Jeanne Thayer Kempton has lived in Bellingham her whole life. Many people know Jeanne from her days as the secretary at Clara Macy School Elementary School. On top of her secretarial duties she also played the piano for school functions. She started getting involved in elections as a clerk, back in 1949. These days you’ll see Jeanne working at the polls on election days, or playing the piano for weeknight services at the First Baptist Church. [As told to Marjorie Turner Hollman]
I was born in the house right next door to where I live now in Bellingham. My grandfather owned the Thayer General store—the building that is still right across from the police station in the center of town. The [present day] nail salon was the horse barn. The building has been turned [and now moved back from the street] from where it was. My grandfather’s house was where Rockland Bank is now. The cow barn was on Depot Street, which wasn’t very far from the house. Of course, Depot Street came closer to the center of town than where it is now. The pasture was where the town common park is now. It was all farmland around here then. In fact, just beyond where the cow barn was, there was a hill that we used to slide on in the winter. The hill is no longer there; it was leveled.
Pea Pod delivery of groceries is not new. My grandfather’s store was kind of a general store—it sold vegetables, fruit and more. My father had a route. He went out in the morning and took orders, then we went back to the store to fill the orders and delivered them in the afternoon. You can’t do anything but sterilize just about everything now. Somebody wanted a pound of cookies, we’d go and fill a paper bag with a pound of cookies. When we sold kerosene, we poured the kerosene into cans with a spout and put a potato at the end of the spout so it wouldn’t spill. We also sold canned goods, grain for the horses, wood, coal, hay, and chicken feed.
At the turn of the last century my father, Earl Thayer, just a boy at the time, had a horse—Old Nick. They used to hitch up Old Nick in the morning and he trotted down Mechanic Street to Allie Thompson’s, about a quarter mile or less. Nick went down there – he waited for Allie Thompson to come out and take the reins and go down to the train depot on Depot Street. Nick pulled a buggy behind him. She got off at the depot and got the train to Medway where she worked in the straw mill—making hats or something. When Allie Thompson got to the depot she put the reins over Old Nick’s back and he headed back to the barn and waited to get unhitched. At night when Allie’s train was due, Nick was hitched up. He’d go to the depot to pick Allie up then she got in to go home. One day Old Nick went to pick Allie up but she was sick and didn’t come out. I don’t know how long poor Old Nick had to wait.
Those train tracks to Medway are gone now—they crossed right by Jefferson Place, crossing Rt. 126 going north. Just past there you can see the path going through the woods, going across what is now Rt. 495. There were cars by that time, but very few of them. Cars and horses mixed freely on the road.
We used to rides horses up the railroad tracks that went up by Pete’s Bluebird Restaurant—it’s now conservation land. We also rode on Saddleback Hill, around what used to be called Wade’s Pond, behind the farm stand directly across from the Middle School. On Sundays we used to play games with the horses—there’s what looks like a track around Wade’s Pond. It was the Lake View Horse Club. We had races around the track, and relay races. You had to get off the horse, get a potato out of the barrel, get back on the horse and hold the potato with a spoon. We also took moonlight rides on horseback if it was a full moon. I loved to ride horses.
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 LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com