The introduction to James Roberts's diary was written by his granddaughter, 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 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.
Philip Roberts (James's grandson - obituary and family photos)
Memories Menu HOME
the Dedham Tercentenary 1936 for the Tercentenary
Book. Stamped on the back is James P. Roberts
Counsellor at Law Norfolk Trust Building Dedham,
MA. Photo taken by Bachrach.
Dad, Paul Roberts. I think this was taken in NH in 1941 ish