Concord High School, Class of 1945

Kathleen Dee Horgan, age 68
Carolyn Peterson Holden, age 67
Dick Hayes, age 67

Interviewed at the Horgan Home, 27 Commerford Avenue, January 4, 1995

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer

The Class That Only Knew War --
Kathleen, Carolyn and Dick, members of the Concord High School Class of 1945, will commemorate their 50th anniversary on September 23, 1995.

CHS 1945: Holden, Hayes, and HorganKathleen-I grew up at the Reformatory because my father, Michael James Dee, was superintendent of the Reformatory. He was appointed deputy in 1926 in September, and I was born actually in the Reformatory in December of 1926. I was next to the youngest of 10 children. There were nine of us that grew up at 222 Elm Street, which was our address. It was interesting to describe what it was like then, to call the Reformatory home, with the "White Row" on one end and the "Green Row" on the other end, and how we all became integrated into the community. It was a neighborhood unto itself. Everybody that worked at the Reformatory was part of the Concord community, as unlike today, where there probably isn't anybody who works at the Reformatory who lives in Concord.

As far as the prison and the staff interactions were different from today, I don't think they were the hardened criminals at the Concord Reformatory. It was more of reforming by teaching skills and crafts and school subjects. The "Green Row" was where the instructors at the prison lived and they taught trades. The "White Row" was for the guards, and they became friends with a lot of the inmates. They were trying to make the inmates ready to go out afterwards and get jobs. I know at one time there were at least a thousand prisoners at the Reformatory.

Growing up then was a lot different. It was safer; there was no question about walking home from West Concord Center along Commonwealth Avenue and each one stopping off where they lived, and no parents were out waiting for you. I don't think we stayed out beyond ten o'clock anyway, there wasn't anything to stay out for. The biggest thing was Friday night movies if we were lucky enough to go to Maynard. There was a bus that went to Maynard and sometimes we did use that.

I worked at the Concord playground during the summer of my senior year at high school. They couldn't get boys because they were all in the service, so they had me be the coach of the baseball team. We were very good because we had an excellent pitcher. Every neighborhood had its own playground so the children were all cared for. They weren't just rambling around looking for things to do. It was run by the recreation committee, and Bernie Megan was in charge of all the playgrounds at the time. A lot of the school teachers taught at the playground in the summer. Even Barrett's playground eventually opened up in later years which was on the other side of Route 2.

I remember the night of VJ Day when the war ended. I had the whole group of boys and we were so happy, we all jumped on our bicycles and rode up Commonwealth Avenue to the Reformatory where my father served us all Coca-Cola, and we were celebrating the end of the war. I remember how happy all the children were because it meant so many people would be coming home including my own brother. I can remember when both of my brothers went into the service. My brother Bernard joined the Army and he was married and had a family, but he joined up after my brother Michael who was in the Marines. I think he just couldn't stand not being in the service. There were a lot of cousins too that were in. When somebody got killed, somebody else would sign up in their place. There was a lot of sentiment and a lot of patriotism. I don't think anybody questioned going to war as they do today.

Carolyn - I think that's one reason why we graduated from the Veterans Building, which is now called 51 Walden. Ordinarily the classes graduated from the Armory due to size but with so many boys in the service, we used the Veterans Building. I remember when I went in there for the first time after graduating so many years ago, how small it looked to me. I remembered it being a huge place.

Dick - I think it was a pretty empty feeling. I know I got a little itchy, I wanted to get in, but there was no getting in until I was 18 years old. My grandmother wouldn't sign for me. I wanted to go into the Navy at 17 but she wouldn't sign. I enlisted at 17 in the Army Air Corps, and when I was 18 just after we graduated, they took about 300 of us to Fort Devens.

