I‘ve been doing this Hopedale history website since 2003. During that time I’ve often asked people to write down their memories of their lives, with emphasis on what life in Hopedale was like decades ago. I’ve been thinking for some time that I should be doing what I’ve been asking others to do. I’ve finally gotten around to it, and here it is.
My parents were both born in 1909 and both grew up in Milford. My mother was born in Millis, but before long she, her parents and her older sister ended up at 59 Grove Street, Milford. My father’s family (his parents had come over from Ireland, probably in the 1890s) lived in several places in the St. Mary’s Church neighborhood. My parents met when my father was working with the light company, installing new street lights on Main Street. They were married in 1940.
They bought a lot at 7 Oak Street in Hopedale. My maternal grandmother, who had come down from Nova Scotia as a teenager and worked as a maid in Millis for the Millis family, (the family the town was named for), didn’t care for the idea of the move to Hopedale. Allegedly, she warned my mother, “Hopedale is damp. You’ll die over there.” Perhaps by 1940 she had become enough of a Milfordian to take a dim view of the village to the west. However, the house was built and the move took place. I was born in May of 1941 and we moved to Oak Street early in 1942.
While Dad was working for the light company and starting to raise a family, Hitler was keeping busy also, and by early 1944, at the age of 35, Dad ended up in the Army. He spent some time in Missouri, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Missouri again, before getting out in 1946. During those years Mom had to shovel the coal into the furnace, get by on a private’s pay, and push me in the stroller over to Milford a couple of times a week to do some shopping and visit her mother.
I went to kindergarten at the Chapel Street School. It was all-day kindergarten in those days. Those of us who lived in walking distance would go home for lunch. My uncle, Tom Malloy, who had become the police chief a year or two before, would often be the crossing guard at the corner of Dutcher and Freedom as I would head to school, carrying my wind-up bulldozer. I don’t remember much about kindergarten, except that everyone would have a blanket to take a nap on the floor and that my bulldozer was good for pushing blocks around. Our teacher that year was Miss Cunningham. Just about everyone else who went to school in Hopedale in the mid-twentieth century remembers having Mrs. Stanas as a kindergarten teacher, but she had a baby that year. Another birth I recall at about that time was my brother Ted, born in 1947.
I went to grades one through four at the Park Street School. Kids who lived, south of Route 16 went to Chapel Street through the fourth grade and those of us from the north end of town went to Park Street. We got together, in the same building anyway, at the Dutcher Street School, where we went from fifth through eighth. I continued to go home for lunch every day, up through eighth grade.
During the summers in those years, I’d spend most mornings in the park and afternoons at the pond. In 1949 the pond was dredged. By that time I was used to the idea that I’d be going swimming every afternoon. I felt somewhat lost that summer. I don’t know when it reopened, but it seemed to me at the time that the dredging job was going to go on forever. Park activities that I recall include archery, shuffleboard, croquet and crafts.
Neighborhood games often occurred at a little vacant lot at the upper end of Oak Street. It doesn’t exist anymore, even though no house or garage has covered it. It’s kind of chopped up and taken over by several abutting yards. Back then it was our kickball field. Neighbor kids in the games included Billy Hall, the Spencers, Dennis Johnson, Kurt Anderson, Lynn Lutz and several others. All this was just a few years before Little League came along, so it was pretty much a case of organizing our own activities.
Other games included hide and seek, Red Rover and marbles. The type of marbles we played involved digging a hole in the ground and tossing a marble from behind a line in the dirt about ten feet away. If you were playing “keepsies” and your opponent got his marble into the hole, but you didn’t, he kept your marble. Unless you were good it was safer to play “funsies,” but I think we usually played keepsies. (When I started teaching elementary school in Mendon in 1964, kids were still playing marbles, but that ended within a few years.)
The areas to the north of Northrop Street and to the south of Freedom Street were covered with woods, and much of my time was spent in them. There was no Steel Road or Tammie Road, and Jones Road ended just a little beyond the end of Oak Street. Building dams in the brooks and little swampy areas was a favorite kid activity then. I’m sure my mother was convinced that I was going to die of pneumonia because of the number of times I arrived at home late in the afternoon with wet feet. Our other woods activity was building huts. We’d find scraps of wood and we’d straighten out bent nails and put together little shacks. It was considered important to keep the location of the hut secret, because if the wrong kids found out where it was, they would wreck it.
