Tuesday, October 26, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Kemp's of America the Cape's First Fast Food Restaurant

    McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and more are what pops to mind when thinking of the most popular fast food chains in history. Each of these has at least one location on Cape Cod and hundreds, if not thousands of locations worldwide. However did you know when looking back that the very first fast food chain to break ground on the Cape was none of the above? In fact it was a spot that came and went rather quickly and is somewhat lost to the passage of time. The very first fast food spot was a hamburger spot called Kemp's of America and this is a little bit about its history.

    In terms of overall history, the first true fast food hamburger restaurant was White Castle which was founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. The 1950’s saw the dawn of many prominent fast food chains including Jack In the Box(1951), Burger King(1953), Sonic(1953), and the franchising of already established places like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    Though ripe with competition there were still some who saw opportunity in the crowded fast food market. This included Boston business executive Lawrence Laskey who created Kemp’s of America in 1963 and opened its first location in 1964 in Saugus, Massachusetts. Other locations soon followed in Medford, Fall River, Brockton, Worcester, Burlington, and Nashua, New Hampshire. By late 1964 Kemp’s was considered one of the fastest growing chains in the country.

Advertisement for the opening of the Roxbury Kemp's from Oct. 1964(Boston Public Library)

    Kemp’s offered 15-cent hamburgers, 20-cent cheeseburgers, 15-cent hot dogs, 12-cent shoestring french fries, 20-cent milkshakes, and even a fish fry. Sporting the slogans of the ‘best in the world’ and ‘the nation’s favorite’ it was not long until Kemp’s made its way to Cape Cod.

    Talks for a location on the Cape began in December 1964. It was settled on Hyannis as the site of what would be the 26th Kemp’s restaurant. A section of Iyannough Road almost directly across the street from the iconic Mildred’s Chowder House was where construction began.

    The new Hyannis location, a yellow building complete with a black cow on the top, opened late in the spring of 1965. It was overshadowed by the first Boston-proper location that opened in July 1965 at 632 Washington Street. The manager of the Hyannis location was Ray Cadrin who would go on to have a long and distinguished career in Cape Cod restaurants.

An old Kemp's sign in Boston 1971(

    Kemp’s became an immediate hit with kids and families. The company sponsored youth baseball and gave the added incentive of free hamburgers and milkshakes after every win. Lawrence Laskey was front and center promoting Kemp’s and the company’s growth. He predicted the chain would have more than one hundred locations by the end of 1966. This was set to include a second Cape Cod location in Falmouth. Neither of the predictions came true. It is unclear though just how many restaurants Kemp’s had at its peak.

    Despite doing fairly well business-wise, and being popular locally, Kemp’s could not stave off the encroachment of other fast food chains. McDonald’s came to the Cape in 1969 with a location on Rt. 132, little more than half a mile from Kemp’s. Wendy’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack in the Box, and Burger Chef, among others, also came to Cape Cod in that same time period. These additional options for customers spelled doom for the smaller Kemp’s.

    The Hyannis location of Kemp’s closed in 1973 with the building becoming the home of Mr. Donut in 1975. Slowly Kemp’s locations closed down across the state. After the Hyannis location closed former manager Ray Cadrin landed on his feet. He opened the very popular Ray’s Sub Shop not long after on Center Street in Hyannis. Cadrin operated that establishment until his retirement in 1995.

    The last location of Kemp’s that remained is difficult to confirm. A location on Boylston Street in Boston was still in operation in 1978. However the company itself was dissolved in 1980. Regardless of where the last location stood in the end Kemp’s was faced with overwhelming competition from far larger chains and was eventually squeezed out.

The site of the former Kemp's(Google Maps)

    Today on Cape Cod the larger fast food chains remain strong. The only thing to remain of Kemp’s is the memories from those who went there during its brief run as the original fast food spot on the Cape. As of 2021 Honey Dew Donuts occupies the property that once house Kemp’s of America.


