During all of my lifetime and I presume for many years before, Andover has had a reputation as a fine cultural community, with an excellent public school system and a preeminent position in the area of private school availability. And Andover has always prided itself on the quality of its educational establishment. My introduction to the schools began with my father's tales about "Old Biddie Whitehouse" in the one room Phillips District school he attended, and my interest continues on up to the present, where we are trying to preserve our well-developed school system against the ravages of Proposition 2 1/2.
When I first came upon the scene in the early 1920s, the public schools were presided over by Henry C. Sanborn, superintendent. Mr. Sanborn was a small man in physical stature, but a very efficient and capable administrator. He came to Andover some time around the start of World War I and served many, many years, until his retirement about 1940. His most aggressive adversary during his last ten years was Bill Doherty. Brother Bill had the utmost respect for the superintendent, but seemed to feel that he was sometimes influenced by the wrong interests. Sanborn's son George, a brilliant mathematics teacher at Phillips Academy, had married one of Burton Flagg's three daughters. That, in itself, was probably enough to set Bill off!
Nevertheless, Bill and Superintendent Sanborn regarded one another with mutual respect and appreciation. In fact, a few days before his death, Mr. Sanborn had his wife Dorothy, a former art teacher in the high school, call Bill to tell him that her husband would like to have him visit. Bill told me about that visit, very warm and friendly and cordial. Of all the school board members with whom Henry Sanborn worked over a quarter century in the town, the only one whom he wanted to see on his deathbed was the one whom he most respected.
Although Bill did not very often refer to the occasion as such, I always have felt that it was one of Bill's most cherished memories in all his thirty-nine years on the board of education. Was it any wonder that several years later, when a new elementary school was built on Lovejoy Road, that Bill would beat back all opposition and alternatives and insist the school be named "The Henry C. Sanborn Elementary School." I believe that Bill was the only member of the school board at that time who had ever known Mr. Sanborn, but Bill was never at a loss when it came to "educating" his colleagues.
The public school system in the early 1920s consisted of the John Dove and Samuel Jackson schools on land now occupied by Doherty Middle School on Bartlet Street. They held the first six grades for the center of town. To the south, slightly up the hill, was the Stowe School, for the seventh and eighth grades. Punchard High School occupied the building that now houses the town offices.
The Old Punchard, as it was called, was set immediately to the rear of the new building and was connected to the front building by a long corridor. The hall in the upper floor was used as an assembly hall for the student body every morning and for the Barnard and Goldsmith prize speaking events as well as for all high school class dances and the annual JuniorSenior Prom.
The Old Punchard was razed in 1934 to make room for the Memorial Auditorium, gymnasium, and cafeteria, which served both the high school and the new junior high (the building that now houses the senior center and the school department administrative offices). How those buildings came into existence is a rather interesting story, and perhaps this is as good a time as any to tell you about it. I'm not sure that many people in the community, even at that time, realize how close the town came to not getting those buildings built.
First, though, I must give you a little background information and a sense of the history of the 1930s. In those years all Andover was a very strong and dedicated Republican town. We were in the depth of a Depression, unemployment was the norm, and as a result teenage boys and girls were staying in school longer because there was no work for them in the mills or shops. This had a ripple effect on the school system, and the junior high and high schools became jammed very quickly. The school committee asked for relief but was turned down by town meeting because of the political impact on the tax base. The Hoover administration in Washington had been rendered powerless and the country overall was ready for change---but not the "old guard" in Andover.
Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Hoover in November of 1932, and with his inauguration on March 4, 1933, changes set in and the country has never been quite the same since. The New Deal, with a new administration and a willing Congress, set in motion all the social programs that primed the pre-war pump. Among these programs was the P.W.A.---Public Works Administration---government aid for the local construction of schools, hospitals, and other public buildings. As I recall, 30 percent of the cost was an outright federal grant and the 70 percent balance was guaranteed by the government at a very favorable interest rate.
The two school buildings, plus a boiler house to heat the entire complex, was to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $700,000. On a bitterly cold night in mid-December 1933, at a special town meeting held in the Case Memorial Cage at Phillips Academy, the townspeople followed the lead of a majority of the school committee and went against the wishes and advice of the board of selectmen and the finance committee and voted by a two-thirds majority to go ahead with the project, pending approval of the state and federal authorities. The undertaking had to be approved by the state because only so much money was allotted to each state and the final approval had to come from Washington. You might say that the project was subject to three strikes: the first was town meeting approval, but the proponents still had to clear two more hurdles, state and federal acceptance.
Although there had been a big change at the top in both Boston and Washington, the local reactionaries still had enough influence to have an impact. Along about April, Bill got a tip that the state committee that had the authority to endorse or kill any project, was about to scuttle the Andover application. Bill called Tom Lane from South Lawrence, our state representative (later state senator, congressman, and successful lawyer) and they went in together to the State House. The pair caught up with Charley Hurley, state treasurer and later governor, in the corridor on his way to the all-important meeting. Tom introduced Bill, who told Andover's story. Hurley listened, looked to Lane for verification, and promised: "I'll see that it clears this hurdle, but you may have trouble in Washington if these people can get to Edith Rogers." Edith Rogers, a Lowell native, was our national congresswoman.
Hurley was as good as his word and the application went to Washington toward a most uncertain fate. Bill was covering Andover for the Eagle-Tribune at the time, as well as studying for his insurance broker's exam. He passed and received his first license---of about fifty-two-on June 6, 1934. He certainly had many things on his mind during those days, but above all, he felt a responsibility to the young people of the town, who in his mind were being short-changed by the actions of some of our more prominent and influential citizens. I will say at this point that although I well remember the names of those who opposed the school building project, I see no useful point in mentioning them here. I am sure that they felt they were right---but we know they were not.
When nothing had been heard by the first of July, the general feeling was that the Andover application had been permanently buried in the nation's capital. Well, don't count Bill out just yet. The newspaper got a teletype message that the first detachment of the Civilian Conservation Corps-the C.C.C.---was due to arrive at the Harold Parker Reservation on July 4, to be greeted on the site by U.S. Senator David I. Walsh.
In 1934 at least, such an event certainly called for a command performance on the part of the newspaper, and of course the Andover reporter was expected, yes obliged, to cover it, holiday or not. There was a bulletin board in the front window of the Tribune office, and the Daily Eagle would be on the street the following morning. Suburban correspondents were responsible for their territories all day every day. Alter all, it was Depression time, and if you did not want to do the job, there were plenty of people who would take the $20 per week and be thankful.
Bill had no car in those days so I don't know how he got down to the Reservation, but get there he did. He not only met the commanding officer of the C.C.C. group, he somehow got to meet the senator. Walsh, from Clinton, was a former governor of Massachusetts and was especially close to Roosevelt, because both men were vitally interested in the Navy. Roosevelt had been an Undersecretary of the Navy during the Wilson administration, and Walsh was a prominent member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee.
I am not too sure just how they got onto the subject of the Andover school project, but knowing Bill, I don't see how Walsh could have left town without hearing about it. As it turns out, Bill climbed into the back seat of the senator's Pierce Arrow---one of the true luxury cars of that era---with the senator, and the Chinese chauffeur drove them downtown to the proposed site of the schools.
Walsh must have been impressed with the earnestness and dedication of this young local newspaperman/school board member---Bill was only about twenty-eight at the time---because he spent about an hour with him. The senator said to Bill: "Write me a letter tonight." (It was a Thursday.) "Put all these facts on paper. I'll be in my Washington office on Monday morning, and you'll have approval of your project next week."
Bill wrote the letter, and on Thursday, the following week, the teletype at the Tribune office printed out the message that the Andover School Project passed its final hurdle and funding for the schools was approved by the federal P.W.A. board. Bill, of course, was elated, but he did not dare rock the boat until the buildings were completed. By that time his part in promoting passage didn't really matter, and I don't think this story ever got beyond family and a few friends.
A few weeks before he died, I helped Bill tape this story for me, but I have never been able to find the tape. It doesn't matter because I didn't intend to get involved in any research anyway. The foregoing is the story as I remember it. To this day, I believe that Bill always felt that that victory, over very heavy odds, was perhaps his greatest contribution, in a physical, material sense, to the town of Andover. Bill fought for many advantages and opportunities for the schoolchildren of this town, and the townsfolk have named a school after him, but he always felt a special thrill when he drove up Bartlet Street and looked at that magnificent front on the Memorial Auditorium, designed by his father's friend Perley Gilbert.
