Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hathorne Post Office


The Hathorne Post Office
By Sandy Nichols Ward

“Where’s Hathorne?” people would ask me when I gave them my address. If you looked on a road map in those days, you wouldn’t find a place labeled Hathorne. It wasn’t a city or town or county. I’d explain that we lived in the town of Danvers, but our mail came through the Hathorne Post Office. It was a bit confusing. My address for the first fourteen years of my life was 120 Nichols Street, Hathorne, Massachusetts.

“Why is it spelled without the W?” was another common question. I learned to say that Hathorne was the correct spelling not only of our address but also of the famous author’s family name. Nathaniel had added the W later, preferring Hawthorne, but our section of Danvers was called Hathorne, without W.  (The pronunciation is the same, either spelling.)

I have many memories of the Hathorne Post Office. I had often accompanied my parents as they came to mail packages, pick up mail, or buy stamps. Recently I traveled along Route 62 and was pleased to recognize the building and note that it is still in use as a Post Office. I stopped briefly and looked inside for the first time in decades. The old mailboxes have been preserved! There have obviously been renovations over the years, and the entrance was new to me, so I was quite surprised and delighted by the familiar look and feel of the place.

Walking to the Hathorne Post Office was a family tradition. My grandfather, William S. Nichols, walked for exercise as well as mail. In his retirement years he had moved back to Danvers and lived at 123 Preston Street (or 124 Nichols Street after the renaming and renumbering of that segment of roadway). His older sisters May and Margaret still lived in the original family home, called “Pine Knoll,” at the corner of Route 1 and Preston Street. Granddaddy liked to walk to the Post Office and return by way of Pine Knoll to deliver mail and visit. My mother, sister, and I also had a weekly routine of visiting the great aunts at Pine Knoll, including sometimes the delivery of their mail. 

Walking to the Post Office made sense. It was easier and more logical to walk than to drive, especially after the 1950 reconstruction of Route 1. It seemed so silly to drive around three loops of cloverleaf roads just to turn west onto Maple Street from Route 1 South. We also had to go out of our way to drive from Route 1 North (the only direction allowed from the top end of Nichols Street) to Route 1 South. I suppose my parents could have driven out the south end of Nichols Street for a simple right turn onto Maple, but that also seemed like an unnecessarily long way around. Why not just walk? 

All of my father’s business mail as well as our personal mail came through the Hathorne Post Office.  In the early 1950’s my father relocated his factory from a family garage to 500 Maple Street, adjacent to the post office. He had purchased an old roadside fruit stand on Route 1 for about $250 and moved it to the new site, where he had a basement built for it. There he and his employees at Nichols and Clark, Inc., manufactured “UNEX” hearing aids there for a number of years before constructing a bigger factory on Route 1. I see that the building is still there and being well maintained. So much else has changed along Route 62. The Green Barrel is gone, my old school is gone, and many new buildings have been built. It was a pleasure to see my father’s former building and the Hathorne Post Office side by side, just as they had been in the 1950’s.

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