Whitney Web Site
A start at my "Autobiography"
Selected stories by Dick Whitney

Growing Up on Litchfield Ave. 

Looking up Litchfield from our house  (1954 photo)

Memories of growing up on Litchfield Ave in Southbridge – Dick Whitney
(see photos of 122 Litchfield thru the years - Rev 5-Oct-11)

 Recently, the home I grew up in at 122 Litchfield Ave in Southbridge was in need of major repair, and with this occasion I soon began looking back at old photos of the house dating back to 1947, where I found Dads first photos from December of that year.For those who are interested, my father recollections on his purchase of 122 Litchfield Ave (where Mom still lives today) makes interesting reading today. Originally from Newtonville Mass, Dad and Mom (Don and Jan Whitney) moved to Southbridge six months after getting married in June of 1947, as Dad had started work at the American Optical Co in the R&D Lens Design Department in Southbridge.

Dad taught me the love of photography, and due to this I have been able to share many memorable Southbridge photos since the late 1940s. As I have scanned and preserved the photos of Litchfield Ave and Southbridge in general, I have reflected on how fortunate I was (and still am) to live in such a wonderful area and I am proud to call Southbridge my home. Assuming one was fortunate to grow up as I did in a household that was loving and nurturing, early neighborhood memories are almost certainly going to looked upon fondly as the years pass. In my case, this is true and I expect those that are reading this will have similar memories. Perhaps reading these will trigger similar memories. Because of the photographs taken, some of my memories are brought to added light by these special “Kodachrome” memories.  (Note: Dec 2010 was the last month where Kodachrome film could be processed anywhere in the world - I guess nothing last forever!)

Turning to the topic of my growing up years on Litchfield Ave, I was fortunate to be on the dead end portion of the street and have a large back yard where I could play ball, badminton, croquet, practice archery, and even photograph the nighttime sky as I grew older. 

Some of my earliest recollections of the neighborhood relate to events – such as the 1955 Flood. I was four years old at the time and I can recall looking out our back window and seeing the entire backyard was underwater. This flooding in our yard was not the result of the dams bursting as had occurred in the West Street and Flats area of town.  Litchfield Ave is significantly higher in elevation than these other town areas. It was just that the ground was saturated from the heavy rains and I was impressed with the water that I saw. Note: following the floods, our back yard was dug up and drainage installed as part of the flood control effort. Therefore, the second patio in back (shown in the photo of Sues Birthday Party was demolished. A patio closer to our back door remained, and we enjoyed many picnics and family gatherings there.

The Stone wall and patio above was dug up in 1956 because of the Flood - See photo below.
This was a birthday party for my sister Sue.

1956 View of drainage pipes being put in after the Flood of 1955

I became close friends with several boys and girls in the neighborhood; My oldest and closest friend was Jeff McKinstry. We shared many experiences growing up in my neighborhood. Jeff lived around the corner at 58 Poplar Street, which was within earshot when Mom used to signal that play time was up and it was time to come home.  Jeff and I played for hours in the back yard and woods. Since we both were shy, our bond grew and an early memory was of Jeff crying when his mother Esther (who I called “Autie Esther”) left him off at West Street school for the first time. I felt like crying as well, but don’t believe I did for I was watching Jeff.

Dick and Jeff - 1954

The McKinstry’s and Whitney’s have shared a unique family relationship, as both Sues family and mine have also been and remain very close with their offspring to this day.  When Jeff passed away of a sudden heart attack on  May 16, 2001, I gave the following tribute at his funeral:

“On May 16, 2001 I lost my best friend since childhood. We both grew up in the same neighborhood, and the Whitney and McKinstry family has fostered many close friendships thru each succeeding generation. Jeff and I were inseperable since our pre-school days, and Best Friends as long as I can remember. I knew his phone number before I memorized mine!

When I think of Jeff, I think of many things:

Mrs Mundell's Kindergarten Class at Trinity Church
1st day as West St School / we walked home for every lunch
Cub Scout Pack 135 in Fellowship Hall
YMCA Summer Day Camp
Playing in the Silo at his cousins Farm in Charlton
Wells Jr. High / recess in the middle courtyard, which we accessed thru the Window!
SHS Class of 1969 experiences and our Graduation
The many games we played (Golf, Badminton, Chess, Archery, Etc.)
Best Man at my wedding / I photographed his Wedding
Births of our children (Cory, Allyssa, Chris and Erica)
His wife JoAnne Babysat for our kids

Jeff will be sorely missed“

 Other boys that I played with in the neighborhood included Steve Maytis, Paul Turpos, Don Barth, Steve and Neil Tiberii, Ed Brunelle, Dennis Wright and Bobby Haynes. Sue and I became very close with Leslie Martel, Sara Haynes, and Diana Rossman who all lived in the neighborhood. 