In addition to the Central Plant, the school system of the 1920s included the Shawsheen School, the Bradlee School in Ballardvale---now a condo complex---and the four outlying one- and two-room schools: in West Parish center, at the corner of Lowell and Beacon Streets on what is now the right lane turn of Lowell Street onto Beacon Street; the North School, at the corner of North Street and River Road, opposite the Vocational-Technical School; the Bailey District School, near the corner of Bailey Road and Pleasant Street; and the Osgood District School, at the corner of Bellevue Road and Osgood Streets. The latter two are now dwellings; the former two have been razed.
When Alvah Wright was engaged by the school department to transport children from the "Scotland" District---Salem and South Main Street---the Scotland District School was closed. That building, located at the intersection of Salem Street and Gray Road, is now the residence of Murray Urquhardt and his wife, Ruth. Alvah Wright's first "school bus" was a horse and wagon, but when the familiar yellow buses became available in the early 1920s, he moved up with the times. A very friendly person, Alvah transported at least two and possibly three generations of schoolchildren before he retired because of age.
The second bus driver to be contracted by the school department was Rudolph Johnson from the top of High Plain Road, near the corner of Haggett's Pond Road. Johnson covered all of West Andover, coming in to the high and junior high schools. (Stowe School was designated the "junior high" and took in seventh and eighth graders from the entire town.) When the need for a third bus and driver came about in 1938, Chet Abbott, a farmer and descendent of a long line of Andover Abbotts, was contracted to fill the post.
After WWII, the town expanded rapidly and the combination of development in the outlying sections and the need to get children off the narrow streets forced the school department to hire many additional buses. Until very recent years, all the buses were individually owner-operated, and in some years as many as twenty or more individual drivers were under contract with the school system. A roll call of some of the more familiar names will stir a bit of nostalgia in the memories of those who rode the buses in earlier days. In addition to Wright, Johnson, and Abbott, there followed in rather quick order, George Dumont, Jim Nicholas, Sarkis Sarkisian, Gordon Hall, Al Vartebedian, Joe Connor, Joe Brouillard, Gus Sheehy, Ray Desjardin, Lee and Forrest Noyes, and many others. These men had an enviable safety and reliability record and were extremely dedicated to their work. They are part of Andover's school history that must not be overlooked.
As time marched on and the town grew, it was inevitable that new schools must be built. Henry Sanborn retired in 1940 and was succeeded as superintendent by Kenneth L. Sherman, who had been principal of the junior high school that had been opened in 1936. Sherman, a Naval Academy graduate, was called up to service very soon thereafter and was replaced for the "duration" by Edward I. Erickson, a Newburyport native, who came here from Longmeadow. Bill always lorded it over Ed because they had played across the line from each other when Punchard beat a fine Newburyport High team 9 to 6 at the Playstead on Columbus Day, 1923. I saw part of that game that day.
Erickson served through the war years until Sherman returned. After about 10 or 12 years at the helm, Sherman retired and was succeeded once again by Ed Erickson, who served this time until about 1969. He was succeeded by Dr. Kenneth Seifert, who just retired in 1991. There is an interesting sidelight to Ken's arrival, of which I remind him from time to time.
Brother Bill was adamant that the next superintendent should be someone from within the system. He felt that if we were as good as we thought and said we were, then we certainly must have some outstanding leaders in our system. I think that he had one or two candidates in mind, though I really don't know who they might have been. Suffice it to say that he was not at all interested in going across the continent to hire someone who was a complete stranger to him. So when Ken Seifert was elected in 1969 to head the Andover school system, the vote was 4 to 1.
The day Ken arrived in town, Bill met him and Ken likes to tell the story from there. They met at the school department offices, where Bill explained that Ken had not been his candidate and that he had not voted for him. This reflected nothing personal since he did not know him and had never met him before. "But you are the superintendent now, so get in the office and do your job---and I'll back you all the way." Once again, Bill had won the respect and friendship of another superintendent without ever compromising his positions. They worked together for only about a year, but I have the feeling that Ken would have welcomed his presence around the table many times in the last twenty years.
Those one-room district schools were phased out over the 1920s and 1930s except for the North School, which lasted until the 1940s. The school board voted one year in March to close the North at the end of June---with one dissenting vote. Bill told them that they were making a mistake, that they were moving two or three years too soon, and that he was sure that the residents of the North District would be up in arms. Well, the board went ahead, and that August a special town meeting, petitioned by those district residents, appropriated the $7,500 to $10,000 necessary to keep the school open. Properly chastised, the board kept the school open, for about two more years. I think that Mary Collins, who now lives at the corner of Elm and Florence Streets or Dorothy Kyle, or Katherine Sweeney, was the last teacher at the old North District school.
When the Ballardvale School was built on the Plains, at Woburn Street, the Bradlee was closed, and with the concurrent renovations to the Shawsheen, the town was housing its schoolchildren in fairly modern facilities. Through the years following World War II, and right up to the mid-1980s, the town continued to build as needed: the Sanborn School on Lovejoy Road; the Central Elementary---now the Doherty Middle School; the Bancroft School, on Bancroft Road; the high school on Shawsheen Road, which became West Junior High only a few years later, when an even larger high school was constructed next door; and finally, the high school auditorium, dedicated as the Everett Collins Center.
The auditorium was originally scheduled to be a part of the high school building project, but certain short-sighted interests in the town succeeded in having it cut out of the plans, and the town ended up some years later with a scaled-down seating capacity for more than double the original cost estimate. That was a colossal blunder and the town, although they now have a very fine facility, could have had an even larger one for much less money. It disturbs me to no end to have to put town meeting attendees out in a secondary location because the Collins Center cannot accommodate the crowd. In my view, it makes them second-class citizens, and we could have done much better.
I had no firsthand knowledge of the public elementary school system until I reached my first year in high school. I started in the first grade at the St. Augustine's School and graduated from there in 1929. The school was staffed with Notre Dame nuns in each grade. The story has been told many times at Doherty family gatherings of how we came to be enrolled. My father was renovating the old Tyer Estate at the corner of Central and Chestnut Streets for Fr. Riordan. It was August 15, 1914, the Feast of the Assumption. The door bell rang and Dad opened the door, hammer in hand, to greet Sister Helen Bernadine, the school's first superior and principal, and three of her nuns.
Well, I guess that they made quite an impression on him, because he sent all four of his children, Bill, Margaret, Joe, and me, to St. Augustine's. It was a wonderful experience. Not only did we learn discipline and respect, but I always felt that my schooling in English, arithmetic, history, and geography was at least equal to and in most cases better than that of many of those around me.
As in the case of the public elementary schools in town, St. Augustine's had to rise to the challenges of the times. There were some families, as time went on, who wanted their children to qualify for admission to Phillips, to Abbott, to St. John's Prep in Danvers, or to one of the several girls' academies in the area.
This wealth of private and parochial schools in the area has been a constant challenge to the public school system as well, and it is no secret that the academic excellence of Phillips Academy has had a continuing influence on the schools of the town. This pressure has had a tendency to raise the level of the entire system, and even the so-called average students have been carried along at a faster pace---and the good Sisters of Notre Dame reacted to the challenge in a very positive way.
Until the installation of the Internal Revenue Service facility in West Andover some fifteen to twenty years ago, the one thing above all else for which Andover was recognized countrywide, yes almost worldwide, was and still is Phillips Academy. Occupying an expansive area of the town, on Andover Hill a half-mile south of the center, this preparatory school for boys was established by the Phillips family in 1778.
During the next two centuries of its existence, even to this day, although its board of trustees has been made up of people from all walks of life from across the length and breadth of the land, Phillips has been a good neighbor to the community, a most cooperative corporate citizen, and a solid, generous contributor to the educational, cultural, social, and economic life of the town. Over the years there has never been a time when the administration "on the Hill" has not come forth willingly and cheerfully to lend a hand in any emergency. From the loan of portable bleachers for football games at the Playstead in the 1930s to the use of the gymnasium and baseball cage for special town meetings in later years; from the loan of special equipment to the public works department to the loan of personnel for special projects for the school department, Phillips never raised a question or balked in hesitation. In fact many times, if the need became known, the offer of assistance came before a request could even be articulated.
Over time many histories have been and will be written about the proud life and accomplishments of the institution, but I boldly suggest that none of them will catch the flavor of my tribute---because mine comes from an "outsider" who appreciates not only what the school has done academically and socially for its students and graduates, but also the neighborly approach that the administration has taken in its dealings with the town. I could spend several pages extolling the achievements of the school and its graduates, but I will leave that to the works of Dr. Claude Moore Fuess, former headmaster and historian, and his successors who have written so admirably about the school. I would just like to mention some of the personalities that left a mark on the history of the community---academic and otherwise---during my lifetime.
