A Navy “Contraband”

Posted May 20, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery


On Sunday, May 28, a statue will be unveiled in East Dedham to honor the memory and service of William B. Gould. The ceremony will take place at Gould Park on Milton St., just down the street from where Gould, along with his wife Cornelia, raised his family. Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione will emcee the event and the keynote speaker will be Princeton University’s Professor Tera Hunter. For more information on the ceremony, you can visit the Gould Park website: https://gouldmemorial.org/ The following is an excerpt from my book Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown which summarizes Gould’s extraordinary story.

An obituary appearing in the Boston Globe on May 24, 1923 describes the accomplishments of 86-year old William Gould of Dedham, including command of the local GAR post, and his service on the Union ships Cambridge, Ohio and Niagara. The notice states that Mr. Gould enlisted in the navy in 1863, which while is a true fact, does not tell the complete story.  What is not stated is that Mr. Gould was born enslaved in North Carolina and escaped to the Navy in a daring move with seven other slaves.

On the night of September 21, 1862, twenty-four-year-old Gould and his seven companions set their plan into action. After darkness had descended, the men boarded a small boat in Wilmington, North Carolina and began rowing south on the Cape Fear River, heading for the open sea.  If they could manage to maneuver their boat downriver twenty-eight miles, slip past the Confederate held Fort Caswell and get picked up by a Union ship, they would have their freedom.  Such escapees were considered “contraband” of war, property seized by the Union forces.

Gould and his mates reached the Atlantic Ocean in the morning hours of September 22, and hoisted their sail.  They were soon spotted by crew members of the U.S.S. Cambridge and taken aboard. A few days later they took an oath of service and were made crew members.

William Gould was an extraordinary man.  He was educated and literate as evidenced by the diary he began shortly after his escape and continued through most of his naval service.  Amidst the many passages describing the routine life of a sailor, Gould expressed his passionate insights against the southern way of life and the institution of slavery.  Gould served until the end of the war and eventually made his way to Dedham in 1871, where he and his wife Cornelia raised a large family on Milton Street.

Gould was a master plasterer, and in the 1880s was awarded a contract to do the interiors of St. Mary’s Church on High St. He was a respected and honored citizen of the town, serving as the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic post and writing for various publications. Gould was also a founding member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Oakdale Square. In the late 1950s, his grandson William Gould III discovered a diary kept by the original Gould.  This diary was annotated and published by Gould’s great-grandson William Gould IV.  It is an important document of American and African American history, being one of only a few diaries written by black sailors.

No Tonic Allowed in the Gym

Posted April 19, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: Lost Dedham

Tags: ,
From the 1973 DHS yearbook.

This sign hung on the door to the Dedham High gym 50 years ago, and there’s no doubt that every one of the 2,000 or so students in the school knew exactly what it meant. Hang that sign on the gym door today and you’ll get a lot of confused looks and questions…Hair tonic? Gin and tonic? Those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s know that “tonic” was another word for soda. Orange ade, root beer, ginger ale, even Coke were referred to collectively as tonic. It was a common and widespread term around here back then, as seen in this ad from the Globe in 1972:

According to the Globe, the first printed instance of the word to describe carbonated beverages was in 1888 in an article describing the theft of ’10 bottles of tonic’ from a Boston store. For close to a century, folks in Massachusetts and other parts of New England could be assured of getting served a carbonated soda when asking for a tonic. The term has been pretty much abandoned these days (Wikipedia called it “antiquated!” Boy that makes me feel old). It joins these other words from my youth that have faded from modern day usage:

Hassock (ottoman)

Divan (couch- this was my father’s word, not mine)

Dungarees (jeans- see my February 2023 post about Dungaree Day)

Supper (dinner)

Cellar (basement)

Crueler (a horizontal donut, now called a stick)

Feel free to share your own “antiquated” words or phrases from back in the day. And keep that tonic out of the gym!

Hop on in…

Posted April 1, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, JP's Dedham

Tags: ,

to the Blue Bunny and pick up a copy of my Dedham book; also available are Framingham Legends and Lore, Murder and Mayhem in Metrowest Boston and 2 books of fun family poetry- perfect for National Poetry Month!

From the Dedham Times 3/31/2023
The Blue Bunny is located at 577 High Street- if you haven’t been to the Square in a while, head for Keelan’s Hardware (same spot, updated address).

