Archive for September, 2011
THE COOP 40 YEARS AGO
The village grocery, the Coop, was owned since 1941 by Milton Crocker, his wife Nellie, and their son Harry. Milton had started working as a clerk at the old Coop since 1912.
Steven Gould, 58, the present owner, remembers what it was like about 40 years ago when he worked as a clerk begiuning in 1968. Pay was minimum wage $1.60 an hour, later $1.75 with many working overtime at time and a half. Adjusted for inflation, this is well above today’s minimum wage.
Everyone was called by their first name – except for Mr. Crocker. Employees included the two clerks, Marion Jones Morris and Amelia Fenner. Lou Laforce, Tom and Gene were butchers, Herb and Ken Snow on delivery. Local boys did the heavy lifting and bagging.
Amelia would yell “I need a boy” (many rude jokes followed) at the top of her lungs when she needed bagging or carry out. Tips were occasional – usually a dime or a quarter.
The store interior was low-ceilinged. Heavy green grocery racks with dark green shelves sat on the green linoleum floor. Heat came weakly from a few cast iron radiators. The cash register was on the right as one entered the front door. A big candy bar rack lay behind. On the left as you came in were the grocery carts next to shelves with tools, screws, nuts and bolts. Farther to the left was an island with paper and household goods, with Mr. Crocker’s office beyond a low partition.
Through a door was the apartment hallway, living room and staircase to two bedrooms along with the only toilet/bathroom in building. Three rows of heavy steel and wood shelves ran front to back. A counter against back wall was where orders were “put up”. A single sink and telephone were by the back door.
Grocery orders for afternoon delivery came in all morning and were packed up in round wood slat and wire produce baskets. The green delivery van was of the very boxy Ford Econoline style, although the older panel van style truck was still in the back garage building.
Forty years ago, there were still delivery customers out on Newtown Road (many old Portuguese widows in black dresses and shawls). A few of the large estates took large orders every day. Mrs. Matile Wesson, one of the grand dames of the village, always did her own shopping, filling one or more grocery baskets– always very proper, with a dress and heels and perfectly coiffured. For Mrs. Holdstein we would carry the bags across the street.
The big day was Thursday, “freight day” when huge amounts of groceries arrived. Large trailers were unloaded from the back where steel rollers sent boxes down to the basement.
Mr. Crocker once asked: “Stevie, run up stayuze and get some fochs.” Being from southern California, this was a mystery, he asked: “Sorry Mr. Crocker what did you want?” He replied: “Go up and get some fochs.” he again apologized, and he replied: “Fochs like spoons.”
Lou, the butcher, worked at the back in a meat cutting area with butcher block tables, band saw, and meat locker. At the north end was the separate liquor area watched over by Harry.
Harry Crockers’ sons Milton and Billy never worked at the store in those years, probably sensible enough to know that their father and grandfather had little life outside the store. Although the store was closed on Sundays, both Harry and his father could often be seen working, at least for a few hours.
Nellie Crocker died in 1977, followed shortly by her son in Harry in 1981. Milton Crocker died January 1986 and the Crocker era ended.
Published in Barnstable Enterprise 15 Sept. 2011
THE STORY OF THE COOP IN COTUIT
Cotuit Grocery, known locally as “The Coop” goes back to 1896. That year, on the northwest corner of Oyster Place and Main Street Victor Nickerson, the plumber who popularized the successful well-bit built a three-story store. Many wells were being drilled at this time, and Mr. Nickerson sold the popular”Victor Wellpoint” that may have been invented by his Wampanoag employee Chief Little Bear.
Frederick Parker ran a grocery store in the building on the side facing School Street. He purchased the building in 1906. Mr. Parker’s sign read “Groceries//Provisions” and advertised “Old Dutch Cleanser”, “Moxie Soda” and “Dr. A.C. Daniels Veterinary Medicine”.
Of the employees at the store, there was Herbert Snow who made the rounds of the village in a horse-drawn cart, taking household and hotel orders, and delivering them in the afternoon. Eighteen-year-old Milton Crocker, his brother-in-law began work as a grocery clerk in 1912.
In December 1913, Parker leased the block of stores with the grocery at the core to the Cooperative Grocery Company, hence “The Coop”. The major investors were Benjamin Sears who ran the general store across the street, Ulysses Hull, who was the sherrif and a coal dealer, and the major local builder Howard Dottridge. Eventually, Sears and Hull sold their shares to Milton Crocker, who took over management after Parker died in 1918 in the terrible wartime flu epidemic.
Tragedy struck the building in April 1924. The jeweler, Frank Mercure, who sold watches, clocks and postcards upstairs, went out for a break and left a Bunsen burner lighted. The Cotuit Fire Department was right across the street, but the engine quickly ran out of chemical retardant, and the building burned to the ground, an estimated loss of $50,000 to $60,000.