Dr. Alfred E. Stearns was the headmaster in my early days. He lived in a house on Chapel Avenue on the current site of Cochran Chapel. About 1930, when the new chapel was built---to replace the old chapel that stood where the Addison Gallery of American Art is now---the headmaster's home, the "Samaritan House," was moved across Main Street to School Street.
Al was quite a character. He was a tough disciplinarian at the school and I understand he swung a mean gavel at town meeting. Some of my detractors at town meeting would consider me a teddy bear by comparison if they had had to deal with him. One of my most memorable recollections of him happened in June 1929. I can still see him standing on the back of the big buckboard wagon pulled by the team of horses driven by Julius Ostrowski's father. It was a Saturday night; the Phillips baseball team had just beaten Exeter Academy in a fiercely fought game. In those days, the winning school in football, track, and baseball celebrated with a torchlight parade down through town, after hearing from Old "Pap" Eaton on Bartlet Street (uncle of Thaxter Eaton, who served as town treasurer for nearly twenty years) and Headmaster Stearns. Apparently Eaton, a math teacher who wrote his own textbooks, was the senior member of the faculty. It was customary for the crowd to follow the parade up Bartlet Street and eventually end up at Brothers Field for a giant bonfire.
First-year students were expected---ordered---to wear their pajamas. Some naive freshmen wore only their pajamas and were quite taken aback when upperclassmen ordered them to throw their pajamas onto the fire! Traditionally, there were always a few stragglers who were kidnapped on Bartlet Street by some of the "townies" and ended up taking a bath in Rabbit Pond. That was not too bad in June or late May, but alter the football game in mid-November, it must have been a "chilling" experience. Something happened in the early 1930s and the celebrations ceased.
But to get back to Al Stearns. He had been quite a pitcher in his undergraduate days at the school, and that day in 1929, Phillips pitcher Johnny Broaca from Lawrence equaled a record set thirty years earlier by Stearns: struck out four batters in the ninth inning. (Frank Crane, the catcher, from Everett, had missed the third strike on the third batter, and Broaca had to pitch to a fourth.) Stearns paid great tribute that night to the boy from Lawrence who later starred at Yale and went directly to the New York Yankees, where he helped pitch the way to two or three championships.
Broaca, a product of Lawrence High School, attended Phillips for a year before entering Yale, where he played end on the football team for three years and pitched his way to fleeting fame with the Yankees. His career came to an abrupt end when his wile divorced him and he left the team and came home to Lawrence. For the rest of his working days, he had a job at Tyer Rubber in Andover. It was said that he refused to take any job that would provide him with enough income to allow his ex-wife to get any alimony.
Frank Crane, Broaca's battery-mate at Phillips, attended Harvard, where he played center for three years on the football team and caught Charley Devins, scion of a Boston Brahmin family, who hooked up against Broaca in many Harvard-Yale duels. Devins later ended up on the same Yankee pitching staff with Broaca. (Devins left baseball early, too, but to enter the family brokerage business.)
Those 1920s were perhaps the glory days of sports at Andover. Many boys who graduated from high school needed extra schooling before entering college. It was customary for some to spend up to four years in "preparatory school" alter high school. Among the names at Phillips Andover in those days that come to mind: Bart Viviano from New Jersey, who was an All American at Cornell, and a very tall lad named Avery from Three Forks, Montana, who played end and hurled the javelin, later at Yale; there were two pole vaulters who went to Yale, too: a Pierce and a Brown, I think. I recall an athlete named Richardson, who played tackle. And of course our own Leo F. Daly, who starred at Punchard, went up to Phillips and later captained Harvard in his senior year, even though he could not play because of a knee injury.
Leo later had a very successful career in the stock brokerage field in Boston, and now serves in the Municipal Retirement Board here in Andover. His son, Hayden, played football for me during my brief career as football and softball coach at Pike School. Hayden later starred as a halfback at both Andover and Harvard. This book would not be complete without a tip of the hat to Leo---a solid citizen of the community, in a very quiet way, and a very good friend to both me and my brother Bill on many occasions over the years.
Some of the more memorable personalities on Andover Hill would include: Oswald Tower, assistant to the headmaster, who also was the author of the official Spalding basketball guide and the game's official rule book. Horace Martin Poynter was the vice-principal, or assistant headmaster. His wife was Elsie Pitkin, whose family owned the company that made pullman cars, the palatial club and sleeper cars that ran on every passenger railroad line in the country. Mrs. Poynter and my mother were among the charter members of the Andover League of Women Voters. As I recall she was a very slight and very gracious lady. Their son, Horace Jr., and his wife Betty live on Elm Street and have become full-time members of our breakfast club at Ford's Coffee Shop. Fred Stott, Sr., father of my friend, Fred, who serves on the town finance committee. Fred Jr. served for several years as secretary to the board of trustees of Phillips. His wife Susan, chairman of the town planning board, is also the assistant business manager of the Academy, working with Neil Cullen, whose wife Betsy worked with me as assistant town moderator recently when we had to divide the town meeting assembly of 1,888 voters and relocate about 600 in the high school cafeteria.
One of the better known members of the Phillips athletic department was Patsy Donovan, former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder, who coached the baseball team in the 1920s. Patsy lived at one time on Elm Street at the corner of Wolcott Avenue. His wife, Theresa Mahoney of Lawrence, was quite a soloist for several church choirs. Their son Bill served several years as an Essex County Commissioner.
Just a quick aside about Bill Donovan. The Tribune was hammering at him a few years ago, charging that he was filling county jobs with friends. At some political meeting I started kidding Billy about the fact that the newspaper was getting after him. I had know Billy for many years; he took the kidding in stride, and 'What do they think I should do, Jim, hire my enemies?" There in a nutshell is the essence of politics. Andrew Jackson said it eloquently more than 150 years ago: "To the victor belongs the spoils." George Bush will never give me the job of "Collector for the Port of Lawrence "---I think that the post still exists---although I'm sure Mike Dukakis would have given me some position if I had wanted it, and if he had been so unfortunate as to be elected president.
Well, that is getting away from the men whom I remember on the Hill. Ray Shepard was the football and track coach when I was a schoolboy. He was succeeded by Steve Sorota from Lowell High and Fordham University, running behind the "seven blocks of granite" at Fordham. Steve served with me on the town recreation committee in the 1950s. Phil Allen coached baseball, was elected as a state senator, and served as town selectman and on many other committees in town over the last thirty years. Ted Harrison was an excellent southpaw pitcher and hockey player from Lawrence, a Yale grad and, finally, at the time of his retirement, director of the P.A. physical education department.
He was succeeded by Joe Wennik, a fine athlete, whose father Hal was one of the organizers of the Andover Boosters Club, an organization that has lived up to its name by boasting the high school sports program, and aiding many high school students to go on to further study.
All these gentlemen also brought their talents downtown---Sorota on the recreation committee; Harrison as president of the YMCA; Allen in many different ways; and Wennik working with his father and the boosters. To say that the town was much the better for all their contributions is to say not enough, but I hope they or their families will realize that many of us appreciated their efforts and their talents.
Over the years I have had an opportunity to meet and observe many other personalities at the Academy. Henry Hopper was the business manager for many years and a well-known figure in the community. John Kemper, the West Point graduate who served as headmaster for several years, was a particularly memorable fellow. I recall one experience with him: In about 1950, 1 was serving as director of summer
recreation for the town. My "area" was playgrounds, but Don Dunn, the director at Pomps Pond swimming beach, had just been called back to active service in the Korean War, and the recreation committee asked me to take over the supervision of the pond program and staff of lifeguards for the upcoming season.
It was customary to send guards down about mid-June to rake the beach and to clean out the rocks, bottles, and debris from the wading area near the water line. The facility was off-limits for swimmers until that work had been completed. Well, I received a call from the police on a Saturday evening that a Phillips student had been rushed to the hospital with a head injury because he had dived into Pomps Pond from someone's shoulders and hit a stone or log. Hfs serious wound required medical aid. The police notified me because it happened at our facility---even though it was closed. It happened that a group of students "discovered" our pond and were hanging out there that late Saturday, a week before the close of school.
I pondered the dilemma for a while. I had not met Kemper, but I did know Hopper, the business manager. I called his home and reached his wife. She listened to my story and said that she knew John Kemper was at a dinner party on campus. "I'll reach him, and see that he calls you, Mr. Doherty." Less than ten minutes later I received a call from Mr. Kemper, asking for particulars. I advised him that my call was merely to alert the school authorities as to the risk and dangers. I received a very courteous "Thank you, Mr. Doherty, for your call, and your interest is appreciated. I'll button this up in the morning and there will be no more excursions." Never heard any more about it, and I understand from local authorities over the years that that was the way such matters were always handled. The Academy on the Hill provided Andover with truly good neighbors... sometimes not fully appreciated.
