Virginia, age 72
Brud, age 75
Virginia (Ginny) - growing up along Lowell Rd. Concord in the 1920's and 1930's.
Thomas Surette's School of Music
Dr. Tucker (Brud) - veterinary medicine
Work with Dr. Alden Russell
Treatment of cows, horses, and pigs
Abundance of family farms, impact of development
Ginny -- I was born here in Concord and I have many memories of the town the way it was in the '20s and '30s. I made a list of some of the things that I did, people I knew, places I visited, but I had a very happy childhood living four houses down from the Colonial Inn on Lowell Road in the center of town. I could always walk to school. My best friend's father Tom Sanborn owned the Inn and I played with their daughter Ann most of the time. One thing that I wanted to make sure that I included in this talk was the fact that every Sunday morning starting back in 1927 or '28 the Hosmer family who lived across the street invited me for breakfast, Sunday morning breakfast, while my mother was in the hospital for a short time. I went over to the Hosmer house for Sunday morning breakfast for a period of maybe 10 years. I was little when I started and Mr. Hosmer would see me standing ready to cross the street, and so he would cross and take my hand and guide me into the home, and I always had a large breakfast and lots of fun over there, and then he always crossed the street holding my hand to take me home, and I was ready to go to Sunday school from then on. That is something I shall never forget, it was a very pleasant experience.
Next to the Hosmers lived Dr. Chamberlin and his family of eight children. To me they were grown up at the time because they were considerably older, but I got to know them all. Dr. Chamberlin was a character. He couldn't resist a bargain. Whenever one came along, he would buy eight or ten vacuum cleaners, umbrellas, you name it, and then he would peddle them around the neighborhood. My mother would buy something probably to help him dispose of what he had bought.
One of the fun things that Ann and I used to do was a game we called "hide on autos." We'd run down the sidewalk from the path to the street in front of my house, we'd see an automobile approaching, getting perhaps as far as Lang Street and then we would race back up that path and hide behind the porch in front of our house. That we would do by the hour. Anything we had great fun doing was dressing up in fancy petticoats. My mother had a supply, a trunk filled of old costumes, but we preferred the fancy white lace petticoats. We spent hours doing that.
Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but we resented the tourists even at the age of 8 and 10 years old. Every summer the tourists would come to Concord and they'd be walking up to the Minuteman or over to the Alcott House and we could always spot them, and I said something to my mother, "Oh, I didn't like the tourists. They were cluttering up Concord." She said, "Now, Virginia, some day when you grow up, you may be a tourist, and you'll remember that and you'll be respectful from now on." However, they still come to Concord and they come ten times more than they did back in the '20s, but I have become a tourist so I understand their situation a great deal more.
Lowell Road was Route 126 and that was considered one of the main roads in town and it had fairly heavy traffic. That's why Mr. Hosmer would hold my hand to cross the street when I was 8 years old. There were far fewer automobiles then and far fewer tourists who came out here to Concord.
Every summer my mother would take in Surettes Mr. Thomas Whitney Surette had a summer school of music that was world renowned and mother would rent her rooms, maybe three of them in our big house to the Surettes My brother and I would be delegated to sleep that summer, all summer long, on the sleeping porch so we had no privacy. Mr. Surette had his school I believe in Concord Academy but he lived on Lexington Road.
On Sunday afternoons my family and I would take walks around the pond at Fairyland. That was a favorite spot for a family walk. Another thing was that I shall always be indebted to the Red Cross for the swimming classes that they provided for the children of Concord. We would go rain or shine in these open barges or buses. We would be transported from the center of town to Walden Pond. I started out as a beginner learning how to swim from Elsie Kennedy and Marty Wilson, and I worked my way up to junior lifesaving, senior lifesaving and then I became a teacher myself. Learned how to swim, learned how to dive, and I think it's a great service that was given to the children of Concord. The White Pond Association opened in my teen years for swimming and that was a pleasant place to swim.
Dancing school for me was held upstairs in the town hall. I can remember wearing leggings up there. Another thing that was fun was the girls would always walk quickly after the dancing to the hot air registers and stand over that and their pretty party dresses would balloon out around them. We would all try to get around one or two registers up there. There was also aesthetic dancing classes but I was too young to take those courses.
My grandmother and grandfather Joslin lived in the brick end house directly across from the flag pool so that was a convenient place for me to stop off for a tidbit or a goodie on my way to school or on my way back from school. I remember stopping there many times in the late winter and late fall to roll down my lyle stockings that were hitched to a waist that I wore with these long garters, and I was supposed to wear them all day long to keep warm but I would roll them down to below my knees. I would do that at my grandparents house. They were Henry B. Joslin and Cora Narcissus Joslin. My grandfather Joslin worked at Richardson's drug store and I thought, of course, he owned it so I would go in with my friends and I'd say "Grandpa, I want one of those candies and another one of those and two of these", and he would oblige me. I found out later or I think he told me later, "You know, Virginia, I do not own this store, and I am having to pay for all the candy that you buy." That put me in my place.
During the winter we had good fun. We coasted on a hill not far up Monument Street called Gourgas Hill. The Gourgas family lived in a lovely white colonial at the base of the hill, and it was a good hill for the boys had made a ski jump, but I wasn't into skiing at that time. I would coast with my friends. The Macone boys were always there. Together with the Macones we built a raft, someone had excavated a deep hole beside the Mill Brook where Concord Lumber company is now. It was a tremendous mud hole and it had been built up on one side with dirt and we made a slide. So we would climb to the top of the dirt pile and sit down and slide down and splash into the mud hole. It didn't help the green and white bathing suit that I wore. But they made a raft and we would float around on the raft. One time I stepped on a nail that was protruding out and one of the boys rode me home on his bicycle down to my house on Lowell Road.
