Greetings one and all! Today marks an historic turning point for both the Easton Historical Society and Museum and myself. I will be retiring from the position of Curator at the end of August.
My reason for retiring comes down to my decision to fulfill another call – to ministry. While I am not sure what that will be just yet, there is no doubt in my mind that I am being called to serve my Lord in my church and my community. The good news is that I will still be around town, though I’ll be spreading the Good News more and the historical news less. I’ve spent a lot of years in Youth Ministry, and I have a desire in my heart to continue working with our young people.
I first joined this wonderful organization around 1980 as a life member. I have had the pleasure to serve as President, Director, and since October 2006 as Curator / Caretaker of the Museum. Over these forty-two years I have been blessed by many, many people – too many to mention here, and not wanting to leave anyone out, I will not attempt to try to offer any names. I’ve had many special mentors in my time here which I am thankful for. I am very grateful for all the guidance and support offered to me by the current Officers and Board of Directors, and for the many Officers and Directors I have had the pleasure to serve with in years past.
For sixteen years I have been serving you by preparing open houses, tours, special events, class reunions, writing a newsletter (22 years!), weekly emails, speaking to groups, and greeting our many visitors. I’ve enjoyed the hundreds of research projects that have been done, discovering much about the history of Easton and the stories of her people. Membership is growing, our collections are growing, and so has our knowledge base of how our local history ties into regional and national history. We have partnered with many organizations (Easton Public Schools, Home School Groups, Stonehill College, Ames Free Library, Veteran's Organizations, Easton Garden Club, Easton Lions Club, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the YMCA, ECAT, etc.) to serve the Easton community.
A special note of thanks is extended to the King Family, whose generosity and foresight set up the Robert D. and Sally G. King Trust, which provides for a curator position and allows the Museum to be open regularly. Their gift has done so much to enrich the lives of all who pass through here. I also owe sincere thanks to my wife Anne-Marie, whom I love dearly, and who has been my partner here for these many years, working behind the scenes, and sacrificing much to allow me to do the work I have been able to do. Her love and support have allowed me to accomplish so much.
If one is supposed to leave a legacy, I hope mine will be found in the many young people whose lives have been enriched by the Museum. Which young child will remember looking at pictures of steam engines here? How many of the second graders will remember their school visits to the Museum? I think of the high school and college volunteers I’ve worked with over the years, and now, the interns we have had in more recent years. I hope one day they will remember the investing of my time and energy, believing in them, and giving them an opportunity to learn and grow. If they will do the same for another young person someday, that would make me very, very happy.
And now, with sincere thanks to each of you for the ways you have enriched my life,
Greetings one and all! What a beautiful Saturday morning we have today, full of sunshine, but with cool and dry air replacing the six days of high heat and humidity just passed.
We are looking forward to a nice day Sunday for our Open House, which will be held from 1-5 p.m. Seats for the Victorian Luncheon filled quickly, and chef Joan Lundgren has been hard at work making this event possible. Thank you, Joan!
Please note: today’s article is for historical purposes only.
Some things stay with us our whole life, and sounds are one of those. Today I can still remember hearing, while playing in our yard, the sound of an approaching dirigible or blimp. A low drone could be heard for several minutes prior to seeing one of these airships. I would excitedly watch the sky and wait for it to appear overhead – a wonderful thing to see! I believe they were naval airships traveling from Weymouth, Ma. and for some reason they usually flew over my home on Foundry Street. Perhaps they were making their way to the Mansfield Airport, or perhaps going further towards the air base on Cape Cod. These lighter-than-air ships were a wonderful site to behold.
There were Eastoners and others who, many years back, saw an even more stunning sight. My mother’s mother remembered seeing it as a child going over Easton, and my father’s father remembered seeing it over Brockton. What they saw was one of the most impressive airships ever – the Hindenburg.
The Hindenburg was launched in Friedrichshafen, Germany in March of 1936. At more than 800 feet in length, and powered by four 1,100 horsepower motors, it was the largest rigid airship ever constructed. These zeppelins, as they were called, made transatlantic travel possible by air for commercial passengers. During that first year the Hindenburg carried 1002 passengers on 10 round trips between Germany and the United States. The trip could take up to three days each way depending on wind and weather, at speeds reaching 84 miles per hour. No crossings were made during the winter months due to often stormy weather conditions. Helium was the original gas to be used to “float” the Hindenburg. However, with a looming threat of war in Europe, the United States restricted any sale of that gas to another country that might use it to build airships for war purposes. That meant the use of hydrogen was necessary, and the Hindenburg was filled with 7 million cubic feet of that very flammable gas.
In order to accommodate passengers in first class style, the Hindenburg featured two passenger decks. The “A” Deck, or the top deck, had a promenade and lounge on each side of the airship. Windows lined this deck, offering unprecedented scenic views for passengers. Aluminum was used extensively to save weight; the seats in the lounge were aluminum, and a baby grand piano for entertainment was built of aluminum as well. Covered in yellow pig skin, it only weighed 377 pounds! Passenger cabins were on the interior of this deck, between the lounges and promenade areas. In design they were similar to a sleeping room on a train car. To save weight, foam sheets were used to separate the cabins from each other.
The “B” Deck below contained toilet facilities, a kitchen, crew quarters and a crew’s mess. There was one stunning amenity available on this deck for all to use. Believe it or not, a smoking lounge was installed! One had to enter the room through an airlock, and the room itself was specially insulated from the rest of the ship’s interior. Guests had access to a special lighter built into the room, the only one allowed on the ship, and could smoke freely day or night.