Like Phillips, Abbott Academy, the rather small, select girls preparatory school that was located on School Street, also enjoyed a fine reputation during my lifetime. Budget problems finally caught up with the school and it was necessary to assimilate the school, property, students, and faculty into the Phillips organization in the early 1970s. The cost of upgrading and maintaining nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century buildings and facilities was too much for the proud and world-renowned "sister" of the larger school up the street.
In its time Abbott drew students from every state and from some foreign countries. It had a fine curriculum and garnered marked success in preparing young women for college and eventual careers in teaching, business, the professions, and, yes, homemaking. To many of us who had very little direct contact with the school or its administration, it was a sad day when the announcement came down that the school would close its doors. We know these things must sometimes come about, but we hate to see it happen. An outstanding member of our educational family for almost 150 years, Abbott memories, I am sure, are a warm spot in the hearts of many Andover people who cherish its memories for all the right reasons.
Around about 1931 the Franciscan friars, one of the four major mendicant orders of the Roman Catholic Church, acquired the large Hood stock farm, at the very northwest corner of the town, bordering the Merrimack River and the town of Tewksbury. Before my time the C. I. Hood farm had been a rather large and successful horse-breeding farm. I have no knowledge of it beyond the fact that it was just an idle 150 or so acres, high up on the outskirts of town.
The Franciscans built a substantial brick building in the center plain of the property and started a minor seminary for prospective candidates for the priesthood. The seminarians were mostly of Italian descent and the one Irish priest, Fr. Crowley, confided to us that he was just there to keep the others in line. After completing their high school training, the boys were sent to other seminaries for college-level work, and some later came back to Andover to study moral theology. It was these latter individuals with whom we became acquainted. The last of the group, and the first to be ordained at Andover, was Fr. Luke Ciampi. After the school closed because of a lack of vocations, Fr. Luke was reassigned here as a caretaker of the property. In time, he left and was stationed the last three or four years in Bayswater, California. We corresponded every year at Christmas time; about a year ago I received word that he had gone to his Creator. The young men were wonderfully kind-hearted. They asked the town for very little, if anything, and for twelve years provided us all with the fantastic Christmas light display that was unmatched in this region, mentioned in an earlier chapter.
The school has been closed now for several years and the property is deteriorating, but unfortunately no one has come forward with a plan for its use. It would be nice to see it utilized for educational purposes again, although that dream seems most improbable unless there is a change of direction in the disbursement of federal funds. As long as we have an enormous defense budget, and a foreign aid plan that overshadows the educational, infrastructure, and health needs of its own citizens, expect idle school buildings to remain idle.
In about 1947 the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, a French order with headquarters in Woonsocket, R.I., acquired the former American Woolen Company administration building in Shawsheen. This multi-story structure, one of the finest built buildings in New England in its time, had been abandoned for the most part since about a year after the death of William M. Wood. A few tenants had occupied its first floor---Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., for example, and the Pike School got its start there---but the Andover Shawsheen Realty Co., with realtors F. M. and T. E. Andrew of Lawrence, had not been able to find a buyer.
The brothers turned the headquarters into a grade school for fourth- to eighth-grade boys. It was primarily a boarding school and many at first thought that it was to be a school for emotionally disturbed, or "hard to handle" students. In their own quiet and effective way, the good brothers handled any problem that arose, and the school proved to be a good neighbor to Shawsheen Village. There were about two hundred students, as I recall, and all but a very few were boarding students.
The school closed after some twenty-five to thirty years, mainly because of lack of enrollment and to some degree by the diminishing vocations in the order. The building was finally bought a few years ago and developed into apartments. Later condominimized, the Balmoral is now a very attractive residential community. The nearby athletic fields across Balmoral Street and farther up on Burnham Road were acquired by the town and provide busy sports and play areas supervised by the department of community services.
The same year the Sacred Heart brothers' boarding school got its start, 1947, Archbishop Richard J. Cushing contacted the Augustinlan fathers from Villanova and the Holy Cross fathers from Notre Dame, and invited them to open colleges in the Archdiocese, one north of Boston and one south, to alleviate the pressure on Boston College. Fr. Frank Boland, an Andover native, brother of Postmaster. Steve, was sent to the Boston area from Notre Dame to found and operate Stonehill College down in the Brockton area. Fr. Vincent A. McQuade, a Lawrence native, was chosen by Very Rev. Joseph Dougherty, Prior Provincial of the Augustinians, to establish an Augustinian college in the Merrimack Valley area, preferably in Greater Lawrence. The story is told that Fr. McQuade was called in by the Provincial at the end of classes and told: "Cushing wants us to start a college up around Lawrence. Go down to the treasurer's office and get some train fare. You can stay at St. Mary's rectory for the time being. We will send you whatever manpower we can spare for the opening of school." This was in February 1947, as I recall. Less than a year later, in September, the school opened with about two hundred freshmen, almost all veterans attending under the G.I. Bill. In seven months Fr. McQuade had obtained a name, a charter from the legislature, a school site, a cinder-block building, a faculty, and a student body---and he had come up from Philadelphia with no money but his car fare. One of the truly remarkable personalities that it has been my good fortune to call "friend," Fr. McQuade begged and borrowed whatever was needed to put Merrimack College together.
Classes started in a not quite completed cinder-block, one-story building on Peters Street, at the Andover-North Andover line, situated in the latter community. In fact, the workmen were still putting the finishing touches on the building several weeks after classes started. The simple structure served for a few years until the present campus arose at the corner of Andover Street-Elm Street in Andover and Route 114.
The first faculty consisted of Fr. McQuade as the chief operating officer, or president; Fr. Joe Gildea as dean; Fr. Joe Flaherty, still in residence at the monastery infirmary; Fr. Bill Cullen; Fr. Jim Hannon, the chaplain; Fr. Tom Walsh; and Fr. Paul Thabault. Fr. John Gavigan, friend of my brother Bill, came along soon after the opening. The faculty was quickly augmented as well by Jim McGravey, who retired only recently, and Tom Reilly, long since gone from the scene.
The first Merrimack College class was graduated in June 1951, and among the members of the student body who come to mind immediately were Larry Morrisroe and my wife Sheila's brother, Frank. Larry was originally from Boston; he stayed on after graduation, married Eileen Flynn from Elm Street, and went to work for the Arlington Trust in Lawrence. A very smart and capable fellow, Larry became a bank vice president and ended up a few years ago as the administrator of the Mary Immaculate Nursing Home in Lawrence.
In January 1952, 1 received a phone call from Fr. McQuade and went over to see him. I had no idea what he wanted, but I was hoping that he wanted me to take over the insurance for the college. That didn't happen until later, but he did want me to take over a class of seniors, finance and business majors, and teach them enough about insurance so that they would have a working knowledge of it when they went out in the business world. I asked if he had a syllabus from which I could work and any particular textbooks in mind. "Jim," he said, "you are the insurance man. Teach them what you would like to see a businessman know when you walk into his office."
What a breath of fresh air. I was going to be able to tell these fellows what it was like out in the real world. The textbook would only be for show. Each day as we started class, I would say something like "This is what the book probably says, but this is how it really is."
It was fun and I think that the boys enjoyed it---at least five or six of them surrounded me on commencement day and told me they felt that our class was their best in four years; they felt I told it to them "like it is." However, it took a lot of time out of my day---three afternoons a week, consuming about two hours each day---so I had to give it up after the one year.
We later were invited to write the business, and that thing that every insurance agent dreads, happened after we had been doing so for several years. One policy, covering some risk that I do not remember now, was late in coming from the insurance company. The girl in our office who had been handling the correspondence had left our employ and some at the company had dropped the ball. Bill had been ill and I suddenly had to take over some of his accounts. One year passed and no policy was issued or billed. I came upon the oversight on the anniversary.
We called the company branch manager, who suggested we just forget the past and issue a new policy, agreeing that if a loss developed the company would provide coverage. Such a glitch would be almost impossible today with the double-check system that is in place, but, unfortunately, such things did happen in the past-rarely, thank God. Of course we had to tell Fr. McQuade. "If we had a loss, would they have paid?" "Yes, Father, they would have paid." "Then send me a bill for the premium for last year."
I can think of a few people whom I have met over the years who were not quite as straight as Vincent McQuade. Builder, guide, and guardian of Merrimack College for twenty years, he was the first and the last word. Rules and discipline were the foundation of his tenure; he ran that school as though it were his own little fiefdom. When he retired the school had moved to a new campus, owned nearly $50,000,000 worth of real estate and equipment, employed a faculty of about 100, and educated a student body of some 1,500.
