Mary Crocker
1891 Main Street

Interviewed September 18, 2006

Age 90

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer

Click here for audio in .mp3 format

Mary Crocker-- Always lived on Main Street. First lived on 43 Main St. where Sally Ann Bakery and Cambridge Trust Bank are. Participation in the community sing at Christmas around the tree, open house at the Colonial Inn, inspiration of the American flag flying in Monument Square, being a girl scout.

-- Purchased home built in 1830 from the American Powder Company, owner of the Powder Mills. After World War II brother Kenneth purchased home from Dan Hayes who had purchased powder mill property. Building of Edgewood Road in the 1950s.

-- Nearby Hat Shop Pond, named for the grass that grew in the area, used in the brim of men's hats. Ice cut in winter. Used for area summer and skating. Purchased by Elsie Kennedy became Kennedy's pond.

-- Father Lee worked for the Concord Ice Company on Walden Street. Insulation of the ice with sawdust, stacked in layers. Used team of horses to deliver the ice until 1933 when trucks replaced them.

-- Rivalry between Concord and West Concord intensified by the building of Route 2. Had to pay 50 cents to ride a commercial bus to the high school or walk to Stow Street.

-- The apple storage business at the Damon Mill. Bars on Commonwealth Avenue.

-- Paychecks on Thursday, stores open late Friday night in West Concord. Elmwood hotel and stores along Commonwealth Avenue. West Concord Fire Station fire on Church Street.

-- Working at Aunt Sadie and Uncle Frank Draper's Maplewood Farm on Lexington Road. Picking quarts of strawberries for one cent a quart box. Selling to the Colonial Inn. Nearby Hartwell Farm Restaurant in Lincoln was Supplied with the farm's milk and cream.

-- Worked in Maynard at the A&P. Participation in the senior center's club begun by the Recreation Dept.

-- Lifelong love of Concord

This house was built in 1830, and I'm almost positive that Marion Wheeler's was built in 1824 by the same family, only brothers. We've lived in this house since 1931. It was built for the Heywood brothers. When we bought it, it was owned by the American Powder Company. We paid rent to the American Powder Company, and this was connected with the powder mills that were close by.

The pond is just down behind our neighbor's house and all our lives we called it Hat Shop Pond, simply because up by Bob Carter's, there was a certain type of grass that grew, and was used in the brims in hats. As far as I know, I'm not positive where it was, but down on Harrington Avenue was a hat shop. It was a small outfit and was gone before we came here. There was a big ice house down on this pond, and they cut ice in the winter.

We swam in the summer and skated in the winter on the pond. I don't know how many children I taught to swim at that pond. Elsie Kennedy bought it later, and she changed the name to Kennedy Pond. She lived on Mill Street in a dance hall there that belonged to the Finnish Temperance Society in Maynard. They used to have a dance every Friday night. They had a lot of people go to it.

All my life I lived on Main Street, but not this part of Main Street. The first five years after we came from Nova Scotia, we settled at what was 43 Main Street and that's where the Sally Ann Bakery and bank are now. Then we moved here, and at that time this was 512 Main Street. They changed the numbering and changed it to 1891. So I've lived 80 years on Main Street. We're in between two streets, Main Street and Haywood Mill Road. Main Street wasn't there for a good many years. This was the main part of the house and the front of the house.

After the war, my brother Kenneth bought this house from Daniel Hayes who owned the Garnet Mills. He bought it with the GI bill after he got out of the service. When he purchased it, it was to be a home for anybody as long as they wanted to stay here or until they left on their own. And, I've never left. I'm the oldest one of nine, and I'm still here. There were six boys and three girls.

My father was Lee, and he worked for the Concord Ice Company on Walden Street. Bill Grace and John Forbes bought it in 1924. I'm almost sure it was 1924. Dad came up here to work for them in 1925 because there was very little work and my father hated farming. He had been up here as a young man anyway and had worked at the ice company in Somerville. When they put the ice in the ice house, it used to go up on a conveyor belt up to the top. When each level was filled, they covered that all with sawdust, and then another layer of ice, and another layer of sawdust. That insulated the ice and kept the ice so they could use it all summer. There were several teams of horses to deliver the ice. Dad had the black team, and they were very skittish. If you stopped to deliver ice at a house, you had to put the chain or clamp-like thing on the wheels because if a car went by and tooted the horn, the horses were very skittish. I've got the picture taken in 1933. That was Dad's team and he always took care of them even on Sunday. He'd walked down from where we lived at 43 Main Street. Every single Sunday, he'd walk down to clean and feed his horses. In 1933 they did away with the teams of horses and had trucks.

