REPRINTS


Summertimes Past
By Susan Barlow

Summers were not so different years ago. Kids went swimming, families took trips, and relatives came to visit. School was out, factories took a break – and residents found lots to do in Manchester.

65 years ago, Salter’s Pond and Globe Hollow were the official swimming holes, although many kids enjoyed a dip in a nearby brook or pond. Kids could stay at the pool all day, either swimming or hanging out with friends.

Salter’s Pond

On Lydall Street in the northern part of Manchester, Salter’s was a large pond created by the damming of Lydall Brook, which, a century previously, had been a part of the Salters and Strong paper mill operation. Salter’s Pond had underground springs as well as the flowing brook, so the water tended to be cold. The Town offered swimming lessons at Salter’s and there was a small sandy beach, a roped-off kiddy pool, a small parking lot (most people walked or rode bikes to get there), and a Quonset hut for changing clothes. Across the pond were farms, and you could watch the cows grazing near the edge of the pond.

There was no raft to dive off, but there was the cement dam where children learned to dive into the deep water. It had a sign, painted on the cement in white: "Keep Off," but we just called it "the keep-off," and followed the instructors’ directions as to falling in head first, then gradually executing a dive from a standing position.

Since 1946, Salter’s had been used as a town-operated public swimming area, but the water rights were owned by the paper company. In June 1953, Salter’s couldn’t open on time due to repair work on Roger’s Pond, at the Lydall and Foulds paper mill, downstream from Salter’s. The repairs took about two weeks, but then rainfall was needed to refill the pond with water. The water was then treated with copper sulphate, a herbicide, fungicide, and pesticide, which in the proper dilution would not kill the fish. During this process, the Salter’s lifeguards were reassigned to work with Thomas Kelley, Jr., chief guard at South Manchester.

In 1959, the Salter’s arrangement changed – Lydall-Foulds and Colonial Board leased the area to the town for a dollar a year. The companies continued to own the water rights, but the town paid for maintenance and insurance.

In 1961, the Town opened the current paved pool with its nearby brick building for changing clothes and storing chlorine.

In 1980-81, the pond and surrounding shore were donated to the Manchester Land Conservation Trust by Lydall, Inc. (six acres) and by Green Manor Corporation (three acres). So you can still enjoy the pond for fishing and hiking around – there’s a one-mile loop trail marked with orange blazes. Swimming is restricted to the official pool.

Globe Hollow

The Globe Manufacturing Company used water power in its cotton-warp operation off Spring Street, having purchased the "privilege in Globe Hollow, previously occupied by the satinet-mill of the American Company, and in 1844 erected there a mill which was used for several years in making cotton warp, and afterward sold to Cheney Brothers," according to The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut, published in 1886. So the name and the pond have been around for a long time.

In 1906-07, Cheney brothers constructed the Globe Hollow Reservoir, which flowed down into a swimming area that was (to me at least) much better than Salter’s. Back in the 1950s, Globe had shade trees and plenty of grass, a fountain that sprayed water, and a lot more sand for a beach where you could spread a towel. Globe had a raft you could swim out to, with a diving board. For us, living in the North End, it was farther to travel to Globe, located at 100 Spring Street, so we pleaded for a ride in the family car, which we didn’t need when going to Salter’s – we could just ride our bicycles there.

Globe did not have a paved surface when we were growing up, but the paving is an improvement for those who don’t want their feet to touch slimy plants on the bottom. The current brick structure has replaced the Quonset hut that was there for years.
Although children, especially boys, were known to skinny dip, that is, swim without a bathing suit, times changed and in late June 1935, The Hartford Courant reported that "Scanty bathing suits will not be permitted" at Globe Hollow. At that time, swimming lessons were segregated – lessons for boys were from 10:15 to 11 a.m. and for girls from 11 to 11:45 a.m.

Not all Beer and Skittles

In some ways, life could be more difficult in summers past, particularly for farmers, who depended on favorable weather for good crops. In the nineteenth century, a majority of Manchester residents owned or worked on the many small farms and dairies – despite the rise in the various mills, which drew large numbers to our town.

Farmers didn’t have access to sophisticated weather-forecasting, but even if they did, a hail-storm, predicted or not, could ruin a field of tobacco or strawberries. An illness could wipe out the farm animals. And a farming accident could kill or maim the farmer.

Nowadays when we say we like the outdoors, we’re referring to recreation, home gardening, hiking, jogging, and other sports, but the farmers’ outdoor life wasn’t a choice, it was a way of making a living and the family was expected to pitch in with chores, which became intense during the harvest season.

