Interviewer: Michael Nobel Kline
Place of Interview: Concord Free Public Library
Transcriptionist: Carrie N. Kline
Michael Kline: We are Michael and Carrie Kline, here in the Board Room of the Concord Free Public Library. It's May 25 and a gorgeous morning outside, 10:00 o'clock. And would you please say, "My name is," and tell us your name?
Marian Wheeler: Marian Wheeler.
MK: Can you say, "My name is Marian Wheeler?"
MW: My name is Marian Wheeler.
MK: And we never ask people their ages, but perhaps you'd give us your date of birth.
MW: Well, I just had my 93rd birthday. May 6, 1917. So you can figure for yourself.
MW: Comes out to be 93.
MK: Maybe you'd start out and tell us about your people and where you were raised.
MW: Okay. I wasn't born in Concord. To be a true Concordian you must be born, live, and die here you know. I missed it by the birth, because I was born in Shrewsbury, which was my father's hometown, where they helped to found the town and the church and so forth back in 1722. But I got my first job here in Concord. Just pure luck. And it was the summer of 1937, the year before the 1938 Hurricane. That's how I can remember it, because my husband and I had our third date the night of the hurricane. And oh, I was so downhearted, because it was my third date and I was so afraid he wasn't going to ask me to go out again. And then came a hurricane, and I thought, "Oh, this is really it. I'll never see him again." At 10:00 o'clock that night in the pouring rain, the wind still howling and blowing, a knock on the door and there stood Rusty Wheeler. He had walked from Nine Acre Corner through the storm—. Of course no streetlights, nothing. He had a hatchet in one hand and a search light in the other hand, a hardhat on his head, knee deep boots, and a slicker. [Laughs] And he had walked. It had taken him an hour and a half to walk from Nine Acre Corner, where he lived, to my house on Elm Street. So that was the day I knew we were in love then. He knew it too. And our romance took off from there. So that's why I remember the date. All right.
MK: How could you forget that?
MW: How: But I feel happy to be back in my hometown, because my own ancestors, by the name of Fletcher, started the Town of Concord, along with George Wheeler, my husband's ancestor. And after the third generation--. This would, took place in 1635 is the Town's birthday, September 22nd. 1635. And George Wheeler was one. Robert Fletcher was another. And there were twelve so called families who started the Town of Concord. We don't really know, because it's very vague. And--. But we have the names of twelve families, so we assume that was the beginning. And sooner or later the Wheeler boys met us with the Fletcher girls and they were married. So. Up in the old hill burying ground we found my grandmother, Sarah Fletcher. And guess who she married. George William Wheeler. The--. And so my husband and I were cousins from the day we met, but we didn't know it. Tenth generation cousins. Okay. That's why I feel comfortable. And I just loved the thought of working in Concord. I thought that would just be the neatest place to live, momentarily and temporarily of course, because I was headed for big things and--. But this was a job as a nanny, taking care of two darling little children in a lovely family, and working with one of my friends.
MK: We're picking up--.
MW: Beg pardon?
MK: We're picking up--. I think we're picking up your ring on the glass.
Carrie Kline: Watch. Watch.
MK: Oh, your watch. Okay. Sorry.
MW: Oh, dear. That's--. Oh, yeah.
CK: Because this is wonderful.
MK: This is wonderful. We're getting--. And this is a very, very sensitive recorder.
MK: Please proceed.
MW: All right.
MK: You were working as a nanny.
MW: Yeah. With one of my best friends, who got me the job. And of course it was just temporary, but I was so happy. And then I met Rusty Wheeler. And five minutes after I laid eyes on him, I was in love with him. And I still am. He's gone now of course, but I've never lost that love for him. He was just something special. So I found, sooner or later, that I was getting a little too comfortable here. And maybe I better start thinking about something else. But I didn't want to. And at that point, Rusty's mother died and left his father with a big, nine room house, nobody to take care of him, and nobody to--. He was going to have to hire a housekeeper. And Rusty and I were so in love. We wanted to get married, but Russ was making twenty-five dollars a week and I was making eighteen-fifty a week. And you don't go out and buy a house on salaries like that. So we were just hanging on. And Grandpa, we called him, Grandpa Raymond, one day said, "Look, I need you and you need me. What do you say we make a deal?" And that meant we could get married, and he didn't have to hire a housekeeper. And so we did. And that's how I got to stay in Concord. And the rest is family history.
We had our four children, all born on Wheeler land. And I'm very proud to say that I think we have quite a record, because my father-in-law, Raymond, was the ninth generation of Wheeler men to live on the same land, not particularly born or died on the same land, but lived on the same land at Nine-Acre Corner in Concord, straight down form George Wheeler, one of the founding fathers. And later I found out that my own grandmother, Sarah Fletcher, was descended from--.
CK: . . . .
MK: Could we wait for the siren?
MW: I've said that--.
MK: This is absolutely precious and wonderful. I don't want any--. Okay. You found out that your grandmother, Sarah Fletcher--. Would you start that again?
MW: --also lived here, and--.
MK: Start the sentence again. I found out--.
MW: The--. I found out later, as I had time to get into our genealogy, that my own mother's family came from Concord, from the original founders. And her--. My--. That ancestor's name was Sarah Fletcher. And she married William Wheeler. So.
