The Beginning 1933 – 1987
My Long Trip Thru “The Dale of Hope”
How could you not believe it? With a library, four great schools, a Community House (complete with a bowling alley where my father-in-law [Stan Barrows] would eventually be in charge), and most important, lifetime jobs in the “shop” for anyone who applied, men or women, and with the availability of half a house, where the rent on Cemetery Street was, as I was told, three dollars a week, and Draper fixed everything, plus painted or papered one room every year and even provided the light bulbs.
Even if you weren’t ready for the grown-ups work, you could, if you were sixteen, get a job at Patrick’s, working for John Lahive or Ernie Nason, delivering forty or more boxes of groceries to customers in Milford or Upton, who had called in their orders. I fit in well for this job, as growing up (so to speak) on an island off the coast of Maine, I learned to drive a pick-up truck at a very early age (10 or 11). I was privileged also to help Bobby McCully with his morning paper route, starting at 3:30 a.m., before we got ready for school.
And, of course, best of all, in the winter, working for the Hopedale Coal & Ice Company, harvesting the ice from the pond between Lake Street and where Tom West, Draper president, was to, many years later, build his home. I can see the men now, with their long ice cutting saws and chisels, (no chain saws then), cutting the foot or more thick ice into blocks about three feet by four feet and floating them to the powered ramp which dragged them up about 10 or 12 feet on the side of the long icehouse where they were guided by us boys, with more hooked poles, down into one of several large insulated rooms to be stacked and covered with sawdust and put to bed until the spring and summer when they again might see the light of day, going into the houses, carried by a robust delivery man with a 25 or 50 cent piece, depending on which side of the sign you had displayed in the front window of your house that day. It would be hanging from a rather large clamping tweezer, layed across his rubber covered shoulder, soon to be placed in the top of the customers icebox, to drip eventually into a pan at the bottom, which you had to remember to empty every day.
I can’t recall having “in-house” ice cream in those days. Ice cream meant the Town Hall Spa and Norm Hanley, or Hixon’s (Route 140, Milford, where McDonald’s is now), or turning the crank on the ice cream maker for what seemed like hours.
These are just some of “The Tales from the Crypt” trip, leading up to December 7, 1941, the day that forever changed Hopedale, our lives, and the whole world…!! Perhaps not for the better, but we have survived…..grown old and blessed with the memories of our upbringing……How Great Thou Art!
As I recall, while I was busy chasing a bunch of very angry Germans back across the Rhine, Bobby McCully, as a Marine, got hit while landing on a beach at Tarawa or Iwo Jima. I never saw him again.
Roy Rehbein, March 2008.
It was in late September in ’42 or ’43 and still steamy hot at 10 o’clock at night, walking down Northrop Street, coming from the State Theater. The four of us guys, getting ready to graduate, were thinking more about going off to war than caps and gowns. We were ready and eager to fulfill our obligation, but on this night we were just too hot, and Mr. Drisko’s homework was far down our priority lists.
At the bottom of the hill, as we reached Dutcher Street and the pond, someone had, what seemed at the time, a great idea.
“Lets go swimming!!”
I can’t recall who, and will never find out, as I think I might be the only one left. Anyways, we carefully hid our clothes in the bushes near the bathhouse, and somewhat embarrassed, scampered out from the beach, in the moonlight, to the sanctity of the raft and the cool waters.
It was great until a car’s headlights coming up Hopedale Street, passed the shop, turned into the bathhouse…..TOMMY MALLOY….the chief himself…..Hoy moly!!!
“All right youth, come on out!”
Not us! We ducked under the raft and made like hornpouts, snuggling up to the floatation drums. After some minutes, the police car disappeared, along with, as we soon discovered, our clothes.
By about 1:30 we were really COLD. When the police car returned, we would have surrendered without a shot being fired, if asked. But Tommy must have “been there” many years before, as he left our clothes in a pile on the beach and drove off. We had learned our lesson, and quickly and quietly sneaked of to our homes. Mums the word. Next time, we would stick to fishing!!! Roy Rehbein, January 2008
I came out of the foxholes on the side of a hill in Czechoslovakia as a private in an infantry rifle squad in May 1945. After some months of supporting the Nuremberg war crime trials, returned home to Hopedale in 1946,….not yet old enough to vote.
With some connection my folks had with the Draper personnel manager, I turned down our benevolent government’s 52/20 club (the very unofficial name given to those returning GIs who took the offer of $20 a week for a year to get on with their lives) and became an apprentice draughtsman in the shop, starting at 75 cents an hour. I survived for 32 years and 9 months in the same building.
You could say that I had a lucky break. You would be right! And that was the first of many, as I wasn’t known to be too smart, but I had developed the habit of working hard and keeping my mouth shut.
My biggest break came when some guys amongst us asked Draper if they would allow them to solicit volunteers to turn Draper’s Howard Farm property into a golf course, no less. Later on I became one of the 200 or more to sign on. We met regularly at the Community House where the leaders would define tasks and project leaders, and ask for help.
