Mrs. Durgin’s class – Top row – Robert Biggs, Diane Caracino, Mike Conelly, Paula Cugini, Peter Alden, Debbie Horner, Joel Reed
Second row – Kathy Vance, David Rose, Michael Bresciani, May Ellen Donovan
Third  row – Gino Recchia, Jackie Stare, Alfred Bliss, David Villani, Cynthia Mendykowski, Mike Brown
Bottom row –  Joanne Donley, David Doyle, Kathy Weaver, William Brown, Susan Cutter, Kathy Care, Patti Domm

Our family in 1968. I am holding my brother Ted, with Patti to the right, Karen is behind me, and Carolyn is to the left.

Ad Altare Dei Award, in the paper 13 Feb. 1969. Left to right Ed Tarca, Me, Jeff Alger, Jimmy Thibault, Stephen Allen.

Janet, Paul and Michael

          A Story of a Boy Who Loved Hopedale

                                                                       by Michael Patrick Connelly
                                                                                   1965-1970

It has been a very long time since I was in touch with anyone from our time in Hopedale or “Happy Valley” as Mr. Care, my scoutmaster, used to say making fun. For me it really was a happy valley. Now that many years have passed, and after a life a thousand miles away, I came to question the reality of it all. It became more like a favorite book rather then an experience I had. Then my sister Patti put me in touch with this website by Dan Malloy, who in turn put me in touch with three old friends from those days, Dana Francis, Tim Cox and Gary Wright. This essay is a partial compilation of emails showing a verification of retrieved memories. Thanks to Dana, Tim, Gary, Patti, and Dan.

                                                                The Daiges
In mid September of 1965, when I was 10, our family, consisting of Mom, Dad, my three sisters and myself moved from my father’s side of the family in Wisconsin to my Mother’s side in Massachusetts. In searching for a place to live my Aunt Ellie asked her friend from her nursing school days, Minka Marcus of Hopedale, if she knew of any opportunities.  Minka arranged to have my parents meet with her friends Herb and Helen Daige, who were looking for someone to rent the other side of their duplex at 26 Dutcher Street. My parents really hit it off well with the Daiges. We soon found ourselves living as their close neighbors across from the Union Evangelical Church, and overlooking Adin Ballou Park, when you looked out back.

The Daige’s were about the age of my grandparents and treated us like an extension of their family. They literally opened up their home to us by taking the screened barrier down on the porch and by putting a door in the basement wall between us.  We spent nearly every Sunday after Church with them watching the Community Auditions Talent Show on TV.  Remember, “ Star of the day, who will it be, your vote may hold the key……etc? We got a good laugh from some of the horrible acts they presented. Mrs. Daige was from Ireland and spoke with a brogue. She regularly made homemade soda bread, banana bread, and white bread, leaving a warm loaf for us wrapped in tinfoil between the front or back doors. Their eldest son Dickie, was the same age as my Mom, but was more like a young brother to us kids, and Kathy, who was much younger than Dickie, seemed like a big sister. Tommy and Eddie liked to play pinochle and drink beer with my Dad. In order to relax after work in the evening, my Dad often played his Wurlitzer organ in the room by the front door. He usually played jazz standards from the 50s. The Daiges loved this and asked him to keep the door open in warm weather so they could hear his spirited music better.

                                                                  Sacred Heart
My Dad also played the organ for Sunday services at Sacred Heart Church, where we attended as a family, and where I was confirmed. When we first got there, there was an older, very stern, Monsignor who was contrasted by a new, young, Father Mahan. My sister Karen and I sat right in front of Father Mahan, when he gave his first message to the parish. As he spoke he nearly leapt from the pulpit. We were not used to his enthusiasm and it made us giggle uncontrollably. Suppressing our laughter just seemed to make things worse. The adults behind us thumped us on the shoulder to knock it off. Everyone soon grew to love father Mahan. Later, when serving Father Mahan, us alter boys noticed that he took just a little wine with his water during worship services, while the older priest seemed to drain the wine crucible every time. The only other thing I remember about the older priest is that he roamed the outside aisles when Father Mahan presided, dressed in a full length black cassock, holding an open hymnal. Where ever he went with his grave countenance the singing got louder. Several of us alter boys had Father Mahan as our instructor for the Ad Altare Dei Boy Scout Award. It was a pleasure working under Father Mahan. He was all about getting our work done, but you could tell he enjoyed our youthful banter as well.        

