Three Herrings and a Pung Ride

When settlers first arrived in New England they had a lot to learn.  One of the first things was how to grow corn.  Native Americans taught the new settlers how to fertilize soil for the corn with “three herrings to a hill,” as Eleanor Roosevelt tells us in This is America, the 1942 photodocumentary she wrote with Hingham resident Frances Cooke Macgregor.

Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Macgregor worked together on the book at the suggestion of the publisher, G.P. Putnam Sons of New York.   The text was written by Mrs. Roosevelt and the photographs were taken by Mrs. Macgregor.  In January 1942 Eleanor came to Hingham to meet with Mrs MacGregor at her Stoddard Street home.  Frances Cooke Macgregor was a published author and photographer.  She had already taken many photographs for the book and she and Eleanor together decided upon those they both felt would be most effective.  The United States had just entered the Second World War and their hope was to produce a book that showed life in small town America and to help Americans understand what it was they were fighting for.

While in Hingham, according to an account of her visit in the Hingham Journal of January 8th 1942, Mrs. Roosevelt dropped in on a League of Women Voters meeting, chatting informally with members and answering their many questions at this time of uncertainty in the country.  The First Lady found Hingham’s architecture, a mix of old colonial mansions, gingerbread Victorians, and charming Cape Cod cottages, to be delightful and much copied in other parts of the country.  She is reputed to have described Hingham Main Street as the most beautiful Main Street in America.

When Mrs. Roosevelt saw Hingham, she felt she had found “a picture in miniature of the whole nation.”  One purpose of the book was to affirm what it meant to be an American, regardless of ethnicity, and Eleanor was thrilled to discover that the Hingham High School football squad that year had players whose families had come from eight different parts of the world and that Hingham was home to Dutch and Polish farmers, Italian shoe makers, and a German harness maker, amongst many others. In 1942 Hingham had a population of 8,000.  It still had 50 farms—but it also had a commuter train., and much of its population now travelled to work in Boston.  There were, of course, schools, churches of all kinds, and a public library with 28,000 volumes.  The Loring Hall movie theater would be showing Citizen Kane the following week.

Children played outside in the still plentiful open spaces.  A favorite winter activity was known here as pung-riding, a term unknown in most of the rest of the country.  A pung was a low box sleigh drawn by a horse. Often hay would be placed inside and the children would snuggle down to enjoy the ride.  The more adventurous would ride on the runners, jumping off one pung and onto another while both were gliding swiftly over the snow.

With Mrs. Roosevelt’s words and Mrs. Macgregor’s photographs, the women wanted to portray American ideals.  They hoped that all across the country ordinary people would recognize themselves in the descriptions of Hingham and its citizens and understand that their values and aspirations were also true of them.

A collection of Frances Cooke Macgregor’s photographs of Hingham—which she personally selected and gave to the Historical Society in the early 1990s—are currently on display at the Hingham Heritage Museum. A presentation of “Tea With Eleanor’ with the actress Sheryl Faye in the persona of Eleanor Roosevelt will take place at Hingham Heritage Museum on Saturday, November 16th at 3:00 pm.  Please click here to purchase tickets on-line or buy in advance at the Hingham Heritage Museum:  seating is limited.  We hope you’ll take advantage of the both of these opportunities to learn more about these remarkable women and their connection to Hingham.

LST-1077

In December 1941, the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company started to build a shipyard on 150 acres of land at Hewitts Cove in Hingham. By June 1942, the first ship, a destroyer escort, was completed and launched from the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. The Shipyard built 132 destroyer escorts before turning to the construction of tank landing ships in 1944.

Tugboat “Venus” Escorting Tank Landing Ship LST-1077

This photo shows LST-1077, one of the last of the 165 tank landing ships launched from Hingham in 1944 and 1945. It is making its way out to sea–perhaps near Hull Gut–guided by the tug “Venus,” on April 19, 1945.

LST-1077 only arrived in time for the tail end of World War II, entering Pearl Harbor on July 19, 1945 and remaining there until August 29, 1945, when she ferried U.S. troops to Japan for the post-war occupation. In the Korean War, she served the Pacific Fleet from 1950 through 1955. In that year, she was finally given a name—the U.S.S. Park County.

After a substantial refit in 1965, the U.S.S. Park County supported the United States forces in Vietnam from 1966-1971. The Navy sold her to the Mexican government in 1978. Rechristened the A.R.M. Rio Panuco, she served the Mexican Navy as a landing ship.

