Monday, May 2, 2016

As I Remember Decker Hatch: Part 5

Decker did not impress me as to his mechanical abilities. Although the saw mill kept running in spite of him. Maybe because the machinery was built to last a lifetime or a number of lifetimes. On occasion, there was metal breakage due to old age and usage fatigue. If Decker couldn't fix it with some fencing wire, he would have to call in the local welder and his portable equipment. This distressed Decker because the welder didn't work for a dollar an hour!

And, bye the bye, both Decker and his son had trouble pronouncing "dollar," the L's were replaced with W's. They had no trouble with, a "buck," a "fin," or a "saw-buck," but a dollar was more like a,  "dow-wa."

Although I have no idea what broke,  I remember the welder being there more than once. Other repairs were usually tackled by his workmen, Elmer and Burt Fish. Decker would mostly oversee and provide tools.

His tools, OMG! They were as vintage as the Mill itself. The tools were carried around in an old canvas bag with leather handles. One handle was missing. I convinced Decker to make a wire handle replacement to take the strain off the existing one. Finally he did, and it was made from wire.

Some vintage Ford truck tools.

His favorite tools were two monkey wrenches. A large one, and a small one. Also, there were pliers, an adjustable wrench, and a few screwdrivers, the blade type. I don't think Decker knew what a Phillips screwdriver was, nor, had any use for one.

More vintage Ford automotive tools that I have used for over 60 years.

His next favorite tool was fencing wire or hay baling wire. A good amount could be found in his tool bag as well as seen in numerous repairs in the Mill. I remember a coil of it hanging on a wood peg in the mill.

One fall morning Decker was leaving Franklin's shop as I arrived. I said, "Good mornin Decker."

He replied, "Nothin good so far," and left, walking down Pine Street.

After I got to work, in the shop, Franklin brought me up to date. It seems Decker's yard truck, a Ford model AA, wouldn't start. That meant the workers couldn't carry out Decker's morning plans.

Frank asked me if I had my tools, and of course I did, in my car's trunk. Off we went to the Saw Mill yard and up to the disabled truck.

I put my test light to work and found no power to the starter. Decker told me a new battery was put in by his men last week, and it's been starting fine.

Next, a look at the new battery. Well, it had almost fallen to the ground and snapped the ground cable.
The battery box had long ago rotted away, and the fence wire holding it had also rotted and broke away.

Franklin had gone back to his shop,and I was left to solve the problem.

Now, back to the shop to make a plywood box for the battery, then to the Trading Post for a new ground strap. The most difficult task was removing the rusted bolt that held the ground strap. I used fence wire to hold up the plywood box supporting the battery. Oh yes, I too believed in fence wire.

I installed the new ground strap, I gave the starter button a push with the choke on, and away she went. Five seconds later, she stopped and wouldn't restart.

Well, I checked for gas and it was dry!

Off to the trading post again with my two gallon can for gas.

After gassing her up, off she went. I drove her out to the driveway.

When I returned from a late lunch, the old truck had been moved and now loaded with slabs outside of the saw shed. I never got a thank you, nor paid for the two gallons of gas.

Just another day in "Hatchville!"

by Ray Freden, Marshfield, 70 years.
Worked in Hatchville, 6 years.

"We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once."
- Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

As I Remember Decker Hatch and his son Franklin, Part 4: Cutting Salt Hay

This painting reminds me of Decker Hatch cutting hay, salt or otherwise.
Painting by Frank F. English.
I mentioned cutting salt hay in my previous blog. Alternate common name: Saltmeadow Hay, Marsh Grass, Saltmeadow Cordgrass. Its a Hay-like grass found in the upper areas of the marsh. It grows 1 to 2 feet high, green in spring and summer, and turns light brown in late fall and winter.

Decker had his share of salt hay on his property behind the airport off Ocean Street. He had a large barn where he stored his hay cutting equipment and housed his horses during the cutting season. Most of the cut hay was stored at this site.

Built by Samuel Hatch. c. Early 1880s.
Corn was also planted in the drier fields nearest the airport runway. I found it great pheasant hunting on those corn fields.

Decker used a single horse hitched to the sickle bar to cut the marsh hay and corn stalks. A team of two horses were used for heavy work and to pull the wagon loaded with marsh grass.

A wagon loaded with freshly cut salt hay.
Cutting on the lower and wet salt meadow, Decker would fit the horse with "marsh shoes." They were a strange addition to the horses hoof, and rather awkward for the horse. These were used to prevent the horse from sinking into the soft mud.