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Saturday, October 16, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Unsolved Murder of Clarence Parker


    He was a lifelong Cape Codder. He was a war hero. He was a hard working and well respected member of the community. So why was he brutally gunned down on his front lawn? More importantly, why has this case remained unsolved for nearly a century? This is the story, as it is known, of the unsolved murder of Falmouth’s Clarence Parker.

    Clarence A. Parker was born in Falmouth on January 15, 1893 to Willoughby and Lillian Parker. He was educated through the Falmouth school district before taking up work at H.V. Lawrence’s greenhouses in town. Parker from a young age was a handsome, jovial, and popular man. The type of person that the community was proud to call one of their own.

    When World War I broke out Parker was drafted into the Army. He was assigned to Fort Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. Before leaving to go to war Parker married Janet Howitt. Their ceremony was pushed up to September 19, 1917. The couple would go on to have a daughter Alis and a son Gordon, while living at 62 Walker Street close to Clarence’s parents.

    Parker returned to Cape Cod in July 1919 after serving as Private at Camp Baranquine in France. He spent much of the 1920’s building on his positive reputation, holding town offices such as deputy clerk. The biggest break for Parker came in March 1927 when the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) opened its second Cape Cod store. The first had been in Hyannis but the second was on Main Street in Falmouth and the grocery store chain wanted Parker as their manager.

How A&P Looked in the late 1920's.

    A loving husband and father, a main member of the American Legion Auxiliary and a popular respected manager of the local A&P, Clarence Parker didn’t have any shortage of friends. That was why what happened in the early morning hours of September 7, 1930 so shocking.

    Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning September 7, 1930 Parker closed up the A&P. He had brought a leg of lamb wrapped in brown paper home with him. After pulling his car into the garage Parker walked across his lawn. It was at about 12:20am that a single shot rang out. Janet heard the shot from inside and opened the front door to find Clarence face down only a few feet from the door. He was dead.

The scene of the crime. Parker's former house on Walker Street on the left. (Google Maps)

    The unknown assailant took the leg of lamb and ran off through the backyard leaving their revolver behind. The theory was that it was robbery. The assailant thought that Parker had brought the store’s money home to be deposited when in fact he had done that the day before. This was cemented when the leg of lamb was found in a nearby field opened, likely dumped when it was proven to not be money.

    Ann Richardson, owner of the Elm Arch Inn, could only describe a ‘hatless’ man running across her property after the shooting. The assailant was believed to have escaped in a car parked on Shore Street.

Shore Street where the getaway car might have been located. (Sturgis Library)

    A beloved member of the Falmouth community had been coldly killed steps from his front door. The rage from the townspeople was palpable. In total $4,000($65,700 in 2021) worth of rewards were offered including $2,500 from A&P. It was seen as an example of how highly regarded Parker was. Another example was the overflowing services at Parker’s funeral. It was hoped, and expected, that the Falmouth Police would solve the heinous crime quickly. What came was a series of leads that would be debunked.

    The first was only a few weeks later. An abandoned Chrysler car was found near Silver Lake in Kingston. It had suspicious markings on a story about the murder from the New Bedford Standard Times. However it was confirmed by State Police that the car had been stolen from Stedman Buttrick of Concord, Massachusetts after the murder would have taken place. In addition the car was out of gas and the battery was dead when found.

    Next came a salacious editorial piece from the Brockton Enterprise. It said that Parker’s murder was connected to illegal rum running. Going further by surmising that Parker had knowledge of rum gangs activities but after refusing to join them was murdered to keep him quiet. Falmouth Police Chief Herbert Lawrence dismissed the rumors.

    By the end of 1930 there had been no arrests. The reorganization and enlargement of the Falmouth Police Department was demanded and expected due to the perceived failure. Chief Lawrence resigned at the end of 1930 citing poor health.

    The investigation remained ongoing throughout 1931. Lt. Joseph Ferrari of the homicide bureau of the State Police said they were still investigating but it was baffling the lack of clues as to the killer’s identity.

    In August 1932 convicted Mashpee murderer Sylvester Fernandes, before his death in the electric chair, purportedly gave the name of Parker’s killer to District Attorney William Crossley, he then tried to substantiate it but it was fruitless. For two years there had been little in the way of progress or even clues in the murder of Clarence Parker.

