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  • Growing Up In Wayland

    Local Historian: Phil Hastings

    Being a kid in Wayland during the 1950's, was a lot different than it is today. The world was simpler then and childhood was just plain different. Teens didn't drive around in their Mercedes, carry cell phones or have TVs in their rooms. They also didn't spend their school vacations visiting colleges and worrying about grade point averages and SAT scores. After talking with people who had experienced their childhood in the 1950's, we now have a better understanding of what life was really like as a kid in Wayland during that time.

    First of all, Wayland was a lot smaller in the 1950's than it is now. The current junior class (2006) has over 200 kids enrolled, while back then a graduating class consisted of fewer than 50 kids. During the 50's, kids went from kindergarten to 8th grade at the Center School, which was located near the center of town by the Congregational Church. The Wayland and Cochituate kids also went to different schools. The Cochituate kids went to an elementary school across the street from the Cochituate Ball Field. After going to separate elementary schools, the kids went to the same high school at the current town building (called the 1935 high school). The current high school wasn't built where it presently stands until 1960.

    As far as the curriculum stands, kids were taught the basic subjects: Math, English, History, etc. However, they were not necessarily taught in the same fashion. In elementary school, kids remained in one classroom all day similar to how it is run today. After the 1960 high school opened, classes ranged in sizes from over 100 students ("large group") to 30 students ("medium group") and some to 15 students ("small group"). Students were also given many different course choices that we don't have today. Some courses that kids were given were wood shop and home economics. These classes were given because they taught skills that were important to learn back then. Kids needed to learn how to build and fix things and how to cook and clean. The school felt it was important to teach students skills that would prepare them for life in the household. Nowadays, Wayland High students are taught the skills that they need to succeed in college and for the future when they are supposed to find a job. The jobs that exist in the business world now are quite different than the farming, engineering and construction type jobs that mainly existed in the 1950's.

    Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the high school was athletics. Sports were a way of life, even at the earliest stages of childhood. Young kids played different sports when they were barely old enough to kick a ball and swing a bat. As the kids grew older, the more competitive the sports got. During all the pick up games, teams were often decided by what side of town you were on. The kids from Cochituate played the kids from Wayland. Rumor was that if you were from Wayland, you were "superior" to those in Cochituate because you had a bigger house, better toys, and were more intelligent. However, from what we've heard, the Cochituate kids always got the best of the Wayland kids when it came to sports. At the high school level, Wayland had three sports that boys participated in: football, basketball and baseball.

    Girls' options included filed hockey, basketball, and softball. Since there were so few sports to play, the best athletes were all on one team, so many kids were excluded. This was not like today because now we have a wide variety of sports that are offered at the high school. Today, the athletes are all scattered among football, soccer, track, etc. in just the Fall season. Back then, all the athletes played the same sport, because that was their only choice. So basically, each team was always made up of the same top athletes performing all the time. Although this excluded many children from making the team, it made Wayland develop a more competitive athletic program to compete with other towns. Back then, sports were a lot more focused on winning rather than participation. The coaches were much more strict and serious about winning. As a result, Wayland brought home several State Championships during the 40's-60's.

    Another big difference about being a kid in the 50's was that crime didn't exist nearly as much as it does today. Not saying that Wayland has a crime problem or anything, but you just didn't hear about it like you do today. People were never worried about locking their doors because theft was never a problem. Also, kids never got in trouble with the law. During those times, there was only one policeman chief and he took care of the kids without any legal action needed to be carried out. If kids were ever found causing problems around town, the police chief brought the kids home and the incidents were solved within the households of the children. Says long-time resident Catherine Regan (class of 1956):

    "When youthful problems were acted out in public, our one and only police man would be on the job. The police chief would read the riot act to the frightened child and haul him back home to his parents to explain what their child had done. He would stay there until he knew the parents and the child knew the entiresituation. He was in charge and the parents who loved their kids

    backed him up. Shame and punishment stayed inside the home and in the heart and mind of the police chief. The parents made very sure to be responsible and to show their child the consequences of their errant behavior. Kids just don't think it through when they do not have personal experiences to glean from. There were no newspaper reporters or TV cameras bringing more problems to a youthful problem. There were no gossipy letters written to the editor of the local newspapers adding more shame to the youths. We were trained to respect that police chief and we did. More important, he respected himself."

    When kids werent getting into trouble, they were having fun in good old Wayland. Wayland was a safe place and no one ever worried about their kids. Kids would leave their houses early in the morning to go play baseball and hang out with their friends. Swimming and fishing were other popular activities for the kids in the summer.

    Marilyn Dusseault Perrin, class of 1956 remembers her youth pretty clearly:

    We had so many fun things to do back when I was a child. When we were old enough our parents gave us permission to go to the Mansion Inn part of Dudley Pond to swim. Our older brothers were in charge and no one bothered us.

    Our home was where the Finnerty's Restaurant is today. Just across from the Cochituate Fire Station. We had the fun of hitching rides from those who had cars. Our brothers taught us how to stick our thumb out and stand by the edge of the road until a driver stopped. Our parents were well known and we were safe with those who knew them. We were not allowed to take a ride from a stranger. Today hitching or thumbing rides is extremely unsafe. Today we are concerned to allow our kids and grandkids outside without being with them.

    We stopped to have a snack at our cousins' home on the way back to our home. Our aunt made sure she gave us a snack and a glass of clean water from the tap. Today we are cautioned about the potential bacteria in our town water. A neighbor mother who cut up carrots for us kids made sure we had a healthy snack for an afternoon treat. I also remember that our mother carried one towel to the beach when she walked us to the beaches. It was wonderful back then.

    Catherine Regan recalls the good old days at the local swimming holes:

    When we told our mother how cold we were from playing in the water for hours on end, she would explain that we could run around in the warm sunshine to warm up. She kept a towel for the little kids to wrap in following paddling by the shore. She spread the wet towel out on a nearby bush to dry it for the next child. We had our dry shirts to put on in case the warm sunshine did not do the trick fast enough to suit us.

    "We sought permission from her to explore the shore as we had to stay out of the water for a half hour following ingesting our lunch. Rumor had it that if we ate any food and then went into the water within the designated time, we ran the risk of sudden cramps and/or death. This was for simply walking into the water. This myth served as a good time for our mother to relax.

