Lawrence Kenney
88 Virginia Road

Age: 65

Interviewed July 7, 1977

Concord Oral History Program
Interviewed by Renee Garrelick.

Virginia Road and Old Bedford Road were dirt roads when my father bought the farm in Concord at 88 Virginia Road and I drove a horse wagon out here. As I approached Old Bedford Road, I noticed the Pat Magurn farm with a pair of horses, a black horse and a white horse, and a potato digger.

Being a young man about ten years old, I never saw a potato digger ever in my life. My father in Arlington, were I was born, and all the farmers had a one-horse plow, a tip cart, a manure wagon, a market wagon, a wheel harrow, a cultivator and a few hoes. That's the way it was years ago. I proceeded over to the farmhouse and I thought I had really moved out west at that time in my life.

When I first came here, there were cow farmers, pig farmers, chicken farmers, and only two truck farmers in the Virginia Flats, one my father and the other was Gus and Charlie Magurn. The Magurn farm had greenhouses and was very up-to-date in truck farming. My father was also a very good truck farmer. The other farmers at that time raised milk cows, chickens, and pigs, a lot of asparagus, strawberries, corn, potatoes and turnips; they were rough farmers. But as time progressed, the asparagus people began to leave the town of Concord. When I was a young man, I remember Freeman Tuttle going around to the farms and picking up asparagus and he had two flat bed trucks and he was doing a lot of hauling of asparagus into Boston.

Now as years progressed, the asparagus began to leave. It was too expensive to cut the asparagus and the market was so poor so the majority of the farmers stopped raising asparagus. Today there are no asparagus farms in the town of Concord. You may have a few rows here and there but the real asparagus farmers that would have 25, 35, 40 acres of asparagus are no longer in existence. Those asparagus farms that I knew as a young man are now in house lots. It just didn't pay so they had to sell out.

So most of the farms in Concord years ago in our area aren't here any more, not farming any more, I'm sorry. The McHughs have their farm, Carl Anderson a pig farm, the Algeo farm down the road was a cow farm but they're a horse farm, Carlson farm has been sold to the airport, and most of the area of farming land around here are not here any more, but there are a few of us left, very few.

When I was a young man, Nine Acre Corner was absolutely one hundred per cent farming, large farms. At that time all the farmers up there would board their help and most of them were people who came from Poland. They were mostly Polish immigrants but they were great workers and great people. They just enjoyed working those farms, the pay wasn't great, but the food was great and the living was wonderful and those farmers treated their people as people.

All the produce was sold in Faneuil Hall.

This Virginia Flats area was predominantly Irish and Swedish and all good neighbors. I remember when I was a young fellow I used to work for Frank Peterson, a real good Swede, and he would feed you great but you never saw a nickel. Frank Peterson, best guy in the world.

I joined the Concord Independent Battery in 1934 and I've been in it for 43 years, and to me the Battery is just great. I would like to mention one thing about the Battery that we did fire during Kennedy's funeral and I was the captain at the bridge. We have twenty-four members of the Battery and they are all really true members, honest members.

We used to keep or the town kept the guns over at the Veterans Building underneath the building and then the time came that it wasn't safe to store the guns. So at our battery meeting, and I was on the committee with Page Browne, Harvey Wheeler, and others, we decided we would build our own Gun House and give it to the town. We went out and solicited money for the Gun House and in three weeks we raised $14,000 and we gave that Gun House to the town of Concord. It was completed in 1948, I believe.

During the 1975 celebration, the Concord Independent Battery did their thing and did it well. We fired a twenty-one gun salute for the President of the United States. I as captain arranged to have the horses stabled that came from Washington D.C. to protect the President, fifteen horses - mounted police, and they did a beautiful job cleaning out that area in the morning. Without the mounted police it would have never been done.

I'd like to mention I started plowing for the town of Concord with a horse-drawn plow forty-six years ago under Elmer Joslin who was then superintendent. I did that for many years and after the war, they decided they were going to buy a couple of tractors. Elmer Joslin bought the two tractors and he said that he didn't need me any more. He plowed the sidewalks once and came down to the farm and asked me to come back plowing again. I said, "Elmer, no. You don't pay me enough." I said, "Five dollars is not enough. Times have changed. I can't afford to plow a route by myself for five dollars a route for 24 miles." He said, "What do you want?" I said, "I want $125 a horse guaranteed plus wages." "Well," he says, "We can't do it. Forget the whole thing." Next morning I go down, he says, "Hitch up. Get going." And I've been doing it ever since.

One evening about two o'clock in the morning, it was snowing, snowing like all hell, and sleeting, a miserable night. I have a horse that knows the route in Concord because he'd done it many years, so I proceeded down Laurel Street. It was so deep, I walked in the street and let the horse go by himself. He was going down Laurel Street and he hit a car. I thought nothing of it, and I went onto the sidewalk and took a shovel and loosened the plow and kept going. Next morning I got a call from the police. Told me the horse was a hit and run.

I was plowing snow one New Year's Eve. It was a real miserable night. I stopped the horse at the Inn and I wanted to go to the men's room. So I put the blanket over the horse, went in the men's room, went to get my horse. My horse was gone. I thought the horse broke away from the shafts and took off. I looked at the shafts and I could that there was no harness broken.

I proceeded to look around and I found my horse downstairs in the Inn. Loring Grimes, one of my best friends, who happened to own the Inn, had taken my horse, and put him downstairs. So I had a few words with him and brought the horse up to put him in the plow and he said, "Come on," he says. "Bring him in," he says. "We'll give the horse some water and give you a cup of tea." And I did.

So I brought the horse in the bar because that's the only place he had tea. The horse weighed seventeen, eighteen hundred pounds, and after we brought the horse into the bar, I had a cup of tea and the horse had a little water. We proceeded out of the bar up towards the front of the Inn, and Mr. Grimes said to me, Register the horse in for the evening. He has that right." So I brought the horse into the registration part, and the old gentlemen there, about eighty years old, started to register the horse. In the meantime, Mr. Grimes called the police, which he did. Two police came down, a sergeant and another young man, and they barged into the Inn and thought there was a rumpus. They ran into the Inn and they found the horse at the registration desk. And they took a fit of laughing.

In the meantime, there was a young man who had stopped a car out front. He had a young lady. I believe he wanted a night's lodging. I'm not quite sure. So when he saw the police and he saw the horse, he asked the innkeeper for change for a pack of cigarettes. So in the meantime he says, "Oh, forget the cigarettes." He took off with his lady friend out of town. I wonder what that fellow thought. And that's the truth.

Mrs. David Emerson asked to borrow a horse from me one day to take down to Naushon Island. I happened to have four work horses and I could spare one. So I agreed. So Mrs. David Emerson and I rode down to Naushon Island which is down the Cape, very privately owned, seven miles long and three miles wide, and no one was allowed on that island whatever; only the family. So I loaded the horse on the schooner and brought the horse over to the island and I spent a lovely day down the island having a cookout. They don't have any cars whatsoever, all horse and carriages. The next day I had to work for the Town of Concord on the filter beds. And I was down at the filter beds; it was about seventy or eighty degrees and I said to myself, "What the hell happened? Yesterday I was a millionaire. Today I'm a pauper."

Text mounted 12th December 2012. RCWH.