Monday, December 25, 2017

Snowy scene

This snowy image, which I just discovered in an old box of my father's slides, triggers wonderful memories of my childhood in Danvers. What a treasure to find today, on Christmas Day 2017!

Instantly I recognize our grandparents' house, garage, and the little playhouse (on left) that Granddaddy had built for us. I see the hedge that bordered their lawn and marked the edge of a large vegetable garden that my mother and my grandfather shared. The path from our backyard ran through the archway (in foreground), across a small brook, and then alongside the garden until we passed the end of the hedge. The bushes visible on the left side of that path are blueberry bushes Granddaddy had planted. He was very proud of the large cultivated blueberries produced on those modest bushes. (My mother preferred wild blueberries that grew in abundance on tall bushes to the south of our house.)

Note the birdhouse attached to the archway. We had several such birdhouses around our yard, and enjoyed watching, in spring and summer, the comings and goings of bluebirds and wrens.

The white line across the front of the picture is a clothes line running from a large shag-bark hickory tree (out of view, left) to something (our pear tree?) on the right. Concord grapes grew on a fence to the right of that archway. So many memories! How lucky I was to grow up (for my first 14 years) with loving grandparents next door and all this space available.

Historic and geographic details:  My father, Nathan P. Nichols, took this picture looking west from our backyard at 120 Nichols Street, Danvers, where he and my mother had lived since their marriage in 1940. His father, the Rev. William Stanley Nichols, had retired to Danvers in the mid 1930's and lived in the house shown here. Its front door faced north (to the right in photo above) toward the road then called Preston Street. The address was 123 Preston Street until 1950 when that segment of Preston Street (cut off by the widening of Route 1) was renamed, and the address adjusted to 124 Nichols Street.

These houses no longer exist. An office park covers that area now. The street is still there, but under a new name: Conifer Hill Drive. You can still find Preston Street west of Route 1, and Nichols Street south of Route 95. If you look at an map and imagine the continuation of those original roads, the spot where they used to intersect is where my home was, on southwest corner of that junction. When I was 15, my family moved across the street, into a new larger house built up on the hill (northwest of the junction) and given the address 121 Nichols Street. That house has also disappeared, and the hill on which it stood has been carved down to make way for the multistory apartment buildings of Conifer Hill Commons, 121 Conifer Hill Drive.

Given all those changes, you can imagine why I am so happy to find this photographic image that matches my memories of the place. The old colored slide was terribly discolored and faded, but my husband was able to scan it and convert it to black and white, which looks much better.  I'm so glad to salvage that image and post it here to share with others.

(For comparison, see a 1937 photo of my grandparents' house, described in my blog entry dated September 4, 2017.)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Pelican

Today I received comments from a reader of my September blog posting about hooked rugs. He mentioned the sailing yacht (the "Pelican") depicted in the hooked rug made in 1958 by Sadie May Morse in Marblehead. He had lived near Miss Morse and observed her as she was hooking this rug! He was trying to recall who had owned that yacht.  

The Pelican was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Phillips of Salem, friends of my parents. They frequently invited my parents to crew for them when they took cruises along the coasts of Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. 

Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. Nichols. New Brunswick
My father was a skilled skipper and a very handy person to have on board, able to fix things and stay calm, regardless of challenges. My mother assisted not only with the sailing, but also cooking in the galley. Mrs. Phillips (Betty) loved to do the advance planning for each trip; she was a highly skilled navigator.

I heard many stories of sailing adventures on the Pelican, and excursions ashore in places new to my parents. My father took photos of white gypsum cliffs with odd shapes. My mother told of hard-shelled eggs sold in paper bags, without the need for egg cartons, because the chickens had so much gypsum in their diet. Hard eggs to crack open, she reported.

One very foggy day my mother was assigned to watch carefully for obstacles ahead. She lay on the decking at the bow, peering into the thick fog. She struggled to see anything in the fog. When a huge gray object suddenly came into view, she shouted a warning about a possible battleship ahead. When the gray gull spread wings and flew away, she felt foolish, but much relieved. Judging distances in fog is really tough!

