write down their memories of their lives, with emphasis on what life in Hopedale was like decades ago.
I've been thinking for some time that I should be doing what I've been asking others to do. I've finally
gotten around to it, and here it is.
My parents were both born in 1909 and both grew up in Milford. My mother was born in Millis, but before
long she, her parents and her older sister ended up at 59 Grove Street, Milford. My father's family (his
parents had come over from Ireland, probably in the 1890s) lived in several places in the St. Mary's
Church neighborhood. My parents met when my father was working with the light company, installing
new street lights on Main Street. They were married in 1940. They bought a lot at 7 Oak Street in
Hopedale. My maternal grandmother, who had come down from Nova Scotia as a teenager and worked
as a maid in Millis for the Millis family, (the family the town was named for), didn't care for the idea of the
move to Hopedale. Allegedly, she warned my mother, "Hopedale is damp. You'll die over there."
Perhaps by 1940 she had become enough of a Milfordian to take a dim view of the village to the west.
However, the house was built and the move took place. I was born in May of 1941 and we moved to Oak
Street early in 1942.
While Dad was working for the light company and starting to raise a family, Hitler was keeping busy also,
and by early 1944, at the age of 35, Dad ended up in the Army. He spent some time in Missouri, England,
France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Missouri again, before getting out in 1946. During those years
Mom had to shovel the coal into the furnace, get by on a private's pay, and push me in the stroller over to
Milford a couple of times a week to do some shopping and visit her mother.
I went to kindergarten at the Chapel Street School. It was all-day kindergarten in those days. Those of us
who lived in walking distance would go home for lunch. My uncle, Tom Malloy, who had become the
police chief a year or two before, would often be the crossing guard at the corner of Dutcher and Freedom
as I would head to school, carrying my wind-up bulldozer. I don't remember much about kindergarten,
except that everyone would have a blanket to take a nap on the floor and that my bulldozer was good for
pushing blocks around. Our teacher that year was Miss Cunningham. Just about everyone else who went
to school in Hopedale in the mid-twentieth century remembers having Mrs. Stanas as a kindergarten
teacher, but she had a baby that year. Another birth I recall at about that time was my brother Ted, born in
I went to grades one through four at the Park Street School. Kids who lived, south of Route 16 went to
Chapel Street through the fourth grade and those of us from the north end of town went to Park Street. We
got together, in the same building anyway, at the Dutcher Street School, where we went from fifth through
eighth. I continued to go home for lunch every day, up through eighth grade.
During the summers in those years, I'd spend most mornings in the park and afternoons at the pond. In
1949 the pond was dredged. By that time I was used to the idea that I'd be going swimming every
afternoon. I felt somewhat lost that summer. I don't know when it reopened, but it seemed to me at the
time that the dredging job was going to go on forever. Park activities that I recall include archery,
shuffleboard, croquet and crafts.
Neighborhood games often occurred at a little vacant lot at the upper end of Oak Street. It doesn't exist
anymore, even though no house or garage has covered it. It's kind of chopped up and taken over by
several abutting yards. Back then it was our kickball field. Neighbor kids in the games included Billy Hall,
the Spencers, Dennis Johnson, Kurt Anderson, Lynn Lutz and several others. All this was just a few years
before Little League came along, so it was pretty much a case of organizing our own activities. Other
games included hide and seek, Red Rover and marbles. The type of marbles we played involved digging
a hole in the ground and tossing a marble from behind a line in the dirt about ten feet away. If you were
playing "keepsies" and your opponent got his marble into the hole, but you didn't, he kept your marble.
Unless you were good it was safer to play "funsies," but I think we usually played keepsies. (When I
started teaching elementary school in Mendon in 1964, kids were still playing marbles, but that ended
within a few years.)
The areas to the north of Northrop Street and to the south of Freedom Street were covered with woods,
and much of my time was spent in them. There was no Steel Road or Tammie Road, and Jones Road
ended just a little beyond the end of Oak Street. Building dams in the brooks and little swampy areas was
a favorite kid activity then. I'm sure my mother was convinced that I was going to die of pneumonia
because of the number of times I arrived at home late in the afternoon with wet feet. Our other woods
activity was building huts. We'd find scraps of wood and we'd straighten out bent nails and put together
little shacks. It was considered important to keep the location of the hut secret, because if the wrong kids
found out where it was, they would wreck it.