CK: Sarah with an "h?"
MK: Sarah Fletcher married--.
MW: William Wheeler, who was George's--. It goes George, William, William, Frances, . . . Hansen [8:49], so forth.
MK: This would've been in the 17th century.
MW: It was 1635. Well, it was 1635 that the Town of Concord was settled. And that's our birthday. September 22nd is Concord's birthday. So that has been 369 years or something. And Rusty and I were related way back then, but had no idea of it. So that's why we--. I think we just had magnets for each other. [Laughs] And we've lived happily ever after. Now--.
MK: You've--. So you've had a long, long view of the Town of Concord. Can you talk about--.
CK: I'm hearing the paper.
MK: --about--. We'll ask you to put your hands in your lap again, because this is so sensitive. Can you talk about the social and physical changes you've seen come over the Town?
MW: Yeah. Of course I've only lived here since 1937, which is about 67 years or something. But it has been just a happy, happy, wonderful lifetime. I've just felt like the happiest, luckiest, richest woman in town sometimes, because it ahs all just fallen into my lap. And I'm very interested in history when I have time to do it. But I immediately got in to deep housework, cleaning and having babies. We had our four children, all born on the farm. And that was what I started to say. Raymond, my father-in-law, was the ninth generation to live on the same land, and many of them in the same house. Then my husband became the tenth man, Wheeler name. Our first son was the eleventh generation. He was born on the farm. Then he had a son. We can't say he was born on Wheeler land. He was born in Concord at Emerson Hospital. And now he has a son. So we are now in the thirteenth generation of Wheeler men. But the bond has been broken by the living on the same land. Okay. It's time. Heaven sakes. You can't go on forever. [Laughs]
So I'm very happy to keep my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren reminded of their heritage. And I don't stress it, because I don't want them to thinking, "Oh, Grandma, you keep telling us that, and we don't need to hear it," you know, the way kids can be. But I don't--. I want them to know it. That's all. And they can do what they want with it.
MK: So talk about the—your observation of Concord over 63 years.
MW: Okay. I'm very partial to the Nine-Acre Corner part of Concord, because that was our home, where my husband had been born. And his father before him and his father before him, and his father before him had all lived in the same house. Then my father-in-law built a house for themselves. And, but we got to live there for ten years, in that house. And I'm very happy about that, because I learned--. I was--. My father wasn't a farmer. We lived in the center of town, and he had his own business, but I was brought up on farms, because all his cousins and brothers had big dairy farms. And they had the cows and they made the milk. But they needed an outlet to sell it. So my father took over that part of the family business and became the milk dealer and collected the milk, pasteurized it, bottled it, and delivered it. So that was his business. But they needed each other. He needed his cousins to raise the cattle. And they needed him to sell the milk. So it was a good deal. So I was interested in all the beautiful farms at Nine-Acre Corner. I could sit on the big porch--. It was a big wraparound, cool, breezy house on an, up on the hill. And I could see the activity going on on five different farms all in a circle around us. And it was a lovely, lovely spot, and it still is. I was happy to have that experience of living at Nine-Acre Corner, because that is a very important part of the town. It's a funny name. And we have a street named, "Old Road to Nine-Acre Corner." And when you write a letter, you have to write it all out: "Mr. John Brown, 91 Old Road to Nine-Acre Corner, Concord, Mass." But we love our old traditions, and I hope that never changes. They've shortened it now to ORNAC, which, if you have to take a shortcut, you say, "ORNAC." But, it means, Old Road to Nine-Acre Corner. And there was--. Just shows you the old traditions that old Concordians love to hold onto. Then at the end of that glorious story about how we could get married and did--.
After ten years and having had four children, we were getting itchy about ourselves. We needed more space, and playrooms for the kids. You think, on a farm,, "My Land, there's plenty of room out there. What are you talking about?" But it--. We weren't--. The house was built on the side of a hill, and there was really very little lawn space for them on a flat, except for the driveway, was the only flat place where they could play. So--. And besides, it was time we had out own house. So we were secretly thinking to ourselves, "Oh, it would be nice to have our own house." And at the same time--. But we didn't want to disturb Grandpa. And we didn't know how to tell him that we were, thought we ought to move. And one morning he came down for breakfast with a cute little grin on his face. And he said, "What would you say if I told you I thought I might get married?" [Laughs] And we just whooped and hollered and said, "Oh, grandpa, that's wonderful news." And, but then that meant we had to really get out quickly, because he had already proposed to the lady. And she had accepted. So that was final. But he had found, already--. We can see he had been thinking the same thing, because he had already found a house in West Concord that didn't look like much, and it sure wasn't much, but it was available and up for sale, $2800. And but we put it back together again. My husband was a cabinetmaker and a builder and all.
So that's how we ended up in West Concord. And West Concord to me has had more changes in those sixty-seven years that I've lived here, I think, than Concord Center. Certainly, Concord Center is definitely trying to remain a sweet little farming town, and never getting mechanized, and big businesses and modern living. And it's so far being successful with the Colonial Inn as the center of our town, and that is still in it--. It's like the Wayside Inn, if you're familiar with the Wayside Inn, still in its prime form, back in the 17--. I've forgotten the date, but 1700s when Mr. Howe started a tavern in Sudbury, and it grew and he enlarged it, and it got bigger and better, and he finally had an inn where you could stay overnight, and you could house your herd of cattle or sheep or whatever you were droving. And it's just a gorgeous old place, and--.
