May 15, 2009
Hopedale in May
May 5  Abandonment of the Hope Street bridge to vehicular traffic, banning of trailer parks
and acceptance of a new set of bylaws topped the business of a special Town Meeting last
night, attended by 134 voters in Hopedale Town Hall. Milford Daily News
In the mid-nineteenth century, Worcester was one of the leading cities in the U.S. in abolitionism
and in advocating rights for women. Why Worcester? Read Why Worcester? to find out.
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“Tuxedo optional as proms scale back spending,” reports the Milford Sunday News. The article
from the May 10 paper goes on to say that the estimated average per couple cost of a prom will
fall by 25 percent this year, down to $600. Recent economic conditions have resulted in more
talk of frugality than has been common for some years. Stories from Hopedale’s history are
filled with accounts of things that might be considered extreme frugality now. Here are a few,
starting in the Hopedale Community era of the 1840s and continuing into the mid-twentieth
Advocates of frugality in diet were numerous and experiments were tried to reduce the cost of
living to the lowest figures without impairing the health. Anna Thwing Field, Hopedale
One family advocated such an extremely plain diet, that it was rumored theirs consisted chiefly of
"peat and molasses."
Children had many amusements, simple but enjoyable, among them occasional rides in the
large and only boat on the pond; skating and coasting in winter; berrying and picnics in summer;
hanging May baskets all through the month; and hunting wild flowers in the fields and sprout
land woods growing on part of what now is Dutcher Street. After a time dancing was allowed for
adults and children, Mr. Ballou approving, as to quote his words “Innocent recreation in due
season accords with true Religion. Square and Contra dances, only, were allowed, masculine
arms encircling feminine waists, as in polka and waltz, being considered detrimental, by some
of the elders. Nellie T. Gifford, Hopedale Reminiscences
"In 1848, a gentleman who visited the community for May Day, Henry C. Wright, [a social
reformer] stated in a letter, "Hopedale is a settlement of 20 houses with over 100 inhabitants. Its
object is to reform and improve society. I am in the midst of these kind and loving people....the
band is playing some fine marches to open the festivities. A picnic at 5:30 consisted of bread
and butter, pies, cakes, custards, and parched corn. The evening program began with music,
followed by poetry, and a drama acting out Charity, Faith, Hope, Patience, Remorse, Penitence,
Childhood, and Old Age. A dance then began, a modest and orderly dance with 2 violins.” Abby
(Ballou) Heywood, Hopedale Reminiscences.
Of course there was the occasional big spender, even in the early days. When Alonzo Cook
brought his bride, who was a schoolteacher from Blackstone, to church, and she wore a silk
dress and a bonnet much bedecked with flowers, it was said that they feared Alonzo had
married a very extravagant woman. Ida Smith, Hopedale Reminiscences
Our recreation, as I found it here, was simple and inexpensive. Walks in the parklands were
one favorite diversion. Many people had boats and canoes, and on weekend afternoons they
might be seen paddling or rowing about the pond. In the fall, it was fun to gather chestnuts. At
that time, the woods and roadsides abounded with chestnut trees. If one yearned for distant
places, there were always the trolley-cars going to almost anywhere. A trip to Worcester was a
real jaunt, by way of the G & U to North Grafton, then train or trolley to the city.
Indoor entertainment was home-made. The radio had not yet come into public possession, and
was not to appear in Hopedale for another ten years. Hand-cranked Victrolas were in vogue,
with records by Galli-Curci, Caruso, and others of the period. There was an amateur company
who called themselves the Hopedale Players who did some really excellent work. I recall that
soon after I came to town they presented “The Little Minister,” and I came away amazed that
local talent could be so good.
For the men, there were two clubs in Hopedale; the Men’s Club of the Union Church, and a
similar one in the Unitarian. I became a member of both, and for $1.25 could get a season
ticket in either club, which included five suppers and entertainment, and a Ladies’ Night.
Charles Merrill, Hopedale As I Found It [Hopedale in 1910]
My parents’ anniversary was the same as my aunt and uncle's - August 1. Every year we'd
celebrate with a picnic in the Parklands. There would be about seven or eight adults and a
dozen or so children. My father would pick different places for the picnic. I remember one being
at Maroney's Grove, and one year my father borrowed a rowboat and we had our celebration at
Fisherman's Island. Muriel (Henry) Tinkham, 2006 Click here for Muriel's story of growing up on
a farm on Dutcher Street at the edge of the Parklands.
Click here to see the price of a Hopedale High junior prom ticket in 1944.
M. Elizabeth “Bess” Thayer, 86, May 10, 2009.
Frederick F. Sullivan, 92, May 11, 2009.
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