Hopedale History
    July 15, 2017
    No. 328
    Flood, Fire and False Alarms

    Hopedale in July   

    Deaths  

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    Applications for the construction of additions to two nursing homes were approved by the Zoning Board of
    Appeals last night. James and Jesse Tracey of 34 Adin Street have also received approval from the state
    department of health of the addition of 20 rooms to their Oakledge Manor Home. The application of William and
    Pauline Earl for an addition to the Graceland Convalescent Home was approved based on acceptance of the
    plan by the state department of health. The home is the former residence of Warren W. Dutcher, 14 Adin Street.
    Milford Daily News, January 1967.

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                                                                   Flood, Fire and False Alarms
                                                                                        By Mike Cyr

    That Flood of 1955 (that Dan has posted quite a few pictures of)? We were there. As the pond overflowed the
    banks, escape plans were made. We actually went across Freedom Street to the Bancroft Park end of the Shop
    and went to the second floor. From there we made our way to the main entrance on Hopedale Street where Uncle
    Pat from Milford was waiting to take us to his house on South Main Street. Once the flood waters receded and we
    came back, the basement was filled to the windows with pond water. That cleanup took a long time and we had a
    cellar full of mosquitoes.

    On our section of Freedom Street, we had a fire alarm box. It was a red box with a white door hanging on the pole
    in front of number 96 Freedom Street. They all had different numbers to identify the location. This one was
    number 413.

    To an almost five year old kid it had the enchanting, luring call like the Sirens of Greek mythology. One day I was
    overcome and just like the Greek sailors, I headed for the "rocks." Armed with my little red tricycle to aid in
    reaching the box, I pulled open the little white door, grabbed hold of the lever and pulled it down. As a set of gears
    started to grind, suddenly I realized I had set in motion trouble that could not be reeled back. As the gears turned
    and the tumblers clicked into place I ran and looked for a place to hide. As the blast of the fire horns announced
    the trouble I was about to be in, I ran through the house, up the stairs and hid under my bed. There was one
    problem with the cover-up. I left the little red tricycle at the pole. Suddenly, my ankles were grabbed and in an
    instant my frightened, rigid body was pulled out from under the bed like a board from the wood pile. Right there in
    my bedroom were my dad and Fire Chief Charlie Watson. Dad and Charlie was looking really hot. Charlie was
    glaring at me with both his hand on his hips, his beer belly poking out, and a short stub of a cigar hanging from
    the side of his mouth. I got the lecture from Charlie about how I could go to jail and after he left came the
    spanking from dad.

    In a real case of déjà vu, five years later, my brother Alan (five years my junior), equipped with my handed down
    tricycle placed said tricycle against the same pole and pulled the lever of old fire alarm # 413. Predictably, with
    exactly the same result as my adventure five years earlier.

    We lived in a duplex that was built around 1880-1885. The homes should have been basically mirror images of
    one another. I often noticed that Grampy and Grammy’s side was much nicer than our side. They had an archway
    and two living areas. The living room in the front was more formal than the one in the back. There was also a
    sizable shadow box built in the wall for Grams Hummel collection. The kitchen was decked out with extensive
    cabinetry that you could tell was not store bought but hand built. This was in stark contrast to our side of the home
    which could best be described as almost original equipment with perhaps a few post WWI upgrades. When I
    asked my parents about the design differences, they smiled and explained to me that Grampy was the Head of
    the Painting Department and a few weeks before he and my Grandmother were scheduled to close on the
    house, my Grandmother carefully placed newspapers in the front living room area and set fire to them. She then
    called for help from the shop personnel. The wood shop was right across the street and workers were
    conveniently standing right near the door with buckets of sand and fire extinguisher canisters which were being
    stored for an anticipated “company” fire drill. Well, the fire was dispatched quickly with little structural damage but
    there was lots of smoke damage that needed to be repaired by the current owners. As head of the Painting
    Department and aligned with maintenance operations Gramps took charge of the repair of 96 Freedom Street
    which resulted in many of the aforementioned differences in the two units along with replastered ceilings
    throughout the house and new wall paper in the hallways.

    There was a second fire some years later. This one was on the 94 Freedom St side. It took place on a cold winter
    Saturday morning. At that time dad was a professional painter. In those days all the paint products were oil-
    based which meant the cleanup of tools and brushes require flammable chemicals. The storage spot for unused
    paint, shellac, varnish as well as thinner and cleaners was in the basement. On this cold weekend we were all
    tucked into our beds. The exceptions were my younger brothers Alan and Tom. They were up bright and early and
    down in the basement with all kinds of interesting brushes and buckets not to mentions a really old gas fired hot
    water heater.

    Imaginations grew wings with the possibilities. All was great until the bright idea was hatched to take a rag that
    was soaked with linseed oil, open the door to the hot water heater and stick it into the now open flame. Thrusting
    the linseed soaked rag into that flame had to have produced results for one 7 year old and his 5 year old sidekick
    that could only be described as a panic stricken moment. It was in that moment when the decision was made to
    plunge the fiery brush back into the liquid from which it came; the 5 gallon pail of turpentine. The results were not
    quite as expected. With flames running up the support beams and floor joists, the decision was made to seek
    adult support. I was awakened by screams of mom, “Get up! Get out! The house is on fire!”  As the Hopedale Fire
    Department under the direction of Chief Charlie Watson was pumping water into the basement we were huddling
    in the car in P.J.s and bathrobes, I remember a good piece of the neighborhood in our backyard watching the
    goings on. I was dismayed to see one of the firefighters to come out with the cage that housed the family
    parakeet, Pete. Pete did not look good. He was unconscious on the floor of the cage.

    For Al and Tom, the saving grace from the wrath of dad was the fact the Charlie Watson was really angry. I can
    still picture Charlie with his well rounded reddish Irish face, scrounged up like a bulldog chewing on that
    signature stubby cigar he always had. He was about three inches from dad’s face and screaming that we were
    lucky that the whole block hadn’t blown up with all the paint and chemicals down there. Charlie gave dad orders
    to have all this hazardous material ready for an inspection by the following week. For a kid like me in my early
    teens, it was amazing to see my father being chastised by the Fire Chief and as I looked at the rest of the
    neighborhood watching, I noticed Pete swinging on his swing and all was well.

                                                                              
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    These photos show Freedom Street during the 1955 flood. In the picture
    above, the house at the right edge is at the corner of Freedom and Progress.
    The one next to it is 94-96 Freedom, which was the home of the Cyr families,
    the subjects of the story on this page. In front of their house a fire hydrant and a
    utility pole painted as they are at fire alarm box locations can be seen. The fire
    alarm box, which figures in the story, can also be seen in the photo below.