Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Maynard Outdoor Store - a History

Click on any photo to enlarge
The facade above the Maynard Outdoor Store features a panel that reads "CASE BLD 28."  Historic records show that the main building, at 24 Nason Street, was once known as the Case Block, and next door, 28-30 Nason Street as the Case Annex. The main building has a 112 year history.

The story starts when William B. Case moved from Maine to Maynard in 1874, age 22, to take a job at the Hayes store. Five years later - 1879 - he started his own store. By 1887 his business was in a larger space in the building at 100 Main Street. And five years after that he had a grand opening in his own new building, at the Nason Street address, as W.B. Case & Sons, dry goods. Newspaper advertisements of the era show the store as selling clothing, shoes, hats, gloves, etc.

Howard and Ralph Case (back row) with staff in front of the store. Date is
prior to 1923 because Ralph still alive. Courtesy Maynard Historical Society.
Case prospered. He had married Lucy Jane Whitney in 1877; she was of a well known and well off family that had been in the area for centuries. Her great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were among the first landowners in Stow, in 1683. Her father, Artemas Whitney, built the dam for the woolen mill. William and Lucy lived in a mansion at 4 Maple Street. Howard and Ralph, their two sons, helped manage the store.

In the collection of the Maynard Historical Society there is an interesting description of how the store operated. When salesclerks made a sale, the sales slip and the customer's money was placed in a small basket. This slid on a downward angled overhead wire to the manager at the back of the store who manned the only register. He would write a receipt and send it, with the customer's change, back on the same wire by raising his end to a higher hook.

Other side has grandson Frank, great-grandson Ralph
and space for great-grandson Frank and his wife, Mary
Town records have no information on when the store closed. The last Maynard newspaper mention was of the 50th anniversary, in 1929. A brief item in the Concord paper mentions a clearance sale in 1935. The mill and the town were in hard times as the Great Depression dragged on, so the store probably closed its doors soon after.

What is known is the next mention of business at 24 Nason Street (not including the Annex) was the grand opening of an A&P "supermarket" on January 8, 1942. The woolen mill was busy providing the U.S. military with uniforms and blankets, and the town was prospering again. A&P (short for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company) was the Walmart of its era. Its self-service stores, with sections that provided groceries, baked goods, meat, produce and dairy, plus its low prices and preferential selling of its own A&P branded products, put thousands upon thousands of small shops and suppliers out of business.
Symbol on CASE tombstone
combines Freemasons and IOOF
(International Order of Odd Fellows)

From 1915 to 1975, A&P was the largest food retailer in the nation. But it failed to keep pace with new chains that opened larger, modern supermarkets in the suburbs, with their own parking lots. A&P still exists, but with only 300 stores in a handful of eastern states, it is a pale shadow of its 16,000 store peak.

Maynard's A&P closed in 1967. The next tenant was the one we know today. After World War II, three ex-servicemen started a small chain of Army & Navy Surplus stores in Framingham, Natick and Maynard - that last one opening in 1950. The Maynard store was on Nason Street, in one of the storefronts just south of the Peoples' Theatre building. A year after A&P closed, the Army & Navy business moved to that site and about the same time changed its name to the Maynard Outdoor Store, one reason given being that Levi Strauss & Co. would not sell jeans to Army & Navy stores.

Back then, the upstairs was office space, rented out to various tenants. Now, the Outdoor Store uses it for storage of inventory - come spring the parkas, sleds and Patriots clothing will disappear, to be replaced by polo shirts, swimsuits and Red Sox gear.

A clock over the front door dates back to the Army & Navy days; the pressed tin ceiling in the south building in all likelihood dates back to W.B. Case & Sons.

Tin ceiling, painted white
Today, we still have the Maynard Outdoor Store as one of the major retail businesses in downtown Maynard. Family owned, the store offers clothing and shoes for children, women and men, plus a wide range of sports and camping equipment. The Outdoor Store's stated goal is "To be #1 in Service, Savings, Selection." Which is likely the same approach that had kept family-owned Case & Sons in business for more than 60 years, selling much the same type of product.