In the woods behind Park Street a few of us had found a couple of discarded pieces of corrugated sheet metal. We brought them over to a large tree with some big horizontal branches out behind the Hutchinson house at 50 Freedom Street, and made ourselves a tree house. John Hutchinson, Draper plant manager, was probably convinced we were going to get killed and told us he wanted us to move. However, he did give us a cardboard refrigerator box that we could use for a hut at some other location. We took the two pieces of sheet metal down, and someone must have made the connection between the potential they had as forts and the fact that there were several apple trees in the area. We set them up facing each other, about fifty feet apart, and spent the rest of the day throwing apples at each other, only stopping at noon to go home to lunch.
After the apple fight ended, we took the cardboard box into the woods behind Kurt Anderson’s house at 29 Oak Street. I think it was Kurt’s mother who gave us a piece of what was called oilcloth, so we could waterproof the top of the box. At that time, the Draper houses were being re-sided with asbestos shingles, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Between the original shingles and the new ones, there was a layer of what appeared to be a waterproofed paper. We found enough scraps of that lying around to waterproof the sides of our hut. We also found plenty of dropped nails and we came up with enough scrap lumber to build an addition to the refrigerator box hut. I don’t think we ever spent much time in there. We were more interested in building it than using it. In addition to me, the kids involved with that one would have been Kurt, Billy Hall, and probably one or two others.
Another summer activity was blueberry picking. The area where those of us from the Oak-Maple-Jones neighborhood picked was along the Hopedale-Milford town line, between Freedom and Williams streets, long before it was covered with houses and offices. At the height of blueberry season there would often be about fifteen or twenty kids there at a time. I’d usually try to pick two quarts. I’d bring one home, and knock on doors to sell the other. I’d charge thirty cents for the quart, and often think of that now when I see them for sale and notice that the price has risen since then.
In the winter, Northrop Street would be closed to traffic some evenings so that kids could slide there. I don’t remember my age at the time, but one winter my parents said that by the next year I’d be old enough to do that. They stopped closing the road, though, so I never got to slide down Northrop. I also missed out on another downhill activity; the soapbox derby races. They were held on Freedom Street, starting near the Oak-Freedom intersection and ending at Dutcher Street. That ended after three years, probably because of a couple of accidents. During the years when they were still going on, I made a few trips to the dump in the hope of finding a discarded baby carriage or some other source of wheels to make a car for the race, but never came up with one.
There was a little pond in the middle of the woods between Freedom, Prospect and Adin streets. Like thousands of similar wet spots around the country, it was called Frog Pond. It couldn’t have been more than a foot deep and fifteen by thirty feet in width and length, but it became quite popular for a month or two every year because it froze much earlier than Hopedale Pond. Somehow we managed to play hockey on it.
Other favorite places of kids in that woods were the rocks that we’d climb on. The ones over near where Steel Road is now were especially good, because of a “chimney” in the rock that we’d climb through and a little cave we could crawl into. Walking from roof to roof on the garages at the edge of the woods was also good entertainment.
One of the dramatic changes in life in the early fifties was the introduction of television. tt wasn’t a case of everyone rushing out to buy one when WBZ-TV first started broadcasting. It was some years before they could be found in most homes. The first one in our area was at the Chilsons‘ at 54 Freeodm Street, but the first one nearer to us was at the Spencers’ house on Oak Street. They were very generous about letting kids go in to watch. It wasn’t unusual at all for the number of kids in their living room to be more than a dozen. We’d end our kickball game across the street to go in to see the late afternoon cartoons, western serials, Howdy Doody, Don Winslow of the Navy or Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. Then we’d go home for supper (as it was called then) and often return for more tv in the evening.
After a year or two the Halls at the corner of Oak and Northrop got a set and that took some of the burden off of the Spencers. The Chilsons were also hosting crowds of kids in those years, and I’m sure other neighborhoods had something similar going on. I’d hint to my parents that getting a tv would be a good idea, but it seemed like a long time before we got one. It was probably about 1952 or 1953 when we did. It was a typical tv of those days, with a twelve inch screen, and, of course, black and white; color still being some years in the future. So radio was our most common form of home entertainment for some years.