Where in Dedham? The Dedham Police Station

Posted March 11, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, Dedham Then and Now

Tags: ,
The fallout shelter sign has been hanging in this spot since the building was dedicated 60 years ago. The fallout shelter was located in the basement behind 6-inch walls of reinforced concrete and housed the Civil Defense Communication Center. A lead shield was available to be placed over the window for protection from radioactive fallout.

The Dedham Police Department moved into their new headquarters on April 29, 1963, almost 60 years ago. The department had been in temporary headquarters at the new town hall on Bryant Street after vacating their original home in Memorial Hall which was torn down the year before.

This was the first and only building built exclusively as a police station in Dedham. Tomorrow, the new public safety building on Bryant Street will be dedicated at a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1:00. Guests are invited to attend the ceremony and tour the new police/fire facility.

The new building at 26 Bryant Street. The combined fire/police facility will also replace the 1930 Central Fire Sation on Washington Street. The Dedham Square Planning Committe recommended in December 2021 that the former police station be demolished, and the site be developed as green space.

I’ve been inside the police station exactly two times. The first time was as an eighth grader doing a report on police work. Some officers showed me around and gave me a blank fingerprint card as a souvenir. About 20 years ago my car was rammed by another one in the Dedham Plaza parking lot and I went to the police station to file an accident report. Feel free to share stories of any time you’ve spent in the Dedham Police Station!

Congratulations to Mary Fontaine who was the first to correctly identify the location!

Where in Dedham?

Posted March 11, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery

Be the first to identify the location in the picture below and win a set of historic Dedham note cards! You must post your answer in the comments below, not on Facebook. I will announce the winner and identify the location in another post. Good luck!

Snow Day!

Posted February 28, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, JP's Dedham

Tags: , , ,

What kid, or teacher for that matter doesn’t love a snow day? As kids we would get up early and listen to the No School announcements on WHDH or WBZ radio praying to hear “No school, all schools in Dedham.” Then as quick as we could, we’d stuff our feet into Wonder Bread bags and rubber boots and head out the door to go sledding! In the days before the streets were intensely chemically treated and plowed to bare pavement before the last flake has even fallen, the little hill on Tower Street by my house made for great coasting. I’m sure this was the case all around Dedham on quiet streets with even the slightest elevation.

From the Boston Record-American, February 1959: “Pre-schoolers and their mothers take to the street with their sleds…This scene is being duplicated in all sections of New England…This was made in Greenlodge, Dedham.” To be exact, it is the intersection of Heritage Hill and Ledgewood.
The same view, January 14, 2023.

If we were feeling really adventurous, we’d take our Flexible Flyers (or Speedaway knockoffs) to the hill at the Capen School. Now THAT was a hill! If you weren’t careful, you could speed-away right onto the basketball court or the woods at the edge of the baseball field, especially if you were flying down the hill on one of those plastic or metal coasters.

From a 1943 report on the schools. That’s a pretty steep hill for downhill skiing!

Other popular sledding locations were the Community House and Federal Hill (Highland Ave) where sledders in the 1890s covered the hill with water taken from a nearby brook to create an ice covered surface for even more thrills. Even the dangers of car traffic didn’t stop some enthusiastic kids in December 1933.

Back at Tower Street, the Parr kids and our neighbors had a safe sledding option right in our own backyard. Even the installation of a rail fence by my father didn’t keep us off that hill.

From December, 1967. If the snow wasn’t too deep and you had enough momentum, you could duck under the fence rail and continue into the O’Berg’s yard next door.
I get creative and use my little brother’s plastic bathtub as a coaster. Oh, and I forgot to mention the rocks we had to glide over at the top of the hill.

Those childhood days of sledding are best captured in this poem I wrote recently. Feel free to share your coasting memories in the comments!

Our Hill

Our hill was not so big a hill,

But still, it was the only hill

In any backyard up and down the street.

And days when wind and winter chill

Dropped snow upon our little hill

It was the place where neighbor kids would meet

For coasting down that snowy hill,

A simple childhood winter thrill

That kept us in the cold outdoors all day.

And down and up we crossed that hill

And didn’t stop the fun until

The cold and darkness drove us all away.

The next time that it snows you will

Find new kids sledding down that hill

The way we did so many years ago.

Their happy shouts of joy will fill

The skies above that ancient hill

And echo over freshly fallen snow.