    The closest lead, and likeliest scenario, came to light in November 1932. Boston District Attorney William Foley got new lead from arrested Boston gangster Morris Cohen of Dorchester. Cohen said that a young man named Murton Millen was a running with a well known liquor racketeer. It was while they were attending a liquor meeting in Falmouth that Millen purportedly went to rob Parker.

    He lurked in the shrubs of Parker’s home on Walker Street and waited. Cohen said that Millen then shot him a few feet from his door with cold-blooded precision. Parker died almost instantly. However the robbery was a failure due to it being lamb and not money in the brown paper. It seemed to tie in with previous theories of a failed robbery and an out-of-town killer made sense as Parker was exceedingly popular. This theory had doubt cast on it by Lt. Joseph Ferrari as he saw Millen as too young to run with liquor gangs. With cold water thrown on the latest lead the case went cold for several years.

Clarence Parker's grave in Falmouth.

    New leads came to light in September 1936 almost 400 miles north in Montreal, Canada. Several members of local law enforcement went north to interrogate someone who was in Falmouth at the time of the murder. This led to seven more people being interviewed in Hyannis as a part of these new developments. Sadly despite all of the bluster nothing came from the interrogations. The case went cold and Clarence Parker became just a name on a headstone in Oak Grove Cemetery.

    It has been 91 years since Clarence Parker was coldly gunned down on his own front lawn. It has also been 85 years since any meaningful leads were investigated. The case has gone cold and will likely remain unsolved. Whether it was a young rum runner and a botched robbery, or something not yet explored, the bottom line is that a young husband and father, and popular member of the community, was killed and the murderer has never been identified.


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Monday, October 4, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Charles Freeman, the Man Who Sacrificed His Daughter For God


    Insane, or not insane, that is the question. In the case of one of Cape Cod’s most horrific and heartbreaking crimes this question was at the forefront. The village of Pocasset in Bourne was the backdrop for the sacrifice murder of a 4-year old little girl by her father while her mother watched. Her father said God had told him to do it. Despite never shying away from the deed years later he was living a free life. This is the confusing and somber story of how a man’s religious fanaticism led to him murdering his own child. This is the story of Charles Freeman.

    Charles F. Freeman was born in Highgate, Vermont on February 17, 1846. He lived a quiet life as a cordwainer (shoemaker) until enlisting in the Union Army at age sixteen in 1862. After the Civil War ended Freeman moved to Natick and Lynn, Massachusetts meeting Hattie Ellis. The couple married in 1869 with Hattie giving birth to their first child, a daughter named Lillian, born in September 1870.

    Lillian died before her first birthday. Charles and Hattie had two more daughters Bessie in 1872 and Edith in 1874. Shortly after Edith’s birth the entire family moved from Lynn to the small village of Pocasset. The family settled in a small farmhouse in an area of the village known as Putts Hollow. It was after moving to the quiet village after spending years near the bustling city of Boston that Freeman found himself restless. He found his way back to religion.

    Freeman dabbled in religion after returning from war but quickly fell out of it. When he moved to Pocasset Freeman began teaching the Methodist Sunday School. It was during this time that he became enthralled with an offshoot of the Methodist religion, a group called the Second Adventists. Freeman rapidly became an outspoken member of the group, so much so that he eventually became self-appointed leader.

    During the winter of 1877-78 somewhere between 25-30 members of the Methodist church left to form the Second Adventist group. They had been banned from speaking at Methodist events due to how frantically they would speak about the second coming. Charles Freeman’s enthusiasm became fanaticism as he wrapped himself in the Second Adventist beliefs.

    In April 1879 Freeman’s religious fervor continued to grow. He began to feel as if he should become an evangelist of the group and go forth spreading the word of the Lord. When it came to these desires it was said that Freeman’s wife Hattie was completely subservient and under the thumb of her husband.

    The reckless fanaticism continued to spiral unchecked. At one point during April 1879 Freeman converted Hattie’s sister to the Second Adventist church while her husband was at sea. This angered his brother-in-law so much that he wished to shoot Freeman. This greatly shook Freeman.

