Program Records 1890 Commencement  
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Historians Michael and Linda Branniff, husband and wife, of Dudley, correspond with Linda Labbe, of Moosup, Conn., a Dudley native and historian, and they sometimes share data. There’s respect among them. “She’s a machine, a totally awesome (researcher),” says Mr. Branniff.

Ms. Labbe recently came across a graduation program for the class of 1890 at Webster High School (forerunner to Bartlett), and mailed it to the Branniffs, who, in turn, passed it along to So I’ve Heard. The long-ago exercises were Wednesday evening, June 25, 1890, in Music Hall for five graduates, all young ladies.

Diplomas were presented to Elsy Tisdale Larchar, Lillie Orrel Bigelow, Edna Lizzetta Powell, Flora Belle Packard and Georgia Louise Bates. While the graduates read essays, underclassmen joined them in song and prophecies, authored by the Misses Addie M. Burr and Minnie L. Graham of the faculty.

It was a full-blown graduation, with an address by Principal William C. Whiting and presentation of diplomas by School Board Chairman Johnson. David B. Cowie was the musical director, and Mabel A. Cowie was the accompanist.

Vintage commencement programs have come to this corner from time to time, including a couple from the early 1900s, but 1890, or 120 years ago, makes this one truly historic. And, by the way, Music Hall was a vaudeville venue and one of the town’s first movie houses. Located on High Street, just off Main, the parcel became a town parking lot. Its current use seems to be private.

Barry Thompson, who certainly knows a lot about Webster-Dudley history, heads this week’s class in counting town bridges.

I figured five a couple of weeks ago: Perryville, under reconstruction; Main Street in Webster to West Main in Dudley; Chase Avenue; Pleasant Street on the Webster side to Oxford Avenue in Dudley; and North Village. Mr. Thompson says we must have different counting methods. He figures six spans, including Hill Street. He’s right!

Can I plead nolo?

Director Carol Cyr of the Webster Office of Community Development shook her head in seeming disbelief: A report says mussels have been found in the French River behind Main Street, where the OCD and the private French River Connection plan to develop a riverfront park.

A state agency has directed that an expert be summoned to verify the claim; if true, the mussels must be removed and relocated. Make this bureaucratic reasoning to wonder about. Considering history of the French River, and its decades as a waste stream, the mussel report might say something about the river’s recovery.

Donna (Foley) Dion, half of the hair-grooming team at Erich Wenc’s Cutting Edge barber shop in Oxford Center, had a line on the late Alva Javery, who attained major league stardom with the former Boston Braves, on our recent visit to the shop.

“A customer told me he was buried in St. Roch’s Cemetery,” said Ms. Dion. There hasn’t been much talk otherwise, probably because Oxford’s gift to the major leagues passed away more than 30 years ago, population gains have obscured the town’s 1940s statistics, when Mr. Javery pitched for “the other” Boston team, and the National League has pretty much lost its New England fandom.

A slow drive around St. Roch’s Cemetery suggested that guidance would be necessary. Friend Matthew Morway of Oxford, a part-time sportscaster and a full-time educator, checked the burial grounds and provided words to go by.

A marker to the back side of the cemetery recognizes Al Javery, 1917-1977, “Pitcher Boston Braves; 1940 to 1945,” with a likeness of the major leaguer carved into the granite, with a “B” on the cap.

So, we know that Alva Javery was indeed an Oxford resident and a major league baseball player, and was respectfully interred in St. Roch’s Cemetery.

With Dudley-Charlton schools about to open for the 2010-2011 school year, Esther Stocklin, a retired nurse-practitioner, says she attended Dudley Public Schools — before formation of the regional district — in schools that no longer exists.

Her first and second grades were taken at the Stevens School on Pine Street, in Dudley’s Jericho section. There was no third grade at Stevens, so Ms. Esther spent that year at the Chaseville School. The location is now home to Dudley’s new public library.

Pupils in the three grades at the school enjoyed a field day at Slater Field in Webster, then a private ballpark owned by the Slater Mills. The trip was made by bus. “Who organized and rehearsed the pupils for their performance, I can’t remember. I was a participant that danced around the May pole. That was 84 years ago.”

The fourth through eighth grades were at West Main Street School, and high school classes were at Bartlett High in Webster. This was before the West Main building was enlarged, providing space for junior high classes. The property is now Dudley’s municipal complex.

Esther remembers most of her Dudley teachers: Second grade, Mrs. Kreft; third grade, Miss Nash; fourth grade, Miss Phelps; fifth grade, Miss Bernier; sixth grade, Miss Yerrow; seventh grade, Ms. Hand, history, Mrs. March, geography, Ms. Hetherman, math, Ms. Dutram, English, and Miss King, music.

Dr. Larochelle, the school department dentist, was stationed at Chaseville School at certain hours, says Ms. Stocklin. Miss Julia Sanders was the school nurse at West Main Street, A. Shaw was the principal, and Mr. Lobban was superintendent, remembers Ms. Stocklin. This says Esther has a great memory and makes her the only person known here who once danced around a May pole.

Sts. Constantine & Helena Greek Orthodox Church sponsored a golf tournament on a recent warm, humid Saturday. It seemed like take-it-easy weather.

Tom Baxter and Vasil Condos, a couple of senior parishioners, participated.

“We made out all right,” Mr. Condos said a few days later.

“We didn’t win, but it was OK,” added Mr. Baxter.

They had a good time, both reported.

When Leonard Boutin was growing up in Grosvenordale before and during World War II, he was familiar with Shortline Bus Co. schedules.

Webster was the center to his family’s shopping activities. It was also where he took music lessons and enjoyed movie shows. He knew bus times from the Webster terminal at 128 Main St. by heart.

This may be why the wartime Shortline bus schedule Mr. Boutin has saved around 70 years is in near perfect condition: He didn’t use it.

The same can’t be said for a blotter to the back of a sleek bus outline. It absorbed a mass of pen lines before ballpoint pens became popular. Still, it was a Shortline souvenir, so Leonard kept it. He had the bus schedule and the blotter in a show-and-tell pocket on a recent Saturday.

Mr. Boutin and his wife, Theresa, have lived in Putnam since their marriage some 60 years ago, and Webster is still on their travel schedule. They make town for coffee three or more times a week.
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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