                                                             Boy Scouts
I had so much fun in Boy Scouts. I was with a great group of guys who had wonderful parents that supported our active schedule. A number of us, including myself, received the Eagle Scout Award. Along the way, we went on annual trips to Lookout, and Camp Resolute, and competitive Camporees, as well as scenic travels to the Cape three times, the White Mountains twice, and the Adirondacks twice .  My best friends, Jeff Alger, Gary Wright, Jimmie Barrows and Dana Francis all were part of scouts. Sharing these trips together deepened our friendships. I really looked up to our Senior Patrol leaders, Timmy and John Cox. John moved on to college and Tim took over as our ringleader and is most memorable to me. He had a lot of enthusiasm and was very creative in coming up with activities for us to do. On our trips, we usually gathered together at evening around a bon fire to sing camp songs and hymns. Most memorable were songs like, The Happy Wanderer, Tom Dooley, or the MTA song,…”Did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned”….. . We would do funny little skits that had us all rolling around on the ground with laughter. Each patrol had to come up with something, so there were several of these performed on the evening before we went home. The stories associated with our trips are too numerous to list here. But I’ll mention a couple to give you an idea. On my first trip to Look Out, overlooking Hopedale Pond, I think we were there to build the three-sided shelters that used to o there. Anyway, it was pretty cold as we were getting ready for bed and we feared that our feet would freeze so we heated a rock. When it was warm enough we picked it up with sticks and placed it between my feet.  To our shock it immediately melted a hole through the polyester fabric of the sleeping bag. It looked like a cannon ball had been shot through it. Lesson learned. On another trip, I think it was a Camporee at the Gibson farm in Mendon, I remember looking over to a group huddled under a tent awning in the pouring rain while singing at the top of their lungs the chorus to Midnight Confessions, by the Grass Roots, “That little gold ring, you wear on your hand, makes me under-sta-a-and…….” as it played on someone’s little transistor radio.  A picture of real joy. The great music of this time is intertwined with my memories of all things Hopedale and triggers memories to this day. I thought the members of our gang were particularly musical. Guitars and harmonicas were taken on most trips. It seemed like every one could tap out “Wipe Out” with improvised elements. Dave Carchio, one of our Eagle Scouts, had serious talent and was part of a band with Joe Perry, of Aerosmith fame. I’ll never forget our troop proudly marching to mess hall at Camp Resolute to Dave’s smart drumming. And, we mustn’t forget Tim Cox and his ever-present Sousaphone, the ideal instrument for backpacking. He was dead serious about this. In fact, I think he might get a little mad if he reads this.  

                                                              Fun Outdoors
My outdoor activities were definitely not limited to Scouting. Hopedale Pond, Muddy Brook, the Lookout, Indian Rock, Rustic Bridge, the Fire Lane, the Parklands, what a beautiful little town. I suppose very commonplace for Massachsetts. In my mind’s eye I can still follow the shoreline entirely around Hopedale Pond. Any unsecured boat no matter how waterlogged or holey, became the ticket to an expedition down the length of Hopedale Pond, to the islands, Rustic Bridge, or beyond another mile on a stream that meandered through a tall grassy marsh all the way to the next pond at Route 140. On the way we pretended to be Green berets in Vietnam, stealthily moving through regions infested with Vietcong. On our return we lazily floated with the current, watching for little schools of perch as we hung over the sides of the boat. We used sticks and boards if we didn’t have paddles, and a coffee can to bail water out as it seeped in. When our scoutmasters found out about this, Mr.Care offered his aluminum boat and Jon Brown’s Dad brought his aluminum canoe to Miss Ripley’s house across from Dutcher Street School and said we could use it any time. And we did.  

We had this great idea to sleep overnight on the island near Rustic Bridge. We rowed out there, fished for bass and pickerel until dinner, and then we set up our tent. When we looked back to the dock, Mr.Care’s aluminum boat was gone! Being light as a feather with no one in it, the wind worked it loose from shore and blew it almost to the next island and it still was moving pretty fast. If we waited any longer it might blow all the way back to the bathhouse. I hated the idea of swimming through all those lily pads, but this called for immediate action. So, I stripped down and dove into the water, raking my arms through forests of lily pads, stirring up the mud, with visions of vicious snapping turtles zeroing in on my toes. Exhausted, I caught the boat and paddled it back with my hand. As it got dark, we still fished for hornpout. We caught a mess of those for breakfast and turned in after a campfire.Sleep was impossible. The sound of thrumming, groaning bullfrogs grew louder, surrounding us by the thousands until about 2am when we rowed home for some peace and quiet.