Fr. McQuade was succeeded by his vice-president for academic affairs, Fr. John A. Aherne. Fr. Aherne was, perhaps, the finest academic mind to grace the campus. A giant of a man in stature, he was kind, gentle, and quite an accomplished poet. He served as president for about eight years and was succeeded in 1975 by Fr. John Coughlin.
It was during Fr. Coughlin's tenure that I was elected to the Merrimack Board of Trustees. I served for nine years, retiring in 1986. My time on the board included some rough years. We had to take some drastic steps to put the college back on a firm financial footing---where it is today---and because of our actions, in part, we had disagreements with the faculty. Some of the strong members of that board during my years were Peter Volpe, father of the current member of the Andover finance committee and brother of the former Massachusetts governor, John; Fr. George Riley, a Lawrence native and a vice president of Villanova; Fr. Robert Welch, former president of Villanova; Fr. Tom Kenney, who, along with Jack McLay, was responsible for the landscaping that now makes the campus so beautiful; Dan Murphy, Jr., and his son, Dan III, both of whom were presidents of the Arlington Trust Co. While I was on the board, Fr. Coughlin resigned and was succeeded by Fr. John Deegan, the present chief executive.
I have said it many times on many occasions, and I will say it here again. During my lifetime the greatest thing to happen to the Merrimack Valley has been the establishment of Merrimack College. Many notable events have occurred in the area, but to my mind the coming into our midst of an institution of higher learning for the education of our young people is the most important thing of all. Its graduates dot our landscape from stem to stern. Merrimack in years to come will be to Greater Lawrence and the Merrimack Valley what Harvard University and later Boston College have meant to the Boston area.
The college campus straddles the town line between Andover and North Andover. The administrative office and the academic sports complex and library are all in North Andover, but most of the dormitories are in Andover. Fr. McQuade always said that the college was located "in the Andovers." Many members of the faculty and administration have served both towns well in many ways---school committee, library trustees, finance committee, and in many private areas.
The institution now caters to about 2 300 full-time students, another 1,500 in the continuing education program, a faculty of about 175, a payroll of well over 300 employees, a physical plant valued at nearly $100,000,000, all started with train fare from Philadelphia to Lawrence, and the grit, determination, and personality of a single Augustinian priest.
In my treatment of the educational system of the town, I have left the story of the public schools in Andover to the last. It has been an interesting history and development. My direct contact has been very limited---my own four years at Punchard High after graduating St. Augustine's and my son Jay's five years in the junior high and high school---and yet because my brother Bill, my business partner for fifty years, spent thirty-nine years as a member of the school committee, perhaps I have had a better insight into Andover schools that most people in the town.
Over the years I have had no contact with the lower grades---kindergarten through eight---other than an excellent rapport with many of the teachers and principals in town, in particular Ann Harnedy at Shawsheen school and Katherine Barrett at the John Dove and Samuel Jackson schools (later the Central Elementary, later the Doherty Elementary, later the Doherty Junior High, and now the Doherty Middle School!).
Soon after Bill was elected to the school board, after the fight to open board meetings to the press and public, the principalship of the John Dove School became vacant. Eunice Stack was the front runner, it seemed, for the job. She was one of four sisters, all teachers, from a fine family background. Lillian, the oldest, was killed while riding in the back seat of a car driven by her brother Tom, a life insurance agent for Metropolitan Life; another car hit it broadside at the intersection of High and Haverhill streets in about 1938.
Another sister, Alice, taught in local schools, and the youngest, Rita, taught in Haverhill. She married a Cronin from the Haverhill area, I think, and had one daughter, Margaret, who has been, I feel, a constant critic of mine during my years as town moderator. During the 1940s Rita, now widowed and living back with the family on Summer Street, used to bring young Margaret over to the Central Playground. She used to say that she felt safe because someone whom she knew was in charge of the playground---me. I have never been able to figure out just why Margaret would not be as open and friendly toward me as our respective families had always been.
Well, anyway, so much for that. Bill had just gone through a long dispute with most of his colleagues on the board who did not want their activities opened up to the light of day. (I'll treat this more in detail in the chapter on town politics.) Because they would not give in to Bill on the appointment of Eunice Stack, the committee came up with the name of Katherine Barrett. Now this put Bill in one of those no-win situations; he knew Katherine equally as well as Eunice. Her father, Pat, a life insurance agent with the John Hancock, had been as good a friend of my father as the elder Stack had been.
To the undying credit of the Barrett family, they never expressed any ill feeling or animosity when Bill cast his lone vote for Eunice Stark.
Katherine Barrett was elected, served the town and its children with great honor, and retired a few years ago-always a great friend to Bill and never showing a trace of antagonism toward me as town moderator. Katherine's sisters, Alice, Marguerite, Elizabeth, and Bernardine, and her brothers Fred and Joe, also have been a great credit to the community and to their family heritage.
My first real contact with the public school system came when I entered Punchard in 1929. I got off on the wrong foot almost immediately because of Fr. Branton's desire to have me go to Phillips. When that move was thwarted by financial constraints, it was decided that, in order for me to go to P.A. the following year, I would have to be transferred into a first-year French class.
This really made my life miserable. First of all, I had made the shift from St. Augustine's to Punchard and was doing fine. By October first I was transferred around and had my schedule changed so that I could fit into the French class. Nathan Hamblin, the principal, went along with the switch reluctantly. I landed in a class of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, taught by Helen Dunn. Now she was a very nice person, but she never raised her voice above a whisper. Beyond the second row it was almost impossible to hear her. There was little discipline in class, and consequently little learning. I found myself slipping and my other class work suffered. I was confused by starting French and Latin at the same time, and frequently used the wrong vocabulary in the right class.
It was with difficulty that I was able to pass three subjects, English, math and Latin, but under the system at the time-five points for a five-hour-per-week subject---I went into sophomore on condition. I had 15 points and I needed 18 each year, or 72 to graduate. I recovered slightly as a sophomore. I took five subjects and managed to pick up 25 points, so I entered my junior year with 40 points, well above the required 36.
Slowly, with help of dedicated teachers, I began to come back that year. Helen Monroe in Latin, Mary L. Smith in English, Marjorie Stevens and later Gertrude Berry in math, and Eugene V. Lovely in physics all contributed in no small way to my "rehabilitation." I began to realize that I needed something more than the 60 passing grade to get by in the world; and I went into my senior year with a little more confidence.
In December I had an opportunity to talk with Joe McKenney, football coach at Boston College. My brother Joe took me and my chum John Pike in to the college to visit after football season. As soon as we shook hands, McKenney pulled out his pen and on the back of an envelope started to count up our potential credits: four years of Latin, four years of English, two years of science, two years of history, and two years of a modern language. If we made the rest of the year, we would be eligible to take the entrance exams in June. He did not ask us our weight, speed, or even the positions we played. If we did not measure up academically, the Jesuits of Boston College did not want us wearing the maroon and gold.
That was perhaps the most sobering incident of my four years of high school. I came home that night and went to my books almost before I had my supper. The rest of my senior year in high school was, if I may be permitted to brag just a wee bit, a model of discipline and scholarship. I moved the Cs and Ds up to Bs and even improved my history and English marks up to A level. I had something to prove, and I was going to show everyone that those high school teachers who pleaded with me to apply myself and reach my potential were right when they insisted that I was capable of A work.
There were about 75 in my class in September 1929, when I reported to Room 1. It was the homeroom for almost all of the boys who would be in the "College Preparatory" section. Mr. Charles Gregory---the entire history department at that time---was my home room teacher. That room, by the way, is now the office of the town treasurer, Mike Muise, whose mother, Eva, was a classmate of my brother John. In fact, Mike's office includes some or all of Room 3. We entered school from the north door, coming in off the Park.
Classes started on Wednesday, and the first lightning struck during recess on Friday. I was standing in the corridor between the entrance to Room 1 and the fire door at the bottom of the stairway leading to the second floor. Two of the freshmen from the Stowe School were engaged in a bit of horseplay down the corridor about 15 feet away. There were a lot of other students standing around and things, I thought, were reasonably quiet. Suddenly, something brushed by me from the direction of the stairway, grabbed the two fellows who were pushing each other around, and slammed them both up against the wall almost in a single motion. I later came to realize that this was an annual event for the enlightenment of all freshmen and any upperclassmen who were new to the school.
Eugene V. Lovely, football and baseball coach and teacher of physics and chemistry, had just set the tone for discipline for the year. No one---no one stepped out of line around the Punchard High School while Mr. Lovely was on the premises. He played no favorites, but he preferred to take on someone who was a little bigger than the rest just to prove that he would not stand for any foolishness from anyone. I had been forewarned at home by two of my brothers, who had played on his teams as well as being in his classes, so I was wary of him from the opening bell.
