Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 2)

Riverside Co-operative Association building, southwest corner of Summer
and Nason streets, Maynard, MA. Built 1882. Co-op was bottom floor. The
rest of the building was rented out to organizations and for events. Burned in
1936. Replaced be two-story brick building, long-time Knights of Columbus.
All images courtesy of Maynard Historical Society.
Riverside Co-operative Association was Maynard’s oldest. It was started by English and Scottish immigrants who worked at the woolen mill. Many of them may have been familiar with the co-operative movement in Great Britain, which by the 1870s numbered in the hundreds. Riverside began in 1875 as a chapter in an American movement, the “Order of the Sovereigns of Industry.” This was an urban workers organization modelled on the Grange – a farmers’ organization formally known as the “Order of Patrons of Husbandry.” ‘Sovereigns’ was in effect a buyers’ club with intention to secure high quality goods at lower prices. Locally, this meant buying wholesale in Boston, transported to Maynard by train, delivered in town by wheelbarrow. Nationally, the Sovereigns organization faltered under financial mismanagement, but in 1878 the local chapter reformed itself as the Riverside Co-Operative Association.

Shares were $5 each (equivalent to about $125 in today’s dollars), members limited to 60 shares. The total capital investment was $1,500. Per the by-laws, regardless of how many shares owned, each shareholder had one vote. The operation started in the basement of the Darling Block building (northeast corner of Summer and Nason streets), moved to the Riverside Block (later Gruber Bros Furniture), and then in 1882 built its own building at the southwest corner of Summer and Nason. The building was a four-story wooden edifice, with the store on the first floor, entrance on Nason Street. The other floors were rented out.

Riverside employees in front of store, circa 1920.
Click on photos to enlarge.
By 1909, Riverside had more than 600 members. In addition to quality of goods and competitive prices, members were twice a year paid a cash refund ranging from 2 to 10 percent based on how much shopping they had done and how good a year the co-op was having. Additionally, shares earned five percent interest. Decline started with recession of 1920, compounded by cost of repair after a fire, same year. In 1929 the store business was sold to George Morse (the store manager), while the co-op continued to own the building. A large fire in January 1936 led to dissolution of the Association later that year and sale of the site to Knights of Columbus, which had been a long-time tenant. Proceeds were divided amongst the remaining shareholders.

A document from the United Co-operative Society criticized Riverside as having emphasis on dividends to stockholders, but without an education program for members and their children, lost coherence as a social institution. Contributing factors were that the children of the founders of Riverside were moving up the socio-economic ladder at same time as England and Scotland were less of a source of immigrant labor. A front-page newspaper article from 1913 had noted that prior to 1900 the town was mostly English-speaking, but the expansion of the mill had doubled the town’s population by bringing in large numbers of immigrants from Finland, Poland, Lithuania and Italy.

Sign on building at site of what was
Riverside Co-operative (KOC sold
bldg., currently Celia T's)
The rise and fall of the United Co-operative Society – the largest and longest enduring co-op in Maynard – will be covered in a subsequent article. There were smaller and shorter-lived efforts.  Suomalainen Osuuskauppa, which translates as ‘Finnish Co-operative Store’, started 1899. Capitalized at only $800, it lasted a few years before dissolving and selling its store to a private owner. Maynard had a chapter of the Grange, started 1913, but unlike in rural situations, the Grange never operated a co-operative store. Gutteridge’s 1921 history mentions “Keefe’s Co-operative” without any details. The Historical Society has a share certificate for the Russian Co-operative Association dated 1917, but there is no other evidence in the collection that this effort reached its capitalization goal of $5,000 or became operative.

Map showing First National Co-operative Association at
corner of Main and River Streets (site now Thai Chilli).
The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association was formed in 1914. Three years later it split, with some of the dairy farmers becoming the diary operations of the United Co-operative Society. The other members, who did not want to affiliate with the Socialist/Communist atheist United, formed the First National Association, which existed to 1941. It owned and operated out of a building on the corner of Main and River streets that had been the Somerset Hotel, site now occupied by Thai Chilli. The International Co-operative Association was started in 1911 by immigrants from Poland. It lasted 20 years. It began in a building near the Methodist Church, later moved to space in the Masonic Building. Membership numbered 200 to 400 over the years. First National and International failed in part because of extending credit to members during the Great Depression.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 1)

Share certificate for Kaleva Co-operative Association,
 dated 1915 (Click on photos to enlarge)
Maynard’s various histories name eight co-operative associations or societies; six of these co-existed in 1917. The oldest was Riverside Co-operative Association (1875-1936). The longest duration and largest was United Co-operative Society, initially named Kaleva Co-operative Association (1907-1973). A U.S. Department of Labor report for 1947 mentioned that United was one of the top ten co-ops in the country for oldest, membership and annual sales. More than half the households in Maynard were members. This column is the first of a three-part series on the history of co-operatives in general and specifically in Maynard.  