Same front door as in photo of W.B. Case & Sons (above)

CASE FAMILY GENEALOGY (*buried in Glenwood Cemetery)

*William Bradford Case        1852-1938       Started store 1879
   M. *Lucy Jane Whitney      1854-1922       Her family (Whitney) had moved to Stow ~1683

*Ralph Whitney Case            1881-1923       Father of Frank W. Case
   M. *Sadie I. Rand               1881-1958
*Howard Bradford Case        1883-1952       Father of James B. Case 1915-1985; buried in Ohio
   M. *Ester E. Hall                1884-1965         (no known children)

*Frank Whitney Case            1904-1963       Lived in Maynard/Acton; three children
   M. *Hazel G. Reid             1905-1987

Elinor (Case) Curley             1930-2004       Lived in Stow; four children
*Ralph W. Case                    1931-2009       Lived in Maynard; did not marry; no children
Frank T. Case                       1933-alive        Lived in Melvin Village, NH; six children
  M. Mary E. Lehto               1932-alive       Her family was from Stow

10: 6 with surname Case and 4 with surname Curley

Sunday, November 30, 2014

United Nations: Concord or Sudbury?!?!

Once upon a time Sudbury and Concord were short-listed as possible sites for the United Nations. Really.

The charter to establish the UN was drafted during the course of a two-month meeting in San Francisco in 1945. This gave SF an initial advantage in the race to become the permanent headquarters of the U.N., but in the 18 month interim between identifying a need for a site and a final decision literally hundreds of locations in the U.S. were self-nominating through optimistic boosterism. St. Louis! Detroit! Atlantic City!! Niagara Falls!!!

As originally envisioned, the UN planning committee wanted the site to be near but not in a major city in the United States. Boston and New York were front runners, but Philadelphia was also getting serious consideration. States where racism was still local government policy (Washington, DC and points south) were excluded. The search committee members, mostly representing European countries, had a bias to being closer by air to Europe, thus against looking at the mid-west and west.

Charlene Mires, 2013
The vision was for a “Capital of the World” encompassing United Nation offices, embassies, staff housing, hotels, extensive parklands, a power plant, its own police and fire departments, railroad links and possibly even its own airport. With an eye for not limiting future growth, the search committee initially specified that it wanted 40-50 square miles of land! January 1946 saw members of the search committee descending on New York to begin their visits to relatively rural sites near Boston and New York.

What happened next was a series of “not in my backyard” protests from sparsely populated towns finding themselves under the search committee’s magnifying glass.

Locally, the proposal was for taking most of Concord south of Route 2 - possibly including Walden Pond - and most of Sudbury north of Route 27, along with a chunk of Lincoln. Or the south half of Sudbury and a big chunk of Marlborough. The site committee tour in January 1946 included two hours of aerial viewing from a Navy blimp. A plus for both sites was being near the airport in Bedford.

Neither option would have displaced as many people as one might think – at that time the population of all of Sudbury was 2,000 versus today’s 18,300, and south Concord was mostly farmland. Maynard, Stow and other neighboring towns would not have lost land to the deal, but surely would have been indirectly impacted.

How Concord came to the attention of the UN is not entirely clear. In late 1945 there was a why-not-here letter to the editor of The Concord Journal by William Walker. The cause was taken up by Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers in December. Her action may have led to the UN visit a month later, or the UN could have already been thinking about eastern Massachusetts.   

There was a lot of local resistance, including a widely reported speech at a meeting of the MA Knights of Columbus railing against allowing godless Russian Communists on our state's soil. Concord’s newspaper featured letters to the editor both for and against the prospect. One “for” letter by Ruth R. Wheeler (see below) - a woman with a sharply pointed pen - wrote that lots of new housing was being constructed in Concord anyway, and the town could choose to be "...filled by the intellectual cream of the countries of the world or they can be filled by the unselected overflow from Metropolitan Boston." [Boston was 98% White in 1945; apparently she was worrying about Irish, Italians and Jews. Oh, the horror.]