My sister and I rarely joined them on the Pelican. I only recall one overnight stay on the Pelican. Usually we spent the time with our cousin Anni and her family in Edgecomb, Maine. We loved those vacations with Anni while our parents were away on the Pelican.

The Pelican
Today, prompted by the reader's query, I decided to search through my father's slides to see if I could find any images of the real Pelican, or of Mr. and Mrs Phillips. (I recall many visits to their home, and also seeing Stephen ski in Danvers at Locust Lawn, where my father ran the rope tow.)  Look what I found! 
Jane Phillips at the helm; my mother, right. 

Here's a photo that proves I was on the Pelican (wearing my white sweatshirt with blue LRY logo). My sister Jean is in green. Mr Phillips is seated to the right, and one of his daughters is at the helm.

Betty at the helm; Jean on right; I'm on left.

Today, on a cold rainy December day, it is a pleasure to view images of summertime sailing.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

First snow

Fresh snow, the first real snow of the season, covers our yard. About four inches fell yesterday and another two during the night. The eastern sky has lines of pink as this Sunday begins.

I awoke very early and spent two hours reading in bed before dawn. I'm reading the draft of the Pine Knoll story, a book of family history written by my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin as she compiled entries from old letters and family diaries.  The year is 1860...

By the fourth of December Mr. Daily was working full time on the cellar hole and North Danvers had its first snow fall of the season, four inches which came in the night, and Andrew commented the next day:  1st. sleighing of the season.  I staid in office and washed Harness with castile sope and oiled Boots in AM. 
 On the eighth he wrote: went skating for the 1st. time  On Mill Pond 2 hours in PM. 

I smiled at the phrase "1st. sleighing of the season." Yesterday, as Ken and I drove home through gently-falling snow, most of the well-travelled roads were partly slush, with some wet black pavement showing.  But when we turned onto our street, the roadway was evenly white, with the snow cover rather smoothly packed into place. "Ready for sleighing," I had commented. Packing snow down, rather than plowing it or spreading salt to melt it away, was the old-fashioned method of dealing with snow on roadways.  Ken and I have neither sleigh nor horse, but we have sometimes, after snowstorms, skied along our road before the city plows arrive to spoil the fun.

Historic note: the cellar hole mentioned above was the beginning of the house that my great-grandfather Andrew would build on his newly-acquired farmland in north Danvers. That house would come to be known as "Pine Knoll" and I have many memories of it. Andrew was 23 at that time, engaged but not yet married.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cow Tunnel

Rob Jackson, a classmate who lived in the Danvers Highlands during most of his childhood, recalls running through a "cow tunnel" with his friends. Recently he showed me on a map the approximate location of that old tunnel.

He says the tunnel was under Route 1,  connecting from the Endicott farm (east of Route 1) to property just below the Danvers State Hospital, in a low, nearly wetland (pasture), that seemed to be on or near the lowest portions of the original Watson Farm, west of Route 1.

Some years ago, from memory, he had drawn a sketch of the tunnel.  I saw his sketch for the first time on October 19, 2017. He says it is not drawn to scale.

Rob also had used an image from Google Earth (below) to draw in the location of the cow tunnel under Rt.1. He wrote in an email, "The big yellow dot marks the location of the tunnel's east end. ... The short narrow road in the photo that shows to be about 30 to 50 feet north of the yellow dot is actually the far end of the original Ingersoll Street that ended at Rt.1." 

Rob drew yellow line for cow tunnel position; looking north.

Update: Rob recently requested information from the Town of Danvers. He reports that Rick Rodgers, Town Engineer, and Miriam Contois, Technical Administrative Assistant, and others of the engineering staff for the Engineering & Electrical Division, Town of Danvers, were most helpful. They showed him "A Plan & Profile of State Highway in the Town of Danvers" – dated 1948.  He examined various prints depicting the overall changes made (or to be made) to Route 1 that include the stretch of roadway in the vicinity of the junction of Ingersoll St.