A set of marsh shoes.
There are hundreds of variations because most were made by the horse's owner. There was a pattern applied for improvement of the marsh shoe in 1876. I once had two pair of marsh shoes hanging in my barn, each pair were different.

A team of horses wearing Marsh Shoes.
Salt marsh hay uses in days past:
Roof thatching
Insulation of floors and foundations
Insulation for root cellars

Garden mulch
Shrubs and trees
Insulation of shallow wells

Decker sold salt hay to horse farms for stall litter. Others would buy the hay for mulching blueberries and strawberries. A lot of hay disappeared when Decker was away. He would deliver a truck load for twenty dollars.

After salt hay cutting was over, Decker would return his horses to his sister's barn across from the Hatch's home. His method was to hitch the pair up to the back of his truck and drive up Ocean Street to Plain Street, and down Union Street. Although Decker drove slow, this was a long haul for a pair of old horses pounding their hooves on that hard pavement.

Now lets talk of a horse of a different color.

Decker loved horse racing -- "the ponies." When the racing came to the Marshfield Fair, Decker was there. His son told me he never missed a day of racing at the  Fair.

This was Decker's hobby, and he took it seriously. No tree cutting, no sawing lumber, no farming, no hay cutting. When the horses were racing, Decker was in another world.

Rounding the first turn.
He would get a lot of kidding about the "ponies" and how much he won or lost.

A number of times, Decker would stop into Franklin's shop to chat with Frank and kill time before his dinner. By now, I was accepted somewhat, I could have conversations with him. When I got a chance I would ask, "Decker, did-ja win or lose today?"

After a bit he would respond, "Y-see, y-win some, y-lose some."

The next time he showed up, same question, "Decker, did-ja win or lose today?"

His response, "Y-see, y-lose some, y-win some." The ''ya'' was almost silent. The "ya-see" was a "yse."

Franklin once told me to pay attention to how his father arranged his answer. I have always wondered if this was a hint of his wins or loses, or just by chance?

Read his answers again. Leave your comment at the end of this blog.

 Decker must be there somewhere.  
W. Ray Freden, Marshfield, 70 years.

"Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people." - W.C. Fields.

Monday, March 21, 2016

As I Remember Decker Hatch, Part 3: Decker Was a Hard Worker.

Decker was a very hard and dedicated worker. Up early, work 'til noon, home for lunch, most of the time. Back to work at 1pm, and busy until 4pm, or later in the summer.

Decker was a small man and of slight build. He shied away from heavy tasks, leaving the hard labor to Bert and Elmer Fish, his right and left hand helpers.

There was a major job for each season. The main business was the saw mill. Pine lumber was milled from spring to freeze-up.

In the spring, there were interruptions with the cutting of June hay, and, in the fall, cutting of salt hay.

And of course, the summer gardening. Strawberries, raspberries, peas, tomatoes, corn, squash, and other crops.

The winter cash crop was rhubarb.

There were four long houses in a pine grove just off Pine Street. As I remember, in the mid 50s, only two rhubarb sheds were remaining. Two collapsed from disrepair.

The smallest shed in 1956.
Rhubarb shoots were planted in the field next to the sheds in the early summer. They were dug in the fall and stored outside where they would become dormant.

Early winter the plants were placed in trays inside the dark sheds and covered with horse manure and hay. A coal stove was fired off and tended until the plants were forced to sprout tender pink shoots. They were cut and wrapped and taken to the Boston market. That was Decker's cash crop for mid to late winter.

By 1960, the last remaining sheds fell in and no longer usable. I can remember many clumps of rhubarb growing wild all around where the sheds once were.

Heat from the coal stoves and darkness, forced the shoots.

Forced shoots are the sweetest.

by W. Ray Freden, Marshfield, 70 years.

"What New England is, is a state of mind, a place where dry humor and perpetual disappointment
blend to produce an ironic pessimism that folks from away find most perplexing." 
~ Willem Lange

Next! As I Remember Decker Hatch, Part 4: Cutting Salt Hay.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

As I Remember Decker Hatch - Part 2

Inside of Franklin's shop, 1959.

Franklin's Dad, Decker, would show up in the shop from time to time for a small repair or advice. No advice was asked from me. In fact, I wasn't even acknowledged! I was the young "whippersnapper" that didn't know anything. So I just went about my work, but eavesdropped.

