Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bicycle! Bicycle!

"I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like."

Bicycling as a recreational pastime and a means of transport flourished in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Middleborough. Not all were pleased with this development, however, including resident curmudgeon James A. Burgess who wrote the following to the Middleboro Gazette in 1908 regarding "Reckless Bicycle Riders":

"I have a few words to say on the recklessness of bicycle riding and what rights the human family has to the highway today. Under the old common law the highway belongs first to the person on foot, but the thing has been reversed, and today he is the last person who has any rights on it. And what rights has he?

"The bicycle rider has come and come to stay. He rides more on the sidewalks in this village and town than he does anywhere else, outside a small section in the centre. Take for instance the sidewalk across the rear of the town house lot. It is safe to say that five bicycle riders out of six ride on that walk. And I am told that women who live in that section don't pretend to come out, much less to attempt to cross it evenings....

"Tuesday night, upon crossing [the Four Corners], I was hit by a bicycle rider and thrown flat upon my back. The young man did not stop to see if I was injured, which I was not. He is known. Now if he will call around and see me, I will apologize for being in his way and guarantee that I will never be there again if I can help it."

Fortunately for Burgess, the bicyclists pictured here confined their riding to the rural precincts with the Green being a conspicuous locale.

Bicyclist, Middleborough Green, 1912.
For many like the gentleman pictured here, bicycles represented a relatively inexpensive means of transportation. Automobiles had not yet been popularized and, like horses, remained expensive and impractical for many young industrial workers who found employment in local factories. Meanwhile, trolleys and the steam railroad were limited in geographic scope. The bicycle, however, allowed individuals the freedom to explore and travel.

Middleborough bicycle enthusiasts, photograph by John A. Belden, c. 1900.
The two women pictured here represented a new generation of bicycle riders. Previously many women had been much dependent upon male relations to convey them about so the bicycle represented a new independence for them. Susan B. Anthony maintained that bicycle-riding had "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Lady bicyclist, Middleborough Green, late 1800s
Women bicyclists were sometimes criticized for riding about the countryside unescorted which some found shocking. More dismaying for conservative-minded individuals was the adoption of bloomers by lady bicycle riders which made riding both safer and easier. The woman pictured here, however, remained more modestly dressed in her ankle-length skirt. Such skirts, however, required a different design for women's bicycles and explains why the top tube (or brace) on the frame of a woman's bicycle was substantially lower than on bicycles ridden by their male counterparts. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Battis Field Dedication

The following souvenir scorecard was distributed as part of the dedication celebration for Battis Field, November 8, 1941.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lakeville Trolley Scare, 1910

Find it difficult to retrieve change you drop down between the seat and the console in your car? Well here’s a bit of unnerving news from 1910 Lakeville.

Dynamite Scare.

Passengers Fled from Car Near Lakeville.

Workmen Dropped Stick of Explosive, but No One Hurt.

Excitement prevailed on the electric car from Elliott’s Corner [East Taunton] to the Lakeville town house [October 31] afternoon, when it was discovered that a workman who was on his way to New Bedford had dropped a stick of dynamite between the window sash and the car seat. The stick of the explosive was small and just fitted in the slot where the window slides down between the side panels of the car.

It was noticed that the workman was trying to recover something from the small cavity, and when asked by conductor Cornell what he was doing he answered that he had dropped a stick of dynamite in there.

The passengers at once became panic-stricken. Motorman Frazer and the conductor thought of the wires concealed there and saw visions of the car and passengers going up in the air. It was decided to stop the car and allow the passengers to walk to the town house, a short distance away.

The car was run slowly to the car barn five miles away, extra precaution being taken against any great jar. Master mechanic Edward Robinson fished the stick out with a wire, and it was exploded in the woods in the rear of the station.

The passengers, after recovering from their fright, took the next car to [Middleborough]. Traffic was delayed only a short time while a car was being substituted.

Lakeville trolley car with Lakeville Town House in the background, c. 1900. The trolley mentioned in the article would have been an enclosed trolley that typically replaced the open trolley pictured here which was used during the warmer months.

Boston Globe, "Dynamite Scare", November 1, 1910.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Middleborough High School Popularizes Football

Football emerged as a popular sport in Middleborough in the late 1800s, largely through the efforts of Middleborough High School students who formed the first teams in town. The school itself initially provided little direction or organization. Teams were formed informally by the students who, as recorded by newspaperman James H. Creedon, were responsible for engaging their own coach and establishing their own schedules in conjunction with other teams in the region. It is through the work of these boys that football was popularized locally. These early roots ultimately led to the growth of semi-professional football in Middleborough when in 1939 the forerunner of the successful Mitchell Memorial Club Cobras was formed. The highly successful team, now simply the Middleboro Cobras, continues to fulfill the community’s passion for the sport as part of the Eastern Football League as does the local high school team.