Well before the 18th amendment (1918) prohibited the manufacture of alcohol, Manchester had a strong temperance movement, and many townspeople were against the granting of licenses to sell liquor anywhere in town. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many churches supported temperance, and "signing the pledge" not to drink was encouraged – even youngsters signed. The popular Laurel Park, at the end of the trolley line between Manchester and East Hartford, advertised its wholesome atmosphere – no liquor and no rowdyism were allowed.

Even as most Manchester farms were on the wane, tobacco farms continued to profit. They employed teenagers, migrant workers, and summer workers from Florida. It was hard work, but many kids made more than just pin money working in the fields and sheds. Some of the workers got "piece work," that is, bonuses for working faster, whether at tying, sewing, picking, or suckering. It was hard work, and the tobacco juice caused an itchy rash on exposed skin, and there was a lot of exposed skins in the heat of the field and sheds – most workers wore shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Even the "shade grown" fields were hot – the whole point of the white tenting over the fields was to simulate the hot-and-humid climate of Sumatra. Still, working on tobacco was a way to meet new people and be with friends, a bit like summer camp with pay.

Other summer jobs included picking beans, strawberries, corn, etc., and helping out on Town projects, such as road repairs, mowing of parks, painting, etc. – all hot work. A cooler job was to help out a family with little children, by serving as an au pair at a beach cottage. These jobs were taken mostly by girls, although boys did them, too. The pay was low, but there was an opportunity to go to the beach and have some free times in a resort area. Sometimes there was factory work, filling in for employees on vacation, and there was always life-guarding, if you had the required certificate.

Fun in Manchester

Woodland Park (1888 to about 1907) was a popular trotting-race track off Woodland Street that also hosted agricultural fairs, bicycle races, and Fourth of July celebrations.

In 1947, Manchester’s Girl Scout camp – Camp Merrie-wood – received seven acres of land off Gardner Street from the Cheney family. The camp is still in operation during the summer.

Baseball was wildly popular in Manchester, with many teams and fields throughout the Town.

In 1945, fishing season opened on April 21, and Salter’s Pond (as well as Walker Pond in Vernon) were ready for trout fishing.

Manchester Summer Tidbits

In July 1890, Mrs. Shivers of Camden, N.J. had a near-fatal accident at the depot in the North End. She was a passenger on the excursion train from Boston and was thrown underneath the train car near the track. Train hands pulled the bell-rope and the train stopped just a few inches from her body. Dr. Whiton, for whom the North End library was named some four decades later, assisted the injured woman. According to The Courant, she had a slightly crushed skull, internal injuries, and a bruised back. Although she was unable to stand, Dr. Whiton believed she would recover. Mrs. Shivers had been visiting her sister in South Manchester.

In August 1890, Sarah Newberry had a fortuitous experience. She worked in a job that no longer exists – in the rag room at the Peter Adams paper mill (on Adams Street), preparing cloth for the paper-making operation. In those days, paper was made from wood pulp and sometimes a percentage of linen or cotton. During her shift, Sarah found $27 in the pocket of an old pair of trousers.

In July 1904, James McGonigal, captain of the silk weavers’ baseball team, was run over by railroad cars and fatally hurt. He was about 40 years old, married, with six children. He worked as a loom-fixer at the Cheney mills. Apparently, after the train had passed, he stepped into the intersection of Main Street with the railroad tracks, not realizing that three cars had been detached to move to a siding, and these cars ran over him. Dr. Whiton, the North End’s railroad physician, attended him and sent him to Hartford Hospital where he died.

In 1932, just before graduation, 18-year old high-school star athlete Dominick Squatrito was killed in a shocking auto accident. Three friends, also seniors at Manchester High School, were also in Squatrito’s small car, going east to Bolton, when a truck driven by Frank King, age 20, struck them head on. Squatrito was thrown onto the pavement 31 feet from where the car stopped. The truck driver was held for questioning at the Manchester Police Station, where he said part of the steering gear had let go and he lost control of the truck. He said that neither vehicle was speeding and both were on their own side of the road until the fatal accident. Squatrito had won 15 letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track, and had been accepted at Fordham University. He was survived by his parents, six sisters, and three brothers, and had lived at 164 Oak Street. (Ed. Note: Dom Squatrito was subsequently inducted into the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame.)

In July 1956, several bicycles were stolen and Police Chief Herman O. Schendel warned youngsters to watch their bikes, and said "There is always a wave of bike thefts during the summer when school is out. Most of these thefts occur at Globe Hollow and Salter’s Pond…" Most bikes were taken by kids for the ride home and were later recovered.