1984 MASSACHUSETTS USA TOUR
- SUFFOLK TO MASSACHUSETTS
East Suffolk Morris Men have been dancing in Suffolk villages for the last quarter century. In June 1984 we will be stamping new ground on the other side of the Atlantic re-enacting the emigration that took place 300 years ago. We intend traveling by 747 and not in the Mayflower. Small Suffolk villages such as Groton and Wrentham have given their names to towns in New England. During our weeks tour of Massachusetts we hope to dance at as many of these namesake towns as possible.
Most of our dancing is based on surviving village traditions in the Cotswolds, but there is evidence that Morris dancing may have been part of the 'games' and 'plays' so popular in the 16th century Suffolk. The dancers are all men dressed in the brightly coloured East Suffolk costume with bells, handkerchiefs and carrying sticks with which they indulge in mock battle.
The noise of clashing sticks is designed to frighten the devil away, and Billy the hobby horse will then extract your contribution to the dance. Between now and the USA tour, we shall be performing at this end of the link. Please come and support us.
Perhaps it was unwise going out for a curry the night before a major venture involving a trek through the London jungle and flight across the Atlantic, but the day dawned fair and sunny with little discomfort. We met, at least those slumming on British Rail, at Ipswich Station for the 7.35 to Liverpool Street. Despite long queues at the booking office, we all got tickets, those more seasoned than others remembering to include the tube fare with the B.R. tickets.
On the whole, it was too early in the morning for high spirits, and we sat in a crowded train swaying through the East Anglian countryside. Richard uttered sporadic ejaculations at patches of poppies in the cereal fields, not impressing a very young farmer sitting next to us traveling to collect a brand new motorbike, who clearly thought poppies a nuisance.
We spend the time reading newspapers, talking and looking at Des's compilation of a log of E.S.M.M. travels and history.
London Liverpool Street arrived eventually where Phil and Richard were hustled into using the services of an energetic porter. We staggered on, they looked smug. During muster at the tube station, Richard discovered he had left a tube containing a brass rubbing on the train and hared off to retrieve it. He returned looking like a startled cat scared by the possibility of being lost. His tension relieved, he whistled a merry tune - the sword dance tune, a Freudian slip.
Des was obviously a well seasoned traveler - especially on London Underground. We boarded the train and stacked the luggage on one side where Des assured us they would be out of the way since there were no stations with platforms on that side. Wrong, wrong and again! His credibility reduced, we were treated to a dissertation on London Transport Circle Line traffic congestion. The locals looked on amused.
And so to Victoria, where we caught the Gatwick Express. Phil found he was injured as blood trickled from his finger. Everyone was impressed by the first injury of the trip. Almost immediately we nearly had the second as Des reached out to open a corridor door just as it automatically swished sideways.
We arrived at Gatwick in good time and found the Northwest desk. No Froom and party. As 11.00 a.m. approached, we speculated on whether Keith had artificially contrived to arrive just in the nick of time. He did anyway.
We sailed through formalities and boarded a deserted 747 to change into kit. We posed for photos (publicity stunt for airline and travel agent) sitting in seats and out on the apron where E.S.M.M. gave a thoroughly rusty performance. Plenty of photos though, including the Squire gazing into the fans of the engine.
That over, we claimed our usual fee in liquid refreshment from the travel agent (Powell Duffryn Travel) in the airport bar. Phil left his clothes on the plane and was sent back to get them. He returned and confessed he got on the wrong plane - well! Pat told us not to let him off on his own.
And so an hour's wait before boarding the plane for the journey. We bought duty-free booze with $5 vouchers kindly supplied by our friendly travel agent and speculated on the possibility of dancing on the plane. Mick wondered whether we needed red and green lights on appropriate sides of the set.
Keith tried to organise us - a hopeless task. He went off to change out of kit. Dave claimed the first injury, a blister, but was shouted down by Phil's former claim. The men were mumbling and Dick was appointed 'Shop Steward" as usual to negotiate between men and management. Base camp was quickly established in the bar where Keith typically and blatantly avoided buying anyone a drink, even the poor travel agent - mean sod!
Time to sort out what to buy in the duty-free shop. We were already sitting down into 'car groups'. Keith asked Dave what kind of booze for their car, Dave replied "Don't know - petrol, I suppose'.
To relieve the boredom, we decided to dance in the Terminal - all except Keith, who had changed out of kit- and collected about $10 - $15 in assorted currencies. As most queued to board the plane, some of us sat down to view the scenery typified by a yellow clad female leaving little to the imagination. Almost last onto the plane we, the stragglers, found our seats by the empty holes only to find that, despite prior claims to the contrary from the management, they are just about the worst seats on the plane.
