Borden C. Tripp
Borden C. Tripp was interviewed by Mary Giles on October 7, 1976. He spoke about his childhood and his opinion on political matters in Westport.
I was born in Fall River. I bought the farm I now live on and my father bought the next one to it when I was about 14, I guess. My grandfather came from the Head of Westport. As a boy, he moved to Freetown but gravitated back to Fall River some way. We used the farm as a summer place. We were summer people and I moved here on a year ‘round basis back in 1931.
When I got out of college, I worked for a few months in Washington, D.C.; that was right in the Depression. I went to Harvard to college and I always wanted to farm and always had that in the back of my mind. After Washington, D.C., I went up to New York and worked for J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency for two or three years. The Depression had really set in and they were laying people off and I thought my turn was coming up pretty soon, so I spoke to the personnel man and he said that although I wasn’t on the book right then to be laid off, but he thought the way things were going most everybody was going to get it sooner or later. He asked if I had anything that I could do and I told him that my family had a farm up in New England and I’d always wanted to farm and he said, ‘Well by gosh, you’d better go up there.’ I liked New York alright, but I didn’t like the life there and the farm we had could use me. My father had a farm and he operated it as a going farm, and the farmer had just got through and the decks were clear, you might say. I moved up here and went to farming for, oh I guess until 1946-47.
The Adamsville store had been in my wife’s family since 1829, and that store, because of deaths in the family, was up for grabs. I bought it out in 1946-47 because my wife said she’d like to run it. Well, she ran it, oh, I think two years. It was more physical than she bargained for, so I gradually gravitated up there and continued to run the farm ‘til the late, oh, ‘til nearly 1960. I ran it as a retail dairy farm and wholesale dairy farm. It was retail first and wholesale later. My boy took it over for a while.
I was farming and keeping the store at the same time. Prior to that, I had a retail dairy in Fall River and I got rid of that soon after I got the store because things got a little too thick, so I sold that and kept the store and the farm.
Before I went to Harvard, I went to Exeter, and before that to Durfee High School in Fall River. Before that, I went to a little private school. I liked Harvard very much. I didn’t particularly like Exeter, although I think it’s the best school in the country. Funny, we were just talking about that the other day. A friend of mine went to Andover, sent one of his sons back to Andover and one to Exeter. He said, ‘It’s a funny thing, the one who went to Exeter has always told me he never really liked it.’ And I said that I had never really liked it. I had great respect for it, but I never really had any warmth toward the place. In this conversation there was a third member who had gone to Exeter with me and I said, ‘How do you feel? Did you like it?’ And he said, ‘No, I never really liked it. But just like you, I thought it was the best school.’ We were very proud; I mean, we thought it was a great school.
For athletics, I played on the football team at Exeter. I don’t mean I was unhappy there. I’m just saying it wasn’t a warm experience; it wasn’t a place I get emotional about. Harvard was a much warmer place. I’m devoted, I mean, I’m very fond of Harvard. I mean I respect it in addition to liking it.
In Fall River, as a young person, I did the conventional things. We played football in the fall and in the winter we used to go over to the Swansea Dam, which was the best place to skate. We slid a lot. Fall River is full of hills. We all had sleds and they used to shut off the streets for sledding. I never had one, but I’ve seen a sled that carried over 20 people. It was two sleds, one at the fore and one behind. We had the flexible flyer and then we had a sled called the ball topper and you steered this with a skate. They were built very, very heavy. The seat, it wasn’t wood. They’d stuff something in there and nail carpeting over it, and oh, they’d get those big enough to carry six or seven people. Because they were so heavy, they picked up a lot more speed than a flexible flyer. You had a hard time controlling it as you went down a hill. Even though the hills were set off for sledding, every once in a while a horse and wagon or a car got in there and I can remember going right through a funeral on one, and I can remember going right under a horse on one, and under a car on one. People got hurt on them. Every year a kid or two would get killed. You got tremendous speed on some of those hills in Fall River. And then we’d tack a skate onto a plank and try to slide on that and go down a hill. I suppose it was the forerunner of the skateboard, but I know I could go out and get on a sled and if everything was right, I could go something like five blocks non-stop.
In school I endured my subjects and history was the one I hated the least. I was not a student.
I gave up the Manchester Store because it wasn’t a particularly profitable thing. It was quite a lot of work and I had what I thought was a reasonably good offer, so when I got a chance to sell it, I sold it and farmed. I milked as high as 110 cows, but usually around 90. I had some dairy cattle and I raised all my own young stock, so we had a bunch of them. I used to have in the neighborhood of 150 head, young and old.
