Industrial School Memories


Hi, I was reading about Shirley Industrial on your site and thought I could add a bit more.

My dad was music supervisor for the Hudson public schools for over twenty years retiring in 1970. His part time job after school in Hudson and on weekends was teaching music and instruments to the boys at Shirley Industrial and directing the choir.

Dad would get the school bus kept down by the shop and go pick up all of the boys at each of the cottages (except for cottage #9) and bring them up to the main building where they’d practice instruments and/or choir in the music room. Once a month on Sundays and on Christmas eve many people would come up to the auditorium (before the chapel was built) and attend mass.

Christmas eve was a very special night for the choir.Everyone of the kids would show up in crisp white shirts buttoned to the collar, their khakis and neatly combed hair. They’d go down to the music room to warm up then they’d sing all through mass.Everyone had to be on their very best behavior or they’d be sent back to their cottage. After mass all of the boys would receive a box from Cardinal Cushing that contained candy, a comb and small treats. John Hastings my dad’s friend ,would give my brothers and I one also as a treat.

I also remember in the summer going to the farm once a week for produce. It was a beautiful farm. The boys were always very polite and friendly and they worked hard. Everyone who worked with them treated them with a lot of respect. Dad said that the kids had tough times and needed to be shown that some people thought they were good and had potential. His philosophy was that they could learn another way than what they were shown in their home enviroment perhaps and that it could make a difference in their lives. He felt that every kid deserved a chance.

The kids were taught respect for others and for themselves at Shirley. It was a very comfortable enviroment. As a child I never remember it feeling threatening. I knew the boys had done bad things to get there, but everyone was trying to help them so they’d get home and do better. I just couldn’t imagine all of these kids not living in their own homes and not having parents with them. That as a kid disturbed me greatly. When dad would occasionaly call later at night and say there was a “runner” and he’d be home late, I’d imagine that one of the kids was trying to get home.

The cottage that was  most noticable to my brothers and I was cottage #9 at the top of the hill to the left of the main building. It had high fences around it and the boys went to the main building through a tunnel. We knew those boys were not allowed the same privileges as the boys in the other cottages. I used to think it was so sad to have to be locked up. Dad never said much about cottage #9 except that those boys had troubles he’d say.

I remember John Hasting’s house at the bottom of the hill down the road. I’d love to see that house again. We had a lot of happy times visiting there. It was so lovely. The entire setting of Shirley was as I look back on it very much a campus type setting in a beautiful spot.

It is incredible to me now to think back and realize what the state did for the boys at Shirley Industrial and in turn at Lyman school in Westboro (my nana worked there as a cook) . As a child we spent time looking in so to speak on a very different world than the one we lived in, but appreciated what was being done for those kids to help them. My dad and my grandmother really taught US how we should respect all people through their example in how they treated the boys at Shirley and at Lyman.

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