Hi. My Name is Keith.
Have a good trip.
had really fallen down. No point in renting the headphones couldn't see the screen for the film!
Still, we can always make our own entertainment. Des spilt his aperitif over his whites and the Stewardess identified us for what we were and was embarrassed while demonstrating the inflation of a life jacket through a rather thick rubber tube. Later she taped her table cloth to the trolley using the Squire's head to store pieces of sticky tape from a sellotape roll. After a kind of beef stroganoff or chicken and wine, the boring part of the journey began.
Some of us drifted off to sleep as the film started, no one could see it anyway except perhaps Froom situated slightly forward of the rest of us. I was awoken - if I did actually fall asleep - by an erratic hand-claping vaguely resembling a pattern not completely unlike Shepherds Hey Jig. Yes, Des was trying to dance alongside the Galley at 37,000 feet.
This distraction awoke us from our soporific state and a glance out of the window revealed widespread ice flows beneath us. It was like a delicate mosaic of white crystals set in a blue sea. As we flew on, the ice became more dense forming lace-like patterns. Quite beautiful. We heard we were between Greenland and Newfoundland.
Long flights can be tedious, but we all agreed the seven hours or so had passed without too much discomfort. The landing was smooth and four hundred sardines funneled along the walkway into immigration. No problems here, just long queues, and more queues in customs. Only two worthy questions here:
Of Richard- "Why are you wearing that hat (boater) - why aren't you carrying it?"
Answer - "Because my hands are full."
Of Phil (wearing Morris hat) - "Have you got a thing about Boy George?"
We were met by a "Black Joker' (Kris Arnold) who was to guide us to the car rental station, not within the airport perimeter. For this, we awaited the complimentary minibus outside the airport and were treated to a fascinating display of automotive chaos as vehicles, mainly taxis and minibuses, double, treble and quadruple parked to pick up fares. A blue clad official with ubiquitous walkie-talkie radio tried to keep order and move offenders on giving an instant ticket for dissent. A lost cause.
Phil almost fell out of the bus window during a breakneck charge through town to the car rental where it was immediately obvious the Chevettes booked would be far too small. More dollars bought a bigger car. Bob, in charge of our car, chose a Camaro. Great till we saw it was a sports hatchback which would not take the luggage. Back to the drawing board for a Buick monster saloon.
Eventually, we were all satisfied and with the sound advice "Be good guys", we set off. Our three pilot drivers were Graham, Bob and Des. Graham was guided by a Joker and set off first. We decided to push in next to avoid following Des's erratic driving. On balance a wise move from our observations out of the rear window. We met the Jokers at their practice hall and had supper and beer. Good food and good chat. A couple of hours later most of us had had it, it was about 2.00 a.m. U.K. time. So split up for bed.
SUNDAY 17th JUNE
My Circadian rhythm woke me at 3.30 a.m. or 8.30 U.K. time, but I forced myself to doze off for a couple of hours. When I could stay in bed no longer, I addressed a fine day and sniffed the roses growing round my hosts' house. Most of us fared the same, spending the morning quietly or strolling round Boston.
We met together at 1.00 p.m. at the Oyster Bar in the Durgin Park Gaslight Pub. People trickled in looking in various states of collapse. Some clearly had digestive problems, not fully resolved for a while by some. Jokers had a laid back approach to organisation, which meant a scrappy start to the dancing. Des started a set off in the foyer of the bar, why not outside in the beautiful sunshine is explained by the Jokers" need for a warm-up. Warm-up, it was already well into the seventies.
We were late at our performing spot at the Fannial Hall Market Place and found a mime artist had gathered a large crowd. This is the famous place where the American declaration of independence was signed, and is commemorated by a large circular plaque in the ground. Later, a Joker tried to dance a jig within its small area. The dancing and collecting started and we began to realise
why the Jokers' pace was lower than ours. The heat and humidity was energy sapping. A break was called and E.S.M.M. drifted off to the pub only to be dragged outside for a couple more dances.
A second show at the Hall gathered our friendly air hostess of yesterday as a spectator. Brighton Camp was immediately organised but she smelled a rat and hid. Afterwards, on seeing the fate of her substitute, she declared we would never get her up there with her (very) short skirt on. Oh yes we would, but mightn't put you down, countered E.S.M.M. We staggered off for a drink in an Irish pub, The Midnight Court, where the bag was counted - 129 dollars in all. The Jokers danced rapper. It was very good indeed, including a few figures I had not seen before. They dance Longsword as well, it was a good job E.S.M.M. had the good sense to leave the swords at home.
