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[p. 91]

Old Medford Schoolboys' letters.

AMONG the residents of Medford who lived to a good old age was Elijah B. Smith. In his boyhood he had a ‘chum,’ who in 1894 resided in Dorchester, and replied under date of February 9 to a letter from his old friend ‘Lige.’ In it he said:

It is recorded in the good book that J. K. F. was born April 30, 1817. I suppose it is true, but I cannot realize it as I feel as young as I did fifty years ago. . . .

There were two old characters that come into my mind. One was old Bucknam, who kept a small grocery just beyond the Train estate. He refused to sell ten pounds of sugar at a time as he was not a wholesaler. The other was Aunt Polly, who sold pins, needles, tapes and molasses candy; also cigars, the real long nines, one of which I smoked on an election day. The result was, a sicker boy never existed; this was my first and last attempt to become a smoker. . . .

Allusion to the Mystic recalls the narrow escape I had of being overwhelmed in its waters. I was rescued from drowning by Mr. Darius Wait just as I was sinking for the last time; the sensation remains vivid in my mind.

Mr. Fuller expressed a hope to be at the dedication of the ‘new meeting-house’ (the present Unitarian Church), and to meet his old friend there. If the old friends met on that occasion it was probably their last meeting, and what an exchange of old-time reminiscences they must have had!

We reproduce Mr. Smith's letter in the Register, with the remark that a portion of it may also be found in an ‘Historical Souvenir’ of Medford, issued in 1903 by the Sarah Bradlee Fulton Chapter, D. A. R.

Dear old boy: Why not? We were young boys together, and fairly good boys in my way of thinking—at any rate you were one, and one that I always considered a favorite. Boys, you know, have their particular chums and John Kuhn was one of mine when a little chap of four feet in altitude. But enough of this. My [p. 92] friends the W——s have told me of the pleasant visit they had from you. They also told me of your inquiries for your old schoolmate Lige. Thank you.

It carried me back to the merry old times
When we like all school boys were cutting up shines.
Of course they were mingled with mischief and folly,
But gave the amusement that boys reckoned jolly.

The schoolhouse of brick and the neighboring pump,
The playground, shut in by the old church in front,
Where base balls and foot balls and snow balls would fly,
And bawls from the chap that was hit in the eye.

There too were the horse sheds so constantly used,
Where clothing was damaged and bodies were bruised,
No modern gymnasium with every facility
Could startle the world with such feats of agility.

And then, when the hours of instruction were closed,
How grimly the East and the West1 stood opposed.
Fag-enders and Maggots, ah! how they waged fight
And muzzled each other with such cool delight.

Their whole ammunition consisted of snow,
And that flew as fast as a tempest could blow;
And woe to the lummox who blundered and fell,
Stuffed full of a snowdrift, unable to yell.

Fag-enders were those that most frequently run;
The Maggots, confound them, were three to our one;
We had but two heroes on whom to rely,
Bill Roach and Seth Vining would never say die.

Against any trick the Maggots would use
Those two stood as firm as a rock, in their shoes.
When those two Napoleons were ranged on our side,
A million of Maggots we would have defied.

Sometimes they stood plastered from head to toe,
Appearing like statues fresh cut from the snow.
The chief of Clan Maggot I may have forgot,
Indeed I don't know if they had one or not.

The clan had a fashion, a cowardly one,
To shelter themselves with a fence, tree or stone.
Bill B——is one that comes into my mind
Who never was hit anywhere but behind.

[p. 93] Once only, a teacher would try arbitration,
But found (the old fool) he had missed his vocation.
He rushed through the crowd with herculean whip,
Supposing the ox-goad would make the boys skip,

But as soon as his clerical figure appeared,
A truce 'twixt the East and the West was declared.
They turned all their batteries, shrapnel and grape,
And knocked the old dominie all out of shape.

His hat was smashed in and his hair was all powdered,
His face and his eyes looked like clams nearly chowdered.
The best part of valor he found was discretion,
And streaked like a dog in a battered condition.

Then coasting! Who does not remember Clay's hill,
With a length and a speed just sufficient to kill?
And then from the summit down hill just beyond,
There lay the small puddle, then called ‘Betty's Pond,’

Where those who owned skates (I was not then so rich),
Could skim o'er the ice and break into the ditch.
But schoolhouse and teachers have all passed away
And few of the school-boys are living today.

They have climbed their last climb they have had their last run,
Old lessons are finished and new ones begun;
Have done all their skating have had their last coast,
Of victories with snow balls no longer they boast.

A few yet remain in the place of their birth,
A few more are scattered about on the earth;
To the north and the south the east and the west,
Wherever Dame Fortune would treat them the best.

She seems to have taken a fancy to you
And given a prominent seat in her pew.
And while she has honors and dimes to confer,
Hang on to her apron strings, stick like a bur.

Old Medford of course you will never forget,
She reared and she schooled and she cares for you yet.
Wherever we wander, wherever we roam
We cherish and love her, “There's no place like home.”

Where'er we may be there is always a joy
In turning us back where we lived as a boy.
She has her attractions, and those from afar
Soon find them, and praise them, and know where they are.

[p. 94] The beautiful drives through her forests and lanes,
The walks in the by-ways and over the plains,
The hills that we climbed in the seasons of yore
Still lift up their summits as high as before.

Pine hill” was the monarch from earliest time,
But now it is rare to walk under a pine.
The view from its summit is lovely and grand,
On cities and villages, ocean and land.

And then the hill “Walnut,” now crowned with a college
That sends through the world Universalist knowledge.
And also the reservoir filled from the pond
To water the people in cities beyond.

Rock hill with the river still laving its side,
Where often I plunged in the deepening tide
To swim like a duck or sink like a stone,
And wish in my terror that I was at home.

The hills and the valleys are always the same,
The highlands and lowlands unchanged still remain;
The marshes spread out like a lawn to the sea
As level and smooth as a prairie can be.

The river still wriggles along through the mud
In tortuous windings, till reaching the Hub.
The tides still flow up as they did to the pond,
But dams have prevented them passing beyond.

She once was renowned for her crackers and bricks,
Was famed through the world for her beautiful ships;
Where man ever lived in the light of the sun
She is known, she is loved for her Old Medford Rum.

Where man ever sojourned, in pleasure or trouble,
The rum of Old Medford would cheer him or—fuddle.
Dear comrade and schoolmate and friend please to pardon
For punishing you with this long string of jargon.

It's one of my failings—a serious one—
And yet I enjoy the detestable fun.
And when you shall visit our old town again
I surely will meet you, if not dead or lame.

With a multitude of good wishes from your old schoolmate and friend,

[p. 95]

Mr. Fuller began his reply with the words ‘Dear young friend,’ and named several of his schoolmates who struggled to master the three Rs, ‘Reading, “Riting and ” Rithmetic.’ Certainly both succeeded in the second, for their penmanship is clear, legible and a credit to both their teachers and themselves. Well would it be if the same could be said of all the scholars of the present Medford.

One more quotation from Mr. F.: ‘The mere mention of’ Old Medford‘makes me smack my lips, for I think a little (only a very little) mixed with a glass of milk and loaf sugar has given zest many a time ‘when wearied nature sought repose.’’

Dr. Everett, the poet of Medford's two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary said,

And e're the poet close
Shall not one drop of fun be granted him
E'en tho the cynic nose turn up in censure grim?
What means “Old Medford” to her exiled sons?

In both these letters it appears that

Her spirit still is there.

1 The ‘West End,’ as that portion of the town lying west of the meeting-house used to be called, was styled by the other portion as the ‘Fag End.’

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