We skated on the meadows adjacent to this mud hole in the winter time on either side of Lowell Road. There is still today a rock called Egg Rock, but my friend Ann and I would go up to what we called Egg Rock, which was not the true one. The true rock splits the Sudbury and the Assabet to form the Concord, but we didn't cross the river, we had another great big rock where we would picnic. I can remember finding a dime wrapped up in a handkerchief there one time. I thought I had really found something great. We were told never to swim in the river because of the eel grass, one might become caught. Where the Mill Brook emptied into the river there was sort of a delta-like sandy beach and we would often paddle around in there and get wet and pretend to swim.
I can remember another time that Ann Sanborn and I floated down the river from that outlet of the Mill Brook on the top of a beach wagon, actually they were early station wagons, The Macone boys had found an old top cover to a beach wagon, and with a couple of poles Ann and I poled down to the North Bridge and we got stuck going through under the bridge. It went through sideways and it got stuck at the piers of the bridge, and the boys had to come and rescue us and get the beach wagon top to the shore.
Another thing about downtown Concord, we knew all the merchants down there pretty well. There was a Chinaman located next to Anderson's market which was located directly over the Mill Brook. He was a laundry man and occasionally he would be out on the sidewalk and I was terrified of him. Whenever I passed that little tiny shop I would run by his store because he was a Chinaman, I thought he was out to do evil. He dressed differently and he looked different.
Next to his store, soon after that was a store called Mr. Pierce's shoe store. Mr. Pierce was an elderly gentlemen, a lovely old man. I never really got to know him but he held great respect in Concord. Ann and I had never been in his store and we were curious so we went in one day and told Mr. Pierce we would like to see some of his shoes. So he sat us down on a long bench and spread a newspaper on the rug and he got out what he thought were modern shoes. Well, they were shoes that my grandmother might have worn when she was a child, they were high shoes with buttons on them and Ann and I became hysterical. We started to laugh so hard we had to leave the store. Whether Mr. Pierce was doing it out of the goodness of his heart or whether he really thought we wanted shoes, well he put up with us anyway.
Another fun thing in the wintertime was catching rides on the runners of the sleighs. Of course, I thought my father owned the sleighs and everything because he was the head of the road department, but the drivers recognized us, Ann and I would ride on the runners. It was fun to ride on the open barges, the school buses, they were. They were open and I believe they had curtains on them for warmth and protection during the winter months. I would go out to Sandy Pond Road to visit my friend Pete (Olive) Root, and it was quite a change and quite fun to ride.
We also used to climb Annursnac Hill and on the top of the hill, there was a water tower and a long ladder, and we would climb up there. You could see Mt. Wachusett. Whether you could see Monadnock or not, I don't know, but I do know that you could see Wachusett from there on a good day.
Another friend of mine was Joan Miller who lived on Main Street. She was a childhood friend who later became a better friend in my adult years. Her mother was famous for having teas. After Brud came to town, there were a group of 25 or so young people who would gather together every Sunday afternoon. In the spring we would play baseball, in the summer months we played baseball, football, and in the fall of course we played football, boys and girls. Eventually after we tired of that we would go to one of the boy's houses or the girl's home for crackers and tea and punch. We were just one great big group of young people having a lot of fun. If it lasted long into the evening, we would play what we called "the game", which was charades.
We had a cousin whose name was Bessie Bull and I think she was Ephraim Bull's great-granddaughter. She would come and stay with us in the summer. She is or was a cousin, so in a way through marriage I am related to Ephraim Bull, the man who developed the Concord grape. Through Ephraim Bull he was intermarried with the Staples family and cousin Ida Staples was a more direct cousin of my Grandmother Joslin, and she and I boarded a train that stopped on Lowell Road where Concord Lumber is now located. The train stopped there and Grandmother Joslin and I rode it to Somerville where we visited cousin Ida Staples for the day. The Staples family, she and her husband, had a place on Fairhaven Bay in the summer. The family would go up there frequently for picnics and visiting. We would swim in the Bay. That was a family affair.
Before I forget it, I've got to mention the fact that in my youth I was a very good sport, I could catch a ball, I could throw a ball, I could run, and the only person who could beat me running around the quarter mile track on the playground was a girl named Clara Wadsworth. Clara was very athletic, very gifted, but Clara has now become Charles Wadsworth so that was quite a shock to me. No wonder she could beat me around the quarter mile track. She could also beat me in tennis. My phys ed teacher in the third grade told me that I was the best first baseman the grammar school ever had, and I will never let my grandchildren forget that. I was in the third grade and I was probably about 10, and I now have a 10 year old grandchild and he knows that story pretty well.
We were never allowed to skate on the river unless it was very, very safe. In fact there have been just a few times in my life when I've known the river to be that safe. I can remember maybe 30 years ago everyone in Concord seemed to be out walking that Sunday afternoon on the Concord River. I've never seen so many people just strolling on the ice on the Concord River, it was quite a sight to behold.
During the summer months, there were tribes of gypsies who came to Concord to peddle their wears, and they camped in two places, one I'm not as familiar with as the encampment they had on Lexington Road, way down in Lincoln actually. Another place in Concord I heard where they camped was on the old fairgrounds up near Elsinore Street. But they would come around and they would try and sell their combs or whatever. Mother used to welcome them and one woman came in and asked mother if she could nurse her baby there in the kitchen and mother said she could. If she was the one who later stole mother's pocketbook, I don't remember, but one time mother lost a pocketbook to the gypsies.
Speaking of mother, she started the Concord dancing school. She was Bertha Joslin. Her first teacher was Mr. Frederick Childs, and he taught for many years, and then a woman from Lexington took over called Miss Helen Merrill. I used to assist in the teaching of the children and enjoyed that very much.
Another thing I might add, I'm the first child to have two parents who were Concord's honored citizens, and my husband and I were given that honor in 1984. My mother and father received the award in 1974. So far I am the first prodigy of an honored citizen couple to receive that honor which we treasure very, very much.