Of all the silent encounters, this one took the cake. One day, just before noon, Decker came in and confronted Frank with his problem. He had a flat tire on his 1946 Chevy Truck. He wanted to take a tire off his Ford model AA yard truck and put it on the Chevy.

Well, I being a motor head, and having worked at the Seaview Garage for two years, knew it couldn't be done. I decided to offer my two cents, so I spoke up and said, "Mr Hatch . . . "

Well, without looking at me, Decker said, "My friends call me Decker!"

So I came back with, "Decker, the wheels won't interchange. The Model A Ford wheel is five lug, and the Chevy is eight lug."

Well, . . . silence. Then he asked Frank if he would take the wheels up to the Trading Post and swap tires on the rims.

Little did I know then, the Chevy tire was showing canvas and all the Ford tires were bald.

So, once again I butted in and told Decker that the tires were different sizes and wouldn't interchange either.

Well, there was silence and no comments. Out the door Decker went!

Lunch time came, and I headed out to the Trading Post for a burger. As I stopped at Union Street, I took a look down the drive to the mill and there were the two trucks jacked up in front, with wheels leaning against them. Decker and his workmen were home for lunch, so I drove down and took a look. It was sad -- two trucks, twelve bald tires, one or two showing canvas! There were no tires streetworthy, and nothing interchangeable.

The road truck
The yard truck
After  lunch, I asked Roger, the Trading Post mechanic, about the tire guy that sold used tires. I gave Roger the size for the Chevy. He said he would call and get a price.

Back to work I went. Decker showed up after lunchtime to discuss his situation with Franklin. Frank relayed my info to Decker. He asked Frank how to get the truck to Roger's for new tires? Frank looked at me and hesitated. I took the hint and told Decker to remove one of the dual rear wheels and put it up front. I'm sure Decker or his workers knew that, but it was not mentioned.

The next day at lunch, there was Decker's Chevy truck on the lift, being fitted with a set of used, driveable tires!

The next time Decker came in the shop, he did speak to me, but not by name. Oh well, all in a day's work with "Swamp Yankees."

by Ray Freden, Marshfield, 70 years.

"Knowledge and timber shouldn't be used until they are seasoned." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Next: Part 3 -- Decker was a hard worker.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

As I Remember Decker Hatch and his son Franklin. c. 1947 to 1961

As long as I can remember, my Mom and Dad would go to shop in Rockland or Brockton. We would cross town to Pine Street then turn onto Union Street. As we slowed or stopped at the end of Pine Street, my Dad would always point and say, "That's the oldest saw mill around these parts still working."

Hatch's Mill. Photo by Ray Freden.
I never saw Mr. Hatch that I remember, until my Dad went to buy some lumber in
the summer of 1947. When my Dad was in the yard selecting the lumber he needed, I wandered into
the shed where the saw was. I saw someone pitching sawdust out from under the machinery.

I said, "Hi."

He responded with a "Hi."

"I'll never get all of this out!" he exclaimed.

 He crawled out, brushed himself off and said, "Wanna see it run?"

"Yep," I responded.

He told me to stand there and don't move. I did, and didn't move.

He disappeared into the other room and then the saw started to move, . . . then faster.

He returned and climbed over the machine, then pulled a lever, and the whole machine moved toward me with a huge log on it. It then suddenly returned and a large board fell to the side. It amazed me how easily the saw cut through the log.

My father returned and we left with boards tied to the top of the car. That was my first meeting with Franklin Hatch, Decker's son. Little did I know that I would be working for Franklin nine years from then.

After WW2,  when we passed Decker Hatch's house, the front lawn was filled with lawn ornaments and whirlygigs. These were the products of Franklin Hatch, Decker's son. He developed woodworking skills and was making lawn ornaments in his Dad's cellar. He also supplemented his income by trapping the North River for muskrat, mink, otter, beaver, fox and anything legal to trap.

In 1947, Franklin got married and moved into a small home two houses up the street from his parents. While Franklin was still working for his dad, he started making picnic sets. in his cellar shop. The demand grew to the point that he needed a larger shop, and working at the mill wasn't going to support a new family.

His Dad gave him a piece of land across Pine Street, where Frank built a new shop. The picnic furniture grew and whirlygigs declined. Soon there came a demand for inside furniture, and new products were developed.

Franklin's furniture business grew to the point that he needed help. I would stop in to his shop many times because of my interest in woodworking. I had gotten laid off from a carpentry job in December of 1955. I mentioned this to Frank. He asked if I wanted a job?

