Memories of Hester Chilson

     In 1912, when I was seven, my father took our family to the dedication of the General Draper
    statue in Milford.  We lived in Mendon at that time, and my father worked at a second-hand shop
    in Milford.  He took us there in a horse-drawn wagon called a democrat.  A democrat had a seat in
    the front for the driver and removable seats in the back that slid in and out on metal tracks  He
    parked the horse and wagon on South Bow Street and we walked to the Draper Park.  The
    general's daughter, Margaret, was all dressed up.  This was a few years before she became
    Princess Boncompagni.  She pulled a rope to unveil the statue but the covering didn't come down
    as easily as it was supposed to.  They had to work at it a bit to get it down.

     I came to Hopedale on November 20, 1920.  I was about 15.  My father had died and I came to
    live with the Darlings.  They had always wanted children.

     What I remember most was my Christmas stocking.  There would be an orange in it; a big
    California orange.

     Mr. and Mrs. Darling built the house here [54 Freedom Street] in 1893. She remembered going
    down to where the park is now and picking cranberries there.

     Mr. Darling was a selectman from 1895 to 1926.  As far as I can figure, he was secretary of the
    town.  He kept note cards that appeared to be a record of the town.  Once a year the selectmen
    had to walk the bounds of the town. When Heman Hersey came down with smallpox [in 1901] the
    selectmen had to find a place to put him where he could be quarantined. They got a place on
    West Street that became known as the Pest House for him. He worked at Patrick's and he
    recovered and was able to go back to work. Eventually he moved to Mendon. His brother, Frank,
    also worked for Patrick's, and lived in the duplex next door to us.

     The strike at Drapers in 1913 was a very difficult time for people in town.  Mrs. Darling's parents
    lived three houses down the street [the house on Freedom Street across from Prospect Street,
    bordering the park] and she'd go to see them every day.  During the strike she carried a derringer
    with her when she went.  The men carried billy clubs.

     Mr. Darling, Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Butterworth were the trustees of the Community House.  It was
    built by the Casper Construction Company.  Helen Draper, George Albert Draper's daughter, left
    $5,000 for a swimming pool at the Community House, but it turned out that this wasn't enough.
    (According to a newspaper article about Helen's will, after her death in 1933, she left $400,000 for
    the Community House, of which $100,000 was to be used to build a pool. Click here to see a
    Milford News article on her will. It's near the bottom of the page on her father.) She was tall and
    stately looking and was friendly with Mrs. Stimson.

     My husband Clarence went to work for Casey's [hardware] in Milford when he got out of high
    school in 1925.  In the 1930s he went to work for (Steve?) Reynolds in Milford.  Reynolds sold
    radios and eventually sold Grunow refrigerators.  He sent Clarence to Boston for a course on
    refrigerator repair.  Reynolds told Clarence that if we wanted to buy a refrigerator from him, we
    could pay for it on the installment plan.  We decided we'd get one.  Up until then we had in icebox
    and got ice from the Hopedale Coal and Ice Company.  The ice was delivered in a wagon pulled
    by two beautiful black horses.  Mr. Ward and Mr. Cole were the deliverymen.  When Clarence told
    them that we were getting a refrigerator and wouldn't be needing ice anymore, Mr. Ward was quite
    upset and thoroughly disgusted.  I can see him now.  He was really mad.  He told us an electric
    refrigerator was a terrible thing and would ruin our health. The Grunows were supposed to be
    better than the Frigidaires but I don't think Reynolds sold too many of them.

     Clarence started his own radio repair business out of his bedroom on South Main Street.  Later
    he did radio and tv repair out of our house here on Freedom Street.  He made our first tv.  I think
    that was in 1948.  It  had a twelve and a half inch screen.  He had put the yoke on wrong and
    when the first program came on, we watched wrestling from New York and it was upside down.  Mr.
    Goss, our pastor was here and we all got quite a kick out of it.  When the Howdy Doody show
    started all the kids from the neighborhood would come in here to watch.  We'd have about twenty
    of them here.  Clarence operated his radio and tv repair business out of our house here on
    Freedom Street for many years.

