Archive for the ‘JP’s Dedham’ category

Dance Fever

December 23, 2022

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 …

December 23, 2022

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

Paul Park Bonus Material!

November 14, 2022

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Paul Park neighborhood, check this out!

The wife of Ebenezer

was Marietta

His mother was Susan

and his grandmother was Martha

Who put the Paul in Paul Park? /Part 2

November 12, 2022

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.

STILL TO COME:

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

A Bunny Tale Part 2

August 13, 2012

Here is the inspiration for Catherine Gruetzke-Blais’s design for her “Regal Rabbit.”

His name is Trooper and he is 4 months old. The Blais family had been looking for a Dalmatian puppy for several months at the time Catherine first heard about the Dedham Public Art Project, and you could say she was “seeing spots.”

The following photos show the transformation from plain white rabbit to Regal Rabbit.  Thanks to Catherine and her daughter Isabelle for the photos.

1.Patching and priming

2. Applying the base coat

3. Stippling for texture. If you look at the rabbit up close, the two-tone base gives it the appearance of marble.

4. Tracing a spot with a stencil made from a rubber shelf liner (top), collaging a paper spot onto the surface (bottom)

5. A few spots appear (top), more spots and some details (bottom)

6. Painting the details.

7. The eyes are made of glass tiles, set in like a mosaic.

8. DONE! Now he will answer Ernie Boch Jr’s invitation to “Come on down!”, and have a clear-coat applied by the Norwood auto dealership.

 

August 8, 2012


Regal Rabbit is installed at the East Dedham shopping plaza on the corner of High and Bussey Streets, not far from Pottery Lane where the original Dedham Pottery was made. He is sponsored by Delapa Properties. He’ll be there for a while crouching in the garden; go visit him and all of the other bunnies around town. They have certainly added a lot of color, creativity and history to our lives as we drive around doing our everyday chores and routines.

Thanks to Dedham Shines for sponsoring this project, to all the artists who participated, and a special thank yu to Catherine Gruetzke-Blais for letting me tag along on her creative journey.

A Bunny Tale

August 5, 2012

Dedham has been overrun with bunnies over the past few months; giant, multicolored, whimsical fiberglass bunnies peacefully crouching in parks, on sidewalks and by roadsides around town.  The bunnies are part of the Dedham Public Art Project,  sponsored by the non-profit organization Dedham Shines, whose mission is to promote “a vibrant community through programs that cultivate civic engagement and support for art, education, and culture.”  The bunny form is modeled after the familiar “crouching rabbit” figure featured on  Dedham Pottery original and reproduction pieces.

Fifteen artists in all were selected by jury to paint the bunnies, which will be auctioned off with proceeds going to Dedham Shines in support of the arts in town.  As of today, almost all of the bunnies have been installed  all across town. This is the tale of one of those bunnies, “Regal Rabbit,” designed and painted by Catherine Gruetzke-Blais of Framingham.

For more information about the Dedham Public Art Project,  and to see photos of all the bunnies that have been placed so far, click on the link to the Dedham Shines website at right.

June 25, 2012        The bunny who will become known as “Regal Rabbit” sits in the garage of Dedham Shines Co-President Jennifer Barsamian after traveling from Chicago where he was custom-designed and manufactured by Cowpainters, an art studio that specializes in producing fiberglass forms for public art displays.

Artist Catherine Gruetzke-Blais and Dedham Shines Co-President Monika Wilkinson lift the bunny (he’s actually  hollow and not too heavy) and head for Catherine’s mini-van.

With the bunny safely tucked in, Catherine gets ready for the ride home to Framingham, where her artistic vision will transform this plain white rabbit into something magical.

Next: The artist at work

I was a teenage beer can collector…Part 1

February 3, 2012

Thirty-five years ago today I became a minor celebrity when this article appeared in The Patriot Ledger:


The high school senior stylin’ in his Wrangler Wranch outfit (20% employee discount, who wouldn’t?)

I had been collecting for two years, after my good friend Jim Horrigan introduced me to the hobby and gave me quite a few cans to start me off. Everyone in high school seemed to know us as “The Beer Can Collectors,” and friends and relatives would bring back empties from all over the country for us. We’d often go “dumping” around town; looking for cans in various teenage drinking spots around Dedham. One memorable cache of Narragansett cans from 1964 was found in the woods along the bottom of Sprague Street in the Manor. Another good spot to look was on Rte 135 at Wilson’s Mountain.

The newspaper article came about as a result of an exhibition of my collection in the Dedham Public Library. I’m still a little amazed that my teenaged self had the audicity to suggest displaying the cans, and even more amazed that library officials agreed to do it!

says brilliant yeah June in Framingham
JP’s beer cans on display at the main branch of the Dedham Public Library in 1977

My “museum” was located in the basement of my parents’ house on Tower St., stacked up on two metal bookcases. I kept the stacks in alphabetical order, and whenever I got a new can I would try to insert it into the stack without having to take the whole thing down. This almost always resulted in an avalanche of several hundred metal cans crashing down on me followed by startled shouts from upstarirs.


The stack in the cellar

I would have to say that the most common question I’ve been asked at each of my Dedham High reunions has been “Do you still have your beer cans?” I’ll tell you all about that, and more, in:
I WAS A TEENAGE BEER CAN COLLECTOR- PART TWO!