To get back to the origins of the co-operative concept, in 1844 a group of 28 weavers in Rochdale, England, organized the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, “…and opened their first store, with a small stock of flour, oatmeal, butter and sugar.” Soon added tea, tobacco and candles. Their guidelines formed the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world continue to operate. The Rochdale Pioneers became highly successful, with 1,400 members by 1855 and 5,560 members by 1870, able to shop at many stores.

Share certificate for Russian Co-operative
Association (dated 1917)
There had been earlier attempts to establish co-operatives that were basically buyer’s clubs, which by pooling their purchases were able to buy at wholesale prices and sell to members at below retail prices. The Rochdale Pioneers were one the early co-operative efforts to add profit-sharing to members based on a percentage of the cost of the goods the members purchased, i.e., a patronage dividend. The seven Rochdale Principles:
   Open membership,
   Democratic control,
   Distribution of surplus,
   Limited interest on capital,
   Political and religious neutrality,
   Cash trading, and
   Promotion of education.
Open membership: Although co-operatives often started as groups of workers within one laborer profession (weavers, miners…) or group (Finns, Italians…) membership was not limited. Membership was also voluntary, meaning that members of a union could not be required to also join an affiliated co-operative. Non-members could shop at the stores at the same prices as members, but would not get the additional benefits. United’s start in Maynard was fomented by immigrants from Finland, working in the woolen mill, but non-Finns could join, and by 1947 outnumbered those of Finnish heritage.

Democratic control: All shareholders had one vote regardless of how many shares they owned. Typically, membership shares in the early twentieth century cost $5 (equivalent to $125 now), and members were limited to 20 or 40 shares. Shares could be sold back to the co-operative, but not to other people.

The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association merged into 
Kaleva,which in 1921 became the United Co-operative
Society (from collection of Maynard Historical Society)
Distribution of surplus: At the end of a fiscal year, profits were distributed to members based on the amounts of goods they had purchased during the year. In a pre-computer era, members saved their receipts, then brought all receipts to the co-operative. Staff checked their totals. For Maynard’s Riverside and United, depending on how well the year had gone, members got a cash payment equal to one percent to as high as ten percent of their year’s purchases. If the co-operative had operated at a loss for a year, no refund that year.

Interest on capital: In addition to reimbursements, shareholders got interest on their investment, typically five percent. Share value did not change. When a co-operative voted to dissolve, shareholders expected to get their original investment back.

Neutrality: Co-operatives were supposed to operate neutral to issues of religion, race or politics. The American reality was that co-ops were started by immigrant groups – in Maynard, English, Finnish, Polish, Russian – and often conducted business meetings in their native language.  

Cash only: Many early efforts at establishing co-operatives were under-capitalized, and foundered when members were allowed to purchase goods on credit. Two of Maynard’s co-ops failed in the Great Depression for this reason. Credit unions were separate entities, better capitalized, designed to serve as banks but return profits to members.

Kaleva (founded 1907) became the
United Co-operative Society in 1921
Education: Programs were conducted to educate members and non-members on co-operative principles. Maynard’s United Co-operative Association had adult classes, Young Co-operators’ Club, and Co-operative Day Camp.

United added an eighth principle, which was continuous expansion. Over the initial 50 years membership grew from 184 to 2,960 members as bakery and dairy delivery, coal, firewood and fuel oil, appliances and hardware, and a Gulf automobile gas/service station were added.

United's By-laws had an interesting clause: On the occasion of dissolution of the co-operative, which required a 3/4 majority of votes at a meeting, the assets would be used to pay the purchase value of the outstanding shares. Any surplus would go to the  Co-operative League of the United States rather than to members. 

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), founded in 1895, adapted the Rochdale Principles of Consumer Co-operation in 1937, then amended the list in 1966. A major addition was the concept of cooperation among cooperatives but without crossing lines into price-fixing or monopolizing markets. A subsequent revision in 1995 added autonomy from governments and concern for community. The ICA represents millions of co-operatives worldwide, and through that, more than one billion people who are co-operative members. Its purpose, in part, is to work with global and regional governments and organizations to create the legislative environments that allow cooperatives to form and grow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Short Stories

In Oak Park, Illinois, a car stops at a traffic light, an older and a younger man in the front seats, a young woman in the back. She opens the door, steps out, tosses a keychain into a storm drain and gets back into the car. The light turns green.

Great Blue Heron with catfish
(Click on photos to enlarge)
In Boca Raton, Florida, a Great Blue Heron caught a catfish as large as its head. Standing in the water, it spent minute upon minute upon minute repositioning the fish in its beak, at times shaking the fish, placing the fish on the shore to start over, or dipping it in the water.

