Originally published in the 1985 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Phyllis Waite Watkins (1909-2005)
Mount Wayte (Waite) c. 1950
The woods, fields, and hills were an invitation to discovery. A few lopsided sandwiches and away to adventure! Mount Wayte was a good place. One could sit on the steps of the little temple and tell weird tales of the “Holy Rollers” and their strange ceremonies. The place had a peculiar fascination because of the Eames Massacre in 1676 and the fact that it had been part of the Wayte Grant in 1658, the marker for which is in the basement of the Academy.
Any place was a good place for a picnic, especially if it provided good cold water to drink. Indian Head provided both a well and the chance of finding Indian arrow heads. Nobscot was good if one didn’t believe that bears lived there and would catch you if you didn’t hurry. Actually, Nobscot is the highest point in the Town and Indian Head next, with the third being Bare Hill, or Normal Hill as we call it.
Half-way along Union Avenue at Newton Place was Bean Pot Hill. People said that there was a huge bean pot on the top of the hill where they actually baked beans. The hill is no more; they did more than level it – they made a depression where once it stood and built houses on it.
Learned’s Pond was the place to swim, canoe and skate. Mr. and Mrs. Stalker used to waltz, silent except for the hiss of their blades on the ice, like figures in a dream. For the swimmers there was quite a choice – Big Sandy off Warren Road, Nurses Dock by the Hospital, and Little Sandy off Dennison Avenue. Oddly enough, Little Sandy now is the Public Beach, complete with life guards. Of course, there were private places like the dock at “Bridgemere” the home of the Bridges which stood where the Marion High School now stands. The more intrepid swimmers went to “The Ledge” off Salem End Road. But it was very, very deep and one dove in.
The clear sparkling Sudbury River was a most pleasant place to swim. Once there had been a blue boat-house at a spot near Maple Street and the place still was known as “Blue.” There we could climb trees, swing out on a branch and drop into the cool, clean water below.
Sudbury River at Gordon’s Bridge
There was skating on the reservoirs in winter. In summer the boys went in for an illicit dip.
Where Bowditch Athletic Field is now, there used to be a racetrack. I believe they had sulky racing. The racing the children did there was unofficial and with a great disparity in their mounts. There were wonderful flat fields on the land now occupied by Cushing Hospital. It was a perfect spot for young riders to play “cowboys and Indians.”
Traffic was slow and one had time to see each wagon, or pung, or car as it passed by. One bore the legend “W E Chenery Coal.” There was no punctuation and for a long time I assumed that it was a fancy was of saying “We Deliver Coal!”
The runners of the pungs (wagons on runners) stuck out beyond the body of the box and it was great fun to run and jump on the runner holding on to the back of the sleigh. This was called “hooking a pung.” One could pull a sled behind them also if the driver was willing. Both feats were somewhat dangerous!
There were sleigh rides where we snuggled into the fragrant hay, sang songs and went to the Wayside Inn for a light supper and hot cocoa.
Because of the many horses, street cleaners were a necessity. They were in evidence during the day with wide brooms, shovels, and pushcarts. But, nightfall brought even more of the workers plus water wagons which sprayed the roads to lay the dust and wash away any waste materials. One of the leading baritones of the day scored quite a success with a song about them. The words were, loosely, “For I am a city sweeper and I sweeps the street-ses clean. In the midnight hush with me whirlin’ brush and drawed by me trusty pair, on the streets that’s dark and bare.”
Trades people delivered in those days. Freddie Bastien came in his freshly painted wagon pulled by a gorgeous Morgan horse, his sturdy bull dog alert besides him. Heaven help anyone who tried to get near the wagon after Freddie had dropped the round, iron piece that acted as a hitching-post for the horse. That dog took his duties seriously! Freddie came into the pantry and checked to make sure the house was provided with flour, sugar, and other staples. If any child had a cold there would be a small bag of hard candy “for tickly throats.” Outdoors and indoors Freddie wore a visored cap. He gave a little salute with one finger to its brim but never removed it.
Mr. Strong came, too, his refrigerated wagon holding great sides of beef, lamb, and pork. The family trooped out to help select the meat!
Each household had its square ice card to place in the window telling the iceman the poundage one desired. Young athletes vied for the delivery jobs, as lifting a large block of ice and carrying it on the leather protective piece over the shoulders was the equivalent of a good workout in the gym lifting weights and paid money as well. This was the ice cut from the local ponds during the previous winter, packed in sawdust and stored in large ice-houses. The delivery man gave children the pieces left over from chipping a block to the proper size. On each street children ran to meet him and watch his dexterous use of pick and tongs.
Another treat was the FUDGE made and sold by a lady who had a little needle and thread shop on Pleasant Street. A peanut vendor sold hot, unshelled peanuts in striped brown, red, and green paper sacks with serrated tops: FIVE CENTS A BAG. He stood in the little park in front of the Baptist Church in downtown Framingham. At the railroad station one could buy small glass locomotives filled with colored candies – if your parents would let you.
Kendall Hotel at sunset, 1907
There seem to have been more private parties from dancing school on. The Kendall Hotel downtown was available, also the Village Hall, and the Country Club if one’s home was not large enough to accommodate the guests and small orchestra. No matter where the parties were held, they were well chaperoned and each couple had to bow and curtsey to the people in the receiving line.
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