Hello from a beautiful and sunny Easton! Today is Graduation Day for the Oliver Ames High School Class of 2021, the 125th graduating class in the school’s history. I wish all of our graduating seniors the very best and many blessings as they begin the next steps in their life journey. I was able to work closely with three seniors in particular who have been honored with a scholarship from the Society: Emma Varella (granddaughter of Hazel Varella), and Emma Lawson, both of whom worked on a book project last summer; and Samantha Streton, who is this year’s Valedictorian – way to go Sam! – who built our new website and developed a structured internship at the Museum for OAHS students. Please join me in congratulating these seniors, and the entire Class of 2021!
The past year has been an extraordinary one in many ways. The stimulus bills passed by Congress is one of the unusual steps taken to mitigate the economic stress caused by the upheaval of the recent pandemic. How does this compare to past economic downturns? I was searching some files this week, and I came across two articles on a 1930’s version of a stimulus bill for Easton businesses. The event was called “Easton Dollar Day” and it was held May 21, 1932. It appears to be the brainchild of the Easton Bulletin, and it got the attention of the Easton Chamber of Commerce. A few small editorials prior to that day make mention of the poor business climate in Easton at that time as small businesses really struggled for survival in the Great Depression. One writeup more or less takes issue with Eastoners who chose to have their prescriptions filled in Brockton, when the same could be filled in Easton for less money (not to count the additional cost of transportation to Brockton.) The idea is not to pick on Brockton or those who thought they can save money by buying in the city; rather, it was to show that one could spend their hard-earned and scarce dollars in town, and by doing that, give back to the businessmen and women who support the town they live in.
Harris A. De Witt, a prominent Easton business man, was also President of the Easton Chamber of Commerce. With a close relationship to the Easton Bulletin, the two organizations began promoting the idea of an Easton Dollar Day where special offerings and discounts would be available to Easton residents from various Easton businesses. One article states “this decided action is to be taken to stimulate local business and plans are already underway to make this one of the biggest days in the history of Easton.” To support the all-out effort, the Bulletin published 400 extra issues the week of the event, banners were hung around town advertising it, a telephone brigade was formed to call as many people in town as possible and tell them about it, and a parade of cars was specially decorated and driven through all sections of town to promote it. Leading the parade was the George S. Shepard American Legion Post Drum and Bugle Corp.
The newspaper, who boldly says in its masthead “Easton, Massachusetts – Live Here – Buy Here and Be Happy”, published a front-page article on the day prior to the big sale. While any list of specials could not be found, there is a list of Easton businesses that were scheduled to take part. Those listed are Lynch’s Shoe Store, The North Easton Co-operative Bank, E. O. Nystrom, John O. Dean Co., North Easton Savings Bank, E. W. Ericson, Frank McMenamy, Ladd’s Service Station, George H. De Witt & Son, O’Connor’s News Store, Daly’s Lunch, William McFarland, Mitrano’s Market, The First National Bank of Easton, J. H. Leach & Son, and Wilbar’s Radio Store.
I have not found an article or news clipping yet that writes about how well the day went, and whether or not its intended purpose was fulfilled. But it was a good idea to “buy local” and show support for Easton during a very difficult period. It may not be such a bad idea today – a town-wide once a year day to promote all the businesses in Easton and stretch our own dollars just a little further!
Until next week, as the paper says, be happy!