    "We tried to catch fish with our hands. This was also a time to find wildflowers to pick for our home. Lady Slippers, we were told, were not to be touched or picked. This holds true today.

    "Lying on the warm sand or on the grass to watch how the overhead clouds changed into all kinds of shapes kept our minds meditative as our bodies recovered. We wore white t-shirts to protect our skin from the burning rays. We did not have sunscreen. Cold vinegar or baking soda baths were treatments for sun burns.

    "Our mother did have a clean blanket spread for us to shiver on as well as to rest. She encouraged us to sit in the shade when we were on land to ward off sun rays. Most families just threw a blanket on the ground secured the ends with shoes or rocks and enjoyed the freedom of our lake. Every so often, we had to pick up the blanket and shake it clean from the sand. We all made sure that we did not shake the sand on our neighbors."

    It was never hard to find other kids to play with because they were always around, and not many people ever went on family vacations. Kids biked around town until dinner time when it was time to come home. They always found something to do around town, whether it was watering flowers at the local cemetery, sweeping up hair at the beauty parlor,

    or even helping out the farmers by gathering up the fresh eggs in exchange for a warm batch of cookies with a cool glass of milk. Life as a kid in Wayland was so relaxing and full of fun. Kids never had to go to college planning workshops and never heard the words, "That isn't gonna help you get into a good college," when they brought home a bad grade. Kids went to school, did their homework and had non-stop fun. Thats all there was to it!

    Catherine Regan remembers:

    "I was thinking about the emotional rumble caused by the war, throughout our small town.

    People did not talk about their problems outside the home back then. There was not the spoken communication for bearing one another's burdens. People helped out when they saw that their neighbor needed support. They moved quietly behind the scenes so there was no embarrassment on the part of the recipient.

    People ran up bills at the grocery store. They did not have sufficient funds to pay for their families basic food needs. The oil man made sure to keep his neighbors warm with filled oil tanks. It may have taken all summer to pay off the winter fuel bill and the bill was paid in full just before the next winter set in. The 'government' needed money to murder. People helped each other in their own quiet way. When we found out what was going on in the war, we could have left all revenge to God. However, we did not have that knowledge.

    Too many families hung buntings on their front doors showing how there was a death in that family due to the war. Either a black bunting or the American Flag designed as a bunting was draped to show their grief. Inside the homes were pictures of the fallen heroes set aside. Some soldiers returned 'shell shocked' and never returned in mind or spirit to their family or community. Those soldiers remained silent behind the bunted doors. A family memorial inside the home and we also had a memorial on Main Street. This was on the lawn where the present Cochituate Fire Station is. I think that was titled, "The Roll Call." Anyone can write and correct my memories. Thanks. We tried to find the old roll call memorial and were told that is was destroyed.

    We had a small town booklet published, titled, "The Jeep." We could get this booklet at Reed Gerald's Newspaper Store on Main Street. Updates of the war were published as well as pictures of the service men and women. John Bryant could help you out with these memories.

    Too many people walked around as if they too were dead. Part of them was destroyed because they lost a dear one. They did not recover.

    The talk around town was focused on the end of the war. I was born in 1938 and my early childhood was developed in the small town of Cochituate.

    When I was a child in this town we did not fear our neighbors. We did not have a drug problem. We did not lock the doors of our homes. We did not lock our cars or trucks. We did not worry that someone may enter when we were not home. Someone was home. When we went to another's home, we stood outside until invited in. We sat down as a family for our meals. We did not know the many sorrows or trials that people had back then.

    We used to burn our own trash in the front yard or in homemade trash cans. Usually these were discarded large oil containers. We did not have to have a permit for a fire.

    One of my brothers and I would take the trash and make a small pile on the front yard. We had to burn the household trash every night. Burning trash was a household chore. We made a game of it and had a nightly ritual. As children we did not realize that we were processing our fear and trying to control our environment. We would put a card board box over the trash and called the box Hitler's house. Then, we struck a match to the 'house of evil.' We had childhood control over our fears that were expressed by adults. Every night we processed the fear of Hitler. Kids were allowed to play guns and soldier to act out their fears.

    This brother grew to become a volunteer and then full time fireman for our entire town. He saved lives and houses. He served in The National Guard and also helped out in the family business at home.

    Some of our older generation neighbor friends would deliberately make fires in our small town. One of their favorites sites was behind our house in the swamp. They would set a fire, wait for the smoke to grow and then race down the road and through the field to sound the fire alarm for all the volunteer firemen to put it out. No one questioned their youthful integrity. These young boys were self trained and later as young adults become serious firemen in our town and they too saved lives and houses. The boys in their family served our country during the war. These days, there are controlled fires when fire persons are in training.

    In our small town, we prided ourselves on how resourceful we are. Boys designed their own bikes and built them. Later, they built their own cars from hanging out together and putting their minds together.

    When youthful problems were acted out in public, our one and only police man would be on the job. The police chief would read the riot act to the frightened child and haul him back home to his parents to explain what their child had done. He would stay there until he knew the parents and the child knew the entiresituation. He was in charge and the parents who loved their kids backed him up. Shame and punishment stayed inside the home and in the heart and mind of the police chief. The parents made very sure to be responsible and to show their child the consequences of their errant behavior. Kids just don't think it through when they do not have personal experiences to glean from. There were no newspaper reporters or TV cameras bringing more problems to a youthful problem. There were no gossipy letters written to the editor of the local newspapers adding more shame to the youths. We were trained to respect that police chief and we did. More important, he respected himself.

    Mark Twain said that when we have one boy, we have one boy. When we have 2 boys we have 1/2 boy and when we have 3 boys, we have no boys at all. Think about that. He know what he was talking about because he was one. Incidentally, Mark Twain had one daughter.

    I noticed how some people who came to the front door on Halloween night were very sad. We knocked on every door, including the strangers'. Today we realize how they were stuck in their own depression. More of these people are the ones who had the buntings displaying their pain and sorrow. I did not know their names, however, I saw their pain.

    There was a small shack in a field out behind where the present Cochituate Dunkin Donuts is located. We called it, 'the rummy shack.' When the rummies were at their jobs during the day, we little children would gather our courage to check out their hide-out.

