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2 Cents

Bigfoot in Grafton


by Aunt Clara –

When Obadiah Spittle was born to Elizabeth and Barton Spittle in Grafton in 1795 he came out feet first. On first seeing those feet it is said that the midwife fainted and the local doctor requested a stiff drink. It was not so much that the feet were strangely shaped and covered in hair, it was the unnatural size of the things that caused such a stir that day. It was the fact they were adult sized and not just regular adult size but fairly large adult size.

The doctor was at first concerned that the entire baby would be large and just as he was contemplating just how to get such a huge baby out in one piece the rest of Obadiah shot out and shockingly was a regular seven pound baby. In fact, in comparison to those feet the rest of the infant looked quite tiny.

By the time the midwife had come to her senses and the doctor had consumed enough Blackstrap Whiskey to face the fearful town citizenry, Barton Spittle was already working on making a crib large enough to contain Obadiah’s feet.

As the years went by the rest of the boy grew at a normal rate, but no matter how much he grew it was said he would never catch up to those huge feet. As one would imagine finding shoes for those feet was a continuous endeavor. Barton first went to the local blacksmith for makeshift shoes, but the boy could not walk with his feet encased in those huge metal caskets.

The local seamstress worked with the family and made three-ply socks and the carpenter added a wooden bottom sole and the boy was able to at least go outside and work on the farm and go to school. Those huge feet covered in billowy cloth and the awkward clomping around on those wooden bottoms left poor Obadiah open to much ridicule.

Enter Oliver Ward, a corporal in the Massachusetts militia and hailed from a founding Grafton family of no little fame. Upon seeing the poor Obadiah with his uncommonly large feet and watching the boy being mercilessly ridiculed by the local juvenile delinquents, Oliver felt he must take action.

Oliver examined those huge boats that Obadiah was forced to lug around and realized that there was only one solution. Meeting that evening with a good friend (who was known for animal husbandry) Oliver decided to open his own shoe factory. Once he had his financing, and his tanning supplier was on board, Oliver searched all over Massachusetts for the best and brightest Cordwainer he could find.

Oliver worked day and night until the very first shoe factory was established in 1809. Because of Obadiah’s huge feet, and because of the caring ingenuity of one of Grafton’s finest citizens, Grafton qualified as the first town in Worcester County to manufacture shoes for export to the general public. And Obadiah Spittle qualified as the first Massachusetts citizen to receive shoes from this factory. The first factory was named after Obadiah and at its peak Grafton produced nearly 600,000 pairs of boots and shoes a year and employed 550 men and 300 women. And all of this because one little boy was born in Grafton with feet that were ten sizes too large.

One thing about Obadiah when he said he liked to sleep in his socks he really meant he liked to sleep in his socks. Instead of cutting the grass Obadiah’s parents sent him outside barefoot before they cut his toenails.

Obadiah finally grew up and became a cobbler as he was destined to do. One day the local physician came in with an old pair of shoes and asked him to look them over and see if they are worth repairing. Obadiah, being an honest man, examined the shoes and told the doctor they were not. To the doctors consternation Obadiah began writing up a bill. “You can’t do that,” stated the incensed physician, “you never even did anything to the shoes but look at them!” Obadiah quietly pulled out a bill he had received for his yearly physical. The doctor, knowing he was beaten, accepted the bill and promptly paid.


Burt the lawbreaker

by Aunt Clara –

Burt was a regular lawbreaker. Aunt Clara did not know this about him until after the wedding. You know the adage, “We hide our flaws until ‘after’ the wedding!” Burt was always at the courthouse looking up old Commonwealth laws still on the books, and then going out and break that law. He even had a little book he carried around that listed all the laws and when and where he was when he broke that law.

The first one he broke was at my grandmother’s funeral. There is a law that remains on the books that states no mourner may eat no more than three sandwiches at a wake. Of course it does not clarify the size of sandwiches, whether it be finger sandwiches or full size grinders. Burt stuffed himself on pesto chicken, egg salad and even anchovy-lemon butter sandwiches at the wake. Aunt Clara was so embarrassed introducing people to Burt while he was eating his craw with three or four sandwiches. He ate until he could not walk straight. In his book he named every type and amount of sandwich. He even made a point of eating right in front of the chief of police, probably waiting to be arrested. The chief just shook his head and walked away.

