TheTravers house at the corner of Hartford Avenue and Plain Street.

Craig Travers

When I was born in 1941, my parents and I lived in Watertown. Unlike many men at that time, my father hadn’t been in the service. In 1939, he’d had an industrial accident that cut off the ends of his fingers. The family that my parents rented the apartment we were living in from had a son who had been in the service during the war. Like a few million others, he was discharged in 1945, and needed a place to live. Housing was in very short supply at that time. Consequently, we had to move. A cousin of my mother’s grandmother (family name Mauger) owned a farmhouse in Hopedale. It was on the corner of Hartford Avenue and Plain Street.

My father had never been on a farm, didn’t know a thing about home ownership, and didn’t own an automobile. However, there wasn’t much choice so they decided that would be the house where we’d be living. The first thing they had to do was to cut the grass. The yard had become a hayfield. One of my early jobs was to bring the ashes from our coal furnace out and dump them.

I remember the first time I ever saw a hundred-dollar bill. It was on a weekend, and my grandfather, my father’s father, had come to our house from his in Wareham. He counted out eight hundred-dollar bills and gave them to my father so that he could buy a car. My father worked at Raytheon. For some years he had commuted to work with Bill Giatas who lived not far from us.

That neighborhood was a great place to grow up. I had three younger brothers; Tommy, who was bornin 1942, Phil in 1944 and Guy in 1946. In time they were old enough so that along with neighbor kids we could play baseball. The other side of Hartford Avenue was Mendon. Bobby Coe is one name I remember living there. Another nearby family was the Chicks. We stayed close to them up to almost 2000. The father in that family was the manager of W.T. Grant in Milford.

On Hartford Avenue past the Mill River, there was a dairy farm. That’s were I first got a part-time job. The owner’s name was Cross. I learned how to milk cows, and I did other farm work around the place, such as hoeing out the manure and spreading it on the fields. I learned to drive a tractor when I was about ten.

Mr. Cross let us use one of the hayfields as a ball park. We called the field Cowflap Stadium. There was a high point on the property, so in the winter we’d use it for sledding. We built a ramp to go over the stone walls. We’d go over one wall, and then the next, all the way down to the river. It was a lot of fun.

Rosenfeld owned all the land from where they had their buildings down to Hartford Avenue. They had taken sand and gravel out of some of the property across Plain Street from us, and the work had created a fairly good-sized hill. My brothers and I loved that in the winter. We could come down the hill and angle toward the ridge of the pit where the most snow had drifted. We were actually flying for a short distance until gravity brought us down.

There was a stone wall on the Rosenfeld side of Plain Street, and a wall on our side. We’d use the walls as forts and have snowball fights. Of course, sometimes a car would get hit with a snowball, and we got in trouble because of that.

There was an area where the river was wide enough to do some swimming. More importantly, we’d made a raft from wood that we’d found. We’d pole it around.

Names I remember of people living in that area, in addition to those already mentioned, are Wilson, Kimball, and Fafard.

At some point the barn on the property burned down. I think someone must have thrown a cigarette out of a passing car, which started a grass fire, which spread to the barn. We weren’t living there by the time that happened. We had moved to 167 Dutcher Street.

I liked the fact that we moved to Dutcher Street. That was in 1955. We lived in two houses there between Elm and Lower Jones. The first one had been Earl Draper’s house. It was the first on the right by what was then a vacant lot at the corner of Elm. I think the second house we lived in had belonged to the Looks.

At some point when we were living on Dutcher Street, I started working at Henry’s chicken farm, just a little way up the street. Leigh Allen worked there also. We got jobs there because Leigh’s father had worked there. Because I lived so close to the farm, one of my jobs was to go there in the morning and check the four floors of the chicken house, when we were raising capons.

There was a track feeder in there, that was something like a model train. It had chicken feed in trays in it, and the chickens could eat from it. It was about 18 inches off the floor, and it would run around the perimeter of the room. I’d go to make sure none of the chickens had gotten caught in it, and to see if any chickens had gotten spooked during the night. Evidently because of what they were being fed, they were apt to get spooked very easily. When they did, they’d fly and hit a wall. A whole bunch could pile up that way and die.

The biggest and worst job we had at the farm would come about every 16 weeks. At that point the capons had been raised and it was time to start on a new batch of them. We had to paint all the walls and everything with a creosote mix. The purpose of that was to kill any bacteria or anything else that could be a problem with the next batch. It would burn your skin.

There were times when a tractor-trailer coming down the street would blow the horn, and that would spook the chickens. If we were there when it happened, we would go after them, grab them by the legs and throw them back out of the pile so that they wouldn’t suffocate.

In 1955 we had two back-to-back hurricanes which resulted in a flood. I remember heading to the farm on a weekend, and crossing Lower Jones. There was so much water coming down from the area of the garages and Inman Street, that it caught my legs and dragged me around the corner.

There was a low spot on Dutcher Street in front of where we lived. Water had settled there and then came across the yard and through the cellar windows. We had four or five feet of water in the cellar. Our furnace had to be replaced.

As for teachers, one of my favorites was Mr. Drisko. I always felt that Hopedale was just a perfect place for us to grow up. Unique in this area.

It bothered my father a lot that his father died at 65 before he got to retire. He did whatever he could so that he could retire and have some time to live after that. Phil and Guy bought The Tradesman, and I bought this house at 35 Dutcher. My parents then lived upstairs over The Tradesman. I’m now within a year of my father’s age when he passed. Within the family, we made a lot of moves that benefited each other.