Just as we were about to leave, the air hostess turned up again. Bob appointed himself close escort and we set off for the afternoon tour in the main shopping street - Washington Street - processing to Winster between stops. The jet-lag must have been catching up on us because E.S.M.M. dancing was getting worse.
The end of the tour at last and food was at hand at the Friar Tuck pub. The air hostess was in the bar. Beer (Michelob) from the collection but there wasn't enough to pay for the food so the E.S.M.M. bag forked out.
We heard of a 'Contra Dance' on board a pleasure cruiser that evening and some of us started negotiations to go. The 10 dollar ticket put some off, but it seemed too good a chance to miss. While waiting for the food, someone rang to see what arrangements could be made for tickets. Kirk of the Jokers sang a song to E.S.M.M.'s propensity to pub. We tried machos (hot pepper sauce on corn crackers) and onion rings while waiting for the main course. Steve had trouble with stringy cheese in his onion soup.
Seven of us went off to the boat dance. While waiting at the harbour, Richard passed round tea bags for a ceremonious throwing in of tea declaring independence and freedom for E.S.M.M. The boat was a three deck cruiser and there were about 200 people on board. The band of two fiddles, keyboard and bass was on the middle deck with relay speakers to the upper and lower deck. It was a fine warm night with a brisk breeze blowing over the bay. The longways sets for contra dancing fitted in well down the broad aisles.
The music started as we left the harbour and soon all available space was taken up by gyrating couples. In going to the dance, we took the risk of being without partners. In practice, we needn't have worried. Girls didn't have any inhibitions and dragged us onto the floor. Those not wishing to dance, like Mick and Keith, had to take extraordinary steps to avoid embarrassing themselves by refusing a woman. For myself, it was a long time since I had enjoyed myself dancing so much. The music was excellent, the company convivial.
We got back to Boston all too soon and arrangements were made to return to our hosts. Richard and I set off on foot with a guide and delayed our progress with an ice cream. This was a typical American experience. The raw product was modified by fillings of nuts, chocolate and sweetmeats of all kinds. It was most welcome after a hot pulsating evening.
MONDAY 18th JUNE
After the quite swift pace of Sunday, the arrangements for Monday were quite vague. I knew that my host and his two female flatmates would be out to work between 7.30 and 8.00. I woke
early and counted the showers. Two out and one to go. Then voices - there seemed to be more here than I had bargained It must be love, he drove 16 hours for a one night stand and had 8 to drive to work. Crazy Americans.
I showered and Richard arrived which was a surprise because I wasn't expecting him. I cooked bacon, eggs and a bacon sandwich for Richard with Liptons tea, I hadn't found the coffee. Bob and Steve arrived and we set off for Needham. A building with a flagpole looked like a likely rendezvous and Keith etc. were there. On further inspection, the place was a library and Keith had wasted a number of photographs on a false alarm. This did not put him in a good mood, especially as he had discovered the loss of his 'duty-free" left at last night's stop. We changed in the car park with little regard to modesty.
We had a temporary delay to the dancing and I changed some DM into dollars. As we started dancing, the local cable T.V. company turned up and it started raining. It got wetter. Des eventually presented the scrolls as we cowered in the shelter of the town hall. In exchange we were presented with a plaque and a peaked hat advertising Needham U.S.A. bicentenary celebrations.
Luncheon was provided by the local historical society in Glendoon House, their community museum. A cold buffet and a chat during which our host suggested, no insisted, that we each take a small memento of our visit - a commorative plate. We were to return again for lodgings on Friday so we could pick them up then.
It appeared that a man had watched us dance here after seeing Morris for the first time when we danced at Gatwick Airport. All too soon, we left to drive to Wrentham.
There a small slip road had been blocked off with municipal barriers and the police and fire cars stood by for a riotous performance. Not many others took the trouble to turn up to watch us dancing and it rained. We sheltered in the Episcopal church in a luxurious drawing room and drank a beer. This turned out to be ironic on reflection, considering our later experiences of religion and alcohol. The huge log fire would have been handy to dry off had it been lit. Des gave a long interview to a local reporter which delayed our departure for supper.
Supper was at a lakeside (Pearl) summer house owned by an expatriot family. Even though the day was damp, it was warm enough to make a swim tempting, but there wasn't enough time. Phil spent a while wildlife spotting. Apart from the birds, we saw a muskrat swimming in the lake.