At the end of her useful days, the Mexican Navy used LST-1077 as a target ship during military exercises. Her final service, then, is as an artificial reef off Mexico, where she provides a habitat for marine life.

Quite a journey, which all started at the Hingham Shipyard.

Glimpses of Huit’s Cove

Courtesy of George and Linda Luther Watt, the Society recently acquired a pair of watercolor drawings of Huit’s (or Hewitt’s) Cove—the site of the Hingham Shipyard—in early 1942.

Huit's Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942.  Hingham Historical Society

Huit’s Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942. (Hingham Historical Society)

The earlier drawing, dating from January 1942, shows part of the area prior to construction of the Bethlehem Shipyard. Hingham artist Beatrice Ruyl slipped into the area only weeks before construction began and captured a weedy winter landscape where only a few months later would stand an enormous industrial complex on almost all of the site’s 150 acres.

“Slipways” Watercolor and pencil picture by Beatrice Ruyl of the start of construction of the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. May 2, 1942.

The second picture dates from May 1942, when construction of the shipyard was well underway. The artist titled it “Slipways.” There are cranes, tugboats, and, In the distance across the Cove, the Bradley Fertilizer Works.  Within a very short period, the shipyard was up and running.

Launch of a destroyer Escort, Bethlehem-Hingham Shiphard, 1944 or 1945.  (Hingham Historical Society)

Launch of a destroyer escort from Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, 1944 or 1945. (Hingham Historical Society)

Fewer than 10 years earlier, Huit’s Cove had been the site of an enormous costume pageant to celebrate Hingham’s 300th anniversary. Nearly 1,000 residents participated.

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The cast of one scene in the Tercentenary Pageant–the “Ordination Ball”-in colonial costumes. June 1935. (Hingham Historical Society)

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Spectators in bleachers built at Huit’s Cove for the Hingham Tercentenary Pageant, June 27-29, 1935 (Hingham Historical Society)

Prior to to that, a short-lived airfield called Bayside Airport occupied the site.

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit's Cove, Hingham.  (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit’s Cove, Hingham. (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Going further back, into the 18th century, Patience Pomatuck was said to have gathered native and naturalized plants from Huit’s Cove, which she used for medicinal, herbs, dyes and other household uses. Patience made a living selling these plants to her English neighbors in Hingham. We have no record of which plants grew in the Cove’s many acres, but among them would probably have been rushes, which could be formed into baskets and rush lamps; wild gentian, for use as an emetic; and mullein, used as cough medicine.

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Common Mullein

Fringed Gentian

Wild Gentian

One Family’s Tradition of Service, Part 2

Captain Gorfinkle returned to America after his service with the Peace Delegation was complete and continued his military service as part of the reserves. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he organized many philanthropic campaigns to aid military service people in the Boston area between World Wars. One charitable effort involved the donation of pianos to military bases throughout New England and beyond, including the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot.

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Colonel Gorfinkle continued his patriotic service in World War II, serving as a member of the War Manpower Commission, appointed by President Roosevelt to oversee the New England region. After the war, he remained active in the Reserves, serving as military attaché for Massachusetts governors Christian Herter (1953-1957) and John Volpe (1962-1965). He finally retired from Reserve service in December 1965—at the age of 71. Besides his law practice and military service, he was an active philanthropist in the Boston area, and chief among his interests were Beth Israel Hospital, the Newton Tennis & Squash Club, which he helped found, and Brandeis University.

The Colonel’s son, Herbert J. Gorfinkle, continued the family tradition of military service and was also involved in this country’s efforts during World War II. He was a member of the 381st Engineers Combat Battalion, which deployed to Europe following D-Day, serving as Unit photographer. His unit stayed in Germany for a year after the war helping rebuild that country’s infrastructure. His collection contains many photos of bridges over the Rhine River which his unit was helping rebuild. It also includes letters home to friends and family.
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After the war, Herbert Gorfinkle completed his education at the University of New Hampshire in 1947 and then received a Master’s in Business Administration from New York University’s School of Retailing in 1948. He then started a successful career in the mercantile industry, serving as manager or founder for several successful retail chains including Jordan Marsh and the Edwards Stores of Boston. He and his wife, Connie, moved to Hingham from Braintree in 1972 and raised three daughters on Andrews Isle within the Home Meadows—near Hingham Harbor, which he helped champion as member (1983-1990) and Chairman (1988-1990) of the Harbor Development Committee. Herbert Gorfinkle was also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Coast Guard Auxiliary and Commodore of the Metropolitan Yacht Club.
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