MK: In Sudbury?
MW: In Sudbury. Yes.
MK: Umm hmm.
MW: One of the best true blue Colonial taverns in the whole country. Go there sometime. Have lunch, or even dinner if you want. They still have a dance floor upstairs where you can--. They used to dance. They don't allow dancing anymore, because the old timbers are still old and still get older.
Anyway, what I have seen in West Concord just please me to pieces, because sixty-seven years ago it was the other side of the tracks. We all know that, and no one denies it. But there was a lot going on. And the people in West Concord were just remarkable people. They were all salt of the earth people and just wanted the best for their children, better than their own lives had been probably. And so, there has been a very big push, a committee formed to build up West Concord. And the biggest thing, the most visible thing to me, living in West Concord, is what is now called Concord Green. It is a housing development. Very attractive. But it used to be just a beautiful, big farm. Jerry Sheehan, a good Irishman, bought a big area of land and planted apple trees, had a big, big apple farm. And we would, from Nine-Acre Corner, on, during apple blossom time, we would drive over here to West Concord, over there to West Concord, just to see the apple blossoms, a whole hillside covered with beautiful apple blossoms. And those now are gone, and they're all houses, of course, called Orchard Street and things to remind us of what used to be there.
So, that has been a visible change and a good thing, because it has housed a lot of Concord people in their old age and it's something they can afford, but it's very attractive, very, attracts the nice kind of people. So that is one big change that I remember from Jerry Sheehan's farm and his apple orchard, just acres of apple trees. Other big changes have been the Dover Ski Binding Company. There were waves of migration in those days. I think it happened to every city and town in New England. Of course we know about the Irish immigration when the potato crop failed in Ireland and people were just starving; there was nothing to eat. And men were desperate to have a job to feed their family. So Irish men would come over in swarms and get a job in the States, as they would say, especially on the railroad, because it was the time that they were building the railroad through Concord. And they needed all the help they cold get, and it was good pay.
MK: This would be the mid-19th century?
MW: 1844 was the date of the first train that came through Concord, so it took four or five years to get the tracks laid and working. So it was the 1840s. And that, the railroad just changed everything, because it meant that the farmers, who had been having to drive a wagon with their crops, drive it into Boston to the Quincy Markey to sell it--. Yeah, that was a trip. The Wheelers, for instance, during corn season, they needed a lot of help. So they had two boarding houses to house men who would work for them, and a cook to cook for them, and so forth. And it was only temporary. Some of them would stay through the winter, but they didn't need winter help. They needed summer help. So that's how a lot of Irish people arrived here and still live here. Jerry Sheehan himself, the man that I said owned the lovely big apple farm, was, his ancestors were some of those Irish people. And a lot of Irish people still live here.
Also Scandinavians, from Norway and Finland. Maynard is populated still to this day with a lot of Finnish people who congregated together. You know, they'd band together. A rich man would buy a house or two or three and rent them out to people in Europe, sight unseen. But they would, that's how they would get here and earn their money to pay for the house and stay. And a lot of people from Norway came to Concord. And Od Obergaard was one. He was a skier, as you might know, from Norway, and a champion skier, and invented what he called the Dover Ski Binding. And it was, I think, the first ski binding. Otherwise you just had two slats with a, curled up at the ends, and slipped your feet into a strap, and those were your skis. I don't know how in the world you learned how to ski, but, without the--. To me the bindings are what kept me on skis. Anyway, he invented his bindings and built a factory where he produced these Dover Ski Bindings. And the building still stands. It's--. He's dead of course now. But he was a nice guy. My husband would chat with him and enjoyed him very much. His--. He had a great sense of humor and so forth. So, the--. That was his contribution to the town.
MK: How many people do you think it employed at its peak, that factory?
MK: Dozens? Hundreds?
MW: No. No. No, not that big. Oh, probably--. Oh do I dare say ten or fifteen, probably. It was a three decker, still there, used for a printing company now. But before that it had been the Bluine—B-L-U-I-N-E Factory. And Bluine--. My mother used Bluine, and I remember it distinctly. It was a little box about this big, had ten sheets of paper that were blue and powdery. And when she did her laundry--. A lot of it was by hand in my day. Then we got a washing machine and boy did we think we were rich. And, but she would no more do her laundry without adding a sheet of Bluine to it than not do it at all, because the Bluine gave her sheets a blue tint. Otherwise, they were yellow from the Fels-Naptha Soap that everybody used, or grandma's lye soap was what you did the laundry with. And
MW: Fels-Naptha. F-E-LS - N-A-P-H-A. Fels-Naptha soap. And everybody used it. But you don't even hear the name anymore. I'm surprised--. I'm not surprised you don't know it, because it was full of phosphorus, and that was the worst thing possible for the brooks and the rivers and the streams. So in my day I remember when the government just put a stop to anything with phosphorus in it. And it was really so bad. You could see it at night. It would light up In the moonlight, like-.if you walk along the beach at night, do you ever see phosphorus light? Have you ever done that? Well, it's really true, because we have really seen it, phosphorus in the water, in the foam, if it has been a stormy time. And that little foam along the beach, where the breakers roll it in. Anyway. And they were very clever, because this was absolutely nonsense. To give your laundry, and your men's shirts, white shirts, they would look yellow, and it just didn't look clean. But the blue made them look clean, for some reason. And there was--. You were supposed to feel that your laundry was cleaner with this Bluine. And people call it Bluing, but it wasn't. B-L-U-I-N-G. It was I-N-E. And all it was, was a pan of water with blue coloring, blue coloring. No antiseptic or disinfectant or any worthwhile thing. It was pure psychological. But every housewife fell for it. My mother did. And our sheets were blue.