Jeff Alger, Gary Wright and Jimmie Barrows were my partners in my ramblings through the woods. We scoured the area for its natural mysteries and perhaps some undiscovered fishing. A favorite spot was the Muddy Brook pool about a mile down the Fire Lane that ran by the Ski Tow and Draper ball field. It was between an old stone abutment for a rail crossing. The Holy Grail was brook trout, but we rarely caught one. There were a variety of bass, kivers, shiners etc, along with a unique species of pickerel called grass pickerel. They were tiny, 6 inches or so, with a thin yellow line down their back, and the only way I caught them was with a fly in very shallow water. In my quest for trout, I once waded upstream from this pool all the way to the Mendon Drive-In where there was another big pool.  For this I “borrowed” Tommy Daige’s fireboots from his side of the basement and hoped the fire horn wouldn’t  blast while they were missing. They made perfect waders. When I arrived to the Drive-In pool, I hooked into a “Mawnsta,” but it turned out to be a giant sucker. I was so disappointed. I was sure there was a big brookie in the deepest part of the pool. So, I carefully I inched my way out on a small tree trunk leaning over the water and reached out with my rod to dangle my lure. Only then did I notice that just below my rod was a big snake lying across the tree-top, and it wasn’t a garter snake. I wanted to flee but I couldn’t. Fortunately, the snake immediately plopped in the water and swam downstream. Whew!

My brother Ted was born in December of 1967, and my grandparents visited us from Wisconsin, a few months later to meet the little fellow. My grandfather drove around Hopedale Pond until he found where I was fishing and then he would sit with me for a while. He asked me one day where I got my fishing tackle and I told him. He wanted to check it out for himself; so later we made a trip over the big curving bridge on Hope Street, a ¼ mile long, to the Hardware store known as the Hopedale Coal and Ice. He entertained me with humorous fishing stories as we walked. After I showed him the wall display of lures he asked me if they had a Johnson Silver Minnow, a Bass-o-reno or an Injured Minnow. They did. Then he asked for several suggestions on what other lures to get. He had me take these to the counter, and after they were put in a bag and paid for, he handed the bag to me and said they were mine. Until that point I thought he was buying them for himself! I would have been very happy to have had just one of those lures. Also, in the process of making his payment, he tore a dollar in half and gave the pieces to me, saying it was ruined and worthless. I learned later a taped dollar worked just fine

I liked to fish Hopedale Pond in the evening near the dam at Draper’s. Quite often I found myself observed by workers taking a break. I usually waved to them and sometimes they would yell, ”catch a big one!” or they would ask how the fishing was going. If I caught a nice one, they would clap and cheer, and on my way home I’d walk the length of the building to a relay of shouted compliments. Sometimes an observer would call others to the open window and I would raise my fish to them. The plant seemed in perpetual activity in those days with the looms on the ground level shuttleling away. By the time I got to the end of the building I would be to where the Herons lived. Mr. Heron had requested that I bring my better fish by for his inspection and I did this occasionally.

In the wintertime you could ski at the hill next to Draper ball-field called the “Ski Tow”, named for the engine that pulled skiers to the top on a rope loop. I preferred skating at Hopedale Pond. A couple of times, we combined a long hockey game with ice fishing. We would set up our tilts on holes we made and keep an eye open for the little flag that would spring up when there was a bite. When this happened, we stopped the game for a bit to reel in the fish. On one occasion in junior high, a bunch of my classmates gathered for a skating party with a big bonfire out in the middle of the ice. I remember pulling away on my own and skating some distance around the bend and past the little peninsula, where I stopped and stood in the open between the two rows of trees in a quiet night of quiet stars. Below my feet the stillness was punctuated with the awe inspiring boom and ring of cracks that on occasion moved rapidly across the expanse of the freezing pond.

“Indian Rock”, was a very large granite rock formation about 100 feet long and 30 feet high in the woods behind the grade school. It had several cave like structures in it. One was very narrow and you could climb to the top in it and another was on one end where you could sit under a ledge with your friends and have a little campfire. It was in these woods I imagined being captured and adopted by the local Nipmuc Indians. When I was young, I longed to grow up to be an Indian, which of course was impossible. Instead, I read every book about Indians in the Bancroft Library, including those by James Fenimore Cooper. Then, after I saw the monument in Mendon, about the Nipmuc Indian Massacre, it became easy for me to imagine natives creeping through the local woods every time I went there. Oh, I thought, “if only I could have been one of those befriended by them and learn to be as close to nature as they were.”

