I was born in the Milford Hospital on June 9, 1950. We lived with my grandparents on their farm on Mechanic Street in Upton. In about 1952 we moved into a three story tenement house on Orange Street in Worcester. I hated the city. It was pretty scary. In 1954 Dad landed a job in the foundry at Drapers so we moved to Hopedale. My Uncle Duke (Harland Seymour) was a security guard at Drapers and he helped Dad get the job. We moved into the Water Cure House on 33 Hopedale St. Uncle Duke was an auxiliary police officer in Hopedale. I used to enjoy seeing him march in the Memorial Day parade every year. An old widow lady (Mrs. Klock) lived in the downstairs apartment and we lived in the apartment above her. She was such a nice lady and always gave us kids candy. It was so exciting to move from the city back to a friendly little town. I remember starting kindergarten at the Memorial School in 1955. It was almost new then. It was a great school with a great playground.
For the next 11 years we lived in the Water Cure House, until we moved to South Main Street, across from the old Green Store. I recall hearing stories about how a hundred years ago a famous doctor that cured his patients with water lived in the Water Cure House. One day I went to the Bancroft Memorial Library and found a book that had a picture of the doctor and our house in it. Pretty exciting for me to read all about him, and to be living in an old house with some real history behind it, and a picture of it in a book,no less. The doctor’s name was Doctor Butler Wilmarth. Stately old chap, I must say. You can see pictures of the Doc and our house on this page. When we first moved into the house, it was yellow with white trim. After several years our landlord, Francis Larkin, painted it all white with black shutters on the front. Our rent was only $15 a week, and Mr. Larkin came over every Friday to collect it. He was a jolly old fellow with a red face, and used to get pretty winded climbing all those stairs leading up to our apartment.
The Water Cure House was kind of run down, as it was pretty darn old. And It had a character all of its own. It creaked all of the time, and it got awfully cold in the winter time. It did not have a central heating system. We heated it with three kerosene oil stoves. The one in the kitchen had a natural gas four-burner stove and huge oven to cook on. My three brothers and I had to go outside every day and fill the oil tanks for all three stoves. I remember standing in deep snow holding the spigot open on the oil storage barrel praying the can would fill up before I froze to death. Sometimes there were several feet of snow that we had to brush off the barrel so we did not get water in the oil tanks. Our water was heated through a copper coil that surrounded one of the oil burners inside the kitchen stove, and the heated water was stored in a big copper water tank in the pantry. It was a novelty when we finally got a gas water heater, as we did not have to run the oil stove in the summer. The old house had a dark underground cellar that was kind of dungeon like, and had what appeared to be an old jail cell. We were never sure if it was really a jail cell or not, but it was fun thinking it was. On the third floor there was a cool attic that became our playhouse. There were passageways along both sides of the attic under the roof eves. They had three-foot high access doors to get into them. There were no lights in them so we were always to afraid to venture in.
I remember the flood of 1955, and I was only 5 years old at the time. I remember all the Draper employees‘ cars under the Hope Street bridge that were submerged, and Freedom Street was covered with water. The pond was flowing through broken windows in Drapers behind the dam there. Also I remember seeing the Spindleville bridge by the old VFW and the little store washed out too. My Uncle Duke’s home bordered the back field of the Whyte’s Plain Street Farm, and when we went to see him after the flood, Spindleville bridge was gone.
One of my childhood high points was in the early 60s when they started building Chick’s Barber Shop on Union Street across from our house. Chick had a barber shop on one side and his wife Nell had a beauty shop on the other side of the building. They lived in the house attached to it and next to Larry Heron’s house. Each summer we planted a huge vegetable garden in our back yard, and enjoyed fresh produce all summer long. It was sure nice living in the center of town, as everything was close by. We walked everywhere, and had a great childhood in that old house. I used to fall to sleep each night to the sound of Draper’s machinery. Sunday nights were pretty quiet as the night shift was off.
I used to sell lemonade in front of the house in the summertime. I also sold, charcoal grilled hot dogs, and even tuna sandwiches on Fridays. The workers from Drapers used to lower a basket down on a rope from the upper floors and I would put their food in the basket for them to pull back up. I learned pretty fast to have them send the money down in the basket first, before I put the food in. I got screwed a few times using the honor system. .
Before the big fire, the Evangelical Church used to have a big fair every summer. They had a carnival with games, magic tricks, and an auction. They also served up a big ham and bean supper. If I close my eyes I can almost smell those Boston baked beans and brown bread. The sweet smell would travel all the way down the hill to our house.