It is illegal in Massachusetts to scare a pigeon. So, like a wild man, Burt had to run after every pigeon he saw. He would write every encounter in his book while he searched out more birds to frighten.

Burt made a point of letting everyone know he was “not” carrying a rifle to church. Burt would make sure to let the other parishioners know he was breaking the law. Of course, hunting on Sunday is prohibited also so whatever would these men be shooting with their rifles? It is also illegal in Grafton to spit on the sidewalk. This was a disgusting law that Burt just had to break. “Whatever will the neighbors think, Burt?” Aunt Clara would admonish, but to no avail. Aunt Clara thinks this law is a good one and should still be enforced, but the police just don’t seem to feel the same way.

Burt was always writing and scribbling on our milk cartons as soon as we purchased one. Of course, it is illegal to deface a milk carton. Aunt Clara always made sure Burt did not have any markers when we went to the market lest he defaced all the milk containers in the grocery store. Burt loved to draw a milk mustache on the milk girl’s face or make the cow into a horse on the carton.

Burt refused to bathe before retiring to bed. This was, of course, because there is an obscure law on the books that states one must bathe before going to bed. Aunt Clara feels this is a good law and should include flossing but the State Senate does not seem to agree.

When any of our friends were in the hospital Burt always made sure to visit them every day. Not because Burt was so caring but because he just had to bring them a beer — it is illegal to bring a hospital patient beer. Burt did not care if they drank it or not, his part was done as soon as he walked in the patient’s room with that illegal substance. Aunt Clara did forbid Burt from bringing beer to my saint of a mother when she was on her deathbed. Aunt Clara told Burt in no uncertain terms that if he ever brought that woman a beer while she was in the hospital, then Aunt Clara would be breaking a law of her own. Since it is illegal to beat a rug in front of a house, Aunt Clara is sure that beating a recalcitrant husband on the doorstep would be breaking some silly law.


Rock, Paper, Scissors

by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara wanted to go to the prom with Bobby Truant. Yes Aunt Clara was once a young girl with wants and dreams just like any other young girl. Well it should be Aunt Clarified that I was never as silly as the other frivolous girls were and certainly had a much higher I.Q. than any one of them, but that goes without saying.

Anyway, Esther Thomas, the daughter of a local physician and number one cheerleader also had her eye on Bobby (the dreamboat) Truant. Esther had an uninteresting face made to look good by using cream rouge followed by powder, giving the face a “glowing” appearance. In reality she had a pasty white pallor, too large a nose and lips that only a mother would ever want to kiss. I knew this because we had pajama parties and I saw what her future husband had to look forward to. Her hair was flat and depressing and even running a brush through it 100 times a night could not make it shine.

On my first sleepover at her house I watched her mother create what I thought was a cream sauce for tomorrow’s supper. It had eggs, mayonnaise, vinegar, and almond oil. Imagine my surprise when I watched Esther take a big spatula and scoop that goop right onto her head. Note to anyone trying this at home; it did not work.

Aunt Clara knew of course that she could beat Esther in the looks department, but the concern was that Bobby would be blinded by the make-up, the big fancy house and her wardrobe. She had those animal pattern sweaters that were all the rage, she wore dresses sent from Greece and India that had tons of beautiful floral patterns and ankle boots with embroidered velvet. Esther was the first girl in Grafton to wear her hair in a pageboy style and tied back with a Washington bow and the first to wear a tiny sailor hat loaded down with feathers. Aunt Clara admits to being more than a little jealous of that hat! The latest styles worn by Katherine Hepburn, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Marlene Dietrich would find their way onto Esther’s gangly frame.