Adin Ballou Park was right behind our house and it was a favorite place to play. At times we gave the good ol’ Adin statue something for his outstretched hand, like a snowball, or an orange, or an old baseball, and once we dangled an old purse from his fingers. The grassy areas in the park were a favorite place to catch night crawlers with a flashlight when it got dark.

Some of my play as a boy revolved around military themes inspired by TV programs like Rat Patrol, Combat, or Twelve O’clock High. Gary Wright, Jeff Alger and I liked to sit in different parts of one of the dogwood trees that surrounded the statue, imagining our positions in our B17; pilot, turret gunner, bombardier, etc. We flew in our own missions over Europe. On one of these missions our plane was going down after being struck by flak, and the pilot gave the order to bail out. The pilot of course was to bail out last. Jeff Alger was the first to bail out and he landed spread eagle, face down, and remained like that for a while. Apparently his chute didn’t open. First, Gary and I congratulated him on his authenticity, and then we said he could get up, but he didn’t. He was knocked out cold. After his revival we went next door to shoot baskets at Larry Heron’s. Larry was older, athletically gifted and idolized by us young boys, and he usually came out and played basketball with us. Mrs. Heron reminded me of Mrs. Cleaver of the TV show Leave It to Beaver. She was very friendly and always neatly dressed. She came out with a tray of goodies and Jeff accepted something. This seemed strange because we knew  Jeff had given up sweets for lent. Upon further questioning we realized Jeff had amnesia and took him home.

We placed a premium on dying realistically when we played our military games. In the wintertime they stacked snow in tall piles between the gas station and the fire station. We used these to practice getting shot, plunging dramatically to our deaths, while doing flips onto our backs into the soft snow below.

Apparently most of the forest around the Lookout was open farmland at one time. When I played “army” or “Indians” you could see rectangular sections throughout the woods bound by low stonewalls. Here and there you could tell where the farm homes had been. You could see a depression where the foundation was. Up there behind John and Timmy Cox’s place I dug into a couple of these depressions and found some interesting things. It appeared that the former residents used their cellars to throw trash in. In seventh grade, Peter Alden and I became little archeologists and we dug up metal pieces from harnesses, lanterns, tools, eating utensils, and fragments of old dishes and lots of old bottles for all kinds of things. They were in different shapes and tints, had little bubbles throughout, and there was writing in relief on the glass itself. All of this stuff was at least a hundred years old. We told our science teacher Mr. Harringer, and he offered to buy the bottles from us. We brought him several boxes of these. I kept about a half dozen bottles. I don’t know what happened to them.

Another story involves those stonewalls. When we played army they were great to hide behind. We had gangs of 15 to 20 kids playing army in the woods. All were dressed in some form of military attire. Anyway, when you got shot, sometimes you showed some theatrics and died “realistically’ and if you did that well you got compliments. In one of these battles David Durgin,(his Mom was my 5th grade teacher) made quite a performance in the middle of a shootout and leaped the wall he was hiding behind like he was on fire, screaming and throwing his arms in the air and then fell to the ground writhing. It seemed a little over the top, but yes, realistic looking. Good job I thought. Come to find out, Dave had been hiding on top of a bee’s nest and he got stung all over. Worse yet, he was allergic and swelled up grotesquely. He looked like the elephant man. Unable to walk out, we carried him to John and Timmy’s house and called an ambulance.

                                                                  War Heroes
Real war heroes lived among us and we were in awe of them. At that very time Jeff’s brother Duane, was serving in the Viet Nam War. Tim Cox’s Dad had been a Lt. Col. in WWII. I remember seeing a photo of Mr.Cox getting off a plane with General Montgomery on the wall of the Cox’s dining room. Peter Alden’s Dad was a Lt. Commander in WWII. Larry Heron’s Dad’s story was well known and he was a living inspiration to us all. Gary Wright’s Grampa, Tom Malloy, played toy soldiers with us boys.  Little did I know just how much of a stalwart character he was? Please do look up Mr. Heron’s and Mr. Malloy’s stories elsewhere on this website.  

                                                                  Halloween
When Halloween came around in 1967, Jeff, Gary, and I participated in the Halloween Parade, as stretcher-bearers and IV holder for a wounded dummy. Gary was dressed in the full WWI doughboy uniform of his grandfather, Jeff was dressed in his brother’s Viet Nam army stuff and I had my Uncle’s WWII infantry uniform on. We won a prize of 2 dollars for this; enough for each of us to get a bag of penny candy from the Billy Draper’s store.

