Maude Smith
At the home of her daughter, Carolyn Davies
17 Edmonds Road

Age 92

Interviewed June 5, 1997

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.

Maude SmithI arrived in Concord in 1935 and we lived on Sudbury Road in what was called the Gagnon estate. We rented there for over a year from 1935 to 1937 then we decided to stay in Concord. We had chosen Concord because it was halfway between Clinton, Massachusetts and Boston. My husband went in both directions at various times. We weren't bright enough to know what a wonderful town Concord was.

We came to New England during the depression and also to Concord during the depression, and the depression kept getting worse and worse. My husband was in book manufacturing. We had a family business and moved a bindery and a printing company, two of them, from Boston out to Clinton, Massachusetts where 3,000 people were out of work.

Mr. Gagnon wanted to redo the Main Street of Concord and he even went so far as to produce drawings and ideas of how to improve the Main Street of Concord. The understanding that I had was that it was not well received. He had been in California and was fascinated with how much irrigation they were using there for golf courses and other places, and he ordered his lawn improved on Sudbury Road so that it was completely irrigated. We had a caretaker that took care of the lawn. It was a very attractive place. Then we bought the house on Main Street right at the intersection of Elm Street and Main Street and moved there. The house had been vacant for 4 or 5 years. It had belonged to the Edgertons and they were very happy to find a buyer for it. William Kussin then remodeled it. It had a mansard roof and was painted very dark, I think almost black. We thought it was very ugly, so we remodeled and Mr. Kussin did a tremendous job of remodeling the house. We took off three rooms at the river end of the house which had been the utility end of the house. My father said he had never heard of anyone taking off part of a house. We knew what Mr. Kussin was going to do architecturally but we didn't know what he was going to do inside. When he did our library for us he wasn't going to tell me what the paint was going to be. The paint was Williamsburg blue. He informed me that we would like it even though he didn't inform me what it was going to be.

My husband and I became very good friends of the Kussins, and we stayed lifelong friends with both of them. Some other long time friends were the Fenns, Gladys Brooks, who started Brooks School, and her husband. I had a real interest in the nursery school and I was on the executive committee of Brooks School, which later became Nashoba. In the meantime the Brooks School had grown, had taken on first, second and third grades and during that period we had a joint trustee setup with Fenn School and Concord Academy. In other words they were looking over our shoulders to be sure that Brooks School was doing a good job. They actually allowed Brooks to take on second and third grade only on the condition that they would do a good job. Gladys Brooks, who was not as old as the trustees at Concord Academy, was very much in awe of the trustees of the two other schools because they were older trustees than we were.

Our children went to the Brooks School and the Brooks School in those days was the nursery school out on Monument Street and after that they had moved to Wood Street. That little house or the original house was remodeled and Gladys Brooks and her husband lived in that house out on Monument Street. It was a very small house just past Lang Street. The Brooks School was started because a couple of parents wanted a nursery school for their children. Gladys Brooks went to Chicago to Evanston, Illinois and studied out there at the first nursery schools and came back and started the school. It was a new concept here and all over the country. She studied in Evanston at the New Trier school, one of the most progressive in the country.

There were several private schools in Concord. I think these little schools that they had were just individual, some one person started them. I suppose Brooks School started with just one grade. It was 3-years olds and 4-year olds and 5-year olds and then gradually there was a request for first grade because there was no first grade to go to. Gladys Brooks did such a good job that they wanted to keep it going. She was a softy. She loved what she did and was very modest. She had taught at Concord Academy when it first started. In 1935 when we came here it was a comparatively new school.

I worked with Eleanor Fenn in the League of Women Voters and we had a bridge group that Gladys Brooks set up when she retired from Brooks School. She decided she was going to need more to do so Gladys Brooks, Eleanor Fenn and Marion Miller and I were the nucleus of a bridge group.

When I started with the League of Women Voters it had a reputation of having been in existence for some time but originally it had been in study groups. As I understand it, the ladies carried briefcases and there were those who were very much in awe of the members of the League, but it was very small at that point. When I started they needed money more than anything and I was on the finance committee, and we spent quite a bit of time raising money and going to men for money, which wasn't easy. The men were not terribly interested in giving to the League of Women Voters. Gradually it had the support of many more women, and we got over the period of the feeling that it was just study groups. In the late ‘40s and early ‘50s I was president of the League. Eleanor Fenn and I both were on the state board of the Massachusetts League. We worked with other leagues throughout the state and I eventually became treasurer of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters.

Before the League I was active in the Concord Female Charitable Society and the issue there was to try to make it more of a social service group. Helen Shaw who had studied social work and was a social worker was slated to become the head of the Concord Female Charitable Society and the first thing was to change the name. She wrote a letter which she suggested that I type to the president of the Female Charitable Society, and I was naive and I thought the letter was going to be signed by her and I was told very firmly that the president did not sign letters that she did not write. It was some time but eventually the name was changed to the Friendly Aid Society. Now the group's name is Concord Family Service which is a much more modern way of referring to it. It changed considerably from the Female Charitable Society where the clothes were kept in somebody's attic and the recipients were allowed to go to someone's attic to choose the clothes. Of course, times were bad during the 1930s and this was the way it operated at that time.