The rivalry between Concord and West Concord all started when they put Route 2 in. They used to make fun of you. They used to say you belong on the other side of the tracks. There was a real rivalry. I think today there is underneath for some people. Route 2 came in in the '30s, and that really divided the town. They considered Concord had all the wealthy people, and West Concord all the poor people. That went on for years and years and years. This was the more commercial end of town.

We had to pay 50 cents a week to go on a regular bus to school. We went on the Lowell bus out of Maynard. It went from Maynard to Arlington Heights and they picked us up on their way to Arlington Heights. Then they picked us up on their way from Arlington Heights to Maynard. So we had to have 50 cents. If you didn't have it, you couldn't ride the bus. That was during the depression, and if you didn't have that 50 cents, you didn't ride. Sometimes I didn't have it. I had to earn it babysitting or mowing somebody's lawn or doing something to get that 50 cents. We had to walk sometimes. One whole fall we walked and that was from this house all the way to Stow Street where the high school was. We never missed a day and we were never late. That's how bad we wanted our education. A lovely lady on Central Street almost behind the Union Church felt so sorry for us that she didn't want us to walk in the winter. So every Sunday we had to walk down to her house and get 50 cents. My brother had to sign this little paper to get the 50 cents thanking her. Can you think of a kid doing that today? The kids don't like to go to school, and we couldn't wait to go to school.

Edgewood Road was built in the 1950s. There wasn't another house on the left-hand side until you got all the way up to Maynard, now where the florist shop is on the right hand side. There was a nice big white house almost opposite that and that was the first house in all that distance. There were three little tiny houses, they were shacks really, up by Bob Carter's who lived on Hayward Mill Road. One of them collected rainwater in a barrel and for drinking water. They got a gallon of water every single day from here so my brothers carried it up. When the boys didn't do it, then my dad did it. So they got a gallon of fresh water every single day.

The apple storage was a real big business in the fall. When they thought there was going to be a frost, there'd be trucks lined all by this house all the way down to Sudbury to get the apples in before the frost. When that first opened, they had a big dance. I guess it was probably old fashioned. I wanted to go so bad but my mother wouldn't let me, she thought that wasn't a fit place for a 16-year-old.

Prohibition didn't affect our family because my mother wouldn't allow any liquor in this house. My brother always said you'd die of thirst before you get a drink in this house. The boys were never allowed to have a can or bottle of beer in this house. There was Lyle's Cafe on Commonwealth Avenue on the right-hand side near the 5 & 10. Frank's Shoe Store was there for years, but that was Lyle's before that. Then there was another bar on Commonwealth Avenue on the other side of the street. Lyle's became Lahiff's later on.

In West Concord I remember where the Elmwood Hotel was, Adams and Bridges Grocery, and a pool room on the opposite side of the street from the 5 & 10. Mr. King who ran that pool room lived in this house for eleven years before we did. They moved down to the corner of Pine Street and Main Street. Mrs. King did hairdressing. Before it was the 5 & 10, it was Bartelomeo's Fruit Store, and I think they lived in the back of the store.

In Maynard, Friday night was the big night for stores to be open. The American Powder Company had three shifts at that time so they got paid on Friday. Thursday was the big payday in West Concord so it was a big shopping day. In those days the stores weren't open on Sunday.

The West Concord Fire Station fire was a terribly bad fire. What made it so bad was that it was a windy day and all the sparks were getting on the different houses so the poor firemen had an awful job on their hands. The fire station was located on Church Street. It was never replaced. That's where the cleaners and Twin Seafood is now. I think that was in 1933 or 1934. That was a very, very bad fire. They had to stop the trains and everything.

It was very big thing to have a car back then. I don't where we got our old car but that was really the thing to have a car. My family's car was an old Studebaker. They only used it to go shopping. It wasn't for pleasure. We still walked a lot. We walked to Maynard to the movies and walked back. We'd go to see a western for 10 cents. But I do remember we went to see my uncle who lived in Portland, Maine and it took my dad all day to drive to Portland, Maine and all day to drive home because somebody told him to keep the speed down. We didn't get home until midnight.

