Reviews ...

The true life story of Waite

... a daughter's labor of love

by Russ Priestley

Alice Patten Graham with Library Director Dennis Kelley, in the genealogy room.

Tell the truth now! How many of you have aspired to someday write about your family lineage? You feel the need for the next generation to know all about their progenitors - except maybe for Uncle Horace whose life was, shall we say, less than exemplary. Many of us will assemble a collection of photographs - black and white, Kodacolor and perhaps even some digital prints which have not yet made it out of shoe box storage.

Let me reveal an exception who listened attentively as her father reminisced and revealed his past. The author claims she took shorthand notes unbeknownst to him as he sat in his favorite chair and puffed away on his pipe. The follow-up was seven years of writing, obtaining photos, public records and other proof to back his claims. For these reasons, the book is loaded with old photos and reproductions.

The author, Alice Patten Graham, a longtime resident of Melrose, has entitled this book "Waite's Story." It is 304 pages with a general format of photos left, story right. At the end of the story is a chronology and perhaps of little interest to the average reader is the family tree going back to 1734 in Nova Scotia.

At the very end Alice shows her appreciation with acknowledgements to Dennis Kelley, Director of the Melrose Public Library and our very own Don Norris, editor/writer/photographer with the Mirror, who was chairman of the board of library trustees at that time. These two arranged for Alice to use the word processor at the library. In addition, she thanks Mrs. Nancy Kukura, writer, teacher and organizer of PAL, the Program for Afterschool Learning for the elementary schools. Nancy gave advice and encouragement to Alice.

Waite was born in 1887 in Malden, Massachusetts, but his parents lived in Melrose prior to that. As a youngster he lived in the Oak Grove area, but he graduated from the Faulkner School in 1902. In contrast to today's graduate who feels he must "chill out" for a year or so, he began working the next morning at the Fells Rubber Shop at 6:30. Melrose residents know of this factory at the junction of Washington and Pleasant Streets, but it is now a group of non-related businesses.

The other rubber shop was in the Edgeworth section of Malden and both were opened by Charles Goodyear with the financial backing of Deacon Converse, a Malden resident. Goodyear had accidentally discovered vulcanization when he dropped a rubber-sulphur mixture on a hot stove. This meant rubber could be made in various shapes and would retain those shapes because of the added sulphur.

Waite's father worked 10 hour days, except Saturdays when 5 p.m. was closing time. Waite himself started at $2.50 per week, with the same hours as his father. He needed a bike to get to work. After buying a used bike for $10.00 and financing it with his father at one dollar per week, he paid $1.50 per week for board and room.

This job was followed by one at the New England Telephone Company, Milk Street, Boston, when Waite was 15. He ate his lunch, sitting on the dock, fascinated by the ships coming and going. He could resist the wanderlust no more and pleaded with one ship's captain for a job. The captain finally agreed, but next he had to convince his parents. He offered to give them all his earnings until he reached 21.

His parents were very adamant in their refusal, but eventually his mother decided he was so eager to go to sea that he would go anyway. She insisted that he take time to go with his siblings to have a photograph taken. In case he never returned home again, she would have a picture of him.

{This book was printed in a limited amount of 30. Two copies are available at the Melrose Library and one at the Malden Library}.

Editor's note: This was the beginning of Waite's many and various experiences on land and sea. He was a world-wide traveler, working his way whether by land or sea. Please return next month for an interesting review of his adventures.

February 3, 2006

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