The 1948 plans show a "Cattle Pass " under Rt. 1 exactly where Rob had marked "cow tunnel" on the Google Earth image.
1948 plan with Cattle Pass; looking south.
In 2009 Rob had explored the area, trying to find evidence of the old structure. He found the east end of the tunnel (now blocked) and took these next photos.

After meeting with Rob, I wrote a summary of what we know about this cow tunnel. I've submitted the piece to the Danvers Herald, and hope it may draw comments from other people who have information about cow tunnels in Danvers. We'd like to learn about the history of this cow tunnel, when it was designed and how it was originally used.  

Mr. Richard Trask, Danvers Archives, recalled reading something about cows and Route 1 in Endicott family papers written early in the 20th century, when that farm was very active. He checked and found a May 1922 letter from attorney Ira Ellis to William C. Endicott mentioning "conditions on the turnpike running through your mother's estate" and questioning "whether or not the District Engineer had remedied the condition at the head of Ingersoll Street so that cows could be driven across the Turnpike...  If in reply to this letter you shall advise me that the cows cannot at present be driven to the pasture I will take up this matter with ... and will endeavor to impress upon him the urgency of the situation and the injury that is being caused through the delay in remedying it."

Friday, October 27, 2017


During my recent visit to Danvers, I explored two cemeteries and searched, unsuccessfully, for a third.

Somewhere on Spring Street, behind a modern house, are grave markers for ancestors in the Prince family.  In childhood, with my mother, I walked by those stones, not understanding their significance.  I've written previously about my surprised reaction when Mommy pointed to the name John Prince on a gravestone and casually commented that if I'd been a boy, I might have been named John Prince Nichols. Someday I'd like to find that stone again.  Older cousins have given me clues and instructions of where to walk, but I haven't yet succeeded in finding it.  I need a guide.

Meanwhile, I guided my friend Heather Massey to another old cemetery, one on Preston Street that is very easy to find. She and I had been indoors at a conference all day, and were eager for fresh air and exercise in the waning light of late afternoon. She kicked off her shoes and walked barefoot as I gave her a quick tour around historic graves of my relatives and of other Danvers families.

I was quite surprised to see that an old badly damaged tree is STILL standing, still alive.  I remember family gatherings around that tree we said goodbye to another family member some years ago. The tree looked terribly broken and unbalanced then; today it looks about the same.

The Nichols family gravestone also looks the same as I remember it.  Names are carved on both sides, starting with my great grandparents Andrew Nichols (1837-1921) and Elizabeth Perkins Stanley (a.k.a. Lizzie Nichols) and their eight children. They lived nearby at 98 Preston Street. Their daughter Mary Eliot Nichols, born in that house, became a beloved Danvers school teacher. She lived into her 90's, dying in the same bedroom where she had been born! I attended her funeral, in the parlor of that house, in 1966. Her sister Margaret, the last survivor of that generation, lived until 1968. Her funeral, too, was held at home in that parlor.

My friend Heather specializes in helping families care for their own dead at home, so these stories of old-fashioned family ceremonies are meaningful to her. 

Some of the monuments for other families had broken or fallen; some are laid flat on the ground. These two with the name "Swan" caught me eye.  I recall seeing an old business card from my great-grandfather with an address given as "Swan's Crossing."  I haven't yet learned the story of that name.

I had with me a directory of active cemeteries, and was surprised that the list for Danvers was quite long. Many cemeteries are clustered on Buxton Road, an address not familiar to me. With GPS, I found it. Here is a photo of the entrance sign on appropriately-named Cemetery Road, at the intersection with Rte 114.

One cemetery maintenance company is managing a number of Jewish cemeteries in that area, and advertising services for cleaning monuments.   

