Ida Hood Parker—Electricity Comes to Bellingham, and Simple Stories of Farm Life

Ida Hood Parker has lived nearly her whole life in Bellingham. She has lost two beloved husbands, seen many changes, and is still ready to make new friends. She shared some stories with Marjorie of growing up in Bellingham and has clearly retained her sense of humor. The following is an edited version of the conversation Ida and Marjorie had in Ida’s home.

The day electricity came to town here in Bellingham everyone else but me was in school, so I stood alone on the front steps as they put the poles in on South Main Street (where I lived), one pole after the other. I was five years old. The workers had to trim so many trees to get the wires through.

When they put a pole right in our front yard, I got a good view, right up close, of the goings-on. Up till then we used oil lamps for lighting, but once everything was in place, we didn’t need them anymore; they connected the power right to our houses. Of course, there were no electric appliances in those days, so even though we had electricity, we still had to heat the stove up to warm our irons—in the summer that made the house really hot!

We moved to Bellingham from Blackstone when I was three, since my mother was worried about my sick grandmother, to a house right across the street from my grandparents’ farm. They owned the Aldrich Farm, which is now New England Bonsai, at the corner of South Main and North Streets. I crossed the street all by myself to visit my grandparents’ farm, even when I was a little girl. There wasn’t much traffic on South Main Street in those days; mother never worried about me.

Most of the men here in town worked on farms when I was younger.  The men who worked for my grandfather brought the horses out in the spring to spread the manure on the fields with a manure spreader. That manure had been stored in the barn all winter; it was good fertilizer and I loved the smell! I got so excited when I saw the horses. Hurrying across the street, I waited nearby, hoping to get a ride on the big workhorse that Ben Staples drove. When I finally got a ride, it nearly split me down the middle!

The First Baptist Church used their bell to call people to church on Sunday, to announce the noon hour, and to call for help when there was a fire. When the bell rang a certain number of times, everyone knew to come fight the fire. I got goose bumps when that bell rang during school hours; I couldn’t concentrate on my lessons.

I’m still afraid of fire; I have always been glad when it rains. When there were forest fires during school vacation, the fire sometimes spread out of control; that was really frightening.

The Grange took charge of the town hall when I was growing up; the organization took care of its upkeep. When my husband, Chet Hood, moved here from Rehoboth he joined the Grange. He hoped he might meet a wife there. Well, he did; and that was me!

As told to Marjorie Turner Hollman

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! New England Regional Chair for the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project.


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