Now, the way they sold it was very clever, because they left it up to kids. Children could make a deal with them. And if they signed up to be the salesmen and sell it around their own neighborhoods, they would get a present. And they had a catalog where the kid could pick out a bicycle if he wanted one badly, or clothes, things like that, that children want and need, especially toys. And when they got enough labels, they would swap them in for a bicycle or whatever they were looking for. So they would work like little beavers to get that bicycle. And that was their sales--. Those were their salesmen. [Laughs] So they didn't have to pay anybody. And the company became so big and so busy that they had to put up on the third floor--. The Post Office was next door. But there was a street between. So all these packages, they were heavy, and they had to be toted over to the Post Office to be sent around the country. And so they built a chute on the third floor. Did all their mailing up there and just sent their packages down the chute into the Post Office. [Laughs] And that brought the Post Office up a whole step in their scale of—
MW: Good, bad and indifferent. And we got such a good rating that we had, in West Concord, not Concord Center--. Mr. Emerson had to walk to the Post Office to get his mail. No delivery or anything like that. But we had uniformed deliveries twice a day, morning and afternoon. So West Concord became quite famous for our Bluine Factory.
Well that finally disappeared as all good things do. And now it's a print shop.
MK: So the Bluine industry went on, what, through the Second World War, or--?
32:50 10:30 a.m.
MW: Well I was born in 1917, so. And I remember my mother using it. And then I remember the day they put the ban on anything containing phosphorous would not be allow. And that was the end, so I was off to school by then.
MW: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: And then the ski--.
MW: The ski binder was before that.
MK: Oh, was before--.
MW: No, no. Excuse me. The Bluine built the building, and then they went out of business, and the ski—Dover Ski Binding—came in. And so--. And that--. And of course the Damon Mill was the other big industry that--.
MK: Damon Mill?
MW: The Damon Mill. It originally was a factory, a wool, first wool, then cotton, manufacturing cloth, cotton cloth and then wool cloth. And during World War One, Mr. Damon had bought this property, and they needed--. There was a call for wool cloth for uniforms for the men, World War One. And they made a great deal of the wool cloth for the uniforms of the World War soldiers. But sad to say, that was a wooden building, and one night it burned, almost to the ground, so badly that they couldn't save it, and they had to start all over again, which is the reason it is now a brick building. Mr.Damon himself rebuilt it, and made it bigger and better. And then World War Two--. I don't think it was a woolen factory anymore. It--. They finally turned it into an apple storage, because this is apple country. And the summer produce of apples is understandable. But then they had so many they had enough for a winter supply, but they had to store them in a cold storage. So they turned the whole place into a cold storage building. And they had space for oranges and grapefruit and other fruits. And that went on for several years, until it was--. Well I don't know what the reason was that they closed it, but they did. And then it just stood empty. And of course that's bad. An empty factory building is bad news. And kids get in and vandals get in, and--. So something had to be done, either tear it down and be rid of it, or turn it into something good. And a very enterprising fellow--. He was really young, only in his twenties or thirties, Mr. Sullivan, had the courage and the foresight to see what he could do with it. He bought it and renovated it into what is now a very enterprising and good-looking housing--. Well, it's not, it's not housing for people. It's industries, small businesses. And it's completely renovated and the best place around here to start a new business. And he preserved all he could of the old dam and the old falls and so forth. And it's a very attractive place.
MW: So we're grateful to Mr. Sullivan, who died much too young. He was only in his forties or fifties, and he just suddenly died.
MW: And his wife died. And that was the end of the family. It was very sad, because we have him to thank. Now what else do you want to know? How much time do we have?
MK: Oh, we have another half hour if you wish.
MW: All right. I was so intrigued with--. [Sound of paper rattling]
MK: You know, let's just—
MW: Wait a minute. Don't turn it on yet.
MK: Oh, okay.
[Recorder is turned off and back on.]
MK: Tell me this picture we're looking at here.
MW: Well, I have a picture of our, what we used to call our, or I guess it was our one and only hotel. It was back in the stagecoach days when Concord was very busy. You see Concord is kind of a, the hub of a wheel. There are five directions to go in, and they're named where they go. The Sudbury Road goes to Sudbury. Bedford Road goes to Bedford. I can't think of the names. Five towns all merge at our flagpole. So it's a rotary traffic pattern. And it all has to go by the Inn. And this hotel was a stagecoach stop. You can see how many stagecoaches are stopping there. I think there was something like forty a day. Maybe that's the railroad I'm thinking of. But it was very, very popular.