 When I was very young, the next door neighbor (Mrs. Ohwiler) became like a Grandmother to Sue and I, and would babysit for us when Mom and Dad would go out. Both of their parents still lived in Newtonville, and so she was a great help to us.

Sue, Oho (Mrs. Ohwiler) and Dick - 1954

The Haynses moved into Mrs. Ohwilers house in the late 1950s and they lived their until 1962, when they moved to Maryland where Bob Managed the AO Frame plant there. Our families were close then and remain close today. Both Dad and Bob worked at AO but were also ham radio operators and enjoyed contacting one another on their rigs even when they lived next door. I am reminded of one time Dad commented on Ham radio to one of his contacts that he had to sign off as he had a dinner engagement with neighbors; something which he did not was to attend. When Bob opened the door to his house, he said – “so I understand you don’t want to eat here tonight?” That was one of life’s embarrassing moments.

 I was fortunate to have been able to walk to and from school from first grade through high school. When I went to grade school, West Street School was a neighborhood school and grades 1-5 from our neighborhood were housed there. Chartlon St and Eastford road were also neighborhood grade schools. I can recall enjoying my walk to and from when the Spring weather arrived. I also remember that for those West St School years, I was allowed to walk home for lunch!

 My first grade teacher at West Street was Miss Proulx. She taught for years, and when I stood in line with my son when he was entering first grade, Miss Proulx called out Christopher Whitney’s name to come forward she hesitated and looked straight at me. I vividly remember her startled look stating – “little Dickie Whitney- is that you???” It was a blast to have my first Grade teacher remember me and to have my son as well. What I was stunned to see as the Miss Proulx seemed much younger than I had remembered her to be some 30 years earlier.

Another teacher at West Street School at that time was Mr. Purrachio, who later was the Principal when Chris attended. I remember he was on “The Price is Right” and for the day he was absent, we watched him on TV. He now serves with me on the Board of Jacob Edwards Library and he and I have had fun swapping such stories. I found the above article in a scrapbook Mom had kept. It also included this list of my First Grade for a 1957 Xmas Party. Check it out!

Backyard "snow fort" Sue, Dick, Steve Maytis, Diana Rossman, and Eddie Brunelle- 1959

 I had great outdoor fun in the summer and winter on Litchfield Ave. I recall buckling my winter boots that snapped with metal buckles (that frose up with snow and Ice when used), so that I could play for hours in the snow. We had great fun. One year the snow crusted such that we were able to sled on the hardened snow. I remember sledding next door to Leslie Martels house near the end our street, and thinking how great this was. I had a “snow devil” uni-ski sled that Dad had given me, and remember that to be the best winter fun I had ever had. That was saying something, since we also had great fun building igloos with our friends. I even remember shoveling half the back yard to make trails that we could walk.

Playing in the driveway ~ 1954 that is no longer there. When the Garage was built in 1974 this was filled in.

Picked fence - 1954

1960 photo in the backyard during one of our many picnics- One of my first photos!

Looking down the driveway with Mom standing in this 1960 photo,
where the ladder was used by our cats to enter a small trap window halfway up in the wall!

Mom and Dad in two more early photos of mine ~1960


March of Dimes Fundraiser that we put on in the Backyard on Litchfield Ave ~1960

This was the view of a Neighors house across the street as it appeared in 1954.
It was renovated in Sept 2007 and second floor was added.

1954 of Al Charrons house across the street

1971 photo of Al Charrons Car after pedal got stuck!

The photo above was the view from our front door in 1954; by 1965 (photo of Dad below),
the shrubs in the background had grown! Now they completely block the view.

1966 view of the back of the house and me with my new bow and arrow


Backyard picnic in 1968- note Mom had just fallen thru the chair when it broke!

Another thing of the past - Mom burning the leaves in 1969

A Bulls Eye - 1969

1969 photo of Dad with the Funcasta's - viewing the sun

Perseid meteor taken from our backyard on Litchfield Ave, Southbridge (~ Aug 1968)

A view of Litchfield ave neighborhood, where the house at 122 Litchfield Ave is showntp the right of tthe orange marker.
The house is above the garage, which was built in 1974.

My best friend Jeff McKinstry lived around the corner of Poplar street (#58).

Jan, Don, Dick and Sue photos

Return to Index of Dick Whitney Autobiography
Dads W1NEP Ham radio "shack" at 122 Litchfield Ave.

Return to WhitneyHome Page