A bicyclist is riding the wrong way on a one-way street, next to the line-up of parked cars. A pedestrian steps out…

A bicyclist is riding the wrong way on a one-way street, next to the line-up of parked cars. A car door opens…

A bicyclist is riding the right way (with traffic) on a two-way street, next to the line-up of parked cars. A door opens…

Griffith Park, entirely within the City of Los Angeles, has signs at every entrance warning visitors that the Park contains rattlesnakes. One LA newbie exclaimed “Why did they put rattlesnakes in the Park!?” The answer was that the snakes were there long before it was designated a park. Snakes can strike to a distance of 1/3 to 1/2 body length. More to the point, snake strikes occur in one-twentieth to one-tenth of a second, whereas human reaction time is about one-fifth of a second. Snake beats human every time.

In addition to rattlesnakes (and coyotes), Griffith Park is home to one male mountain lion known as “P22.” The lion has a GPS tracking collar, so park staff know its location at all times. This did not prevent P-22 from entering the Griffith Park Zoo in March 2016, scaling a fence, then killing and carrying off a koala. P22 has TWO Facebook accounts.

The Assabet River rises after every rainstorm, after every snow-melting day. During winter weeks the water level can slowly drop while the air temperature is below freezing. Along the branches of trees that have fallen into the river, icicles form. Rather than tapering to a sharp point, the bottoms are blunt-ended, terminating just about the water’s surface. In sunlight, a long row of these, each several inches long, look like the pendant glass of a chandelier, shimmering white.

Great Blue Heron preparing
to swallow fish
The same river, summer, observed from a bridge: there are fish down there, swimming just fast enough to counter the flow of the sluggish low-water river. The fish are doubly camouflaged. From above, the dark upper surface blends into the dark tones of the river bottom. From below, silvery scales blend into the brightly refractive surface of the water above. One way to spot fish is to look for shadows on the bottom, then find the fish above.

Get in the habit of throwing food scraps out the back door and there will be visitors. Footprints from cats, skunks, raccoons and opossums can be differentiated in a night’s dusting of snow. The morning after tossing out some lamb shanks a murder of crows was working over the remains, scattering when a pair of ravens dropped in.  

Great Blue Heron
swallowing fish
One sunny late August day, gusting cold front blowing in, water temperature in the 70s but air temperature in the low 60s – the result for one small-boat sailor tacking into the wind was gradually progressive hypothermia. Each splash of water felt warm on a cotton T-shirt. Between splashes, evaporative cooling chilled. Physical clumsiness set in, and a touch of mental fog. A gust tipped the boat over. Swimming to the overturned hull, flipping the boat back upright and climbing in was more wearying than it should have been. Same the second time. The sailor turned toward home, miles away.       

Roadside, rural Pennsylvania: A fawn was thrashing about in the ditch next to the road, unable to stand, legs broken from being hit by a car, but otherwise apparently not seriously hurt. A doe stood in the wooded edge of the road. Cars drove by, occupants observing or oblivious. A bicyclist rode by. Stopped. Laid down the bike. Picked up a rock. Walked back…

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Birds of a Feather...

Some birds flock. Some birds don’t. Several hummingbirds may appear at a feeder, but they are definitely not a flock. Robins flock in winter, but in breeding season form territorial pairs. Ditto swans. Starlings, however, are rarely seen singly, and the same applies to flamingos. Other species gather in large groups to roost at night (crows) or only when migrating (sandhill cranes).

Geese in "V" formation
In flight, being in groups has several benefits. Geese form lines diagonal to flight direction, sometimes a “V” formation with one bird in the lead and lines trailing on both sides, because the air disturbance coming off the lead bird’s wings enables the trailing bird to expend less energy.

When feeding in groups, one or more birds are always pausing to watch for predators, either the fox on the ground or the diving hawk. Warning sounds and sudden movement by these observers triggers mass evasion by the rest of the flock. In the air or on the ground, being in a group can also hinder a predator from targeting and pursuing one individual bird out of the flock.

Group behavior is seen in species other than birds. Fish school. Mammals form herds. There is a saying about being on a hike in bear country: “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.” Generalized to herd behavior, the best strategy against a predator is to put another individual between you and the predator. A grouping may be somewhat scattered to feed, but cluster inward when predators approach, as each individual tries to move to the center. If the grouping has a familial relationship, vulnerable young may be moved to the center while adults form a protective barrier. Think musk ox or elephants.  

A different reason for forming large groups is referred to as “predator satiation.” When prey appear suddenly and in large numbers, the probability of any one individual being killed by predators is reduced, the reason being that the predator population is low before the prey arrive and cannot increase fast enough to take advantage of the sudden influx of food. The sudden appearance of prey in great numbers can be from migration by massive numbers, or by near-synchronization of birth of young, or even skipping years. An extreme example of the last is the 17-year cicada

Painting of passenger pigeons, male on left (internet download)
Back to birds. We are some 120 years from one of the greatest species extinctions caused by Man – the end of passenger pigeons. This native North American species – larger and with a much longer tail than the non-native pigeons we now know disparagingly as ‘rats with wings’, numbered in the billions before the arrival of Europeans, and actually well into post-colonial times. Their food of choice was acorns and other tree nuts, but seeds of any plant were also consumed, as was fruit, berries and insects. Individual flocks of migrating birds numbered in the millions, and were described as darkening the sky when passing overhead. From an 1855 description, Columbus Ohio: “As the watchers stared, the hum increased to a mighty throbbing…Children screamed and ran for home. Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores. Horses bolted. A few people mumbled frightened words…and several dropped on their knees and prayed.”