"Sure do," I said. I started work on January 2nd, 1956.


Coming next, part 2 . . . when Decker would show up at Franklin's shop----

by Ray Freden
Marshfield resident 70 years

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Back Roads from Sea View, Part 3

Another Saturday trip from Seaview was out the length of Summer Street. We are now going to Scituate to shop.

If you recall in my last blog, we got to Prospect Street. and through the Hills.

That's Summer Street in the center & left side,  the "S" curve. The East Marshfield Railroad Station is on the left, at the tree line. The old wood street sign is just showing on the left foreground
So around the ''S'' curve at the bottom of Prospect Street and up the long hill. On the right was a marsh fed by the Hannah Eames brook and high tide water. This became become Murdocks Pond in 1958. It had nothing to do with supplying water for the trains. A huge colonial home stands looking over the now pond.

As we climb the hill, houses are stacked side by each on the west side, while the east side is bordered by a long, well-built stone wall.

Looking south from behind the stone wall towards Marshfield Hills.
The school house behind the tree.
Near the top of the hill on the right is a huge mansion with a masonry stone wall. The lawn was neatly groomed and there were many red cedar trees around the buildings. In the spring, there were flowering trees everywhere. This was known as the Lampson estate. It is now owned by a member of the Aerosmith band.

 An early photo of 922 Summer Street -- Lampson's
As we approached Stoddards Corner, on the left was an old wood sign with a hand carved finger pointing toward Boston. "To Boston" was painted on the sign, a collectors item of today. Next on the left was a half cape house in complete disrepair and falling in, a former Ewell home. At the very end of Summer Street was another mansion, with a huge barn across Summer Street.

Looking from Spring Street at Stoddard's Barn on Summer Street

These overlooked the North River. It is now the home of South Shore's Audubon.

Looking north to the North River and Wills Island, Scituate. The railroad runs in front of Wills Island to the right.
The original Main Street is in the foreground, just a few feet east of what is now Main Street.

Across Summer Street, looking south, this is now called Patrick's  Lane.
We then would merge onto Route 3A, and go down the hill to cross the North River. As we approached Little's Bridge, there was the Toll House on the right -- long gone in my time.

There was a big colonial home on the left, known as Riverside Rest, and now Mary's Boat Yard.

Looking south from Scituate.

Over the bridge on the right was a shack sitting on some fill that was flooded at most high tides. A clammer from out of town established a bait shop called Lew's to sell bait clams, lobsters and fish bought from local fishermen. Clams and lobsters were kept in the pools out in the marsh to keep them fresh.

When Lew ran out of inventory, he wandered out to a pot hole and retrieved a fresh supply. Lobsters could be bought fresh, or cooked on weekends.

Route 3A was the main route to Humarock Beach for the summer residents. Lew's provided the tourists fresh seafood for the weekend.

I was once told that Lew would bring a few buckets of fill to dump on his claim every time he arrived. Also, certain customers would receive a few clams for a bucket of fill. I have no proof of this rumor.

The present building on the site of Lew's Bait Shop.
The road, 3A, across to Greenbush was under water at most extra-high tides. I once remember my Dad driving back to Seaview through the high water. I was in fear of driving off the road into deep water!

Ray Freden, Seaview/ Marshfield, 70 years.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Back Roads from Seaview, part 2

--> My Dad would sometimes take a different road on his way to shopping in Brockton on Saturday morning. My last blog took us by way of Pleasant Street. This time was up Summer Street [north].

Quite a number of years after the Railroad was discontinued through Marshfield,
Summer Street and a bridge over the tracks remained. Not until after WW2 was Summer Street straightened and the bridge removed.

Looking north from the Summer St. Bridge.
The water tank can be seen just right of the barn roof.
Next on the left was a huge barn where the White Brothers Milk Company of Quincy kept their trucks for the area's deliveries. Milk trucks were parked all around the barn. Years later it became Torrey Little's Auction Barn.

On the next corner was Josselyn's Store, stashed full of penny candy. From the store you could see the water pipe over Summer Street that once carried water from Wales Pond on Pleasant Street to the tank alongside the tracks. The water was used to fill the steam locomotives.

The water tank at the East Marshfield Railroad Station. Its name was changed to Marshfield Hills in October 1890.

As we started up Prospect Street, looking back at the Railroad Station (left).
Stackhouse Pond and Walkers nail factory (right).
Summer Street bears off lower left. Note the street sign in the triangle.