    Strewn about the pigsty of the local older boys was a filthy old mattress, lots of empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts and stuff that had been eliminated from their passed out conditions. (Hmmmm, this reminds me of a college dorm I visited.) I did not ever hear any body talk about these guys, who were hiding their pain in a bottle, creating problems for anyone except their own

    self. They were not feared.

    One night there was a mysterious fire set upon that dwelling and that was the end of that eyesore. The shack went out in a blaze of glory. The firemen and neighbors stood around smiling and chatting. It was set by a person who wants to remain anonymous and so he shall. Only 'The Shadow' knows he did it.

    I think some of us little children only checked it out twice and when there was no change, we moved on to explore another part of our town.

    We would go to the local cemeteries and water the flowers. We hauled the water to the graves with an old container found on the ground. We watered until we were bored. We also would pick wildflowers along the way to the burial site and put them near the grave stones. We did not have any family or friends buried in those cemeteries back then. We had no fear of a drug dealer lurking in the woods back then, either. We would also kneel down to say a few prayers for these folks as we saw our parents do. Again, not knowing how we were processing our fear of the unknown as we played our childhood games.

    Satisfied with our self training in how to keep the flowers alive, we were off to the local merchants' stores to ask if we could help by washing dishes or sweeping up the hair from the floor of the beauty parlor.

    We had our own chores at home and when we finished those, we set off to have childhood play. We would wander up the road to the local farm where we were allowed to help gather the fresh eggs laid that morning. The farmer taught us how to candle the eggs. Strangely, the smell of the mixture of manure, warm hay and milk remains a wonderful fragrance for me. More often we were invited into the home by the farmer's wife or adult daughter for cookies and milk. They showed us their son's life by way of the scrapbook they had and the picture set aside in his memory.

    We also had a snob problem in this town. The adults had the notion that people on the North side of town had a problem with being superior to those in the South side of the same town. I doubt we'd ever be able to trace the human origin of this problem, or care to. Fear moves people to gossip.

    Some teachers kept this negativity flowing as we grew up in this town. No one could stop the nonsense. It rambled through our town. The blue collars were red, white, or blue, depending on who yelled louder.

    Our high school Drivers' Ed teacher told me several times how the Wayland kids were smarter and the Cochituate kids were inferior. This was in the privacy of the car we used for our drivers education. Well, that guy had a lot to learn. God rest his soul. He told me how I would not get my license and I got it! He said just before I got in the car with the Registry Officer, to turn around and call him a monkey's uncle if I got my license. When I was handed my temporary license by the officer, the teacher said, "Aren't you supposed to call me a monkey's uncle?" I said, "What for?" I did not allow that insecure guy to interfere with my goal.

    Kids met at junior high school. The Wayland end met the Cochituate end and that ended the stupidity of who is smarter or who has more material things, or who has to kiss up to the teacher for a license.

    Several years ago, during the course of a conversation with a newcomer to town, I heard that person tell me how the real estate agent told her how the houses on the Wayland side of town are superior to the houses in the Cochituate end of town. She was told how the Cochituate house she was looking at was less expensive than any house in Wayland would be with similar conditions.

    We were standing on the soil of the Wayland side of town during this conversation and I did not tell her how I am a native of the other side. I just listened, and when she was through, I asked her if she saved any money by buying in Cochituate. I asked her to question her tax bill. It was then, that she realized that she was caught up in the emotional game that greedy people play.

    History was repeating itself for the glory of the dollar. Oh hum. History is repeated by people who are not concerned about the glory of knowledge.

    During the early Wayland Strawberry Festival era, the Wayland girls had an edge. Finally it took the brains of the guys who owned a food store in town to decide they had some control. They asked their customers to consider someone from Cochituate. One of my sisters was Queen that year."

    More memories from Catherine Regan:

    "Our family grew to become 16 kids with one set of parents here in Cochituate. Our daily summer vacation was heading out to Lake Cochituatewith our mother. Rain or shine we walked down Willard Street, across Main Street, onto Shawmut Avenue across Pemberton Road to Shawmut Avenue, Extension to our town lake. This took all of 5 minutes.

    I loved to watch how the raindrops would grow in circles on the lake. We enjoyed sun showers as part of our swim experience. We would be able to see rainbows over the lake following a rain shower as we did the back float.

    On a hot summer day, our mother would rise to shine to draw the shades to keep the imposing heat of the sun out. She would hose down the outside of our house to cool it off. This made our home air conditioned in the natural. After she cleaned the house, and hung several loads of wash out on the clotheslines to dry, we were off to the lake.

    She would have at least 3 babies in the old battered carriage. The new baby always had the prime space. Next would be 2 seated toddlers hugging one another. They were propped in the front of the pram. The next group would hang onto the sides of the handle.

    We had to obey. We walked across the roads. There was very little traffic back then. The drivers stopped well before they reached us walkers. Today, a few thoughtless unknown drivers make a sport of trying to run us over before we reach the opposite side.

    Our family dog had an issue with one of the dogs on Shawmut Ave. Ext. They would growl and/or fight. Our dog jumped the high live fence and away they would go. A live fence back then meant a fence of live growing bushes. We did not have a leash law or the sense to keep our dog tightly secure in the house. We did leave him at home. Who let the dog out? Unfortunately our dog ran out of the house behind the person who was home. The person at home forgot that the dog was not supposed to be outside. Mike would run down to the lake. He knew where we were. Dogs were free to be outside and to roam around the town. Today it's a safer environment for them.

    Our families remain friends. We were also allowed to pick apples from their tree in the backyard. We had to pick the apples from the ground or the ones from the lowest branches. This snack came in handy and gave us some energy, for the two minutes left until we reached home.

    Later in our young lives new friends moved on our road. They had their vacations in Framingham with their cherished grandmother. When we learned that they left their home and went all the way to Framingham for a vacation that sure was peculiar to us. We did not have any point of reference except for our lake. We were a small town with small town experiences when I was a very young girl.

    There were no lifeguards who were trained by the Red Cross watching over the swimmers on Lake Cochituate.