50 Years Ago- Dungaree Day

Posted February 10, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery

Tags: ,

I will be wearing dungarees next Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dungaree Day at Dedham High School. First, for any readers not of a certain age, dungarees are what we called jeans back in the day (my mother shortened the term to “dungies”). Language changes. The Wrangler Wranch in the Dedham Mall where I sold dungarees during high school was originally called Mr. Slacks. Besides, “Jeans Day” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Dungaree Day took place at Dedham High School on February 15, 1973. It was a student protest that was one of the culminating events in a years-long battle between students and school authorities over a dress code that students found to be outdated, arbitrary, and unfair; a protest that saw high schoolers emulating college protestors across the country and administrators making public statements that could have been lifted from the script of Footloose. No summary I could write could accurately explain the event and the prevailing cultural attitudes of the time that precipitated it. I was still in 8th grade at St. Mary’s (dressed in shirt and tie every day, no less) and only heard about it from older friends and siblings who were there. So here is some coverage from the Dedham Transcript of February 21, 1973.

Articles in the Patriot Ledger corroborated this account and added more details. When the police arrived, students were outside chanting “We want dungarees!” After the protest students either changed out of the offensive clothing or went home. No students were suspended for protesting, but one was sent home for “gross disrespect” and smoking. A smaller protest took place the following day with a small group of students carrying signs outside before classes began.

The Dungaree Debate was nothing new in Dedham. It had only been a couple of years earlier that the necktie requirement for boys and skirts for girls had been abandoned. For several years at School Committee meetings, concerned adults had pointed out examples of dress code scofflaws followed by pleas of “Why do we have a dress code if we don’t enforce it?” For example, police chief Walter Carroll remarked at the March 1970 meeting: “The dress code should not be relaxed. A disciplined school is a happy school.” At another meeting, Committee Chair Walter Flanagan’s comment “Dungarees are not permitted but I know they are wearing them at the junior high and the high school” prompted Superintendent Harry McKay to respond: “I’ll look into it. If they wear dungarees to school, they should be sent home.” In 1965, just a few years into his tenure as DHS principal, Thomas O’Donnell was interviewed for a Patriot Ledger story about dress codes at different area high schools. Referring to Dedham’s dress code (adopted by the student council in 1958) that stipulated hair length and style among other rules, Mr. O’Donnell seemed satisfied, stating: “The students cooperate, and so do the parents.” By 1973, the ban on dungarees was about all that remained of that old dress code, and the students needed to let the administration know it wasn’t 1958 anymore, times had changed, and the dress code was obsolete.

Mr. O’Donnell started as principal in 1962. He retired at the end of the 1972-1973 school year after serving the Dedham Public Schools for 41 years.

At a School Commitee meeting in November 1972 the dress code had been discussed but not modified. The idea for Dungaree Day was proposed at a December meeting of the Student Activities Union, which had formed in September as an alternative to the traditional Student Council. According to the Transcript, the majority of the 200 students at the meeting were against the idea and favored working through proper channels to try to lift the ban. But students had been working through “proper channels” for some time with no results. The Student School Committee, an advisory committee to the town’s elected school committee had voted in November 1971 to abolish the Student Dress Code. The School Committee took no action. Students at the Junior High won a significant victory in November 1970 when the Student Council convinced administration to allow girls to wear pants (only from November-April and NO DUNGAREES!) but the dress code was still very restrictive.

The Junior High dress code from September, 1970. In November, it was revised to allow girls to wear pants from November-April, then revised again to allow pants and pant suits year-round, but NO DUNGAREES! The necktie requirement for boys was also dropped.

Senior Susan Prodnak voiced her opinion on the dress code in a letter to the Transcript in December:

“Almost everyone agrees that the dress code is pretty ridiculous. Basically it is that you’re allowed to wear any color dungarees from saffron yellow to shocking pink with the exception of blue. If you are discovered in such blue attire, you are forced to miss several classes, and possibly several days of school.”

The Class of ’74 commemorated Dungaree Day in a collage in the yearbook.

The issue of dungarees seemed to come up at every school committee meeting before and after the Dungaree Day protest. In their public statements, administrators consistently voiced the same three arguments against the offending clothing: 1. Dungarees are play clothes and if students wear play clothes to school, they will be less focused and in a more playful frame of mind. 2. Dungarees are the uniform of the counterculture and the drug culture and the rebellious youth of America. Allowing students to wear them would result in a lack of respect and discipline and lead to disruptive behavior. 3. Rules are rules. Dungarees are against the rules; students need to follow the rules and face the consequences when they don’t.