Radio was a lot different then, with comedies, westerns, detective shows, soap operas, etc., and I still enjoyed listening to Jack Benny, Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy and several others, for years after we got the tv.
Starting in 1948, we’d go away for a week’s vacation each summer. That first year we went to a cottage in North Eastham that was much more primitive than camping is now. The next year we stayed for a week in Pocasset. After that, we always went to Hampton Beach. Route 128 was a new road the first time we went. One favorite family story goes back to a day at the end of a vacation week when we were leaving. Each of us had to make a few trips in and out of the hotel to get our things to the car. With everything all set, or so it seemed, Dad started down the road, heading for home. After a mile or two, Ted said, “Aren’t we taking Danny with us?” I don’t know if there was much deliberation involved, but they did decide to return and pick me up.
I was a Cub Scout for three years, with Mrs. Anderson and later Mrs. Hall as den mothers. Mr. Farrell, husband of my third grade teacher, was cubmaster for a year or so, and I think Mr. Moore, father of State Senator Dick Moore and also father of my classmate, former Hopedale fire chief, Don Moore, had the job for a while. I probably spent enough years in Boy Scouts to become an Eagle if I had worked on it, but First Class was as far as I got. I enjoyed the camping trips and the day hikes but didn’t get into working on merit badges.
Lymie Draper was our scoutmaster. (Lymie worked at Draper Corporation, but he wasn’t related to the family that owned the company. Here’s a page about “the other Drapers.“) In addition to summer camp at Camp Resolute in Bolton, we’d often take day hikes on Saturdays. One common destination was a state forest area near Chestnut Street in Upton. We’d get there by going through the Parklands and up the railroad tracks. We’d also camp by the pond at the Nipmuc Rod & Gun Club at the end opposite the dam. There was very little traffic on Fiske Mill Road in those pre-495 days. I don’t think anyone would want a group of scouts to hike along there now. I remember being at a camporee that was held in a field in Spindleville and hearing that there were men working nearby to turn the area into a golf course.
By the time we were in fourth grade, some of my classmates had decided that it was time to take up smoking. The reason I’m sure that we were that young, is that I remember clearly that we were still in Park Street School at the time. A few of the guys had built an underground hut in the Parklands. I went there once or twice. The usual source of cigarettes was from parents who had left them around the house, not suspecting that their nine year old would be walking off with a few. One of my classmates had his first grade cousin there. He was smoking, too. (The smoking took place outside the hut. I don’t think we went in.) The whole idea of taking a dried weed wrapped in paper, lighting it on fire and inhaling the fumes didn’t appeal to me, but I had to touch my lips to a cigarette so that I would be involved too, and wouldn’t talk.
My father worked for the electric company for about forty years. He was foreman of a line crew for a while. It was called the Worcester County Electric Company at that time. One night after work he mentioned that he’d had a snowball fight with some of my classmates while working on a job on Dutcher Street. The next day at school they told me about it too. He’d made a big hit with them, not only because of the snowball fight, but also for giving them rolls of tape. Baseballs were used, not just until the stitches gave out and the cover fell off, but after that, covered with tape, if any was available. Not everyone had tape that would do the job, but that black electrical stuff served the purpose very well and they were glad to get it.
The playground at the north end of Park Street School was quite different than it is now. It was quite overgrown with trees and bushes, and there were some big boulders there. Some days I’d be among the lucky three who each got one of the three crowbars available to take out to recess. We’d dig in the dirt and pry a few rocks. Days that I didn’t get a crowbar were often spent playing the same things we played around home after school – Red Rover, tag and marbles. Boys and girls were kept apart at recess – boys at the north end of the school and girls at the south end. (And…the girls didn’t get to use the crowbars.) I think we were also kept apart when we got to the Dutcher Street School.
I’d say I was never what could be reasonably considered a troublemaker in school, but in fifth grade I stayed after school a couple of times a week for what I considered to be very minor things. Miss Cressy wasn’t one to put up with any nonsense, and just dropping a pencil on the floor was good for a half hour after school. Parents weren’t notified. The kid would stay on the day of the offense and he’d get home whenever he got home.