    One woman's son became a celebrated hero in our town. He swam the English Channel. This was a great cause to be proud of our hometown boy. This young man had a handicap on land. In the water he was an expert with a gift of strength. He also raked the beach every morning and every evening. You could see how much pride he had by the way he kept the rake markings in order. This was a personal situation for him. He did not try to impose his plan on others. He picked up the strewn papers that were missed by the families. He focused on his volunteer work. He did not complain. Today he could be a millionaire if he boxed some sand, put a tiny rake in the box and called it LakeZen. God rest his soul.

    We were told to pick up after ourselves. We did. When we were hungry, our mother told us to eat blueberries. There was no snack stand on the beach front property. There were wild blueberries on the hillside. Today there is a fence blocking off that hill. Our mother packed a huge lunch for us and when we finished gobbling that, we picked berries for dessert. There was a water bubbler for our source of fluids.

    When there was not enough rainfall to clean the lake up naturally, our family doctor would telephone our mother to advise her not to allow us to swim in the water. Too many earaches would have to be treated by him. This was cause for checking the water for bacteria.

    When we told our mother how cold we were from playing in the water for hours on end, she would explain that we could run around in the warm sunshine to warm up. She kept a towel for the little kids to wrap in following paddling by the shore. She spread the wet towel out on a nearby bush to dry it for the next child. We had our dry shirts to put on in case the warm sunshine did not do the trick fast enough to suit us.

    We sought permission from her to explore the shore as we had to stay out of the water for a half hour following ingesting our lunch. Rumor had it that if we ate any food and then went into the water within the designated time, we ran the risk of sudden cramps and/or death. This was for simply walking into the water. This myth served as a good time for our mother to relax.

    We tried to catch fish with our hands. This was also a time to find wildflowers to pick for our home. Lady Slippers, we were told, were not to be touched or picked. This holds true today.

    Lying on the warm sand or on the grass to watch how the overhead clouds changed into all kinds of shapes kept our minds meditative as our bodies recovered. We wore white t-shirts to protect our skin from the burning rays. We did not have sunscreen. Cold vinegar or baking soda baths were treatments for sun burns.

    Our mother did have a clean blanket spread for us to shiver on as well as to rest. She encouraged us to sit in the shade when we were on land to ward off sun rays. Most families just threw a blanket on the ground secured the ends with shoes or rocks and enjoyed the freedom of our lake. Every so often, we had to pick up the blanket and shake it clean from the sand. We all made sure that we did not shake the sand on our neighbors.

    The mother of the famed channel swimmer taught us how to swim. As she told us how to do the side stroke, she said we could lie on our side, and with the rhythm of our legs and feet coordinated with our arms, pretend to have a bouquet of flowers at our chest level; and then throw one flower over a shoulder and one flower down to our side. When I used these words to teach my own kids, they roared with laughter at the bouquet image.

    Now it's time for my youngest grandchild to learn how to swim. I am going to tell him about this loving woman who encouraged her child to swim the English Channel and how to pluck flowers from an imaginary bouquet.

    One game we played with our siblings and friends was to have each person get a partner. One was on the shoulders of a swimmer and the swimmer held onto their legs to secure them. The object of the game was to see who knocked off the most people for a splashdown. When we were knocked off, we then swam under the water to try to knock the remaining players off balance. We had rules to play by and made up more, and as many as we deemed necessary, to win the battle. We played at who could hold their breath longer under water. We played tea party by holding our noses and pushing our hands upward to settle on the bottom of the lake. Then we proceeded to pretend to pour and serve tea. We tried to send codes to one another by trying to talk under water. We would try to send a message in code and then pop out of the water to find out if our partner understood what we were trying to say. "Did you hear what I said?" Back down under water until we could make out what our play partner was saying.

    We also played a game of holding the older neighborhood bully under water until he said, "Uncle." Bullies are created in the home. This had to be a one-on-one situation. A person had to be quick to accomplish this task so the adults were not aware of the due punishment being served, in the name of childhood play. If a parent(s) of a young bully tried to deny their child's behavior, then a young victim took the situation into their own hands. Time was not wasted seeking a town wide committee to serve. Sometimes a child was too young to stand up to a bully or the bully's parents. That is when another child was hauled in as a private protection agent. A bully's behavior was stopped and he or she remained in the circle of friends.

    A small town is a good place for kids to learn how to grow together. And, don't let anyone outside of our town try to bully our bully, or else! He was our friend.

    There was no diving board or dock when we were little kids. We jumped off the shoulders of the older kids. They served as our diving board. Or we would simply be picked up and pushed above the water. We had our hands clasped in diving formation. Our siblings taught us how to dive. We were energized by our shivering.

    The lucky kids at the Mansion Inn beach had a rope swing to use for diving. It was looped over a strong branch on a tree on the shore of Dudley Pond. Back to the water on the shores of Lake Cochituate. Neighbor parents watched over all the kids. Unofficial lifeguards. The burden of childcare was shared in our community. I do not recall any drowning during the time we had parents in charge at the lake where we swam daily.

    This was when we were in elementary school. Our mother was our guardian angel at the lake. However, we did not know that she stood on the bank with a fear in her heart. She had a very scary situation when she was swimming in the ocean. She almost drowned when a man reached down and pulled her to safety. She did not ever pass that trauma onto us children. We learned about this near drowning as adult children.

    At the end of every day, we would have to either walk back home in our bare feet, or our mother would have us clear the sand off our feet in the water. She would towel off our feet for our shoes. First, one foot was cleaned in the lake, and then dried and shoed. The other foot had to be held up in the air over the water for our mother to clean, dry and shoe. It was a daily balancing act. The babies were easier. We just plop them into the water, held them up to be dried and put them in the carriage for their ride home. Ma Regan was the keeper of the one towel used at the lake.

    There were many times when she would have a bar of Ivory soap for us to wash in the then very clean water of Lake Cochituate. We would have an evening shampoo and body wash. 100% Pure Ivory soap floated. We would pass that soap around from child to child.

    We walked back to our home. Sometimes there was a new covering of hot oil on the road to keep the dirt and dust from blowing around. This was searing hot on our bare feet. The black oil absorbed the heat from the sun. Our mother cautioned us that we had to take responsibility for this before we left our home.

