butter. We had it on Saltines. Kindergarten was at the
Chapel Street School then. I think I was at Chapel Street through the third grade. In fourth grade I was at Park
Street School, and for fifth through eighth I went to the Dutcher Street School.
Where Margaret lived was actually her step-father's house. His name was Harry Davis. He had an apple
orchard up behind the house. Margaret's grandmother lived there, too. Margaret's mother drove an old flivver
of a car. Not that many women drove back then. I was such a pest. Margaret used to clean her room on
Saturdays and I'd go over because she might give me a book or something. She had a Betty Boop rug. It's
funny, the things you remember. We'd play in the orchard. We'd ski down there in the winter.
The Stanas family lived in the house up behind us. The three Stanas boys married three schoolteachers.
Margaret, who lived next door, married John, the oldest one. Louis married Dot, and Marguerite married Carl.
The Kearsleys lived on the other side of our house. I was very close to Joanne Kearsley when we were
growing up. Her mother was a photographer. Mrs. Kearsley would practice on us. She'd get my mother all
gussied up and take her picture. Later they moved to Greene Street and she had a photography studio in the
house. She did my graduation pictures.
The Henry farm was just a little further up Dutcher Street. There's a house now where there was a fenced-off
field where they had some cows. There's another house where the barn was. They had a pickup truck that
they used to deliver milk. In those days it was okay for all the neighborhood kids to get into the back of the
truck for a ride to school. It was real cold doing that in the winter. We'd get our milk from them. It wasn't
homogenized, so you could see the cream at the top. Some mornings in the winter it would partly freeze, and
push the cap up. Sometimes I could buy a bottle of chocolate milk there.
I'd skate on the pond in the winter. Charlie Austin, who lived on Dennett Street, would make popcorn balls
and sell them to the kids who were skating. He had a totem pole in front of his house. For another winter
activity, we had the ski hill between Bancroft Park and Draper Field. Also, they'd block off Northrop Street
sometimes so kids could slide down there.
My kids were the third generation in the family to graduate from Hopedale High. The first was my mother who
graduated here in 1925. She had gone to the original high school; the one that later became Sacred Heart
Church. When I went to high school, the old library that's kind of like a museum was the school library. Miss
Day was the librarian.
There were lots of activities for kids at the park in the summer. I'd shoot archery and play croquet. There were
crafts that you could do, too. Gimp bracelets, pot holders and other things. The band concerts - everybody
would be there. It was always the same band. The Worcester Brass Band. Nappie Scribner was the master
of ceremonies. The band director was Howard Hill.
Mr. Miner was in charge at the pond. I went through swimming lessons far enough so that I'd be allowed to
swim to the raft across the pond. I remember the first lesson in beginners. Put your face in the water and
blow bubbles. I think the woman at the desk who checked you in was Miss Damon. You had to sign in and
sign out. I always said, if anyone grew up in Hopedale and didn't learn to swim, shame on them. It was all
Joanne Kearsley and I would go out on the front lawn in the fall and rake the leaves. We'd arrange them to
make "rooms." I had a doll kitchen table set so we'd set up the kitchen. I had a doll's crib, so we'd set up the
bedroom. We'd have a wonderful time there on the front lawn. My parents did pretty well getting me what I
needed to have a happy childhood.
For other games in the neighborhood we'd play things like red light and hide and go seek.
There were always things for kids to do at the Community House. That's where our proms were. We'd
decorate the balcony and there would be a colored strobe light up there. We had card tables all around the
room. It was set up kind of like a nightclub. We had Ben Lanchisi's band. He was a music teacher in Milford
and he had an orchestra. Every other Saturday night they had what were called junior dances. Maybe they
called them that because we were junior members of the Community House. The boys would line up on one
side and the girls on the other. There were movies there every Saturday afternoon. They had bowling, but I
wasn't a bowler. My mother and all her sister were. They had a team with all the Goulds, and Dot Burton.
My mother had an old washing machine with a wringer. They had what were called set tubs beside the
kitchen sink. Two big tubs with a cover. The clothes would go through the wringer and then into the set tubs.
They would have rinse water in them. After they came out of the set tubs, they'd go through the wringer again.
When she ironed, she'd have sprinkle bottle to sprinkle the clothes. There was no spray starch then. For
anything that needed to be starched, she had to mix the starch and then starch them.
The rooms in our house were all in a row, and there were pocket doors between the front hall and the living
room. We used to shut the living room off in the winter. We had a coal furnace in those days. My father would
have to go down cellar and shovel coal into the furnace. He'd also have to shake it down to get the ashes to
drop. When it was icy out, he'd sprinkle the ashes on the ice.
We had an old black stove and what I think was a kerosene stove. In the winter sometimes we'd open the
oven door to get some heat. It would scare me to death when they'd fill the bottle with kerosene or whatever it
was, and put it into the stove. The stove would sometimes flood and you could see all the flames in there. I
thought sure we were going to burn to death! We'd sit around to stove to stay warm. One of my favorite meals
was liver and onions. We'd have it about once a week.
When I was very young, we didn't have an electric refrigerator. We had an icebox. It was kept in the back hall.
The Hopedale Coal & Ice Company would cut ice on Hopedale Pond and store it in their icehouse which was
were the Gannett house is now. On hot summer days when the iceman was making his deliveries, kids
would go to the back of the truck to get chips of ice to chew.
My mother shopped for groceries at Patrick's, and when Hymie Hill opened Everybody's Market on Exchange
Street, she'd go there. My sons, Mark and Paul, both worked at Rico's, and I did my shopping there. I feel bad
when I go through Main Street in Milford now. Years ago if you went there on a Friday night, you'd see
everybody that you knew. It was like a social event. It was mobbed. Main Street was always busy. All those
stores are gone. Kennedy's Butter, Grants, Riseberg's, McCellen's, and many more.