Some monuments are much less formal, and not even in cemeteries.  While exploring the upper end of Nichols Street last week, and trying to get a good view north to the hill where I had once lived, I walked through the woods and emerged near Rte 95. Nearby in the grassy area along Route 95 I saw this cross, commemorating the death of a young man on 8/8/2009:

In the distance, over the cross, early morning sunlight illuminated what is left of "Nichols Hill" – my former home and site of so many childhood memories.

Danvers visit

I want to share some photos and impressions from a recent visit to Danvers.
Ferncroft Pond, where I used to skate

My time was limited (spare hours around the edges of a conference October 18-20, 2017, at the DoubleTree Inn), but I thoroughly enjoyed brief excursions in the glorious fall weather.

With me for two days was a friend unfamiliar with Danvers, so I served as her tour-guide, showing her special places in the landscape of my childhood.

Some call this "Grandmother's Rock" 
The rocky outcrop just beyond the stonewall in the photo above is a familiar landmark on Nichols Street, an enduring remnant of the old "Locust Lawn" property: 35 acres of pastureland, woods, ski trails and sliding hills accessible to all the Nichols Street kids in the 1950's and 60's.

This house at 70 Nichols Street, just across the street from that rocky outcrop, was home to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hoberg and their four daughters. Janet, the eldest, was my age and we often played together. Mrs. Hoberg encouraged me when I was learning to sew. Janet and I spent hours in her sewing room making clothes for teddy bears and dolls. I sent this photo to Janet, who now lives in Florida.

Nichols Street, cut off by Rte 95, now ends not far north of the Hoberg house. Back in the 1940's it would have been possible to walk or drive north all the way to Ferncroft Road and the old ice pond. Nichols Street originally extended in a straight line towards the old Route 1, up and over the west side to Dale's Hill (a.k.a. Nichols Hill) and ending about where Ferncroft Road now begins. Today the drive from Nichols Street to Ferncroft Road is indirect, involving confusing loops of newer roads.

Even the south end of Nichols Street has been transformed. The little store I remember at the corner with Maple Street, where we bought penny candy, isn't at the corner anymore.
The store building, at 1 Nichols Street, seems intact; it didn't move, but the intersection of Nichols Street with Maple Street has shifted northward.  Here are a few photos. In a future post I'll write more about 1 Nichols Street.

The old candy store is now Nik's Giovanni's, selling pizza, kabobs, and soda. I did find a few small pieces of candy there, and bought some, just for nostalgia.

The old candy store is now Nik's Giovanni's
The address on the door of the store is still 1 Nichols Street, though the actual corner with Nichols Street is now many car lengths away.  On their brochure, they list "Route 62 Danvers, Across from Forest St" as well as their mailing address: 1 Nichols Street, Danvers, MA 01923.

Store at 1 Nichols Street

Rte 62 (Maple St) looking northwest from Nik's Giovani's. The entrance to
Nichols Street and Spring Street is now ahead on the right (where you see the truck's tail lights, and white sign). 
On the last day of my visit, I explored at my own whim, after a delicious breakfast at the New Brothers Restaurant and Deli in Danvers Square. I thank classmate Susan Kent Rogers for introducing me to that restaurant. We savored the good food and reminisced about various Danvers Square stores and experiences from long ago.

17th century house that once was on Spring Street.
I paused to take a photo of a VERY old house, now on Maple Street, but originally (before 1914) on Spring Street. I'm glad to see it protected by a new roof.

This 17th century house had been the home of my ancestor Sarah Warren Prince (later Osborne). She raised two sons, one of whom married into the Nichols family. I've been told of a family cemetery on Spring Street, but I was unable to locate it.

Next I drove oout Forest Street and explored the Endicott Park, walking along a lovely path in the woods. 

These stalls reminded me somewhat of the stalls in the old Locust Lawn barn.

Community gardens and fall foliage

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Oct 4 thoughts...

