The Pond and Cox Families of Mendon
By Elaine (Holt) Malloy
My parents bought land from the Ponds on George Street in Mendon in 1949. I was five
years old at the time. They paid $50 for it. Sometime later they paid $125 to buy the
abutting lot on the side toward Hopedale, also from the Ponds. They didn’t do anything
with it for a few years, but when I was almost nine they decided to build a house there.
My father cleared the lot, and he actually dug a shallow well himself. It was about twenty
feet deep. Varney Brothers poured the foundation and a carpenter named Frank Boyer
built the four-room house.
The Ponds were very elderly. There were two sisters; Anna and Clara, and they had
one brother, Arthur. Arthur was very, very stooped. Clara was somewhat of an artist.
She wore very thick glasses. (Doug Taylor told Paul Doucette of another brother, John
Eli Pond, who died at the age of 8 in 1880.) Our name was Holt, and they must have
thought we were a fine old Yankee family. They invited us to the Unitarian Church. My
mother told them, no, we were Catholics and we’d be going to St. Michael's. I think they
almost fell on the floor.
The Ponds had a few cows and some chickens. I remember Arthur taking us into the
barn to see the cows. They had a Jersey and a Holstein. I don’t remember what the
others were. We hadn't been living in Mendon long when we brought Princess, our
border collie down there. She hadn't had any training, but evidently just by instinct she
started rounding up the cows. One day they told me that they figured one of the hens
was hiding her eggs. There was a flowering bush in front of the house and I went under
it and found where she was laying them.
Their house was quite unique, to say the least. The kitchen had an old soapstone sink.
There wasn’t a faucet; it had a hand pump. There were open shelves, and on the
bottom shelf they kept an old wooden bucket. When I’d go there, if I asked for a drink of
water, they’d have me use a dipper and get the water from the bucket. It tasted
The Ponds had a player piano in their living room. There was a corner cupboard in that
room. It had a closed area at the bottom and open shelves at the top. The bottom was
just jam-packed full of rolls for the piano. My sister, Maureen, and I used to go down
there and play that piano a lot. They had a large number of songs, such as Ain’t She
Sweet and Indian Love Call. One day I pulled out one called Oh, Holy City. I played it
and was pretty bored with it, but they thought it sounded just wonderful.
Arthur had a rocking chair in what could be considered their dining room. They bought
a refrigerator one time and it was kept in that room. It wasn’t used to refrigerate food. It
was used to make ice cubes for the icebox.
My father had seen the idea of using wagon wheels for railings outside our front door,
and I got the idea of getting a pair of them from the Ponds. I went down there and
Arthur was rocking in his chair. When I asked if I could buy wheels, he said, yes, five
dollars for the pair, delivered. He said to come back in the afternoon and meet him at
the south entrance to the barn. Neither Maureen nor I had a clue where the south
entrance was, so we just walked around the barn until we found him. The wheels were
in mint condition. He had just removed them from a wagon.
Arthur had an old car. It was a black 1929 car, but I don’t remember if it was a Ford or a
Chevrolet. He had painted the roof silver and he thought it looked pretty neat that way.
He had a sheet of metal that he tied to the back bumper, and he tied the wagon wheels
to the sheet. It seems like it was just yesterday. I can see him going up the hill with
those wagon wheels. What a racket it made!
There was a time when the chickens were laying more eggs than usual, so they
decided to sell some. Clara painted a sign on a piece of cardboard. It might have been
the bottom of a shirt box. She painted the word, “Eggs” on it. She did a beautiful job.
They were kind of rounded letters. I imagine Arthur must have made the holder for it.
place for a visit, I was wearing a sun hat. It was a circular piece of straw with a slit up
the back where it was buttoned together. There were two holes in it and it had a long
shoelace for a tie. It was a good hat to shelter your face from the sun. Clara loved it.
She immediately took a piece of cardboard and used the hat as a pattern and cut out a
piece identical to the hat. Somehow she covered the cardboard with a piece of cloth. I
don't remember her having a sewing machine. She might have done it by hand, or she
might have glued it. Then she put two holes in the top. I think she tied a couple of
shoelaces together for it. It wasn't an attractive hat, but she loved it because she was
sensitive to light and it kept the sun out of her face.