     Harriet Sornberger was the librarian for about thirty years in the first half of the twentieth century.
    I think she went to the Unitarian Church, but she liked to hear the minister at the Pine Street
    Baptist Church in Milford where we belonged. Clarence had a recorder and he used to record the
    service. He'd bring the recorder down to Harriet's house on the corner of Dutcher and Hope
    streets on Sunday afternoons and they'd listen to the service.

     I remember Charlie Merrill coming here one time to pick up his radio that Clarence had fixed.  He
    was quite upset.  A house on Adin Street [the one next to the high school] had been left to the
    town with the intention that it was to be used by the Historical Society as museum.  He had been
    told that wasn't going to happen and he felt quite bad about it.  He had just come from the library
    and he said there were many things in the cellar there that should be on display at that house..

     Georgiena Bailey was the last baby to be born in the Old House and she was quite proud of that
    fact.  She was probably in her eighties when I knew her.  People helped her out and brought food
    to her.  Anna Bancroft "took responsibility" for her.  Mrs. Darling would often bring her something
    and sit and talk with her.  Sometimes when she couldn't go she'd send me. I believe she died in
    the 1920s.

     I remember Officer Louis Barrows.  He worked nights.  Officer Walter Drisko worked days.  He
    had a motorcycle and he insisted on a sidecar.

     Walter Durgin was a policeman and a game warden.  He'd tell kids about birds and trees.  He
    was awfully nice.

     I recall two icehouses.  One was where the Gannetts live, and the other, owned by Henry Patrick,
    was near where the bathhouse is now.  When the Patrick icehouse was dismantled, the wood was
    used to build the duplex right next to our house. [56 - 58 Freedom Street]  Patrick owned it and it
    was rented out to his employees.  [According to the Park Department website, however, the wood
    was going to be used to build the bathhouse but it burned down before that was accomplished.]

     I remember Beal's Shoe Store.  William Beal owned it.  They repaired and sold shoes there.

     Mrs. Butterworth had an electric car.

     People worked from six A.M. to six P.M. Monday through Friday at Drapers. They'd have one
    hour for lunch.  They worked a half day on Saturday.

     The Sneidermans operated a little grocery store on Freedom Street at the five way intersection.  
    We bought a lot there.  Their nephew would  come around in the morning to take orders and
    they'd deliver in the afternoon. Their son, Eddie, had had polio and walked with crutches.  They'd
    push him down to school every day in a cart.


    Hester observed her 100th birthday in September 2005. She was still living at her home on
    Freedom Street at the time, and enjoyed the visits of family and friends who dropped in that day.
    She died two months later, on the day before Thanksgiving.

                      Photos by Edwin Darling                   Memories Menu                     HOME     


                                                                TV Image Received In Hopedale

    HOPEDALE, June 1 [1948]  Atmospheric conditions are credited with the clear and distinct
    television reception on a recent evening when four stations, three from New York and one from
    Philadelphia, were brought into the home of Clarence E. Chilson, Freedom Street.

      Mr. Chilson, well-known radio technician explained the unusual situation as due to temperature
    inversion, which to the average person means cool ground and warm air overhead.

      If the inclement wet and humid weather was good for something it is news to everyone and
    should help to raise the morale.

      Mr. Chilson has been studying television in his spare time for several years.  He was the first
    person in this area to receive a TV image.  His home-constructed set brought in a station in 1941.

      The present set is another that he constructed himself.  On Friday night he and several friends
    were able to witness a boxing match from Madison Square Garden for nearly two hours, without
    interruption.  In addition, Mr. Chilson receives the test patterns daily, now being sent out from the
    Boston station.  The Milford Daily News
     The newspaper article didn't mention one little problem the viewers had while watching the
    boxing match.  The yoke, a part that went around the picture tube, had been put on wrong and
    the picture was upside down.

    The photos above of the house at 54 Freedom Street
    where Hester Chilson lived from the age of 15 to her
    death at 100 were taken by her foster father, Edwin
    Darling. Click here to see more of Darling's pictures.

    This model boat made by Edwin
    Darling for Wesley Hixon.

Milford Daily News - June 1949