Danvers has been in my thoughts many times today, for a variety of quite different reasons. At breakfast time, our morning newspaper contained a story about the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite put in orbit around the Earth.  I recall going out one night with my parents onto an open slope where we could lie down and see a large segment of the sky, watching for Sputnik as it passed by. We saw it! We were on a slope above Rte 1, facing west, looking at the sky above Pine Knoll and Ferncroft Road.

This afternoon I pulled up a few carrots from my garden, and recalled that I'd been planting Danvers Half-Long Carrots for many years. This year's crop hasn't grown very long, though. My husband says they must be "quarter-longs" instead. Still, they are tasty, and have a Danvers connection.

Several email messages today, from unrelated people, also involved Danvers. A student working on a research project is seeking information about a woman in my great grandfather's family, who lived in Danvers.  Another inquiry came from a friend in Falmouth, asking me what handouts and A/V equipment I plan to use during a workshop we'll be co-teaching October 19 at the Massachusetts Councils on Aging Annual Conference; she also wanted confirmation of where we'll stay during the conference, which happens to be in Danvers this year. She's not familiar with Danvers, so I sent her some directions, and a link to MapQuest showing the route from our proposed lodging (with a Danvers classmate of mine) to the conference center, which is on Ferncroft Road.  I reflected on the many changes that have come to that north Danvers landscape (and the network of intersecting roadways) since the night I lay watching Sputnik travel through that sky in 1957.

Meanwhile, an acquaintance from western Massachusetts, where I now live, traveled to Danvers to do a library workshop today.  I had sent her a brief note yesterday, and she replied this morning, saying that her expected audience would be middle school students. I hope she'll be a resource to help my local public library with some similar programming in the future.

All in all, Danvers seemed to be in the air today. This evening I read an email forwarded by Onye Kamanu's wife Lillie; it linked to a BBC News article about Nigeria, dated today, Oct 4, 2017. The article describes Onye's early excitement and pride about Nigerian independence, and mentions that soon after Independence Day (October 1, 1960) Mr. Kamanu gained a scholarship to study at an American university. The article doesn't mention Danvers, but Danvers was definitely his first introduction to America. My parents applied to host an African student for a one-month "homestay" to provide some orientation to American culture prior to the start of university classes and dorm life. Thus in August 1962 Onye Kamanu arrived from Lagos after a long ocean crossing, and was welcomed into our family. He stood on our front lawn, in bright sunshine, and exclaimed how odd it was to have "sun without heat!" Onye became well known in Danvers during the next four years, as he rejoined us for each holiday and break from college. Onye and I like to reminisce about those times in Danvers. I'm glad to see his photo in the BBC story.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hooked rugs

"What ever happened to those rugs?" asked my friend Pat, after I shared stories of colorful hooked rugs created at my mother's request and enjoyed for so many years in Danvers, long ago. Although I hadn't seen those rugs for a decade, I knew exactly where they were stored – rolled in an old sheet, hidden behind rows of boxes, tucked away under the eaves on the third floor of my current home.

Pat was visiting me, an overnight guest in that same house. The next morning I surprised and delighted her with a display of those rugs. As I unrolled the bundle on the living room floor, I warned her that these old rugs were in sad shape, too worn and fragile to use (or to clean), but of such sentimental value to my sister and myself, that we couldn't throw them away.

One rug was made in 1942 (75 years ago!) and the second one in 1958.  Pat was impressed by how well preserved they were, and I had fun pointing out various designs and telling Pat what those images meant to me. We probably spent almost two hours examining those rugs, and taking photographs. The rugs won't last forever, but the photographs can help preserve the stories of these unique rugs, hand-hooked by Sadie May Morse of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

I have already written about my memories of these rugs, and how they came to be made. (Type "hooked rug" in the search box of this blog to find previous postings and old photos.)  Today my purpose is to share photographs of how the 75-year old rug looks now:

A Swedish "tree of life" design was one of the inspirations for this rug.  Sadie May Morse placed that design in the center.  If you look closely, note the letter R hidden behind that tree.  (Elsewhere she tucked other letters of her last name.)