How could Aunt Clara compete with that? With her superior mind and ability to overcome all obstacles of course. Aunt Clara befriended the vacuous and giddy Esther during that long hot Grafton summer. Listening to Esther giggle and gaggle over Clark Cable, Yul Brennar, and Cary Grant was almost unbearable, but Aunt Clara smiled and pretended to be interested and should have been given an academy award for how well she acted.

In those days there was only one way to settle any argument between teenagers and that was the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Now in the hands of most teenagers this was a game of chance, with random outcomes and an even playing field. But Aunt Clara’s superior mind was able to turn this game from a game of chance to a game of certainty. By playing a few games a week for small stakes Aunt Clara learned Esther’s unconscious patterns and predilections. Aunt Clara had learned long ago that most girls will start with scissors and most boys will begin with Rock. Esther was no exception. Aunt Clara let Esther win many of those games over the summer and quietly set her trap, so when it came time for the prom she was more than ready. Since Aunt Clara and Esther were both such good friends and they both liked Bobby Truant, it was decided that it was only fair that one of them should step aside and let the other one have him. It was the only right thing to do.

Of course the only game that could ever be fair in deciding Bobby’s fate was Rock, Paper, Scissors; a true game of chance. As Aunt Clara predicted Esther started with scissors and Aunt Clara threw down rock. Most naïve players will repeat their last choice thinking that their opponent would never expect that. Aunt Clara was ready and again rock beat scissors. Aunt Clara was a student of pattern recognition and had been studying Esther all summer. Esther also had tells, whenever she was going to choose rock she made her fist really tight as if holding a rock. It was like taking candy from a baby and Aunt Clara won the last throw, paper over rock.

All that was left was to choose the dress Aunt Clara would wear. After much thought it was decided that a sleek yet demure mint green Bias cut silk chiffon gown would looked lovely. Her date was dashing and they were the talk of the town for weeks after. For her part Esther always believed that there was some sort of shenanigans that caused her to lose out on having Bobby for a prom date but could never prove it.

40 years later Aunt Clara attended her high school reunion and both Esther and Bobby were there. Poor Bobby hadn’t aged well, the years had truly been unkind. Alcohol and McDonalds had taken their toll. Aunt Clara realized Esther had truly forgiven her about the prom when it was decided they would go for two out of three of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who ‘didn’t’ have to take Bobby home with them!


A cure for Large Bowl Perspective Impairment

by Aunt Clara –

Burt had a problem with perspective in life as well as in kitchen dishware.

When Burt would prepare his cereal in the morning he would always reach for a mixing bowl rather than a cereal bowl. Why he would put one small cup of cereal in a much larger quart bowl was beyond Aunt Clara’s comprehension. In all his cereal eating years, Burt was never known to eat more than that small amount of breakfast cereal but he would always use a huge bowl. Aunt Clara would even set out a 250cc size bowl that was more than adequate for one cup of cereal. But Burt would move right by the proper bowl and go for the biggest most monstrous bowl he could find. How ridiculous that little man looked sitting at the table eating out of a huge mixing bowl.

Being a married man, Burt suffered from typical morning deafness that so many married men seem to suffer from. No matter how Aunt Clara tried to explain the error of his ways, Burt would just keep eating his Maypo while reading The Grafton News.

The battle of the bowls became unpleasant when Aunt Clara, in a stroke of genius, hid all the large bowls into the back pantry, leaving only proper sized cereal dishware in the cupboard.
Burt came down the stairs in his favorite sleep shirt with that silly morning grin on his face and opened the cupboard. A confused look washed over his face. He rubbed his eyes, scratched his head and opened the next cupboard over. “Aunt Clara,” where are all the bowls?” It was now Aunt Clara’s turn to feign morning deafness.

Burt continued to search, even looking in the linen closet, but being a man he was not a good looker. There was no way he was finding those bowls. After standing there hemming and hawing Burt did the unthinkable. He grabbed a huge cooking pot, put in a small amount of cereal, poured his milk and began eating. It was after this that Aunt Clara tried to find professional help. Burt clearly suffered from Large Bowl Perspective Impairment or LBPI.