In 1941 I was working at Richardson Drug Store and that was a lot of fun. It was sad in a way because the guys weren't around. I enjoyed working there and I had a good boss, Charlie Voigt. Originally John Watson owned the store then Mr. Voigt bought it. They were two nice guys. I think the name Richardson came before Mr. Watson bought it -- I think a Dr. Richardson owned it at one time.

There was a soda fountain. Jerry Erison across the street had a soda fountain and so did Richardson's. They were great meeting places.

Carolyn - Swett's Drug Store in West Concord had a marble soda fountain and made those wonderful chocolate ice cream sodas. They had those Casablanca fans that are coming back now. Everything was in glass covered cases. I can remember all the daily newspapers that were piled up every morning, the Globe, the Herald, Post, Record American. They had a little container there, and you would put your nickel or dime in. People just picked up their newspapers and left their money. They were very trusting.

Kathleen - I worked there for a couple of years in high school. I called the Swett's Drug Store pay phone the dating bureau. The boys from high school would come in and say "What do you think, should I call up Margie Dee?" This was Leo Duggan and he would call her, and he ended up marrying her. Flossie and Jimmy -- all these couples started I think at the drug store making their telephone connections. It was a very popular booth.

Dick - The things shortest in supply during that time was film and cigarettes that I can remember. People used to wait for cigarettes to come in and also film. A lot of people wanted to send it overseas to relatives and friends. During the war, chocolate syrup was tough to get for the soda fountain. Once in a while they would get a shipment of Hershey's and then you would have to mix it up with something to make it syrup.

I also remember during the war we got a shipment of chocolates, the pound ones like Whitman's, and that was something that you hadn't seen for a year or two. I remember Mr. Voigt was awful nice. He told me to take a carton across the street to Jerry Erison, which was Snow Pharmacy. He split it with him. It was a nice gesture -- I never forgot that.

Carolyn - I think you knew everybody in Concord and West Concord either by name or by sight. It was a very small town.

Dick - One thing that I noticed when someone came into the drug store and they had a charge account, you never had to ask their name. You knew them or if you didn't, somebody else did. You just didn't ask them, "Who shall I charge this to?"

Kathleen - We had some students from other towns in our class. We had students from Harvard, Lincoln and Carlisle.

Carolyn - I was vice president of the senior class. Dr. Flavin was president. I believe Marsha Terrill was our secretary and Buddy Payne was treasurer. Our 50th reunion is scheduled for September 23 at the Westford Regency.

Dick - I remember the stickers people had to put on their windshields of their cars for gas rations. There was A, B or C. If you were an ordinary person or something, you were an A. It was for only two or three gallons a week, it wasn't enough to go anywhere. If you had a drug store or something and you were delivering pharmacy things, then you got a C sticker which was for maybe 10 gallons a week.

Carolyn - I remember the sugar and coffee being rationed. I also remember that there wasn't anything like nylons. Right after the war, I can remember getting a coupon from Gilchrist's store in Boston, and they were holding a pair of nylons for me. It was going to be the very first pair of nylons that I had had since the war.

Kathleen - It's funny how things change. You mentioned "bobby soxers." We wore them with saddle shoes and now you see kids wearing bobby sox again for the first time with dressy shoes. It makes me laugh because for the last thirty years we wouldn't be caught dead in them.

Dick - People helped each other out in using the cars and gas. If something was going on in the family, maybe they would borrow the car or share rides a lot. Once in a while the gas station guys would help you out if they had extra stamps. The tires were hard to get. Everybody rode bicycles around.

Carolyn - At home you had to draw the curtains and shades at night like a blackout.

Dick - They saved the street lights too -- they didn't turn those on. That would have been a dead give-away.

