Fuller Proved Genius Wasn’t Easy to Work With  
Thursday, February 17, 2011

The highly acclaimed play “The History (And Mystery) of the Universe,” by D. W. Jacob, featuring Joe Spano, is the story of R. Buckminster Fuller, who brought his automotive designs to Webster’s Waterhouse Co. around 1934.

Richard Buckminster Fuller, born in Milton and known as the father of the geodesic dome, was famous for many things, including a three-wheeled car, and this is where Waterhouse Co. came in. Located then on Tracy Court, off Webster’s Main Street, the custom auto body builders fashioned bodies for a couple of Fuller cars, spaceship-like vehicles with two front wheels and one rear wheel to steer the car. It was called the Dymaxion.

Waterhouse fulfilled its contract, but the vehicle lost its future when the first Dymaxion, fabricated elsewhere, overturned at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934, according to automobile historian Fred Roe. American racer Francis T. Turner was killed. Col. William Francis Forbes-Sempili, a British aviator, and French physicist and astronomer Charles Dolifus were injured, Roe said in a Waterhouse Co. feature some years ago.

There’s an interesting notation in the story: Dealing with a genius at work was trying at times. “On one visit to Webster, Fuller took ill and was nursed back to health over several days by Dunham’s wife Sylvia, who was described as ‘somewhat overwhelmed by the experience.’ ”

The Dunhams lived on Dudley Hill, at the four corners to Center, Dudley-Oxford, and Dudley-Southbridge roads, near the then-Nichols Junior College, and the home office of Dr. Quincy H. Merrill, who probably treated the Dunham’s visitor.



Some residents at Killdeer Island, the largest development on Webster Lake, are upset because one of those monster-in-the-sky billboards has been installed near Interstate 395, somewhere behind the Subaru Agency.

I’m inclined to their opinion, that the double message boards spoil the view for people living in parts of Webster. What’s worse, the signs stand way over what once the Webster Poor Farm, meaning it’s on a one-time town site. This isn’t to say that air rights are necessary, but I don’t recall that any of the infirmary land was ever transferred with height privileges.



It seems the Webster Police Department has established a walking beat downtown, financed by the Marilyn and Gerald Fels Foundation.

It’s a good thing, I guess, but it’s not going to replicate the walking beats provided before Webster police switched to mostly cruiser patrols. That action brought enforcement to neighborhoods off the patrol screen.

Just for the record, downtown and vicinity had several walking beats at one time: a couple on Main Street; another between Mechanic and Church streets, where all five of the town’s banks were located; Lake Street; and South Main Street.

“It’s about time,” says Lawrence Gevry, a retired Webster officer who spent his career mostly on a walking beat. “In my day, the department had three men on day beats downtown,” says Larry. “There was Francis Haggerty, Tom Dwyer and me.”

It looks as if Webster’s new walking officer is going to be a busy young man.



They’ve been out of town for some years, so it was nice to greet John P. and Nancy Trull the other day. John is a former building materials dealer (Trull Lumber Co.), and Nancy worked at the Dudley courthouse. The Trulls are enjoying condo life in town. It’s a pleasure to extend “welcome back” greetings.

Incidentally, John carries an asterisk to local history. He was president of the Webster-Dudley Chamber of Commerce when the telephone system for the towns was finally converted to dial service in the 1960s, and made the first long-distance call, dialing his C. of C. counterpart in Webster Groves, Mo.



James R. Morrison was in a hurry last Sunday, trying to catch up with others on a decorating committee for a United Church of Christ Valentine party. Still, Jim paused to say hello as we sipped coffee in a town restaurant.

Dialogue was limited, but we gathered that Mr. Morrison is concerned with developments in Egypt, where he was once a teacher, and he has a fondness for that country and its people. “I was there a long time ago, but it seems like yesterday,” he said. Mr. Morrison is the illustrator for the definitive history books on Webster, Dudley, and Oxford, written by Paul J. Macek, with volumes still to come.
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