About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Wednesday, October 19, 2016



As the leaves begin to fall our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving.  The menu, the guest list and other thoughts aren't too far from our minds and frequently come to the surface.

I am very traditional and never like to cut corners or alter our time honored traditions.  It might be easy to skip the creamed onions, the sweet potatoes or the mince pie but not at my house.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving    Doris Lee   1935
Today's newspaper annouced that the State of Massachusetts wants to eliminate some of the ridiculous, outdated and by the state's description, archaic laws.  That  brought to mind an old tradition in Massachusetts that was not a law but an archaic custom, nevertheless.

Having grown up in Massachusetts I was familiar with the strange custom years ago of closing stores and professional offices on Wednesday afternoon.  Yes, I'm serious!  With the exception of chain stores of which there weren't many in my neck of the woods, forget about going to the doctor, the hardware store or most other businesses on Wednesday afternoon.
 I had long since left Massachusetts and moved to Connecticut where I lived for fifteen years before moving back to Massachusetts to Newburyport.

We moved to Newburyport the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1971.  Our wonderful 1800 Federal period Robert Dodge house had most recently been used as a rest home called Cutting Manor. Although a beautiful house it was hardly presentable for the coming holidays with lots of linoleum on the floors and green flowered wallpaper everywhere. Those were the days when green was advocated as the most restful color and this rest home took that advice to heart.  There was a lot to do and a lot of green to get rid of.  

On Monday I was busy unpacking, getting the kids into their new school and dealing with all sorts of details including calling the gas company.  We needed to get the old gas stove in the kitchen turned on.

On Tuesday the gas company came.  Disaster!  They condemned the old stove.  Thanksgiving was two days away and I didn't have a stove.  What was I going to do?

I went to Fowles Market right down the street looking for food that I didn't need to cook and told the owner, Joe Vigneault, my sob story.

He then told me that he had just seen a great stove, like new, and affordable.   It was at Bill Goss's auction house in Brentwood, NH. I had no idea where Brentwood was.  I hadn't figured out how to get to Amesbury even though I knew it was right next door. Seriously! But I was motivated so I got a map and headed to Brentwood with my big Oldsmobile station wagon that could hold just about anything.

I found the place, found Bill Goss and negotiated for the stove.  It was a beauty...the latest style...avocado.  I can't remember whether is was $50 or $100.  Either way there was no question. That stove was going home with me!

It was electric so no more problems with the gas company.    My husband was able to install it and by mid-day Wednesday I had a working stove.  We would have Thanksgiving after all but I would have to skip a few dishes.  There just wasn't time for everything I would normally prepare.

Next I ran to the bank.  I needed to cash a check and get shopping in a hurry.

I hurried up to the door of the bank.  It was locked.  What was going on?  Why in the world was the bank closed?  Oh, no! Then it all came back to me. It's Wednesday.  I am in Massachusetts.  What can I do?

I drove to Shaw's supermarket and went to the courtesy desk almost in tears and told them my plight. They asked me where my new house was and I told them my new house was on High Street.  In those days a High Street address really meant something as I was about to find out. Shaw's immediately gave me a check cashing card on the spot, told me to go shopping and have a nice Thanksgiving.  Shaw's saved the day but my new address helped.
Shaw's at Port Plaza

I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I couldn't believe they were so accommodating.  That was forty five years ago but I still have a soft spot for Shaw's.  Market Basket has Shaw's beat hands down where prices are concerned but I will never forget that Shaw's rescued me in my distress and saved Thanksgiving for my family.

I'm not sure when Massachusetts abandoned Wednesday afternoon shut downs.  That custom is a distant memory.  Also a distant memory are the days when a High Street address really meant 
something and was all you needed to be considered a good risk at Shaw's Market. 

Time marches on and times have changed.  Nothing closes on Wednesday afternoon anymore and some don't even close on the holiday itself.  I think maybe I liked the old way better.

Home to Thanksgiving      Currier and Ives

After thought:  Long after the stove was wired up and Thanksgiving was over I returned to Brentwood to Bill Goss's Auction House.  Every other week there was an evening auction.  I became a regular at the auctions and found many treasures for my new house.  What fun it was!


  1. Hello Prudence, I have heard of doctors taking off Wednesday, but not anyone else (although Monday is often bad for museums and antiques stores). Thanksgiving was always a favorite holiday; I used to have it at my house before I moved to Taiwan, but it always took more than a couple of days to prepare. Between your stove and the stores, you really got through that Thanksgiving in the nick of time, but I'm sure those incidents highlighted the memory of that particular year.

  2. Hi again, This 1941 photo just came up on Shorpy, and I thought of you right away--the sign on the door (of the Pennsylvania business) says Closed Wednesday Afternoons. --Jim