In eighth grade, our teacher, Mr. Kimball, was also the principal. So that he could keep an eye on the class and also carry on with his other job, the phone was in a closet at the side of the classroom. One time he had to deal with a mother who had called to complain about the fact that her two angels had been kicked off the bus. The class sat there and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the whole conversation.
By the time I was in seventh grade I’d spend just about every Friday night and Saturday afternoon during the school year at the Community House. I’d usually go down and back, through the little bit of woods of of Freedom Street and through the old garages. That’s probably a route parents wouldn’t want their kids taking after dark now, but back then I don’t think anyone thought a thing of it. On nights when I was with Leigh Allen on the way home, we’d usually go along Dutcher Street and often stop at the milk-o-mat near the apartment house across from the fire station, and get a chocolate milk.
On Saturday afternoons, the high school bowling league met at the Community House. Movies were shown in the big room. Mainly though, I think it was a case of everyone was there because everyone was there. There would be lots of activity outside and many trips over to the soda fountain at the drug store. A couple of Friday nights a few of us dropped in on our English teacher, Miss McQuade, who lived over the drug store.
Lots of kids in Hopedale had paper routes. They were in so much demand that, when a kid was ready to retire, he’d sell the route. I never owned one, but for a few years I helped out on a couple. When I was in seventh grade, I worked with Dave Harris. He’d inherited the job from his brother, Jimmy. It wasn’t the usual house to house route. We’d put the papers in a wagon at the Billy Draper paper store; including the Milford News, the Worcester Gazette, the Boston American, Boston Traveler and Boston Globe (I think – seems to me that they had and evening edition then – anyway, we had three Boston papers) and we’d take them up to the main door of the shop, getting there just before quitting time.
We were kept very busy taking money and making change for five minutes or so, and then we’d pull the wagon and the leftover papers back to the store. I’d get thirty cents each day for the job. Now that I think of it, it was an easier way to make thirty cents than picking all those little blueberries. I’d spend ten cents at the store for a Devil Dog and a soda. I probably still have the rest. Later I helped Jack Hayes on his route. He had about 100 customers so he hired Rollie Boucher and me to help. On Friday afternoons we’d sit in Rollie’s kitchen at the corner of Hopedale and Thwing streets and count the money we’d collected.
In addition to television, another technological innovation reached Hopedale in the fifties. Dial telephone. I was in high school when that happened. One day we went to the Community House, where a phone company person instructed us in the use of this new gadget.
During the eighth grade, one morning a week, we’d go to the high school for shop and home ec. Half of the class on one day and half on another. As was the custom of the era, the boys would have wood shop and the girls would have home ec. Our first wood shop project involved making a cutting board. One group made boards cut in the shape of a pig, and the other did fish. I was with the fish group. After tracing the pattern onto the wood, we’d cut it using a coping saw. Then we’d file the edges and sand it until the teacher, Ernie Miller, said it was good enough to stain and varnish.
At the end of eighth grade, we had a graduation. There was an auditorium, sort of, on the third floor of the Dutcher Street School. We did a lot of cleaning to get it ready for the big event. After the ceremony we walked across Dutcher Street to the Allen house where Mrs. Allen had a party for us.
Before the launch of Sputnik in 1957, science education, especially in elementary school, didn’t amount to much. We didn’t have a science text until seventh grade. Our fifth and sixth grade teachers liked birds, so the closest we came to a science class was hearing about birds and doing a little bird watching. By the end of eighth grade I had only seen one science demonstration in school, and that was because one of the kids brought a magnet and some iron filings to class.
Other than that, my only clear memory of science in those years was that we had to write answers to the questions that were at the ends of the chapters, into a notebook. (I think we had to write the questions, too.) Ballpoint pens were a new development, or at least not in common use, and I did my notebook in pencil. By the time the teacher checked it, the writing had become rather smudged. I must have been using a soft lead pencil. He said I’d have to copy the whole thing over. I have no idea how many pages there were, but it seems to me now that it took all of my spare time for weeks to get the job done. That’s the sort of experience that has been said to turn a student away from a subject, but I can’t say that it had that effect on me. I really enjoyed general science, biology and physics in high school, and zoology and geology in college.