    Most families allowed their kids to be barefoot all summer in Cochituate. Back then we were allowed to go into the local stores without fear of being thrown out for having bare feet. Today we have more sanitary conditions.

    Sometimes she would walk us to the Mansion Inn and be with our friends from that end of our town. Or we would walk to Mathews Drive to swim in that cove. It was always cooler on the Mathews Drive part of Dudley Pond because the trees were right on the shore.

    One family of our cousins from Connecticut would spend their 2 week summer vacation with us. How we loved to have their mother with us. She did all our chores for us. Their vacation was our vacation. We country bumpkins enjoyed playing tricks on our city slicker cousins. We loved those good ole summer days. It did not occur to us that our cousins and new neighbors shared the same experience of being with family for vacation time. We were morein a state of being together.

    Back home our mother would start our supper from scratch. From scratch means that she would prepare a whole food nutritious meal for us. We would first snack with a sandwich. This is known as an appetizer today.

    Our family had a bread truck delivery at least 3 times a week. We took a football size and shaped loaf of bread, and broke it in half. We pulled out the soft center and poured olive oil inside. We cut up garden fresh tomatoes, onion and cucumbers for the filling. Sprinkled on some salt, pepper, hot pepper and fresh grated cheese. The center was squashed down onto the vegetables until the oil was oozing out into the filling. This served to hold us over until our family supper. A couple of the neighbor kids would stop to enjoy this treat with us on their way to their homes. Our supper was served each night at 6:00 on the dot.

    One of these neighborhood boys would stand on the threshold of our kitchen door. When one of our parents would ask him if he would like to have supper with us, he always replied, "I don't know." Our parent would tell him, "I don't know means yes. Have a seat." God rest his soul too. No one was overweight in our family back then.

    We had to be home by the time the 6:00 o'clock Cochituate Fire Station whistle blew. We also had our own family bell that we ceremoniously rang at 6 PM. 'Ollie, Ollie in free!' We had to be on time or else! We came running from all directions; the Hannah Williams Playground, Cochituate ball field, neighbors' yards or the granny swamp behind our home."

    Mr. Joe Porrel grew up in Wayland and remembers life as a kid in simpler times:

    I'm here to ask you some questions bout life in the 50's. Lets start off with you early childhood. When was your first form of formal schooling in your life?

    Now you talking bout Wayland? In my life? I started in Worcester, and obviously we had kindergarten.

    You lived in Worcester?

    I moved to Wayland when the tornado of 1953 blew us out of our home into Wayland. I lived in Wayland since 1953.

    What grade did you move to Wayland?

    I was 8 years old, so what was it, third grade. I had double sessions at Cochituate school.

    What do you mean double sessions?

    They were building a new school at that time, so we went to school from 1 to 5. And the other kids from the other part of town went to school in the.....


    Yea, cochituate and north. They north went from 8-12.

    Then when Happy Hollow was built, I went there.

    So when was Happy Hollow built?

    I think, 1954.

    So you did the double sessions one year? Did they give you lunch at that school?

    Yea we had lunch, o no not when we had double sessions. When we went to Happy Hollow we had lunch.

    Did they have recess or anything?

    Ah yea, that was a good time in those days.

    What did you guys do?

    We always had a teacher that was pretty cool. We played football, he'd throw you the football. Throw frisbees.

    The teachers ran the games?

    A lot of times, the teachers came and showed you how to have a good time. We also played on our own too. Sometimes the teacher would come out, you usually liked the the guy.

    What kind of subjects did you learn in school, in the early years?

    I don't remember.

    You don't remember the school?

    I have no clue. The only thing I can remember is I took something called like phonetics at the Happy Hollow school. It was some sort of speech class.

    Was it only for certain kids?

    Well I don't know, all I know was that it helped me a lot with spelling.

    I don't know if they thought I had trouble spelling, I mean I was always an excellent speller.

    It helped me out a lot because I could pronounce words better and I could just spell a lot better than most of the kids. You know the regular subjects we had too. Math, English...?

    We were in one room all day. Same teacher, you know what I mean. Yea so grades 1-6 were like that.

    When was the first time you played organized sports with the school?

    Let's see ah, organized sports....freshman year.

    What sports did you play?

    Baseball and basketball.

    What about wrestling? I know you were a big wrestler.

    Not in highschool.

    How big is the difference between high school when you were a kid and highschool now?

    Well I'd say there was, well we didn't have many kids. We had like 84 kids in our class. How many do you have?

    Like almost 200.

    We were smaller then.

    So you were pretty close with everyone?

    Well you know, we were similar to the way you guys are today. The drama group would hang out together. Kids in sports would hang out together.

    Oh, so you would hang out with sports guys?


    What was the schedule like?

    In high school, when I was in Wayland, we were unique, cause this was a brand new school. So we had medium groups, three times a week, which was like 25 kids in a class. We also had a small group, 12 kids in a class. And then they had the large group rooms, with like 100 kids in a class we had those once a week. All of them were different classes, we had like 4 or 5 classes. You know, the way the school was designed each area had a reference center, like Mr.........Dehoratious. His room used to be a reference center. And kids would go in there and you could study. Was it like that when you were a freshman?


    Well, you had the reference centers, the small group rooms, the medium group rooms and the large group rooms. The large group rooms helped me out when I went to college, because we went to lecture halls, over 200 kids or whatever, when I went to Springfield for college. It helped me learn to take notes and do certain things, I thought it prepared me well. We took the same basic courses, I took four years of Latin, 2 years of french. You know, math classes. We didn't have language in junior high. We took history and all that stuff.

    Did they have extracurriculars, like clubs?

    No, we didn't have any clubs.

    You didn't have any, so you pretty much just had sports and that was it.

    Well they had the drama club, things like that. It wasn't even really a club, you didn't have a teacher, they had student teachers come in from Boston University. They'd do plays, like I did a play called South Pacific when I was a freshman. I was a small guy, so they recruited me. You see the girls were pretty good looking, so I didn't mind going to these things.

    What was your role in the play?

    I was the island boy and I sang a song called Dee Tam Wa, it was a french song. I had to sing in french, so it was good. I got a good perspective from those kids, cause even in those days, They'd say oh the dramis, they're different from the athletes, but I was always impressed by the talent they had and how they could remember all their lines. So it was an interesting experience for me.

