Some 65 years ago, a woman living at the Tewksbury State Hospital would often be seen walking along Main Street. She would walk up one side to the Lowell line and then down the other to the Wilmington line, and back again, picking up cigarette butts. She usually found enough butts to allow her to chain-smoke them. She became known as “Cigarette Annie.”
A Wilmington soldier stationed at Fort Devens had a chance to talk with her at Chandler’s Corner one Saturday. He was thumbing a ride home for the weekend.
Annie was nearby, and she approached the soldier. All good soldiers should beware of the institution just across the field, she said, pointing at the hospital.
“They take you in there in a big black car, and you never get out again,” she said.
Of course, Annie was out most every day, walking along the highway, looking for butts.
Officer Charlie Ellsworth got no thanks from a dog he rescued in the summer of 1958. Ellsworth, who later became Sgt. Elllsworth, was on traffic duty when he saw a small dog jump from a passing car.
Charlie was able to grab the dog, which he placed in his own car, to await the return of the owner. Apparently the owner failed to realize what had happened, so Charlie was stuck with the dog. When he finished the detail and returned to the car, the dog refused, in no uncertain terms, to let him enter his own vehicle.
Joseph Cotton had a very successful real estate business in Wilmington in the early 1900s. In his 30-year retirement, he devoted quite a bit of time to handicapping the horses. In his final years, he would often be seen at Rockingham, in the company of some of the boys down in Wilmington Square.
When he died at age 82 in July 1958, the boys did not forget him. Alongside his casket, among other floral tributes, was one of the type hung over a winning horse’s neck. Possibly some of Joe’s other friends didn’t realize the significance, but there was no mistaking from whom it came.
A banner on the bouquet said simply, “The Boys from the Square.”
All Wilmington seemed to know when the beams for the Route 125 bridge arrived in town in May 1959. First came a call from a Woburn man, saying the beams were on the way. Then came a call from Wilmington Square, telling how the truck made the turn from Route 38 onto Church Street with only a foot to spare. Folks on Ballardvale Street learned about the beams the hard way when the beams took down a pole.
But nobody could top the experience of Hank Sullivan of Middlesex Avenue. When he met the beams, the truck was rounding a corner and the beams were headed straight for Hank’s windshield. He threw his car into reverse and backed away faster than he had been driving forward.