Anna was something of a social butterfly. One event she’d attend each year was the
Mendon High School graduation. They were held in the Unitarian Church back then. I
went with her to the 1958 graduation. I think there were just fifteen graduates that year,
and only three of them were boys. Anna wanted to go to the upper level where we
could look down at the ceremony. We walked up to the church and then walked back
home after graduation. They were really good neighbors.
The Ponds owned all the land up Neck Hill Road. Back then it was called Breakneck Hill
Road. It seems there was a horse that was injured there and was put down. Apparently
parts of the area were extremely muddy and there was a corduroy road there. That was
a road made up of logs laid across its width all along the muddy area.
When I graduated from the eighth grade in 1958, the Ponds gave me a present – a
necklace. It was very old even then. The chain was silver. Suspended from an ornate
filigree center was a small, rectangular opaque piece. In the center there was a
diamond chip. That, too, was surrounded by silver. I still have that necklace.
The Ponds were very frugal people. We’d see an example of that every December.
Each year they’d send us a Christmas card with a hole in it. They had cut out the
signature of the person who had previously sent it to them. Phone calls from them were
rather different. From the moment you’d answer, there was only the message/reason
for the call, and then, click. They’d never say hello or goodbye.
The Cox family lived next door to us. The parents were Nathaniel and Doris Daniels
Cox. They had four sons. The sons’ names in order of age were Norman, Jesse, Danny
and Carlton. Norman was three years older than I was, Jesse was one year older, and
Danny was three years younger. Carlton was at least a couple of years younger than
Danny. Their driveway was between their house and ours, but they didn’t actually own
the land it was on. It still belonged to the Ponds, but they used to rent it to the Coxes for
twenty-five cents a year.
Mrs. Cox was a wonderful artist. She was without a doubt the best artist I’ve ever seen
in my life. She could do pastels; she could do water colors; she was a genius at
painting in oil. Her studio was at the back of the house in a room that had lots of natural
light. It was filled with paintings, paints and other supplies, and her easel. I loved that
room. One thing she did that absolutely impressed me was that she could paint
portraits of her own children, and still be very satisfied with the way they came out. I can’
t imagine knowing someone as well as your own children, and still capturing their
essence on canvas.
There was a picture of Norman and Jesse that hung in the dining room. They had twin
jackets; little hunting jackets, red with black checks. They had matching caps with
earflaps, and they were standing there together baiting their fishhooks. I think the area
of water in the picture was the tiny pond in their backyard. I don’t think it had any fish in
it, but we used to play around there a lot.
Another work Mrs. Cox had done was of an elderly woman peeling apples. I just loved
that picture. She did a single portrait of Danny. He was a very smart little boy who was
always thinking about a million things, and that’s the way she captured him. He was in
his Cub Scout uniform with a sun in the background, and lightning. There was a church
and various tiny little scenes that just set it off. Carlton always loved maps. He was
probably the lightest of the boys, with very blonde hair. He was sitting there in a little V-
necked cardigan sweater with his arms crossed, and the background was composed
entirely of maps.
Mrs. Cox also did a portrait of Frank Parker once. He was very well known at that time
as a singer on the Arthur Godfrey show. He sang with Marion Marlow. Some of his
friends had heard of Mrs. Cox and they sent her a wallet-sized photo and asked her to
do a portrait of him. She did it and it was really magnificent. One night I was at the Cox
house playing and the phone rang. Mrs. Cox asked me to run and get it. I answered it
and it was none other than Frank Parker himself, calling to tell her what a wonderful job
she had done.
The Coxes went to Benson’s Animal Farm one summer. While there, they took a
snapshot of a tiger. Mrs. Cox, of course, painted it. It was a large painting, and the
tiger, just sitting there, actually seemed as if he could leap off the canvas and pounce
As far as our family goes, Mrs. Cox painted a picture of Princess. She did it in pastels.