The dungaree debate was resolved in July 1974 when the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation known as the “Students’ Bill of Rights.” Among other protections for students was the ban on dress codes, unless the code was instituted for hygiene, health and safety purposes. The bill essentially put an end to dress codes in all Massachusetts high schools, as long as local school committees approved. Dungarees were allowed for the first time at DHS in the 1974-1975 school year, my sophomore year. The student conduct code was officially approved by the school committee the following October. Although my rights to freedom of expression had been affirmed by both the Massachusetts Legislature and the Dedham School Committee, they were overruled by a higher power, my mother, and so I never attended a day at DHS while wearing “dungies.”

Do you have any Dungaree Day memories? Share them in the comments below!

Coming in Part 2- This was not the first kerfuffle at Dedham High over a dress code, nor would it be the last. Stay tuned.

Where in Dedham: Lyons Bridge

Posted January 27, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery

Tags: ,

This is the bridge spanning the Charles River at Lyons Street (Dedham) and Greendale Avenue (Needham). The plaque of the state seal can be found on the southwest bridge abutment (just beyond the guardrail on the left in the above photo). There has been a bridge at this site on the river since at least the 1740s;  this particular bridge was built in 1879 and is named for a 19th century landowner, Elisha Lyon. At one time Common Street intersected with Lyons St. just south of the bridge, but was dead-ended with the construction of Rte. 128.

Section of Needham (pink) and Dedham from an 1858 map. Common Street runs from the lower right by the property marked D. O’Brien to Lyons Street just south of the bridge. You can see the property marked E. Lyon on the Needham side by the bridge. Also notice the property of J. Wilson, from which Wilson Mountain gets its name.

There is a small parking area off Lyons Street and a walking path that travels under Rte.128 and connects with trails behind the Newbridge on the Charles complex. For those of you who have only glimpsed this picturesque spot while speeding down the southbound lane of 128, it’s worth a trip to truly appreciate its scenic charm.

Congratulations to Michael Nee for answering correctly! Thanks to all who participated.

View of the bridge from the Dedham bank of the Charles.
The path under 128.

Where in Dedham?

Posted January 20, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery

Be the first to identify the location of this photo, and win a copy of my latest book. Remember, do not respond on Facebook! The winner will be the first person to correctly respond in the comments section at the bottom of this page! Parr family members and co-authors not eligible. I will post the correct answer and announce the winner later tonight. Good luck!

New Feature: Where in Dedham?

Posted January 18, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, History/Mystery

Tags: ,

This is a fun new feature of the blog that I will post from time to time. The first person to correctly identify the location of a posted photo will win a copy of my most recent book “Murder and Mayhem in Metrowest Boston.” Because I share my blog posts on several Facebook groups, the correct answer must be posted in the comments directly on the blog (found at the bottom of the post where it says “Leave a Reply”). Now, it is true that subscribers to the blog may have a slight advantage as they receive the post directly in their email as soon as it is published, so there’s that. To subscribe, scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your e-mail in the box. Then confirm your subscription by responding to an email you will receive from Word Press.

Sorry, no Parr family members may participate!

The first mystery photo will be posted on Friday, January 20th at 6:00 pm. Good luck!

Written with co-author Kevin Swope, Murder and Mayhem is a collection of true crime stories from Framingham, Natick, Wayland and other nearby towns spanning over 125 years. Published by The History Press/Arcadia.

The Paul Family of Dedham

Posted January 14, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery, Lost Dedham

Tags: , ,

Who put the Paul in Paul Park?/Part 3

The Pauls of Dedham made significant contributions to the town’s agricultural, civic and political life for almost two centuries. The loss of the 172 year old house in which they resided for eight decades is both surprising and disappointing, but the occasion offers an opportunity to shine a light on this old New England family.

The first Massachusetts settler, Richard Paul came from England sometime between 1620-1630 and settled in the Taunton area, where Pauls would reside for the next hundred years. In 1719 Richard’s grandson Samuel purchased about 100 acres situated between the Neponset River and Sprague Pond for his sons Isaac and Samuel. This area quickly became associated with the Paul family, and the bridge over the Neponset acquired the name it retains to this day, Paul’s Bridge.

Paul’s Bridge 2022. This bridge was built in 1849.