I retailed all the milk. I pasteurized it, separated some cream, and pasteurized the milk. I sold it to individuals. I got so I had three trucks going every day to Fall River, and then it seemed more feasible to buy a dairy in Fall River, so I did that and then I’d just take the milk in 40-quart jugs to Fall River. I’d go on the truck; as a matter of fact, I think I went two days a week on the truck. I never delivered house to house any more than a few summer people. I never delivered milk around Fall River on a local route. I farmed.
I have four or five (bee) hives now. I only started last year and what little honey we got was very good honey, but there wasn’t much of it. I think I’m going to do a little better. I hope to. The honey is a mixture; probably a good deal of it is goldenrod. It’s just what they pick up. You can set the hives up in specialized places, for example, down in the cranberry bog, and you can get what you call cranberry honey. If there was a vast field of clover and you set the hives beside it, you could claim that it was clover honey. You don’t tell the bees what to get and then some people think that the best honey we get is by letting them pick and choose, not having any special crop around. Pepperbush is prevalent only every few years, but in those years, it makes a good honey. One man told me he took some honey out of his hives and all he could figure was that the bees had a fix on dandelions that year! I have some baskets of grapes that are overripe and they are so full of bees, I can’t touch them. I don’t know, but I suppose that the bees are going for honey. They work on a lot of things and just what determines what they work on and how they mix it, I don’t know.
I quite farming in the middle 50’s and auctioned them (cows) off when my boy, who tried it for a year or two, got tired of it.
In 1961-62, I took a correspondence course and became a stockbroker in Fall River from 1962 until 1975. As far as being interesting, I rate farming first, the store second and stock broking last. Farming was the most fun. Today farming’s a different setup. You have trouble getting help and I suppose your margin of profit is smaller for what you do. We had everything that pleased our fancy. If we wanted to plant something, we’d try it. If we wanted to raise an animal or a bird, we would. We’d have a little bit of everything. Today, the farmer doesn’t have the time to dilute himself to that amount. They’re all specialists. We put in an awful lot of time. Usually I got up at 6:00, but there were periods when I got up at 4:00 am. Because we started milking at 4:00. I used to get up at 4:00 and check out the trucks with their loads. I don’t know why, but in those days milk trucks had to go in the middle of the night it seemed to me.
The difference between Westport today and Westport of earlier days? Well, I can’t say. ‘Course the difference is more people. The difference is city people transported to the country and not the natives that were here when we first same. You’re an example yourself. I’m an example. The way of life here in this house, except that you both eat and sleep, there’s not much comparison.
When I first came here to Mabel’s (Crosby), that was in the 20’s, I came because nobody raised turkeys around here and the man across the street had bought a couple of turkeys for local color, and they laid four eggs and I asked them if they wanted the eggs. They’d tried to hatch them, but they always died, so I hatched three and raised two and this got me so the next year I was going to have turkeys. First, I bought some eggs and nothing came out of them. Someone told me that this bird, Crosby, (Mabel’s husband) over here had turkeys. He did and could raise them. That’s how I made contact with the Crosby’s and the Ball’s. I think there was a lot of canning done, but not much other housework. All the adjoining fields were full of, not all of them, but they had a number of hen houses. They had a lot of different kinds of poultry and I think they had many breeds, and I think this is why they had the turkeys. He would know how to do it. I mean he would know how to raise the turkeys, which a lot of them couldn’t seem to do. I think that having learned, he’d sort of hand it over to the women. They sort of did the drudgery and Jim (Crosby) busied himself about his next project. He was a natural in a lot of ways. He’d take a puppy and train it to do tricks before most people would train it to be house broken. He was an odd ball. He’d like to have someone tell him he couldn’t do something and then he’d immediately prove he could do it. He knew a lot about antiques and he knew a great deal about a great many things, but I don’t think he ever stuck to many of them.
About town affairs, I’ve always been interested. I think, I think it’s, I really feel that people have a duty to get involved in their government. It’s just a matter of how much you want to get involved in it. I’d never want to try for office or be a year ‘round employee of the town or something like that, but I have always, off and on, served on committees and some of them don’t take very much time. The Finance Committee did take more time, but I feel that when this government goes down the drain, if it does, it will simply be from a lack of interest. I think in any honest government, which Westport has, they can always use you. They’re not afraid to let you come in and see what they’re going. They really and truly, in many instances, are glad to have some help. I don’t know that this is true when you get into a political setup. I don’t think this is true when it’s already got away from the people and the ones that are entrenched are doing tricks. I don’t think they welcome your help. But in a government of this sort, why I think they do.