                                                                Paper Route
Jackie Cutter was Kevin Alger’s best friend and a real character. He always seemed to be smiling as if something was up.  Jackie was devising some money making venture all the time and his work ethic was something to admire. I expected that he would be the first one I knew to make a million bucks. He and Kevin teased me when I first moved to Hopedale because I was so gullible. They would say things like, “Are you one of the original 13 Connellys?”(as in colonies)Yuk,Yuk.  I used to get up early and walk with Jackie on his paper route, just to be friendly. After I learned it, he let me do it now and then for a break. Of course he paid me. Then he gave me the route. There were four different papers: Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Record, and the Worcester Telegram. It was a morning route. I was up early and got my papers at the Billy Draper’s store. What a unique place. With a quarter you could get quite a quantity and variety of candy from behind the display in the glass counters. The place nearly burned down but they just kept going, fire and smoke damage everywhere, so what. Sometimes to start off the morning I would have a chocolate milk and a Ring Ding. I started at the Spa Café and delivered several Boston Records to some Draper workers. I then went up Adin Street, to Oakledge Manor, and to the big estate like places near Peter Alden’s, then over to Mendon Street, and back downtown to Hopedale Street. I had the houses of my classmates Jackie Stare, Jon Brown, David Doyle, Eugene Costanza, the Marcuses, as well as others. It really was a sleepy little town in the morning before there was any traffic. I loved it after a snow before the wind stirred the branches. There was snow on every little branch. I liked to cut through the woods behind the Gym, just for the beauty of it then. I was the first set of footprints and it was quiet, very quiet, like a wool tunnel. On Saturdays, I gave myself a little treat when my work was done and had an English muffin cooked for me under a wood block on the grill at the Spa for 35 cents. Simple pleasures are the best.

As I walked from place to place I read some of the news under the headlines and became more informed than most of my classmates. It was a very lively time for news. The Viet Nam War was raging with its daily body counts, along with infamous assassinations, protests, “the impossible dream” 1967 Red Sox, trips to the moon, and famous crime. When I read about the Boston Strangler, I had to ask my Boy Scout friend Dana Francis, what rape was.  That is how I learned about sex. Not ideal.

                                                                           Gas Station
The other job I had in Hopedale was working at the gas station between the Firehouse and Dutcher Street School. Mr. Care, my scoutmaster, worked there as a second job and gave me a key and 5 or 10 dollars cash to tend the station on the weekends. In those days you pumped the gas, checked the oil, and washed the windows for all the customers. It became a hangout for my friends. With a candy machine and a coke machine we were set. That was the day of cash registers with crank arms, gas charge cards and S&H Green Stamps. I almost forgot the Green Stamps, but was reminded by the time I walked into the sign for them that hung from the brick portico.

                                                                             School
I had pretty much the same kids in my 5th grade through 8th grade class. It was known as the “A” class. There were four classes A, B, C, and D. Over time the kids in the “A” class became more like a family and at the end of summer I looked forward to being together with them again. When I was in 5th grade, we had Mrs. Durgin, and when you looked to the ceiling in her room you could see long cracks converging on the spot where Mrs. Mongeon’s desk was upstairs. She was our teacher in 6th grade at Dutcher Street School and she needed help to her car everyday after class. I helped her by carrying her large purse as she descended the stairs sideways, one step at a time, holding the rail with both hands. I wasn’t the best student, but I could tell Mrs. Mongeon liked me. Ithought she was all right too. We always had a little conversation about the day as we went down the stairs together. I was bad though. I’d do things to tease and provoke her. For example, she had us all make large full-length figures cut out of paper of someone famous. It was fun. You could pick anyone you liked, making its clothing, pose, expressions, etc. I made Hitler. When she realized what I had done, she got red in the face and then scolded me, shaking her jowls at me. I had done a great job, but she decided to hang it up behind the piano.