Roosting at night, the birds were so densely gathered as to break the limbs off trees, and in areas where they nested, droppings piled up a foot thick, poisoning ground plants, and in time, the nesting trees. The birds moved on.

Passenger pigeons, more than other flocking bird species, depended on predator satiation, and so were not able to adapt to human harvesting. The end came quickly. Circa mid-1800s, market hunters used shotguns, nets, whiskey-soaked corn and so on to bring birds to ground. Birds were plucked, gutted, cooked, salted and packed into barrels, to be shipped by railroad to the fast-growing cities of the Industrial Age. Their meat ended up in pigeon pie (think today’s meat pies). At the nesting sites, ground fires would be lit when the nestling squabs were nearing adult weight but not yet able to fly. The squabs would fall to the ground, stunned, to be picked up by hand. As flocks vanished from the usual places, telegraph messages would go out about newly found locations. Market hunters followed.

Locally, Henry David Thoreau’s journal from 1851 recounts a visit to a ‘pigeon-place’ where birds were lured in by trees for perching (live decoy birds tied to the branches), then netted. The last birds seen in the east were early 1890s, the last wild bird shot anywhere 1902, the last surviving bird died in a Cincinnati zoo, September 1, 1914. From billions to zero in fifty years.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Freemasons in Maynard

From 1922 to 2013 the imposing wooden building at 100 Main Street, currently housing 5 PEAKS Fitness (until recently, Legends Comix and Games), Classic Hair, Siam Village and Boston Bean on the first floor, Concord School of Taekwon-Do above, was known as the Masonic Building. 

Entrance to second and third floor of 100 Main Street
when it was still the Masonic Building.
The Charles A. Welch Lodge (, founded by Welch in 1872, has since ceased to be housed in Maynard. Meetings were initially held at the Darling Block, a building on the northeast corner of Nason and Summer Streets. The lodge moved into the Main Street building in 1888 – the Maynard Block – but after the Masonic Corporation bought it in 1922, renamed the Masonic Building. The Freemasons occupied the top floor and rented out the rest.

The primary reason for selling the building in 2013 was the high valuation and hence high property taxes set by the Town of Maynard. The actual sale price was below the town's assessment. The Lodge continues to meet as Maynard's lodge, meetings held at the Masonic Corinthian Lodge, 58 Monument Square, Concord. The Corinthian Lodge was chartered in 1797 – by Paul Revere. Concord’s building (built 1820) serves as host to other fraternal organizations in addition to Maynard’s group. 

For those not familiar with Freemasonry, the initials A.F. & A.M. (see photo) stand for Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. All lodges in Massachusetts are A.F. & A.M., as that was the designation of the initial colonial Grand Lodge, in Boston, in 1733. In some states the term is F. & A.M. (Free and Accepted Masons). The difference is a carry-over from a 1700s schism among England's Masons into Ancient and Modern. The separation has long since been resolved. States' Grand Lodges and their member lodges recognize each other’s members as true Freemasons.

Circa 1900, when the west corner (now Boston Bean) was the Post Office
An important point here is that Freemasonry is not a beneficial fraternal order. Many of the nineteenth century organizations were created in part to pool resources of members so as to provide life insurance and other benefits. Some even owned cemetery burial plots for members and their families. Masonic charity is directed toward those who have met with misfortune, but in no way limited or preferential to members.  

As an aside, Freemasons did not drink at meetings, but unlike some of the other traditional fraternal orders which had a temperance (anti-alcohol) policy written into their founding documents, might tipple on their own time. The Masons definition of Temperance was and is that members, as a Cardinal Virtue, should ‘temper,’ i.e., manage and practice restraint, of their behavior in all things. The other three virtues are Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. “The Four Cardinal Virtues of Freemasonry provide a framework for daily living and serve as a guide for our relationship with God and our fellow man.”

Dave Griffin and Paul Boothroyd of the Maynard Historical
Society holding the first petition to create a new town.
There is a small but interesting story linking Maynard’s Masons to the history of the creation of Maynard. In their possession was an original, never-submitted, petition to create a new town. This predated the official ‘Fowler’ petition of January 1871. In it, the town-to-be did not yet have a name and it called for some land to be taken from Acton and Concord in addition to Sudbury and Stow. How it came into possession of the Lodge is an unplumbed mystery, although there was a note that many of signers had been Masons. Lodge member Frederick S. Johnson was arranging to transfer it to the Maynard Historical Society in 2013 when he died, leaving the document’s location unknown. The task fell to his nephew, John Taylor III, who lived in Mansfield but had a family history with Maynard (his grandfather had owned the mink farm off of Concord Street). The framed document was given to the historical society on March 12, 2014.