In my early years I had a tendency to break into a laugh or giggle when things got tense (now I make a wise crack at such times). In later years, on the football practice field when he would call the squad around him in a semicircle to chew us out about something, I found it most fortunate to be able to hide behind my very close friend, Johnny Pike, at such times. John was about an inch taller than me and about fifty pounds heavier. I had mastered the art of checking my fingers---I played center---so I was always looking down after the first few words. A few times I succumbed and had to muffle my nervous laughter, but many times since, I realized that I could have been a statistic on more than one occasion.
Gene Lovely coached for thirty years, from 1911 to 1940, and retired from athletics, with an excellent record in both sports, to succeed his very dear friend, Nat Hamblin, as principal. For most of those thirty years Nathan C. Hamblin, the distinguished aristocrat with the goatee, and Eugene V. Lovely, the rugged fullback from Bates College, forged a historic partnership that has not been seen in our town since. This is not to denigrate any of those who have come after---I don't think it would be possible today in the complex system that our high school is today, and of course, discipline is viewed very differently these days.
Before I leave Gene Lovely the disciplinarian, let me say a few words in defense of his system. If it were possible to call in all of the boys who played under him---indeed, all the students who came in contact with him---and ask them if they resented him or ever felt that he was unfair, I am sure that no more than a half dozen out of hundreds might say they were unfairly treated by him, whether in class, in the corridors or assembly hall, or out on the ballfield. He had the uncanny ability to pick out the genuine troublemaker every time.
I am sure that all his students would agree that his discipline didn't do them one iota of harm. In today's crazy, mixed-up culture parents would be calling in the A.C.L.U. and charging cruel and abusive treatment. Others would be charging infringement of civil rights and discrimination. I have asked it before, and I will ask it again: "Where have we gone wrong?" Some of the most satisfying times of my life, and the times when I learned the most in the shortest time, were the days, rain, shine, hot, or cold, when I was playing football and baseball under the watchful eye of Gene Lovely.
Some of the other high school teachers of that era I have already mentioned: Charley Gregory, Gertrude Berry, Marjorie Stevens, Mary L. Smith and Helen Monroe. I also recall Marjorie Smith, who taught French and Spanish, Agnes Dugan, an Andover girl who taught business and bookkeeping, Mervyn Stevens, who was in the commercial department, Miss Swett, who taught me European history, and Miriam Willis, the freshman English teacher.
Carl Gahan taught manual training. Margaret Hinchcliffe taught domestic science. Dorothy Farnham, who later married Superintendent Henry Sanborn, and Miriam Sweeney McArdle taught music. Lillian Fox taught English. How could I forget her? I was never in one of her classes but she coached me when I was selected by my classmates to give the advice to the undergraduates on Class Day in 1933. It rained that morning, and the Class Day exercises had to be moved indoors to the Town Hall. I sure had fun that day making those kids squirm.
The Punchard school day started at 8:05 with attendance-taking in the home room. At about 8:15 all classes marched over to the assembly hall on the second floor of the "Old Punchard Building," immediately behind the classroom building, about where the present Memorial Auditorium is located. There, the day was officially started with a brief reading from scripture---King James Version---by the principal and unison recitation of the Lord's Prayer. It made no difference what our religious leaning might be; it was fitting and proper to start the day with some consideration for our Maker. Some of the Roman Catholics who came up from St. Augustine's questioned the ending of the Lord's Prayer, but we never questioned whether prayer was appropriate in school. At St. Augustine's we had become accustomed to stopping in the middle of a sentence, when the bell rang every half hour, to say a prayer. We all respected each other, and no one made a "Federal Case" out of saying a prayer.
Finally, the principal would make the announcements for the day and we would return to our homerooms to prepare for our first class. There was a brief (about 20 minutes) recess at around 11:15, and school was out at 1:05 p.m. There was no lunch period, no cafeteria. In the fall and spring, we would hurry home, eat lunch, and return to school , to the basement locker room, in the basement, where we would change into our uniforms and be out on the field for practice before 3:00.
In the spring we had baseball games two or three days a week. If a game was out of town---in Ipswich, Billerica, Chelmsford, wherever---we had to be back at Punchard early so that we would be in those towns early enough to start the game on time. We usually quit football practice at about 4:30, and after showering and changing we would usually get home sometime around 5:15. It made for a full day.
As a freshman I played in only two or three football games and almost no baseball. Mickey Walker was the star of our football team, and he was surrounded by "Wimmie" Greene, Fred Ladd---who died tragically during the season---George Snow, Bill Page, Eddie Rondeau, Suren Loosigian, Walter Pearson, Harry Gouch and Mac MacTernen. In each of our first two seasons the team won six and lost three games; we won the "big" games against Exeter High and Searles High of Methuen.
I played a little in most of the games in my sophomore year. Finally in junior year, my class came into its own: we were undefeated, beating Methuen in the final game at Gill Avenue grounds in Methuen, 3 to 0, in a bitterly fought battle. A speedster by the name of Taylor caught a punt, got outside of our end, and ran almost the length of the field except for one little mistake. Right in front of the Methuen bench, he tried to get around me. I was fairly fast in those days---at 160 pounds-and as I left my feet to hit him, he swerved, lost his balance for stride and stepped "on" the sideline. The headlinesman, John Kennedy from Lawrence, was trailing the play, caught up with his infraction---in football the sideline is out of bounds---and marked the spot. As I went down I spotted it and put my hand right on the line. I almost got trampled in the melee that ensued.
Neither Kennedy nor I was welcome in Methuen for years after that, but it was a good game and a fitting climax to a fine season. Among the players on that team were Walter Pearson, Jack Deyermond, Alan Milnes, Bill Hurley, Bill Daly, Dave Petrie, John Pike, Eddie Howe, Wally Johnson, Drummond Bisset, Higus Asoian, Harry Gouch (who kicked the field goal), Henry Hilton, Lincoln Stack, and several others.
The next year, 1932, my senior year, we had lost Gouch, Pearson, Loosigian, and Petrie, but all the others were back, plus Dave Nicoll, Joe O'Brien, Bobby Nicoll, Al McCarthy, Harry Meadowcroft, Stan Perkins, Wally Johnson, and one or two others. All but Joe O'Brien were my classmates, and we lost only one game, to Danvers. Danvers had a wonderful team and their punter was able to keep us in a hole all afternoon. They blocked two punts on us, fell on them in the endzone, and beat us 15 to 6.
In my four years of football, Punchard won about 25 games, lost 7, and tied 2. In baseball, the tally was 40 wins and 13 losses. Tom Low, who pitched my first two years, lost only two games, one each year. After that we were not as successful. We lacked the strong pitching in part because pitchers did not get the chance to develop as freshmen and sophomores. Albie Swenson and Harold Rutter did well for us, however.
Most of the baseball was played by athletes who were also football players, but some of the "baseball only" players were Archie Davidson, Kenny Wallace, Jimmy O'Donnell, and Pee Wee Rennie. Baseball was not our prime sport, it seemed. Football definitely was. There were 26 boys in my graduating class and 19 of them were on the football squad. We had no basketball or hockey teams because we did not have the facilities. And as I think about it now, it would have been almost impossible to stock a squad for any competing sport. The school was just not big enough.
It was 1936 before the new auditorium and gymnasium were completed, and Punchartl at last had its first boys' basketball team. Don Dunn had moved in as director of physical education and basketball coach. I still remember quite vividly attending the first game in the new gym, in December of my senior year in college. About five minutes before game time, Don Dunn approached me and asked if I would serve as timekeeper. Now I had never actually "seen" a basketball game other than the oldstyle territorial game played by the girls' team at the old Andover Guild on Brook Street. I told Dunn that it was out of the question, but he kept after me. Having held a stopwatch as a football official, I was familiar with that device; and Dunn said there was no one else who understood how to handle the "clock." Finally, after I insisted that the referee and the opposing coach both be made aware of my novice position, I consented to work the clock. Surprisingly, I made it without a hitch, my introduction to basketball.
As time marched on, facilities improved and the student body grew in numbers. Especially in the fifteen years after World War II, the school system expanded its athletic program for both boys and girls and the achievements of the various teams certainly did the system and the town proud.
Among the better-known coaches, after the Lovely era, have been Ken McKiney, Bob McIntyre---still living in Shawsheen---down to the present: Dick Collins has established quite a record in football and track, and Will Hixon, recently the high school principal, had a decade or more of consistent championship basketball teams.
Many others who worked in the system did not get the exposure and recognition that the high school varsity coaches did, but I would be remiss not to mention Bob Bourdelais, Hurley, Sullivan, Ted Boudreau (one of my personal favorites), and all those who worked so hard to feed the system.