On another occasion B. and I were assigned to make a display on one of the class bulletin boards. I don’t remember what it was, but we did a nice job of it. When we were finished I couldn’t resist writing in small letters in the bottom corner, “ Made in Japan by American Craftsmen”. I knew Mrs. Mongeon didn’t like anything made in Japan. I felt this was technically OK, yet tweaking her sensibility. I had hoped to see her reaction when she discovered this. The thing was, B. told on me! Boy did that anger me. Of course, I got my scolding and I had to say my usual, “Yes, I will turn over a new leaf”. But, I was fuming. We soon had social studies across the hall with the new teacher Mrs. Chandler. I was so mad at B. when I first sat down. While class was still settling down I got up and went over to B. who was facing forward in the next row. Mrs. Chandler stood at the end of the row I was standing in, facing me, and the rest of the class. Ididn’t care. I called B.’s name and when he turned around, I hit him square on the shoulder very hard with my fist. A very surprised Mrs. Chandler said,” Did you just hit B.? I looked straight at her and said, “Yes, I did.” I was willing to accept whatever punishment for this. I was really hot.  Then Mrs. Chandler said, “Good! The whole class erupted in laughter and Mrs. Chandler had a smirk on her face. After she regained her composure she quieted everyone and had B. and I go out in the hall to settle things. I had to lie and say I was sorry.

At the end of the school year, Mrs. Mongeon, took the students who had perfect attendance out for pizza at Carbone’s in Hopkinton. This was a big deal in those days. I must have liked school that year because I was one of them along with Paula Cugini and Dianne Caracino. Two brains and unlikely me.

Our science teacher in 5th and 6th grade was Miss Ripley. She liked to bring animals to class for us to study. One of these was a Big Macaw and another time she brought in a Caiman. We had to figure out what they were as a learning experience. She also gathered our money together and we purchased a baby raccoon and raised it in class, inspired by the book we had read, Little Rascal. This reminds me of “reading time,” when our teacher read to us as we lay our heads down for half an hour or so. One of the books was The Yearling, and when the part was read about how the little boy had to kill his pet deer, it was very quiet at the end of the reading and the heads on the desks didn’t spring right up. Every spring Miss Ripley had us gathering and identifying wildflowers for points in class. It was fun and I learned the names of many wildflowers this way. Gary Wright told me that David Durgin meticulously spray painted a dandelion red and brought Miss Ripley to where it was growing for identification. This stumped Miss Ripley. On another occasion, Miss Ripley astounded everyone in class, when she told us she had dated the actor that played Robin in the popular TV series Batman.

Miss “Moo-shawn-tay” was our French teacher on and off in 4th grade through 8th grade. She was rather tall with knock knees and very extrovert. You felt a little exhausted after she left. She had a bouffant hairdo with bangs that dangled in her heavily made up eyes and eye lashes and she wore miniskirts in wild patterns and white go, go, boots. She was very animated and had a loud voice. She jumped at any chance to display her booming operatic singing voice as she taught us to sing the French National Anthem….Marchon! Marchon! Or the “nun song” that was popular at the time…..Domineeca, neeca! or, the “Avignon” song. One day she didn’t show for class and wasn’t heard from for a while. The word was she ran off with a sailor.

                                                                       Summertime
The Wednesday evening summer band concerts at the park were great fun. The bells too, added a very nice touch every evening before bedtime. Anyway, I was supposed to be home before the bells stopped ringing on band concert night. I lost track of time, and all of a sudden I heard the bells begin to ring. I abruptly stopped whatever I was doing and took off running fast to get home pronto. My Dad did not fool around. When he said something was to be done and I didn’t do it I could expect immediate consequences. When I got to Dutcher Street, I ran on the strip of grass next to the sidewalk because there were too many people on the walk. I was in a panic to make it home, so I put my head down and sprinted……..BAM! rattle, rattle. What on earth just happened I thought to myself as I found myself sitting on the ground. Some passer by asked if I was alright. I said I was.

Dear reader, I ran straight into a parking sign.

There were many things for us kids to do in the summer. It seemed like nearly everyone took swim lessons at the pond’s beach.  Bruce Lutz and Mrs. Robbins were the instructors then. After your lessons you could go up to the park and challenge whoever was currently playing tetherball. The winner played until they lost to an opponent. Or, you might challenge the current champion of shuffelboard in the same way. These games went on for hours. Larry Heron and Vic Manteno made a good team for this. You could do crafts after purchasing supplies from the store under the bandstand. Lanyards woven of multi colored plastic string called “gimp” were especially popular. You put keys on them and hung them around your neck or wrist.  There was a clinic for those who liked to play tennis too. Another favorite activity, not necessarily approved of by anyone, was a trip to the dump. There always seemed to be a fire burning there and my friends and l Iiked to help the fire a little with added materials including aerosol cans and TV sets for a dangerous thrill.

