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Recollections of my childhood.

Mrs. Joanna Houghton Clark.
Having been requested to write a few lines for this book, I “lend a hand” and cheerfully jot down a few memories which may refresh those of others among my earliest friends.

In all my childish recollections, from 1836 on toward the forties, nothing seems to linger more persistently than the frequent journeys down Main street to Ma'am Rand's store. This was kept by a sunny-faced, pleasant-voiced woman, who always addressed me as “Dear life, dear soul,” from whose hand in exchange for my copper cents, I received many a sugar heart, either white or red as I preferred. There were jumping-jacks, too, of brilliant colors; open-work pewter baskets with covers, for four-pence ha'penny; pewter frying-pans with a green and a blue fish in each (always the two, side by side); jews-harps of various sizes; little churns, in which I many a time made about a teaspoonful of butter for my dolls' table, and which in imagination I can still taste, it being strongly and horribly flavored with the pine churn; molasses gibralters and tiny peppermints dropped on paper; jointed dolls with smooth black painted heads, and high yellow combs, all the way from two cents to a ninepence in price. The children of to-day would be puzzled to give the value in those old times of a fourpence and a ninepence, representing then six and a quarter and twelve and a half cents. [78] What would they think to be told when purchasing goods that the price was “two and thrippence,” “three and ninepence” or “four and sixpence” ? We older children remember the prices as thirty-seven and a half, sixty-two and a half and seventy-five cents.

I think with actual pity of the children of the present generation who have no remembrance of such a store, with a bell which jingled merrily as the door opened, to call one of the two sisters from a back room. It is next to being without a remembrance of a grandmother's home in the country, where the hollyhocks stood near the open windows, and the bees flew in and out, and the white floors were sanded, and the rows of shining tins full of milk looked so inviting, and the fruit cake smelt so sweet in the high cupboards, with a big wooden “button,” as it was called, to fasten the doors instead of a lock.

The two sisters who kept the store where I loved to linger, were regular attendants at the old Orthodox Church on Norfolk street, where Rev. William A. Stearns preached faithfully for many years. My father used to assist in “taking up the collection,” and always said if everyone should give as generously in proportion as these women, the results would be astonishing.

Miss Abigail usually wore in the house a buff muslin turban, but for church the bonnets were something to attract attention, being made of black satin lined with yellow. Immense bows of broad gauze ribbon were placed between the crown which resembled a tin quart measure, and the front which was like a large tunnel. These bonnets were worn long after the fashion had passed away and given place to the small “cottage bonnet” or other [79] forms. What a bonanza one of them would be now! Also a fourpence ha'penny or a ninepence!

School memories crowd upon me too: first a private one kept by Miss Caroline Pratt, then the public school, taught by Miss Ford; and another by Miss Almira Seymour, who one May Day, formed a procession of her scholars, and marched through several streets, preceding them as the “Queen of the may,” with a long green barge veil hanging down at her back, and a wreath of flowers on her head.

Perhaps that dusty march was responsible for my change of schools, as I was sent then to a private school kept by Miss Nancy Gibson in the rear part of a chapel on Austin street. In a small room adjoining was a trundle-bed where two or three of the very little children took a daily nap. Every desk had a lid, upon the inside of which was pasted this couplet:--

Can't never yet did anything;
Try has done wonders.

Then came Miss Mansfield's school, and Mr. Magoun's. Who does not look back with pleasure to Mr. Magoun's reign? I loved him, even though he inflicted many an indignity upon me, by causing me to follow him while he slowly moved through the seats of the boys' side, mending their quill-pens or filling their inkstands, thereby mortifying greatly my sweet elder sister who never did anything wrong; and all — for what? Whispering, Mr. Magoun called it, but in my opinion, it was “friends taking sweet counsel together.”

My copy of the old American First Class Book, the reader used then, is among my choicest possessions. It has my name written by Mr. Magoun, on the fly-leaf, dated 1844. [80]

We had singing lessons once a week given by Mr. Joseph Bird from Watertown, who drove down in a covered wagon, and sometimes brought pails of brilliant gold and silver-fish, for those who had paid good attention to his teaching.

There are also indistinct remembrances of the election of William Henry Harrison, when our school children wore straw-colored badges, and in a few weeks' time, those were replaced by crape, which we all wore for one month.

I remember a great red, white and blue ball covered with mottoes being carried through Cambridge streets; and through the kindness of Mr. John Livermore I am able to state that “this ball was used in the political campaign of 1840 and was planned by J. Vincent Brown, a merchant of Boston. It was made in Salem, Mass., and was about nine feet high. It was loaned to the Cambridge people for a general convention held at Concord, on the Fourth of July, and was carried on a team nearly to Lexington, and from there rolled the remaining distance, with ropes held by twenty men on either side.”

These are some of the many memories that are constantly recurring, and perhaps they will not be considered too personal by others who lived in the thirties of the century so near its close. [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86]

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