My Kingdom for a Horse

December 7, 2011

Last night at the 201st Annual Meeting of The Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves, I ended my term as president. It was a rather uneventful year, which is a good thing because it means that no horses were stolen on my watch. What follows is my farewell address, given to the 180 men and 5 women in attendance:


The president delivering his farewell remarks © Damianos Photography

Whenever I mention to people that I am a member of this esteemed organization, the first words out of their mouths are almost always “Are there even any horses in Dedham?” So I explain to them that about a hundred years ago the society shifted its focus from the apprehension of horse thieves to the consumption of a roast beef dinner and enjoyment of a clever entertainment at its annual meeting, although in the hundred years previous to that horse pilferers were pursued vigorously , not just in Dedham but in Norfolk County and beyond, besides which, the important fact is that this organization which is a remnant from our pre-law enforcement past has remained in existence for over two centuries and isn’t that an incredible achievement to which they respond. “Yeah, but are there even any horses in Dedham?” And thus my quest began.

I know there used to be horses in Dedham; I’ve seen them myself. The last time I remember seeing a horse that wasn’t part of a parade was at the Animal Rescue League on Pine Street. I know that the original purpose of that facility when it was founded was to rescue worn out and abused horses and give them a peaceful last few days here on earth. When the end was near, the horse would quietly walk into an inviting stall filled with hay, which was actually electrified and called “The Blessed House of Release.” In the 1980’s the Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation program was reestablished at Pine Ridge and that’s where I saw a horse happily cantering just a few years ago. But alas, due to construction at the site, all the horses have been moved to their Brewster facility.

The other time I recall seeing horses in town was right in my own neighborhood of Tower Street, between Paul Park and the Capen School. At at the end of my street there lived two horses, Big John and Jodie. Jodie was a Shetland pony, and Big John was a …big horse. I’d often see them being ridden and every so often being chased by their owners down my street. But that was over 30 years ago.

Then I thought of The Dedham Country and Polo Club on Westfield Street. I know that it was founded in 1910 and that polo was once played along the banks of the Charles at Samuel Warren’s estate called Karlstein. A quick look at their website however showed me that the main interests at the club these days are weddings and golf, and the only place you’ll see a horse is on their logo.

While I was on the internet I googled “horses in Dedham” and hit pay dirt. I should have started here to begin with. I found an ad for a horse for sale in Dedham! A five year old dark bay mare clean limbed and straight moving, great jumper, and only £1600! When I refined my search to Dedham, Massachusetts, USA…nothing.

I thought I should ask former president and friend Frank Walley. Like me, Frank is the great grandson of a blacksmith. The family business is now insurance, and when I talked to Frank he told me that while he has insured many a Mustang and Bronco over the years, they were not of the Equine variety.

So now I’m starting to get frustrated. I can’t believe that there is not a single solitary horse to be found in the hometown of the woman who grew up to star on TV as the wife of a man who owned a talking horse! I’m talking (of course, of course) of Connie Hines (DHS 1948) who played Carol Post on the old Mr. Ed show back in the sixties.

I have to admit that I was aware all along where I could easily find an answer to the question “Are there even any horses in Dedham?” We all know that in order to keep a horse, donkey mule, pony, llama, bovine, goat, sheep, alpaca or other large animal, here to known as “large animals,” one must provide an acre of land for the first animal, 2/3 of an acre for each subsequent animal, furnish an MMP (Manure Management Plan and), locate the facility for housing the animal 100 feet from any wetland or well, public or private, and obtain a permit from the town’s Board of Health. One phone call to town hall could end this quest, and with trepidation I made that call. And was told that at present there are no permits on file for permission to stable a horse in town. Lots of chickens, no horses.

But I have not given up. During my quest I came upon a story from a few years ago about a couple who had been harboring a paint mare named Fancy in a garage on Congress Place off of Bussey Street. The neighbors were upset because the horse was there without a permit and they did not want a “large animal” living in their quiet suburban neighborhood. Eventually Fancy found a temporary home in Westwood, but the story gives me hope. If there could be one illegal horse hidden in town, there could be two, a dozen, even hundreds hiding out in garages, garden sheds and in-law apartments. We just can’t be sure. So the next time someone asks me “Are there even any horses in Dedham, I will reply, there just might be, and if there are, they can rest assured knowing that I and the rest of the members of SIDFAHT are ever vigilant.

Dedham’s 375th a Success!

September 16, 2011


© Damianos Photography
Thanks to everyone who stopped by my booth or rode around in a trolley with me last Saturday. The event was a smashing success; congratulations and thanks to everyone on the committee who worked so hard to put it all together.

There are plenty of new Shiretown tales coming this fall, with an emphasis in October on the mysterious, the scandalous, and the just plain weird!

An old Dedham barn…

August 23, 2011

These three shots were taken in 1981 for a photography class I was taking at Bridgewater State College. At the time I took the photos, the brick building that stands on top of the hill was the S.M.A. Fathers’ Queen of Apostle Seminary. The barn once stood on the George Nickerson estate on Common St., on property now owned by Northeastern University. Nickerson was the brother of Albert Nickerson, who built the castle at his “Riverdale” estate, which has been home to Noble and Greenough since 1922.
The barn, which was red, stood behind the seminary. There was also a run-down log cabin in the woods of the Wilson Mountain Reservation.


The grainy quality of this picture was not my attempt at being artsy. The negatives were stored in my basement for years, and this one got stuck to its glassine envelope.


This is the artsy picture. Kind of Stephen King like…