After an uneventful first season, the Hindenburg's second transatlantic crossing of 1937 began in Germany on May 3. Following a flight path still used by commercial travel today, the Hindenburg turned north over the Atlantic, and at times would travel southerly over lower New England on its way to New York and New Jersey. On May 6 a strong storm and heavy winds delayed docking at Lakehurst, New Jersey until just after 7 p.m. In an event that has never been fully resolved, the great ship caught fire, and within a span of 30 seconds, disappeared from history. Thirty-five of the ninety-seven passengers and one member of the ground crew perished, and many of the other passengers were badly injured. The event was caught on film, and the disaster brought an end to the great age of lighter-than-air travel.
On that fateful day in 1937, a young boy then living on Williams Street heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching airship. Robert Johnson ran home, grabbed a box camera, and made his way to the hill where the North Easton Grammar School stood. From that high vantage point, he took the photo below. Here is the Hindenburg, which had just passed over North Easton about 600 feet in the air. Mr. Johnson believes the great ship was very near the Brockton line when he snapped this image. No one could have imagined the disaster that would occur only a few hours later.
Until next week, stay well,
Greetings from h-o-t Easton! The dog days of summer are here and today I find myself in the midst of our second official heat wave. A few weeks ago, an unknown angel dropped off a case of Moxie (sugar free!) at the Museum. What a pleasant surprise I had when I arrived the next morning to find it waiting for me! So, whomever you may be, many thanks from me to you. I have been enjoying that ice cold, refreshing concoction during these hot summer days.
Today we will take a brief look at a “Tale of Two Dishes” to paraphrase a writer much better than I. On exhibit this month, these two items are taken from our collections and tell two very different stories.
First up is one of our earliest pieces, a gift to us from the late Earl Nichols. He and I had several wonderful visits over the years. Earl was a direct descendent of Sgt. William Harlow of Plymouth, Ma., who built the Old Harlow Fort House in 1677 using timber from the Pilgrim’s original fort house. The house served as the home of the Harlow family for 250 years! Today the house is a museum owned by the Plymouth Antiquarian Society and is a rare example of a first period structure in Plymouth. For many years, Earl and his family attended annual Harlow Family Reunions (Earl led the annual worship service). During one of his last trips to Easton, he gave a very special pewter dish to the Museum.
Hannah Fuller (1771-1850) was born in Sharon and married Reuben Harlow (1773-1823) of Easton in 1791. Together they raised several children somewhere in the Poquanticut section of town. I was unable to find her name on our 1825 map, so after her husband’s death she may have moved in with family. Her son Tisdale built a farmhouse on Poquanticut Avenue by that time, and there were also two Fuller families living on Highland Street near the Mansfield Line. The plate below was owned by Hannah prior to her marriage. It is a simple design, with a raised edge around its approximately 7” diameter. Antique pewter is made primarily from tin and lead, and has a distinct color to it. It is also exceedingly soft and pliable, wears very easily, and can be damaged quickly. Earl thought it was very important that this plate be returned to Easton, where Reuben and Hannah built their life together, and where for many generations, descendants still lived. The initials “HF” are stamped on the back of the plate, meaning Hannah may have received this before her marriage. There are no hallmarks or other maker’s marks on the plate, so we may never know who made it or where it was purchased. It is possible a local foundry cast the plate. It is a very special piece and provides a very rare, direct connection to one of the hard-working early families of Easton.
The second dish may be more recognizable as it is connected to an Easton lady who ran a well-known establishment. The Toll House Restaurant, which stood for many years on Bedford Street, Whitman, Ma., is well known and fondly remembered, as was the owner and host, 1920 Oliver Ames High School graduate Ruth Graves Wakefield (1903-1977.) Ruth studied nutrition in college, and taught as a dietician at hospitals and schools. She and her husband Kenneth Wakefield (1897-1997) pooled their money and in 1930 opened the legendary restaurant, where she specialized in small batch, high quality cooking with the best ingredients. The success of the Toll House Cookie in the late 1930’s as well as notice from famous food critic Duncan Hines and an appearance on a Betty Crocker television show made the local landmark iconic in American history.
Ruth paid great attention to details, and that included the plates on which she served her cuisine. Sometime around the late 1930’s or early 1940’s Ruth created and patented a design for dishes that was used for decades at the restaurant. The plate, around 10” in diameter, and rather heavy to survive constant restaurant use, featured what appears to be a peacock in a group of lotus flowers. More floral decorations are found around the wide rim. A bright cobalt blue was used for the print, contrasting brilliantly with the white chine background. The design is instantly recognizable. A mark on the reverse identifies this as “Old Ivory” Syracuse China. The mark also includes the Wakefield design trademark. Not much remains from the former Toll House that burned in 1984 (The Wakefield’s sold the business several years prior.) Those of us who were privileged to dine there will remember these dishes.
On a side note, over 30 years ago my wife and I purchased one of these plates at a Society fundraiser. We carefully kept our one plate safe for many years. A month ago, we were in Plymouth for a day out. Looking in an antique shop, lo and behold, hanging on a wall was one of the Toll House plates! Now we are the proud owners of two of these plates, and at long last we have one for both of us. Now, if only I could cook like Ruth!
Stay cool and stay well,
Anne Wooster Drury