Thursday, September 16, 2021

More about Maynard's School System

On September 30, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Maynard’s Schools Through the Centuries.” This is the eighth in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation. Register at The October talk will be “The Maynard Family.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History”, is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, WED-SAT, 12-5. 

Last week’s column about school buildings down the centuries had little to say about the people in those schools. As resources, the Maynard Public Library has copies of the town’s annual reports back to 1871, each with a subsection on the school system. Also useful, the Maynard Historical Society has a sizeable collection of the high school yearbooks, all of which have been scanned and can be read in their entirety on-line.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, town population 1800, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street, now site of the library. High school enrollment was 35 students.

Twenty-one years later. the high school graduating class of 1892 chose orange and black as the school colors. (The Town of Maynard decided on official town colors of blue and white in 1917. Who knew?)  Mr. E. Elmer Galger, principal and acting superintendent, was paid a salary of $1,061. At that time, state law required that a child shall go to school twenty weeks in each year until 14 years old (changed to 16 years old in 1913). Not until 1898 did state law prohibit children under 14 year of age doing factory work. Farm work had no age limit. Few students completed 12 years of schooling. Often, their parents encouraged them to leave school and get a job in order to supplement the family income. Circa 1910-20, the graduating class numbered in the teens.

Graduating class of 1917, Maynard High School, 
Maynard, MA (courtesy historical society)
The 1918-19 school year saw schools suspended for five weeks as part of the national effort to contain the influenza pandemic. In Maynard, deaths attributed to influenza/pneumonia amounted to a bit under one percent of the population. Nationwide, deaths were estimated at 0.6 to 0.8 percent of the population of 105 million.   

School annual reports provide information on peaks and valleys in school enrollment, and also on the quality of education. There had been a huge spike in births 1900-1920, reflecting a tripling in the town’s population after the American Woolen Company bought and expanded the woolen mill, and also built and rented houses in the “Presidential District.” There was a peak in school enrollment 1923-30, reaching 1,750 students. This was less than might have been expected considering births, but childhood mortality was high, and as noted, many students left school at the earliest possible age. Births were low 1930-45, not a surprise given the Great Depression and World War II. Enrollment had dropped to under 1,000 around 1943-47. Post-war, new housing on the north side of town in combination with the “Baby Boom” reaching a peak 1960-75, led to school enrollment cresting at 2,100 around 1968-75. Once the “Boom” children were past school years, enrollment dropped to around 1250 for 1986-93, and then recovered to the mid-teens, where it remains.

The 1909 annual report mentioned that among 14 neighboring towns, Maynard had by far the lowest school budget at $22,000. Come 1937, the budget was $98,000, and of a state survey of 83 towns, Maynard was 73rd in expenditure per student. Year after year after year, the school superintendents’ annual reports mentioned that Maynard lost teachers to other towns that paid more   

Alumni Field became the school's sports site long before the high school moved to the south side of town. In 1928, while Maynard High School was still at the Summer Street location, the town transferred the land that had been the Town Poor Farm meadow to the school department. The football team started using the new playing field for the 1928 season. Within a handful of years Alumni Field gained a cinder track around the playing field, bleachers, a field house and tennis courts.

Click on photos to enlarge
Until the mid-1960s, elementary and middle schools had morning and afternoon sessions, with children going home for lunch. Presumably their mother or another adult family member would be home days. Not until 1971 did schools start providing lunch. Also, until mid-1960s, high school hours were 8-1, with no afternoon session. Driver education started in 1949. Special Education, per new state law, started in 1955, with students initially being bused to Concord. WAVM went on the air in 1973, at 60 hours of radio broadcasting per week, with 75 licensed student broadcasters.   

Massachusetts voters endorsed the tax-increase-limiting Proposition 2-1/2 in 1980. A large impact to school operations was foreseen. In Maynard, this, in combination with a fast-declining enrollment, led to a massive disruption. In 1981, 51 positions eliminated (25 professionals and 26 non-teaching positions). Teacher:student ratios were increased. Coolidge School closed after 75 years of service.

AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION, which may have to wait for a third article, after the September 30 talk.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Maynard's Schools Through the Centuries

A chair from the "Brick
School", in the Maynard
Historical Society collection. 
Surprisingly, the two oldest school buildings – predating the creation of Maynard – are still with us. In the spelling of the era, the goals were to "teach children to rede and wright and cast accounts". Sudbury appears to have voted in 1779 to build a one-room schoolhouse for the northwest district, in 1871 moving that building farther north to what is now the intersection of Routes 27 and 117, where it served as Maynard’s “Turnpike School” until 1881. No longer a school, moved again in 1884 to corner of Concord and Acton streets – a distance of one mile – where it abides as a private home. On the Stow side of the Assabet River, District No. 5 had a school constructed in 1766: the “Brick School.” This was on Summer Street, hence became a Maynard school in 1871. It was closed the following year. It remains in place as part of the home at 101 Summer Street. Two other schools also pre-dated Maynard. One two-room building at the site of present-day Town Hall served until the town decided to replace it with its first multi-room brick school at the same site. The other, the first school on Nason Street, was lower grades, then first high school, then lower grades again.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street. Enrollment was 35 students. Six years later the high school classes relocated to a new two-room school on Acton Street, across from the east end of Main Street, leaving the Nason building to revert to elementary school.

Nason Street School (1892-2016)
The year 1892 saw a consolidation of Main, Nason, Acton and Sudbury schools into a two-story, twelve-room, wooden building at the Nason Street site, on the same stone foundation that is now the first floor of the Maynard Public Library. For a time, this was Maynard’s only school building, serving all grades.

The mill went bankrupt in 1898, then purchased and reopened in 1899 by the American Woolen Company. Expansion added the very large Building No. 5 on the south side of the millpond in 1902. The workforce grew, as did the town’s population: from 3,142 in 1900 to 6,390 in 1910. The population explosion of school-age children, especially in the Presidential Village housing development of 1901-03, led to the construction of new, brick-constructed schools at the Main Street site (1903) and on Bancroft Street (1906). The first was renamed Woodrow Wilson School in 1932. The second had a second floor of four more classrooms added in 1910 and was renamed Calvin Coolidge School in 1932.        