My aunt and uncle, Frank and Sadie Draper lived at Maplewood Farm on Lexington Road. When I was 15, I stayed up there the whole summer and they had help in those days. I think six men worked there. One of them had a little car and he said it was about time I learned to drive, so I did. I learned to drive when I was 15, but it was the old fashioned kind with the clutch and everything. I remember distinctly going down the lane and I had to learn how to turn around. I couldn't cut the wheels the right way to turn around and he yelled at me. I learned anyway. I think I learned the right way because I got my license when I was 24, and I haven't driven for about 5 years, but in all these years knock on wood, I've never had an accident or a ticket or anything. So I must have done something right in all these years.

My aunt and uncle raised a lot of vegetables. They had a specialty of strawberries, and we had to pick strawberries. My uncle used to go early in the morning to Maynard and get about six kids to pick strawberries. We got one cent a quart box. One time I hadn't picked enough, and my aunt made me go back and pick five more. One summer when I was about 16 or 17, they had 1000 boxes of strawberries. The Colonial Inn called up and they wanted 50 boxes. All of us would pick 50, and then they would want more.

The Colonial Inn was a real old inn. I love old things and I just love the Colonial Inn. I wish it was back today like it used to be in the old days. They had a man there that had been there for years and he went with it. He was the perfect host. The Hartwell Farm in Lincoln was supplied by my uncle with milk and cream. There were two ladies that ran the restaurant, Miss Fitch and Miss Poor. They were interested in the dairy products that my uncle had. He had cows and a pair of horses. The horses used to plow the snow in winter. They owned the farm for a number of years. My aunt died when she was young and I was 16 and years after my uncle married again and they were there a long time after that. Then he died and the Nowalks purchased the farm.

I worked in Maynard at the A&P Store on Nason Street for 21 years. I started during the war in 1942, and I was there until 63. My brothers were going into the service and we needed the money at home, and I could make more money at the grocery store rather than the mill. My brother said you could never work in the mill, so my mother was shopping one day and they said they were going to hire some women at the A&P because they were short of help. So I went up, and they hired me right off.

When I was 62, I joined the senior center's club. Originally it was part of the Council on Aging, but the senior center club was a throw back from the recreation department. For a number of years before I was president, they got so much money a year from the recreation department and then they weren't getting any money at all, so that's why they became an independent club. We met downstairs in Our Lady's Church and they were very, very good to us. They didn't charge us any rent at all so we gave them a donation every year. But we couldn't do much because it was only $2.00 to join and then we went up to $3.00. We disbanded because our membership was getting way down and the people were old. We didn't want anybody to fall. We had two meetings a month and then we got down to one, but we were so afraid that somebody would fall. When my brother died in 2001 and I was on a walker, I said I just couldn't be president any longer. No one came forward to do it so they just disbanded. We always had interesting programs, like the fire department or police department. We always had a Christmas sing-along and we always had Tom Ruggles. He had me wear a red nose one time and we were singing away and my nose popped off. Tom was very good. Then we've had slides or music programs. The club was mostly West Concord people, but we did have a few from Concord.

When we lived at 43 Main Street, they had singing around the Christmas tree in Monument Square and then the Colonial Inn had an open house after the sing with some kind of drink. I just love Concord and I've loved it from the day I came to 43 Main Street. I can find beauty any place in Concord. When I was a Girl Scout and took the Girl Scout oath that made a lasting impression on me to this day. I was only 10 years old and this was when I was 11 that I held the flag so straight. They told me not to dip it, and I was the tallest one. I was so proud to carry that flag. In those days we carried wreaths made out of lilacs and put them on the graves. When I got home that day, I told my mother my stomach hurt. She said well, let me see, and I had held the flag so tight that I had a water blister. I think that is one of the greatest thrills in life to be there by the library and look up and see that flag 135 feet high in the sky over Monument Square.

I feel so happy. I love Concord and have been in Concord since I've been 10 years old and I'm going to be buried in Sleepy Hollow. Isn't that great?

Mounted 21st March 2012 rcwh.