Social and Political Commentary

All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinions of others or the organization as a whole.

Melrose, 1885 to 1985

 ... 100 years of memories

by Cliff Jones

The following is a letter of March 26, 1985. It is reviewing, to a friend, life as it was during the previous 100 years. I have not edited the style of the letter which is eight pages of handwritten copy. Cliff Jones (born 1896) was the father of Nancy Jones, MHS '41, who gave this letter to my brother Bob. They were former neighbors on Martha's Vineyard, an island reached by ferry from Falmouth, Massachusetts. She is the wife of Ed "Bud" Lacey, MHS '40 and a classmate of mine. The couple lives in New Hampshire now. Further, the Jones family lived on Bellevue Avenue next door to a close friend of mine, Barbara Bragdon Bennett ... you remember her swinging through the jungle in Costa Rica and pictured in our issue of May, 2003. Is this a small world, or not? (SilverStringer Russ Priestley).

Dear Gratia,

Congratulations on 100 years of living. So many changes in your lifetime. Youth, middle age and now the golden age having wonderful thoughts and dear memories with dried, salted tears remaining on your red cheeks. What a wonderful book of memories you must have stored away. Memories you love to dwell on and others we cast aside and try to forget.

Your life and my life are now in back of us. Eleven years separate me from your century mark but I am positive the past of our lives must have been similar in many ways and now is what I am about to reminisce on.

Set reverts back to year 1900. That's my limit of memory. Four years old for me. You were a teen-ager. I can recall walks with my dad and brother. Later playing ball in the dusty dirt street. Picking most any neighborhood field for playing Indian. Few houses then in area. Skiing in back lot on homemade sugar barrel slats. Running thru back fields to my chum's house. Stealing raspberries en route at Durrell's garden and always chased out of an apple orchard. Kicking football through a leaded stained glass window at a place I should not have been.

Making, churning ice cream in backyard every Sunday, licking paddle, envying the coalman delivering coal thru chute to bins in cellar. Riding the milk wagon in summer, pung in winter (ed. note: a boxlike sleigh drawn by one horse. Snow was rolled not plowed), chopping ice on Tom's open wagon or sleigh and eating ice chips as they fell on the street. Taking a bath in a short, small, slippery tin bath was an adventure. Also an interesting feature was the old pull chain to flush the toilet. Chain extended through ceiling to water holding tank in attic. Always a threat to my mother as she feared I would fall in, but I didn't.

Watching the street roller, early 1900's, pad down the snow and always the big horse with man and plow clearing the walks. Kerosene lamp lights. My job to clean the charred wick, then wash the lampblack from (glass) chimney. Next, the entrance of gas pipes with jets for illumination of house and for cooking. Ten years later, I well remember Joe Wing coming to the house, running electric wires through the gas pipes, installing electric fixtures and soon gas was obsolete. About this time the telephone was installed downstairs only, with a fifty-foot extension cord, to be carried to the second floor whenever necessary.

Riding the open or closed trolley cars to Boston was a novelty. Fare 5 cents. My ambition then was to become a trolley car conductor, walk the running board on open trolleys to collect the fares. Seeing runaway horses gallop naked down the street. Dusty, dirt roads with buckboards, buggies. Hacks always passing. No cars. And without fail, always the man with the monkey and hand organ. Always playing a rusty tune, unwinding from his arm a long rope to which the monkey was attached, collecting pennies from neighborhood children.

Around 1910 Mr. Henry Ford introduced the first gas buggy to the public. Sale price $650.00. He wanted all to get out and view the beautiful countryside. Open style, convertible, incandescent lighting, stick driven, no round steering wheel, hand cranked, seldom easy to start, fast kickback, many broken arms. Everyone wore dusters, linen or straw hats, plus the town ordinance: All gas buggies obliged to stop when horse approached, otherwise the horse would rear on hind feet, bolt and run off with carriage, if people were thrown out.

[We will break here with half of the letter remaining. It will be completed in our August issue].   


July 3, 2003


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