With all this sports activity going on at the high school, we must tip the hat to all the hundreds of volunteers who have coached Church League basketball, Pee Wee football, Little League, Senior League and Legion baseball, and Youth Hockey and the latest craze, soccer. Truly, when I say hundreds, I do not exaggerate. The number of participants in these non-school-system sponsored sports teams over the last forty years must number in the thousands, and the parents and friends who helped these youngsters all deserve gold medals for their interest and dedication.
Personally, I had the opportunity to observe the coaches in Little League baseball during my more than twenty years of umpiring. I decided to retire when it became apparent to me that the groundskeepers were setting the bases farther apart each succeeding year. It was becoming more and more difficult to work the bases. I always knew where I should be as the play was developing but getting into position to call the play was becoming more and more difficult. Those darn groundkeepers kept adding two or three inches to the foot when they laid out the diamonds!
Those were fun years and I enjoyed teaming up with Gerry Silverman, Dave Lucey, Dr. Doug Dunbar and his father, and many others. I hated to give it up, but sooner or later we all have to realize that none of us can go on forever. So far in my life I think that I have had the good sense to quit before I embarrassed myself. I pray that I will have the good sense to continue that mode.
In my youth, and I mean early youth, there was no organized sports program for the young people, outside of high school football, baseball, and girls' basketball. Jim Cole coached the Stowe Junior High school boys in football and baseball for three or four years, about the time that I was heading for high school, but that was a rarity.
Of course, the population was not as mobile as it is today. There were no station wagons or minivans that enthusiastic parents could fill with all the neighborhood kids and car pool to the Saturday morning soccer tourneys. We played In our own neighborhoods. My friends, Ray Roesch, Bob and Bill Deyermond, Albie Swenson, Jack White, Mel Grover, John Moriarty, and a few others played baseball morning, afternoon, and evening all summer in Flint's Field. Like so many other sites in town, Flint's Field is no longer a ballfield. It is now Flint Circle off High Street and any children from the old neighborhood would now have to go to one of the public playfields. This brings larger numbers together and, of course, the need for supervision, coaching, uniforms, and top-quality equipment follows. I'm sure that we had the chance to field more ground balls, catch more flies, steal more bases, and swing at more "high hard ones" than our counterparts of today, but I would never try to convince anyone that the old way was better.
In 1928 a new phenomenon, with which I was to be associated for over thirty years, came to Andover. Margaret Davis, a social and recreational worker from Nashville, Tennessee, by way of Vanderbilt and graduate studies at Columbia, came to town and took over the operation of the Andover Guild. The Guild, located on Brook Street, was a recreation center for the children of the working-class families in the town. There were game rooms, arts and crafts rooms, and in the basement a gymnasium and bowling alleys. I rarely set foot inside the building until I was a member of the playground staff, but a lot of my schoolmates made use of the facilities. When I was in high school, the girls' basketball team played their games there and I did attend a few of those games.
Basketball was the only sport for girls in the high school curriculum. Some of the betterknown players in those days were Ann Glowacki Simpson, Mary Rennie Reed, the turkey farm Reeds from Dascomb Road (now Partridge Hill), Margaret Carroll, Thelma Beck, and Peggy Wood, who married my longtime friend, Joe Connor.
Margaret Davis, to keep busy in the summer and to maintain the contact with the Guild young people, opened a playground in the rear of the Stowe School. I never went near the place that first season---in fact, I did not realize that it existed until we were back in school in September. But Fred Sullivan, Bill Hurley, Joe Sheehy, and some of the other boys really enjoyed themselves that year. When the 1929 summer came along, I was a regular attendant.
Miss Davis had the help of Caroline Abbot, who lived next door at Bill Hurley's mother's house, and Jimmy Bissett, who lived on North Main Street and had done some gymnastic work at the Lawrence YMCA. Jimmy also worked evenings at the Guild during the winter season.
Margaret Davis was a most interesting woman. I would have to say that during the next dozen years, I learned more from her that I ever learned from any school teacher or, in fact, from anyone other than my parents. She was probably twenty-five years my senior, and from that very first summer, she placed me in a volunteer position of authority almost constanfly. It is a matter of record that I never participated in any playground contest or entered any competition during the next five years. She always had me refereeing, judging, or supervising some activity or other.
After my freshman year at Boston College, I was sitting in our living room one afternoon in June 1934, when she called me on the phone. "What are you doing?" "Listening to the ballgame on the radio." "Well, come up to see me; I have a job for you for the summer." I obeyed and went up. She and her elderly mother and father had a third floor apartment in Peg Sweeney's house on Chestnut Street-where Mike Morris has his law office now. Jim Tammany, older brother of retired police officer and police artist, Bill Tammany, and I were to work on the playground from 5 p.m. to dusk, five days a week-for $2 a day. The pay for that season amounted to $90 for each of us, and that was $90 more that many of my friends earned.
This was the very depth of the Depression. There were no tax deductions, so all of the money was mine to keep. I can assure you that it certainly helped when school started in September. More important than the money was the fact that I was learning lessons in leadership that could never be measured in dollars. Being "thrown" out in front of five hundred people, at the age of eighteen, and being expected to command attention and keep order certainly helped to get me on course for such tasks as lectoring before a full congregation not only in my home parish of St. Augustine but also in any strange parish where I might be asked or invited to participate. And certainly it helped prepare me for the job of handling the gavel at a town meeting.
Miss Davis taught me how to win respect from all ages, how to cope with emergencies---we had our share---and most of all, she gave me an opportunity to work with most of the young people who grew up here in Andover between 1935 and 1950. Earlier I mentioned the episode of the gold medal at the Shawsheen playground. There were other momentous happenings, some tragic, such as the drowning of the little Irvine boy in the river in 1936, the first year of the playground in Shawsheen, when we operated on the athletic field behind the tennis courts on Balmoral Street. That was a very sad time. The youngster wandered away while we were setting up for the Carnival Night. No one knew his whereabouts until his playmate sat down to dinner and happened to say, "Jackie fell in the water." The softball game between the fathers' teams was in progress when Mildred Schruender Dimlich came over to me, her face white as a sheet, to report, "We think Jackie Irvine is in the river." Needless to say, the game ended, the carnival closed, and the police and firemen found Jackie, about three feet from the edge of the wall. It was a sad night as I threw the switch to shut out the colored lights that had been strung that afternoon with such hope and anticipation.
My job for several years was to plan and supervise the special events. Playgrounds offered a special program every week-on Wednesday in Shawsheen, Thursday in Ballardvale, and Friday at Central (Stowe School). There were stilt races, beautiful baby contests, soap bubble blowing contests, pet shows, doll shows, boxing, a carnival to raise funds to buy equipment. We finished the final week of each summer with field day races and the awarding of prizes.
In 1935 the town meeting appropriated $750 to operate the one Central playground, and Harry Tyer, Charley Scott, and Frank Markey were appointed as the playground committee. Once the town got into the business, it was inevitable that Shawsheen and Ballardvale would want installations, so in February 1936 Margaret Davis invited me to attend a meeting at the Guild to consider asking for an additional sum to staff the two new playgrounds. It was quite a night as I recall it now. The additional funds required was the tremendous sum of $500. I kept my mouth shut as long as I could, until the expansion of the system was about to be abandoned. I was well aware of the opening sentence of Demosthenes' first invective against Philip of Macedon, spoken by the young orator, his maiden speech before the Athenian Deme---the town meeting. He said, "If the subject matter of this discussion were new, I would wait until all of my learned elders had spoken, but this matter has been before you many times. . ." and he proceeded to orate.
Well, so did I. I could not understand why they would let $500 keep about half the children in the town from enjoying the benefits of a program that had proved successful. Harry Tyer explained to me that every $17,000 of appropriations meant one more dollar on the tax rate. I shot back that the entire $1250 appropriation would impact the tax rate about eight cents and the $500 would add only about three and one half cents.
"But it is an expense, it is additional, and it is on the wrong side of the ledger, and we are afraid that the people will not vote for it." My only reply was, "Let the people make that decision; don't you try to do it for them." I was sure that Stafford Lindsay in Shawsheen and Dick O'Brien, the postmaster in Ballardvale, would stir up enough interest in those communities to put it across. You see, I wasn't even a voter at that time, but I nevertheless understood how town meeting works. If you have the votes in the hall it really doesn't make much difference what your opponent has to say. The vote still carries.
The additional money was voted and I went on a full-time schedule---two o'clock until dusk----at $20 a week. I really needed the money that year, because I had lost my football scholarship when my knee was knocked out in a late September scrimmage. During the next five or six years, Andover playgrounds had a terrific summer program, with heavy attendance at each of the three locations, a dedicated staff, and a very efficient director.