There are a couple of things from high school science classes that I still remember quite well. Mr. Drew, our biology teacher, had a punctured eardrum. That turned out to be a real plus in teaching about the Eustachian tube. Teachers didn’t light up cigarettes in class on a regular basis, but in the interest of science Mr. Drew did one day. With the punctured eardrum, he could exhale, but didn’t let the air out of his mouth or nose, so instead it came out of his ear. If you know a smoker with a punctured eardrum, you might ask for a demonstration. Years later I’d tell that story when teaching a unit on air pressure.
Another memorable day in science class occurred in chemistry, well on into the year. By that time it was assumed that we knew enough about chemistry so that if we were given a “mystery substance,” we could do a few tests and identify it by the end of the period. We worked in teams of four and we went back and forth to the supply closet getting needed chemicals for the tests. I don’t think we figured out what it was that we had, but I do remember the discovery I made during the next class.
At some point I happened to look at my hand and saw that the ends of all my fingers had turned black. I had a chemical burn. It was a few weeks before they were back to normal. It turns out that I shouldn’t have been picking up sodium hydroxide (lye) with my fingers. I’d often think of this years later when I’d use lye to strip paint.
Mercury is fascinating stuff that isn’t allowed in school anymore. I remember Mr. Drew making a mercury barometer. That must have been in freshman year general science. He poured the mercury into a yard-long glass tube, put his thumb on the open end, turned it upside down, and put the end into a bowl of mercury. I think he also showed us that nuts, bolts and nails would float in mercury.
I took wood shop for the first two years of high school and I still have about everything I made. I didn’t have a desk in my room at home. I didn’t think I was up to making a desk (probably Ernie didn’t think I was, either) but I figured a table was all I really needed. We had to pay for materials; it might have cost me about fifty cents or so. Lynn Lutz helped me to carry it home, up through the Prospect Street garages and on to 7 Oak Street. That was probably in 1957 and it’s been used for one thing or another ever since. Actually, for the past fifteen years or so, it has been my computer table. Hopedale High still has wood shop, but unfortunately many schools have dropped it in recent years.
I might have been interested in joining the basketball team in high school, but I don’t think it would have worked out. It was considered pretty much essential to be able to get the ball through the hoop more than ten percent of the time, so that, along with other athletic shortcomings, kept me out. I became a manager. I’ve sometimes asked kids where they think basketball games were played before the gym was built. I don’t recall that any of them ever knew. It was in the same place where scout meetings, high school plays, minstrel shows, dances, four Aerosmith concerts, and town meetings were held. The town hall.
The Draper Gym opened when I was a sophomore in high school. In addition to seeing about all of the high school boys’ basketball games there during its first three years,(including the undefeated team of the 1956-57 season), I remember being there when the Celtics played. Yes, the ones who also play in Boston. If you didn’t live in Hopedale back then, this may seem hard to believe, but it really happened. Twice! Click here to see the story in some Milford News articles.
After Friday night basketball games, just about everyone would go to the Red Shutter. I’d get there with fellow manager Jack Hayes, who was one of the guys in the class who had a car. The area has changed so much, I can’t remember what the Red Shutter looked like, but it was across the street from the present site of the Route 140 McDonald’s.
When I graduated in 1959, from General Draper High School, as it was called then, there were twenty-seven of us in the class. Since our fortieth year reunion, we’ve gotten together annually, and we recall stories from that different world that was Hopedale in the fifties. Dan Malloy, December 2007.
Article from Boston.com posted on May 7, 2019.
In his small Massachusetts hometown, he keeps rich history alive
By Christoper Gavin
“There are just so many good stories here.”
Not long before he retired in 2001, Dan Malloy would hear the common, daunting question: What are you going to do?
“I’d say, ‘I don’t know, but I don’t get bored that easily so something will turn up,” he recently recalled.
And it was not long after he left his job as an elementary school teacher that something did.
Malloy, now 77, has spent nearly his entire life in Hopedale, a small town with less than 6,000 residents, roughly a 45-minute drive southwest of Boston.
He has fond memories of growing up here. Malloy and his cohort of friends built huts in the woods, delivered newspapers, and, sharing in the amazement with countless others in 1950s America, crowded around the first television they had ever seen.
Later, leaving town only for college and the beginning of his marriage, he’d return to raise a family of his own and live out his career as a teacher in Mendon-Upton schools.