By this time this area of Dorchester had been annexed by Dedham and was known as the “Low Plain.” The house and land eventually came into the possession of Ebenezer Paul, (b. 1818) great-great-great-great-great grandson of Richard Paul. Ebenezer was a respected progressive farmer and member of the Allin Congregational Church (despite living on the edges of town some three miles from the town center.)

Farming pursuits were seriously curtailed in July of 1861 when the US government took over the bulk of Paul’s acreage for a training camp for Union soldiers. According to an article written for the Hyde Park Historical Record (Volume VI, 1908):

” …the first that Ebenezer Paul knew of any designs on his land as a camping ground was the sudden discovery one morn of two or three men sitting under one of the long rows of elms, a few of which are now standing, and his cows gazing upon them with interest. Later, it is said, they came and took the land, leaving him to apply to the State for compensation which he did, and I am credibly informed that he received three hundred dollars per year rental.”

The government also took over about 80 acres west of Sprague Pond owned by Isaac Tower (my childhood street was named for him) who after the war submitted a claim for rent and additional funds for damages done to his house and fences. The government paid the rent but denied the claim for damages.

The first two regiments to occupy the land were the Massachusetts 18th and 20th, and the site was known as both Camp Brigham and Camp Massasoit. Later it would come to be known as Camp Meigs and gain historical significance as the training ground for the 54th Massachusetts, the first Massachusetts regiment of African American soldiers who arrived in February 1863. The history of Camp Meigs and its association with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment is a rich and fascinating one that will not be explored here. There is a brief history of the camp in my book Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown.

The Ebenezer Paul House (underlined in red) stood north of Milton Street (present-day Neponset Valley Parkway). This map shows the extent of the camp at Readville and its close proximity to both the Paul House and the Edson House. In 1868 most of the land east of Sprague Street would become part of the new town of Hyde Park, which was annexed by the City of Boston in 1912.
A section of Dedham from an 1858 map of Norfolk County. The red arrow indicates the original Paul house just west of Paul’s Bridge and the Neponset River. The blue arrow indicates the house at 390 Cedar St. where Ebenezer moved with his family in 1867. The house just east of that house (labeled N. Fales and S.F. Alden) was the home of Elizabeth Fales, who was murdered by Jason Fairbanks in 1801. It stood on the southeast side of Cedar St. near present-day Turner St. (See my earlier post “May 18- A Tragic Anniversary” from May 2010).

Ebenezer Paul sold his property and moved to the Cedar Street house in 1867, along with his wife Susan Dresser Paul and five children; Henry, (b.1851), Edward (b.1853), Isaac (b.1856), Ebenezer (b.1858), and Martha (b.1865). Upon his father’s death in 1898, Ebenezer Talbot Paul took ownership of the property and he and his wife Marietta Taylor Paul began the next chapter of the Paul family in Dedham.

Dance Fever

Posted December 23, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: JP's Dedham

This is me tearing up the dance floor with my mother in April, 1972 at my sister’s wedding reception at the Legion. As you can tell by my joyful expression, ballroom dancing was a favorite activity of mine, and I credit that love of the Terpsichorean arts to this man:

Russell Curry ran a Junior High Dance class in Dedham from the early 1950s through the 70s. The classes were held in the Oakdale School gym. According to the Transcript, Curry offered “instruction in ballroom dancing, Virginia Reel and a ‘Rock’ step, social graces, including introductions, reception lines, and general party behavior.” The boys wore suitcoats and ties, the girls wore dresses and white gloves, and upon arrival would sit on opposite sides of the gym until the dance selection was announced. Then the boys would take that long stressful walk across the floor to choose a partner. The only part of the class more stressful than this was “ladies’ choice.” At some point in the evening, the boys would take the arm of their partner and join the long receiving line to greet the evening’s chaperones, who were seated at the stage end of the gym.

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Chaperone, my name is James Parr and this is Abbie Normal.” Handshakes all around, and then back to the dance floor to tackle the Rock step to the strains of “A Horse With No Name.”

Surprisingly, the classes were more popular with girls than boys, as evidenced by this Transcript headline that ran just 2 days before classes were to start in October, 1971.

Several of my DHS ’77 classmates and I are described in the article as the “brave crew of boys” who had already signed up for seventh-grade beginner classes. I remained part of the brave crew for the rest of seventh grade, but did not continue my studies the following year.