I think that's about all I can think of about the fun of growing up in Concord and the many friends that I had and how kind the parents were. Safe, yes it was very safe. I was not allowed out after dark unless I went to the library and back but other than that there was no need to go out. It was a safe community and everyone knew one another. It was fun to go down to the Milldam and see people I knew. I was always reminded to mind my manners and be courteous.
We had a next door neighbor, Lucretia Perkins, she was an elderly woman who had been the head mistress of a private girls school. She taught me how to curtsy, and when I went to visit her as my mother frequently told me to do, I would go over and as I entered the room, her little parlor, I would have to curtsy and then I would shake hands with Miss Perkins. She always dressed in black and she had a high ruffled collar that was edged with white lace and always a black velvet band around her neck. We would have some intellectual conversation and as I was leaving the room I always had to turn and curtsy to her as I left the room. That was another interesting facet of my growing up in Concord. She was trying to impress upon me the importance of being a young lady and the fact that one treats ones elders with respect and so forth.
But it was a wonderful childhood living and growing up in Concord. It's changed so dramatically. The stores that were downtown have either closed or moved elsewhere. The Milldam no longer is the Milldam of my childhood. It's not the nuts and bolts of the town anymore, it's the superficial boutiques and art galleries and so forth. My greatest hobby is painting so I'm sympathetic with the art galleries. I'd like very much to be good enough to have some of my paintings hung in there. I take adult education courses with Jean Bates and I have produced some worthy paintings, particularly of animals. I do light plate switches that I sell at the TriCon Gift Shop and the Mary Curtis Shop. They're fun to do and they bring in a little pin money. I also paint flowers on note paper and give that away as Christmas gifts.
Now we come to the 1940s when Brud enters the scene.
Brud - My coming to Concord was completely by accident in the sense that I had been trained as a navy pilot while at Cornell and expected to immediately go into the navy on graduation from veterinary college. But one day I was running down the corridor and the dean hollered at me and told me that he had just received a telegram saying that all of us seniors were deferred for three months and asked me if I had a job. I said, "No, I expected to go into the navy." So he asked me if I wanted a job. I said I did because I had to eat. In his office he had at least 50 requests on his desk for assistants or associates. He asked me what I wanted to do and I said I didn't care, I was going into the service in September. So he said, "Well, here is an outstanding man in Concord, Massachusetts, Dr. A.H. Russell. He's one of our best graduates, and it's a beautiful town to live in and I would suggest that you contact him and probably go there to mixed general practice, a very nice farming area." He said I should write to Dr. Russell and he would too. So I agreed and I went on about my business. Well, I didn't write to Dr. Russell and he did. A couple of days later the telephone rang in my room, I was the only student who had a room in the veterinary college so I was on call whenever anything developed at night, Sundays, holidays, and so on. I had a tremendous extra experience because of that. Anyway it was Dr. Russell.
I told him about my navy commitment but he said that was all right he needed great help in the vaccination of horses particularly for the encephalomyelitis epidemic that they had last year and were trying to protect all the horses. So I was out here two days after graduation. I went by train to Boston and took the bus out from Arlington Heights to here. I hiked from Main Street and Elm Street intersection up to Russell's house which was darn near a half a mile up on a very hot day, and I was almost exhausted when I got there. Dr. Russell wasn't home but his father was. He let me in the house, and about an hour or so later, Dr. Russell came and there was a call for a sick cow over in Maynard. Dr. Russell gave me the keys to his car, drew a map and told me to go treat the cow. I had been in Concord perhaps an hour and a half when that happened. He sent me out all alone on that call. Luckily he had diagnosed the condition over the telephone and told me what to do, and I did and the cow got better and that was it.
Time went along and about three weeks later, there was a dog from Evanston, Illinois that was brought out with its owners for a summer visit to Wilmington, and there was incompatibility between that dog and the one that was at the home in Wilmington. So they left the dog in the car for overnight and that dog ate its way out of the car by chewing the window to get a sufficient opening to escape, which it did. It was gone of course the next morning. A couple days later we found that it had traveled a very circuitous route from Wilmington through Chelmsford and Westford and Acton, part of Littleton, and ended up on Commonwealth Avenue in West Concord where it bit at least one person, a piano tuner, whom we never did find. The dog went on down the street over Old Bridge Road and got across Route 2 to Nashoba Road and ended up underneath the porch of Alex Peters just where the Episcopal rectory is now. There it was under the porch. Alex Peters, I believe, was a colonel in the military and he had been assigned to Alabama and he had to move down there, so he had packed everything up, but meanwhile his son, Bobby had tried to administer to this sick dog that was under their back porch. But they had to leave so it ended up the dog catcher, Arthur Frazier from Acton picked the dog up and took it up to his place. The next day he telephoned our office and asked me if I had ever seen a dog with rabies. Well, I hadn't. I had seen movies of them. So he said if I wanted to see a real one to come up to his place. I went up there and sure enough it was violently rabid in the cage and it died a day or so later. I got the dog and decapitated it and sent the brain into Boston, and they telephoned back saying it had rabies. Well, that was really something because we knew that the dog had been at these various places around Concord and what were we going to do. So the health department was all excited.
There was a very pretty girl who was the secretary to the Board of Health and the Road Department when it was located on Everett Street where the Everett Gardens is now. It was announced that there would be a rabies clinic. Dr. Russell assigned me to vaccinate all the dogs in Concord that were brought to the clinic and naturally everybody that had a dog brought the thing over for vaccination. Before that it had been a voluntary thing because the vaccine had really not been very good, but a vaccine had been developed about 10 years earlier and it was pretty good stuff except it did have the propensity to produce central nervous derangement. It made for paralysis and death of certain individuals that were given vaccine. Anyway it was all we had, it was the only thing we could do other than enforce a quarantine of every dog in the town to be chained and kept under care. When I got there about a half an hour before the clinic was to begin so I could get set up with tables and so on, there were at least 40 people with their yapping dogs in line waiting to be first and to get vaccinated. At the same time, this pretty girl was around there, she was to act as secretary. She got her stuff out and I set up and we began to process the animals and the people. We worked from 2:00 to 6:00 vaccinating more than 260 dogs, I can't remember the real number now, but it was a mess. Some of these dogs were so nasty and ugly, they were difficult to handle, but we got the job done.