In the woods behind Park Street a few of us had found a couple of discarded pieces of corrugated sheet
metal. We brought them over to a large tree with some big horizontal branches out behind the
Hutchinson house at 50 Freedom Street, and made ourselves a tree house. John Hutchinson, Draper
plant manager, was probably convinced we were going to get killed and told us he wanted us to move.
However, he did give us a cardboard refrigerator box that we could use for a hut at some other location.
We took the two pieces of sheet metal down, and someone must have made the connection between the
potential they had as forts and the fact that there were several apple trees in the area. We set them up
facing each other, about fifty feet apart, and spent the rest of the day throwing apples at each other, only
stopping at noon to go home to lunch.
After the apple fight ended, we took the cardboard box into the woods behind Kurt Anderson's house at
29 Oak Street. I think it was Kurt's mother who gave us a piece of what was called oilcloth, so we could
waterproof the top of the box. At that time, the Draper houses were being re-sided with asbestos
shingles, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Between the original shingles and the
new ones, there was a layer of what appeared to be a waterproofed paper. We found enough scraps of
that lying around to waterproof the sides of our hut. We also found plenty of dropped nails and we came
up with enough scrap lumber to build an addition to the refrigerator box hut. I don't think we ever spent
much time in there. We were more interested in building it than using it. In addition to me, the kids
involved with that one would have been Kurt, Billy Hall, and probably one or two others.
Another summer activity was blueberry picking. The area where those of us from the Oak-Maple-Jones
neighborhood picked was along the Hopedale-Milford town line, between Freedom and Williams streets,
long before it was covered with houses and offices. At the height of blueberry season there would often
be about fifteen or twenty kids there at a time. I'd usually try to pick two quarts. I'd bring one home, and
knock on doors to sell the other. I'd charge thirty cents for the quart, and often think of that now when I see
them for sale and notice that the price has risen since then.
In the winter, Northrop Street would be closed to traffic some evenings so that kids could slide there. I
don't remember my age at the time, but one winter my parents said that by the next year I'd be old enough
to do that. They stopped closing the road, though, so I never got to slide down Northrop. I also missed out
on another downhill activity; the soapbox derby races. They were held on Freedom Street, starting near
the Oak-Freedom intersection and ending at Dutcher Street. That ended after two years, probably
because of a couple of accidents.
There was a little pond in the middle of the woods between Freedom, Prospect and Adin streets. Like
thousands of similar wet spots around the country, it was called Frog Pond. It couldn't have been more
than a foot deep and fifteen by thirty feet in width and length, but it became quite popular for a month or
two every year because it froze much earlier than Hopedale Pond. Somehow we managed to play hockey
on it. Other favorite places of kids in that woods were the rocks that we'd climb on. The ones over near
where Steel Road is now were especially good, because of a "chimney" in the rock that we'd climb
through and a little cave we could crawl into. Walking from roof to roof on the garages at the edge of the
woods was also good entertainment.
One of the dramatic changes in life in the early fifties was the introduction of television. tt wasn't a case of
everyone rushing out to buy one when WBZ-TV first started broadcasting. It was some years before they
could be found in most homes. The first one in our area was at the Chilsons' at 54 Freeodm Street, but
the first one nearer to us was at the Spencers' house on Oak Street. They were very generous about
letting kids go in to watch. It wasn't unusual at all for the number of kids in their living room to be more
than a dozen. We'd end our kickball game across the street to go in to see the late afternoon cartoons,
western serials, Howdy Doody, Don Winslow of the Navy or Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. Then we'd go
home for supper (as it was called then) and often return for more tv in the evening. After a year or two the
Halls at the corner of Oak and Northrop got a set and that took some of the burden off of the Spencers.