CK: It's name?
MK: And named Middlesex Hotel. Had three stories, with a dance hall and of course a barroom. And that was kind of its downfall, because that became too popular and that was the reason for their closing it. But also the stagecoaches ended, and the trolley car came in. So this is all history of Concord Center. But the old hotel had to be, was taken down. And that is where the open lawn space is in Concord Center now. And--. What do I want to say? It's a part of our park system. So we have green lawns in the center of town.
M: Open spaces.
MW: And instead of building a new hotel, that was when the B&Bs started up, and families would say, I've got an extra room or two, and I need money. I'll put them up for grabs, and people would stay overnight in their B&Bs. So that's what we have now. But we also have the Colonial Inn, which is our popular spot, and just as popular as the Middlesex Hotel was.
MK: It says, "18--." Oh. It says photograph by Alfred Monroe, who died in 1904. This--.
MW: Yes, this was back in the--.
MK: This was torn down in--.
MW: Well, it was back in the--.
MK: It doesn't say. Do you remember?
MW: I never saw the Middlesex Hotel.
MK: Oh, okay. Okay.
MW: It was all gone before I came.
MK: Uh huh.
MW: So it has been gone for 100 years. Then, speaking of how we are trying so hard to preserve our antiquity, this is what the mill dam looked like when I came. And I'm--. I tried thinking back of all, some of the important people, the characters and people in Concord that I knew and loved. One of them was Peanut Macone. And he got his name because he was a very small person. He was only--. Well, I was taller than he was, so.
CK: McCone, like an ace cream cone?
MK: CO--. M-C-C-O-M-B?
MW: No, M-A-C-O-N-E. Macone.
CK: You were taller than him?
MW: Yup. But he was a funny little guy. Always the craziest sense of humor. And he owned a bike shop, and there he is in his, in front of his bike shop. And the Macones' Bike Shop finally had to move, because they got too big and important, and especially when everybody started riding bikes for exercise. And he was getting old then anyway. And I guess his brothers took over the business and doubled its size. And it's still out on Lowell Road. But they don't sell bikes anymore. It's a gas station and exercise rooms and things like that. And so some of the other old people that were fascinating to me were Elizabeth Darling. Well I won't go on to that, because that's more history. We're talking about the changes that have come.
MK: Elizabeth Darling?
MW: Yeah, Elizabeth Darling was a pure, pure native. And she was a maiden lady. She never married. But she was very athletic and ambitious and very smart. And in her old age--. As a young person she loved her horses, and I think she always had a horse. And even as she grew old--. And she really was getting old, but you wouldn't know it. She never showed her age. And she was really in her 70s and 80s when I knew her. But she had, still had a horse that she boarded over in a barn on Lowell Road. And, but she didn't drive a car. So she rode a bicycle. And she would get into her habit and her hat, all black, and her tails on her riding jacket, and her high leather boots up to her knees, and get on her bicycle, and ride right through the center of town, out to the barn to ride her horse. And it was a wondrous, wonderful site to see this elderly lady in her riding habit, her tails flying in the wind, riding through the center of town. She was one of the unique old folks.
And the other one that comes to mind was one of my own Wheeler people. Her name was Mary Wheeler. And she was well-situated financially, so. But she never had a home, and she never married. And so she lived at the Colonial Inn. She just permanently made the Colonial Inn her home. And she was the last person in town to own an electric car. And I can say I remember seeing Mary Wheeler driving her electric car through the center of town and doing her errands, so forth. And she was getting very elderly. And so was the car. But she wouldn't give it up. And she--. In the morning, she would telephone from her room in the Colonial Inn, over to the garage where she stored the car, because it had to be charged. As soon as she'd finish driving it, it had to be charged up again. So, "Please deliver my car at 11:00 o'clock this morning. I'm going shopping." And so, the Macones owned the garage, and they would drive it up to the front door of the Inn. Off she'd go. So that's one of my fondest memories. And to know that she was a Wheeler.
Well. But let's get back to the changes that have happened, the best things. Of course being an old lady myself, I appreciate all the new things that are being done for elder people that were never done when I came as a young person. And of course I never thought twice about growing old. Didn't occur to me that I was going to get old some day. And here I am. And I, within a mile's distance I could walk if I had to, we have this wonderful old age, Golden Age, we call it, Center, with all my medical needs. My doctors are all in the same building. Emerson Hospital is only a mile and a half away. I could walk there if I had to. Everything I need is all within my reach. And I benefit from everything, even having my taxes, help with my taxes, because I'm old. And I like that. And I get such respect. I don't—I suppose old people have always had respect, but I never paid attention to it. But I like that part. And--.
MK: And there was no such services when you first came to town.
MW: Doctor Johnny [Dr. Reginald Fulton Johnston] was the doctor. Then a new one came. So there were two, Randy—Umm. Oh boy. It'll come to me. We never had him. He was a young fellow. But those were the only two doctors you ever heard of. And everything happened at Emerson Hospital. My babies were all born at Emerson, in the ward where there were eight mothers, one bathroom, at the end of the hall. And we were kept in bed for a week, couldn't put our foot on the floor for a week. Then we had a day when we could dangle. That meant put your knees over the side of the bed, and get that far down. And the next day we could stand up. "But don't walk, because you've had a baby, and you must take care of yourself." Now, if they stay overnight they do well. And they go back to housekeeping the next day. That's the difference.