Arlington born Russell Curry was a well-known figure in the Boston dance scene beginning in 1938 when he joined his mother’s Curry School of Dance, an enterprise she had started in 1920. During World War II, Curry worked with the USO traveling to local army camps teaching dance steps to servicemen. In the 1950s, he began instructing young people across New England in social etiquette and dance. During his heyday, Curry taught over 15,000 students a year in 50 communities across New England.

In this news photo from 1944, Russell Curry and his partner Virginia Touse demonstrate a new dance called “The Boston” at the Hotel Bradford.

Curry retired some time in the 1970s and moved to mid-coast Maine where he continued to teach and choreograph shows for the Boothbay Region Playhouse. He died in Damariscotta in 1997 at the age of 79.

Despite my somewhat unenthusiastic participation in dancing school, I actually learned a few things and could demonstrate a decent waltz step, fox trot or cha-cha if called upon. I bet there are many other members of that “brave crew” and their one-time dance partners out there who could make the same claim.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year …

Posted December 23, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: JP's Dedham

Tags: ,

Back in the 1960s, my brothers and I had paper routes in town, delivering the Globe, Record American, and Herald Traveler. We got our papers from East Dedham News, which was operated by a man named Bob Stadelmann who was located in East Dedham Square. After the redevelopment of that area, Bob moved his operation to Sprague Street in the Manor. Eventually, I took over the routes by myself, delivering afternoon dailies and the Sunday editions in my Tower St. neighborhood.

Christmas was indeed the most wonderful time of the year for paperboys, for that’s when we got our holiday tips. You can’t imagine the excitement felt by 10-year old me on a cold Sunday morning in December as I placed the thick newspapers between the doors of my customers and found a card-sized envelope that might contain an extra buck or two. This card came from a Mrs. Donavan:

This next card was a cardboard stocking with slots on the inside that held ten dimes. It impressed me so much I’ve kept it for over 50 years! (After removing the dimes). Lillian O’Connor lived about three doors down from me on Tower Street but apparently did not know my name.

I gave up my paper route in high school but continued selling Sunday papers for East Dedham News. Bob’s son Mark would pick me up in his van and drop me off with a stack of papers at this island at the intersection of High and Milton streets, where I would stay until noon, or until I ran out of papers.

The intersection of High and Milton/Bussey

This job was such an important part of my high school experience, I mentioned it in my senior yearbook profile. I also wrote a poem called “Sunday Morning Lament.” It begins:

I sit all alone on an island in the street.
The wind at my back, the cold in my feet….

and continues…

A rip or a wrinkle in the funnies won’t do.
They all want a paper that’s clean and brand new.

Despite my poetic protestations, it was a good part time job for a high schooler. I sold a lot of papers, made a lot of money in tips and met some interesting characters, one of whom passed me a counterfeit $10 bill one morning. I was so scared, I gave him his paper and his $9.45 in change and stuffed the phony bill in my apron. Later I showed it to my mother who hid it deep in the top drawer of her dresser where it stayed for decades.

My change apron, from the bicentennial year 1976
Returning home to Tower St. with unsold papers, ca. 1975

Christmas 1972

Posted December 16, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: Lost Dedham

Tags: , , , ,

Enjoy these ads that ran in the Transcript during December 50 years ago. I’m sure blog readers will remember most of these Dedham businesses- a few of them still exist!

The Walnut Street Water Tower

Posted December 9, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: Lost Dedham

Tags: ,

It’s been twenty-one years since workers dismantled the 103 ft. water tower on Walnut Street that had stood there since 1881. At the time, it was the oldest steel water tank in the country, but because it had no real historical significance (and was sitting on prime real estate in Oakdale) there was little objection to its removal.

Here’s a postcard from the early 20th century featuring the picturesque East Dedham Standpipe:

You can see the picturesque standpipe in this 1895 view from the top of the courthouse.

And finally, here is the “standpipe” on a pictorial map of town from 1954. I’m sure lots of people have their own special memories of this old Dedham landmark, feel free to share them in the comments!

A Few Thanksgiving Tidbits

Posted November 24, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: Dedham Then and Now

Tags: , ,

Culled from newspapers over the years…

Boston Globe, November 21, 1968
Boston Globe, November 30, 1956

Boston Post, November 29, 1907


The more things change…

Posted November 18, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, Dedham Then and Now

Tags: ,

While I continue working on Part 3 of the Paul family story, enjoy this little diversion about Oakdale Square.

Oakdale Square doesn’t look all that different after 80 years, does it? The top photo is from a real estate postcard dated April 9, 1940. The bottom photo was taken November 11, 2022 after the 7-11 removed all traces of their presence here. When I was a kid, it was Danny’s Supermarket.