On the way back for a second dance, Codge, driving on the left, impact tested the bumpers on his car and was late for the show. The occupant of the other car couldn't believe the sight of four 'bullfighters' getting out of the car!
It was getting dark and humidity was 100%. Water fell out of the air and mosquitoes started biting. After the show we paired off and split up for the night. I was ready for bed.
TUESDAY 19th JUNE
There had been a thunderstorm during the early morning so that by the time I woke the air was clearer. I still hadn't quite adjusted to the time difference and had to kill some time watching breakfast T.V.
We set off early for Norton and spent an hour there exploring a supermarket and a doughnut bar. It was getting hot. The civic centre was away from the commercial centre and the prospect of dancing there looked bleak. There was a spare hour to pass before the scheduled show and we drifted down to a senior citizens' centre for an impromptu show. The first signs of heat exhaustion were showing. Much to Bob's dismay, we cracked open the cold beer bought at the supermarket and went back to the civic centre.
The show there was watched by a handful of spectators and the firemen manning the station next door. The heat was terrific and capers reached the dizzy height of 2 inches. Bobs glasses were caught by the Squires stick breaking them as they hit the ground. For the rest of the trip they were patched up with Sellotape. The formalities over, the firemen invited us to join them for a cold soft drink in the station. Very welcome indeed. We learned a lot about fire-fighting U.S.A. style.
And so on to Ipswich, a long way to go. The temperature was now 86 degrees Fahrenheit and we were thankful for air conditioned cars. A stop for pizzas on the way made us slightly late at
Ipswich. We were met by an English girl from Colchester and were taken to a sunny green for a dance. Not many gathered to watch and the dancing spirits were low.
Here the day took on another direction. The girl and her husband, Danielle and Paddy Swanson, were married at Stoke by Nayland in 1977 and E.S.M.M. had danced at their wedding as evidenced by photographs shown later. They were taking on the enormous task of looking after all 11 of us!
But first, a cooling swim was in order and we drove to a country house which had a private beach, calling in for more beer on the way. In the shop there was an enormous tank of lobsters. Castle Hill country house was modeled on an English stately home with extensive grounds built by a plumber named Crane who was big in urinals. There was a private function going on at the time, so we skirted the grounds to the beach.
The sand was white and warm, the sea was freezing. The ,E.S.M.M. bravado broke down with 5 refusing to swim. Rather like hitting one's head against a brick wall, it was better coming out of the water. Des's beach attire caused us some amusement. The local insect population seemed to prefer sea clean bodies and started to make a meal of us. On the way back to the cars, we passed a hot air balloon giving tethered rides to guests at the big house.
We drove through Ipswich to Boxford where we were to stay the night at Cleaveland Farm. This was an amazing place. The farmhouse was huge with many bedrooms interconnected by bathrooms, corridors and staircases. Most of the furniture was 'period', the house seemed like a time capsule from a century ago. Danny and Paddy manage the farm for, and looked after an elderly Polish lady who lives in the house (she was away when we visited). We were all in a jovial mood at the prospect of sitting down to a meal and staying together.
The preparations were well lubricated by the duty-free drink bought with the travel agent's vouchers. Gin and tonic was popular during the early evening, lubricating Keith enough to tell
a dubious joke! Richard walked off to the pond only to return smartly on seeing a black snake. We hulled strawberries and peeled potatoes as dusk fell when the evening gloam was speckled by the flashes from fireflies.
Dave took a professional interest in the farm which used no artificial fertilizers. He fed the pigs and cast his eye over a sow nearing her farrowing time. Not tonight Josephine!
Eventually we sat down to roast beef, Yorkshire, roast potatoes and salad. Strawberries afterwards. For most, this was where the evening became most hazy. Good food, good fellowship and good drink merged into one warm glow. After eating Dave led us through a few songs accompanying himself on a guitar.
About 1.30 the party started to fragment and I drifted up to bed. Half way up the stairs I met Mick dressed only in underpants (worn backwards) carrying a tribal face mask and giggling mischievously. He and other accomplices were making up bedmates for some of the men out of pillows and masks found in one room. In the morning I was not sure if all this had happened or whether I had dreamt it! I t had.
WEDNESDAY 20th JUNE
Breakfast today after the night before was like 'Futtocks End'. Only one casualty and that was Danielle who had been ill all night with a gastric complaint. We trickled in to breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs, cold by the time some got to it. It was a beautiful hot day with none of the close humidity of the day before. It was very difficult to tear oneself away from such a wonderful setting and head for the next port of call.