    What would the kids do on the weekends outside of school?

    Well, you know me and a couple buddies of mine, all we used to do was play baseball. Growing up, little league was the big thing, used to have a uniform league, our guys down in Cochituate area. In those days it was called WayCo. They had some teams from Wayland, they had some teams from Cochituate. You know, us Cochituate guys would always beat the Wayland guys. That's all we did every day, we'd go swimming, we'd go fishing in the summers, and then we would go play little league at night. And if we were good enough, we'd pick 12 guys and we'd play against other towns. We'd play under the lights at Cochituate park. You see I used to have a good curve ball and They'd all say, look at you, you little midget. They called me names cause I was so small. And when they got up I'd strike em all out, because I had a helluva curve, when I was a little kid. And there was no passed balls, you know what I mean.

    Wait, so when did little league start?

    I don't know, age 10.

    There wasn't a public beach at Cochituate Lake, right? You'd just go down on your own?

    Yea, we never went to the beach, all the kids on my area, we went down to Dudley Pond. We had a nice little area, we had a tree, tied a rope to it, do flips into the water. It was big, I mean the pond was big in our day. A lotta kids lived on the pond, so we'd go down to their house and go fishing at night, you know cook a fire and have marshmallows. Very laid back, Wayland was much different than it is now. There weren't many houses, it was all trees all woods, in those days. There were a lot of farms, even this school used to be a farm. Its so much different now, there is so many more people. We used just have small groups of guys, and then we had the girls and you'd fool around, throw em in the water. We had a great time.

    What about siblings, did you have any?

    I had four brothers and a sister.

    Older or younger?

    2 older brothers, 2 younger brothers, and 1 younger sister. We did a lotta family stuff.

    How about fighting? Did you get in fights with your brothers?

    I used to tease my older brothers and then run off and hide from em. Anyways, the big thing we liked about Wayland, we came from the city, Worcester. When we came here it was awesome, we had the baseball teams, we had the water, go swimming every day, you go fishing I loved to go fishing. O yea, here's a story, my cousins lived in Brighton. I used to ride my bike from here into Boston when I was 11 years old.

    Here to Boston?!

    Yea. My mother had 6 kids and my mothers twin sister had 7 kids. So we had a lotta fun, you know what I mean. One time I almost gave my mother a stroke, when I called her and I said, hey ma, im over at Aunt Alice's! But it wasn't as bad as today, you wouldn't ride a bike with all the traffic we have today. Today world is so much different, even the highschool, its so fast paced. All the computers and all the things you guys have to know. The knowledge you have to gain so quickly. The world was much more laid back, much more easy going. You only had 3 teams, basketball, baseball, football.

    Yea they really are trying to expand things now.

    Yea well there's more kids now, so they are trying to make more activities for kids. But yea, the pond was a big thing. We used to have what they called the Mansion Inn. A big restaurant, I don't know if you know of it.

    Yea some of the kids from my class are doing the mansion inn for part of their project.

    They had a beautiful grass field up there, we'd cut the grass so the deep grass was a barrier, so the deep grass was a home run, and they let us play ball up there all the time.

    So where was that?

    It was on West Plain Street, up on this hill, now there are all these houses, but it was up about 25 feet and there was a beautiful field, beautiful mansion, a tower. They had a little 3 foot lip on the tower, kids used to ride bikes on it, we used to do stupid things.


    But there used to be so much woods, I mean my friend had a house in the woods, on Old Connecticut Path, had a farm. We used to play all sorts of games in there, shoot ourselves with BB guns.

    Don't BB guns hurt?

    We'd buy plastic jackets. And well, you wouldn't aim for the head. But you could hear it hit the jacket you know, BOOM! Crazy tho, these things I wouldn't even advise these days. We used to camp out there all the time. Sleep out at night in the summer time. Good times.

    What kind of music was big back then?

    In high school, I wasn't a big music guy. I don't know, I think some guy in a band went to Wayland, like I forget the name?


    You maybe. I liked Pink Floyd I guess, but I wasn't really into music, I was a big sports guy. Lived at Cochituate field, never went to Cochituate Lake, it was always dead. Dudley pond always had the fish.

    So tell me more about sports.

    Well actually senior year, we had a great basketball team, I didn't even make the team until my senior year. We lost our first 4 outta 5 games so our coach started me. After that we won the next 12 outta 13. Those days you had to win 66% of your games to make the playoffs. Yea so we played in the garden. That was a great experience, I mean I was the smallest guy on the court. Headlines in the globe, unfortunately we lost by 5 points in the semi finals, it was exciting.

    Who'd you play?


    Was it a close game?

    It was fairly close, they had one guy that was 6'8". That was pretty big in those days, we had three guys that were 6'5", which is pretty good.

    How tall were you?

    I was only 5'3". This kid held the ball against the backboard and that psyched our big guys right out. We had two Native American brothers on our team, they lived on the corner of school street. One kid was a great artist, he was the first person to draw the warrior logo. His name was Don Wittus. He was the captain of my team too. It was so funny because he was 6'5" and he had these big hands and I used to block his shot from behind. I was so small, he'd be like How'd you do that? He was funny, you know how kids are at highschool. We also had this assistant principal named Frazier and we nicknamed him bear tracks, because he always be tracking kids down. So this kid, took a stencil and drew bear tracks all over the school, and you knew it was him, because he was the artist. You know when I was younger everything was much more laid back. Today, pace of life is so much quicker. Parents are so much more involved, getting you everywhere so you can go to college trying to get scholarships. I mean back in those days, everyone went to college, and we had good teachers, but there wasn't all this pressure that there is today. I don't know I just think it was much more enjoyable. Every year we had a fundraiser for Boosters, we'd sell stuff and collect money, so that was also big. Now, everyone just gives it.

    Yea you don't really need to ask.

    O yea, about the teachers again, my freshman baseball coach, he was the head football coach at Bedford, I forget his name, but now he has dulcimers I think or Lou Gehrig disease or something, yea he's in really bad shape. He was the math teacher at the Wayland High School and he was my freshman coach. Then again, everything was so much different, so much more relaxed. I used to watch him play, he played for a semi pro team, and I remember one day I ran all the way over to Needham.