Later it developed that that pretty girl became my wife. We were married September 13, 1942, but we met at the rabies clinic. No one ever introduced us. We introduced ourselves to one another through the work. Well, one thing led to another, and along in the fall I had played sports at Cornell and four of my close athlete friends were either All Americans or All Star football players. They were playing the Chicago Bears at Fenway Park. They telephoned me to come over and work out with them. So I did for one afternoon and got two tickets for the game. I returned to Concord with the tickets and told Mrs. Russell that I had two tickets for the game and I would like to have someone to go with, but I didn't know anyone well enough to invite them along. She suggested that that girl who was the secretary for the Board of Health might be a good companion to go. I telephoned her and she said yes, she would like to go. So we had a date that night and went in to see that football game. My boys lost 10-0 to some of those other professionals from Chicago that could run through a brick wall if they decided they wanted to. Anyway it ended up that I didn't see the girl again until we both happened to sign up for a Concord Players production, The Pirates of Penzance.
This was just before the war, meanwhile my deferment was extended from September to January. It ended up that I was eventually deferred for the duration plus to Concord, Massachusetts and 25 miles there from. That's why I was never in the active military service. I was almost the only able-bodied male of my age in the town of Concord.
As I said in the interview for the book Concord In The Days of Strawberries and Streetcars, veterinarians were the mainstay helping the farmers and the farm life work. We here in Concord were the only large animal veterinarians between here and Boston and Lawrence and Framingham. There was a good man in Framingham and another one in Lawrence, but otherwise the whole area of 15 mile radius or more was destitute for veterinary talent and aid. In those days this was truly an agricultural community.
I was going to say something about the transition. I was one of the few people who can really recognize and appreciate the transition and transformation of Concord and surrounding towns from what it was prior to World War II over to what it currently is. I could go down street after street and road after road and tell you of places, agriculturally active, where there were woods and now there are houses, where there was a big piggery and now the houses on that piggery are a million to a million and a half a piece. One place was Patrick Ruggerios. He owned the land to the west side of Warner Pond. He had more than 2000 pigs there and now there is Wright Road. As far as I can remember, there were just three tractors in the whole town then. All the rest of the farms were activated by horses.
I spoke of transition, and as I said before, when I came, the town had many farms when I arrived. The open land was considerable. I came to Concord principally as a cow man, and the troubles that individual cows get into are out of this world. There were 400 hundred cows more or less on Virginia Road alone. Gordon Hutchins' Punkatasset Farm on Monument Street had 110 head of cows and two teams of big heavy draft horses. The prison had an active farming operation of 18 horses, 150 cows, 500-600 chickens, and 600-800 pigs. So many of the family farms had a cow in the backyard. People were used to living with them. There was a strong bond of personal affection between the owner and his animal, and that was true particularly of the cow and the horse. Gosh, if you didn't have a good horse that could work and walk a straight furrow down the line, and not mess up all the cabbage or cauliflower or whatever was there, that was too bad. We had many, many personal instances of problems along the line, yet before I get into some of the specific problems, I'd like to say that going out Bedford Street, Ginny's uncle, Saunders owned the asparagus farm on the top of the hill on the left there. Across the street there was Joseph M. Dee and from his place right on almost unbroken up to the St. Bernard's Cemetery was nothing but asparagus as far as you good see. Then came along the development and now we have Powers Road and Nancy Road and Ash Street and Birch Drive plus new things along there. All along that section as you know, it was small mainly Italian farmers on the left, Scimone, Rotondo, Curro, and Rizzitano and the last farm on that side was Earl Parks with his Just a Mere Farm. Across the street was Danny Delovo, where he had 75 cows or so and a beautiful big team of horses. That team of horses, one hot day they had been working out haying and the horses came in the barn and wanted to get a drink of water, he had a nice trough there in the barn, the horse was drinking water and all of a sudden the floor disappeared and the horse ended up down in the barn cellar so that by the time I got there, they had already called the fire department, a couple of fire trucks and a garage wrecker there, to rescue the horse. All that could be seen of the horse were his nostrils, eyes and ears, otherwise he was swimming in the manure and urine effluent that had accumulated all winter long. Here was that poor horse struggling in that manure pile. It was my job to assist in getting him out. He had a few rope burns to go with it.
Golly, the change over on the streets where there used to be hay fields and pastures and lots and lots of cows or pigs or whatever to now. If we go out Sudbury Road, the part between the railroad tracks and Route 2 has not changed significantly although Fairhaven Road over on the left, which was all market garden crops that's now houses, but going out Sudbury Road we get out to where Verrills had two farms. One was on Wheeler Road with about 150 cows there and he had the other farm across Fitchburg Turnpike, Route 117, where he had another 150-200 head and four bulls. That place now is the Nashawtuc Country Club. The adjacent farm, they only took part of his land, was owned by William Davis where he had cows. They were just barely over the Concord line in Sudbury. Verrill sold to D'Arrigo who tried to grow carrots and broccoli and other truck crops for the Boston market but didn't make a go of it here with the short season here compared to California. The D'Arrigos sold out in '57 to what is now Nashawtuc Country Club. On that corner where there is a gas station now, was a beautiful big red barn owned by Tom Eldridge. That was set fire one night and every single cow that was locked up in that barn perished. The big black horse that was in a stall eventually broke loose, but as he broke loose his eyes had already burst from the heat and he was on fire as he ran out of the barn. I had heard the fire alarm and had seen the red sky reflection and by the time I got there, I got there just as the horse broke loose. I shot the horse with Bill Cheville's gun. I also shot about 10 cows that were writhing in pain caught in their stanchions in the barn. It was an unforgettable experience.