For decades, he knew little of the local lore — the heaps of rich history packed into the five square miles that make up Hopedale — aside from his own stories.
But these days, in his retirement, Malloy is the self-described “Hopedale history guy” — a fitting title as those around the area who know him will tell you — best known as a loyal scribe, archivist, and curator for his website, “Sheltered from the Wicked World: Stories and Pictures from Hopedale’s Past.”
The website (hope1842.com) generates thousands of hits a month, with readers leaping between the entries that make up this collage of old memories and textbook facts.
There’s pages on the Drapers, the prominent family whose factory long shouldered the local economy; Hopedale’s humble beginnings as a progressive Universalist community; and even the early days of a band named Aerosmith, who played gigs in the area with a local boy, Joe Perry, on lead guitar.
And there’s a monthly e-zine Malloy sends out, loaded with pictures of places around town — the nearby pond on a sunny warm day, for example — and snippets of news of years past, carefully pulled from microfilm of old newsprint at the public library. On the days the newsletter hits email inboxes, Malloy said he can see anywhere between 500 and 800 visits to the page.
“It seems like he is always snooping around in the Bancroft Library and coming up with all sorts of stuff,” said Mike Cyr, who grew up in town and now resides outside Tampa. “Not only that, but he has this string of people that when they’re doing historical research … they always end up talking to Dan. He’s kind of the old sage of Hopedale history for sure.”
The hobby is a daily habit for Malloy.
“It would be a rare day that I don’t add something,” he said, sitting on a recent morning in his living room arm chair.
While his website seems nearly boundless, it is precisely for that reason it exists at all.
In 2001, Malloy and his late wife, Elaine — Hopedale’s then-recently retired library director with a passion for history — got involved in a project to publish “Hopedale, Images of America” — a book in the national series that compiles photographs of towns across the country.
But the book, lined with photos, did not offer the space that some of the quirkiest stories needed in order to be told, he said.
And so, around 2003, he launched the website to capture what tidbits of the past were too fascinating to let fall to the cutting room floor.
“I would spend a few hours a day at least, for about three weeks, until I finally got over some problems of just putting text and pictures and links on and getting over some of the little glitches I had to figure out,” he recalled.
But as those early days grew into years, Malloy continued to expand the site, creating pages on a host of different topics, anything and all things Hopedale related.
There’s one on how the Celtics, still only about 10 years old, played in the Draper Gymnasium during the late 1950s. Others outline the rise and fall of the Draper Corp. factory — a town institution that employed generations of workers who cranked out textile machinery used around the world.
Yet another contains the extensive family tree branches of the Drapers, who have a Founding Father-esque status in town.
Malloy can pick any of the tales out of the air and recite them as if he were reading from his own website. He recalled one in conversation: the peculiar story of how one Draper patriarch, William F. Draper, a celebrated Union general during the Civil War, would go on to marry his second wife, Susan Preston, the daughter of a Confederate general from Kentucky.
What he doesn’t read in books and newspapers comes to him through reader emails, which sometimes make it to the website, too. He also solicits the memories of those from the area, with many writing down their own family histories, recollections, and aches of nostalgia.
“For a tiny town, these little stories just pop up endlessly,” Malloy said. “There’s always somebody who has another story of what happened during the 1955 flood or some pictures of the Blizzard of 1978. All kinds of things keep popping up, so far anyway.”
Cyr, 65, who as a young Boy Scout knew Malloy from his days as his scout leader in the 1960s, said the website gives him a connection to his hometown between his trips back every now and again.He reads it regularly.
“A lot of the older history is the something I enjoy reading about, and then, of course, the stories of people,” said Cyr, who can trace his own ancestry back to Hopedale’s earliest days. “They are people I grew up with and they put their stories in; the teachers that taught me in school … I get to read their reminiscences of things in ’30s and ’40s and things like that. It’s kind of like getting in touch (with the) roots and the history of the town.”
While there’s no indication it will happen anytime soon, when the day comes for him to step down from the website, Malloy is looking to have a local group, maybe the library, keep watch over it, if interested, he said.
In the meantime though, there are still tales to tell.
“I’m just happy to do this,” Malloy said. “Like I said, there’s just so many good stories here.”