Most of us had put clean whites on today because today was T.V. day. We drove to Boxford, at 5 m.p.h. in our case, as Richard was learning to drive. Even so, he managed to do an emergency stop to avoid a blackbird. We were early again but filled in time with coffee in the town shopping complex - the village store. As the hour approached, the local school turned out swelling the audience. Angela Rippon came out looking quite like the English Rose and conveniently dressed in White.
The camera man courteously asked permission to film the dance intimately and we started. This was the best performance so far. The camera obviously added six inches to every caper. The kids loved it and, overall, everyone gave a first class performance and P.R. job. Angela, naturally, participated in Brighton Camp.
In the sweat soaked sag afterwards, a kind lady offered the services of her swimming pool. Despite getting slightly lost, we plunged in for blissful relief. Without exception, the hospitality and friendliness of the New Englanders was amazing. The poolside temperature was too much for the feet on stone slabs, but grass was better. Bob learned to dive, coached by Graham, and Phil swam for the first time in 15 years and has photographs to prove it. Des and I rescued (?) an enormous frog from the pool.
This was all getting too much, and late in the afternoon Des discovered he had mistaken the arrangements for Haverhill and we were already late. A phone call and apology sorted that out and we set off with a still twitchy Richard driving.
At Haverhill, Des failed to follow his own instructions and arrived where our hosts were. We, who obeyed, had to be escorted to the rendezvous. We split up to meet again at 7.00 for a communal dinner at The Tap Room. We dressed as formally as we could and joined the Chamber of Commerce for dinner but only two courses for we were to have strawberry shortcake at one of our hosts' house later.
Nearly everyone had seafood, and I tried the lobster. We toasted our mutual health and fortune in cranberry juice (yes, it is an almost dry town) and drifted off for pudding. My hostess a slight faux pas in suggesting that Keith's blazer was the sign from the Three Pigeons public house. He was not amused. The pudding was excellent and afterwards we were asked to introduce ourselves. This turned out to be an embarrassing experience outside our normal culture. As usual, we made it as possible, but the joke fell on fallow ground. We broke up early to head for home before the Channel 7 T.V. programme featuring us. We were, of course, a small item though treated fairly and in a good light. Naturally, they showed Angela being manhandled.
These were, by far, the straightest laced people we had stayed with. They were all connected with the Baptist Church. The strain on E.S.M.M. of being polite was beginning to tell. Most
had a heavy slug before retiring to settle the nerves.
THURSDAY 21st JUNE
The insect bites and sunburn had matured overnight and the purchase of lotion was a high priority. We assembled at the library in a nice sheltered sun trap. Boiled lobsters emerged thirty minutes later and made for the air conditioned cars. The dancing was well received but the heat soaked the life out of the dance.
We were glad to move on to Groton and hoped for swim. We were not disappointed. After establishing base camp in a dormitory house connected to the Lawrence Academy for Girls (they were on holiday), we were shown the town's private beach by the side of a lake called Knops Pond.
The water was warm, warmer I thought than the swimming pool at Boxford. The local community created this recreation area in a bay roped off to exclude boats. There was a raft for diving and tables made from rocks and wood. The path down to the water's edge was planted with mountain laurel which was in bloom, a delicate white flower. Later we met, by chance, on the path, Harvey P. Sargisson commemorated in stone as the architect of the recreation area. He said he had been trying to re-establish the flowers for 15 years following a bush fire.
The water and hot air inspired Steve to swim, a rare occurrence, and Bob to practice his new-found diving skills. We returned to change about 4.30 p.m. for dinner at 5.00 p.m. in the social rooms underneath the church. A guided tour upstairs was arranged where the influence of religion on our tour and its social side effects, were having a disturbing effect on some of the side. The fruit punch with dinner was very nice, I thought.
This was the night we expected to be joined by other dancers, notably the Jokers. As we walked through the warm sunshine of early evening to the place of dance, white clad figures converged. A large crowd had assembled in a road blocked off by two police cars, blue lights flashing. Three sides accumulated, E.S.M.M., Pinewoods (many of our recent friends from their England tour) and Harrisville (a new side created by Roger Cartwright). We discovered we had left the short sticks at Haverhill.