Of Maynard’s many, many beneficial fraternal orders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, only the Masons and Elks, smaller now, survive. The same attrition has occurred nationwide – a diminishing of local social groups as a consequence of an increasing mobile society. Same for churches. Same for bowling leagues for that matter. Robert Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone,” describes the disintegration of our social networks, and the consequences on our physical and mental health of living a less connected life.    

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Marble Farm Historic Site 2019

April will be a perfect time to visit the Marble Farm historic site, as hundreds of daffodils will be in bloom. The trip involves a walk north on the Assabet River Rail Trail to a location just south of the Maynard/Acton border.

Granite steps leading to basement of the two-family house
that was at the Marble Farm site (house burned, 1924) 
As for this site’s history, start with a witch trial. In 1692, Joseph Marble, resident of Andover, Massachusetts, posted bond for his two nieces, accused of witchcraft. Abigail Faulkner, their mother, had already been convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to be hanged. Her execution was deferred because she was pregnant. By the spring of 1693 the witch hunt frenzy was over. Abigail was pardoned, her daughters never brought to trial.

Locally, records show Joseph Marble buying 140 acres of land in Sudbury in 1704. Exactly what land he bought and from whom has not been confirmed, but a good guess is from William Brown and at the northeast edge of what is now Maynard. Joseph is recorded as attending Sudbury town meetings. Joseph’s son John and his neighbors petitioned to switch their land to Stow in 1730. In 1871 the same land was included in the creation of Maynard, carved out of parts of Stow and Sudbury. Thus, over the years the homestead was located in three towns.

The family line at the homestead was as follows: Joseph Marble, then his son John, John’s son John, and that John’s son, John. (Whew!) John-the-last is buried in Glendale cemetery with his wife Lois. Their daughter Sarah Marble married Daniel Whitney and they inherited the house. Their daughter Mary Whitney married Joel Parmenter. Mary and Joel lived in Sudbury until Daniel Whitney died in 1871, then back to the homestead, making it the Parmenter house until Joel died in 1919. Mary’s and Joel’s son Harry owned only half of the house and none of the farm at the time the house burned to the ground in 1924. The house was never rebuilt and the barns (spared by the fire) are long gone. The land is owned by the town of Maynard.

A few highlights: The original immigrants John and Judith Marble, John and Elinor Whitney and John and Briget Parmenter, all arrived in New England in the 1630’s as part of the Puritan Great Migration. Joseph’s “witch” sister-in-law gave birth to Ammi Ruhamah Faulkner in 1693. His name was derived from Hebrew and translates as “my people have been saved” – apt for a child whose pregnancy saved his mother’s life! Around 1740 Ammi moved to South Acton and bought the mill. His home is now the historic Faulkner Homestead. His first cousin John Marble was already in residence at the Marble homestead, a mile down the road. Whitneys were early inhabitants of Stow; Parmenters early inhabitants of Sudbury.

Access from Trail to Marble
Farm site. Click on
photos to enlarge.
The site consists of a 28’ x 32’ house foundation and surrounding stone walls. In April 2009 Maynard’s Boy Scout Troop #130 cleared the site and installed a post and chain fence around part of the foundation. The east border is a walled ditch running parallel to the Assabet River Rail Trail. A historic plaque marks the site. The house burned on April 2, 1924. The nearest fire hydrant was too far away to be of any use. From clearing some of the debris that had partially filled the foundation over the years, the original basement floor appears to have been a layer of sand, on top of which was a thin off-white layer, possibly plaster or crushed limestone, topped by wooden planks. The last were scorched to charcoal by the fire. Uncovering the planks released a fleeting scent of the fire of 87 years ago.

Marble Farm was the topic of a presentation to the Maynard Historical Society in 2009. In attendance were two descendants of Joseph Marble! Charles Marble was a descendant of John, one of Joseph’s sons. Sally Wadman, maiden name Chandler descended from one of Joseph’s other sons – Edmund – who had married Mary Jewell in August 1711.Their daughter Dorothy married Moses Chandler in 1742, and through their son, Samuel Chandler, reached down through eight more generations to Sally. Chandler is another New England name dating its arrival to the early 1600’s, in this case to a William Chandler who arrived around 1637. Thus, through Sally’s genealogical research she was able to connect with her Marble, Jewell and Chandler ancestors who all arrived within 20 years of the Mayflower.