When the war started, I was scared to death that the German's were going to come over here. I was 11 or 12
then. When I graduated, we had twelve veterans in the class. They had left school to go into the service, and
then they had come back to finish after the war. Bob Brown, Jack Midgley, Bobby McCully, Stanley Dec, Ed
Kalpagian. Larry Barrett and others. I didn't actually know any of the guys who died in World War II. They were
all older than I was, but in the Korean War, Dick Griffin was killed. He was my cousin. His mother and my
mother were sisters.
I remember some of the items that were rationed during World War II. My father loved butter, and of course
that was one of the things that was rationed. In its place, we often had oleo. You had to mix in the coloring so
that it would look like butter. That was not my father's cup of tea. Sugar was rationed also.
I was a sophomore when the war ended. On VJ Day we went over to Milford. It was wild! People everywhere!
My father didn't have a car until about the time I was a sophomore in high school. My grandmother (my
mother's mother) had a car. She didn't like to drive, though, so she'd have my father drive her. If he needed a
car, he'd use hers. My uncle (Donald Gould, my mother's brother) lived at 45 Inman Street, and my
grandmother lived at 133 Dutcher Street. They were all in the neighborhood, so we stayed close as a family.
We'd all go down to the Parklands and have cookouts in the picnic areas.
At school, boys and girls were kept in separate parts of the playground at recess and had separate
entrances into the school. All the girls would line up at one door and the boys at the other. We even used
separate doors when we were in high school.
At Dutcher Street School we had music appreciation. We'd go up to the third floor for that. I remember
listening to Peter and the Wolf.
When I was in high school, probably a freshman, I wanted a record player. I wanted one in the worst way. We
opened our Christmas gifts and, okay, no record player. I tried not to act too disappointed. Then my mother
told me to look over behind one of the chairs in the room. They had gotten me a record player. I'd get records
of Glenn Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and things like that. When we were lucky and someone could get
a car, we'd go to the Totem Pole Ballroom at Norumbega Park and dance. Sometimes the band would be
one of the big, well-known ones of that era.
In high school, Dick Taylor, of the Taylor family that lived off of 140 near the Upton line, had an old car. As I
recall, he was also the only one in our class who had his own car. The boys would borrow their parents' cars
to go to proms and other events. When my kids were in school, there was a meeting about renovations, and
one of the subjects was the parking lot. Somebody got up and said, "I don't understand why you need all this
space for a parking lot."
Mr. Dow, who was superintendent then, replied, "If you didn't let your kids bring cars to school, we wouldn't."
As I recall, the seventh and eighth grades were in the same room. Miss Cressey was the teacher. One day a
girl came in with a lot of makeup. Miss Cressey took her by the ear and took her out into the hall. She
scrubbed the makeup off with paper towels. Can you imagine doing that today? Miss Cressey had been my
mother's teacher, too. Mr. Dennett had been one of her teachers also.
In high school, everybody started the day in one room. It was called the main room. My class was big
because of the veterans who had returned. There were about 40 of us. The other classes were still small
enough so that all four classes fit into the main room. It was great because you knew everybody. When there
was a junior prom, it wouldn't be just for juniors. Anyone who wanted to go, could go.
Remember rhetoricals? We'd have to memorize a speech and get up at the front of the main room and
speak to the whole school. My knees used to knock when I did that. Other than that, I really enjoyed school. I
had a good time in high school. Mr. Drisko was a favorite teacher. He was a peach. And Miss Holmes. I
always like Miss Holmes. My favorite subjects were English and French. The girls had home ec. That was
great. We'd even cook for the lunch. We'd be assigned to work in the cafeteria for a certain lunch period. I
made American chop suey the other night and I was thinking, I learned how to make that in school. One of
the first things we learned to make was a white sauce. And goldenrod eggs. Never made them since in my
We had sewing in home ec, too, but I hated it. I could never see that well and I had trouble threading the
machine. I wore glasses, but they weren't right. By the time I had the machine threaded, the rest of the class
was practically done. I knit and I sew on a button when necessary, but that's about it.
For sports for girls in high school then, there was field hockey and basketball. I played field hockey but not
basketball. I don't think they had softball and there wasn't any soccer then. We had a lot of fun in field hockey.
As a fund-raiser for the Washington trip, we'd collect and pack papers. We'd store them in Bob Noyes's barn.
He lived in the house next to the library. Drapers bought them from us.
Graduation was in the town hall. I had to speak. I was the class historian. Mrs. Reid stood up there and
directed our singing. She was a good music teacher. When we first had her in the lower grades, she was
I think they did a very good job when they added to the high school. They made it look like it really belonged to
the original part.
The town hall was where high school basketball games were played. There would be minstrel shows there,
too. The post office was where the town offices are now. The Spa was where the Town Common is now.
We'd always stop at The Spa after school when we were in high school. Normie Handley, who ran it, was
great to the kids. My usual order was Boston cream pie and a Coke. I'd get penny candy at Billy Draper's. Billy
Draper was still there at that time.
We Catholics were in a minority at that time. There weren't many of us. I'm pretty sure I was in the first First
Communion class. Before that, Hopedale Catholics had to go to St. Mary's in Milford.
There wasn't any tv when I was a kid. When my parents got one, it was the time of the political conventions. It
was probably the summer of 1948. Our neighbors from the other side of the house came over to watch. I
wasn't interested in it.
It was a good time and a good place to grow up, and I believe it still is.
Pat Johnson, October 2014
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