Kathleen - I though Otto's comment was pretty good that when you think about it, there was no way one of their Japanese planes would make it here. Otto Friedrich was one of our classmates. I have been in touch with him and he has included in his writings some of his memories of wartime. He wrote, "To alert the town of such dangers, we signed up as air raid spotters. On a hill not far from Main Street, where everybody went skiing in the winters, there now appeared a square wooden tower, perhaps thirty feet, and we, the volunteer air spotters, reported here in regular shifts and scanned the horizon for signs of Hitler's Heinkel 111 bombers. And not just Heinkels. In training manuals that showed the silhouettes of enemy planes, we also learned to recognize the shape of Mitsubishi bombers from Japan. God only knows how a Mitsubishi could ever have flown from Tokyo to Concord, Massachusetts, but as I stood on those wooden ramparts, hour after hour, tightening inside every time I saw a mosquito in the middle distance, it never occurred to me to doubt that I was serving in the defense of my threatened country." He also wrote, "On the third floor of our house we kept a number of pails filled with sand, because we had been warned that the Nazis' new phosphorous bomb could not be extinguished with water, only with sand."

Kathleen - If a plane was spotted, as a Girl Scout I was supposed to go on my bicycle down to Shirley Street, Prairie Street and that section to warn people, and I used to pray every night that it would never happen. Thank God it didn't.

Carolyn - Otto also remembered and wrote about some of the movie stars of that time such as Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman and June Allyson, but he also remembered the Concord girls. He wrote, "What I have remembered most vividly about Concord is, of course, the girls. I have remembered them just as they were, beautiful and immaculate, their long hair bouncing to their shoulders as they walked, and their bodies swiveling to and fro under their thin dresses. They seemed only half aware of their own sensuality, and scarcely aware of the fact that we, the boys, thought of little else. In retrospect, it is difficult to judge the quantity or variety of sexual behavior in any given situation, but my guess is that in the Concord High School of the 1940s, sex remained largely a matter of daydream and potentiality. If this is true, then we all have the same memory, all the classmates of 1945, of possibilities unfulfilled, and this is part of what draws us together."

I think one thing that is surprising is that so many of us graduating around the time of the war stayed in Concord, where I don't think that same thing happens today. We have a lot of classmates here.

Kathleen - And why do you think that is, Carolyn?

Carolyn - It's so expensive. I had to get that in.

Dick - My kids would love to be in Concord but just can't. Two of my girls are in Littleton, and we were talking about how Littleton is a lot like Concord used to be. Forty or fifty years ago everybody knew everybody and there was a sense of community.

Carolyn - I remember on Thanksgiving there was always that rivalry between Concord and Lexington in the Thanksgiving Day football game. No one would think of having Thanksgiving Day dinner until you first went to the game, one year in Concord and the next in Lexington, and come home and have dinner.

Kathleen - And I remember Christmas afternoons when there wasn't TV and people didn't travel, all the families would be on Warner's Pond skating. That was so beautiful to see.

Carolyn - There was also Fairyland or Walden Pond. There was also a little area near the Rideout Playground called the bog that I remember when I got my first pair of white skates, I rushed down there to skate. I was going to be the world's second Sonya Henie.

Kathleen - I used to take my Victrola that was hand wound over to Warner's Pond and skate to the music and I would pretend I was Sonya Henie too. I would wind it up and go out and skate, and then I would have to come back and wind it up again. Radio then was very big too. I would go up in my room and turn the radio on and read. We all read a lot. We went to the library every week.

Carolyn - Remember how each book had an envelope with a card sticking out. You would write down your number and the date - all done by hand.

Kathleen - In high school there was a lot of athletic activities for girls. I liked all the sports. My first love was tag football.

Carolyn - Remember we would all walk over to the Hunt Gym for gym classes. After the class, we would all rush downstairs to be sure we got a shower stall that had a curtain on it. Some of them didn't have curtains.

Kathleen - I would just ask for two towels, but Miss Clark would say, "Only one." We were far more modest than the kids today, even with each other. Today it's much freer.

Dick - I think the guys had a lot more respect for the girls in those days. It was just a way of life.

Text mounted 9 Jan. 2008; rev., 6 Oct. 2012; image added 8 May 2013. RCWH.