In the 1950's my father loved to play Tiddly Winks Golf on this rug. He usually placed a dictionary between the 2 ovals seen above, challenging us to play the "wink" from one oval to the other by jumping it OVER the book in one move, or playing it around the book. I showed Pat the set-up:

My parents loved to play ice hockey

My mother loved horses; my father had a sail boat; and they lived in a tiny house (see above)
Although this 75-year old hooked rug looks remarkably good in the photos above, I took additional photos to illustrate problem areas. This rug was constructed of wool strips hooked through a burlap backing. The aging burlap has disintegrated in places, especially along one line where the rolled-up rug had once been stored on a damp cement floor.

My mother attempted repairs, adding patches of denim fabric (recycled from old "dungarees") on the back side. She also was always very cautious when using a vacuum cleaner, not wanting to suck broken pieces of wool into the machine. Her preferred cleaning technique was to bring the rug outdoors and sweep fresh powder snow across the surface. The moist snow, when swept off, carried away the dust and dirt – a good gentle technique for surface cleaning.

Deeper cleaning would be a challenge, even when the rug was new. My mother often told the sad tale of the house painter who dropped a can of white paint onto this rug, and her frantic efforts to clean off the paint. She succeeded to some extent. As a child, I couldn't see evidence of that awful spill. But as I grew up and the rug worn down with heavy use, the old white paint embedded lower in the wool began to be revealed.  See these photos: 

White paint from a 1940's accident is visible.

On September 13, 2017,  just days after I took these photographs, I happened to encounter an enthusiastic group of women hooking rugs. What a timely and welcome surprise!  (I had traveled to Star Island in the Isles of Shoals for a 5-day retreat, and they were staying on Star island for a rug-hooking retreat.)  I enjoyed watching them hook. I shared these photos (which were still on my cell phone) and learned that they call such rugs "Story rugs." An appropriate name!   Many more stories to tell...   I'll post photos of the second rug (made in 1958) on another day.

November 7, 2017 update.
I'm now adding photos of the 1958 rug, which was also hooked by Sadie May Morse. My mother was delighted that the SAME woman was still hooking rugs so many years later. We had moved into a larger house in 1957 and now had room for another rug. My mother commissioned one to match.

My initials (SMN) and my sister's (JCN) were designed into the corners, just as my parents' initials had been put in the corners of the 1942 rug.

In the photo, right, you can see an irregular patch just above my initials. A carpet cleaning company in 1995 washed this rug, without realizing how fragile the underlying burlap might be. A section broken apart and unravelled. They did their best to repair the problem before returning the rug to me. (It was my mistake to include this rug in with a batch of oriental rugs, which were all cleaned expertly. The company specialized in oriental rugs, and had NO experience with hooked rugs. Oops! That odd hand-sewn area is now just another story to tell; not a problem, really.)

The images in this rug were based on photographs and postcards from various family experiences, especially our six-week car-camping trip across the U.S. in summer 1958.  I think the airplane signifies my parents' 1954 trip to Switzerland; for my mother, who had so admired Amelia Earhart, the act of flying across the Atlantic in 1954 was an unexpected treat and adventure. The rug contains a few Swiss scenes (e.g., skiing) and emblems.

Our new house at 121 Nichols St, Danvers

Our dog "Heidi" and my pet raccoon "Daniel Coon"were included. Such memories!

And many, many scenes from our western trip, in which we visited great dams, and a dinosaur park. Also included was the quatrefoil symbol of our church in Salem, and the fancy yacht "Pelican" which belonged to one of my parents' friends in that church.  My parents crewed for them on the "Pelican" and enjoyed wonderful trips around Nova Scotia.  (Meanwhile, my sister and I were left with our cousin Annijay and her family in Maine, where we had a marvelous time.)

This story rug triggers so many memories, each of which could probably fill separate blog posts, someday.