Remains of the Nason Street School fire
September 20, 1916, a nighttime fire brought an end to the Nason Street School. This was attributed to arson, as there had been a less damaging fire at the school just a week earlier. All that was left standing were the two brick chimneys. For a disaster, the timing was good. Three years earlier the town had voted to build a new high school, the site later chosen on Summer Street. The two-story brick building – currently the east wing of ArtSpace, was built at a cost of $61,500 and occupied October 2, 1916. This was the high school through 1964. A new, brick, elementary school was constructed at Nason Street, atop the foundation of the fire site. It opened fall of 1918, named Roosevelt School 1919. It served as a school through 1988, stood empty almost 20 years, resurrected as the Maynard Public Library, July 2006.

Meanwhile, back on Summer Street, the Town of Maynard, in its wisdom, decide to redirect a stream that flowed next to the high school into an underground storm sewer and build a junior high school, auditorium and gymnasium atop it (probably contributes to why ArtSpace is flood prone). The junior high opened January 1926, named Emerson Junior High School in 1932. After the high school moved to its new south-side campus in 1964, half the building became Fowler Elementary School and the whole complex became known as Emerson-Fowler School. In time, the junior high school took over the entire building as Fowler Middle School, remaining as such until the end of 2000.

Coolidge School originally built as one story
Back on Main Street, Wilson School was closed in 1942 because the school population had decreased dramatically, reopened in 1948 when the post-war baby boom started to arrive, and then was destroyed when a pre-dawn fire on December 17, 1952 left only the scorched brick exterior standing. This left Coolidge and Roosevelt as elementary schools.

The next phase for the Maynard school system was to create three schools adjacent to each other, on the south side of Route 117, each to have adequate parking and adjacent fields for physical education classes. Green Meadow School was first. Land was taken from Crowe Park. The school opened for the 1956-57 school year. Coolidge was kept on until 1981. A major addition to Green Meadow was approved in 1986, completed for the beginning of the 1988-89 year, which led to the closing of Roosevelt in 1988. “Maynard High School” was completed in 1964 at a cost of $1,700,000. Fowler Middle School (leave the old building, keep the name) opened in 2000. And then, in 2013, the fifth Maynard High School was replaced by the sixth Maynard High School, at a cost of $42,500,000. Note that over the years, two schools were completely destroyed by fire (Nason 1916, Wilson 1952) and three were significantly damaged (Nason 1879, Emerson-Fowler 1978, Maynard High School 1992).

Separate from the public school system: Mrs. Smith's School for Girls (1848-1857) was run by Mrs. Susan Smith at the Levi Smith place on Great Road. In 1965, Saint Bridget’s Parish opened Saint Bridget’s Parochial School in a brick building on Percival Street, on a filled-in section of the mill pond. The school was staffed by Sisters of Notre Dame, who had a modest convent near-by. The building is now home to The Imago School, a private school offering a Christian faith-based education for grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.


Yes, correct spelling "current"

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

You've Been Wet Before (Maynard MA: Rain 2021)

Growing up in New Jersey suburbia, with three boys separated by a total of five years, plus a younger sister, we boys often got a command from our mother: “Go outside and play.” If we answered back with “But it’s raining,” The rejoinder was “You’ve been wet before.”

Which was true. We lived in a town that would in time become a bedroom suburb of 30,000, but at that time was a hamlet of maybe 5,000 containing abandoned farms gone to woodland, crisscrossed by old stone walls, dotted by depressions that had been root cellars, and wetted by creeks, springs and ephemeral (‘vernal’) ponds. Of course we got wet. How else could you catch frogs? We also got scratched by branches, fell out of trees, and suffered poison ivy mightily. There were broken limbs. There were stitches.  

Even constrained to the yard (“Don’t go anywhere, dinner soon.”) we still managed to get adventurously hurt, for there was stilt walking, unicycle riding, a tightrope wire set (low) between two trees, etc. Hatchet throwing, knife throwing and ninja stars were hard on trees, but luckily, we managed to avoid bloody messes. Mostly. My index finger fingerprint has a line through the center, dating back some 50-ish years. Trying to wiggle a knife out of a tree truck, it would have been wise to realize that the blade was sharp on both sides, all the way to the hilt.   

Debris jammed at bridges forced the flood waters 
over the banks, to gather more debris, to jam at
the next bridge. (Waverly, TN 2021)
As for when wet gets to be a problem, the recent disaster in Waverly, Tennessee points to the present and future problems of climate change. The math is simple: warmer air can hold more water – about seven percent for every one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit). More water vapor in the atmosphere means more moisture available to fall as rain, which leads to higher rainfall rates from severe storms. And to be precise as to what happened to Waverly, the town itself got only about two inches of rain, but the hill country to the east got as much as 17 inches in 24 hours, with a goodly part of that falling at a rate of more than 3 inches per hour, for hours. People in Waverly reported gong from seeing creek water in their yards to standing on top of their kitchen counters, water up to their waist, hoping the house stayed on its foundation. Many did not. Buildings, trailer homes and vehicles were pushed into streams where they became impromptu dams, causing the water to rise faster and spread wider.

Rain at that furious rate can happen two ways. One is a cold front displacing a warm air mass, creating a line of thunderstorms moving fast, typically without serious flooding. A second is hot and humid air rising until it reaches colder air tens of thousands of feet higher, where it condenses to rain and falls. If these cumulonimbus clouds happen to be completely stationary rather than lumbering across the countryside, all the rain falls in one place.

August 1955: Hurricane Diane. View of the Assabet River 
from the Main Street bridge, flooding into the mill buildings
(Courtesy Maynard Historical Society)
By the way, the Massachusetts record is 18.15 inches in 24 hours in Westfield, August 18-19, 1955. That was the remnants of warm, wet Hurricane Diane slow-walking across New England, resulting in a peak water level for the Assabet River that has not been surpassed in 65 years.