The Chilsons were also hosting crowds of kids in those years, and I'm sure other neighborhoods had
something similar going on. I'd hint to my parents that getting a tv would be a good idea, but it seemed
like a long time before we got one. It was probably about 1952 or 1953 when we did. It was a typical tv of
those days, with a twelve inch screen, and, of course, black and white; color still being some years in the
future. So radio was our most common form of home entertainment for some years. Radio was a lot
different then, with comedies, westerns, detective shows, soap operas, etc., and I still enjoyed listening
to Jack Benny, Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy and several others, for years after we got the tv.
Starting in 1948, we'd go away for a week's vacation each summer. That first year we went to a cottage in
North Eastham that was much more primitive than camping is now. The next year we stayed for a week in
Pocasset. After that, we always went to Hampton Beach. Route 128 was a new road the first time we
went. One favorite family story goes back to a day at the end of a vacation week when we were leaving.
Each of us had to make a few trips in and out of the hotel to get our things to the car. With everything all
set, or so it seemed, Dad started down the road, heading for home. After a mile or two, Ted said, "Aren't
we taking Danny with us?" I don't know if there was much deliberation involved, but they did decide to
return and pick me up.
I was a Cub Scout for three years, with Mrs. Anderson and later Mrs. Hall as den mothers. Mr. Farrell,
husband of my third grade teacher, was cubmaster for a year or so, and I think Mr. Moore, father of State
Senator Dick Moore and also father of my classmate, former Hopedale fire chief, Don Moore, had the job
for a while. I probably spent enough years in Boy Scouts to become an Eagle if I had worked on it, but
First Class was as far as I got. I enjoyed the camping trips and the day hikes but didn't get into working
on merit badges. Lymie Draper was our scoutmaster. (Lymie worked at Draper Corporation, but he
wasn't related to the family that owned the company. Here's a page about "the other Drapers.") In addition
to summer camp at Camp Resolute in Bolton, we'd often take day hikes on Saturdays. One common
destination was a state forest area near Chestnut Street in Upton. We'd get there by going through the
Parklands and up the railroad tracks. We'd also camp by the pond at the Nipmuc Rod & Gun Club at the
end opposite the dam. There was very little traffic on Fiske Mill Road in those pre-495 days. I don't think
anyone would want a group of scouts to hike along there now. I remember being at a camporee that was
held in a field in Spindleville and hearing that there were men working nearby to turn the area into a golf
By the time we were in fourth grade, some of my classmates had decided that it was time to take up
smoking. The reason I'm sure that we were that young, is that I remember clearly that we were still in
Park Street School at the time. A few of the guys had built an underground hut in the Parklands. I went
there once or twice. The usual source of cigarettes was from parents who had left them around the
house, not suspecting that their nine year old would be walking off with a few. One of my classmates had
his first grade cousin there. He was smoking, too. (The smoking took place outside the hut. I don't think
we went in.) The whole idea of taking a dried weed wrapped in paper, lighting it on fire and inhaling the
fumes didn't appeal to me, but I had to touch my lips to a cigarette so that I would be involved too, and
My father worked for the electric company for about forty years. He was foreman of a line crew for a while.
It was called the Worcester County Electric Company at that time. One night after work he mentioned that
he'd had a snowball fight with some of my classmates while working on a job on Dutcher Street. The next
day at school they told me about it too. He'd made a big hit with them, not only because of the snowball
fight, but also for giving them rolls of tape. Baseballs were used, not just until the stitches gave out and
the cover fell off, but after that, covered with tape, if any was available. Not everyone had tape that would
do the job, but that black electrical stuff served the purpose very well and they were glad to get it.
The playground at the north end of Park Street School was rather different than it is now. It was quite
overgrown with trees and bushes, and there were some big boulders there. Some days I'd be among the
lucky three who each got one of the three crowbars available to take out to recess. We'd dig in the dirt and
pry a few rocks. Days that I didn't get a crowbar were often spent playing the same things we played
around home after school - Red Rover, tag and marbles. Boys and girls were kept apart at recess - boys
at the north end of the school and girls at the south end. (And...the girls didn't get to use the crowbars.) I
think we were also kept apart when we got to the Dutcher Street School.