Even in this town there were definitely people in need during the Depression and it was quite customary for people to be referred to where they could find clothes. These clothes just accumulated and we felt very strongly that it was not the way to help people. The town rallied together to help the people in need, but then the war happened and we rallied even more in working for the various organizations such as the French War Relief and the Dutch War Relief. We all did knitting for the various groups and one of our members brought the wool out from Boston every week. I worked correcting some of the things that were turned in such as a sweater that was turned in with a very small neck that nobody could ever put over his head, so I would take that home and correct it. I remember someone coming past our table and saying "Do you keep track of who doesn't come in to do work for you?" Most of the relief organizations were established after the United States got into the war. We even saved safety pins to send to Holland because they had lost so much in their floods and had other problems. Many women were at home in those war days who could do the work but there were many young people that worked in factories and took the place of men.

Back in those days it was interesting to go along the Main Street. Anderson's was in the center in a way. I recall definitely being in there at noon one day and someone came in and stood at the meat counter and had a little conversation with the butcher and then ended up saying, "I can't really imagine what I'm going to have for dinner tonight. I'll give you a call later and you can send it to me." It was definitely deliveries in those days even several times a day. I was horrified at the time that anybody couldn't make up her mind at noon what she wanted in the evening. I remember Vanderhoofs particularly. They were very friendly and my young children walked to school in the spring and Mr. Vanderhoof said, "Don't worry at all about your children because that little girl of yours couldn't possibly get away from her brother, he holds onto to her so firmly." You knew the shopkeepers such as Richardson's and Snow's and the vegetable store next to Richardson's and before the book store there was a notions store where Mrs. Hans Miller taught knitting. Above that was Mrs. Kussin's store, that she had with two ladies that started out carrying mostly things for babies as I recall. Then later there was the paint shop and next to the paint shop was always a jewelry store. There was also Mrs. Pratt's toy shop which was very important in our lives and Nourse's and then there was the dress shop that was operated by Mrs. Johnston, Dr. Johnston's wife, and a florist and of course, the bakery shop was a very important place.

I remember Woolworth's as being on Main Street near Anderson's with a little jewelry shop in between. Things were definitely a nickel and a dime then. I don't know whether they carried sheet music, but I can remember years before I came to Concord when I used to buy sheet music it was ten cents for one sheet. I remember distinctly a winter when we had a tremendous amount of snow and when we walked in front of Anderson's, we had snow drifts that were probably five to six feet tall.

In the 1950s the town manager form of government was a big issue, and my husband ran for selectman that year and it was a very close election. He won I think by 35 votes. It was very bitterly contested. Those who thought it was time for a town manager felt that it was impossible for three selectmen to do all the things that needed to be done on a volunteer basis. My husband ran on the platform that there should be a town manager government. His opponent was Mr. Oglevie who was the president of the bank. The duties of the selectmen were expanding and it was obvious that they couldn't possibly do everything that needed to be done on a volunteer basis.

My father was Lewis Adams and they used to live on Elm Street. They had 57 acres with the property. They moved there in January 1937 when we moved to Main Street. In ‘38 the big hurricane hit and it did a tremendous amount of damage in Concord. In fact most of the elms on Main Street were destroyed and in the woods behind the Adams property on Elm Street it was a complete shambles from the hurricane. The WPA, the Works Progress Administration, that came into existence under Roosevelt were doing all kinds of good deeds throughout the country, and they came into Concord and the head of the group was a Concord person and they worked in there for a number of months cleaning up the woods. I suppose the government paid for that since that was a national organization. Mr. Robinson who was the optometrist was in San Francisco and he worked with a WPA group that did a mural in the center of San Francisco, and Mr. Robinson who lived in Concord was in the mural.

About 1954 my husband took charge of developing the property at the Adams land and Mr. Kendrick who was a resident of Concord laid the lots on that 57 acres and they were sold off. The roads were called Lewis Road and Park Lane. It so happens that there is an Adams Road but that is beyond the property.

Carolyn Davies - I was president of the Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters almost exactly 50 years after my mother was president and from what I've heard from her, and what I've read in historic references for the League of Women Voters, they were an extremely dedicated bunch. Some of them had more free time than women have today, but I think the issues were stronger for them. The women hadn't had the vote for that long and they were just making their way in legislatures, in government and making their voices heard. But some of the issues are exactly the same. Getting the people out to do the petty jobs is very tough, mobilizing the forces is tough, and a great deal of that work is done on the phone. For me it was probably far easier than for mother to be president because she had a husband at home who was ill at the time and a family to consider, and I was living alone so I didn't mind being on the phone in the evenings when people would be needing to talk. But it is interesting that some of the issues come up year after year after year.

Today the League is less study oriented. People don't seem to have the time or the energy to be able to put study groups together which really are necessary because the League's history and reputation was based on really thorough studies of the issues. That seems to be almost impossible to accomplish today, however, with the Internet we may be able to work that into our system and to our advantage.

Maude Smith - There was a distinction between the people who were new to town and the people who had been here a long time and I think that was because Concord was so much smaller. You were very much aware of the fact that there were those who had been in Concord for many years and those who's families had grown up in Concord. In my introduction to Mrs. David Baldwin who was the real estate agent in Concord, she didn't hesitate to say, "I've been here since 1635."

I think when you first come into a town you have to earn your way, and there were groups. There was the Ladies Tuesday Club, the Walking Club, the Reading Club and you didn't really aspire to those things, you had your own life to lead and gradually it got so that you knew that they weren't quite so important as you thought they were in the beginning. I was very young when I arrived and very busy and it really didn't matter at all. Of course, as soon as you have children in school then you begin to make more friends.

Text mounted 19 Jan. 2008; revised and image added 15 June 2013 -- rcwh.