Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

July 12, 2012

Dalton column: Andover in the Great Depression

In 2007, before he died, Albert H. Reed gave me a wonderful description of Andover when he was growing up. He was born in the "America House" in 1922 and his first bed was a dresser drawer. From the America House, Al's parents, Albert Sr. and Mildred C. (Abbott) Reed, moved family to Cuba Street across from the Indian Ridge School, then, in 1931, to Argilla Road, where they had six rooms and 11 children. Al's father was a sexton at Christ Church who made extra money by digging graves and checking the furnace during the winter. One of Albert's early memories was swinging up and down in the belfry as his father pulled the rope to ring the bell.

Al described the house on Argilla Road: "In the winter, two rooms were heated by wood burning stoves, three rooms by fireplaces. The upstairs bedroom was heated by having a 12-inch vent above a downstairs fireplace. We used a hand pump to get the water from a well in the yard and were brought up using the old outhouse. Saturday night, my mother would heat water on the stove in the kitchen, then get out the galvanized laundry tub, and we would sit in the middle of the kitchen floor to bath. When we all had our baths, our kitchen was just like a skating rate. We could not wait for the weather to be warm enough so we could go down to the Shawsheen River to a place we called the 'Clay Hole' to take our baths." [The Clay Hole, also called the "Clay Pit," is less than 200 yards Southwest of the Central Street "Horn Bridge."]

Al's favorite story about the Clay Hole involves his leading a group of boys running as fast as they could to see who could get to the water first, and as they were running they were shedding clothes so they were naked by the time they got to the river bank. Al said, "As I was making my jump into the river, I looked down, and there were six girls using our sacred spot. They were also in the nude, and I almost killed myself trying to stop and get back to the river bank. The girls were students of Abbot Academy. We were good kids, and we backed off quite a bit to let the girls get dressed while we did the same."

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