In those days not much was known about LBPI. Aunt Clara had to interview psychologists, study medical books at the library and even visit the Betty Crocker Institute in order to better understand.

Most treatments were experimental and none were accepted by the American Medical Association. Locking Burt in a room for many hours with only one small bowl, a box of cereal and milk only caused him to become more anxious. Removing all the large bowls from the home did not work as Burt would run to the neighbors looking for dishware. There was no way Aunt Clara was going to allow him to run over to the Widow Kelly’s house every morning.
The Pavlov system did work. This was a large bracelet that was locked on Burt’s wrist and with which Aunt Clara could deliver a shock whenever he reached for a larger bowl than was necessary. The problem was that it caused Burt to break out in large hives which itched and bled. Burt was such a mess that he could not even go to work.

After much discussion with Burt’s psychiatrist it was decided he would seek help on an outpatient basis and with Aunt Clara’s wisdom and compassion, his LBPI could be managed. It would not be easy and there would be periods of remission and exacerbation. However, Aunt Clara had married Burt for better or worse, in sickness and health, through good times and bad. She was not about to give up on this feeble man she had taken as her husband.

Aunt Clara did get the last laugh years later when she buried Burt in a coffin that was neither too large nor too small. Burt was destined to spend eternity in a space that fit him just perfectly.

And that was how he was finally cured of his LBPI.



by Aunt Clara –

Charles Dickens the esteemed writer loved sweets. When he was a young man walking the streets of London he would always be seen writing in his journal and sucking on what was referred to as a “lolly”. Back in London the term lolly meant tongue or mouth.

These sugary treats commonly called lollies were readily available in London and as everything else about England was so very miserable in that place and time it is understandable that people might want a moment of pure sugary joy.

As one might imagine, dental hygiene being in its infancy, this constant chewing on lollies caused extreme tooth decay. Since there was no such thing as an official dentist, the role of tooth care in small towns and rural communities fell to the local blacksmith. He already had tools such as forceps, and creative smiths were able to forge a “key.” This “key” looked like a door key but could grip a tooth when rotated. The blacksmith was also strong as an ox, so he could hold the patient with one arm while gripping his forceps or key with the other as he extracted the tooth.

Now, when the infected tooth was ripped from the mouth, it was an imprecise business and usually gum and bone would come with it creating a distinct popping noise. When someone was addicted to chewing on lollies they would most likely get to eventually hear the “pop” of their teeth being extracted.

Charles Dickens had heard that horrible pop when he had to have several of his own teeth forcibly removed, and he coined the term “Lollipop” to represent this sugary treat that led to tooth decay. Now you can imagine that Dickens was always writing and always had a pencil in his hand. Dickens had the habit of sticking his lollipop on the end of his pencil and sucking on it whilst he wrote. Dickens had always been a proponent of childhood education and he realized this lollipop pencil might be a great way to get children to learn. He figured that he could suck on a sweet treat while performing their writing and arithmetic, which would cause them to spend more time with pencil and paper. This of course made the local blacksmith happy as his business increased as the lollipops gained popularity. Some local parents pined that Dickens was in cahoots with the blacksmiths and that he was getting a kickback for every tooth pulled!

In larger towns and cities barbers were the ones who performed dentistry and we have all heard the stories of the barber pole being red and white because of the bloody rags that were hung outside after pulling some poor saps teeth out of his mouth. The barber pole was red and white on dentist days and that symbol for barbershops is still in existence. On days when the barber had his bloody bandages on the pole many people would leave town so they did not have to hear the horrible screams coming from that establishment!

Later in life Charles Dickens would lament his role in creating the “lollipop” and would often admonish young children that if they kept sucking on lollipops they would end up in horrible pain at the dentist / barber / blacksmith. He had to chuckle when one young man told him that he sucked on ten lollipops every day and had not had one cavity or one tooth pulled in over eight years. Intrigued Dickens said “how can that be? How can you be sucking on those sugar sticks every day and not get any cavities, that is impossible?” the young man then gave him a huge toothless smile, “it’s easy sir, I just don’t have any teeth”!