Princess roamed the neighborhood and was often over in their yard. She’d tried to
pose Princess, but she was the friendliest dog I've ever seen. Mrs. Cox would get back
to her easel and Princess would be right back there, rubbing against her and lapping
her. However, she was able to finish it and it’s amazing. We didn’t know she had done it
until she gave it to us for Christmas. That was about sixty years ago, and I still have
that picture hanging in our front hall.
One time Mrs. Cox was painting a picture of a teenage girl who was wearing a red
strapless gown. She needed a model to sit and pose when she was finishing the
portrait. She coerced one of the boys to sit for her, but he was objecting so much that it
occurred to her to call Maureen, who was about the age of the girl she was doing, to go
over and pose.
Mrs. Cox was always very nice to us. She’d take us to Pout Pond in Uxbridge to go
swimming. She’d pack a picnic and we’d just have the best time there. Once when I
came back from the water, she was sitting at the edge and she had sculpted a couple
of things in the sand. One was of an Egyptian head, and she had crimped around the
edge of it. The other was of an Indian. I just loved the Egyptian. I told her how wonderful
I thought it was, and she just said, “Oh, it’s so easy.” She showed me how she’d take
the wet sand, not too wet, a certain mixture, and she’d just feel her way around. She
showed me how she had created the nose and the lips. In telling me about the edge of
the headdress she said, “Just like you’re crimping a pie crust.”
Mr. Cox was very nice, too. Having had four boys, I think he enjoyed having two little
girls next door. He had a huge vegetable garden. One time he took me out there where
there was some butternut squash that was pretty small. He took the end of a wooden
match and carved my name into one of them. At the end of the season that one was
the biggest, and my name had swollen as the squash had grown.
Jesse was a daredevil. I remember him going up to near the top of a pine tree in their
backyard and hanging by his heels. Mr. and Mrs. Cox weren’t very concerned with the
things he’d do. The seemed to figure boys will be boys. Jesse spent a lot of time at our
house, even before it was finished. We’d sometimes play truth or dare. He’d always
take the dare. Once I dared him to go to the attic and come down with the two hornet’s
nests that were up there, one in each hand. He did. The window hadn’t been put into
the attic at that time, and I dared him to go up there and jump out the opening,
backwards. He did. We had a huge oak tree at the end of our driveway. I dared him to
go to the top and hang by his heels. He did that as well.
Jesse, Danny and I took the school bus together. Our first year there was the first time
the school bus had ever come up George Street. They had always used the excuse
that the street was too narrow for a bus to maneuver. My mother fought for it and the
bus came that year. We were the first ones picked up in the morning and the last ones
dropped off. Jesse and I would spend a lot of time drawing together. We created a
comic book we called The Super-Duper Special.
One time Mrs. Cox had a one-person show in Boston. My mother and I went to see it. It
showed the depth of Mrs. Cox’s talents. It demonstrated so many ways in which she
could be successful at painting. She had done a portrait of Jesse, who was a teenager
and played the guitar by that time. We called him a blonde Ricky Nelson. The picture
was done using only various shades of red.
I had a wonderful childhood in Mendon, and having neighbors like the Ponds and the
Coxes helped to make it that way.
Daniels Family of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Mendon Menu
The Holt's dog, Princess, by Doris Cox
Doris's painting of the Buma-Sergeant Funeral Home in Milford.
Necklace given to Elaine by the Ponds.
Originally the John Southwick Gaskill home on George Street; later
it was the Pond house, and after that, the Norman Cox house.
More of Elaine's Mendon Memories
My father cleared the lot on George Street, and he dug a shallow well. To help choose
the location for it, an Italian guy named Stevie came over. He was a dowser. My father
worked very hard digging it. It took a lot of perseverance. He’d go down the ladder and
bring up bucketsful of dirt, one at a time. As the well got deeper, he used logs to set up
a tripod over it. He’d still have to go down into the well, fill the bucket, climb back up and
pull it up again. It turned out to be a very good well. It was about twenty feet deep. One
year however, there was a drought and the well ran dry. There was a well at Route 16
near the corner of Washington Street and we’d go there for water. We’d make daily trips
and take pails with us. There would always be other people there getting water also. We’
d go to a laundromat in Miford to wash our clothes during that time. (Other than then, we
had an old wringer-type washer in the cellar that we’d use.) Fortunately this didn’t go on
too long before we were able to use our well again.