 According to a recent article in the New York Times, a thirty-year change in weather patterns across the United States is portrayed by a simple map: drier in the west, wetter in the east. Population growth in the west may be curtailed by lack of available water, while in the east, flood plain maps are dangerously outdated. Maynard’s flood history is severe flooding in 1927 (hurricane), 1936 (spring thaw plus rain), 1938 (hurricane) and 1955 (hurricane). More recent floods (1968, 1979, 1987 and 2010) were not as severe, primarily because federally funded flood control dams on the Assabet River and its tributaries provide several billions of gallons of holdback capacity to blunt peak high water. The greatest risk for surprise flooding in Maynard is not so much just the water volume as what can happen if downed trees in the river (of which there are several) are dislodged and end up jammed behind a bridge. This is exactly what cause the overflow and severe damage to the Waltham Street bridge in 1927. Older lifelong residents of Maynard can remember watching to see if the 1955 flood would take out any bridges.

At 10.07 inches for July, this was the second-wettest July for Boston; and the wettest for Worcester, at 13.85 inches of rain. August was abnormally rainy, and September started with 4.0 inches for Maynard from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. This could be a record year for precipitation.

What’s the difference between raining and pouring? When it’s raining, your hair gets wet. When’s pouring your underwear gets wet.    

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Thoreau Walked Thru (what later became Maynard)

On August 26, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Thoreau Walked Thru.” Register at This is the seventh in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation on April 19, 1871. The September talk will be “Schools Through the Centuries.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History”, is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, WED-SAT, 12-5.  

This stamp, issued May 23, 2017, commemorated
the 200th year anniversary of HDT's birth. The
oil painting used as its model a photograph of
Thoreau taken when he was 39 years old.
He died five years later (May 6, 1862)
Henry David Thoreau's writings contain mention of this area in 1851, documented in publication of the journals after his death as an entry "A Walk to Boon's Pond in Stow."

It begins "Sept. 4. 8 A. M.  A clear and pleasant day after the rain. Start for Boon's Pond in Stow with C." By "C" he meant William Ellery Channing, who had been a classmate at Harvard, a neighbor in Concord, and the author of the first biography of Thoreau, published in 1873. From mentions of landmarks along the way it is possible to recreate a map of their path. The round-trip distance was a tad over 20 miles, some of it on roads or along the railroad, some through farmers' fields and woods.

Outward bound, Thoreau notes that odors from the gunpowder mills made them cough. Their walk continued westward on what is now Route 62. They skirted the paper mill (now site of 7-11/Dunkin), but did not cross the river on the newish (1840) bridge, nor walk down Main Street. Instead, they turned south onto what is now Route 27, then west on Old Marlboro Road, then into what is now the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.

Click to enlarge. Boon was
killed in 1676 during Metacom's 
War (King Philip's War)
Boon's Pond, their goal, was a much smaller body of water back then, described by Thoreau as shallow and muddy looking. The pond was the namesake of Matthew Boon, who had started a farmstead in 1660. The pond drained via a short creek to the Assabet River. Some time after 1850, Amory Maynard had bought land and water rights around Boon's Pond, then built an earthen dam to raise the water level. His goal was to have additional water reserved to release to the Assabet, so as to keep his mill in operation during summer months. Decades later the wool mill converted to steam power, so less water was needed. The water level no longer dropped every summer. Campsites, rented cabins, second homes, clubhouses and resorts proliferated on the now stable shoreline of the renamed Lake Boon, popular because it could be reached by train from Boston.

On the way back, Thoreau and Channing walked along the railroad tracks, beside the Assabet River. Construction of this railroad spur off the Boston to Fitchburg line had begun in 1849, and by 1850 extended through Stow to Hudson. Thoreau complained in his journal that there was no good place to bathe for three miles because Knight’s new dam (the Ben Smith dam, constructed 1846-47) had raised and stilled the river. His description “The fluviatile trees standing dead for fish hawk perches and the water stagnant for weeds to grow in.”

They crossed what is now the White Pond Road bridge, climbed Summer Hill, then headed east on Summer Street to Concord Street, and so homeward. At the time of their visit the gunpowder, paper and wool mills of Assabet Village were the business center of a population of about 800 people, citizens of Stow or Sudbury depending on which side of the river they lived.

A typical day in the life of Henry David Thoreau might mean work in the morning, either the family’s pencil manufacturing business or later as a surveyor-for-hire, followed by an afternoon of walking and an evening of writing in his journal. In his own words: “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” He became alarmed if he found that he had gotten a mile of so in the woods, but his mind was still filled with thoughts of his obligations in the village.

“Walking” was the title of one of his essays. His first public reading was at the Concord Lyceum on April 23, 1851. Between 1851 and 1860 Thoreau read from the piece a total of ten times, more than any other of his lectures. “Walking” was published in the June 1862 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, shortly after his death from tuberculosis at age 44. The essay’s length is slightly more than 12,000 words. Various internet sources have the complete essay available on line – some with researchers’ annotations. He was aware, however, that his Massachusetts terrain was not true wildness, but rather a post-colonial return of once-farmed land to meadow, woodlot and forest. Civilization had led to local extinction of bears, mountain lions, wolves, deer, turkeys and beaver, so the largest wild animal Thoreau might sight would be a fox.

One dozen Thoreau pencils, with the original
paper wrapping, in the collection of the 
New England Historical Society
Wait, wait…pencils??? Charles Dunbar, brother-in-law to Henry’s father, John Thoreau, was in the pencil-making business from 1823 onward. Natural deposits of graphite, then called ‘plumbago,’ were mined. If very pure, the graphite was cut into rods, encased in wood (two pieces, glued together), to make a pencil. If not of highest quality, the graphite was ground fine, then mixed with a binding agent such as hard wax, encased in wood, to make a not-very-satisfactory pencil. The Thoreau ‘factory’ was in a shed behind the house.

After finishing his education at Harvard (in part paid for by pencils) Henry took it upon himself to make a better pencil. He either learned about a European process or developed it independently, to mix clay with the graphite, resulting in pencils of varying hardness depending on the ratio of clay to graphite. Henry also invented a means to collect only thoroughly ground graphite. A wooden tower was erected over the grinding apparatus, and a fan was directed to gently blow from the bottom upward. A collecting shelf was at the top. Only the smallest particles accrued on the shelf, the larger falling back to the grinder to be further milled. 

Thoreau pencils came be known at the best-made pencils in America. The high-quality plumbago was also used in electrotyping (an electroplating process). With a different ambition. Thoreau could have expanded the factory, hired more people, and become very wealthy. Instead, the business was kept modest – enough to provide the Thoreau family with a middle-class lifestyle – thus allowing for Henry to hie off to Walden Pond for two years, and in general, to use his afternoons for wandering and his evenings for writing.