    You ran all the way to Needham?!

    Yea I was a freshman. Yea he played for the Framingham Collegiates, and yea I'll never forget it, so I called my mother and said, Ma, you gotta help me out! You know, I got a cab back, I mean I was dying.

    Did you guys walk and run everywhere you went?

    Yea, we never had cars. None of the kids drove to school or anything.

    So you didn't have these big parking lots out here?

    Oh no, no parking lots. But yea, we took the bus. O the old high school field house, good story, it used to be all dirt in here, because football was the big thing in those days. So they put the dome up, they had nothing in here, no stands, just dirt. So when it rained outside, the football team came inside to practice. And they had the court, they put it up for basketball season and take it down for football season. When we had gym, we'd drag out the nets, volleyball nets, and your hands would be all dirty. It was disgusting, we'd be coughing. But yea, this court was here since 1960. So it's almost 45 years old, but it was unbelievable, Mr. Bowhers, the athletic director finally had it resurfaced. It had that first resurfaced, man that was cool, it was soft, it wasn't as hard as it is now. Then they put on the new track.

    Didn't they just recently resurface the court?

    No, they just repainted the lines. But yea, we used to play basketball in the wrestling room. That's where we used to practice. It was awful.

    Oh, I think I played there once, when I was like elementary school.

    The walls were right there, you couldn't shoot, it was terrible. Again, there weren't that many teams. No soccer, no track, not that many sports. But you know the curriculum, we didn't have AP classes. For example, advanced placement and all that jazz. So you had your college bound kids and your regular.

    You guys had shop and stuff, didn't you?

    We had engineering, drawing, all that stuff. I'll tell you, today, I wish I knew stuff about shop. But, anyways, we had a good program, those labs are the same as when I was there.

    What was the cafeteria like at school?

    Yea, they had lunches, good lunches, shepherds pie, meat, potatoes, and they had American Chop Suey. They have nothing now, this stuff is awful. I mean they got salads I guess. But, you know the atmosphere was so much different, we had a lot of freedom, got to walk around building to building like you guys do, but you guys don't think it's a big deal but in junior high you cant go anywhere. When you got to here, you travel.

    Was middle school the same place as it is now?

    For my first two years, the middle school was the town building. Yea I also taught junior year there later. But when I went to school there it was grades 6-12. But I only went there one year. My class was the first freshman class at the present high school. So yea, I took grades 6-8 at the town building and then started freshman at the highschool. But you know, as I say, things were a lot different then, teaching wise, I mean today, you got so much pressure, teachers don't even go to lunch, you guys are always going for extra help. I mean, before it was still high powered but the pace of life is so much faster now. It was just a nice excellent town to be in. I thought it was a very good town, it had everything, it had water, it had athletics, you had all these activities like at the town building. I mean down at Cochituate field they had these girls that played fast pitch softball, they were the Cochituate Corvette, they were unbelievable, these kids. I mean 16-17 year olds, fast pitch, whew! But, there was always something going down at Cochituate.

    What about besides the fields, what about the stores, did they have those?

    Yea, they had a drug store, that's bout it.

    What did you get there?

    Yea, well we got the frappes, the milkshakes, chocolate ice cream. It was a neat little place, we also had the church. But you know, we never really had any of this battle between north and south. I hear that when I'm teaching. But we always used to joke them, because our athletes always came from Cochituate. But it was different, now all the houses in Cochituate are pretty big, but back then there were all small houses. Now the houses are all pretty, all around the pond. It used to be on the water, but now it's a few more dollars. A lot of things have gone down, like this restaurant called the meadows. It's where that temple is now, Shir Tivka. That's where I had my junior prom. They had this beautiful old type restaurant, and a dance floor. Wait maybe it wasn't called the meadow, I don't know but it was right where that temple is now.

    Were you exposed to the media, like the radio and TV?

    Well not really. But I used to listen to Lone Ranger on the radio, "HI HO SILVER!" I used to go into my mother and father's room on Saturday morning to listen to the radio shows. For TV, we had this huge encasing with this tiny screen and we used to watch Howdy Doody, those shows. But we always listen to the radio, because you could use your imagination. Anyways that was then, I mean now you guys watch the TV and everything all the time. It wasn't like that for us.

    Well, thanks Coach Porrel, it's been a pleasure talking with you.

    Phil Hastings interviews Nick Willard:

    So let's start off with your first schooling experience. When did that start for you?

    Well, I moved into town when I was in the 2nd grade. And the 2nd grade was at the center school, which was a multi-story building which was located next to what is now the annex to the congregational church.

    There are two churches there right?

    Yea, if you come out of Wayland center, it's the one on your right.

    So what grades did they have there?

    They had 1st through 8, at first, but then they built an addition onto the town building. And that was just 7 and 8. But yea, they closed down the school that was one through 6, I believe in 1951 or so and I continued on at the school which is now the town building.

    How many kids were at that school?

    I imagine that there were a couple hundred. But there was also a school at Cochituate, and they had an imaginary dividing line, that split up the two schools.

    Did you live in the house you live in now?

    No, if you go past the high school, going south on 126, theres the basketball court and then the acueduct and then theres a little house tucked in behind the trees, and the hosue after that house was a little barn red Cape Cod type house, and that's where I lived.

    When did you start playing sports, because I heard you were quite the athlete?

    Well, the first time I could pick up a ball, haha.

    Well, how about organized sports?

    Well, I missed little league because I was four days too old. And I was devastated, but the next year I went into Babe Ruth league.

    How was that experience?

    Oh, I loved baseball, it was a great experience. I played 2nd base, 1st base.

    How many teams did you have?

    I recall it might have been a couple of teams. I remember that in 1946 when I moved to Wayland there were only 4,000 people and now there is something like 12 or 13 thousand.

    Were sports big for kids when you were little?

    All summer long, I would play sports, but it was all pick up games. We played at Cochituate Field. You live near there right?

    Yea I do, on West Plain.

    You know where Lavin's store is.


