Archive for the ‘Lost Dedham’ category

Circle the Wagons!

July 3, 2010


Transcript, 1963

I’m pretty sure that Dedham is the only town in the U.S. with a town ordinance that reads like this:

“No person shall set fire to or burn, or cause to be moved through any way or street of the Town, any waste material, paper, wood or any inflammable substance on any wagon, cart, buggy, push–cart or on any vehicle, with the intention of setting fire to or burning same on any way or street of the Town.”

The bylaw was adopted in 1959 in response to the resurrection of a dangerous, unique, and beloved Dedham tradition- the burning of old farm wagons in Oakdale Square on either “the night before” of July 3rd, or the night of the 4th itself. Beginning some time in the early 20th century (my research found the oldest recorded reference to be 1922) thousands of people would gather in the square to witness the event. In the 20’s and 30’s, police and fire officials merely watched and made sure nobody got hurt. The spectacle usually began at midnight when some brave youth would climb the roof of the Good Shepherd Church and ring the bell.

The wagons came from local farms in Dedham and surrounding towns. As authentic farm wagons became scarcer, teenagers would make their own and hide them in back yards and garages until the big night. In 1938, no wagons were found or made, so an old outhouse had to do. Usually the fires got so intense the windows of the stores in the square would crack and the tar underneath would melt. The last Oakdale Square burning was in 1963, when revellers threw rocks and full cans of beer at police and firefighters when they arrived on the scene. After that the burnings disappeared for a few years before the tradition was revived in the Manor. After an explosion and the melting a vinyl-sided house in 1990, police chief Dennis Teehan finally put an end to the burnings.


Transcript, 1957

I remember hearing about the wagon burnings when I was a kid, but I never witnessed one. Every time I have been out promoting my book, dozens of people have come up to me and shared fond memories of this one-of-a-kind tradition. Maybe you have some more tales to add to the collection? Pass them along, and have a Glorious Fourth!

Memorial Hall

May 30, 2010


From a turn of the 20th century postcard. This intersection was known as Memorial Square.


May, 2010

Memorial Hall was dedicated on September 28, 1868, as a lasting monument to the bravery of the forty-seven “sons of Dedham” who perished in the Rebellion, or Civil War as it is known today. It was made of Dedham granite, quarried just down the road in what is now Westwood. There were shops on the ground floor, with town offices and a large auditorium upstairs. Marble tablets bearing the names of the honored dead were placed in the vestibule. In his dedicatory remarks, hsitorian Erastus Worthington pronounced “Let this our Memorial Hall receive a benediction from us all today, God keep it ever from the lightning strike and the consuming fire.” The building was unceremoniously taken down in the spring of 1962, and the current police station built on the site. A new town hall was built on Bryant Street, and the marble tablets from Memorial Hall were placed in the lobby of the new building.

Dedham Square as it was… and might have been

May 28, 2010

In 1947 the Dedham Planning Board did a comprehensive study of the town and its issues regarding traffic, development, land use, etc.. The published study included dozens of aerial photographs of the town, including this one of Dedham Square:

In this picture, Memorial Hall is still standing at the corner of Washington and High- it will come down 15 years later. Most of the train station has been torn down, leaving only the tower. The railroad bridge that once spanned East St. at High St. is seen in the top right hand corner of the photo. The trolleys are gone from Washington St. but the tracks are still visible. The Knights of Columbus Building hasn’t received its brick makeover yet. There are several other smaller buildings along Washington Street and Eastern Ave. that have since disappeared, but the general appearance of the square is the same today. If the recommendations of the Planning Board had been followed, the square might have looked like this:

An interesting proposal that makes the square much less pedestrian friendly than it is today; the Dedham Institution for Savings and the K of C Building or now pretty much on an island. And I wonder what the monument in front of the bank might have been- it actually looks like a cross. Notice too, how traffic hasn’t really increased much. But Dedham did follow through on one aspect of the plan that had been a top priority for many years- the construction of a new town hall. It’s too bad that the historic Dedham granite 1868 Memorial Hall had to be sacrificed to achieve that. More on that building to come on this Memorial Day weekend.

A “new” Frosty’s pic!

May 22, 2010

I came across this picture today in a book about building Rte. 128. The caption states that the road in the background is old Rte 128; the year is 1955. The dump track has just passed the large ice cream cone shaped sign for Frosty’s; the store is to the left of the sign. This confirms my thoughts that the 1963 ad from my earlier posting was for the grand re-opening, after the original Frosty’s had to be moved due to highway construction.

The Italian Kitchen

May 21, 2010

I don’t ever remember being inside this restaurant, but I know we would order take-out pizza from here when I was a kid. The Italian Kitchen opened in 1934, and this first ad is from a 1936 Transcript booklet published during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration. The second ad appeared in the Transcript in 1986. The two ads are strikingly similar considering they were printed 50 years apart.

Here’s a post card from the 1940’s, which is pretty much how I remember the place. The second pic shows the empty lot as it looks today, next to Gilbert’s package Store on the “Providence Pike.”

More Mall!

May 20, 2010

These scans are ads from the Dedham Transcript’s 1986 supplement celebrating the town’s 350th anniversary. The first pic shows that odd little sunken garden where people could sit and relax. Also visible is one of my favorite stores- Paperback Booksmith. I would browse there while my father did the grocery shopping at Stop and Shop down the other end. I remember once spotting this creepy looking paperback with a silver reflective cover and being immediately drawn to it- Stephen King’s The Shining.

This ad lists all the stores that were still in business in September, 1986. Woolworth’s was still hanging in there in ’86, but. alas, looks like Wrangler Wranch had reached the end of the trail.

The Greenleaf Building

May 16, 2010


Boston Globe/ November 6, 1899
What a handsome structure- too bad it’s gone. The Greenleaf Building was built by Luther C. Greenleaf and designed by his architectural firm of Greenleaf and Cobb, who also designed the Ames School building. The building was finished in 1900, and housed the post office, waiting rooms and offices for the trolley company, stores, a banquet room, offices, and an apartment for the janitor. For some reason (which I am still investigating), some time in the 1940’s the building was either razed, or reduced to the one-story building that occupies the site now. A Boston Edison retail store occupied the corner space for a long time. I used to wait for the “pay bus” right in front of that store while I was in high school. Look for more Lost Dedham posts to come…


Postcard from early 1900’s

May, 2010


1936

Welcome to Dedham Tales! by Jim Parr

May 8, 2010

EXTRA!! EXTRA!! New Dedham Blog goes live!
Ghosts! Legends! Scandal! Crime and Punishment! Mr. Ed! Wrangler Wranch! Dedham has it all, and you’ll read all about it on these pages. This blog is a followup to my recently published book Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown. Most of the tales in the book took place decades, even centuries ago, and some of those stories will be highlighted here. But there will also be tales from the Dedham that I knew as I grew up here in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The Dedham from that time may also be the Dedham that you know best, so I hope that this blog becomes a conversation where lots of stories and pictures are shared. If you would like to buy your own autographed copy of the book, just let me know!