The Coop then moved a quarter of a mile north to its present home where were two buildings built by the architect/Sheriff/moderator Charles C. Bearse around 1863. The northern one was close to the street, where Mr. Bearse sold hardware and ran the post office whose name was officially changed from Cotuit Port to plain Cotuit in 1872.
Before Mr. Bearse died in 1889 the store was taken over by retired mariner Capt. Julius Nickerson, who had married Bearse’s daughter Isabel. They lived in the house next door, jointly owned by her sister Nellie. Above the store was a millinery shop run by Emma Harlow. The store closed after Julius died in 1920, so his daughter Lulu sold it to Henry Loring, who opened the first gas station in Cotuit.
After the fire, the two remaining owners of the original Coop, Milton Crocker and Howard Dottridge’s daughter Grace rented Mr. Bearse’s store in 1924. Grace was the first college graduate in the family, taught in Rochester NY and Ayer MA, and returned to Cotuit to be the Coop owner/bookkeeper. She followed her mother as Reader of the Cotuit Christian Science Church, and became Cotuit librarian. In 1937 she and Milton were able to buy the property from Loring. Shortly after this the two old houses were merged. Milton bought her interest in the store in 1941, but she continued to work there.
Next Week: Mr. Crocker’s Coop in the late sixties.
First published in Barnstable Enterprise 9 Sept. 2011.
Cotuit churchesCOTUIT’S CHURCHES
Cotuit built six church buildings, all but one of which are still standing. Eight different religious denominations contributed to their construction.
The first two were built in 1846 almost as twins, two miles apart, in the north and south ends of the village.
At Cotuit Port the Baptists, Methodists and Congregationalists joined–unusually–to erect the Union Meeting House in early 1846. This was the first federated church (meaning two or more churches merged) in America. It was built by shareholders, many of whom were whaling captains. Pews were sold or rented until 1884 when free seats were finally provided. A steeple was added in 1872, and now serves as the Mariners Lodge of the Masons.
A few months later, the Congregationalists of Old Cotuit (what we now call Santuit), built a similar Greek Revival church across the street from today’s St. Michael’s Church. The members of this “First Church in Cotuit” were Wampanoags loyal to the ousted missionary minister of Mashpee, Rev. Phineas Fish, as well as the old Yankee families like the Crockers, Sampsons and Baxters. It was probably built by the Baxters, who became the major builders of the area. The last service at the church wa the 1929 funeral of the father of Representative Charles L. Gifford, who served in Congress from 1922-1947. The church was torn down in 1942.
The opening of the 20th century brought two new churches to Cotuit, a new Methodist church in 1901 and a Christian Science church in 1902. Under the Rev. Howard Taylor the Methodists broke from the old Union church to build their own Queen Anne style church across from the Santuit School on School St. Local builder Alonzo Savery used plans of K. H. Allen. In 1941 the exterior was completely transformed into Colonial Revival style by the Boston architect A. A. Dirlam when the Rev. Walter Kraft was pastor. In 1923 the Methodists and Congregationalists came together again to form the Cotuit Federated Church.
In 1902 the Cotuit Christian Science Society built first of two buildings at what is now #700 Main St. The builder was probably Howard Dottridge, husband of the society’s Reader, Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Collins) Dottridge, who lived a few houses up the street. In 1930 a larger church was built next door to the south to accommodate the larger summer attendance, but this was unheated. Both buildings were moved in 1948 by Bob Hayden seven miles east to Hyannis, where they still house Christian Science services.
St. Jude’s Catholic church was built in 1939 at 4447 Route 28 by Lebel & Sons of Osterville on plans of Maginis, Walsh and Kennedy of Boston, who also designed the Church of the Holy Name in Fall River. Previously Catholic services were held in the Matias house next door, and in Baxter Hall.
The first mass was celebrated by Thomas J. McLean, second pastor of Our Lady of Assumption church in Osterville. When the church of Christ the King was built three miles west in Mashpee in 1988, St. Jude’s was moved by Bob Hayden and attached as a chapel.
St. Michael the Archangel Antiochian Orthodox church worships at 62 Main St. Founded as a mission in 1994 with only three families, the parish has grown to over seventy families. From 1994 to 1999, with help off visiting priests, the congregants of St. Michael held services in a variety of store fronts, churches and in the homes of parishioners. A lease was signed in October 1999 for the building that formerly housed the EPAC Grotto of Masons. The Baxter Grange Hall, built in 1900, was transformed in 1999. Father Ephraim Peters celebrated the first service in Nov. 1999.
Today we have three active congregations in Cotuit. On July 30, 2011 by Gateway Christian Center, a non-denominational Pentecostal Christian group led by Rev. Robert E. Condon joined St. Michael’s and the Federated Church as active congregations. They meet in the International-style La Salla Grande, which the former Sons of Italy built on the Mashpee line at #4966 Route 28 in 1988.