At auction in 2018, an authenticated Thoreau pencil sold for more than $1,400.          

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Thoreau: Bibliography and Quotations on Walking


Thoreau's journal for 1851. His walk thru what became Maynard is the entry for September 4th. 

Carl Bode (ed.), Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau - enlarged edition  John Hopkins University Press, (2010), ISBN 978-0801895708.

Thoreau himself was ambivalent about the work of poetry:

My Life Has Been the Poem (1841)

My life has been the poem I would have writ/But I could not both live and utter it. 

Don Marquis (1878-1937) expressed the same conflict in a shorter timeframe:

I never think at all when I write. Nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well. 

Images of his land surveys (in the collection of the Concord Library) #107a is the Concord River, but it described the Sudbury River as the upstream part of the Concord River, and the Assabet as the North River. Describes three visits to Maine.

Henry Thoreau as Remembered by a Young Friend               Edward Emerson, (1917)

Edward was a son of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had been a mentor to Thoreau. This collection of notes and observations >10,000 words. 



"As for walking, the inhabitants of large English towns are confined almost exclusively to their parks and to the highways. The few footpaths in their vicinities 'are gradually vanishing,' says Wilkinson, 'under the encroachments of the proprietors.' He proposes that the people’s right to them be asserted and defended and that they be kept in a passable state at the public expense. 'This,' says he, 'would be easily done by means of asphalt laid upon a good foundation'!!! So much for walking, and the prospects of walking, in the neighborhood of English large towns.

"Think of a man—he may be a genius of some kind—being confined to a highway and a park for his world to range in! I should die from mere nervousness at the thought of such confinement. I should hesitate before I were born, if those terms could be made known to me beforehand. Fenced in forever by those green barriers of fields, where gentlemen are seated! Can they be said to be inhabitants of this globe? Will they be content to inhabit heaven thus partially?"


“The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.”

“It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, now-a-days, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours and come round again at evening to the old hearth side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk.”

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements… When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shop-keepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them — as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon — I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.”

“But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours — as the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day. If you would get exercise go in search of the springs of life. Think of a man’s swinging dumb-bells for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far off pastures unsought by him.”

“I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations, and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is; I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”

“SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,’ to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, ‘There goes a Sainte-Terrer,’ a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.”

“At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only, — when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps and other engines invented to confine men to the public road, and walking over the surface of God’s earth shall be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman’s grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days come.”

“I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold, gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow east-ward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow.”

“My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many years I have walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together, I have not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness, and I can still get this any afternoon.”

"The Old Marlborough Road" (Thoreau poem)

Old Marlboro Road in Maynard, MA. Click to enlarge.
Maynard did not become a town until 1871, so the road
predates the town by several centuries.
This entry (first posted March 2017) is about connecting Henry David Thoreau's poem "The Old Marlborough Road" to the factual people and places named. See below for final version of the poem. Marlborough is a Massachusetts town 16.5 miles from Concord.  Both towns date to the 1600s, so a road could be 'old' in 1850.

Thoreau created a lecture entitled "Walking," first delivered at the Concord Lyceum on April 23, 1851. He spoke on the topic close to a dozen times, revising the presentation as years passed, so it is referred to in some descriptions has having been written 1851-1860. As a published work, which includes the poem, "Walking" first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1862, shortly after his death. The entire essay is available at several websites, including: 

What is unknown is whether the poem was ever part of the lecture presentations, or only added to the essay for publication. Research on this would require locating and transcribing lecture manuscripts. The Concord Public Library Special Collections does have Thoreau's handwritten manuscript of "Walking" as submitted for publication. The poem - in his sister's handwriting - has no mark-ups or amendments. (Thoreau was ill/dying from tuberculosis as he worked on this and other writings that were published posthumously. His sister helped by making clean copy for some parts of his marked up drafts). The manuscript does differ in a minor way from what was actually published: the poem's title and spelling throughout were "Old Marlboro Road."

An earlier version of the poem can be found as an 1850 journal entry with the title already set, but missing the first eight lines, and with extra lines, later cut. What in the final version are the important last four lines instead were located in the middle, just before "Nobody repairs it." The journal version of the poem can be found on line at various sites, including pages 54-56 of the Bradford Torrey edition of the journals, covering 1850 thru September 1851. See:

Elsewhere, as recorded in Thoreau's journal on September 4, 1851, he and William Ellery Channing walked on parts of the old road to Marlborough as part of their trek to Boon's Pond. Thoreau mentions that he had walked in this general direction many times - he described it as a tendency to head west or southwest once stepping out his door - but not as far as the destination of that specific trek. He described the road to Marlborough as "little-frequented," and no more than a woodman's cart path. [Torrey edition, pp.452-462]

The beginning of OLD MARLBORO Road in Concord,
near Emerson Hospital. 
The road exists again, paved, and named Old Marlboro Road. It wends west from near Emerson Hospital, cuts across the north corner of Sudbury as Powers Road, continues as Old Marlboro Road in Maynard, where it ends at the east border of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. Within the Refuge, it continues as a trail named Winterberry Way; then out the west site yclept Bruen Road, White Pond Road and finally Concord Road all the way to the center of Marlborough.

As to how old the road was, and why it had fallen into disuse, Marlborough officially became a town in 1660. By 1663, Sudbury records describe an intent to create a road to "Marlbrow." The road from Concord to Marlborough, across the northern part of Sudbury, became a major route for stagecoaches transporting farm produce, freight and people. From 1685 to 1815, Rice Tavern, Sudbury, was at the crossroads of the Concord-Marlborough and the Sudbury-Lancaster roads. But by Thoreau's time a new road had been built farther south. Rice Tavern had reverted to a farmhouse, torn down in 1942.  

While the theme of the poem is that by stepping out on disused/abandoned roads - as was already true of the old road to Marlborough in his day - you are in effect traveling on any road and every road, the poem also contains factual references specific to Thoreau's time and place. Martial Miles owned land near the road (Martial Mile's Swamp mentioned elsewhere in Journals). Elijah Wood (1790-1861) was a life-long resident of Concord, descendant of one of the founding families; his son, Elijah Wood, Jr. (1816-1882), was a contemporary of Thoreau. Why Thoreau wrote "And Elijah Wood/I fear for no good" is a mystery. Perhaps aware of Wood's pending death.

