The Pond and Cox Families of Mendon
By Elaine (Holt) Malloy
My parents bought land from the Ponds on George Street in Mendon in 1949. I was five years old at
the time. They paid $50 for it. Sometime later they paid $125 to buy the abutting lot on the side toward
Hopedale, also from the Ponds. They didn’t do anything with it for a few years, but when I was almost
nine they decided to build a house there. My father cleared the lot, and he actually dug a shallow well
himself. It was about twenty feet deep. Varney Brothers poured the foundation and a carpenter named
Frank Boyer built the four-room house.
The Ponds were very elderly. There were two sisters; Anna and Clara, and they had one brother,
Arthur. Arthur was very, very stooped. Clara was somewhat of an artist. (Doug Taylor told Paul
Doucette of another brother, John Eli Pond, who died at the age of 8 in 1880.) Our name was Holt,
and they must have thought we were a fine old Yankee family. They invited us to the Unitarian Church.
My mother told them, no, we were Catholics and we’d be going to St. Michael's. I think they almost fell
on the floor.
The Ponds had a few cows and some chickens. I remember Arthur taking us into the barn to see the
cows. They had a Jersey and a Holstein. I don’t remember what the others were. We hadn't been
living in Mendon long when we brought Princess, our border collie down there. She hadn't had any
training, but evidently just by instinct she started rounding up the cows. One day they told me that they
figured one of the hens was hiding her eggs. There was a flowering bush in front of the house and I
went under it and found where she was laying them.
Their house was quite unique, to say the least. The kitchen had an old soapstone sink. There wasn’t
a faucet; it had a hand pump. There were open shelves, and on the bottom shelf they kept an old
wooden bucket. When I’d go there, if I asked for a drink of water, they’d have me use a dipper and get
the water from the bucket. It tasted wonderful.
The Ponds had a player piano in their living room. There was a corner cupboard in that room. It had a
closed area at the bottom and open shelves at the top. The bottom was just jam-packed full of rolls
for the piano. My sister, Maureen, and I used to go down there and play that piano a lot. They had a
large number of songs, such as Ain’t She Sweet and Indian Love Call. One day I pulled out one
called Oh, Holy City. I played it and was pretty bored with it, but they thought it sounded just wonderful.
Arthur had a rocking chair in what could be considered their dining room. They bought a refrigerator
one time and it was kept in that room. It wasn’t used to refrigerate food. It was used to make ice
cubes for the icebox.
My father had seen the idea of using wagon wheels for railings outside our front door, and I got the
idea of getting a pair of them from the Ponds. I went down there and Arthur was rocking in his chair.
When I asked if I could buy wheels, he said, yes, five dollars for the pair, delivered. He said to come
back in the afternoon and meet him at the south entrance to the barn. Neither Maureen nor I had a
clue where the south entrance was, so we just walked around the barn until we found him. The
wheels were in mint condition. He had just removed them from a wagon.
Arthur had an old car. It was a black 1929, but I don’t remember if it was a Ford or a Chevrolet. He had
painted the roof silver and he thought it looked pretty neat that way. He had a sheet of metal that he
tied to the back bumper, and he tied the wagon wheels to the sheet. It seems like it was just
yesterday. I can see him going up the hill with those wagon wheels. What a racket it made!
There was a time when the chickens were laying more eggs than usual, so they decided to sell
some. Clara painted a sign on a piece of cardboard. It might have been the bottom of a shirt box. She
painted the word, “Eggs” on it. She did a beautiful job. They were kind of rounded letters. I imagine
Arthur must have made the holder for it.
Anna was something of a social butterfly. One event she’d attend each year was the Mendon High
School graduation. They were held in the Unitarian Church back then. I went with her to the 1958
graduation. I think there were just fifteen graduates that year, and only three of them were boys. Anna
wanted to go to the upper level where we could look down at the ceremony. We walked up to the
church and then walked back home after graduation. They were really good neighbors.
The Ponds owned all the land up Neck Hill Road. Back then it was called Breakneck Hill Road. It
seems there was a horse that was injured there and was put down. Apparently parts of the area were
extremely muddy and there was a corduroy road there. That was a road made up of logs laid across
its width all along the muddy area.
When I graduated from the eighth grade in 1958, the Ponds gave me a present – a necklace. It was
very old even then. The chain was silver. Suspended from an ornate filigree center was a small,
rectangular opaque piece. In the center there was a diamond chip. That, too, was surrounded by
silver. I still have that necklace.
The Ponds were very frugal people. We’d see an example of that every December. Each year they’d
send us a Christmas card with a hole in it. They had cut out the signature of the person who had
previously sent it to them. Phone calls from them were rather different. From the moment you’d
answer, there was only the message/reason for the call, and then, click. They’d never say hello or
The Cox family lived next door to us. The parents were Nathaniel and Doris Daniels Cox. They had
four sons. The sons’ names in order of age were Norman, Jesse, Danny and Carlton. Norman was
three years older than I was, Jesse was one year older, and Danny was three years younger. Carlton
was at least a couple of years younger than Danny. Their driveway was between their house and
ours, but they didn’t actually own the land it was on. It still belonged to the Ponds, but they used to
rent it to the Coxes for twenty-five cents a year.