During the interval E.S.M.M. were trained in the art of drinking bottled beer on the streets of New England by wrapping handkerchiefs round the bottles to shroud the label. The police chief was kept occupied with his back to the offending scrum. At the end of second show, Pinewoods diverted us all to a place of further entertainment. The first location was too crowded and we
switched to a Chinese restaurant and bar. Pity anyone who had come tonight for a quiet and romantic evening. The poor waiter was immediately floored by a round of 30 bottles of beer. He thought he had been invaded by a chapter of Hells Angles and rang the Police who told him not to be so silly and buy us a beer on his account. In fact many others bought a round causing much haziness later on.
The evening followed a classic Morris evening. Liquid lubrication, songs and the tables stacked for impromptu dancing. The most important feature was the baptism by fire of the Harrisville Morris Men. They had never experienced an event such as this. The room was filled with mind-blown American Morris Men. The Chinese waiter was also missing a fuse and sold more beer than ever before (and probably since). We danced longsword with 6 chopsticks and raised the Chinaman in Brighton Camp.
These events tend to be vague in retrospect, and I will never be quite sure how we returned to Groton and the Academy with two carrier bags filled with Chinese food. They were apparently given as a bribe for us to go away and let the staff get some sleep. Those openly carrying 6 packs of beer away from the restaurant were told this was naughty by the police, but no one really cared. We ate chicken, meat slices (I will never know what sort), crackers, etc., in the washroom. By 2.00 a.m. we had retired.
FRIDAY 22nd JUNE
The morning broke bright as usual, which was more than could be said of the men. Breakfast was at 9.00 in the church where rehydration was achieved with orange juice and coffee. We had
some free time not being due to dance till evening. Back to the lake for a swim and relaxation. The water seemed cooler, but the physics of the situation suggested that the day might be warmer. There were fish swimming under the raft which suffered bombing by Dave and Richard. The local school youths called down for a swim at lunch time, bringing their radio with them. They didn't stay long. On leaving, we met Harvey P. Sargisson.
Des had to leave early to drive back to Haverhill to get the sticks and his shaver left there yesterday.
For lunch, we explored the grinders at the pizza house and moved on slowly to Sudbury. The place was deserted when we arrived and the prospect looked grim, but by the appointed hour a good sized crowd had arrived and carried chairs out of the town hall to spectate. We had a comfortable show and met one of the Selectmen, a woman, who was keen to chat about her job and responsibilities.
Time was short because we were due to sleep at Needham guests of the historical society we met last Monday. It was very kind of them to fill a gap in our accommodation. It was also very kind of them to press the commemorative plates on us!
SATURDAY 23rd JUNE
Lethargy caused by exhaustion oozed around the morning assembly. The Needham Historical Society had offered us commemorative plates and ashtrays on Monday, which we deferred till today. They had a large stock to get rid of and we weren't going to be let off the hook. The boxes piled up, room had to be found in the cars, even if they were discarded later.
Des seemed keen that everyone should disappear sharpish. We smelled a rat. He had found a route into a private health club with a swimming pool. We all went, at least all those who wanted to. Des was secretive because normally only two guests are allowed at one time. In practice, a new outdoor pool had opened that day relieving the strain indoors, and so we were admitted.
Before going into the pool area, a compulsory soap shower was ordered. This caused a moral problem for Steve! The pool was laned for slow and fast swimming, but only in circles (keeping to the right) and no diving. There was also a jacuzzi. This was a new experience. Six men sat in a circle and tried The Rose. The gentle massage of hot bubbling water eased aching joints. The cool pool was a shock after the hot pot. There was plenty of time to kill on the sun loungers chatting to the natives. The bar opened at 12.00, which made Holbrook seem many miles away.
In fact, it was , and quite beyond rational navigation in our car. Instinct or auto drive found the strawberry fair. It was hot again, another sun trap. The first of two shows sapped the strength, not to be revived by strawberry shortcake nor ice cream. Light relief and amusement was provided when Des was offered boot polish blackened binocular eyepieces to look for a lost coin. He later found us another pool where he washed his black eyes while the host found some cold beer.
Now Steve had a problem. He had already had two soap showers, two swims and a jacuzzi in one morning. Would his skin stand up to another wetting?
The second show was cooler but to a smaller audience. Afterwards, four of us had arranged to go to Concord hoping for a repeat of the boat dance experience. This required a quick change and
hastily eaten hamburger and blueberry pie. The others had a more leisurely barbecue and a move on to a pub later. Here we met a Baptist minister and his wife who drank. Richard has now taken to asking everyone if they are Baptist.