    It all came to a head at the end of April. Charles Freeman had not been eating for several days. He began speaking of hearing voices and seeing visions. It was during this time that Freeman would later claim that God came to him. He told Freeman he would need to sacrifice a member of his family to ‘rudely awaken the world from its present condition.’ Freeman waited for the word on who the target had to be.

    On the evening of April 30, 1879 he got his answer. Freeman said that God revealed that it was his youngest daughter Edith who would be the victim. After putting Bessie and Edith to bed he told Hattie of what he had to do. She tried to dissuade him from doing the deed, however she was a subservient wife above all else and eventually relented.

    In the early morning hours of May 1st Charles and Hattie prayed in their bedroom. Charles grabbed a large knife out of his shed while Hattie grabbed an oil lamp. She held the lamp above their sleeping daughter Edith. Charles quickly plunged the knife into Edith’s side right below her heart. She was purported to have cried ‘Oh, Papa.’ Hattie took Bessie into their bedroom while Charles wept and held onto Edith until she died.

    The next day Freeman called a meeting of the Second Adventists at his farmhouse. It was there that he told the entire story of what had happened. They initially refused to believe what they had heard. Freeman concluded his half-hour speech by showing the contingent the body of Edith as proof of the sacrifice he had made. They in turn agreed to not alert the police. That remained the case until the 16-year old daughter of a Second Adventist told the story to a young Constable she was interested in named Seth Redding.

The Barnstable Patriot from May 6, 1879

    The next morning Redding visited the Freeman homestead. Charles told the same story. He doubled-down though by stating that God said Edith would rise again after three days. Charles and Hattie Freeman were both arrested and brought to the Barnstable County Jail. Freeman had said his deed would awaken the world and he was half-right. The story went nationwide of a father murdering his four-year old daughter by decree of God. People were horrified and denounced the Freeman’s as wicked.

    Dr. George Munsell from Harwich examined both Charles and Hattie declaring both to be in a ‘morbid mental state.’ Charles Freeman while in jail was joyous and carefree, holding on to his belief that he had done right by God. Hattie Freeman on the other hand was grief-stricken and prone to bouts of uncontrollable weeping.

    Little Edith Freeman was buried May 4, 1879. Despite being asked not to speak at the funeral Second Adventist Alden Davis did anyway causing a near riot between the church members and village folk. This included Davis carrying Edith’s casket outside of the church after his speech was stopped. Only after Edith had been covered in earth did the battle end.

The Pocasset Cemetery where Edith Freeman is buried.

    Charles and Hattie Freeman would have to wait three years to know their fate. On May 5, 1880 Charles was sent to the Danvers State Hospital where he remained until his murder trial began in Barnstable Court on December 5, 1883. In the time since the death of little Edith Charles’ religious rantings had abated. Hattie Freeman took the stand during the trial now saying that she had seen through the delusions that had previously blinded her. Dr. Munsell believed that Charles was not of sound mind when he committed the heinous murder due to several reasons. He chalked it up to Freeman’s long service in the Military, being overworked for years, a rough bout of diphtheria, and finally the small town life of Pocasset leaving him in need of guidance which he found in the Second Adventists. Five other physicians corroborated Munsell’s theory. Charles Freeman was found not guilty by reason of insanity on December 6, 1883 after the jury deliberated for a mere ten minutes.

    Freeman was returned to Danvers State Hospital. He remained there, appearing to be of sound mind the longer he got away from his time as a Second Adventist. On March 17, 1887 Charles Freeman was discharged from the hospital being classified as not insane. He did not return to Cape Cod after leaving Danvers opting to move his family to Chicago.

    Charles F. Freeman died on November 4, 1928 at the age of 82 in Lawrence, Michigan. His wife Hattie died 2 years earlier in 1926 at the age of 79. Bessie Freeman, who was 6-years old when her father murdered her sister, lived until the age of 82, dying in 1954. The saddest part of this entire story is that of 4-year old Edith. Not only was she murdered by her father as a sacrifice to God, but today she is buried in Pocasset Cemetery on County Road in an unmarked grave. She is all but lost to history.


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