Sunday, May 24, 2009


Greetings from my cowboy puppet, created in the 1950's under the guidance of Pat Poirier on Nichols Street (see entry below).


Speaking of finding old Danvers treasures, please see the recent article in the Danvers Herald about a Cheerie Cherry puppet created by Jeana Cleveland. Her daughter wrote to me recently.

Nichols Street memories

Yesterday I stood on Nichols Street and took this photo, remembering who used to live here. Classmate Ray Dirks lived in the house on the left. I recall hearing sounds of trumpet practice coming through those walls.

Two houses up the street, at the corner of Durkee Circle, is a small Cape in which Pat and Chuck Poirier lived. They did not yet have children, but they were very friendly to the neighborhood kids, inviting us in on Saturday mornings to play and do crafts. Pat, an occupational therapist, taught us to make hand-puppets from paper-maché. She skillfully and patiently guided us through the many stages of construction, beginning with molding in clay. It was fun to mold the clay heads! On each head, about the size of a baseball, we shaped ears and nose and other facial features. Pat encouraged us to exaggerate these features so they would be distinctive in the finished puppet. Each Saturday we came back to work on these puppet heads, covering them in strips of newspaper dripping with flour&water paste, pressing the damp gooey paper to fit tightly to the shaped clay. Week after week we added layers of paper-maché. Eventually, when the paper-maché had dried hard, each head was cut in half -- a process that shocked me at first, but had good consequences. I could easily remove the clay (which we had coated in Vaseline) and then glue together the two halves to create a hollow head, which I sanded and painted and worked on for many more weeks. My cowboy puppet acquired hair (glued-on yarn), and a hat (sewn out of felt), and a cloth body into which I could slip my hand and make his hands and head move. I was so pleased with that puppet! And I loved the hours spent with Pat and Chuck in that small house on Nichols Street.

Today I went to my attic and pulled out a box of old toys, hoping to find my cowboy puppet. I found the familiar basket and inside were TWO puppets I had made at Pat's! [See a notebook page in my handwriting illustrating how we made these puppets.]

I also found some other long-hidden treasures from childhood, and a wallet full of early photos of friends and relatives. What fun surprises! Today is my sister's birthday, and I have now emailed her some photos of what I found.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More Locust Lawn Memories

This week I have written about playing at Locust Lawn as a child. So many wonderful memories are surfacing that I expect to continue writing, for future columns, about my experiences there.

Last month's column drew comments from a grandson of Amy Wentworth Stone. He confirmed that she did grow up at Locust Lawn, and she wrote other children's books. I have recently acquired a copy of P-Penny and His Little Red Cart (Boston, Lathrop,Lee & Shepard Co., 1934) by the same author and look forward to reading it.