                                                                            Girls
It seemed there were more pretty girls added to the “A” class every year.  Or, maybe I just started noticing them? On Valentines Day, you gave cards to everyone, and received cards from everyone. I’ll have to admit, it was somewhat a thrill to get a card from some of these girls, even though it didn’t really mean anything. In one case, a girl sent me her card and it said “Be My Valentine” but then she wrote in pen “(not really)” just to clarify things. Got it.

The Union Evangelical Church was right across from where we lived on Dutcher Street. In the fall of 7th and 8th grade I attended Socials (dances) there. They had them in the basement cafeteria and the other kids in junior high brought their favorite 45s to play on a little stereo turntable set up in the pass through to the kitchen. Girls were all on one side and the boys were on the other side. It was kind of dark with the only light coming from the kitchen. It started with a prayer from Pastor Simpson. I remember my very first dance was with Kathy Weaver. I didn’t know the first thing about dancing. I chose her because I was pretty sure she wouldn’t make fun of me. I told her I was entirely new to this and she kindly showed me the proper technique. Those who did dance were able to dance with just about anyone. I wasn’t aware of anyone getting turned down. The last song was usually Hey Jude, by the Beatles, because it was a slow song, and it was a long one. This dance meant a little something when you got chosen or you chose them.  My sister Karen who was in 7th grade, attended these dances with me when I was in 8th grade. I kind of felt she was pretty cool, and if she became friendly with some of the girls I knew, they might think I was more OK. I’ll have to admit when Hey Jude was played, I glanced over to see who she was dancing with.

One night after a social I walked with some friends to their homes to wind down. On my way back to my house I heard a voice call to me across the street and it was a girl from the “A” class. She asked me to walk her home because she missed her ride or something. It felt good to be trusted as a brother, which is how I felt toward the girls in my class.

I attended dances held at the town hall and at the Community House too. They were for the high school kids mainly, with very loud live music played by Dave Carchio’s band with Joe Perry on guitar.

Not long ago I heard “Aquarius” on the radio. “This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius…..” And, I told my wife Janet that the song reminded me of the end of seventh grade when Jimmy Thibault had a party at his house and invited a few guys as well as myself. I was pretty happy to be included in this. The thing was, you had to invite a girl as kind of your date in order to go. This was the very first time I had done anything like this. There were two girls I considered. Diane Caracino and Patti Domm. I settled on asking Patti. Patti sat in front of me in science class. She was smart, (which kind of intimidated me) quiet, not very tall, with bright blue eyes and thick brown hair. When I asked her she told me she had to ask her mom. The next day, she said her mom said it was OK, which was a relief. Such anxiety!

The party was in the evening on a Friday, I think. We brought records and played them much like we did at the church socials. All the guys were on one side of the living room and all the girls on the other side for most of the evening. Then we danced a couple of times with our date.  As for Patti Domm, I was attracted to her and liked her, but I had no inclination to have a girlfriend. I was only 13. I was having way more fun with my guy friends. I think I sought her out at the long, slow dance (usually Hey Jude) at the end of a church social or two. At the beginning of 8th grade she moved away to Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I remember that for some reason. I also remember one of the girls in my class back then asked me if I wanted her address. I simply replied, “What for?” How romantic.

Fast forward to recently when I was listening to a radio program about the economy and a name Patti Domm, popped out as a reference for what was being said. At first I wasn’t sure I heard that right. I just kept the name in the back of my mind and a couple days later I googled it, and Voila there she was. I’m pretty sure it is her. She is senior news analyst for business and economics for CNBC.

                                                                          Sports
In fourth grade I surprised everyone including myself when I won three ribbons on Field Day. I discovered I could run fast. That was all I knew how to do when I went out for Little League Baseball.  I endured the indignity of being the worst player on the worst team my first year, a combination of lack of experience and daydreaming in the outfield. Our Coach was Mr. Potty, and I played for Hopedale Pharmacy and if we won a game we could each have a free soda at the soda counter. We lost every game but the last. I remember trudging home in my big wool uniform after every game and people along the way asking me over and over if I had won. When we won the last game, I had a little of every flavor for my victory soda. It was known as a “graveyard” drink. In my third year of little league we won the title and I won the batting title. I think it is interesting in retrospect that they did not have the usual baseball banquet that year.

Everything Hopedale had to offer was within a very few blocks of where we lived. The Pharmacy and Rico’s grocery were a couple of blocks away. The Library was a block away. The Gym was a block and a half away. It was open on weekends and vacations for pickup basketball games. The big boys didn’t seem to mind if you joined in. The Community House was a block away. It was where most of my scout meetings were held. I had some art classes there in a living room like space upstairs. Five lanes of candlestick bowling were available in the basement. It had smaller pins and you used small bowling balls without holes, three tries a frame. This was very different from the bowling I learned in Wisconsin. In a back room on the same level was a billiards room, another realm for the older boys, but one I ventured into once in a while, and when I got to be about 13 or 14, I dared to place my quarter on the edge of the table to challenge the next winner.

