Rachel Day’s Roundabout Club Reminiscences
The material below this paragraph was transcribed by Anne Fields. When Anne retired as director of the Bancroft Library, she returned as a volunteer weekly for many months to work on material that had caught her interest, but the requirements of her job didn’t leave time to pursue.
From these names you may see that the sturdy back bone of Hopedale life was all here in the Roundabout. Why did the Bancrofts, Dutchers and Patricks, the minister, the school teachers form this club – an additional burden to their busy life? Answer – they were New Englanders, and a New Englander’s education is never finished – Like the Athenian, he is always seeking to know and talk over some new thing.
Of course, the three families I have named were the prime movers and mainstay of the Roundabout through all the early years, and after the unfortunate break in friendly relations with the Patricks, the first two carried on.
It would be hard to find three sisters more exciting, interesting, and agreable than the three Bancroft girls. They were all good to look at, too, all interested in the finer things in life and anything helpful to their dearly loved town. But there the likenesses ceased. They were as different as they could be, Miss Anna, tall, stately, impressive. Miss Lilla, flashing, brilliant. Miss Lura, sweeter and more feminine than the other two.
No one could help turning around to look when Miss Anna entered the room. To all of us who knew her only in her white-haired dignity, it came as a shock that in her girl hood, she was not considered even pretty. With her white hair framing her glorious dark eyes she became fine looking indeed.
She had been an excellent teacher, then a very prominent worker in all the affairs of the Unitarian Church in Mass., a member of the State Library Committee for years, foremost in all good works in Hopedale, long a trustee and co-founder with Miss Sornborger of our excellent town library, member of the School Committee. In everything she did, not merely was she conscientious but brilliant, and withal, she had a keen sense of humor. Lastly she was a true friend. One of her old friends confided to her a secret that the ? (five) towns burned to know for fifty years – the secret died with Miss B.
Equally brilliant but more colorful was the next sister, Lilla. No one will ever forget the flash of her black eyes, who once saw them. She taught in the high school boys who would cheerfully have died for her at a moment’s notice. She could review a book just as cleverly if she’s never seen it, as if she’d really read it. Her bon mots were quoted all over the town, and life seemed duller here when she had left us.
Laura, the youngest was an endearing woman, our drawing teacher. We would grin appreciatively when we heard her come jingling up the stairs. She had a whole menagerie of silver utensils [_?]—tinkling at her belt, and we couldn’t draw for trying to count them. All three of the sisters rarely left anything In the trunks in the attic when a state occasion arose. We did enjoy their clothes. Oh, but the Roundabout lost color with their departure. I’m sorry for all you young things who missed the brightest birds in Hopedale skies.
Mr. and Mrs. Dutcher most of you knew to some degree, and yet I must recall to you what they meant to the Roundabout, and to Hopedale. Both had a deep love for everything beautiful in life – fine china, noble books, flowers, trees, music. You all know that Mr. D. saw to it that every school room in H. had a piano and personally superintended their yearly tuning. Nothing aroused his wrath like a ?jangling? piano. The Park is a monument to his sure judgement and the cemeteries of both Milford and H. no less. The schools of Hopedale has his unremitting wise care for two generations. Both Mr. and Mrs. Dutcher directed at one time or another every worthwhile institution in both towns, and always at the end of their term of office, the instit. were flourishing financially. But what endeared Mr. D. especially to those who knew him best was his dry wit, which often startled violently those who knew him less. Mr. D’s gift as a reader made many a R. meeting memorable. While Mrs. D.’s charm as a hostess in their gracious hone has left lovely memories with us all.
The Patricks were a couple only to be found, I truly believe in New England. They too, like the Dutchers & Bancrofts had a true love for the finest things in life, and did their best for their community. But Mr. P was a Yankee businessman, keen, grasping, tenacious. His wholesale houses hated to see him appear as a buyer – they knew they’d lose money. I’ve heard his wife tell how she never ate an unspecked apple or peach all the early years of his grocery business. When my mother, his classmate and life-time friend, was told by the town that she must dig a ditch through her property to carry off the highway water, denied its natural outlet by the raising of the road, H. P. came to her. His property was opposite hers and much lower. He told her he would dig the ditch for her at his own expense exactly as if he were doing it for himself. He kept his promise to the letter – he dug a ditch wide enough for the governor’s coach, and took out enough sand and gravel to fill in his property to the level of the high road, as he’d been ordered by the town. But there wasn’t much left of Mother’s field.
Now put along side this that no boy worth his salt in Hopedale could come to H.P. and not get help for his education. No good cause ever failed to draw a generous contribution from him, his church depended largely on him. Could you find such a man outside N.E.?
One more tale I just have to tell you as I’ve said, the Patricks broke with the Drapers. They were Democrats. They were fiery independents. So when the proposal to establish the town park came up in town meeting, Henry was agin it. He said it was too far out of town for the women to wheel their baby carriages to it. (He stuttered). “You’re not making a park for the poor, but a boulevard for the rich!”
Henry’s wife was a tall, handsome woman, very forceful in her way, too. Like the Bancrofts & Mrs. D. she headed every valuable institution in the two towns, but unlike them, she also worked hard for Woman’s Suffrage. She worked hard at everything she did – her daughter once said “If you want to get rid of an enemy without being hung for it, just send her on a trip with my mother.” Just so, she delved in her lovely garden, just so she formed her hour-glass figure, just so she planned the lavish meals we all enjoyed.
Now how could the R. help being unique with three such founding families?
Just as an end piece, I can’t help trying to give you an idea of two spinsters who were charter members of the R. but didn’t remain long. Georgiana Bailey was one of the town’s oldest families, and as such was given charge of the town library in its earliest days. I deeply disliked her because she wouldn’t let me, at the age of ten, take out “At heart a rake.” “Would your mother let you read such a book?” I promptly assured her my mother let me read everything, but couldn’t soften G’s heart. To this day, I have no idea what that rake’s heart was like. Then too, when the [Ban?] came in gaily laughing and chatting, G’s pencil lay quiet on her desk, but when we started giggling & whispering, out came that potent weapon, and we were sternly tapped to silence. Later she went to preside over Patrick’s notion counter, and Brother Paul remarked, “Now she’s tapping her pencil at the spools and thimbles.”
As for Mary O. Sumner – she was the last of the aristocrats. How she mourned the dear departed days when Grandpa was gov. of Mass! You might see at her home his brocaded vests, and Grandma’s cranberry velvet dress for the Prince of Wales’ ball. All the fighting energy of her ancestors flashed from Mary O.’s snapping dark eyes. It was spent mainly in promoting good music for the five towns and anti-suffrage. Here high buttoned boots, at $25. per, when the rest of us paid $3.50 for laced oxfords, bore her resistlessly upon any prospective contributor to her causes. Later in her life, she wrote for the Daily News and when I saw therein the recent biography of her dearly loved Princess Boncompagni I felt sure Mary O. had been called up in the Ouija board to pen it. The Roundabout lost color( ?) when she resigned.
Henry’s sisters Miss Lucy and Miss Ellen were both as the Mil. Hist. said of Miss Lucy, an estimable teacher when in health. Jointly they, too, were in every good work in town. Our village girls innocent when asked who her S.S. teacher was said “Sometimes Lucy sometimes Ellen.”