I'd say I was never what could be reasonably considered a troublemaker in school, but in fifth grade I
stayed after school a couple of times a week for what I considered to be very minor things. Miss Cressy
wasn't one to put up with any nonsense, and just dropping a pencil on the floor was good for a half hour
after school. Parents weren't notified. The kid would stay on the day of the offense and he'd get home
whenever he got home.
In eighth grade, our teacher was also the principal. So that he could keep an eye on the class and also
carry on with his other job, the phone was in a closet in the classroom. One time he had to deal with a
mother who had called to complain about the fact that her two angels had been kicked off the bus. The
class sat there and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the whole conversation.
By the time I was in seventh grade I'd spend just about every Friday night and Saturday afternoon during
the school year at the Community House. I'd usually go down and back, through the little bit of woods of
of Freedom Street and through the old garages. That's probably a route parents wouldn't want their kids
taking after dark now, but back then I don't think anyone thought a thing of it. On nights when I was with
Leigh Allen on the way home, we'd usually go along Dutcher Street and often stop at the milk-o-mat near
the apartment house across from the fire station, and get a chocolate milk. On Saturday afternoons the
high school bowling league met at the Community House. Movies were shown in the big room there..
Mainly though, I think it was a case of everyone was there because everyone was there. There would be
lots of activity outside and many trips over to the soda fountain at the drug store. A couple of Friday nights
a few of us dropped in on our English teacher, Miss McQuade, who lived over the drug store.
Lots of kids in Hopedale had paper routes. They were in so much demand that, when a kid was ready to
retire, he'd sell the route. I never owned one, but for a few years helped out on a couple. When I was in
seventh grade, I worked with Dave Harris. He'd inherited the job from his brother, Jimmy. It wasn't the
usual house to house route. We'd put the papers in a wagon at the Billy Draper paper store; the Milford
News, the Worcester Gazette, the Boston American, Boston Traveler and Boston Globe (I think - seems
to me that they had and evening edition then - anyway, we had three Boston papers) and we'd take them
up to the main door of the shop, getting there just before quitting time. We were kept very busy taking
money and making change for five minutes or so, and then we'd pull the wagon and the leftover papers
back to the store. I'd get thirty cents each day for the job. Now that I think of it, it was an easier way to
make thirty cents than picking all those little blueberries. I'd spend ten cents at the store for a Devil Dog
and a soda. I probably still have the rest. Later I helped Jack Hayes on his route. He had about 100
customers so he hired Rollie Boucher and me to help. On Friday afternoons we'd sit in Rollie's kitchen at
the corner of Hopedale and Thwing streets and count the money we'd collected.
In addition to television, another technological innovation reached Hopedale in the fifties. Dial telephone.
I was in high school when that happened. One day we went over to the Community House, where a
phone company person instructed us in the use of this new gadget.
During the eighth grade, one morning a week, we'd go to the high school for shop and home ec. Half of
the class on one day and half on another. As was the custom of the era, the boys would have wood shop
and the girls would have home ec. Our first wood shop project involved making a cutting board. One
group made boards cut in the shape of a pig, and the other did fish. I was with the fish group. After tracing
the pattern onto the wood, we'd cut it using a coping saw. Then we'd file the edges and sand it until the
teacher, Ernie Miller, said it was good enough to stain and varnish.
At the end of eighth grade, we had a graduation. There was an auditorium, sort of, on the third floor of the
Dutcher Street School. We did a lot of cleaning to get it ready for the big event. After the ceremony we
walked across Dutcher Street to the Allen house where Mrs. Allen had a party for us.