I don't know if people know about stanchions or not. A stanchion is an item where a cow or bull is caught by the neck with an upright pair of boards or in modern days, say since 1920, they made the things out of metal, like a flattened "O" hinged but fixed on the bottom with a chain, at the top there was a hatch so the thing could be opened or closed. When it was closed, the animal was restrained with his head on one side of the thing and his body on the other.
Well, Bill and Betty Mattison had a herd of Guernsey cows which needed great improvement. They were not producing what they thought. They got wind of an excellent bull off in the far reaches of Chelmsford or some town up that way. They took me up there one day to look the bull over and to TB test him and blood test him to be sure that he was healthy enough to be admitted to Mattison's herd over on Williams Road. He was a beautiful looking bull, big, rugged strapping guy with horns more than 3" inches in diameter at the skull base and about a foot long and tapered out to a fine sharp point. Well we encouraged the bull to put his head through the stanchion in his pen. We caught him there and then lassoed him over his horns and put a half inch around his muzzle and drew the rope up tight to a supporting beam 8 inches or so on a side that was part of the supporting structure for the upper floor of the barn. We had his head way over to the side there so that I could get up inside the feed manger and extract a blood sample from the jugular vein. Well, he was secure and I feel okay about it, so I went in the feed manger to get the blood sample and for some reason or other, I didn't do it and I got out. Just as I stepped out of the manger over the front part of it, the bull got excited and yanked his head and his horn went through the 1-inch plank which was exactly where I should have been. The rope didn't break but the supporting beam broke. He was so powerful that with the thrust of his head, he broke that beam and the whole thing went. If I had stayed there, I would have been killed instantly by that bull's head and the horn would have gone right through me and the board, so eventually we got him properly restrained to a upright girder outside the barn with a long rope and we held him. With fear and trepidation I got back inside and bleed the bull and TB tested him, but that was a hair raising experience. The Mattison's eventually shifted over on the breed from Guernsey to Ayreshire and Witt Brown built the new barn which now has no cows, its all horses.
Everybody in Concord has gone out of cows except for the state and Steve Verrill. Steve has 48 breed heifers all of them about 2 years old and that's all he has, not a single milking cow. But up at the prison they have a total of about 325 head, but all the rest of the cows in the whole town are gone. It's, as I said before, a transition. Instead of us having several hundred to 1500 cows, its down to a precious few. Where there formerly were cows, there are now houses. That to me in a very biased opinion is a depressing situation. That coupled with the fact that I think that Concord now has a different type of inhabitant from the way it was when I came. There were only about 6000 people in Concord and they all knew one another or knew of one another. They were neighborly and helpful, kind, so that there was to me as an outsider an excellent neighborhood spirit. Those folks who did have some means were willing to part with them for the benefit of other folks who did not, the silent poor in Concord. There were some men that I knew went above and beyond any call of duty or religion to help people out. Never saying a word about it but to see to it that Mary Murphy had her coal bin, not full of course, but always enough to keep her warm, or that someone else had enough food, an account at Andersons, a running account, was always paid for except for maybe $2.00 or so as a token amount, just to say to keep the person honest. The principal man that I can remember, well, there were two men, was Burleigh Pratt and the other was Charles Edgarton. Those two men were really benefactors. Sted Buttrick helped out quite a bit in his fashion. There were others too that I know overlooked charges, but it seems to me in retrospect that Concord was a different community.
I spoke earlier of the romance of veterinary medicine. I use that word romance in the sense of it being an adventure, not wild, but something where the individual is of importance and yet you could never tell what was going to happen next. We could never tell by a telephone call what it was. There was a telephone call from the Whitney Homestead up in Stow, I'll never forget this one. Mrs. Russell took the message and she understood that they had a sick calf up there. I thought my gracious there are no farm animals around Whitney Homestead. Anyway I got my stuff all together and went out there to treat a sick calf, and I got there and asked the man where the calf was being kept. I don't have any calf, I called for you to come out and treat my cat. There I was way out in Stow to treat a cat. With reference to that, during the war, of course with the rationing of this and that and the other thing, and particularly gasoline and tires and automobiles too, it was a difficult situation for those folks who did have a small animal, a house pet who was ill, for them to get to us here in Concord on Elm Street or for me or Dr. Russell to stop and treat the animal at home on our way to or from a large animal call. Large animals are horse, cow, sheep, goat, pig. We were traveling around, I was driving about 60,000 miles a year and rarely more than 12 miles from Concord. I might go to Fernald School which would be 13 miles and on occasion I went to Woonsocket, Rhode Island or elsewhere for specific emergency calls.
I wanted to make a point that pets and their importance during World War II where so many of the Concord boys and a few of the girls too were in the service and could be anywhere on the globe from India to Italy and when they would write home, they did not ask about cousin Mary or Aunt Josephine or someone like that, but their focal point of the letter was how is the dog or the cat. Of course, these military folk had grown up with these animals and their pets. They thought so much of those that they were extremely concerned for their welfare. Those that were aging and had bad kidneys or cancer or heart problem or something of this type, Dr. Russell and I had extreme difficulty in trying to keep some of them alive until the service people returned. Some of them we could not of course because the diseases of the cats and dogs at that time were rampant and we had very few if any medications to use. There was no penicillin, sulfa drugs worked for a few situations, a few diseases, we had some anti-serum for certain other diseases, but on the whole it was more the grace of the good Lord and nursing care as to whether these animals survived or not. We would know of an infected kennel for example so we would load the dog with anti-distemper serum and put him in the kennel so if the serum worked right, the virus was present, there would be an immunity that would last for a while. We did the same for cats. That was our method of vaccination. It wasn't until my friend Dr. James Baker at Cornell developed an attenuated vaccine through the use of chicken eggs, rapid serial passage of the virus through chicken eggs that good vaccines were developed and from that finding that he had made back after the war about 1947, that now we have the vaccines against polio and all kinds of other diseases which were developed really through the cooperation of veterinary work. But now diseases that we had 50 years ago are almost unheard of. I don't think they've diagnosed a case of distemper at any of the local animal hospitals in 15 years now, but back 50 years ago, almost every other or practically every sick dog that we saw had distemper. There was an occasional one that might eat a section of hose or something and swallow it down and have a foreign body in the intestine that we'd have to cut out and take out, but those cases were really quite rare.