One summer Zeke Hammond, the fireman, fell out the back window of the firehouse while washing windows. It was so sad to hear he was hurt so badly. We were not sure if he would ever walk again. Zeke was a great guy to us kids. He was always kind and friendly. I used to love going to the Fire Station to watch them play cards, while I drank a cold bottle of soda from the cooler there. Zeke used to cook the clam cakes and chowder at the fire house for the once–a–month Friday night dinner open to the public. I remember helping (Fire Chief) Charlie Watson by pouring milk into the chowder pot when it started to get thick. I sometimes wonder if the Fire Department still has those clam chowder and clam cake dinners in the firehouse from time to time.
My biggest childhood thrill was when Fire Chief Watson swore Jackie Cutter and me in as Junior Firemen. We got our picture in the Milford Daily News, each wearing one of Charlie’s old chief hats. I am thinking it was about the summer of 1964 or ’65. The Milford News article was entitled “Junior Fireman.” Jackie and I always spent time at the firehouse. Whenever we heard the fire whistle go off, we counted out the call box number and checked the chart to see where the fire was. If the fire was close enough, off we went to check it out. Many times we got picked up by one of the volunteer fireman on the way to the fire, and then rode back with Charlie Watson in his red pickup truck back to the firehouse to help hang the wet hoses in the tower. In the summer months we used to help put out grass fires behind the dump with water pump cans that we carried on our backs.
Jackie and I also used to work after school and all summer at the Town Hall Spa cooking and serving food. The Spa was owned by the DiVittorio family back then. I think it was Ron and Mary if I recall. They lived up in White City. They kept their boat stored in the barns across Hope Street near where the Hopedale Coal & Ice Hardware used to be. We helped Ron rebuild it one summer. They had no children and took Jackie Cutter and me under their wing. Jackie used to have so much trouble turning a burger without breaking it. He seemed so happy when we grew up as friends. It’s so sad to hear of his passing at such a young age. He was several years younger than me but we were always good friends.
I remember when Billy Wright’s house caught on fire one hot summer day. I think I heard it was an overheated iron or something that stared the fire. I can still remember Larry Heron marching in the Memorial Day parade every year too. Larry Junior and I were good friends and we used to help Chick the barber by cleaning up hair off the floor. I have so many good Hopedale memories. After moving out of the Water Cure House in about 1965, we moved to a house just across from the old Green Store on South Main and Hartford Avenue right next to the gas station. This house and the Water Cure House were torn down several years back. Rudy, the chicken man owned that house. I liked it as this was the first house that we lived in that had central heat. I did not have to fill the oil cans or chop fire wood. I was living at the South Main Street house when a plane crashed in ’72. I remember it well. I heard it crash and saw it burn across the street in the woods off to the east side of Hartford Avenue, and just off the runway of the airport. I was to afraid to go across the street for a closer view, but I recall that the burnt smell was awful. I remember seeing the EMTs carrying the burnt remains out of the crash site with stretchers. I will never forget that tragic accident.
I can remember my neighbor Mike Koweluck who lived with his family in the red house on Union Street across from us on Union and Hopedale Streets, and next to Chick’s Barber Shop. He shared a driveway with Larry Heron that also led into Adin Ballou Park. Mike worked in the foundry with my Dad. One summer Mike had a terrible accident at the foundry. I heard that he accidentally spilled molten metal on his foot and burned half of it off. It was a terrible thing.
We loved the Wednesday night summer band concerts at Hopedale Park. The American Legion used to bring two gas fired popcorn machines on wheels to the band concerts. They used to cook the best hot dogs under the bandstand. We kids didn’t care much for the band type music back then, but always enjoyed teasing the girls and filling up on the goodies there. There were jail cells in the Town Hall basement, and also in the firehouse. Charlie would lock Jackie and me in there now and then if we bugged him enough. The VFW held clam bakes on Spindleville Pond every summer. Steamed clams served with corn on the cob, chowder, and either lobster or chicken. Yummy!
I grew up with, and went to school with a kid who later became a very famous rock musician. His name was Joe Perry, and he was with the band Aerosmith. I recall Joe playing guitar with my best friend Dave Meade and Kenny Simmons in Dave’s basement as a child. A few years later Joe, Dave, Billy Wright, and John Alden started playing in the old barn at John Alden’s house on Adin Street. As I recall they formed a band called Chimes of Freedom, and played at the sock hop in the gym. Who knew that Joe would someday become one of, if not the best rock guitar and vocalist in the good ole USA? We were in the same class together for years, and Joe’s mom,Mary Perry,was my physical education teacher all through grade school. She was a great teacher, and everybody loved her.