Before the launch of Sputnik in 1957, science education, especially in elementary school, didn't amount
to much. We didn't have a science text until seventh grade. Our fifth and sixth grade teachers liked birds,
so the closest we came to a science class was hearing about birds and doing a little bird watching. By
the end of eighth grade I had only seen one science demonstration in school, and that was because one
of the kids brought a magnet and some iron filings to class. Other than that, my only clear memory of
science in those years was that we had to write answers to the questions that were at the ends of the
chapters, into a notebook. (I think we had to write the questions, too.) Ballpoint pens were a new
development, or at least not in common use, and I did my notebook in pencil. By the time the teacher
checked it, the writing had become rather smudged. I must have been using a soft lead pencil. He said
I'd have to copy the whole thing over. I have no idea how many pages there were, but it seems to me now
that it took all of my spare time for weeks to get the job done. That's the sort of experience that has been
said to turn a student away from a subject, but I can't say that it had that effect on me. I really enjoyed
general science, biology and physics in high school.
There are a couple of things from science class that I still remember quite well Mr. Drew, our biology
teacher, had a punctured eardrum. That turned out to be a real plus in teaching about the Eustachian
tube. Teachers didn't light up cigarettes in class on a regular basis, but in the interest of science Mr.
Drew did one day. With the punctured eardrum, he could exhale, but didn't let the air out of his mouth or
nose, so instead it came out of his ear. If you know a smoker with a punctured eardrum, you might ask for
a demonstration. Years later I'd tell that story when teaching a unit on air pressure.
Another memorable day in science class occurred in chemistry, well on into the year. By that time it was
assumed that we knew enough about chemistry so that if we were given a "mystery substance," we could
do a few tests and identify it by the end of the period. We worked in teams of four and we went back and
forth to the supply closet getting needed chemicals for the tests. I don't think we figured out what it was
that we had, but I do remember the discovery I made during the next class. At some point I happened to
look at my hand and saw that the ends of all my fingers had turned black. I had a chemical burn. It was a
few weeks before they were back to normal. It turns out that I shouldn't have been picking up sodium
hydroxide (lye) with my fingers. I'd often think of this years later when I'd use lye to strip paint.
Mercury is fascinating stuff that isn't allowed in school anymore. I remember Mr. Drew making a mercury
barometer. That must have been in freshman year general science. He poured the mercury into a yard-
long glass tube, put his thumb on the open end, turned it upside down, and put the end into a bowl of
mercury. I think he also showed us that nuts, bolts and nails would float in mercury.
I took wood shop for the first two years of high school and I still have about everything I made. I didn't have
a desk in my room at home. I didn't think I was up to making a desk (probably Ernie didn't think I was,
either) but I figured a table was all I really needed. We had to pay for materials; it might have cost me
about fifty cents or so. Lynn Lutz helped me to carry it home, up through the Prospect Street garages and
on to 7 Oak Street. That was probably in 1957 and it's been used for one thing or another ever since.
Actually for the past fifteen years or so, it has been my computer table. Hopedale High still has wood
shop, but unfortunately many schools have dropped it in recent years.
I might have been interested in joining the basketball team in high school, but I don't think it would have
worked out. It was considered pretty much essential to be able to get the ball through the hoop more than
ten percent of the time, so that, along with other athletic shortcomings, kept me out. I became a manager.
I've sometimes asked kids where they think basketball games were played before the gym was built. I
don't recall that any of them ever knew. It was in the same place where scout meetings, high school
plays, minstrel shows, dances, four Aerosmith concerts, and town meetings were held. The town hall.
The Draper Gym opened when I was a sophomore in high school. In addition to seeing about all of the
high school boys' basketball games there during its first three years, (including the undefeated team of
the 1956-57 season), I remember being there when the Celtics played. Yes, the ones who also play in
Boston. If you didn't live in Hopedale back then, this may seem hard to believe, but it really happened.
Twice! Here's the story from some Milford News articles.
After Friday night basketball games, just about everyone would go to the Red Shutter. I'd get there with
fellow manager Jack Hayes, who was one of the guys in the class who had a car. The area has changed
so much, I can't remember what the Red Shutter looked like, but it was across the street from the present
site of the Route 140 McDonald's.
When I graduated in 1959, from General Draper High School, as it was called then, there were twenty-
seven of us in the class. Since our fortieth year reunion, we've gotten together annually, and we recall
stories from that different world that was Hopedale in the fifties. Dan Malloy, December 2007.
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Kids, including me, from the Oak, Jones, Maple neighborhood.
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