In Sudbury, a petition against the UN was countered by a letter to the editor of The Boston Globe referring to the protesters as “…a group of stuffy, middle-aged standpatters who didn't fight the war, trying to destroy what the dead died for!”   

Semi-rural suburbs north and northeast of New York City had similar reactions. Greenwich and Stamford, Connecticut, were country club enclaves with worries that letting in the UN would ruin the neighborhood with the presence of people who were 'not our kind.'

In the end, money trumped all this drawn out debate. For budgetary reasons, the grandiose plans for this world capital shrank to being an office complex within an existing city. Each country would be responsible for its own embassy and housing. The UN committee adamantly rejected New York’s proposed site at Flushing Meadows, Queens.

Just when Philadelphia looked to be the compromise choice, a developer who had an option on a chunk of land on the east side of Manhattan phoned the mayor of New York in December 1946 with an offer to sell at below market cost. The mayor contacted the Rockefeller family. Assured by Nelson Rockefeller (who had been actively involved in the search process) that this was a good idea, his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., donated $8.5 million dollars (roughly $85 million today) to purchase the land, and the search was over.

CODA: Seventy years later there are rumbles about the UN leaving New York and relocating to – Dubai?! Tall buildings, good roads, excellent airports, lots of sunshine - what's not to like?

The main source of information for this column was the book “Capital of the World: the Race to Host the United Nations” (2013), by Charlene Mires. The Concord Library has copies of local letters to the editor. Wheeler's letter in its entirety:

Will Change Spoil Us?"  Letter to editor of 
The Concord Journal, published Jan 3, 1946
written by Ruth R. Wheeler

"Let us hope that nothing that we say in Concord will affect the issue of where the new capital of the United Nations will be seated. The issue can safely be left to the impartial committee that will survey all the possibilities and make a free choice.

Certainly there will be no thought of taking the center of our village - even World Governments are prudent enough to prefer vacant land for development. There is a big tract of sparsely populated land to the north of the airport at Bedford, across the river in Concord and beyond Concord in Carlisle containing as many square miles as the District of Columbia.

It is a far fetched worry to think of a world government as dependent on out water and sewer department,, our fire department, our road or police departments. The Boston Edison Company would indeed smile to find us worrying about supplying current (bought from their substation) to a world city, and Quabbin water could be carried to any new city in Massachusetts with less fuss than attends the extension of a four-inch pipe to Williams Road.

The presence of the UNO anywhere near Boston will mean more people in Concord without a doubt, but I ask Mr. Hoar and Mr. French to tell us how we are going to prevent the growth of Concord - its physical growth I mean. Already on the drawing boards of our architects and builders are the plans for a hundred houses which will mean more water, more electricity, more police and more fire protection and more schools. These houses can be filled by our own sons and daughters, they can be filled by the intellectual cream of the countries of the world or they can be filled by the unselected overflow from Metropolitan Boston. It is the last alternative that we should be worrying about.

We can quietly kill every attempt to introduce new life into our old institutions and thus make the town unattractive to our own children, we can openly oppose the international atmosphere with its lively current or new ideas, or we can give out meadows back to the ducks and our hills to the Indians, but the relentless flow of Suburbia can only be stopped by using the land first on people we like better, and I am not sure that a UNO in the neighborhood would not do just that. Or happily, by some miracle, we can give out returning sons houses to live in and the feeling that we need their ideas and experiences in making Concord a better place for us all.

In 1840 people were sure Concord would be spoiled by the railroad, in 1890 by the trolley; in 1910 by the automobile; and in 1940 by the airport. Each time Concord changed physically but remained unique. I believe Concord can be spoiled only by stagnation.

Valuable new citizens have come here because they think Concord is a very special place: a place where individual thinking is encouraged, where high-mindedness and generosity are the rule. Before we know it, old-timers and newcomers alike are trying to live up to that ideal. This ideal of what Concord is becomes a reality. It is that Concord that we should try to keep unspoiled.