Concorde is an hour away from Holbrook so we had a long drive to the dance. It was, of course, dry. Most of the dances it turned out were Playford and we were told the cream of the 'English' dancers were there that night. Richard's mind was blown, but he couldn't escape the ladies asking for a dance. We were warned to jump in quick for a partner as soon as one dance was finished or be too late. The dancing was continuous.
Total exhaustion crept in about 11.00 p.m. so we drifted homeward. I n my case, with Richard, we had some trouble locating our hosts whom we had not yet met as they were at a wedding earlier. The prospect of an early start for the Framingham tour next day was not attractive.
SUNDAY 24th JUNE
As usual, our hosts did us proud and we chatted pleasantly till it was time to leave. Our tour left little time for quiet relaxation with hosts and they knew so little about us individually or what we did. Most of the time was spent answering basic questions.
Framingham is one of the larger towns in the area and is divided into two halves by the railway. We entered from the poorer industrial side and were not impressed. After a second breakfast served by a refreshing white clad waitress, we found the Cushing Memorial Hospital in the middle of suburbia on a large sprawling site. It was a mental hospital, which seemed appropriate for our current state of minds.
No-one seemed really clear what we were to do today. We changed and waited in uncertainty. Eventually, we moved over to an avenue of barrack-like blocks of buildings lining the road. These housed the very elderly and senile who had been turned out on the veranda. The use of thin mesh as mosquito protection over windows or patios is widespread if not universal over here, but clad round these old people gave me an eerie feeling of caged animals. We danced a short show at four locations between these blocks at one place behind secure wire fencing. Des made a point of going into the wards and greeting the old ladies. We were told that these souls are often neglected and haven't any sort of visit or entertainment, what we had done would live with them for a long time.
During these shows, Kirk (Jokers) joined us and was clearly unsure on which side of the fence we ought to be. He went with us down into town where we met The Westerley Morris Men outside the Historical Society where, incidentally, the spectators numbered some old friends from Needham. On the way, we salvaged Graham's cap which had blown off the car roof thus losing our leader into town. In some subsequent uncertainty, following Des's navigation, we nearly piled our car up.
The Westerley Men greeted us like old friends clearly remembering many of us from their trip to England last year. They had a barrel of John Courage beer left over from a recent wedding. It is one thing to hide a can of beer on the street with a false label reading -Orange Soda', but a whole barrel complete with tap is another!
E.S.M.M. were conserving their strength for a long tour which failed to materialise. After a joint show with Westerley, we expected to move on, but arrangements had all fallen apart, even the evening meal was uncertain since the restaurant was closed. We drifted towards an Irish Pub, but that too was closed. At the eleventh hour, a lady suggested a place and we formed a convoy. That lady had never led five cars through dense traffic before. How everyone followed will always be a mystery to me.
The watering hole was John Stones Pub at Ashland set next to a level crossing. When the bells rang, all drinks were half price. Here we invaded the bar and settled down to ale, songs, jigs and music. Time flew with the beer and the Management seemed to care little whether they filled a glass or a pint tankard for the same price. Nourishment was supplemented by cheeseburgers and king shrimps saturated in tomato sauce.
We stayed there five hours which left our programme shattered. We were too late for a formal meal together, and worse, we had nowhere to stay that night. With great kindness the various Jokers and Pinewoods men we had accumulated around us hastily made calls to friends and fixed us up. Of necessity, we were highly dispersed but simply arranged to meet at the appointed hour at Acton.
It was late when we arrived at our host in Lexington and they were unprepared for hungry and slightly merry men. We opted for a Chinese take-away leaving our host with a huge store of excess rice to freeze. Two went on to Concord where Richard found he was billeted with the Pinewoods man he had had a row with at Felixstowe.
MONDAY 25th JUNE
By now, the last day of the tour, the strain was beginning to tell. We all set off for Acton but coincidentally met in Concorde. This town, with Lexington, was at the heart of the American War for Independence. The first shots were fired at Lexington and the British pushed the colonials back to Concorde where the course was reversed by sturdy resistance.
Acton Town Hall was the last stop and it was raining very heavily. Perhaps it is traditional on a Monday. A small and bemused audience gathered plus the ubiquitous cable T.V. crew. We began to think that live audiences have become obsolete when people can get a packaged version through the T.V.
Half way through, the sun came out instantly raising the temperature and humidity. The last show, and a lot of energy went into it. At the end, there was little left and E.S.M.M. were ready to relax and enjoy what little free time there was. But not before lunch with the Historical Society, a cold buffet with sherbet lemonade.