Well, as I started to say, the railroad--. When that railroad really got put through, that just changed everything, especially for the farmers, because the Wheeler farm, as I started to say, the corn. During corn season, men would--. These immigrants, some were from Russia, Romania, Lithuania, the, Central Europe, besides the Irish people who were already here, they would pick the corn all morning, pack it all afternoon, and about 7:00 o'clock at night, someone would have to drive the team. It would be two horse team. Drive it into Boston to the Quincy Market to be sold, wholesale, of course. And that's why Quincy Market got to be so big and important. And they would drive as far as Waltham and stop at a livery stable, and change horses, because it was a long, heavy load for those horses to bear. And they couldn't make it all the way to Boston, so they'd swap horses, take the tired ones and retire them, for overnight; they'd be cared for. And get a fresh pair of horses, continue on to the market. Then, come all the way home again. And it was all uphill coming home. So it would be 2:00 or 3:00 o'clock in the morning before the driver ever got to bed. And that was hard work.
So you can see what the railroad did to change that. All they had to do was load the—load the corn, get it as far the railroad station, which was three miles away, and off it would go. But they had to--. Someone had to go with it, because there had to be--. They did their business through--. What's the word? Businessmen that would buy the, buy our load.
MW: Middleman, yes, the middlemen. And then came the--. Oh then they'd have to unload the corn. And that was another heavy load. It would be three or four tiers high. I have a picture of a load just starting down the road to go to Boston to be sold. And it is stacked way up high. I couldn't possibly reach it. And then, the next day, same routine. Pick in the morning, pack in the afternoon, drive to Boston at night, in the evening. And stop in Waltham at the livery stable, and pick up the rested horses that they had left the day before, and swap them for the tired horses that they were leaving, and continue on. This went on all summer, and into the fall with squash and potatoes. But then they got into the line of building greenhouses. And then they could store squash, winter squash, all winter, and have it for sale through the winter. And that was very smart, because then they had year round income. And what they didn't have in squash, they would make up in--. They tried flowers at one time, because you can always grow flowers in a hothouse, summer and winter. But the flowers didn't last. It was the veggies that lasted. And so we were the Market Gardeners, were the title for my family, Market Gardeners.
Now, then the railroad, of course, was the big--. That is why we have Concord Junction, because it means the junction of the two railroads, North and South. First it was East and West, form Boston to Fitchburg and on. Then came the New York line form New York to Lowell and New Hampshire, and they crossed in West Concord Center. And that crossing is the actual rails are still there, in the center of West Concord, as a souvenirs of where the junction was. And there would be--. Now perhaps I'm wrong about the—I'm mixed up about the stagecoaches or the railroads. I think now it was the railroads. There would be forty or more trains going through West Concord Center. And that's why it became Concord Junction, for a long time. It was called Concord Junction. Now we're back to the, just one word, Concord. It has had seven different names, as parts of the town would be developed. That would be Damondale. And then there'd be Prison Village over where the Reformatory got started. And then there'd be Warnerville. And they'd get bigger and bigger, and finally, all came together as Concord Junction, and then West Concord. And now we've just dropped the West, and the whole, we're back to the whole town again.
So that has been an advantage. And that, of course, has brought a lot more people. But they're such nice people, and the kind you just enjoy having for neighbors. And I just love living in West Concord, where I do live. Incidentally, it was no thanks to us, but we found out after we had done the transactions and started fixing up our house, that we were on family land, because our--. We also had another ancestor; George Hayward, H-A-Y-W-A-R-D, was also one of the twelve farming fathers, founding fathers. And he was the first white man to go to what was now West Concord. But in those days it was called the Falls of the Assabet. But that was where Damon Mill was built, at, by the Falls of the Assabet. That's where they got the water power, and it's still there.
So, we live on Hayward Mill Road, because George Hayward built the dam right down the, where--. We face--. It looks like a pond. People think we live on a pond, but it's really a dammed brook. And it's--. So we're back to our own family again. And that's fun to keep track of.
MK: So your husband was skilled with cabinet building--
MK: --and fine woodwork.
MW: And he was a--. Mechanical engineering—
CK: Who was?
MW: --was his life. My husband was. His degree was in--.
MW: Mechanical engineering. But he loved woodworking. He'd rather work with wood than metal. So he loved woodworking and carving and--. Although he never had time to do the carving, but he could. He was good at it. He'd whittle and make a funny little frog or something for a grandchild. Never had time to get into that. But he rebuilt this old house that we had found. And today it's a very--. I'm very proud of the workmanship that he put into it. And now he is gone. But my son has all his abilities and his own, all his lure for woodworking and mechanical engineering. And he has done his bit to improve the house. So it's very, very pretty. And my husband in the meantime built a little small house for he and I, just for our retirement. And now he's gone, but I still live in our little house, our retirement house. So that's why I'm planning to die there. And have no other plans to go anywhere. But I've really got it made, because I'm happy where I want to be. I'm--. I don't ever want to be anywhere else, and my own son is my best neighbor across the street, because he has taken it owner. And his family have all grown up there, and now his grandchildren are growing up, not there, but come, nearby.