At one of these gatherings they defined a project of cutting brush in the 7th fairway, under the leadership of a Mr. Charles Burnham, and asked for help. No one raised their hand, so feeling bad about this I raised mine, despite the rumors I had heard about Mr. Burnham graduating from Hopedale High in three years, MIT in three years, and being an ex-Air Force officer, and known to be somewhat of a pompous oaf working down in the research department. Anyways, the die was cast!
So at seven o’clock on a March or April Saturday morning, I reported to Mr. Burnham in back of the Spindleville Mill on the banks of the Mill River where large cakes of ice could be seen still floating through the seventh fairway heading towards Rhode Island.
Mr. Burnham announced firmly, “Our mission this morning is to cut brush. Are you game?”
Now the river was flowing knee deep where we were to cut brush, and I was wearing low cut work shoes…..as was Mr. Burnham, but no MIT SOB was going to buffalo me! So……”Yes, sir,” and off we went, knee deep out into the ice water.
After about an hour or two of this misery, Mr. B turned to me and, with teeth chattering, said, “I think we did enough for today. Agreed?” Again….the magic words….”Yes, sir!”
It was some years afterwards that both the chief engineer and the chief draftsman were to retire simultaneously, and guess who eventually became the new chief engineer? You guessed it…..Mr. Charles Burnham. And he still remembered me.
I was still a loom design draftsman but very soon was appointed to be the supervisor of engineering services, reporting to you know who, with ten or more people reporting to me.
Some time later Charlie became the head of both engineering and research and I was made manager, engineering administration for both departments and moved down to the research department near Charlie.
Charlie soon became VP engineering and development and I was made assistant director for product planning.
There were times when Charlie was a mite difficult to understand, as when he sent me, along with two others, on a textile fact finding visit to Czechoslovakia about six weeks after the Soviet tanks emerged from their embassy in Prague to take control of the country, or…..like when I was in the plant trying to catch up with Charlie’s instructions as was my usual Saturday morning schedule, and he came by my office and asked what I was going to be dong the next week or so. “Nothing much.”
“See my secretary Monday and ask her to duplicate all my travel arrangements for you.”
This I did first thing Monday morning and I asked Mary Ann, “Where are we going?”
The answer. “Switzerland.” Geeze! And this was not the end of it!
Following our conferring for several hours with the Battelle Institute inventor of the electrostatic spinning process, we, Charles, the U.S. Battelle engineer rep and I were at the Geneva airport on the way to Germany to further our meetings with the people involved with the licensing proposal, when the U.S. Battelle rep met the man who we were to see there. He then told Charlie that there was no need to continue, and suggested we all return to London and fly back home.
Charlie said, “Understood, but Roy and I have other people to see in Stuttgart.”
Off we went into the wild blue yonder and that night found us, for several hours, sitting at a ten foot long table, arm and arm with a dozen and a half (or more) drunk Germans singing……I suspect… ..Deutschland Uber Alles! It was the most famous of all German beer halls.
Charlie never ceased to amaze us all!! Finally, just as Charlie was about to become Rockwell’s president of Draper Ireland, he appointed yours truly manager of electrostatic spinning and charged me with building the first unit to show at the Paris Textile Show. We somehow succeeded but Rockwell eventually announced their intention to move the ESP program to North Carolina.
The writer declined the opportunity to relocate, out of consideration of our two youngest who were yet to graduate from old Hopedale High as did their parents and grandparents. I remained in Drapers until the plant shut down in about 1978.
We could have gone south…but I forgot the magic words.
Finally, while I never really knew Mr. Burnham, I was certainly blessed by our acquaintance. Charles was one of the greatest people I have ever met. His thinking as regards to computers, numerical control design, and management was years ahead of the times.
And he taught me so much! Roy Rehbein, February 2008.
The photos and caption above are from a booklet titled, “The 2004 Marion Town Party honors the World War II Veterans.”
Edith B. (Barrows) Rehbein, 89, of Marion, died April 30, 2019 at home. She was the widow of the late Roy H. Rehbein and the daughter of the late Stanley and Sadie Louise (Wrenn) Barrows. She was born in Milford and lived in Hopedale for many years. She then lived in Middleboro and Carver before moving to Marion 10 years ago. She enjoyed bird watching and feeding the birds in her yard and enjoyed collecting New England themed items especially from the Cape. Survivors include 4 sons, Craig Rehbein and Fox Keri both of Marion, Glenn Rehbein of Uxbridge and Christopher Rehbein of Wareham; a daughter, Karen Holmes of Cooper, ME; a sister, Dorothy Kirby of Orange Park, FL; a granddaughter, Kara Rehbein of Milford. Her graveside service will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at the Massachusetts National Cemetery, Bourne. Please arrive at the cemetery at 12:15 p.m. Arrangements are by the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, 2599 Cranberry Hwy., Wareham.