I remember on one Scottie that was ill off and on with that, and that's exactly what happened. He was owned by a fellow who owned a garage up in West Concord. He ate a piece of hose and I cut the thing out and the dog was happy ever after. One way that I got sort of a reputation over when I was a cow man coming here and got into the pigs and other animals, there was one man who was a sort of a gossip and a busybody and he had a sort of skipperty dog that was passing blood in its urine. He has taken it somewhere or other for an examination without success and he came to me as a young new guy in Concord to see what I could do, and I just slipped in a feel and I said I know what's wrong with this dog, he's got stones in his urinary bladder. I operated on the dog and took out a whole handful of stones from the bladder and sewed it up and he couldn't believe that number one that I could open the bladder and sew it up and take this stuff out and have the dog live. The dog went along perfectly. He thought I walked on water from that time on, and he told everybody in Concord so that soon they were coming to me in droves.
We had a great deal of trouble with dogs with heart trouble. They would be two or three years old and have some terrible sounding hearts that you wonder how they could stay alive. I was amazed at this finding to begin with, it was highly abnormal. I did post-mortems and found out that dogs had heartworms which were not supposed to occur north of Philadelphia, but here I came to Concord, Massachusetts and there was dog after dog after dog dying from heartworms. I told the people back in Cornell and in at the Angell Memorial in Boston and they just poopooed me and paid absolutely no attention to what I said way back in 1941 and '42. It wasn't until 1960 and later that people began to pay attention to the fact and I did open heart surgery on the dogs to take the worms out and sew them up again. Then in 1967 I read some Japanese research work and found they had used a drug that helped to prevent the disease, so experimentally I started with Mrs. Elliott and some other folks in Carlisle and Concord and gave the medication to the dogs and by golly, instead of them being infected the next year, they were clean. From that we progressed to the situation today. But at one time at the Concord Animal Hospital we were having about 150 dogs per year that died from heartworms.
I want to tell you a little story about the fellow that was an MIT professor who was hitting the bottle pretty hard and he was eliminated from his contact with MIT. So he came out to Concord and bought a place on Bedford Street and he was raising chickens. Well, on the 4th of July, it was a hot, hot day, he telephoned about 10 or 11 in the morning in barely intelligible language to the effect that he had lost an awful lot of chickens overnight. So Dr. Russell sent me over to the place and the ground was almost white with dead chickens or those that were floundering around. I went there and looked them over and saw the way the chickens were acting and made the diagnosis of botulism. The reason that the birds had botulism is that he had apparently been on a drunk for a couple or three days or longer to celebrate the 4th of July and had left a dead bird in a watering fountain. The bacteria got going, produced the toxins of botulism, and killed several thousand of his chickens. He had to go out of business because of the loss. There was nothing he could do about.
Speaking of botulism, this fellow up on Route 2 just beyond the traffic circle up on top of the hill, the farm is completely gone now, but he had two pigs that he was raising up for home use. They were about 150 or so lbs each and he called one day and said that he had two sick pigs. So I went up there and looked at them and those poor pigs, all they could do was to breathe and roll their eyes. I checked them over and by golly, they had botulism. I wondered how in the world these pigs could get botulism. He said, "Well, my wife canned beans last year and she heated them up and put them on the table for me to eat a couple of night ago. I didn't like the way they looked and smelled so I didn't eat any and brought them out here and gave them to the pigs." His two pigs died but he was alive.
I wanted to say also, 4th of July is a memorable time. I had a call from people over on Williams Road who were raising pheasants for hunters to use as targets out there on the old Fred Jones property, that was a hunting preserve. These people had 5000 pheasants that were in a big yard. They noticed that some of them, 50 or more of them were dead, and others that were dropping around obviously pretty sick. So I went out there and looked at them and didn't know for sure what was wrong, but I made a presumptive diagnosis of encephalomyelitis, the horse disease, which the birds are the reservoir for that disease. The horse and the human are the end of the line as far as the virus is concerned. But the birds, 120 species or varieties of birds, are the reservoirs that carry this out all over everywhere. Well the pathology report found that these birds did have the encephalitis, which was bad news. We had to destroy the whole flock.
Speaking of that, along Labor Day weekend down in Lincoln, there was a sick horse and I was called to see that thing. Here this poor old horse was an absolutely dummy with his head pressed in a corner of the stall, you couldn't get him to do anything. No matter what you tried to do to get him to move, he just kept pressing his head in the corner. We eventually fought him and got him out through the big barn door outside and all he did was just travel in a circle of about 30 to 40 feet in diameter. Well, I made a diagnosis of sleeping sickness, encephalomyelitis and killed him the next day after I reported to Boston. The diagnosis was confirmed but do you know that in the spring of the next year, along in early May shortly after the mosquitoes first came out, the infant of 5 or 6 months old, that lived in a house next door to this barn was diagnosed by Dr. Winchell as having equine encephalomyelitis. The child died. I believe the virus was held over the winter in some mosquitoes in that vicinity somewhere and got in and bit the child.