Elisha Dugan was a free Negro, never married, son of Thomas Dugan, an escaped slave who had become a landowner in Concord. The Dugan family history is described at length in Black Walden, by Elise Lemire. In the poem's context, "Close to the bone" would have meant in poverty/destitute.

"Not many there be/Who enter therein/Only the guests of the/Irishman Quin," Sudbury archives show James and Zana Quin on various town records (qualified voter, taxes). James, born in Ireland, died 1848. His wife died 1866. The house, on the old road to Marlborough may have gone to a son or relative, as an 1856 Middlesex county map shows Riley Quinn.

Possible that Thoreau passed this stone on his way from Concord to the start of
Old Marlborough Road. This is facing west, as the intersection of Route 62 and
and Old Road to Nine Acre Corner. Follow ORNAC across Route 2, then turn
right onto Old Marlboro before getting to  Emerson Hospital. The faint grooves
on the left face indicate this piece of granite was split and shaped by hand.
Granite markers: Thoreau's "Great guide-boards of stone" - were common then, and many still stand to this day. Some of these indicated town borders. Many Massachusetts towns have by-laws that require the Selectmen or their representatives to periodically confirm such stones' locations and status. Other reasons for a stone post would be to have directional arrows pointing toward towns, and perhaps mileage. One stone could serve both purposes.    

Esther Howe Wheeler's book, Nature - A Thoreau Country, (1965) has her circa 1940s photo of a large granite marker post besides the dirt road. The Concord Public Library Special Collections has a photo dated November 7, 1899, showing the same stone and calling it an Old Marlborough Road guide post. And yet more! The second (1892) edition of Old Concord: Her Highways and Byways, by Margaret Sidney (pen name of Harriet M. Stone), tells of visiting Martial Mile's House, passing by the remnants of the house of Irishman Quin, and taking her horse and carriage on the Old Marlborough Road, which she described as in poor repair. An artist's rendering in the book (pp. 176-178: shows the same stone marker as in the photographs. With a magnifying glass it is possible to discern "← 12 MARLBORO" and "→ 4 CONCORD" on one face of the stone. A recent drive-by found no stone marker at the road's boundary between Concord and Sudbury, which is four miles distant from the center of Concord.

The poem mentions Gourgas, Lee, Clark and Darby as Selectmen. Massachusetts towns elect men and women (only men back then) as Selectmen rather than electing a mayor. Francis Richard Gourgas was part of Concord government as Postmaster, Selectman and Town Clerk, also a Senator in the Massachusetts Legislature. Thoreau had surveyed land for him. Daniel Clark, Joseph Darby and Isaac S. Lee were identified in town annual reports as Selectmen serving prior to 1850 (first known date of poem, their names already included in that version).

The first two lines of the poem as published in 1862: 
       Where they once dug for money,
       But never found any;

Some interpreters took this as meaning people used to travel the road on business, which takes aim at the first line but elides the second. More likely Thoreau was referring to a Concord buried treasure legend.

In an 1856 journal entry, there is a sentence "On Money-Diggers’ Shore, much large yellow lily root washed up; that white root with white fibres and yellowish leaf buds." The text has no location, but the 1906 Gleason map of things Thoreau puts Money Diggers' Shore as squarely within Concord, on the west shore of the Sudbury River, near the start of Old Marlboro Road. Three other journal entries (1856, 1858, 1859) make mention of plants found growing on Money-Diggers' Hill without any clues as to location. A good guess is where Emerson Hospital is located.

Thoreau's Nov 5, 1854 journal entry has a description of the legend of pirate treasure buried near John Hosmer's hollow. That would be near the west shore of the Sudbury River, in Concord. Hosmer and a friend had come across a pit some six by six feet, and as deep. They explained to Thoreau that there were old stories of pirate treasure, and that people had been digging near the river for a hundred years. Thoreau revisited the treasure story in a December 1856 journal entry: "Am pleased to see the holes where men have dug for money, since they remind me that some are dreaming still like children, though of impracticable things - dreaming of finding money, and trying to put their dream into practice. It proves that men live Arabian nights and days still. I would they should have that kind of faith than none at all."

THE OLD MARLBOROUGH ROAD (as published, 1862)
Where they once dug for money,
But never found any;
Where sometimes Martial Miles
Singly files,
And Elijah Wood,
I fear for no good:
No other man,
Save Elisha Dugan,—
O man of wild habits,
Partridges and rabbits,
Who hast no cares
Only to set snares,
Who liv'st all alone,
Close to the bone,
And where life is sweetest
Constantly eatest.
When the spring stirs my blood
With the instinct to travel,
I can get enough gravel
On the Old Marlborough Road.
Nobody repairs it,
For nobody wears it;
It is a living way,
As the Christians say.
Not many there be
Who enter therein,
Only the guests of the
Irishman Quin.
What is it, what is it,
But a direction out there,
And the bare possibility
Of going somewhere?
Great guide-boards of stone,
But travellers none;
Cenotaphs of the towns
Named on their crowns.
It is worth going to see
Where you might be.
What king
Did the thing,
I am still wondering;
Set up how or when,
By what selectmen,
Gourgas or Lee,
Clark or Darby?
They 're a great endeavor
To be something forever;
Blank tablets of stone,
Where a traveller might groan,
And in one sentence
Grave all that is known;
Which another might read,
In his extreme need.
I know one or two
Lines that would do,
Literature that might stand
All over the land,
Which a man could remember
Till next December,
And read again in the spring,
After the thawing.
If with fancy unfurled
You leave your abode,
You may go round the world
By the Old Marlborough Road.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Utility Poles ("Telephone Poles")

Street 59 (Maple), pole #1
For people of a certain age, those wooden things with wires were called “telephone poles,” even though the essential function was to deliver electric power. Equally dated, we say we are going to ‘dial’ a telephone number even though rotary dial, landline phones are also history. Pushing history further back, these were “telegraph poles.” A scant few years after Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, he had a proof-of-concept grant from the federal government to build a wires-on-poles connection between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. This and early versions of “Morse Code” were operative in 1844. By 1850, some 12,000 miles of telegraph wires crisscrossed the United States. Thoreau’s journal has a note that the telegraph reached Concord in August, 1851. An entry from the diary of Harlan Maynard – Amory’s youngest son – confirms Assabet Village had telegraph service by 1857 (perhaps earlier). Creosote was already being used to preserve railroad ties, so the same means was carried over to telegraph poles.