David Mark with daffodil sculpture for "Trail of Flowers"
Present-day, much of the site is overgrown again with Oriental bittersweet, sumac, blackberry and Japanese knotweed. Dead trees have fallen or are threatening. Volunteers cleared a portion between the foundation and the rail trail this summer past and planted grass. In October, more than 1,000 daffodils were planted. This was the first step toward converting Maynard’s portion of the Assabet River Rail Trail into a “Trail of Flowers.” The project will continue in 2019 with more mass plantings, and people whose property abuts the trail will be invited to put flowering plants at the back of their yards. A website to this effect will be launched later this year.

Parts of this column saw print in 2010 (Mark’s ninth column). He initiated the “Trail of Flowers” concept in the fall of 2018. He had so many volunteers for the Marble Farm planting event that all he had to do was point where to dig.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry

Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry, facing Main Street,
with Harriman Court on right side. (courtesy Maynard Historical Society) 
Imagine if you will, not owning a clothes washer nor clothes dryer, nor loading your dirty laundry into your car to drive to a laundromat, there to spend several off-smelling hours pushing dollar bills into machines. Imagine instead a service whereby you put all your dirty laundry into a basket, the basket picked up at your house, returned in two or three days washed, dried and folded. How 21st century! That door-to-door service, is exactly what was being offered by Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry Co. over one hundred years ago. And not just for Maynard. Harriman served towns as far as 30 miles away, first by horse-drawn wagon, and by 1905 using gasoline-powered trucks to transport laundry to and from Maynard. At its peak the laundry employed 75 women and men, and was the second-largest business in Maynard, after the mill.

Etching of Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry. Source and
date unknown, but trolley service in Maynard began in 1901. 
Trolley, horse, carriage and pedestrian smaller than real life.
Click on any photo to enlarge. 
John K. Harriman (1826-1906) was an early arrival to Assabet Village. He was postmaster from 1862 to 1866. He was one of the signers of the Fowler petition to create the Town of Maynard, also involved in building of the first high school, establishing street lamps (kerosene, not electric) and construction of the first jail. To the last: May 1871, John K. Harriman, Amory Maynard and John Fuller supervised building of a brick building, about fourteen feet by fourteen feet, containing two cells. The cost was $455.70. An 1875 map shows him owning property and buildings fronting to Main Street on both sides of Harriman Court.

John and his wife Harriet (Phillips) Harriman had three sons: John, Frank and Rowland. It was the two younger brothers – Frank and Rowland – who decided to go into the laundry business. In September 1890 they rented two rooms in their father’s building on the east side of Harriman Court. This was not their first business venture. An 1887-88 directory for Maynard and Stow lists Frank and Rowland listed as owners/operators of Maynard Ice Cream Company, in their father’s building. Other occupants were their father’s grocery store, barber shop, photography studio, cigar store, two tenements and a hall. Over time their laundry business expanded until it completely occupied all 15,000 square feet of the three-story building. The building was capped by an eight-sided cupola, brightly shining out at night courtesy of powerful gas lights.

Employees of Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry. Founders Frank and
Rowland Harriman are on balcony, flanking the entrance. No information
on the third man in the balcony, or the woman. (courtesy MHS)
Pay for a 45-hour week – shorter than the 55 hours being put in by mill workers – was $7.00 per week for women and $11.00 per week for men. The business served towns for miles around. Horse-drawn wagons would bring out clean laundry and return with dirty. In August of 1905. Harriman Brothers New Method Laundry purchased its first truck, and a second soon after. The trucks also served to convey employees on public outings.

In May of 1909 the brothers sold the business to two gentlemen who moved it to Hudson. They obviously lacked some essential business savvy, because the business failed within the year. Roland, the younger of the brothers, was 45 years old at time of the sale, 75 years old when he died in 1939. He was buried in Glenwood Cemetery along with his wife and son. There is nothing in the town’s historical records to indicate if he owned or worked in any type of business after the sale. Even less is known about his older brother, not even date of birth, death, or where buried. (see below) Massachusetts house deed records indicate that he sold his father’s homestead, on the west side of Harriman Court, in 1910 to the Finnish Temperance Society. Decades later the building went to Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW Post #1812, and then in 1992 to St. Stephen’s Knanaya Church, which owns it now. He appears to have purchased the Walcott House in Stow in 1910, but sold it in 1911 and disappeared from recorded history.

Employee outing on the company truck. (courtesy MHS)
And the meaning of “New Method?” An internet search on “new method laundry” yields many laundry businesses with that phrase in the name. A good guess is that it applied to ‘dry cleaning.’ Back then, dry cleaning used petroleum-extracted solvents in lieu of water, so fire was an ever-present risk.

Anything left of the building? Street-facing is now a two-story building with Bud’s Variety occupying the first floor. Behind is a much larger building – apartments – which may be part of the even larger building that existed
in 1890. 