There is so much that is in common between animals and humans in diseases that we need to be watchful of. Veterinary medicine in a way has been a leader to produce much of what we have today. Well, this man this morning visiting me just had a hip replacement, where they had taken out his old diseased femur and the articulation and the pelvis and put in artificial stuff, so that now he doesn't have the pain. Most people do not know or I suppose care to the effect that this kind of thing was developed by a veterinarian Dr. Otto Stater in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1939. He used bicycle spokes to put down inside broken bones of cats of dogs. It worked so nicely on the dog that the military took over development for World War II when people got hurt and needed to be mobile rather than laying in hammocks below decks, that they splint a broken hand or arm or something like that with metal, and from that the progression has been made in the use of steel as sutures to sew up a wrecked knee or whatever else discombobulated in their body. The artificial prosthetic was initiated by a veterinarian. Dr. Leonard at Cornell was one of the first men to investigate this possibility. From that they use it on a dog and if it works, okay and if it doesn't work then we try another tack, and eventually get to this exotic situation that we have today to be able to replace genes or to intersperse certain items within a gene in order to produce a different characteristic. This is beyond my comprehension with their capabilities but it is what is being developed now for medicine in the future. I suppose that if I were 50 or 60 years younger that this would be the romantic and adventuresome type of medicine today, whereas when I was that age it was to go out and plow through the snow to put a cow back together that just had a calf and continues to push and had forty pounds of red meat as her inverted uterus out there. It would be my job to put that back into the cow and take care of infection and prevent against it happening again and save the cow for the farmer. It was action of that type that made me feel good and important and worthwhile. It had to do with our knowledge and ability to apply chemistry and physics and psychology and group strength and a few empirical medicines and have that come out to be a successful end result. Sometimes we achieved that and sometimes we didn't.
I think the beginning of the downfall agriculturally was the development of Hanscom Air Base where they took farms and about 175 cows and pigs and corn fields and pastures and made that into an airfield and from that it just sprawls. MIT took Eddie Carlson's land down at the end of Virginia Road. Eddie had big greenhouses as well as a cow farm and a team of horses and he was a good guy. He had a loudest voice in Concord, and he would see somebody on the street when he was down at Anderson's and he would shout, "Hey, you lousy Democrat, what are you doing walking on the streets of Concord?" He was known as a character. But as I started, first was Hanscom to initiate the wrecking of the agricultural area, Bedford, Lincoln, Concord, Carlisle, Acton, and then by '53 route 128 had progresses to about where Route 2 is now in Lexington. It took Swenson's big farm where he had more than 200 cows where Raytheon's headquarters is now. His barn was beautiful with cork floors and tile walls.
On Lexington Road on the south side, there were practically no houses at all beyond Hawthorne Lane. In fact Mr. Carrouth and his wife who own what is now the Hawthorne Inn had an extensive dog kennel and pet shop and accessories. Carrouth also owned Birdland which was down in Lincoln on what is now Route 2A just beyond the Paul Revere marker, but Revolutionary Ridge got developed from a whole bunch of trees and George Clarke had a beautiful big red barn on the left at the intersection of Old Bedford Road and Lexington Road. Beyond him was Draper's farm where Eddie Nowalk is now. But he had cows and a team of horses there that were just a picture to see with nice farmland all the way around. They were down in that section on Virginia Road where Caleb Wheeler had his Ayreshire cows. He was quite a man, he was a good friend of Ginny's parents and Ginny used to go around with young Henry. He had Ayreshire cows and he liked to show them off so he built his barn so that the cows stood up about 8 to 10 inches higher than the platform behind the cows so that they would look to be taller and bigger and more beautiful. He had both sides of barn constructed that way. He was Ruth Wheeler's husband.
I'll tell you two interesting stories about him. Cal had a calf and she kept on pushing and he prolapsed her uterus, so here was this 40 pounds of red meat hanging out the rear end of the cow, and up on the platform that was too high for me to reach to begin with. I had to hold the thing and put the uterus back in the cow. I couldn't to it from the platform or the walkway level so they got me a chair and I stood on the chair and attempted to do it. That worked all right except the chair was sliding away and he had two of boys holding the bottom of the chair. Ruth Wheeler was pushing my rear end with both of her hands and she was pushing as hard as she could because I was thrusting with my right and left arm to get the uterus back in the cow, which we did successfully, but I often thought at the time, she was quite a Thoreauvian and writer and whatnot, and I thought boy, oh boy, if people could only see Ruth Wheeler pushing my rear end while I'm trying to put this cow back together.
Beyond the Wheelers you had the Algeo brothers who lived on top of the hill and Anderson's piggery. He had between 2000 and 7000 pigs on his 50 acres depending on the time of year. Carl was quite a character. I did a lot of work for him.
I'm going into detail about pigs around here but I want people to understand that the reason that there were more pigs in Middlesex County than any other county in this whole country back during World War II and before is that the pigs were the garbage disposal unit for the City of Boston and all the other towns and cities and villages peripheral to Boston. Everything went to the pigs including some of the silverware that my children had, sterling silver thrown out in the garbage and from the military that I picked up. They would come out with trailer truck loads of garbage to feed these pigs and that's the reason why there were so many pigs in this area. Now they've gone to more modern methods of disposal and they're meeting up with all kinds of problems of what to do with what. When the pigs used to take care of it perfectly all right with no great complaint especially if you were upwind, sometimes. But the pigs did pretty well. They loved to eat maggots and if the flies laid their eggs and maggots were crawling up along the side of the pen and they would eat as many as they could possibly get.
Well, I spoke about Eddie Carlson and his farm down there. He has a few cows down there. There was poison ivy growing along the road on Virginia Road and the road department or some nitwit in the Town Hall decided that there should not be poison ivy along there. So they sprayed to kill the poison ivy. The spray went beyond the poison ivy and got into the vegetation which the cows ate and promptly died. That was the end of Eddie Carlson's herd of cows.