One day in the summer before seventh grade started, I was invited to run around Hopedale Pond with Tim Cox and Dana Francis. It was the first time I ever ran cross country. It still counts as one of the prettiest places I’ve ever run. I ran in the JV meets in 7th and 8th grade. I believe the best runners then were Billy DeVita , Mike Sullivan, and Eddie Rouleau. I can still picture them appearing way down Park Street and entering the park at the gap in the park stonewall to finish in a full sprint between the baseball diamond and the tennis courts. On Wednesdays, we ran a long distance down Freedom Street past the dump, and up, up, up, the hill past the road to Lookout and the Cox’s, all the way to Nipmuc Regional High School, on to North Avenue and then on to Mendon Street back to Hopedale Street and home. Coach Franco followed us in his red MG. On one occasion we were coming down the hill on Mendon Street and Timmy Cox hopped the fence at an orchard and started gathering apples, others followed his example and they carried the apples in their shirttails bobbleing home.

In 7th grade I went out for basketball and baseball and didn’t make the last cut in both cases. This was a crushing blow for me socially because it meant you couldn’t hang out with those guys. I was always looking for a good laugh and I thought the guys on the sports teams were the funniest kids. In 8th grade I barely made the basketball team, but I sure enjoyed practicing with the guys and traveling on the bus to the games with the team and the cheerleaders. In the last game, Danny Liberatore scored something like his thousandth point, while I finally scored on two free throws. The crowd went wild when I sank my shots. One thing I remember is that our Coach, Mr. King, who was our math teacher too, tried to inspire our practices by playing the snappy trumpet music of Herb Alpert. The album cover caught our eye too. It was of a naked woman with a dress made of whipped cream.

                                                                         Farewell
My family moved to Framingham after the 8th grade basketball season in 1970, following the death of my grandfather, in part to take care of our grandmother and to live in the house my mother grew up in. David Fisk, one of my Boy Scout friends volunteered to help us move and was very helpful. I have moved a thousand miles or more several times in my life beginning with our move to Massachusetts, from Wisconsin, but the most difficult move for me, by far, was the little move of 15 miles to Framingham.

About 6 of my classmates from the “A” class wrote to me in the first couple of months. That was very nice of them. I stayed overnight once with the Daiges, not long after we moved and I went out with Jimmy Barrows, Peter Alden, and David Doyle. Dave was home from private school. We drank Southern Comfort, the first hard liquor I ever had, and smoked pot, the only pot I ever smoked, or should I say tried to smoke. I didn’t know how to do it. I ended up swallowing air and burping clouds of smoke. So strange, and really not nearly as fun as other things we had done in times past. I left with a kind of sad realization that continuing my relationship with Hopedale was futile. After that I think I went on a couple of outings with Troop 1, an ice fishing derby at Nipmuc Rod and Gun Club, with Lee and David Fisk, and a bike trip to New Hampshire, with Dana Francis. More than anything, it was my involvement in high school sports that helped me put Hopedale behind me. My final contact came from Tim Cox, who called me on the phone just before I left for Illinois in early 1973. I offered him my lacrosse stick because I knew I would never use it in Illinois, and when he came over to pick it up I was surprised to see two or three of my old Hopedale friends who came along with him to say farewell.

In the early eighties, Janet and I visited Hopedale, after I spent a semester studying art in New York City. It all appeared pretty much the same. Dickie Daige recognized me. He was mowing a lawn and stopped to talk. I saw Mr. Heron out for a walk. He said he remembered us. And we spent some time with Mr. and Mrs. Cox.

Beautiful places and memorable people make life meaningful, and boy I’ve been blessed with both. I am very grateful for this.

Today I live in Belgrade, Montana and have been married to Janet Bertagnolli, since 1980. In 1993 our son Paul was born. I have done various things to make a living while trying to “make it” as an artist. I enjoy gardening and love to fish in beautiful places, especially Montana.

Dedicated to Troop 1, and the Class of “74” H.H.S.

Michael Patrick Connelly, January 2014  

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Mike with Dana Francis in Chicago – 2015

Mike fishing with Tim Cox in Virginia, 2015.

Gary Wright