The website is a trove of more information than one could possibly want, unless actually employed it the utilities business. There are an estimated 150 million poles in place in the North America. Lifespan depends on climate – short for the hot and humid deep South, moderate for Massachusetts. Three tree species make up the great majority of what is used in the U.S.: Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Southern Pine. Trees that meet the standards are debarked, shaped to be round and straight, then loaded into a container that will be filled with one of the several approved preservatives. Pressure and heat are applied to sterilize the wood (killing all insects, bacteria and fungi), and permeate the wood with preservative chemicals. The chemicals are approved and regulated by the EPA. Creosote, long-time used to preserve utility poles and railroad ties, is no longer used, and pentachlorophenol (“penta”) is on the verge of being phased out. It should go without saying that old utility poles and railroad ties should not be burned for firewood, nor for outdoor bonfires.

Safe lifespan calls for poles to retain 2/3 of their original required design strength. This is determined by periodic inspection and treatment. Most utilities inspect on a ten-year cycle. Poles in Maynard appear to be on a seven-year cycle, as indicated by oval aluminum tags that read “OSMOSE INSP.,” with a year, and also “MITC-FUME.” The latter indicates that the poles have been treated with an anti-fungal compound via angled holes drilled near ground, a slow-release cylinder inserted, and then capped with a plastic plug. With this preventive treatment, utility poles can last more than 50 years.

Utility pole inspection tags: 2007, 2014
Other tags will indicate a number for a street, a number indicating each pole on the street, and often the name of the company responsible for maintaining the pole. On older poles these tags can be tin, and you might see “BOSTON EDISON” or “NET&TCo.,” for New England Telephone and Telegraph. On newer poles, badges can be plastic, or even coded markings burned into the wood.

A few odds and ends: If your vehicle breaks a pole your insurance will be charged for a replacement. Poles at corners provide support for yard sale and lost pet signs, evidenced by the hundreds of staples and nails. One too-common sight in Maynard are double poles, meaning old poles next to the replacements, because some of the wires have not yet been transferred. In theory, double-pole situations are supposed to be resolved by the utility companies within 90 days, but there is currently no state law imposing fines.

As to finding the oldest utility pole in Maynard, limit your search to the narrower diameter, creosote-treated poles that still have climbing spikes, then look for date nails, hammered in facing the street, about six feet off the ground. These have two-digit numbers signifying the twentieth century year the poles were installed. Many are missing – taken for souvenirs.  Oldest I’ve found is a ’38, meaning the pole was installed 83 years ago. If you find older, write a letter to the newspaper.  

South of the Cumberland Farms gas station, on Route 27, there is a tall wooden pole with climbing spikes but no wires. The land around it belonged to Boston Edison – once the provider of electric power to Maynard. Climbing to the top of the pole was part of the job application process. Several mergers later, BE is Eversource.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Kansas City Skywalk Disaster

Forty years ago (July 17, 1981) two of three atrium-spanning ‘skywalks’ at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, collapsed onto a crowded dance event, resulting in 114 deaths and 216 people injured. The hotel had been open for one year. The skywalks design called for a fourth-floor span 120 feet long, a third-floor span of the same length, offset to one side, and a second-floor span directly under the top span. Each walkway weighed about 64,000 pounds. The walkways were was suspended from the roof of the building by three pairs of steel rods, each 1.25 inches in diameter, attached to steel beams that crossed under the walkways.  

To right, the 4th and 2nd floor skywalks, fallen
to the atrium floor. The bottom of the 3rd floor
 skywalk is top, center. Click to enlarge photos.
Approximately 1,600 people had gathered in the atrium for a tea dance. The second-level walkway held about 40 people, with an additional 16 to 20 on the fourth. Just before the disaster, guests heard popping noises and a loud crack. The fourth-floor walkway dropped several inches, paused, then fell completely. It and the second-floor walkway landed on the crowded atrium floor.

Did the roof collapse? Did the rods pull out at the top? Did the rods break? No, no, and no. Months of investigation concluded that the structural failure was a consequence of a cascade of human errors. The architect’s original design called for rods to pass through three steel cross-beams supporting the upper skywalk and continue to cross-beams underneath the lower skywalk. For each skywalk, nuts threaded on the rods would be under the beams, the full weight of the skywalk supported by these nuts. The company contracted to manufacture the rods objected. For nuts to be in place under the upper skywalk beams meant that the entire length of the rod from the end supporting the lower skywalk all the way to the upper skywalk would need to be threaded, so the nuts at the upper level could be rotated up the rods from the bottom.

Right side image shows what 
was actually built. Center image
shows the welds.
Their counterproposal was to have one set of six rods suspending the fourth-floor walkway from the roof and a second set suspending the second-floor walkway from the fourth-floor walkway. An engineer at the architecture firm approved the proposed change via a phone call without performing necessary calculations or viewing sketches that would have revealed its serious intrinsic flaw. So, failure because – oops! – rather than three cross-beams under each skywalk, each supported on two nuts affixed to the descending rods, the revised design meant that the lower skywalk was hanging from the upper skywalk. This doubled the weight exerted on the nuts holding the upper skywalk in place. ["2P on nut" in diagram]

This horrific flaw was compounded by the fact that the design of the cross-beams had also been changed. For each cross-beam, two pieces, each shaped like a squared-off letter “C” were designed to be welded to each other along the edges, creating a rectangle. The design call for the welds to be on the sides, so that the holes drilled for the support rods would go through solid metal. Instead, the rectangular cross-beams were set under the skywalks with the welds on top and bottom, so that the drilled holes went through the welds. The collapse came when the upper beams separated at the weld line, allowing the nuts to slip through, leaving the upper rods still firmly attached to the roof. Lawsuits were filed. Court reports stated that in the process of going from initial design to completed construction, architects and engineers each believed that someone else had performed safety calculations. As there was no formal review process to track all changes, this never happened.

