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 recalled sitting beside Doris,watching her paint this scene.

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. Michaels. 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 wonderful.

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.

Another memory I have of the Ponds involves Clara. Once when I went down to their 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 on you.

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 Ive 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  Ithought 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.

  Norman Cox’s dairy farm          Elaine (Holt) Malloy          Mendon Menu   

Doris Cox with her painting, Peeling Apples.
The Holt's dog, Princess, by Doris Cox
Carleton Cox with Princess - 1954.
The Buma Funeral Home by Doris Cox.

                              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 Milford 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 Happy Wanderer.

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 time together.

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 parade year, I had appendicitis and was out of school for three weeks.

                    Elaine (Holt) Malloy                  Mendon Menu                Hopedale Menu  

Elaine and Dan Malloy in Alaska in 2007.
Originally the John Southwick Gaskill home on George Street; later it was the Pond house, and after that, the Norman Cox house.