My wife and I are both registered Republicans, but I’m a backslider; I’ve often voted Democratic. Well, this year I think I’m a Republican again. If they run another Nixon, I think I’d be a Communist or anything else before I’d vote for him. Of course, as to the primaries here, as I recall, there were only three names on the Republican ballot. There weren’t any earth shaking decisions.
I don’t think the decision on the lagoon was earth shaking honestly. The state said it wouldn’t damage the river, the amounts that were going to be dumped there, but I know nothing about it. My bases for saying that is: The state oked it and I called up a fried of mine who’s at SMU (Southeastern Massachusetts University) named Sandy Moss, who said it wouldn’t hurt the river. Since then, I’ve heard that he said it would and I don’t believe he said both things. What I’m saying is that there was a terrific amount of distortions and I think there were more distortions on the part of the people who were trying to block it, then the people who were for it.
I think the problem here is what’s the alternative? There are people who have to have the night soil lugged away and lugged away frequently, and the only place that takes it is Brockton and it is $150 a load. People can’t afford it. Fall River has been taking it apparently on an ‘under the table’ basis, I mean, we’ll look the other way, so they tell me. I don’t quite understand. Very few loads went to Brockton, and I have, by word of mouth from a fellow who told me, that if you use the local haulers, it would be that much. When I wanted mine pumped, I called a fellow in Brockton and he charged me $30. So it’s the same charge that our men are making to go to Fall River. I don’t know what the answer is, but I just feel that the whole thing was very much distorted. I don’t feel badly that it didn’t pass; I don’t think it was anything like the danger to this town that it was supposed to be.
I’m very much against the ‘Land Trust.’ New there are all different kinds of arrangements. They ask you to donate some land to them, which will be kept as non-developed land forever. They are not in any way connected with the town. There isn’t a townsperson on it. It’s strictly a group of people who came to Westport because it’s a nice place; they want to keep it nice. It’s as though the people here never thought of such a thing. They never seem to take into account that a great deal has been done to keep this a nice place by the old people down through the years. They are trying to take all the credit away from them it seems to me, and they say, ‘Now we’ll make it a nice place.’
What happened to the place they came from? Was it their own actions that made that a more undesirable place? Coming back, I say they don’t go through channels. They set up their own channels. It’s legal alright, but by the same token, they set up something that is not, was not a part of the town.
Way am I opposed to it? Because that land ceases to be taxed for one thing. Those who pay taxes are going to pay more and any tax that I pay, I have something to say about it because all our expenses go through Town Meeting. We vote on them. But when it comes to this ‘Trust,’ I have nothing to say. They can take as much land as they can get and every time they take a piece of land and take it out of the tax structure, granted it’s only bits and peanuts, I’m talking theory, but more tax goes to me to make up for what they took out. This is taxation without representation, which is exactly what we went to war about in the first place. I have control over my assessors, not very much, but I at least can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the expenditures that are laid out at Town Meeting.
You ask whether a person has anything to say about how much his property is assessed at. Well, you can go up and ask for abatements and ask to be reexamined at any time. There’s always a certain amount of money put aside to rearrange taxes if you’re not happy with them. That doesn’t mean that you’ll always get it.
I don’t think this ‘Land Trust’ works for the town’s benefit in most cases. I think the biggest piece of land that they have was given to them by a Jewish developer up in North Westport because he found it was all wet and he couldn’t develop it. He was paying taxes on it. He’s not paying a tax anymore; he gets a nice write-off as a gift, and he’s all ready to go back into business again. They’ve helped him get ready to do some more developing. He takes a deduction on his income tax, which is in effect a sale.
I think where it may hurt, I happen to live in a place nowhere near as far back from the road as yours (Mary Giles) is, and I have a big cleared field in front of me, five or six acres. This is my view. I’m not sure, but what my view isn’t going to begin costing me quite a lot of money because these are all what could be called fairly attractive house lots. Any house lot down in the Harbor area has a pretty fancy price on it. At 100 percent evaluation, I now have the option of paying the tax or selling it, which I don’t want to do because I stand to lose my view. If I give it to the Land Trust, I’ve added to the value of my house because I can say to a prospective buyer, ‘In the foreseeable future, nothing is going to block your view as far as that lot is concerned.’
I think when the United States caves, if it ever does, I don’t think it will cave with a million radicals getting guns and attacking Washington. It will cave bit by bit with these little special interest groups nibbling at the structure. I don’t think this is a fair shake. As it currently stands, I don’t think it (the Land Trust) amounts to much. It doesn’t affect my tax rate more than a peanut’s worth, but basically to me it is theoretically wrong. It is taxation without representation.
Westport was not a wooded area. You can tell that from the walls running through the woods, down to the streams and brooks and waterways. The same person that had a good view a few years ago now has got no view at all, and I happen to like a view.
I’m one hundred percent for the Conservation Commission. They’re a different thing. They’re endeavoring to protect our beaches, to see that there aren’t violations in the way people handle their sewage, things of that sort. No, I consider them one hundred percent necessary, and I have something to say about them. They’re in my town structure. When you go to the Conservation Commission, whether you like what you receive or not, it is in proper channels. That is what I don’t like about the other. I say that these little bits of prerogatives by people, in some instances, haven’t been in Westport long enough to quite grasp Westport, do harm to our structure in a tiny way. There is nothing to offset this.
You ask if there were any changes to be made here in the next years, what would they be. I don’t know what you mean by that. When people were allowed to build on little lots, it wasn’t that they were slipshod; it was that they simply didn’t understand. It was only since you bought this place that you’ve exchanged the privy for the bathroom. The amount of sewage that ran from this place in the old days was nil. I don’t think a shower was ever taken here or any kind of a bath was taken here very often. I don’t think that people grasped for a while, that you couldn’t build your houses that close together in the country.
You try to build a house toady and it’s unbelievable the amount of time it takes to conform to these laws. We put three lots up for sale last year. I had 27 perc tests done on one lot before it passed. Two more perc tests and it would have been sheep pasture! I’ve known the Selectmen well for years. I wouldn’t like knowing that people go up and try to ‘buy’ a perc test. I know what I’d be told. That’s the way I feel about the people in Westport. I think we’re an extremely honest town. I’ve never seen any indication of anything crooked.
Who’s going to pay for any art center or the maintenance of anything that Westport especially treasurers?
Well, the town should not pay for them. Most museums and art centers come from gifts and trusts.
I’ve forgotten how many land takings there were in Westport last year, but there were literally dozens of people who were so remiss or unable to pay their taxes that procedures were started. Now can you ask these people to pay another tax to establish an arts and crafts community when they’re finding it hard work to pay the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker? If you could get your Land Trust interested in raising money for that sort of thing, then I’m 100 percent for it. That becomes a private thing in a sense. As it becomes established, I think the town might very well grant an arts center certain favors that could save it money or help it in some way, because it will be a service to the community. I don’t think that would be resented, but I think if you went to Town Meeting and asked for X amount of dollars to do this, I think the answer would be ‘No,’ and I think it should be ‘No.’
Of course, I really didn’t grow up in the town and I live in the most inaccessible part of the town. We are almost cut off from the town; we are much nearer Little Compton. We go to church there; we have a bowling team that bowls there and I can really and truly say that most of the men who worked for me for the first 15 years or so that I was here, were Little Compton boys. I really know more about what was going on in Little Compton than I ever did about Westport.
Yes, my wife has worked in the Library since about 1940. She took books to review and decided how they would spend money. I think they had about peanuts a year to spend for books and she’d read reviews every Sunday night I remember. It was so bad; they used to practically have to ask the dogs not to kill chickens ‘cause that was the only money they had for the library. (Receipts from the sale of dog licenses). I think the wages up there were 50 cents an hour. I think the Library was at the Town Hall by the time she started. It took a lot of doing before it finally got off the ground, and once it did, it moved fast for some reason.
You’re always going to have a press toward the water and as far as Westport’s being overdeveloped, well, Westport’s got more vacant land in it than almost any of these towns. A lot of it’s going to stay there just because it won’t pass the perc test and that sort of thing. I think it’s hard to know what will and what won’t pass. I think it’s inevitable that people come here. They’re going to keep coming, and I don’t think you can really devise many legal ways of keeping them out.
I was the first Chairman of the Zoning Committee, if I remember rightly, and I don’t think there was a problem getting it (zoning) passed. There was some zoning down around Horseneck prior to the ’38 Hurricane. I think that was the only zoning. That had all blown out the window with the Hurricane, I couldn’t tell you when it was, they started another zoning committee and Milt(on) Earle was on it, and some others.