The 1905 Middleborough High School squad poses for a team photo. As is evident from the makeshift uniforms in the photograph, the team was, like many of the school’s earliest teams, informally organized. Students made do with what they could cobble together including quilted pants and cotton knit sweaters. Noticeable is the absence of protective gear such as helmets and pads, though five of the boys have noseguards which were uncomfortable to wear and  were eventually replaced by facemasks starting in the 1920s.  

Practices were held regularly in the large open field in the rear of Middleborough High School which then occupied the South Main Street school building which was later and better known as the Bates School. In the background, the Episcopal and Baptist churches are conspicuous with Center Street seen in the far distance.

Pictured is the 1908 Middleborough High School team including George Jones, Charlie McCarty, Frank Harrington, Ralph Mendall, Brad Swift, Bill Andrews, Russell Perkins, Everett Clough and Charles Lang. Future Superintendent of Schools J. Stearns Cushing sits in the center and holds the ball marked ’08. “Mel” Gammons, standing in the back row, second from the right, was a noted all-round athlete who was instrumental in the formation of the Middleborough High School basketball team, a sport at which he excelled. The year following this image, the high school was unable to organize a football team, but had sufficient interest in 1910 to field two squads.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thomas Panesis, c. 1925

Thomas Panesis in his canopy express truck, circa 1925.

As part of the fruit and produce business Panesis conducted in Middleborough, delivery wagons and later trucks were operated. The photo depicts Panesis in what is believed to be the GMC truck he acquired in June 1922. (Four years later, in June 1926, he added a Chevrolet delivery truck).
Panesis had poor luck with both the wagons and trucks. In August 1915 his delivery wagon was struck by an auto and in July 1919 Forest... Washburn ran into Panesis' fruit wagon with his motorcycle. In February 1927 Robert E. Nolan's touring car collided with Panesis' truck on Everett Street.

The location is the corner of Benton and Webster Streets with 28 Webster Street being noticeable in the background.

Panesis Fruit Store, 1906

The photograph is of the original Center Street fruit store of Greek immigrant Thomas Panesis (who appears second from the right).

Panesis entered the fruit selling business at Taunton in 1899 and later became familiar with Middleborough where he operated delivery carts following 1901. In 1906, Panesis relocated to Middleborough, occupying a small building which stood between the Middleborough Savings Bank Building and B. F. Tripp's ice cream parlor and which had been constr...ucted in 1895 by L. P. Thatcher for use by George F. Bryant as a coal office.

In addition to the great variety of fresh fruit sold by the Center Street firm (a portion of which is displayed here), tobacco and candy were also available and in 1909 a cigar case was added in the small space. Fresh roasted peanuts were also retailed (even following mid-June 1909 when the peanut roaster at the store exploded, injuring employee Peter Zamfes). Residents of the period would long afterwards recall the smell of freshly roasted peanuts wafting from the store. So successful was the business that in late 1909 Panesis was compelled to rent additional space elsewhere in Middleborough for storage. Ultimately, in 1913, Panesis relocated his business to a larger building on the opposite side of Tripp's where it remained for another three-quarters of a century, becoming a Middleborough institution.

Although this photograph is marked "1907 May 30" at the bottom, a different photograph which was clearly taken on the same day and which appears in Mertie E. Romaine's History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts, is labelled July 4, 1906, the more likely date. The Middleborough Savings Bank Building is recognizable on the left of the picture while the window on the right advertising ice cream, Moxie and Coca-Cola belongs to Tripp's.

Bob's Diner

The diner that stood at the Four Corners between 1939 and 1973 was built upon the site of a wood-frame building that had stood there since before 1800. That building was demolished by Alphonse D. Fish who installed a new diner on the site in December 1939. Kenneth Keedwell initially leased the diner which was later operated as Bob’s Diner and Emery’s.

 In July 1973 the diner was demolished, the Middleboro Gazette reporting at the time: “The first major change in the ...appearance of the Four Corners for some years was in progress this week as demolition of the former ‘Bob’s Diner,’ more lately known as ‘Emery’s,’ got under way. An auction, held at the corner lot Monday to clear the contents of the diner, added to the activity as workers broke up the diner and an addition built on some time ago. Razing of the diner provided employment for several of the youths who have frequented the corner”.

Don Ayotte and Gary Correia constructed the replacement building that now occupies the location.