After this article ran in the paper, town historian Peg Brown located an obituary and other information for Rowland that mentioned he had moved to to Stow while still running the laundry with his brother, later to Florida (!), then Newton, then later to Milton, where he died, survived by a son and a daughter. He was interred in Maynard's Glenwood Cemetery. Frank was born in 1859, died in 1936, married 1906, also moved to Stow while still operating the laundry, later moved to Florida (!) where he died, survived by his wife and daughter. John A. Harriman, their older brother, appears to have worked at the laundry, and may be the third man on the balcony, although the Historical Society photo caption did not have a name. John and his second wife - Ella - are also in the Glenwood Cemetery. Frank and family are not.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Alcohol Miniature Bottles = Litter

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky (so spelled) is a billion dollar a year business. It’s an acquired taste: cheap whiskey plus water (the end product is only 33% alcohol), sugar and cinnamon. As a brand, it grew from an obscure history. Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whiskey was one of many flavored alcohol products under the McGillicuddy brand, which had originated with Seagram in the 1980s, then sold to the Sazerac Company in 1989. Fireball was renamed 2007 and provided with the red, fire-breathing dragon label image and the slogan “Tastes Like Heaven, BURNS LIKE HELL.” Fireball is currently the best-selling liqueur in the United States. However, at The Whiskey Wash, a whiskey review site, it was ranked fourth out of five among cinnamon-flavored whiskeys (Jim Beam Kentucky Fire, first). Fireball’s description including “…intensely chemical aroma…distressingly viscous and alarmingly sweet… very little in the way of whiskey flavor.”

"FIREBALL Cinnamon Whiskey" These
miniature bottles hold 50 ml = 1.7 ounces.
Fireball appears to also be the most likely to be littered alcohol miniature bottle in the United States. An observant walk through the streets of Maynard will spy empty miniature bottles – also known as testers, shooters, minis and airplane bottles – with a distribution mostly not too far from the liquor store where they were purchased. From talking to store owners, buyers are typically adults who buy several of these small plastic bottles at a time, and need to be deterred from starting to drink before they are out of the store.

Why not just buy a pint, a ‘fifth’ or a ‘handle’? A good guess is that people who are not supposed to be drinking where they live want something easy to conceal, something that can be drained and dropped, or else tossed out a car window. One specious argument made for sale of minis: “A key driver for the growth of the global spirit miniatures market is the fact that they prove to be an ideal choice for consumers looking to reduce their alcohol intake.” Or basically, you can’t drink what you did not buy. A saving grace is that these now-plastic bottles do not contribute to the broken glass problem. A ‘fifth,’ by the way, used to be one-fifth of a gallon, now defined as 750 milliliters. A ‘handle’ is a half-gallon (or now, 1.75 liters), so called because the bottle has a handle to make pouring easier to control.

The origin of miniatures – as glass bottles – appears to have had its start after the end of Prohibition, when people were being offered taste-size samples of brand-name spirits after years of drinking illegal booze. In the 1960s the airline industry found that minis could be doled out to passengers with minimal spillage, with each bottle containing a controlled amount of liquor. Alcohol was often free. These days a mini will set you back $5-8 dollars. Can you bring your own booze (BYOB)? The answer is do not try to sneak drink you own – this has led to people being arrested at flight’s end. A few airlines are experimenting with BYOB, with the caveat that their staff have to be asked to open and serve what you brought. Hotels got into the alcohol miniatures business with mini-bars in the 1970s, and for a while found that profitable, but most have phased out the hard liquor, leaving overpriced snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and small bottles of wine.

Back to miniatures and littering. Can this problem be legislated away? In April 2015 the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, banned the sale of spirits in bottles smaller than eight ounces. In October of that same year a judge overturned the law based on interpretation that only the state has legislative authority over liquor sales. Maine is in the middle of tackling this problem. Sales of miniatures exceed 10,000,000 per year (40% Fireball). In 2017 the state legislature passed a bill requiring a five cent deposit. The obstinate Governor LePage said he would rather ban the sale entirely, claiming that minis fostered drunk driving, than create what in effect would be a new tax. New Haven, Connecticut is considering a deposit law, but may run afoul of state jurisdiction. In Massachusetts, a few towns have passed an outright ban, and the state legislature is considering a state-wide, five cent deposit law.  

Visit this site for a scathing evaluation of five cinnamon-flavored whiskies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Nason and Summer Street Intersection

The intersection of Nason and Summer Streets was for decades a business hub for Maynard. This column is an exploration of the history of the four corners, including major fires in 1921, 1936 and 1955. The intersection is currently occupied by a park, a rentable hall over an exercise business, an apartment building and a hair salon under a fraternal society.

Maynard Hotel (burned 1921), Click on any photo to enlarge.
What is now the east end of Memorial Park, across from the end of Glendale Street, was the site of the first hotel in town, built in 1867, thus predating Maynard’s creation by four years. It opened as Glendale House. The name is claimed to have been taken from the “Glendale” wool blanket made at the mill. Street named after the hotel. Later renamed the Maynard Hotel and operating under that name until it was destroyed by fire on January 29, 1921. As not actually on the corner, there were buildings between the hotel and Nason Street. An 1875 map shows two houses owned by Mrs. Brooks. A later map shows other buildings labeled “lunch” and “upholsterer.”

