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DeSorgher: Medfield 1962 – Bomb Shelters, Space Orbits, Civil Rights and Rock and Roll

Medfield town historian Richard DeSorgher highlights Medfield life in 1962.

It was 50 years ago and the year was 1962; Jack, Jackie, Caroline and John-John were in the White House, John Glenn was orbiting the earth, James Meredith was entering Ole Miss surrounded by a riot and U.S. army troops and Russian ballistic missiles were secretly placed 90 miles off the U.S. coast in Cuba bringing about the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

The top TV show was the Beverly Hillbillies and everyone was doing the new dance called the Twist. On their transistor radios, teenagers were listening to the likes of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles, “Roses are Red My Love” by Bobby Vinton, “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles,  “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys and “PT 109” by Jimmy Dean. Tuition to Harvard University was $1,500 a year, gasoline was selling for 28 cents a gallon at Keigwin and Meaney’s Sunoco Gas Station on East Main Street and the average cost of a new house was $2,950.

Here in Medfield, work was beginning on a new bridge over Rte. 27 connecting Medfield and Sherborn. The town’s new swimming facility located off Green Street, the Medfield Swim Pond (today ), opened to great fanfare. Over 3,500 town residents registered to use the facility and were issued numbered wrist-bands as a means of identification. Registration fee for the summer season was one dollar for those ages 16 and older and 50 cents for those under age 16. 

Over 750 children received Red Cross swimming lessons, with 329 receiving certifications. This was, according to the Red Cross, the largest number to be certified by any city or town in the Greater Boston Chapter of the Red Cross.

Sixty-eight new homes were built in town during 1962 and the town was battling the ongoing Dutch Elm Disease, which was ravaging town elm trees. All told, 48 more town elms were found infected and had to be removed. Tree Warden Ellis Allen recommended that $4,000 be appropriated for the control of the disease in 1963. Tree Warden Allen also continued with the tree planting program that resulted in 47 new trees being planted along town streets.

Police Chief Allan Kingsbury reported that 94 patients escaped from the Medfield State Hospital during the year with his officers personally returning 27 of them back to the hospital. Police made 38 arrests, registered 218 new bicycles, picked up 17 “drunks” and investigated one fatal shooting. Due to an increase in traffic on Rte. 109, Chief Kingsbury also recommended that the town begin to look into the possibility of putting in traffic lights or pedestrian controls at the three intersections along Rte. 109 in Medfield Center.

Garbage collection was taking place by Cassidy Farm in Medway, who made twice a week collections during the summer months and once a week collection during the winter months, as food was not permitted in the town dump on Grove Street, only trash. The Medfield Dental Clinic took place under the supervision of the Board of Health and was held at the . All elementary school children were examined and treatment during their school day was started on all children desiring work at the clinic.

In 1962, there were in Medfield 155 cattle, 77 horses, five pigs and 66 sheep. The had a total circulation of 33,490 books, including the largest increase of 3,209 in the children’s department. There were 394 new library cards issued during the year. The Library Board of Trustees included Jane Cheever, Edith Howlett, Charles Woodard, Peter Vasaturo and Laura Smith. Robert Peters was elected to fill the unexpired term of Burgess “Mike” Stanley. The Board gave special recognition to Mr. Stanley for the great deal of time and energy he gave to the welfare of the library during his term of service, including serving as chairman of the Board.

Fire Chief Kenneth “Scratch” Clark reported that there were few personnel changes and with five pieces of fire apparatus, the department was in good condition. He did feel, however, that a hook and ladder truck was needed. As Medfield did not have a hook and ladder truck, he was concerned that with the size of some of the buildings in the Center, plus five churches, four schools, two nursing homes and the State Hospital, such a ladder truck was needed. The fact that the nearest town with a ladder truck was 20 minutes away for mutual aid to arrive in the town made for a “dangerous situation.” During the year, the fire department responded to 20 building fires, 36 woods fires and 20 grass fires.

Seven calls came in when the fires at the town dump got out of control and had to be battled by the department. The Medfield Board of Selectmen organized in March of 1962, following the town election, with Joe Roberts elected chairman, Austin “Buck” Buchanan, clerk and Joseph Marcionette, third member.  

Medfield businesses included Pitchford Realty, Sally’s Beauty Shop, , Geller’s M & M Cleaners, Alfred’s Barber Shop, Mike’s Barber Shop,  Dolphin Cleaners, Medfield Custom Laundry, Hillcrest Auto, , Fayo’s Pizza and Delicatessen, , Vets Package Store, Richard Hat Factory, Newell Taxi, Lee’s Floor Service, Palumbo Oil, Pederzini Flowers, Bullard’s Market, McCarthy Blacksmith Shop, , Medfield Pharmacy, Radio Frequency Company, Gilmore Grain and Feed, Clement Drug Store, Marcionette’s  Jenny Gas Station,  Super Duper,  and Walker Manufacturing Company.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas A. Blake and principal Charles Mains saw 39 seniors graduate at the first graduation exercises held in the new Medfield Junior-Senior High School on 24 Pound St. During the ceremony, Rev. Lawrence Ryan, pastor of , delivered the invocation, George Sweeney, president of the Class of 1962 gave an address of welcome and diplomas were awarded by Walter Frank, chairman of the Medfield School Committee and Superintendent Blake. In addition to the opening of the new Junior-Senior High School, the new addition to the was nearing completion. Total school enrollment in grades 1-12 was 1,338.

On March 15, 1962 a massive mal-function of an oil burner in the Memorial School caused a smoke fire that sent soot and smoke throughout the building. School was closed for over two weeks, sending the elementary students home for an unexpected extended vacation. All interior walls, floors, ceilings, equipment and furnishings had to be washed, painted or cleaned before the school could re-open. Reflecting the Cold War atmosphere of the time, a new course was added to the high school curriculum entitled “Communism vs. Democracy.”

Town Vital Statistics showed there were 140 births (compared to 97 in 2010), 36 marriages (compared to 15 in 2010) and 144 deaths; 43 Medfield residents and 92 at the Medfield State Hospital (compared to 66 deaths, all Medfield residents, in 2010). Due to the building of the new Jr.-Sr. High School on Pound Street, Town Meeting voted $55,000 for the reconstruction of Pound Street. Town Meeting also defeated the fire department’s request for a hook and ladder truck and Vincent “Red” Palumbo’s request to have his land on the southerly side of Main Street changed from residential zoned to business zoned.

Reflecting the town’s strong Republican roots, George Lodge defeated Democrat Edward M. Kennedy for the U.S. Senate 1476 to 835; Republican John Volpe defeated Democrat Endicott Peabody 1564 to 806 in the race for governor; Edward Brook, Republican of Boston, defeated Francis Kelly of Boston 1821 to 517 in the race for attorney general and Republican Joe Martin defeated Democrat Edward Doolan for U.S. Congress 1812 to 517.

William W Hankey March 23, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I think in '62 Bullard's was still the IGA.
Richard DeSorgher March 23, 2012 at 07:15 PM
It was but everyone still called it Bullards

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