Across the pond with Rex Wailes: To Chatham

December 03rd 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

Part 12 of a weekly series of blogs about Rex Wailes' 1929 trip to the USA and Canada.
Poster Image

Railway station at Cataumet, Massachusetts


Monday 13.5.29

I left Woods Hole at 7 am on Monday the 13th for Chatham. To Buzzards Bay the country was wooded with small trees. There were stone walls round many fields but the country was very largely unsettled land. Old windmills are not always easy to spot, as sham old ones are built without cap or sails as summer houses; but one I saw that appeared to be genuine was between Cataumet & Pocassett, and east of the railroad. It had a hemispherical top, and was used as a summer house. It was of the usual smock mill type, with shingled cap and sides. There was also a windmill sign outside a "Gas & Lunch" Station on the main road east of the railroad, and just north of Gray Gables.

I could see no windmill from the railroad at Falmouth. This train was very dirty and the track none too good. Some expressions used are worth noting. "Pardon me" (Excuse me! in English) "Glad (or pleased) to know you!” is the correct formula when introduced for the first time. I also heard the expression "Say that again" when the speaker had not caught a remark addressed to him. "Too bad" means "Bad luck".

I had to wait 2½ hours at Buzzards. I weighed myself - 160 lbs without overcoat or hat and wrote up this journal in a clean and comfortable waiting room. I left on the 10.12 for Chatham.

Worker in a cranbury bog. Image from Flickr by Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism [CC BY-ND 2.0]

We ran alongside the Cape Cod Ship Canal for its entire length. The country is very sandy and has many ponds. A great feature are the cranberry bogs. They are to be seen everywhere, intersected with little irrigation ditches and often with a small open pond in the middle. I'm told that the cranberries grown in sand, want a large amount of water, and have to be well covered with water in the winter to avoid frost bite. The bogs look like a cross between a watercress bed and a heather covered piece of land - being red. At North Harwich there is a factory next to the station bearing the legend - "Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, ready to serve, strained and sweetened" with a picture of some jelly being turned out of a tin.

I asked the conductor on this car about the Chatham Historical Society. He told me to find Lawyer Harding's wife and ask her, and directed me to her house - "Just past the Post Office" I checked my grip at the station and set out. At the P.O. I asked my way of a stranger who said "Why sure, there she is going into the bank, go in to her and speak, she surely won't mind". I did. She arranged for her husband to take me in his car to see Mr. G. H. Nickerson II, who was the last to work the mill, and to Roland Snow, who was responsible for the key of it, though he did not actually keep it.

Chatham lighthouse

Mr. Harding did more. He first of all shewed me the old oyster pond and the site of the old tide mill behind his house. Then the ocean coast and the lighthouse, and then took me to Mr Nickerson and cross-questioned him for me while I made rapid notes. He took me back to his house, after shewing me where Roland Snow lived, and gave me an excellent lunch, after which he took me, and Mrs Harding, out to Eastham Mill, which I photographed, and measured up pretty well.

Eastham Mill, 1920

I had supper in a very smelly "Lunch" house and then interviewed Roland Snow - a builder and estate agent - who promised to be at the mill with the key next day at 9.30. a.m.

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