 As we approached the top of Prospect Hill, stately homes lined both sides of Prospect Street.


Next to the Marshfield Hills Store was a blacksmith shop.

The G.A.R. Hall and Hills Fire Station on Old Main Street, looking west.

The four corners of the Hills, looking from Highland Street to Pleasant Street with Old Main Street passing from left to right.

Prospect Street to Highland Street looks much the same as it did 70 years ago.

As we approached Main Street [Route 3A], the traffic lights changed to red. Not a car passed the duration of the red light. This was the only traffic light in the town.

We would continue down Highland Street with not much of interest to a seven year old. The next intersection was Valley and Oak Streets. This time Dad would take Oak Street. Quite a change of homes from Prospect and Highland Streets!

As we came to the intersection of Union And Oak Streets, my Dad slowed to a stop. There was a very loud noise unlike anything I had ever heard! There was a whirring-buzzing sound like a bumble bee buzzing around your head.

There were a few cars parked in the field, and people were standing in a group.
My Dad made the turn onto Union Street and as we passed slowly, I could see a post with a string and a small machine racing around in a circle.

“Dad, Dad, Whatzat?”

He replied “Racecars, I think.”

“Go back, Dad. Please go back!” I hollered.  

Mom piped up, “Bill, keep going. We'll never get home!”

Going shopping and getting home was last thing on my mind.

A little bit further, Dad slowed, turned into a driveway, and went back, then turned onto Oak Street and into the field. I was out of the car and pulling Dad. Mom was hollering about getting too close! A miniature car was screaming around the track so fast it was just a blur!

Close to us was a bench with a car sitting on top.

I edged close to it and was dumbfounded. It looked like a real race car, only about the size of my Dad’s shoe.

I knew what a real midget race car looked like -- my uncle Webster built one in his barn in Humarock.

As I was admiring the mini race car, a man said, “Have you seen these before?”

I responded, “No-sir.”

He said, “These are miniature Indy cars.”

“Huh,” to myself.

He went on, “That’s a model airplane engine. I built this one, but you can buy kits like the one racing.”

“Oh, how much are they?” I asked.

“About one hundred dollars, and then lots of extras.”

Then silence from the track, a sputter, another sputter, then people clapping.

The man said, “Over 90 miles per hour! I'm up soon, see you again.”

Then I heard, “Bill, Bill, come-on.”

Mom was not happy.

A Tether Car Race Track.

 Onto Union Street, passing The Hatch Mill and pond.

The big barn at Tracy Hatch's -- they grew flowers in big greenhouses out back.
Another pond on the left. A cart path went around a pond up to Magoun's Pond.

There was a clearing used as a picnic area. The box mill was long gone. The Magoun Brothers built a park around the pond as well as a miniature sawmill. The area was to be enjoyed by everyone interested.

 Just a short way on Union Street, Maryland Street would take us to Pembroke.

As we beared to the right, Lantz's Chicken Farm was on the left. There was a large fenced in area along Union Street and Maryland Street. It formed a large triangle with low sheds inside for the chickens to roost. As we proceeded by, stray escapees ran up and down the fence line as well as in the street.

I remember saying to my Dad , “Let’s stop and catch one.”
“Just keep going, Bill” were the last words for a while!

Maryland Street turned into Water Street in Pembroke. A beautiful home was on the right -- stone pillars on each end of the circular driveway that went through an overhang porch from the house. It too was made of stone, much like on a mansion. It had beautiful landscaping and overlooked the North River and a small island. It seemed to be used only in the summer. Another mystery to me.

Off to Brockton we went. I remained in the car, not going into Sears and Roebuck to look at bikes, no Swedish Bakery samples -- I don't remember anything except the buzz of those mini race cars.

My Dad found out more about the race cars the next day, from his friends at work. He learned that races took place at Holledge's, on weekends. A big race was on Labor Day.

After a dump trip on the weekend, I would convince Dad to take a run to
Union Street to take a look for any racing. Only once that I remember was a single car screaming around the track.

Labor Day came and you couldn't get near the place. Dad would have no part of staying. Little did I know that I would not see tether racing again for over four years.

On December 7th 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and we were at war -- three days before my 7th birthday. Racing was over -- most everything was over -- it was pretty quiet around Seaview for the next four years.

I have never forgotten the impression those mini race cars made on me.

A mini race car owner doing a last minute check.

“If I ever thought I would remember so much of my youth, I would have paid more attention to details.”

Ray Freden     

April, 2015