John Byrne with his daughters, Regina Byrne DelVecchio, Ann
Marie Byrne Wiley and Mary Ruth Byrne Neilan. Since John isn't
in his usual farm attire, it's likely that the picture was taken
during some occasion - probably a family reunion at the farm.
Peggy Byrne Cozzens
Ann Marie Byrne Wiley and Tommy Byrne.
Tommy is holding his cousin, Danny Malloy.
(Yes, that's me.) The picture was taken
during a family reunion, probably in 1942.
Heart’s Desire Farm
1949. We are a family of seven…our parents, John and Margaret Byrne and five
children: Mary Ruth, Tommy, Peggy, Regina and Ann Marie, plus Nana Malloy, our
grandmother, and Theresa, our aunt. We all lived in a small cape style house with
Our parents bought the 54-acre farm from a Mr. Hoothay, a man Dad referred to as
“The Finn.” Dad often had special names for people.
Tommy christened the farm “Heart’s Desire.” Dad and Tom always wanted to be
farmers. However, our small farm certainly didn’t provide sufficient income to support
the family, so Dad also worked full time at Draper Corp. He was a first class fireman
in the boiler room. His work hours varied weekly…first, second or third shift.
We milked twelve or fourteen cows. There was the mean mother cow and mean Julia
and gentle Daisy and Cleopatra to name a few. Dad sold the milk to Coffin’s Dairy in
Mendon. We stored the milk in twenty-quart cans in the spring house, a small
outbuilding with a sunken soapstone well cooled by cold spring water until it went to
Coffin’s to be bottled and delivered.
We also had a workhorse called Dick. When Dick was tired he would just head to the
barn and if you were riding him you had to jump off or duck to keep from bumping
your head on the barn door lintel.
We also had three or four pigs and several dozen chickens. Mom used to sell the
eggs and any old chickens that stopped laying went into the stewpot.
Our closest neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Morse, an old couple who lived very
simply…no indoor plumbing. They used a small outhouse attached to the main
house and they also used a large galvanized washtub for Saturday night baths.
Our farm was divided…the house and hayfield and large garden were on the
Hopedale side of the road and the barn and pastures were on the other side of
Hartford Avenue in Mendon. We had an old Fordson tractor with metal treads on the
wheels and Dad couldn’t drive it across the road on hot days because it would dig up
True to the Irish tradition, we had a huge potato garden. I guess we were
environmentally conscious in the 40s because we picked the potato bugs off by hand
and dropped them into a coffee can containing a small amount of kerosene. Our
reward…Dad would burn them.
One winter we cared for a lady’s pregnant goat. We named her Beauty. Beauty had
two really cute kids named Grace and Charm. They were a lot of fun.
Another incident we recall was one snowy night a man from Mendon on his way
home from working at the fish pier in Boston skidded off of Hartford Avenue into the
ditch. With our horse pulling and us kids pushing we got the truck back on the road.
As a reward the man frequently brought us fresh fish for Friday dinner.
Our brother Tom had a BB gun and target practice with old tin cans was a fun
pastime. One day our Mother said, “How would you like me to put a BB through the
mailbox?” She did!!! We knew it was beginner’s luck.
In the big field of squash and pumpkins, Dad watched one particularly large blue
ribbon squash. Finally, harvest time arrived but to his disappointment a woodchuck
had hollowed it out.
Our chores varied with Dad’s work schedule. Peggy was the fastest when it came to
milking…all done by hand.
Mom and Dad used to laugh because Mary Ruth went from working at Lilly’s Jewelry
Store in Milford to coming home, putting on old clothes and then mixing grain and
molasses for the pigs. I'm sure that Tommy did most of the heavy work and Regina
and Ann Marie got to lead cows to the drinking tub and give them their grain and hay.
We had a “Surrey with a fringe on top” and Dad would hitch up Dick and take us for
rides, especially when our city cousins came to visit. In the winter we had a big sleigh
and we all remember the sleigh rides to Lowell’s Restaurant in Mendon with our
cousins and Uncle Bill Byrne buying us all a hotdog and a hot chocolate. The horse
would be steaming from his exertion and sleigh bells would be ringing as he pulled us
along, as we all snuggled together under the blankets.
In January 1948, our Grandmother, Mary Brennan Byrne, died during a huge
snowstorm. Grandma and Aunt Nellie Byrne lived in a newly built home next door to
us. The snow drifts were so high that the plows had crews of men working with them
in certain areas to shovel and break the drifts. Dad and all of us kids shoveled east
from our house up to Route 140, about ¼ mile, so that the undertaker, Joseph
Edwards, could get through. When the plows reached our house coming from the
west, they were pleasantly surprised to find the road already cleared. The town of
Hopedale later compensated us for our efforts.
In the 40s, Plain Street was a dirt road and it was the shortest way for Dad to get to
work at Drapers. He traveled in an old green truck that unfortunately backfired fairly
often. If Dad worked the 11 to 7 shift on Saturday night, the quiet of Hopedale’s
Sunday mornings was often shattered. Our mother’s brother, Tom Malloy, was the
police chief at the time, and because of several complaints from sleepy residents,
threatened to ticket Dad if he didn’t get the truck fixed!
Making root beer was one of Nana Malloy’s specialties. What we remember about the
root beer is not only the great taste, but also its explosive qualities. On several
occasions a bottle exploded and sprayed root beer all over the ceiling.
During the war years the grain often came in printed sacks. The goal was to get
enough of the same print. Mom made curtains and a washing machine cover from
the blue print ones. There was always the fear that the mice would chew a hole in the
middle of the bag and it would only be good for a dish towel instead of a broomstick
skirt or curtains, and we looked forward to each grain delivery to see the design and
We moved from Heart’s Desire in October 1949 to Dell Dale Farm in Littleton. The
farm in Hopedale was bought by people by the name of Varney. Draper Corporation
later bought it, or perhaps part of it - the part north of Hartford Avenue, and turned it
into Hopedale Airport. I’m sure that neither my parents nor I ever dreamed that forty
years later their grandson, my son, Greg DelVecchio, and my cousin, Gary Wright,
would be piloting small aircraft from the “big field” and former site of our large family
reunions. (See below for photos of Gary and plane in 1994 when he came from
Reading Pennsylvania to Hopedale to visit his parents.)
Regina Byrne DelVecchio
Parkside Dairy Farm Milk Routes of Hopedale, Mendon and Milford
South Hopedale Menu Memories Menu Hopedale Airport HOME
And Peggy again.
shown in December 2009.
side of the street, is the site where the barn once stood.
Avenue, and the end of the Hopedale Airport runway. 2010
This article, as you can see, was from 1934, during the
Dust Bowl years in the mid-west. Back before the Byrne
family was at the Hartford Avenue farm, they had a farm in
East Upton, where they were when they took delivery of
cattle that had been starving. There was an actual cattle
drive from the train station to John's farm. They had to
work at keeping the cattle moving, because they wanted to
stop for every bite of grass or weeds that they could find
along the road.