When the building was being constructed in 1925 (as 6 separate stores), the Dedham building inspector tried to halt construction due to neighbors’ complaints that the structure would create a “blind corner” for motorists. The builder, John Picone, of Newton, took his case to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts where it was heard by Associate Justice Harry K. Braley, who ruled in his favor.

Here’s an aerial view which was included on the Dedham Planning Board’s 1947 Master Plan for improvements in town. As you can see, Stop & Shop now occupies the vacant store. The original Oakdale School is seen at the lower right. It stood where the Veterans’ Park is today.

Who put the Paul in Paul Park? /Part 2

Posted November 12, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, JP's Dedham

Tags: ,

So, who DID put the Paul in Paul Park? The quick answer to that question is this man:

Ebenezer Paul bought the house on Cedar Street and surrounding acreage from the Fales estate and moved here with his wife Susan and children in 1867. He farmed the land, and over the years added to his substantial holdings by purchasing adjacent lots. At the time of his death in 1898, Paul’s land holdings extended from Oakdale to Endicott, the Manor and Greenlodge. Upon his death, son Ebenezer Talbot Paul took ownership and management of the property and began subdividing it for housing lots in the 1920s. Here is the 1925 plan for a development which includes the site of my childhood home on Tower Street:

Interestingly, the development was named Ashcroft Wood, but nobody I know ever called it that. Hemlock Street was never built, and Sycamore does not connect with Alden. Neither does Beech connect with Turner, probably due to the huge rock located in what was known as “Ogden’s Woods” back in the 60s.

Here is a plan for another development named “Farview.”.

Mt. Vernon Street was later named Kimball Road, although it is essentially the same street intersected by the railroad tracks. The Cedar Street house can be seen on the left, and although it looks as if old Ebenezer was surrounding himself with a multitude of neighbors on his once quiet farmland, most of the houses on these streets were built in the 50s, long after his death in 1930. As a result of these real estate deals, Paul died a wealthy man, with an estate valued at about $1.3 million in today’s dollars. His wife Marietta passed away in 1949 at age 92. They had no children.

In December, 1951, the Town of Dedham purchased just under 3 acres from the Paul estate for $2,625 (about $30,000 in today’s dollars) for recreational purposes.

Paul Park was dedicated on June 8, 1952 in a ceremony attended by several hundred people. Music was provided by the elementary school orchestra under the direction of Miss Rhona Swarz and the elementary school band under the direction of Robert Shreve. Musical selections included When Johnny Comes Marching Home, And the Band Played On, and The Star-Spangled Banner. Director of Recreation William Ryan described plans for further development of the park including a baseball diamond, bubbler, merry-go-round, swings, slides, fire places, sand-boxes, and picnic tables. Fifteen years later I would sit at one of those picnic tables and make a loop potholder for my mother. Thank you, Ebenezer.


  • More Paul Family history
  • Shenanigans at 390 Cedar Street
  • The Mystery of the Missing Plaque

Who put the Paul in Paul Park? /Part 1

Posted November 11, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, Lost Dedham

The impending demolition of this house on Cedar Street has inspired me to make a post to this blog after a very long time. Having grown up on Tower Street not too far from this residence at 390 Cedar, I remember it well from passing it by on countless trips to church, school, work, or Endicott Pharmacy. While it clearly is being readied for the wrecking ball with its windows gone and construction fence surrounding the property, the house never really looked much better than this in all the years I lived in the neighborhood. It was obviously much older than the surrounding mid-century ranches and colonials, and its Greek revival styling hints at a more respectable past. In a series of posts over the next few weeks, I will offer a glimpse into that past and reveal the stories of the families associated with the house.

390 Cedar St. on November 10, 2022

A little farther east from this spot, on the corner of Cedar and Tower Streets, lies Paul Park. During the summer in the 1960s, Paul Park was practically my second home. My brothers and sisters and I would make the short walk there with neighborhood friends to spend the day making pot holders and plaster of Paris animals, playing red rover, checkers, and mancala (which we called simply KAY-la for some reason), and holding Jimmy Fund White Elephant Sales under the supervision of the young park instructors of the Dedham Rec Department. I’m sure none of us knew that the park where we spent so much time and loved so well owed its name, in fact its very existence, to the family who once lived in that spooky, rundown old house at 390 Cedar Street.