Aerosmith sure draws a crowd when they perform. Joe has not changed much at all. He is still a great guy with an awesome sense of humor. I always got a lick out of Joe’s laugh. I recall one summer Joe, Dave and I were hanging out at the Hopedale Park. I was walking on the stone wall that surrounds it, while Joe and Dave were walking beside me on the sidewalk. Well I lost my balance and fell into a patch of skunk cabbage growing beside the wall. I thought Joe was going to blow a gasket laughing. Those were the days.
I worked at Drapers for a short time. When I was employed in the screw shop at Drapers I never once considered a need for a labor union. As employees, we were treated with respect almost like family members. One night I cut my finger on one of the machines when the part I was de-burring spun on me. I was rushed to the Draper first aid hospital and they called in the doctor who handled everything right there including seven stitches and even my pain meds. The cafeteria food was awesome and reasonably priced. The pay was very fair. I worked piecework and made a good living. My Dad (George) worked in the foundry, and Grandfather, (Pete), worked in the screw shop for many years. My Stepfather, Flash Moriera, was also employed at Drapers until he retired. It was a wonderful place to work. It just kills me when I visit Hopedale to see Drapers looking like a graveyard now. I always wonder if a decision has been made yet on what will be done on the site to bring it back to life once again. I used to love the trains too.
I miss the good ole Grafton & Upton Railroad. We used to hop the caboose by Sacred Heart Church and ride it to Milford or near the dump and ride it to Upton until we got caught. I took a major ass whooping for that one. (Police chief) Tom Malloy put his boot in my backside and my Dad warmed it with what seemed like a tree, when actually it was a branch off of a weeping willow tree. One July in the 60s one of the G&U trains hit a dump truck broadside on the Route 16 crossing. I think it was the summer of ’65 or ‘66. The train was heading towards Milford, and it hit the 18 wheeler broadside in the trailer and pushed it over on its side and down the tacks half way to Sacred Heart Church. I saw the whole thing from my friend (Paul Dionne’s) porch right next to the tracks. There was gravel and sand everywhere. The driver climbed out of the truck unscathed and started cussing at the train engineer. It was the most excitement Hopedale had, second only to the elephant that escaped from a circus truck also traveling Route 16 towards Mendon. As I recall the headlines read Elephant on the Loose in Hopedale. This was ’67 or ’68. Never was there a dull moment in the Dale when I was growing up.
I sure like the Mendon Menu. My very first job was at Esty Dairy Farm in Mendon. I did haying for the Birmingham family that owned it in about 1965. Dickie and Bobby Callery worked there with me, too. Dickie drove the truck while Bobby and I picked up the bails and loaded them on the truck after Herb, the farm hand, bailed them. We made 75 cents per hour. The sad part was that Herb, who drove the bailing machine, was killed during my first week on the job. He cut the corner in the hay field too sharp, and the tractor dumped him into the bailing machine arm. Dickie, Bobby and I found Herb in the field. The tractor was stuck on a stone wall still running. The wheels were smoking as they were still turning. Herb was on the ground. I remember that when I saw him, he was still alive. He was on his knees and his whole face was solid blood. His white t-shirt was covered in blood. Mr. Birmingham went into shock and had a heart attack right after the accident and died on the same day. Herb had worked for him for many years. We all headed to the farm house to get help. I also remember when the ambulance took him away, I saw him laying in it and they had rolls of towels around his head to contain all the blood. It was pretty scary. I had nightmares for weeks. It took several months before we got our final pay check, as we had to wait for the estate to settle. I recall old man Birmingham saying to us when he hired us that his name was Birmingham, like in the song Birmingham Jail.
Kenny Simmons and I acquired an old flat bottom rowboat with a tin bottom. It leaked pretty badly, so we took the tin off and put marine plywood on it one summer. It never floated very high in the water after that. I can remember Charlie Espanet yelling at Kenny and me when we got the boat too close to the swimming area, and I quote “BODREAU, GET THAT MUD SCOW OF YOURS OUT OF HERE!” And then there was policeman Chet Sanborn. Chet was a fine person. He sure loved the kids. He taught us how to tap the sugar maple trees in our yard at the Water Cure House, and we had fresh maple syrup all winter long.
Dear Dan. Thanks for all you do my friend….
Richard Bodreau, June 2011.
In April 2016, Richard asked me about the new bowling alleys at the Community House. I sent a few pictures of them, and the next day he replied.