After the hotel fire the land was bought by the town. Memorial Park was dedicated on November 15, 1925. More memorial plaques were added after subsequent wars. For a time, there was a public bathroom facility, built during the Depression as part of many federally funded work projects. The park is undergoing another metamorphosis to include a permanent performance platform (summer band concerts and other events) and a handicap-accessible ramp from the parking lot to the park.  

Riverside Co-op (burned 1936). First showing of a movie in Maynard
was here, November 1902.  Photos courtesy Maynard Historical Society.
Building behind it was Intl Order of Odd Fellows, now site of China Ruby.
The corner west of the park was occupied by a four-story wood frame building owned by the Riverside Co-op, built 1882. Prior to that it had been empty land owned by T. Brooks. The first floor was occupied by the cooperative, second floor used 1885-1918 by the Maynard Library, later Knights of Columbus and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Third floor had a hall where town meetings, graduations, rallies, dances, basketball and other types of social activities occurred, including the first moving picture shown in Maynard, November 1902. The fourth floor had a banquet hall.

The building was severely damaged by a fire on January 30, 1936. It was rebuilt as a two-story brick building for the Knights of Columbus. KOC moved out in 2015 and Celia T’s, a rentable space with kitchen and bar facilities, moved in. Underneath is now Anytime Fitness, a franchised health and fitness club, open to members 24/7/365. It replaced an auto parts store.

The northwest corner was once occupied the Gove Bakery, later identified as the Cocco building, empty for many years, then demolished in 2003 for the construction of Jimmy MacDonald’s first apartment building. Hezekiah B. Gove started the bakery circa 1870; his son George N. Gove operated it into the late 1920s. Horse-drawn wagons delivered bread in Maynard and neighboring towns. Definitive information is lacking on how the building came to renamed, but it appears that it was the property of Marge Cocco, wife of Thomas Cocco, Maynard business man and Board of Selectmen member in the early 1970s. For many years the corner building hosted a candy/convenience store that went through several names: Gramo, Cox and Veleno. This was a popular stop-point for children attending Fowler and Roosevelt Schools. Next to it on the north side was a two-story building – restaurant? – and then the northernmost building, one story, Kangas Shoe Repair. All gone.
W.A. Haynes water trough (1904)

Between Gove’s bakery and the railroad was the extensive animal feed, lumber, brick, cement, horse carriages (and later, automobiles) business owned and operated by W. A. Haynes. This extended north along the tracks as far as the site of the current Cumberland Farms gas station. A 1939 Sanborn Map Company map in the possession of the Maynard Historical Society shows a smaller complex of buildings, named “Seder & Gruber Hay & Grain.”

Darling Block before the 1955 fire
The northeast corner was the Darling Block, after owner William Darling, built circa 1870. It was a three-story, wood frame, with a wrap-around porch and mansard roof (much like the Maynard Hotel). The Priest family operated Central Market, which occupied the bottom floor. An early tenant was the Maynard lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, meeting there until relocating to 100 Main Street in 1888. The building had also been host to meetings of the local chapters of the Independent Order of Good Templars and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. These were all fraternal beneficial societies, offering members services such as life insurance and burial benefits. IOGT and AOUW were temperance (anti-alcohol) organizations. Freemasons did not drink at meetings, but might tipple on their own time; their definition of ‘temperance’ was and is that members, as a cardinal virtue, should ‘temper,’ i.e., manage and practice restraint of their behavior in all things.

At some point in time the Fraternal Order of the Eagles (FOE), which had established an Aerie in Maynard back in 1908, bought the building and occupied the second and third floors. The first floor was four store fronts facing Summer Street. At the time of a March 13, 1955 fire these were occupied by Goodrich Cleaners, Messier Photo Studio, Lawson’s Shoe Repair and the Beacon Press. The FOE had the building rebuilt as two-story cinderblock. Masciarelli Jewelry took over the first floor after the rebuild. The building now hosts Flawless Hair & Spa downstairs, upstairs spaces used for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other functions.

Maynard Fire Department (horse power until 1914)
If you’ve been keeping count, that’s three fires for four corners of the intersection. Fires also took out the entire corner of Nason and Main Streets, the Riverside Block (Gruber Bros site) and five school fires. As to why Nason Street is so named, William Gutteridge’s 1921 history of the town states that it was named after Reverend Elias Nason of Billerica in homage of a popular lecture published in 1875 called “The Model Town of Massachusetts.” Summer Street is by far the older of the two, construction and naming lost in the mists of history. The oddity for that one is that it becomes Pompositticut Street once it crosses into Stow. But then, before being incorporated as a town in 1683, Stow was known as Pompositticut Plantation, so in colonial days the road was named after the place it was going to.