Has Maynard’s history been marred by any construction design flaws that led to a catastrophic event? There has been a slew of building fires, but there is no reason to believe that causes were other than mishaps with wood stoves, coal stoves, kerosene lamps and candles (or arson, at least two, likely more). There are mentions of bridges being destroyed by floods, but those were natural disasters.

The 105-year history of gunpowder manufacture at American Powder Mills, located on the Maynard/Acton border on both sides of Route 62, was marred by explosive disasters. In fact, between 1835 and 1943, there were at least 26 explosions, 30 deaths. Newspaper reports mention windows broken in Maynard, explosions heard in Concord, and workers’ body parts being collected in buckets (funerals were closed-casket). The salient point about gunpowder manufacture was that explosions were a given, so by design, the plan was to minimize damage.

Click to enlarge. The wheels would rotate and the 
dish they were suspended above would revolve,
to mix the dampened ingredients. Too dry, or if
the stone wheel created a spark if it touched the
dish, and there would be an explosion.
Rather than one large complex, 20-25 or so small buildings were spread out over 400 acres. The buildings were constructed with large beams, reinforced with iron rods, but the walls were light wood planking. This way, a modest explosion would blow off the walls but leave the rest standing, to be restored. Distancing meant that one explosion would not set off others. This did not always succeed; a New York Times article told of five deaths in a multi-building series of explosions on May 3, 1898.   

The black powder manufacturing process in brief: potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal are each milled separately to a fine powder then mixed together while dampened with water. The blend is pressed to remove water, the presscake then broken into the desired coarseness in the kernel house (coarse for cannons, fine for guns), sieved to remove dust, resulting grains glazed with graphite to prevent sticking in humid air, further dried, and then packed into copper-nailed oak barrels or tin containers. Workers considered the kernel-house the most dangerous, the drying-house next.

Shattered beams and bent iron rods from when an
explosion had destroyed a building. The 2,000 
pound grinding wheel was blown yards away.
Anything that might cause a spark was a dire risk, so workers changed from shoes with nailed soles to moccasins upon arriving at work. Wagon wheels did not have iron rims, and were pulled by mules with unshod feet. For night work – the mixing of ingredients being a long process – kerosene lamps were hung on hooks outside windows rather than being brought into the buildings. During the 6 to 8 hours of mixing, an attendant must be present at all times to add water whenever the mix starts to get too dry. Sitting in a chair could lead to fatally inattentive sleep, so the watchers were provided with one-legged stools.

The remnants of a building pictured to the left can be seen along a path that starts at the canoe launch area located on the south side of Route 62.    

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Dance Cards (Maynard, MA 1890-1910)

Associated Templars, 1895
Dance cards were used by women to record the names of the gentlemen with whom they intended to dance each successive dance with at a formal ball. A dance card was typically a small booklet with a decorative cover and a list of the scheduled dances. The cover indicated the sponsoring organization. A short pencil was attached via a cord, used by the women to write the names of their dance partners. The card would also serve as a souvenir of the woman’s evening.

The use of dance cards originated in central Europe during the 18th century, but their use first became widespread in 19th-century Vienna, spreading from there westward to France and England in the 1830s, and then across the ocean. Here in the U.S., the practice became common in the decades following the Civil War, gradually coming to an end circa 1910, with some persistence into the 1920 at dances held at colleges. In a society without inherited nobility, proper etiquette became the yardstick by which the lower and middle classes emulated the behavior of the upper classes. From one description:

Masons, Charles A. Welch Lodge
1891 (click to enlarge images)
“The act of asking a lady to dance had to be carefully orchestrated. A gentleman should stand at a comfortable distance from the lady, bow slightly toward her and request the honor of her presence as a dancing partner. He should never be hasty or overly sure of himself, and should never ask the same lady to accompany him for more than four dances; as such a degree of informality is improper in a ballroom. Furthermore, he should always be well acquainted with a dance before participating, since any mistakes he makes during a dance put his partner in an awkward position. A lady, in turn, should not refuse a gentleman's offer unless she has already accepted another's proposal.”

A fascinating part of Maynard’s musical history is a collection of dance cards in the Maynard Historical Society Archive. These can be viewed online by searching the archive on the term “dance.”  Dance cards were popular at dances held here in Maynard (and in neighboring towns) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The cards would name the organization sponsoring the dance, name the performing band, the program, etc. These would include a list of the 16-24 dances to be conducted that evening.

One supposes that men would also have their own pencils and a slip of paper, to keep track of whom they had committed to dance with. Failing to show up at the scheduled time would be a serious faux pas. The managers of these dances were always listed on invitations and on the dance cards, showing that a dance was indeed an important social activity that required thorough planning and organization. What is shocking to our imagination is how late these dances went on. A program could start with a concert from 8-9 p.m., followed by dancing, an intermission at midnight to allow for a light meal, and then dancing continuing to 2, 3, or even 4 a.m.! No alcoholic beverages served. As to types of dances, typically half were describes as versions of Quadrilles (a square dance for four couples), the others being couples dances such as Waltz, Polka, Galop, Schottische or Newport.

List of dances at a 
"GAL-U-MET" dance
Many of these dances were by invitation. Basically, the organizations (Masons, Templars, Caldonian Club…) held dances so that their members’ single daughters and sons could meet other people of the same social class. Others were admittance by ticket – 25 to 35 cents – not sounding like much until one learns that average mill workers’ wages were a bit under two dollars a day.

An interesting oddity is that in leap years, some of the dances reversed roles – men would have dance cards, women would approach them to reserve a dance, men were expected to remain seated until escorted to the dance floor, then returned to their seats either immediately after the dance or at the end of a conversation with that dance’s partner, the woman reserving the right to terminate the conversation if she found it uninteresting, saying no more than “Excuse me for a moment.”

Remnant from the dance card era, people still say “My dance card is full” to indicate that they day is already fully scheduled, also “Please pencil me in” as a request for an appointment later in the day or days to come. Oddly, the very concept and use of a pencil is becoming as obsolete as a dance card.

Mark and his wife met at a dance, the reason being both being quite tall, their eyes met across the crowded dance floor, over the heads of others.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Music in Maynard - The Band(s) Played On

On July 22, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “And the Band(s) Played On.” Register at This is the sixth in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation on April 19, 1871. The August talk will be “Thoreau Walked Thru.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History”, is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, WED-SAT, 12-5.  