Let us welcome new people with ideas! Let us not be afraid of the future. After all, it was the British 'who came 3,000 miles across the sea to keep the Past upon its throne.'* Life means change! If we obstruct every proposed change we will find ourselves not standing still but slipping down to be just one more suburb like every other. We are unworthy of out Past if we are afraid of our Future."

Note United Kingdom flags
(click on photo to enlarge)

*Wheeler was (mis)quoting a gravestone monument at the North Bridge battle site, in Concord, to convey the idea that we are not like the colonial era British. The monument commemorates the British soldiers who died that day - April 19, 1775. Two were buried at that site. In full, the monument's text reads:

"They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne:
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan."
April 19, 1775.

These lines are from a poem written in 1849 by James Russell Lowell, of Cambridge, MA, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hypothermia, or "Aren't You Cold?"

To see teenage boys at a school bus stop on a winter morning, dressed in no more than shorts a hoodie and sneakers is to believe that some magical cold-proofing has been discovered. One wants to ask “Aren’t you cold? Does your mother know you are out in that?” On both counts, apparently not.

Perhaps what the boys are demonstrating is the distinction between feeling cold and being cold. Men of a tender age tend to have a low percent body fat compared to girls, say 10 to 15 percent compared to 18 to 22 percent. Part of the difference is boys having less subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. This means boys will have better blood circulation to and from skin. Also, underlying muscle will be closer to the skin. Both differences warm skin at the expense of lowering core body temperature faster. The end result is girls feel cold faster than boys, while doing better at preserving core body warmth. In a similar fashion, alcohol relaxes surface blood vessels, so drinkers feel the cold less while at the same time losing heat faster.

Bicyclist dressed for winter ride
The distinction between sensing cold on skin and losing core body temperature is important to anyone planning outdoor activities ranging from walking, biking, skiing, ice fishing, kayaking or snowmobiling. Exposed skin is prone to frostbite in very cold weather, especially when moving fast or exposed to strong winds. At temperatures above freezing the frostbite risk is gone, but hypothermia can still occur at air temperatures well into the 50’s, especially if clothing becomes wet from rain or sweat.

Shivering sets in once core body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Shivering, i.e., involuntary muscle twitching, burns fuel to generate heat. Whenever muscle cells contract, more than half the energy used is “wasted” on heat production rather than contraction. In cool weather, bumblebees pre-warm their flight muscles via shivering. As core temperatures head south towards 90 degrees our shivering response becomes stronger and the “umbles” set in, as in having the fumbles, stumbles, grumbles and mumbles. Emergency medical treatment is warranted when core temperature fall below 90 degrees.

Paradoxically, vigorous exercise in cold weather increases risk of hypothermia, and thus can be described as an exercise trap. First, exercise blunts perception of cold. A university study of people exposed to cold and either exercising or not exercising found that the ones who were exercising “felt” less cold even though their core and surface temperatures were declining at the same rate as when not exercising.

Exercise also generates heat, and thus sweat. Sweat, just like rain or immersion in water, reduces the insulating quality of protective clothing. When this water evaporates, it cools. Finally, prolonged endurance exercise can result in depletion of muscle fuel, and either delay or compromise the shivering response.

In the US, hypothermia accounts for about 1,300 deaths per year (1/3 female, 2/3 male). That figure includes deaths due to alcohol-related exposure and homelessness, but not boating accidents in cold water, which are instead logged as drowning.

Winter scene
Locally, wooded areas are large enough to get into trouble in cold weather. Don’t go out alone, especially in the fast-fading light of late afternoon. If heading out alone, someone should know where you intend to be and when you expect to return. A cell phone doubles as a means to call for help and a GPS device, aiding emergency rescue to home in on your location.

Getting back to our teenage boys, deliberately under-dressing for cold weather may be a form of preening for members of the opposite sex. Males of many species demonstrate their superior fitness by growing the largest horns, or brightest feathers, or showing physical prowess over other males. Being (apparently) impervious to cold is one more way of claiming to be a physically prime specimen of manhood. Is it also demonstrating mental superiority? Not so much.

This column was first published in the Beacon-Villager in November 2010. Winter is upon us again, so worth a reminder that hopothermia is a careless way to die.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Maynard Parking Deck, 1984-2014

Click on any photo to enlarge
Town reports from 1982-84 describe the process of proposing, funding and building a parking deck behind Memorial Park. Maynard received a state grant for $513,000 in 1982. Construction was to start fall of 1983, but delays led to the contract not being awarded until January 1984. The budget increased: in the end $750,000 of state money provided an upper level with 45 meter-free parking spaces and about 30 underneath. The project was completed November 1984.

Maynard had a number of pro-business town improvement projects in the 1980s. DEC's world headquarters was still in Maynard, and downtown businesses were bustling. In addition to the parking deck, the railroad berm was removed from the area behind what is now China Ruby, the Paper Store, the Outdoor Store, Video Signals, CVS and Gruber Bros. Furniture. That entire area became a parking lot in 1985.

Until the parking deck was torn down in the summer of 2014, the end closest to Nason Street displayed a modest plaque "RAYMOND J. SHERIDAN, SR. MEMORIAL PARKING DECK." Sheridan [1909-1981] served as Maynard's Superintendent of Streets from 1942 to 1951, followed by more than twenty years on various and diverse town Committees and Boards.

Demolition of the parking deck was warranted because the estimate for repair was sizable, and those repairs would not guarantee a long future life. In New England, the expected lifespan for outdoor parking structures is 30 to 40 years. From American Cement Manufacturers, "Corrosion of reinforcing steel and other embedded metals is the leading cause of deterioration in concrete. When steel corrodes, the resulting rust occupies a greater volume than the steel. This expansion creates tensile stresses in the concrete, which can eventually cause cracking, delamination, and spalling. Exposure of reinforced concrete to chloride ions is the primary cause of premature corrosion of steel reinforcement." Simply put, road salt, either directly applied, or tracked in on car tires, degrades concrete. The freeze:thaw cycle of water penetrating cracks adds to the damage.

Parking deck tumblin' down
Several websites point out that maintenance and repair in the first fifteen years will prolong a structure's lifespan at relatively low cost, whereas later efforts at repair cost more and achieve less. 


Back to Raymond Sheridan. He was in part responsible for an embarrassing gap in Maynard's history. In 1909, the publisher of the Boston Post newspaper decided, as a promotional stunt, to gift gold-headed ebony canes to hundreds of towns in Maine, Massachusetts Connecticut and Rhode Island, to be awarded to the oldest male resident. (And to be returned to the town's keeping upon his death.) Best count is that canes went to 641 towns.

Each cane had a 14-carat gold head engraved with the inscription, "Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of _____[name of town]."  The selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and keep it always in the hands of the oldest male citizen (women were allowed the honor after 1930).

Maynard is one of many towns that lost track of its Boston Post Cane. The tradition had been dormant for forty years when, in 1968, selectmen decided to attempt to find the missing walking stick as part of the town’s pending 1971 centennial. Through careful research, Ralph Sheridan was able to recreate the history of the Maynard Post Cane from 1909 through 1928. But then, by all accounts, it vanished from the face of the earth.

Ten years after the centennial, the Maynard cane reappeared when the children of Raymond J. Sheridan, Sr., were cleaning out his bedroom closet after his death. Raymond had apparently acquired the cane in 1962 from the office of the Maynard Public Health Nurse; she had gotten it after the last cane recipient died, and not knowing the historical significance, put it in an office closet. Apparently, he did much the same, at home.

Maynard's Boston Post Cane resides on display at Town Hall. In 1999 the Maynard Historical Society decided to revive the tradition of honoring “Maynard’s Oldest Citizen” by presenting him or her with a symbolic version of the cane in the form of a plaque issued by the Maynard Board of Selectmen. Historians with a burning curiosity about Boston Post Canes in general should consult As of 2014, more than 400 towns either have their cane, know who has it, or know what happened to it. Watertown set the record for lost-then-recovered, as that town's cane went missing in 1910, only to be returned in 2009.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winter Moths

Male Winter moth fits inside circle the size of a nickel.
Females are just under a half-inch in length.
In eastern Massachusetts the time to act is late November through early December, and then again late March through early April.

An insect invasion has plagued eastern Massachusetts for the past 10-15 years. Winter moths, native to northern Europe, reached parts of Canada in the 1930s. The introduction was accidental. The problem is monumental. Visual evidence of how bad it is will be upon us shortly, as the male moths, looking much like like tan-to-brown shaded triangles, are strongly attracted to outdoor lights. There will come evenings in late November or early December when upon arriving home, you may see scores of moths gathered round the light over your front door.     

The "winter" part of the name refers to an evolutionary strategy used to avoid predation. Most insect eaters (birds, bats, spiders, wasps and other insects) are active during warmer months. Winter moths shift the active parts of their life cycle into the colder months. Eggs are laid in late November and December and hatch in late March. The tiny hatchlings eat the beginning-to-open flower and leaf buds from the inside out.

Female, note small wings
By May, caterpillars are full sized, and descend to the ground where they transform into pupae, hidden in leaf litter. Pupae stay dormant until after the first frosts of November. The emerging adults, freeze-resistant thanks to anti-freeze compounds such as glycerol, use their short lives to procreate before dying.

Winter moths have an interesting dimorphism. Males have strong flight muscles, with an ability to pre-warm these muscles through shivering before cold weather flight. In contrast, females have only vestigial wings. Sacrificing flight capacity allows more than fifty percent of their adult body weight to be given over to eggs. Mating is achieved after the females climb up tree trunks and then release scent pheromones into the air. Males fly to them.

Winter moth larvae are generalists, but especially like fruit trees, maple, ash and birch trees, and blueberry bushes. Flower bud damage leads to low fruit and berry yield. Leaf loss can be so great that too many years in a row will kill trees, especially if dry conditions prevail during the time the trees are putting out replacement leaves. Treatment involves putting sticky products such as Tree Tanglefoot around tree trunks in November and then spraying a few times in early spring with dormant oil or other insecticides. There are organic treatments for those who do not want to use chemical pesticides.

        11/14/14 update: After a few night frosts, moths are beginning to appear in Maynard.
        11/26/14 update: My big birch tree has more than 500 males and females stuck in goo!
        12/15/14 update: No new sightings, so removed plastic wrap. 

TreeTanglefoot on birch tree. Applied
on plastic wrap, not directly on tree.
See photo below for results.
This is not the first time an invasive moth has had such a massive impact in the Northeast. European Gypsy moths were deliberately brought to the United States - specifically, Medford, MA - by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, in the 1860s. As an amateur entomologist, Trouvelot was experimenting with Gypsy moths as a means of establishing silk manufacture in the Americas. He failed. Moths escaped.

Gypsy moths occupy a different portion of the calendar than winter moths. Eggs laid in August hatch the following May. The rest of the life cycle is compressed into a few months. Nearly 140 years later, this pest's territory is still expanding westward and southward, although a number of introduced biological controls, including parasitic insects, have blunted severity of the outbreaks.

Moth menage a trois stuck in the goop. Males are attracted
to pheromones released by females.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
"Ecological release" refers to situations in which a species undergoes massive population expansion, due mostly to lack of predators, parasites and diseases. The best known examples are for species introduced from one continent to another, but can also occur when apex predator species are removed from the top of the food chain (think whitetail deer without wolves or mountain lions, and not enough human hunters). For invasives, the resultant population expansion from point of entry is fast for species with high mobility, slow for creepy crawlers.

These two moth species are examples of slow expansion because females are unable to fly. Egg laying occurs on or near the tree they grew up on. Dispersion is achieved be a few methods. Post-hatch caterpillars can release a silk strand from the abdomen, then unclasp from the twig and allow wind to blow them to a new location.

This means of travel is better known for young spiders, and called 'ballooning.' Older caterpillars can descend to the ground and explore, one tiny footstep at a time. Either way, the failure rate is high, but enough succeed that territory continues to enlarge, and areas that are sprayed with pesticides will re-infest over time.