Hampton Social Life During the Thirties & Forties

This was related to me by one of our cousins and he tells it from the standpoint of an observant child.

“Many families seemed to go to church back in those days. After the service, most people would stand around for awhile, in groups, the women talking and the men talking a little less, but appearing to be happy just to be there. I was a shy kid and therefore quiet most of the time, but I liked to watch and listen to what the older folks were doing and saying. Amy Saunders would go home after church and open up her store, located across the street from the church, just long enough for those who needed something. Because it was depression years, folks could save on gas by combining trips and do their weekly grocery shopping after church.

Meeting on the front porch of the Hampton Store was a social opportunity. In those days, the Post Office was housed in the same building as the store, an annex in the area of what would eventually become the store’s deli. Folks would meet as they came to get groceries, or their mail, and they would tarry to chat with each other.

I liked the Sunday before Christmas better than Christmas day, when we went to the afternoon church service with all the carol singing and Santa coming in with a huge bag of gifts. He gave a gift to each child there, and there were a lot of us, including those who never came the rest of the year. Besides that, I liked the feeling or spirit of friendliness and happiness that was there before, during and after the service. one good reason for my liking that day even better than Christmas was my mother, as the Postmaster, had to work half a day on Christmas, unless it fell on a Sunday. Dad had to go milk the cows at Goodwin’s farm morning and evening, every day, just like Bill Pearl, Uncle Reuben and all the other farm folks. Christmas he would go very early so to be back home in time for my sister and me to have our stocking presents before Mother went to the Post Office. She would sort through the mail to give anything that had arrived on the morning train to those who came to the office on Christmas looking for the presents they had ordered from Sears or Monkey Wards. I went over to watch sometimes. The group waiting, mostly husbands, formed a small friendly social group. It was sad to see the faces of those who turned away when Mother said, “Sorry it didn’t come, I’ve looked through everything.” I felt sorry for those guys when they got home and had to tell their wives and children. Mother would hurry home after the last person left, which was about noon time. Then she would hurry to prepare our Christmas dinner. After that we could open the presents under our tree. Then it was time for Dad to go milk the cows again.

A new social group developed at the Post Office as a result of the war. Parents and wives of guys serving in WWII would gather on the store-post office porch to wait for the evening mail to be brought from the evening train by either Will Jewett, or sometimes my Dad. Mother would sort the mail and call out the names of those there who got a letter from their son or their husband. I would hang around there sometimes to enjoy the friendly ‘we are in this together’ spirit of the group. I guess they felt it too, because most arrived very early.

The Pearl family had some good social events other than the annual Jewett and Pearl Reunions. Rotational Whist parties were held quite often at one Pearl house or another. My parents had several while living in Flora’s house (on Rt. 97). Others would bring card tables and folding chairs and food. Usually, they needed the dining table and 5 or more card tables. If someone could not come, which left an empty chair, they would let me sit in to play the dummy hand. By 2nd grade, I had observed enough to become a player, the only kid in the group. I thought that Uncle Ernest Emmons was the best player and I tried to copy his style. One thing he did was to draw out all the trump cards instead of hoarding them for a trump play later in the game, which was what the others did. He was a good mathematician. He explained the basics of algebra to me so I could understand it in a couple of hours, which the high school teacher had not been able to do. Besides just playing cards, it was a fun time. I never heard all those uncles, aunts, older cousins and my parents talk so animatedly, and laugh so much and so loudly as at those Whist parties.

Formal Whist parties were held in the Grange Hall several times a year, open to anyone, with prizes going to the top three or four winners. A large bag of groceries was a very good prize. I don’t know if the Grange ran these Whist parties or some other group. Lots of social events went on at the Grange Hall besides Grange meetings.

The Grange meetings themselves were social events, too. Every meeting had an entertainment segment which was really good. Members would create plays sometimes, or they did a musical number, or a comedy bit. Occasionally there was a guest speaker. Many Hampton families had radios and some could afford to go to a movie once or twice a month, but that was about it. So, all that free ‘homegrown’ entertainment at the Grange was enjoyed and much appreciated. They put on dinners also. Besides the good food there was the special enjoyment going to a country ham, bean, salad and pie dinner. The menu would depend on who the cooks were, but the theme was similar. Some people refer to that as ‘Americana food’ now.

The Saturday night square dances at the Grange hall were wonderful and they were held once or twice a month for several years while I was growing up. Entire families would attend.

Sorry to say, but I didn’t care much for those family Reunions when very young. The early ones were run by the Jewetts and they all seemed very serious and tended to be business-like. Then at some point, when I was a little older, the Pearls started their own reunions. Most of the Pearl reunions were held at Uncle Reuben’s and Aunt Gertrude’s place. To me, they were much nicer; just a nice big, friendly picnic.
In later years when I was working as an engineer and then in management, we had to work during the July vacation shutdown of my company to install new equipment and make major repairs. Every year we had to work 27 to 34 days in a row. That prevented me and my family from attending the reunions for years. I realize now how much I missed. Today I live far from New England. Age and health reasons prevent me from traveling that far to see friends, family and to attend reunions. That is the only downside, or negative to living where I do. Funny, I can still hear the words in my head from some of those old folks, like in Uncle Will’s voice, ‘He had no business moving way out there; he shoulda stayed home!’

If you live close enough to go to a reunion, enjoy them while you can.”

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