Maynard Fife, Drum and Bugle Corp, 1898
in Boston to honor soldiers returning from
Spanish-American War. Click to enlarge.
Music has been an essential part of Maynard before Maynard was Maynard. The town's inaugural parade featured the Eagle Cornet Band of Iola Lodge and the Amateur Brass Band. The Maynard Brass Band came into being in 1875, reorganized in 1884 as the Maynard Military Brass Band. The Finnish Imatra Band formed in 1898, the Finnish National Band in 1910. Waino Kauppi (1898-1932), a child prodigy on the cornet, with the Imatra Band, went on to be a featured and recorded soloist with the Goldman Band and Edwin J. McEnelly's Orchestra. Various fife and drum corps, choral groups and glee clubs also entertained Maynard during the first half of the twentieth century.

Waino Kauppi, 
cornet player

In 1904, Abel Haynes donated a bandstand to the Maynard Military Band. It stood at the corner of Walnut and Main Streets and was illuminated by electric lights – electricity courtesy of the woolen mill. Concerts were Wednesday evenings, June through Labor Day. Hundreds of people would stand in the streets (or sit, if they brought chairs) to listen to the music. This was not as traffic-disruptive as one might think, as there were fewer than a dozen cars in all of Maynard. However, the crowd did have to make way periodically for the Main Street trolley. Sadly, a feud erupted over which bands could use the bandstand. While MMB claimed it ‘owned’ the bandstand, it stood on town property. The town called for sharing. Until the dispute could be resolved, the bandstand was moved on June 4, 1915, to a yard on Acton Street. It never returned. A fieldstone bandstand was constructed in Crowe Park in 1939, torn down in the 1990s. Music performances are now held in Memorial Park.

Dance card, International Order of 
Odd Fellows (IOOF). 1892
A fascinating part of Maynard’s musical history is a collection of dance cards in the archives of the Maynard Historical Society. Dance cards were popular at dances held in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dance organizers would print have printed small pamphlets to describe a dance event, the performing band, the program, etc. These would include a list of 16-24 dances. Single women attending the dance would have these dance cards, with a small pencil attached, so that men could approach them and ask to be scheduled for specific dances. From this practice, we still have the sayings “My dance card is full” and “I’ll pencil you in.”  

In addition to Maynard’s own bands, choruses and glee clubs, innumerable were the times that organizations in town brought in dance orchestras for dances. The Historical Society has in its collection posters for dance marathons, masked balls, and even “Battle of Music” events, at which two bands would play, and attendees would vote for the best. The Music Hall, better known at “The Rink” (1885-1912; destroyed by fire), was a dance venue that also hosted roller skating, basketball games, etc. The site became Tutto’s Bowling Alleys, later home to a catering business, now a marijuana store.

Sheet music for
At times, there were problems. November 14, 1913, the weekly local newspaper The Maynard News carried this item: “At the Selectmen’s meeting Wednesday evening, it was decided that the objectional dances which have been indulged in in the dance halls in this village must be stopped. All parties holding dances in the future will be notified that these objectionable and so-called animal dances are prohibited and must not be permitted in any dance hall in this municipality… in this action for a cleaner and better Maynard.”

The “Animal Dance” craze was directly related to the popularity of ragtime music, derived from African-American traditions, with a syncopated beat. Maynard was not alone in prohibiting provocative dances. In 1912, New York City placed the Grizzly Bear under a "social ban", along with other "huggly-wiggly dances" like the Bunny Hug, Texas Tommy and the Boston Dip.

The Maynard school system offered and offers many opportunities for the musically inclined. The Concert Band, Pep/Marching band and Concert Chorus are credit-earning courses, while the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Honors Chorus and A Capella Choir are non-credit electives. The school functions are supported in part by the Maynard Music Association.

Cap'n Swing, with a few member changes, 
became The Cars, also recorded in Maynard.
Worth a mention: Once upon a time, gods and demigods of rock and roll walked the streets of Maynard. It was the 1970s. Aerosmith, The Talking Heads, Cap’n Swing, The Cars, Tommy Bolin Band, Johnny Barnes, Thundertrain... all recorded at The Great Northern Studio aka Northern Studio, Northern Recording Studio, Northern Sound or Northern Lights Recording Studio, upstairs at 63 Main Street. The studio was started by Peter Casperson and Bob Runstein, both out of Boston. Life at the studio must have been interesting. This from a forum post: "The first time I ever saw a 'beer machine' [soda machine stocked with cans of beer] was at Northern Sound in Maynard…I thought it was the coolest thing in the world!!!"

Also worth a mention: Verne Q Powell started Powell Flutes in Boston, in 1927. The company, still by his name although he sold it in 1961, moved to mill building #1, Maynard, in 1999, where it continues to make high-end flutes. The company was purchased by Buffet Crampton, a France-based multi-national company, in 2016, but the brand and manufacture in Maynard, continue. In 2011, Massachusetts-resident astronaut Catherine ‘Cady’ Coleman brought her silver Powell flute with her for a stint in the International Space Station. YouTube has a video of her playing a duet with Ian Anderson, of the band Jethro Tull. (He was on Earth.)  

Maynard Community Band, 2019
Present day, the Maynard Community Concert Band performs in Memorial Park. The band – all volunteer – was started in 1947. It was brought together when Louis Koski, an immigrant from Finland, a professional conductor and composer, invited musicians from the existing or defunct Maynard Military, Imatra and National Bands to become one band. In time, Koski turned over the reins to Ilmari Junno, in turn to Alexander DeGrappo, and then in 2003 to Michael Karpeichik. Musicians from surrounding towns are welcomed. The band plays a wide variety of band literature, focusing on quality concert music, standard band repertoire and modern compositions. A “Star Wars” medley is always a crowd pleaser. Before the COVID pandemic, performances include 10-12 annual outdoor summer concerts as well as spring and fall performances ending with a Holiday Christmas concert at The Sanctuary in mid-December. The 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID pandemic. In 2021, MCCB intends to resume rehearsals in September, and hopes to be able to offer a holiday Christmas concert in December.

 This is the sixth of eleven monthly Zoomed talks that Mark is giving as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration.