The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 2, 2010


Kay Woodward, looking back at half a century in Carlisle

Kay Woodward watches her granddaughter Ema show off sewing skills her grandmother taught her. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

Not long ago I received a phone call from Kay Woodward, of South Street, someone I met when I moved to Carlisle in 1966. Back then we were both members of the Middlesex County’s Extension Service Homemakers Group. These were women from Concord and Carlisle who met monthly in the small brick building on Everett Street, Concord, just down the road from the Armory. It was where, among other things, we learned new ideas for preparing food, how to make bread and where we were given wonderful recipes for Christmas cookies. Those recipes still exist on scruffy pages, stuffed into a notebook, at the back of my kitchen shelf and retrieved each December.

Woodward was calling to get more information about our former homemakers group, which she wished to include in her talk to the “Ladies Night Out” group which meets once a month at the Carlisle Congregational Church or at a parishioner’s home. Each speaker tells the group about her career. “It is so interesting to hear about what they do,” said Woodward. “You have seen them at church over the years, but you wonder, what is their life like during the other six days of the week?” I wondered the same about her.

Growing up in the Midwest

Kay Woodward grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, a college town, where her father was a professor of Animal Husbandry in the Agriculture Department at Purdue University. She attended Purdue and graduated in 1940 with a major in Home Economics. For two years she taught Home Economics in Indianapolis, first at a junior high school and then at a high school. In 1943 she married Walter Woodward, whom she had met in college. After some years of living in New York state, the Woodwards, by then a family of five, came further east when Walter took an engineering job with a small company near Wellesley. In 1960, when Walter’s company moved to a new location on Route 128, the Woodward family came to Carlisle. As Kay explained it, “Our children wanted to live in a farming community like their relatives did in Canada, and Carlisle, with a population of 1,500, was a rural community. And of course, Walter wanted to live closer to his work.”

Kay, Walter, and their children Carol, Bill and Dave, moved into one of the Blood Farm houses lining Bedford Road, a house built in 1732. Their barn backed up on acres of apple trees, now the Stoney Gate development. “We collected tons of apples off the ground for apple sauce,” recalled Kay. She also remembers looking out her kitchen window one day, and watching a moose across the road, pulling apples from one of those same trees.

The Woodwards settle in

Their first year in town, Carol, age 10, attended fifth grade at the Highland School. The boys, Dave, 14, and Bill, 15, took the school bus to the Emerson School in Concord that year while CCHS was being built. At the high school the boys could buy a school lunch for 25 cents, remembered Kay.

Almost immediately, Walter Woodward made a name for himself in town with his love of music. “Walter played the trumpet and anything else you could blow,” reported Kay amusingly. “He had a collection of 25 instruments, played for weddings in Concord and Carlisle, and was involved in the early days of the ‘Carlisle Cats,’ playing from the back of a truck in the Old Home Day Parade.” He was also one of the people responsible for bringing musicians and townspeople together for caroling on the Town Common on Christmas Eve.

“We didn’t hire to get things done”

I was a full-time person at home. We didn’t hire to get things done,” said Kay. “We were what you would now call stay-at-home moms,” she added. “I tended the roses, painted the woodwork, papered the walls, made my own clothes and the cottage-style curtains for ten rooms. I made braided rugs for the music room, living room and several bedrooms,” continued Kay. “With my home economics training, I practiced my profession at home, instead of following a career outside of the home. I preferred needles and thread,” she admitted, “to spending time in the kitchen. I did what was necessary, but I didn’t go beyond.” One thing Kay did appreciate back then was having bottles of milk delivered to her door by Herb Bates, who was also the Carlisle Police Chief.

Several full-time jobs

What were the outside activities that Kay got involved with back in the ‘60s, I asked. “We mothers had many outside interests,” she recalled. “I joined the Congregational Church (then located at the corner of Church and School Streets) and took part in church activities. I helped out with receptions following church weddings, held in an adjoining room, not a sit-down dinner like they have now,” mused Kay. “The wedding receptions were put on by women of the church, serving finger-food and wedding cake, costing $25, which was paid to the church by the family of the bride,” she added.

Not long after Kay moved to town, 4-H Town Chairman Marge Roderick appeared at her door, soliciting Kay as a much-needed 4-H sewing instructor. This involved weekly meetings during the school year with a group of girls who would be dropped off by bus at the Woodward home after school.

As a Library Trustee, Kay was instrumental in founding the Friends of the Gleason Public Library. To this day she attends Friends’ sponsored events.

In 1967 Kay was asked to co-chair a revival of Old Home Day in Carlisle, which hadn’t been celebrated since 1943. “We celebrated Old Home Day on July 4th to keep people off the roads and safe at home during the holiday,” stressed Kay.

In 1989, after Walter retired, the Woodwards moved to a smaller house, on South Street. A one-floor plan, much easier to care for and needing less energy is the way Kay described it. The house on Bedford Road was sold to their son David and his family.

Keeping up with the Grandchildren

Kay has stayed involved with her ten grandchildren who grew up in Ottawa, Canada; Durham, New Hampshire; and here in Carlisle. Many have already graduated from college and have careers that have taken them to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mongolia, Togo, Guinea and Switzerland, where a grandson recently started a business. Several have served in the Peace Corps and Mercy Corps. Besides making a quilt for each grandchild, she communicates with each one by email, something her husband taught her to do before he died. [Walter died in 2004.] “Everyday, I receive an email from one of them, keeping me up-to-date on the interesting things they are doing. It is so satisfying.”

Two grandchildren still live at home in Carlisle. A few weeks ago Ema, home on spring break from Carnegie-Mellon, spent time sewing at her grandmother’s. When Ema’s brother Walter gets off early from school on Fridays, he and his grandmother go walking on the Greenough Land or on other trails off Maple Street. He often attends church services with her on Sundays, performing on his clarinet with other church musicians.

Still going strong

Kay keeps very active, especially with Council on Aging (COA) events. She attends luncheons twice a month, music appreciation lectures, exercise classes and the help sessions for filing your taxes. She enjoyed the Cover to Cover book discussion group at the library in January, and participates in the many on-going activities at the Congregational Church.

Having recently celebrated her 91st birthday, she truly appreciates being able to stay in town with family members and friends of various ages. “It is so nice to go to the Post Office, to the library, the Transfer Station and the swap shed, where I can still run into friends,” she tells me with a smile on her face. Memories and community, 50 years and counting! ∆

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