Ralph Hemenway
8 Bruce Road

Age: 82

Interviewed March 3, 1983

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer

Hemenway, Ralph.I've lived all my life in this neighborhood. When I was growing up, there were only four houses on Potter Street. One house belonged to Mr. Hagerty, a farmer; another house belonged to Bobby O'Connell, a housepainter; the third house belonged Mr. O'Brien, a school custodian; and the fourth house was Mr. Heckinson's, a caretaker at the Adams estate on Fairhaven Hill. On the corner of Potter Street and Fairhaven Road was the home of Patsy Hagerty, a bachelor who was the coachman for the Adams estate.

The next house on Fairhaven Road was known as the Pest House. It is now on the corner of Route 2 and Fairhaven Road. On the other side of Route 2 is a small graveyard with two or three graves of people who had passed away in the Pest House. The House was a home for people who had smallpox in the 1880's.

Across the street from the Pest House was the home of Billy Milner and his mother. Billy was a cripple and he did some trapping in his days. When we boys did some trapping, we would take our animals up to Billy to have them skinned.

The house I was born in is on Fairhaven Road at the foot of Potter Street. Next to us was the home of Mr. Bass, who owned a meat store on Walden Street in Concord center. The next house was the home of George Wheeler, a farmer who was the father of Wilfred Wheeler. Wilfred Wheeler lived in the house that now faces Sudbury Road. I believe he was the first secretary of agriculture for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

There were no houses from Wilfred Wheeler's to the railroad tracks except for a little cottage that was the home of the caretaker of the J.D. Wood Coal Co., who had a coal yard by the tracks.

Going back to Fairhaven Road across the street from Mr. Bass was the home of another Hagerty family. Perhaps Hubbardville should have been called Hagertyville. On the corner of Fairhaven Road and Sudbury Road was the home where Anna Manion lived and was brought up.

Across Sudbury Road from the Wilfred Wheeler house was the home of George Hubbard. Hubbardville was named after his family. Next to him was the home of Albert Neal and then the home of Thomas Hollis, which is where Mary Abbott lived for a number of years. Next to that house is a small house, which was the studio of Daniel French. When I was a boy, the house was still full of many of his models. Beyond the studio was the home of Mr. Magurn, who was a railroad mail clerk, and his wife is still living there.

At the corner of Sudbury Road and Grant Street was the home of the Harringtons. And then you came to the grain company which is now Wilson Lumber.

That pretty well describes Hubbardville. This area was all farm land growing mostly asparagus. My dad in 1898 bought what was then one of the better asparagus farms in Concord, but what he didn't know was that disease, asparagus rust, had struck the asparagus roots killing them all. The whole field had to be replanted, and it takes three years for the asparagus to bear commercially. He had quite a rough time of it and had to sell part of the farm to keep a roof over our heads. The asparagus root is a flat root looking something like an octopus with tendrils coming out from it, and in the center is the head or crown from which the asparagus spears grow. This would be cut with a flat knife about 5-6 inches long. The cutter would have to stoop over and cut the spear about 2 inches below the ground. You had to be careful not to cut the new shoots coming up around it.

After cutting, the spears were brought into the shed and bunched. A buncher was a flat piece of wood about 2 Inches thick and the center would be hollowed a bit to lay the string to tie each bunch of asparagus. Each bunch was made up of spears of uniform size. Then it would be taken to another table that had a cutter like a paper cutter, and each bunch was cut on the bottom end to even up the spears so all the bunches would be the same size and height.

Besides asparagus, each farmer raised enough hay to feed his cattle during the winter months. Strawberries, corn, beets, carrots, and other vegetables were also raised.

There used to be two or three men around town with trucks and they came around to the farms every evening and picked up the asparagus that had been cut during the day. These truckers would take the produce including other vegetables into Boston to the commission houses at Fanueil Hall market. The trucker would leave the name of each grower with the commission houses. The commissioners would sell the produce and pay the farmer the selling price less their commission. There were times when the farmer didn't get anything at all from the sale.

Two or three times a year we would go by horse and wagon into the market ourselves. We would leave around noontime to get there by dark. We would leave the loaded wagon in the street, take the horse to a stable, get something to eat, and go back to the stable and sleep in the hayloft. The only thing that bothered me was that in the morning it would seem like someone might have switched all the wagons around.

In the depot area across from the station, there was a building which is now the liquor store. On one side of the building there was a fruit store and on the other side was Cutler's grocery store. On the corner of Thoreau Street and Belknap Street was a meat market run by John Whitney. Opposite the fruit store and grocery store was McManus's stable. They ran hacks or taxis for the people coming home on the train that needed transportation home. One of the people I remember coming home in the summer time was Charles Adams, who lived up on Fairhaven hill. The sunlight must have been too bright for him because I remember him in the back seat of the carriage with a blanket over his head.

Where Friendly's is now, there was a small building with one fire engine in it. This was the time of horse drawn fire engines and the horses were kept at McManus's stable. There was also a fire station on Walden Street with horse drawn equipment and the horses were kept at Tuttle's Livery stable across the street.

During my school days, there was no transportation so we had to get ourselves to school. We ran through the fields and crossed the tracks at the head of Hubbard Street and ran down Stow Street. All the schools in Concord were on Stow Street. The first school I went to was the Ripley School, which was a little frame building at the corner of Hubbard Street and Stow Street. It was a three room school for kindergarten, first and second grades. In the basement of the building was the gymnasium, which had lockers and showers.

Then I went to fourth grade in the building that is the teen center now. And then the Peter Bulkeley building was built and I went to fifth through eighth grade there. The high school was where the library parking lot is now. When I was in grammar school, we got out at 12:00, and we got an hour and a half to go home for lunch. School started again at 1:30 until 3:30. I can remember racing home to eat lunch and running back to the playground to play ball, either baseball or football.

When I was in high school, we played football but not as well directed as it is now. We had our own student-run athletic association, and we put on plays and dances to raise money to help pay the expenses of the football season or other sports season. The school supplied us with trousers and the only padding in them was a piece of leather in the legs of them. Anything else we wanted we bought; sometimes we bought used materials from the seniors who were graduating or we got hand-me-downs.

I can remember in 1918, the coach we had the year before had gone to war, and the new man hired had a heart attack about a month before school started, so we had no coach at all. On top of that, an influenza epidemic was around and school was two weeks late in opening. But I remember 13 of us went to play the first football game that year in Natick.

We got to our games by a truck that belonged to the father of one of the team members. His father had a milk farm and used an open-bodied truck to deliver milk. When we used to go to football games, benches were put in the back of the truck for the players to ride to the games. Obviously, our season wasn't too successful being our own coaches, but we did manage to win one game that season.

One humorous incident that I remember concerned McManus's stable. They usually rented carriages to people who came to see the sights of Concord. A friend of mine was walking down Sudbury Road at French's studio and overheard the man driving the sightseers that this was the building where Daniel French scalped.

Text mounted 3rd October 2012; Image mounted 11th October 2012. RCWH.