    Well there used to be a field behind there, and I used to play ball there because it was so close to my house. And it used to be right where those houses were. So we'd just ride our bicycles and play ball. Here's what made it different, no one had a concern about safety or anything, so I'd leave my house at 8 or 9 in the morning and I'd meet my friends and we'd play baseball or sit around and drink sodas. And I would come back at 4 or 5 o'clock in the evening. Now in the fall, we would play football, basketball. My parents never worried about it.

    What kind of things did you do at school for fun?

    Yea, everybody looked forward to gym.

    What were the big games you guys played?

    We played stupid stuff like dodge ball and soccer with like 20 kids on each side. Just an excuse to move around a little bit.

    Was there a difference in the kinds of clothes that kids wore compared to the clothes kids were now?


    What'd you wear for sneakers?

    Old converse high tops. Black usually, I remember I got the white high tops for basketball.

    When did you start playing basketball?

    As a sophmore in highschool. I was only 5'6", so I was a shrimp. But from sophmore to junior year I grew about 6 inches and got moved up to varsity.

    How was the team?

    When I was a junior we lost only two games, one was in the State Finals. And as a senior, we won the State Finals. That was great I got to play in the Boston Garden four times, twice as a junior and twice as a senior. Because the semi-finals were in the Garden as well. But I'm sure my priorities weren't any different than anybody else, I mean the were probably, sports, my girlfriend and having to do well in school.

    When did boys and girls start interacting with one another?

    I don't think that has changed much. It seems to me, based on Emily's experiences, that it is possible to have friends of the opposite sex. I mean that was true when I was in high school but it was much more normal, for people to pair up early and stay paired up. I mean there was 43 kids, so I knew everybody and there weren't any clicks or anything. I mean you were lucky to have one.

    Back to sports, did you practice everyday like we do now?

    We did. Here's the thing that we did, that I look back on, during basketball season, we would break into the school regularly to play basketball. We would go out, get a pizza or bowl or whatever and then at like 11 o'clock we would all drive over to the school and turn on the lights and just play basketball. What I also used to do was, go to practice in the afternoon, come home, wolf down some dinner and then go over to the mill pond and play hockey.

    What was the kind of music that was big when you were a kid?

    What I listened to was, Duop.

    Was that a band or was it just a style?

    What happened in the early 1950's, was that certain musical styles emerged and one the styles was called rhythm and blues. And it was primarily black artists. I basically evolved from gospel music and southern blues music. Ray Charles was my all time favorite and he sang for 50 years, which is amazing. But I listened to stuff I'm sure you've never heard, unless you listen to the real old oldies. But I listened to music day and night.

    You listened to the radio right?

    Yea, all the time, but television wasn't popular, we didn't get one until 50-51.

    Didn't they have stories and shows that you could listen to, with actors and stuff?

    Yea, they had serials. They were great stories, fun to listen to. But when we got the television, the shows started at like 4 or 5 o'clock. It didn't broadcast all day an night like it does now. They had shows like Howdy Doody, and the three stooges, Ton's of Fun.

    Did they have the news and sports?

    I don't even remember the news. Well they didn't televise sports until later, but what they did televise was wrestling.

    Real or fake?

    Fake, haha. It was funny because even the announcers made fun of it. Because everyone knew that it was fake. They pretended of course, I remember some of the outrageous names, like Gorgeous George and Killer Kowalski. They were guys that kinda set the standard for the entertainment industry that it is today.

    Did you ever go to Red Sox games?

    I did. They were fun. It was an unusual thing to do. Wayland wasn't an afluent town. Cochituate was mills and Italian and Irish kids, and the Catholic church was the big deal.

    And at the other end of town, a lot of kids went to private school. When I went from 8th to 9th grade I lost 20 kids in the class.

    What were the kind of hairstyles that kids had?

    Well the most radical thing would be, this little upsweep thing here.

    Oh, the slick back hair?

    Yea, but also, occasionally a kid would get a whiffle, a crew cut. Short on the sides and flat on the top. Also known as a flat top.

    Were there any problems with teen drinking?

    Nobody literally drank.

    What other things did kids do socially?

    We would go bowling, get pizza, go to movies. They had a drive in movie theatre right where the Natick Mall is.

    What about vacations, did kids ever leave town for vacation?

    No, kids didn't go away to their house on the cape, kids never really went to camp. Kids would pretty much stay home during the summer. But we had time off from school, like the same times you guys do now.

    What activities did you do in the winter?

    We went sledding near the acueduct, and the golf course but there weren't that many spots. I actually used to caddy at the golf course too. Sandy Burr and Wayland Country Club. I started during the bicycle age, 13, 14, 15.

    Did you have to ride your bike on dirt roads?

    There were some, well there is some like today. Loker street was a dirt road. It's where kids used to park.

    What do you mean park?

    It's where we used to park at night, dirt and dark. You know, you went parking with your girlfriends, that was the term we used. You might call it something else today, but I'm sure that the principle is the same.

    Did you ever hang out at Dudley pond or Lake Cochituate?

    I used to swim in Dudley Pond and skate there in the winter. I think it was kinda polluted, I had to stop swimming there one year. I got infections in my ears. But I did learn to swim at Lake Cochituate, at the town beach. We used to swim across the lake, and hang out by this waterfall that used to be there. I don't know if it's there now.

    I think there is like a dam there now. Did you ever play baseball near the Mansion Inn?

    There was a big field in front, but I never played baseball there. I actually watched it burn down.

    When was that?

    It burned down when I was a junior in high school. I was playing poker at my friends house on Old Conneticut Path. We saw the smoke and heard the alarm. In those days, the siren would sound and it would sound with a coded number. And it was the number of the call box. So somebody would pull the call box, and then you had a code in the phone book to tell you where that call box was. So we heard the siren and looked it up and we said, "That's Mansion Inn." So we busted out of the poker game and watching the thing burn down. It was quite an exciting blaze. But yea, we used to play poker for pennies.

    Well, looks like that's gonna do it. Thanks a lot for your time Mr. Willard. It's been a pleasure talking with you.


    Wayland Basketball

    School Dinner

    Wayland Football

    Wayland Baseball

    Basketball at the Town Building

    Up in the Air

    Catherine Regan, '55

    Marilyn Dusseault

    The Swank Barbershop -'50's (Courtesy of the Wayland Historical Society)

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