Who’d Have Known?

Death can be a motivator. For the past forty years I had somehow managed to collect a huge pile of photos of local veterans. I’d always planned to do something with the photos—either to make a book or donate them to the Holliston Historical Society. Procrastinator should be my middle name. Oddly, the death of a childhood neighbor, two months older than me and the passing of another friend, Roger Gandini, in the past year made me realize it’s now or never to do something with that huge pile of photos.

A Christmas gift of a book titled Hope Through Community: Words and Images in Response to a Global Pandemic, from a loyal dahlia customer, Ellen Pointek, sealed the deal. I wondered how someone could pull off writing a book in less than a year’s time? That book, to my surprise, was published by Damianos Publishing, a Framingham company located in the old Saxonville Mills. A simple phone call was all it took to grease the wheels of the printing presses. With any luck, my first book—A Holliston Call to Duty—will be available in mid-May. This book shows the efforts of local veterans from the Civil War to the present.

Maybe it’s my Irish Catholic guilt or the idle time from the pandemic that played tricks with my brain. Folks who were to send me a photo for that first book didn’t. Others simply didn’t have enough information about a loved one’s service time. With Mudville neighbor and town historian Joanne Hulbert piling my kitchen table with more information about local veterans than the table could hold, it occurred to me that a second book was in its infancy. One conversation led to another. I made phone calls to research local veterans’ exploits during their military service.

John Bresnahan, who lives on Marshall Street, arrived with photos of his dad, Warren “Presty” Bresnahan, escorting Japanese officials to the Battleship Missouri for the surrender of Japan in August 1945. Jeff Holmes of Union Street told me the story of his dad’s (Henry) ship being hit by a kamikaze and being surrounded by flames below deck. Will Brigham of Prentice Street arrived with a photo of his dad, Lt. William Brigham, who ran a POW camp for German prisoners. Will outdid himself, as he also brought along photos of WWI relative Alden Leland, a local insurance agent, and another relative Richard Blodgett, a Civil War Veteran, who lived at 2 Smith Row and was a member of Holliston’s famed Company B.

A phone call to childhood neighbor Michael Moore of 54 Prospect asking about his relatives the Connollys and the Mullens led to a conversation about war dogs being trained across the street at 55 Prospect Street after WWII ended. A phone call to Evan Kempton at #55 revealed more startling facts: not only were service dogs from the military brought back from the war to receive obedience training, but a book about the training on Prospect Street was produced by the American Kennel Club in 1950, titled Teaching Your Dog Obedience.

55 Prospect Street in 1950

And the story doesn’t end there. Robert Moore of South Natick worked at the 55 Prospect Street training facility. Moore, a WWII veteran and holder of a Distinguished Flying Cross, was also a POW, having been held in the same stalag as Holliston’s Lou Paltrineri. Linda Connolly across the street at 54 Prospect caught the eye of Moore, and they were married.

Evan Kempton, whose family moved to the house at 55 Prospect Street in 1950, said that the training facility closed prior to their arrival. It seems the fenced-in acreage was a little more than neighbors could handle, with vicious dogs charging the fence along Prospect Street.

55 Prospect Street in 2021

During our conversation, Kempton also revealed that his dad Joe had written a book, Dynamite on the Desk, published in 2018. The book is a true story of Joseph V. T. Kempton’s actual military adventures during WWII. Kempton rose to the rank of Lt. Col. before retiring in 1969.

Who’d have known?

Bobby Blair

19 Comments

  1. Sarah Daniels on March 25, 2021 at 7:08 am

    Looking forward to reading the book.

  2. Patrick Kelley on March 25, 2021 at 7:10 am

    Thanks mayor

  3. Barbara English on March 25, 2021 at 8:38 am

    So – how do I buy the book?

  4. Lynne Damianos, Publisher on March 25, 2021 at 9:06 am

    Bobby,

    Thank you for your diligence and for sharing this! When the book is available, you may purchase it directly from Bobby Blair or through SilverStreetMedia.com or Amazon.com.

  5. Bobby Blair on March 25, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Barbara – I’ll let you know as soon as I know — haven’t quite figured that out yet!

  6. Kerry Michael Mangan on March 25, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Outstanding.

  7. Norma Kittredge on March 25, 2021 at 10:22 am

    How exciting Bobby! We are so looking forward to reading your book. Congratulations to you and all the people who made it happen.

  8. Jeanne Murphy on March 25, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Bobby I’ll call you a bit later to try to answer your questions about Walter and Vera.

  9. Paul Saulnier on March 25, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Nice work, Bobby

  10. Nancy Karis on March 25, 2021 at 11:30 am

    You: “Who’d have known?”
    Me: “None of us until you tracked down the stories and wrote them down.
    Thanks for your work”!

  11. Melissa Ford on March 25, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Amazing, interesting and makes me even prouder of Hollistons history!

  12. Joanne Hulbert on March 25, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Joseph Kempton’s book “Dynamite on the Desk” is available from Amazon. I received my copy yesterday. I started reading it, and it is very interesting, and you’ll find out about that dynamite ! !

  13. Mary Greendale on March 26, 2021 at 8:46 am

    I am delighted that you have taken pen to paper about a subject that is dear to you and a huge part of the man you are. From “The Farm Report” to your own book…impressive. I just hope you will be sure to include your own veteran story of your time in Nam in one of your books. Thank you, Bobby.

  14. Shirley M. (Hamlet) Chipman on March 26, 2021 at 11:19 am

    So glad for you Bobby. You finally did it! Can’t wait to read it.

  15. Robert Blackley on March 26, 2021 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks for the heads up. Can’t wait to read it!

  16. Theresa Lamkin on March 28, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Bobby,

    You are true and rare gem! I second Mary in her plea to have your history included in your book. I have only heard a few of your stories and they are remarkable! Thank you for keeping history alive and for giving us all a GREAT holiday gift for 2021!

  17. Chryso Lawless on March 28, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Holliston has such a wide history for a small town. Thanks for preserving our stories. Can’t wait to read the book.

  18. Karla Alfred on March 29, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for making your vast knowledge of our town’s history accessible to the world! I hope you’ll be signing copies once this pandemic is over!

  19. Robert Yourell on April 3, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Mr blair see you are still at it,good to see,do you still have second supper, robertyourell321@gmail.com

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