Mrs. Cox was a wonderful artist. She was without a doubt the best artist I’ve ever seen in my life. She
could do pastels; she could do water colors; she was a genius at painting in oil. Her studio was at
the back of the house in a room that had lots of natural light. It was filled with paintings, paints and
other supplies, and her easel. I loved that room. One thing she did that absolutely impressed me
was that she could paint portraits of her own children, and still be very satisfied with the way they
came out. I can’t imagine knowing someone as well as your own children, and still capturing their
essence on canvas.
There was a picture of Norman and Jesse that hung in the dining room. They had twin jackets; little
hunting jackets, red with black checks. They had matching caps with earflaps, and they were
standing there together baiting their fishhooks. I think the area of water in the picture was the tiny
pond in their backyard. I don’t think it had any fish in it, but we used to play around there a lot.
Another work Mrs. Cox had done was of an elderly woman peeling apples. I just loved that picture.
She did a single portrait of Danny. He was a very smart little boy who was always thinking about a
million things, and that’s the way she captured him. He was in his Cub Scout uniform with a sun in
the background, and lightning. There was a church and various tiny little scenes that just set it off.
Carlton always loved maps. He was probably the lightest of the boys, with very blonde hair. He was
sitting there in a little V-necked cardigan sweater with his arms crossed, and the background was
composed entirely of maps.
Mrs. Cox also did a portrait of Frank Parker once. He was very well known at that time as a singer on
the Arthur Godfrey show. He sang with Marion Marlow. Some of his friends had heard of Mrs. Cox and
they sent her a wallet-sized photo and asked her to do a portrait of him. She did it and it was really
magnificent. One night I was at the Cox house playing and the phone rang. Mrs. Cox asked me to run
and get it. I answered it and it was none other than Frank Parker himself, calling to tell her what a
wonderful job she had done.
The Coxes went to Benson’s Animal Farm one summer. While there, they took a snapshot of a tiger.
Mrs. Cox, of course, painted it. It was a large painting, and the tiger, just sitting there, actually seemed
as if he could leap off the canvas and pounce on you.
As far as our family goes, Mrs. Cox painted a picture of Princess. She did it in pastels. Princess
roamed the neighborhood and was often over in their yard. She’d tried to pose Princess, but she was
the friendliest dog I've ever seen. Mrs. Cox would get back to her easel and Princess would be right
back there, rubbing against her and lapping her. However, she was able to finish it and it’s amazing.
We didn’t know she had done it until she gave it to us for Christmas. That was about sixty years ago,
and I still have that picture hanging in our front hall.
One time Mrs. Cox was painting a picture of a teenage girl who was wearing a red strapless gown.
She needed a model to sit and pose when she was finishing the portrait. She coerced one of the
boys to sit for her, but he was objecting so much that it occurred to her to call Maureen, who was
about the age of the girl she was doing, to go over and pose.
Mrs. Cox was always very nice to us. She’d take us to Pout Pond in Uxbridge to go swimming. She’d
pack a picnic and we’d just have the best time there. Once when I came back from the water, she
was sitting at the edge and she had sculpted a couple of things in the sand. One was of an Egyptian
head, and she had crimped around the edge of it. The other was of an Indian. I just loved the
Egyptian. I told her how wonderful I thought it was, and she just said, “Oh, it’s so easy.” She showed
me how she’d take the wet sand, not too wet, a certain mixture, and she’d just feel her way around.
She showed me how she had created the nose and the lips. In telling me about the edge of the
headdress she said, “Just like you’re crimping a pie crust.”
Mr. Cox was very nice, too. Having had four boys, I think he enjoyed having two little girls next door. He
had a huge vegetable garden. One time he took me out there where there was some butternut
squash that was pretty small. He took the end of a wooden match and carved my name into one of
them. At the end of the season that one was the biggest, and my name had swollen as the squash
Jesse was a daredevil. I remember him going up to near the top of a pine tree in their backyard and
hanging by his heels. Mr. and Mrs. Cox weren’t very concerned with the things he’d do. The seemed
to figure boys will be boys. Jesse spent a lot of time at our house, even before it was finished. We’d
sometimes play truth or dare. He’s always take the dare. Once I dared him to go to the attic and come
down with the two hornet’s nests that were up there, one in each hand. He did. The window hadn’t
been put into the attic at that time, and I dared him to go up there and jump out the opening,
backwards. He did. We had a huge oak tree at the end of our driveway. I dared him to go to the top
and hang by his heels. He did that as well.
Jesse, Danny and I took the school bus together. Our first year there was the first time the school bus
had ever come up George Street. They had always used the excuse that the street was too narrow for
a bus to maneuver. My mother fought for it and the bus came that year. We were the first ones picked
up in the morning and the last ones dropped off. Jesse and I would spend a lot of time drawing
together. We created a comic book we called The Super-Duper Special.
One time Mrs. Cox had a one-person show in Boston. My mother and I went to see it. It showed the
depth of Mrs. Cox’s talents. It demonstrated so many ways in which she could be successful at
painting. She had done a portrait of Jesse, who was a teenager and played the guitar by that time. We
called him a blonde Ricky Nelson. The picture was done using only various shades of red.
I had a wonderful childhood in Mendon, and having neighbors like the Ponds and the Coxes helped
to make it that way.
Daniels Family of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Mendon Menu
Princess, by Doris Cox
Doris's painting of the Buma-Sergeant Funeral Home in Milford.
Necklace given to Elaine by the Ponds.
John Southwick Gaskill home - George Street