If we go out Walden Street, right about where the fire station is now was the town poor farm barn. That was run by a fellow named Peterson who stuttered like the dickens. He lived across the street in a house that has now been destroyed. They had a mixed herd of cows and a team of horses. Of course I was taking care of those animals. There was a man named Erickson who started Erickson's Dairy Bar in Maynard-Stow. He had beef cattle in Stow and he about 50 head there. They began to die, so I was called after four or five of them died. I went up there and there was another one dead. I could never find a sick animal. You could see these dead ones, but they died so quickly that there were no good lesions for diagnosis. This went on for about two weeks and meanwhile he had lost a dozen or so animals, and I was driving by from one section to another and stopped by one day, and here I saw a six month heifer who was down and thrashing, dying. So I could check it over while it was alive. It died just a few hours later. The disease up there was black leg which had not been reported in the state for 35 years. I made the diagnosis of that and they didn't believe it and they sent out two or three other people as experts to check my diagnosis, but meanwhile I telephoned for anti-serum out west where the disease is common. That was sent air mail to me and we went through it, and every animal that we gave the serum to lived. We didn't lose another animal after giving the serum. But the big thing was this Erickson guy and Peterson had some connection that Peterson went up to that farm on a Sunday night just to see what was going on and then came back to the town poor farm without washing his boots or feet or anything. A few days later one of the animals over here at the poor farm got sick. And I went there and made the diagnosis of black leg. I told him I knew exactly where he had been. He carried the disease back here. I think there were only two or three that died because I had the serum on hand, and I gave serum to the whole blinking herd. It's an interesting little thing as to how diseases can be carried on clothing and feet. That's one reason why our customs officials are so extremely careful about where you've been in Europe or South America and what you bring in as food stuffs.
Leaving Walden Street and coming back to Thoreau Street, an interesting story has to do with the building that was at the corner of Thoreau and Sudbury Road. It started out as DeNormandie and Verrill Dairy where they bottled milk. That went along in pretty good shape for a while, but then there became a problem. Milk was put in quart bottles with a paper cap on top. It developed after a short period of time along about '43 or '44 that you could take the paper cap off a quart bottle of milk, stick a fork down inside and twist it around, and the milk would come right out as high as you could reach. Well they had a cantankerous inspector who was putting the "B" on all the farmers around saying that they were unsanitary and so on. I, as the veterinarian checking the cows, said no, this is not true. Eventually it ended up that I made the diagnosis that there was a streptobaccilus that had contaminated everything in that entire place from the milk cans to the milk bottles and that was what produced the ropey milk. But they lost almost all their customers, especially in Belmont and Arlington and toward Lexington. The people just quit and would never go back because of the ropey milk. I found the contamination originated in their can washing machine where the milk cans being sent out to the farms where being improperly washed and sanitized so that good pure milk from the farm was being put into a contaminated vessel.
Down Thoreau Street a little bit, there is a house that was a church (Swedish) 50 years ago. The church became defunct, and the building was made over into a house. What happened in between was a newlywed couple moved into the house, and were apparently living perfectly fine. Then they had a dog that always had ticks, they would bathe it and take them off and the dog still had ticks. It ended up that that structure was so contaminated with ticks behind the wallpaper and under the cracks and under the rugs and elsewhere and even inside the lady's wrapped wedding gown that she hadn't opened up for five years. They had to move out. The place was vacated for several years and fumigated until there was no problem with the ticks. But ticks can be a severe problem.
One of the big historical people up in Maynard had an appointment with me one night and he wanted to be sure that it was after hours. So I met with him about 9:30 at night and he came in in a cloak and dagger fashion and told him that his wife had developed such a thing about visitors in the house, that there had been no visitors in his house for a year. She forbade anyone to come into the place because of these bugs that she had crawling on the walls and up the curtains, and so forth. They were ticks and she was so ashamed of that that she had almost gone mental. Finally when I told the man that they were ticks not bedbugs or cockroaches then he was able to get his wife squared away. They like to hide and can live for years and years without food or drink.
If you want to go back to pigs and epidemiology, I can tell you another thing about one of the Ruggerios had some sick pigs but didn't pay much attention to it and he sold 500 pigs to the prison. They were kept down pretty close to the traffic circle on Route 2 and kept in isolation before putting them up on the hill. In fact they had just moved from where the pigs had been kept inside the wall by the railroad tracks. There were pigs downstairs and chickens upstairs. They destroyed that and removed everything up to the top of the hill. Here these 500 pigs were over in the grassy area and one day Mr. Marble went out there and look them over and there were four or five of them dead, and some others that were obviously sick. So he called me and I asked him where they came from and he told me Ruggerios. So I went back over to Ruggerios and inquired about that. Yes, he said he had some sick pigs, two or three, eight or ten died over here, but that was nothing to worry about. Anyway I got the anti-serum and treated all the pigs at the prison with it and again had amazing success and then went back to Ruggerios and there he paid me for 2002 pigs that I vaccinated in one day. I wore out nine men that day. Apparently the pigs got the disease initially from fish from the Boston piers.
Another thing having to do with Mattisons and up on Lowell
Road, they used the Busk pasture which was a 50 acre lot down in
back and fenced in. Mattisons put 28 to 30 of their young stock
out there to pasture for the summer and that was fine until it
came time to get them back to the barn over on Williams Road.
They went up there and got all but one, and this one was had gone
absolutely wild. She was worse than a deer. She was a crazy,
crazy cow. All she had to do was see a human on foot and she put
her head down and would charge to attack. She had good sized
horns too. So we went there and escaped with our lives by
vaulting the fence and so on. I telephoned Angell Memorial and
asked them if they had a capture gun to use to tranquilize her.
They didn't but they would order one. So they had one flown up
from where they're manufactured in Georgia and sent it out here to
me. So I used it and used nicotine as the agent to capture this
animal. I practiced with the thing and loaded it up. We went up
there one day. Jack had a 3006 rifle to kill the thing or shoot it in case of extreme danger, and I had the capture gun. I
sneaked around through the bushes and eventually got close enough
to the animal so that I was able to hit it. Well, it went in and
with the dart hitting her, she took off. She went a couple
hundred yards across the field and by the time the nicotine had
its effect and there she stood. She was shivering, shaking, had
diarrhea then went down. She lived anyway. While she was still
down, we were able to chain her up and get her hauled into a
trailer and took her back to the barn and put here in a stanchion
in the barn with an extra chain on each side of her neck in case
to violently attack anyone. Do you know that the animal was just as docile as a pet kitten after it got back in the barn? It never bothered a single bit, didn't kick or try to buck anyone, but out
there in the field, it was a man killer.