Stone Spies and Friendly Porches

It amazes me that people can live in a town all their lives and miss things that are right under their noses … or high above them.

            Have you ever noticed the carvings around the doors and along the edge of the original Center School roof? There are several fleur-de-lis and clover-like patterns and seven cherub-like faces carved into the stone corbels reminiscent of the gargoyles on the old cathedrals of Europe.

            Technically, gargoyles are waterspouts designed to drain water away from a wall. Ours are not gargoyles, they are called grotesques. Center School’s grotesques are pretty pleasant looking if you ask me. These faces were added when the school was constructed, thanks to a generous gift of Henry Huttleston Rogers who also funded Fairhaven High School, where you can find many more “stone spies,” which they are sometimes called.

            You may not have noticed the old town water trough on the south side of Water Street. It once had a pump attached and was the source of fresh water for the villagers and their livestock. It now contains beautiful flowers in the summer.

            I am not immune to seeing things every day and paying no attention to them. Porches are a good example. I have been wandering around our village nearly all my life, and I only recently noticed how many porches there are. I counted well over 60 until I lost count. I am easily distracted avoiding the pitfalls along my path. But that’s another story for another time.

            Front porches are mostly an American phenomenon. They first became popular in the middle of the 19th century. People became more mobile and moved to the suburbs to get away from the grit, noise and bustle of the city.

            In summer, especially during the Fourth of July Road Race or Harbor Days, I’ll see folks sitting on their front porches sipping a cool beverage. They’ll often wave as I pass by or say hello and I’ll respond in kind.

            Not all porches are front porches. Some are on the side, some are two stories, some are screened in. There aren’t many front porches on suburban houses today. In suburbia, the porches are at the back, they’re called decks. You can’t wave at people from your back deck or smile at strangers who pass by. If a stranger walks by your deck, you know they are either a meter reader, a tax assessor or a trespasser. You are not likely to smile at a trespasser and definitely not at a tax assessor.

            There is nothing like sitting out on a porch in the evening in your favorite rocking chair, enjoying the cool breezes off the ocean. Listening to rain hitting the roof while swinging in the iconic porch swing or taking a nap in a hammock listening to your favorite music are just about the best ways I can think of to relax.

            Some towns have “Porch Fests” where local musicians perform, and the townsfolk go from porch to porch enjoying the music.

            Thinking of porches brings back memories of visiting my mother’s cousin Charlie’s farm. I would climb the giant weeping willow tree in the yard or play in the haystack. If the silo was empty, I’d jump inside and yell as loud as I could to hear my voice echo. Charlie would let Dad drive the old John Deere tractor with me on his lap, then we would all retreat to the porch where the adults would sit drinking cold beers, while I would enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade.

            I think that when they pass a new zoning law – and you know they will – it ought to require front porches on all houses, retroactively, so you can smile and wave to passersby.

            The world would be a better place.

            Mattapoisett resident Dick Morgado is an artist and happily retired writer. His newspaper columns appeared for many years in daily newspapers around Boston.

Thoughts on…

By Dick Morgado

Leave A Comment...