MK: Umm hmm.
MW: And so I get to see my great-grandchildren.
MK: Other, social changes.
MW: Oh, they are great, because we really have--. The town has increased in families. And we have many more attractions. Of course we've got a library of our own in West Concord. This [where we're sitting] is the Concord Center, famous library, where all the Concord authors are housed, but we're very proud of our Fowler Branch, which is being renovated again, that the, for the second time, and getting bigger and better. Our churches are bigger and better. And we have our old age center, and a little playschool for pre-school children. Our shopping area has stayed the same, quite like Concord Center. The businesses change now and then, but there are still a lot of standard old settlers who still, whose families are still running the businesses. Our hardware store is third or fourth generation. Vanderhoof's. And we did have a famous shoe store that was going into the fourth generation.
MK: What was--what was—What was the name of that?
MW: So forth. So.
MK: What was the name of that?
MW: It's no longer. Hay's Shoe Store.
MK: Hayes Shoe Store.
MW: But it—It was, for years, because my father-in-law bought--.They bought his baby shoes at Hayes Shoe Store.
CK: And how was it spelled?
MW: H-A-Y-E-S. Hayes. Yeah. But this committee who is keeping an eye on everything, the growth of West Concord, and not letting things get out of hand, and guarding what is there, and making sure that things are going to continue the way we want them, and not get out of hand. Our dam has been greatly improved from the-. It's--. Well Warner's Pond has always been there from way back in 1700s, with a dam, because there was a--. Well of course it was in the developing days when so many factories were getting started, and they needed water power. So all the brooks and rivers became very busy with big buildings. Look at Lowell. There you have just factories by the acres. And but also they were dumping all their waste water into the rivers, which, of course, was the natural thing to do. How do you get rid of your dyes? If you're making red flannels, what do you do when you're finished? You got to put it somewhere, so, well, here's the river, so just dump it in the river. And that is how we got--.
If you're familiar with New England and Concord area, we have in the fall--. It starts in August, a very beautiful wildflower that starts blooming. It's a pinky-purple color, and just beautiful, because it just fills riverways and fields beside the rivers. And guess what. Henry Thoreau never saw that flower. Because he was a nature lover as you know, recorded everything that was growing when he lived here. And he never saw that flower, because, it has come from Scotland and England, where the wool was grown. And they just sheared the lambs in Scotland, or wherever they were grown, shipped whole, just raw, to the States. And here they washed the wool, and all the seeds from this flower that had been growing for centuries in England and Scotland and wherever, would be in the lamb's wool. And it would be washed out into the rivers and caught all up and down the streams. And today it is a great nuisance to--.
MK: An invasive species.
MW: And it is. It's an invasive species. We do all we can to eradicate it.
CK: Is this purple loosestrife?
MW: Loosestrife. That's the word. Yes. Loosestrife.
MK: Purple loosestrife.
MK: Say it.
MW: Purple loosestrife. Umm hmm. And if you want to see what I'm talking about, go to Nine-Acre Corner, and view the Sudbury River from Route--. What is it? The Fitchburg—
MK: [Route] 2A, or--?
MW: 'Tisn't Route 62. 117. Route 117 at the crossroads of Nine-Acre Corner. And it's just gorgeous, you have to say. There's not a prettier picture. But it's bad. Too bad. [Whispering] Do you want to turn it off?
[Recorder is turned off and back on.]
MW: So I've talked about people and the railroad and--. Is it on?
MK: Yup. It's okay.
MW: Well, I was so intrigued with West Concord when I moved here from Nine-Acre Corner. I was happy as a clam living at Nine-Acre Corner where my own—[sound of shuffling paper]
CK: I'm hearing that paper.
MW: --ancestors and Rusty's generations had just lived there. And that was a very comforting feeling to me. But then our day came when we left West Concord and moved to what--. When we left Nine-Acre Corner, and moved to West Concord. And I was just delighted with what was there. And we came to an anniversary date. I've forgotten which anniversary it was. Maybe the 200th? But West Concord just--. Everybody in West Concord got up for it, celebrated and showed off as best we could. And someone suggested a walking tour of the town. And they asked me to do it, because I had been studying up on--. That's why I know about Dover Ski Binding and the Bluine Factory
and the Damon Mill and so forth. And I wrote a little booklet for a walking tour [sound of papers shuffling] where the—
MK: It's in your lap, I think.
MW: Yes. So that is what I found when I got to West Concord. And I picked out the things that I thought were historic enough to have people know about. So, I like to refer to that now and then.
CK: I wonder, if you were to land here for the first time now, or for the second time--. You'd been here in West Concord say in the '40s—
MW: Since 1937
CK: In Concord.
MW: 1937 I came to Concord.
CK: If you were to have left for a while and returned now, what do you think would strike you about West Concord or Concord?