Margaret Davis taught me that there was
more to a playground program than softball and
volleyball. She introduced me to teaching handcraft classes, reading stories to forty or more little listeners and cultivating the interest and enthusiasm of parents so that the townspeople came to appreciate what we were doing.
I learned to be a firm disciplinarian, firm but fair. I learned that the one who was looked upon as the toughest disciplinarian was, not coincidentally, the first one that children went to in time of trouble. If someone was injured, we were the first to be called; if someone was disruptive, we were the first to be sought out for help.
One other thing Margaret Davis once told me has come back to me several times in recent years. She said: "James, some years from now, when you are older, you can be elected to any public office in this town that you choose." I laughed at that because I had no interest, at that time, in public elective office. My brother Bill was on the school committee, and frankly I could not see myself taking all that grief.
Well, you know, she proved to be right. As I walk around town, go to church, attend town meeting, I look out and see so many---grown-up and perhaps grandparents today---who sat on my knee at story time, held their pets for me to admire, or played on my softball teams. I still think of all of them as my "playground kids."
Among my many young friends whom I still see around town from time to time, I have already mentioned Mike Muise, current town treasurer; Ralph Manning, who married Johnny White's sister Annie (John's father operated the Elm Street gas station for Louis Eidman for many years before World War II); Kenny Lewis, who has moved out of town; Raymond Lynch, who married Anna Gill from Cuba Street (Raymond was one of the finest football players ever to attend Punchard High School); Gus Connelly, a younger brother of Tom, George, Eddie, Marion, Florence, and Eleanor.
Two sets of twins were regular playgrounders: the Steinert twins from Shawsheen, Jean and June, and the Draper twins from Bartlet Street, Jane and Joan---one married Bill Schlott, the tire tycoon, and the other married Dr. Miller, the dentist, although I never did know which married which! Katherine O'Riordan and her sisters Joanne and Sally came; Katherine is now Mrs. Hussey. I cannot forget the Porter sisters from Bartlet Street; there were three of them, one blonde, one brunette and one redhead. Their brother, Alton, served on the police department for several years. Then there was the Surette family from Locke Street, two boys (the older was Donald) and three or four girls. Their father worked for the Burns Co. for years.
At the Shawsheen playground we had Bobby Burnham, an excellent athlete who later married Margaret Gordon from Temple Place, and Arthur Jowett, Jr. Bobby worked for the Boston & Maine Railroad, and Arthur was a state trooper. Both "boys" died in recent years. Burnham played baseball during the war years for Hal Wennik's town team. I understand that it was not unusual for him to pitch a doubleheader on Sunday afternoons, one game right-handed and the other left-handed. A heart condition that kept him out of the service eventually took his life.
In West Andover, the one individual who could beat me---occasionally-----at checkers was David Hartz. He had a sister, Carla. Their father, Carl, was a regular town meeting attender for many years and was always very outspoken and critical of the town administration. However, Carl was always respectful of others' feelings and opinions, could disagree without being disagreeable, and always sat down when requested by the moderator. Carl's wife was Bessie Carter, sister of the Herbert Carter who served on the school committee with Bill for several years.
The playground at the site of the old Indian Ridge School on Cuba Street was the smallest. It served the children from Cuba Street, Red Spring Road, part of Shawsheen Road, Moraine Street, and Brechin Terrace. Among the young people I remember from that locale were Fr. Stanley Smith, O.S.A., now stationed at St. Augustine's on Tower Hill, the Gaudets, Mimes, Lynches, and Guerreras. I was nearing the end of my tenure when the Indian Ridge was opened so I did not get the chance to get to know them very well. I do know that it was a fine, close-knit, neighborhood playground.
The Ballardvale playground entertained most of the children in the community. Among the families and children who came to the grounds that I haven't mentioned elsewhere are Jim and Joan O'Brien, the Palenskies, Crystal Cormey, Durwood Moody, who later served on the recreation committee with me, the Andersons, and their cousins the Rogges.
Ballardvale always was, and to this day remains, a very close community, characterized by a sense of pride in being one of the oldest sections of the town. I always enjoyed my work there and always felt that the efforts of the recreation department were truly appreciated by the residents. To this day, forty years later, I have a certain warm feeling when I drive through the Vale or meet any of my old friends from that neighborhood.
Several of the young people who worked in the playground system with me during those years are also still around town today: Isabelle Dobbie, Shirley Hey Cowdrey, Adeline Wright, Nancy Gleason Muldoon, Barbara Barnard, Maureen Higgins O'Connell, Mary Leary, Rosemary O'Connor, Constance Cole, Alma MacTammany MacDonald, Eleanor Raidy Shannon, Bonnie Bendroth Weiss, Ben Dimlich, George Snyder, George Zink, and Jim Haggerty. I think all would agree that those, were great days.
While we were operating the playgrounds, the swimming beach at Pomps was flourishing, too. Back about 1923 or 1924 Frank McBride, caretaker of the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Daughters home on Chestnut Street, had started to put in time on a volunteer basis at Pomps Pond, in part because Joseph Burbine, a schoolmate of mine, had drowned there the year before. Frank went down every morning and spent most of the day, giving swimming lessons to anyone who wanted to learn. He was so successful that a few citizens, led by John F. O'Connell, were able to persuade the town to appropriate some money, appoint a supervisory committee, and set up what soon became a very successful summer recreation program.
In the beginning the bath houses that had been built at Hussey's Pond were put in shape and a lifeguard was stationed there. In time that became impractical and was abandoned. Around that time Jerome W. Cross, the owner of Cross Coal Co., cleaned up one of his coal trucks, installed settees, and ran a shuttle between Central Street, next to the Baptist Church, and Pomps from about one to five o'clock every day. This was a great help, and on hot days the ride was a godsend.
Jerome Cross's wife and one of his daughters, Julie Musk, served at different times on the school board, and his son Jerome Jr. and his wife Ethel for years ran the Andover Book Store, now Bill and Caroline Dalton's operation. The Crosses' shuttle was an "institution" for about twenty-five years, and almost everyone in town, in the appropriate age group, rode it at one time or another.
When Don Dunn was called back into active duty in the Navy in the spring of 1950, the recreation committee asked me to assume "administrative supervision" of Pomps Pond. Richard Kidd from High Street, the head lifeguard, oversaw a staff of about six or seven guards, all Red Cross trained and certified. They did an excellent job, and I turned them all back to Don in 1952.
I mentioned several of my co-workers on the playgrounds, but it would not be a complete report. without mention of some of the mothers who gave of their time and talents to help run the carnivals every year to raise money for equipment. In those days we operated on a very tight budget, and almost no money was provided for the purchase of swings, slides, jungle gyms, and similar heavy equipment. Therefore, we had to depend upon our good friends, the mothers, to help us run fundraising carnivals. Our goal was to clear about $125 to $150 on each playground, keeping the funds separate in each playground's name. When we had saved enough money to purchase a new piece of equipment, it would be ordered, and Jim Ronan and the employees of the park department of the board of public works would install it.
My first year the chairman of the carnival committee was Mrs. M. E. Dalton, mother of Bill, Chancy, and Frances, and grandmother of Bill, Bucky, and Bobby. In succeeding years we were assisted by Mrs. Maggie MacCord, Mrs. Anna Yancy, Mrs. Alice Brennan (Mike and Mary's mother), Mrs. Walsh, Mrs. Jim Waldie (mother of John, Alex, and Margaret), Georgiana Sanborn, Agnes Ratcliffe (now of Ford's Coffee Shop), Adella Williams (mother of Wendy Murphy, who works in our office), and several others from Central.
In Ballardvale we had Mrs. Dick O'Brien, mother of Jim and Joan; Mrs. Peter Quinn, mother of Richard and Norma: Mrs. Eugene Murnane; and Mrs. Nowell, mother of Ted, Audrey, and Diane (who is now Mrs. Joseph W. Watson, Jr.).
In Shawsheen we had Mrs. Lydia Doyle (mother of Louise Collins), Mrs. Gillen, Mrs. Irvine, and many others whose names will come to me after the book is published. There were many more, but I remember best the ones with whom I worked diredfly---usually in connection with lighting or arranging some special attraction. All of those mentioned, and countless others, helped to provide a necessary recreational and social activity that was sorely needed during the Depression years of the 1930s.
Families had no discretionary money to go off to the beaches or mountains for a few days or weeks. It was not unusual for me, at the age of nineteen, to step into a softball game at the Central Playground in the evening and be the youngest person on the field. The fortunate ones who had access to a car were few and far between, and any loose change would be hoarded for a Sunday trip to Salisbury or Hampton Beach. In the summertime the playground was the place to go. And Andover had the best playgrounds around.