Varney Brothers poured the foundation for the four-room house, and a carpenter
named Frank Boyer built it. My sister, Maureen, and I helped my father with the painting.
My mother loved the color she had seen on a house on Dutcher Street in Hopedale.
She found out what shade it was, and that became the color we used. My father walked
all over the lot looking for flat stones. He used them to build a little stone wall in front of
the house. It was really very nice.
One day my great-aunt Margaret took my great-grandmother over to visit. It was before
we moved in. My father had been hard at work, and he sat down on a sawhorse. Great-
grandmother was shocked that he didn’t have a decent chair to sit in. She said to
Margaret, “We’re going home and getting father’s chair and bringing it back for Frank”
Margaret replied, “Mother, he wouldn’t want that old chair.” Great-grandmother insisted,
and they brought it over. We loved the chair, and I still have it in my kitchen.
I went to fourth grade in Mendon. On my first day, my mother took me in to school. The
first student who came in was Priscilla Congdon. She took me outside to introduce me to
some of the kids; among them were Deborah Taft, Patricia Labastie and Sharon Alberto.
Sharon, now Sharon Cutler, still lives in Mendon. Everybody was amazed at how little I
was. I wasn’t quite four feet tall, and I weighed about forty-two pounds. I wore a size
seven jumper that my cousin had outgrown.
My teacher was Mrs. Dorothy Stanas. She was a wonderful teacher. She was tall and
thin, with glasses and long hair that she usually wore up. She’d wear her glasses on top
of her head a lot. Many years later, when I was the library director at the Bancroft
Library in Hopedale, she was one of the librarians there. She was a very creative
teacher. She loved music. One song that she taught us began, “Twenty froggies went to
school, down beside a rushing pool.” Another, that was popular at the time, was The
Our classroom was in the basement, right next to the cafeteria. In the spring we put on a
show at the town hall. The kids all used to sign the curtain. I was one of eight who did
the minuet. My partner was Ronnie Kempton. Since we were the smallest, we led the
dance. Years later when I’d go to dances at the town hall, my favorite dance partner was
Butchie B. I think it was probably because he was short like I was and we’d have a good
Going back to the fourth grade, in history we were studying Mendon and King Philip’s
War. Mrs. Stanas told us there was a marker in Founders’ Park. She said she’d never
read it, but she’d be interested in knowing what was on it. I made up my mind that day
that I wasn’t going to take the school bus home. I'd walk, and stop at Founders’ Park to
copy the information.
After school no one was really paying much attention to the kids, whether you were
waiting for the second bus or not, like my group was. I slipped away and got down to
Founders’ Park where I started copying the words and names on the marker, but I kept
a careful eye up North Avenue to see when Mrs. Stanas would be leaving. I knew she’d
be very upset if she discovered that I was walking home. When I saw her car coming
down the street, I hid behind the stone. After she went by, I finished copying it. Then I
went home and did it over in my best penmanship. I took it back to school the next day.
She didn’t have much to say about the fact that I had walked home, but she was thrilled
to get that information.
Mrs. Stanas was very interested in Mendon history. She talked once about how Chief
Mantoni had been murdered at the Red Rooster. Of course that was only a few years
after it had happened.
I was in Brownies that year. Ann Davenport was the leader. We made wonderful things.
On Memorial Day, I got to carry the American flag in the parade. In October of my fourth
grade year, I had appendicitis and was out of school for three weeks.
Elaine (Holt) Malloy Mendon Menu Hopedale Menu
Doris Cox's painting showing the view from behind her house on George
Street, looking down toward the Pond house, which was eventually willed to
Norman Cox. Elaine recalls sitting beside Doris,watching her paint this scene.
Doris Cox with her painting, Peeling Apples.
Elaine and Dan in Alaska in 2007.