MW: Progress. But happy progress, not drastic, and only for conveniences and for safety, such as seatbelts. Those are a pain in the neck to me. But they're necessary and a good thing. The way people exercise and take care of themselves, I think that's remarkable. They're not dying of heart attacks in their wheelchairs. Well, yes they do, but never mind. I also--. One important thing that I haven't mentioned has been the coming of the National Park, Minute Man National Park. That has been a great savior to anything in our Revolutionary War history part. But it also includes, of course, the beginning of the town and the, those hundred and--. They town was 150 years old when the Revolutionary War started. So it was old, an old town even then. And to have all the preservation done that the Minute Man National Park has done, is a very happy thing for me to realize that nothing is ever going to change them, and they can't be moved, they can't be changed; they'll always be there for posterity. And, proud to say that one of Rusty's ancestors, the Rice family--.There were three Rice girls, and Rusty, my husband, would refer to them as those swingin' Rice girls, because one of them married Gardner Wheeler, who was our grandfather. Gardner's brother married another of the Rice girls, and a third sister--.The three girls were named Mary, Martha and Mariah; three "M"s. And they all married two Wheeler brothers and a third farmer who lived between the two brothers. So three Rice sisters all lived at Nine-Acre Corner, married to two Wheeler brothers and the third one was an old bachelor that hadn't gotten anybody. And somehow that got arranged so that Mariah--. No, Martha got to marry the bachelor. So the three farms in a row all kind of ruled Nine-Acre Corner, as you can tell. Three swingin' Rice girls.
MK: That would've been in the--?
MW: Oh, well the Revolutionary War.
MK: The Revolutionary War.
MW: Yeah. And so that house is still standing, and it's on the trail of the National Park. And I have a very old, but very good picture of it, and in her own handwriting--. Let's see. Mariah was our grandmother. Mary married Gardner's brother. And Martha married the bachelor in-between. Lost my train of thought.
MK: You have a photograph.
MW: Yes! And in her own handwriting, it says, my childhood home. So I took it to the National Park headquarters when they were renovating all those old buildings and asked her if it meant anything to them, that if they would like to have it for--. I wanted it back, but I would, was willing to loan it. And they said, "Yes, of course, we would very much like it, and we promise we will return it," which they did, six months later. And I think it was a help for them to, in renovating it, to keep it as it was in that day, her day anyway.
MK: Well this has been absolutely breathtaking.
MW: It makes me feel like a part. I think this is where I belong. And as someone told Rusty one day when he was floundering--. He had graduated from Wentworth, and, his twenties, and as I said he liked woodworking better than machinery, but World--. Not World—World War Two. What war came along in 1940s?
CK: You're right.
MK: Yeah, World War Two.
MW: Yes. Yes. They needed mechanical engineering much worse than soldiers, and so he just went into war effort. And they said he was more valuable to the war effort by helping with building airplanes and stuff like that than he would be as a soldier in the field. And so he never had to leave Concord. He was employed, and of course it was good wages. So we benefited from it, instead of suffering. And, but those were the War days, and he worked night shifts a lot of the time, so he could be home with the kids in the daytime. And I would drive him to Cambridge. American Machine and Foundry was where he was employed. But it meant I had to drive him and drive myself home in the dark. Go get him in 7:00 in the morning, just when the kids were having to go to school. But we managed.
CK: What were you driving?
MW: A Ford. They were always Fords. And to this day my son has a big belt with a buckle this big that says F-O-R-D on it.
MW: And his little son, who--. The first word he spoke, when he was learning to talk, one and a half or two years old, was "Ford!" Pointing to the car, "Ford!" [chuckles] So we're a Ford family. We aren't anymore, but that's was the tradition.
MK: Thank you so much.
CK: Did we cover what you wanted to say?
MW: I think so.
CK: Great. We loved it.
MW: . . . immigrants and retirement and Nine-Acre Corner. I certainly did.
[Recorder is turned off and back on]
CK: Say it again.
MK: So from an old farming community—
MK: You're now—
MW: Turning back to—
CK: Would you start--? Say the whole sentence.
MW: Concord has always been a quiet farming community. And we want it to stay that way. We don't want it to be a big, noisy city. And to that extent, we are turning back to all this business of green. Everything is, should be green, meaning, have a garden. Grow your own veggies. And everyone, everyone is being urged to have their own garden, and grow their own veggies. And don't use poisons on your sprays and all those things. And the town itself is urging and encouraging big gardens, to help feed The Open Tables and the people who haven't enough to eat. And that's going, working well. The—Henry Thoreau's Birth House is being renovated. And it was always a farm. And the farmland is still there and had been worked right up until the last old gentleman died. And his children did not want the farm. So they sold it in very bad shape, and the house in run down condition. But, the people supporting Henry Thoreau and all his work, got together and saved the house and got it arranged so they, so the Town bought it, and now the Society can buy it from the Town. But they want to use the land farming. That's the important thing. His house where he was born is an attraction and an historic marker and will be used for school children to go there and have courses in farming, and history and so forth. And the gardens are being planted and tended by volunteers who completely--. Here in Concord we have what we call The Open Table. Every Thursday night there is a meal provided in the First Parish Church. And it is run completely by volunteers, and the food is all, hopefully, donated, from the gardens and people's backyards. And any time that you have food left over that you don't know what to do with, take it to The Open Table. They'll use it.
MW: And it's going well. And we're proud of that. So, there are many gardens being planted and run by volunteers, backyard gardens.
MW: I'm not having one myself because can't bend my knees anymore--
MW: --to work in it.
End of recording [78:50]