What was it like to live in Andover 100 years ago? I’ve looked over the Andover Townsman from early November 1911, when my mother was born, to the end of 1912, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what it was like.
My father, who was born two weeks before the 20th Century, had a good memory of his childhood, and I spoke often with him of his early years. A hundred years ago he was 12, and he told me that there were lots of fights between boys on and off the school grounds, but there were unwritten rules about fighting fair. There was no kicking or hitting anyone who was down, you could only use your fists, and all fights were one on one, never uneven. These chivalric rules applied to sports as well. He often said that he never liked to see anyone injured on the other team, because he always wanted to win or lose with the best boys on the field.
Townspeople helped other townspeople, and my father’s family were beneficiaries, even though new to Andover. After his father was killed in a train accident in 1909, his mother moved to Andover with her four young children, and townspeople welcomed and helped the newcomers. Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes of 68 Chestnut St. took them under their wings. There was no government support in those days except that the town had an alms house where older people who were destitute and without close relatives might live out their remaining days.
Soon my grandmother owned a bakery called the Metropolitan, and I suspect the Rhodeses might have helped, especially since Mr. Rhodes sold ice cream, ice, and many necessary items to run a bakery.
Editor John N. Cole must also have taken a liking to my grandmother and her children because he regularly mentioned them in his front page news vignettes. For example, “A large number of children and grown-ups stopped before the display window of the Metropolitan and viewed the barley sugar creations in the window.”