I love all of the blue in the newly remodeled bowling alley. It’s just like it was as kids. I love the fact that there are still no electronic scoreboards. The old fashioned way is best in my eyes. We had to use our math skills and we had a score sheet to take home and show off. Do they still have the pool hall behind the cashier’s window? What about the room\small hall on the right side as you pass through the glass doors just past the allies? It was the roller rink when I was a kid. Every Saturday we skated to music for twenty cents skate rental included. Saturday’s at the Community House was a bIast. It was so alive. It was also a place to enjoy our friendships and make new ones. It was also a good place to find that special lady to join you at the sock hops at the Gym. Bowling, pool, ping-pong, and awesome skating. I am thinking we had a pinball machine somewhere there too. Maybe not.
The Coke machine and the candy machine were always jingling and clanking on Saturdays too. When I saw Joe Perry last summer we were talking about the fun we use to have there on Saturdays. Me and Dave Meade, Billy, Joe and all our buds. We never realized how special all of the above was and how lucky we were to have it when we were growing up. To we Hopedalians it was just normalcy. I still bask in those memories and always will.
In April 2017 Richard wrote about pictures added to the site about the 1955 flood.
GREAT COVERAGE OF THE FLOOD OF 55. BROUGHT BACK MANY MEMORIES. I WAS ONLY FIVE YEARS OLD WHEN HURRICANES CONNIE & DIANE HIT HOPEDALE IN AUGUST OF “55” IT AMAZES ME THAT I CAN REMEMBER IT SO WELL. I LIVED IN THE WILMARTH WATER CURE HOUSE ON 33 HOPEDALE WITH MY FAMILY THEN. MA TOLD US NOT TO GO NEAR THE WINDOWS. THE MIGHTY WIND STARTED TO BLOW THE BRANCHES LIKE CRAZY ON OUR TREES IN THE YARD. AS IT GOT WORSE, IT SEEMED LIKE THE RAIN WOULD NEVER STOP. BRANCHES WERE BEING TORN FROM THE TWO MEDIUM SIZE SUGAR MAPLES IN OUR FRONT YARD ACROSS HOPEDALE STREET FROM DRAPERS. THE HUGE SUGAR MAPLE IN OUR SIDE YARD ON UNION STREET ACROSS FROM CHICK’S BARBER SHOP WAS SHEDDING HUGE BRANCHES. SOME OF THEM HIT THE HOUSE BUT AMAZINGLY I DON’T RECALL ANY DAMAGE TO THE HUGE WATER CURE HOUSE. I REMEMBER HIDING UNDER THE DINING ROOM TABLE ON THE SECOND OF THREE FLOORS IN THE OLD HOUSE. I WAS SCARED AS HELL. THE WINDOWS AND DOORS RATTLED TO NO GET OUT BUT THE OLD HOUSE STOOD TALL AND PROUD. AFTER THE RAIN AND WIND STOPPED, I RECALL US WALKING DOWN HOPEDALE STREET. DOWN TOWN WAS ALIVE WITH PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. WE WALKED ON TO THE HOPE STREET BRIDGE. SURPRISINGLY IT WAS NOT CLOSED. THERE WERE PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES LOOKING OVER THE IRON RAILINGS. I REMEMBER WHAT SEEMED TO ME AS A FIVE YEAR OLD LIKE HUNDREDS OF CARS, TRUCKS AND TRAIN CARS IN THE WATER. IT LOOKED LIKE A SMALL LAKE AND WAS ALMOST TOO MUCH TO BELIEVE IT WAS REAL. THE FREEDOM STREET BRIDGE WAS ANOTHER SURPRISE. FREEDOM STREET UNDER WATER AT THE DAM AND WATER WAS RUNNING IN AND OUT OF THE WINDOWS OF DRAPERS. WE DROVE TO MY UNCLE DUKES HOUSE ON MILL STREET TO CHECK ON HIM AND MY AUNTIE CLAIRE. UNCLE DUKE SEYMOUR WAS A GUARD AT DRAPERS AND A VOLUNTEER POLICE OFFICER IN THE TOWN OF HOPEDALE. AGAIN WE WERE AMAZED AT WHAT WE SAW. THE DAMAGE TO SPINDLEVILLE. THE MILL LOOKED LIKE IT WAS DESTROYED. IT SORTA SEEMED LIKE IT WAS NOT IN THE SAME SPOT THAT IT USE TO BE BEFORE THE FLOOD HIT IT. I CAN REMEMBER ALL THIS BUT CAN’T REMEMBER THE RECOVERY FROM IT ALL. THERE WAS A LOT OF DAMAGE FOR SURE AND IT MUST HAVE TAKEN MUCH EFFORT AND MANY MONTHS TO RIGHT EVERYTHING, YET I DON’T REMEMBER ANY OF THAT. WHAT I DO RECALL IS AN EXPERIENCE THAT I WILL NEVER FORGET AND WILL ONE DAY TAKE TO THE GRAVE.
Memories Menu HOME