Now was the time to split up. Three - Graham, Dave and Keith - were taking more time to visit Niagara Falls and New York. Des and Phil went North with Steve (of Harrisville) to New Hampshire; and the rest of us set off for Pinewoods Camp kindly guided by Chris Walker who wanted to check on some new buildings. On the way we passed through the heaviest rainstorm I have witnessed.
The Camp has important connections with the Morris and Folk in general in the U.S.A. It was owned by the Connant family until formed into an incorporated company and run on commercial lines. It is a facility which can be hired by any group for folk activities. There are large halls/dining rooms used for dances and workshops and a large number of chalets or huts used as camp accommodation. Ricky Connant still owns a corner and a few cabins where we stayed.
The lake by the camp was called Long Pond, Round Pond was not too far away, so the camp was between two ponds immortalized by Pat Shaw shortly before he died.
We swam in the lake, crystal clear fed by freshwater springs, and settled into an evening with Ricky and Gerta. After barbecue chicken and a lot of beer, we visited the dance where we inflicted Highland Mary Oddington on those sober people with myself as the sixth man dancing, playing and calling all together. Perhaps it was an experience best not attempted.
TUESDAY 26th JUNE
The side further fragmented today when the Pinewoods contingent drove to Plymouth and then divided with one car traveling to New London for dinner with Dave and Platt Arnold of Pinewoods Morris Men. The other car returned to Pinewoods. The Harrisville couple explored the local territory and danced with the Harrisville Morris Men.
WEDNESDAY 27th JUNE
Today was home flight day. Those returning today made first for the car hire depot, then Logan Airport. It was hot again in contrast to the last two days, at least for those who went south. We all made the Alamo depot at the same time despite dense traffic. Des spent longer checking in his car because he had to confess to accident damage. In fact, a well known ploy was used: confess to something small and not your fault, particularly if you can document the blame elsewhere, and hope the rest goes unnoticed.
We tried to leave him behind but in the nick of time he caught the bus to the airport. Of course, we were well in time and had to kill one and a half hours in the bar while some worried over seats, duty-free booze, etc. The plane was late taking off queued up behind assorted arrivals and departures.
The flight back was overnight so that the day was accelerated five hours. Most grabbed a few hours sleep but awoke grumpily for a landing at 7.00 a.m. Phil was met by his family, the rest of us struggled onto public transport. The guard on the Victoria train was a gem of boredom and disinterest. The tube in rush hour shook its way to Liverpool Street and the Norwich train. We really knew we were back as we queued for foul tea and curled sandwiches at the train buffet.
Everyone took away their own memories of this tour. This log is merely a record of the sequence of events without the interaction of individuals between each other and their environment. I hope the hooks are there to trigger off the tales and memories.
We were all astounded and gratified at the warmth and enthusiasm with which we were greeted and entertained. That an awfully high percentage seemed to be non drinking Baptists got to some. Perhaps this was through the Historical Society connection - links with the Puritan past and all that.
As a token of appreciation, the peg dolls we took as gifts for our hosts went down a treat!
Every day was different, a new adventure, a new bed to sleep on. We were a unique concept in entertainment in those sleepy towns of Suffolk Massachusetts. It had never occurred to them to have entertainment on the village green or strawberry fete. We were an enigma bringing true mystery if only in what we were doing. To some there were links with the past or with family -
maybe in the future for some.
For most of us this was the first visit to the USA and there was a new culture to get used to. There was more space between houses, yet villages and towns to seemed sprawl leaving no open countryside or woodland. New food and eating habits got the better of some, lobster and clams were not to the taste of all.
The dancing improved with time. By the last shows all the men were knitting in well together. The shows felt good. Next time, though, a slightly less demanding pace might be in order since the intensity of travel and dance over the eight active days was hard.
The collections were good, enhanced by Grahams exhortation that Billy had found the taste of Greenbacks to his liking. In all $867 went into the bag, and due to the generosity of those we met, little came out again. This profit will go back to the bag when all expenses have been paid.
My thanks, along with the other men, goes to Des who masterminded the whole thing helped by Keith. He carried the whole thing off without a hitch, at least nothing visible. Thank you Des! Thanks also to Graham who lead the side as Squire. He came up with some remarkable and entertaining words for the audience giving the men a rest and amusement between dances. Finally, thank you to my companions. We all helped to look after each other. I counted them out, .........
Those who went:
Graham Whitehead (Squire)
Dave Tydeman (Musician)
Dick Thornborrow (Musician)
Again, our heartiest thanks to Des Herring who masterminded the operation
R I Thornborrow