For decades, I have heard the area at the south end of Olive Street referred to as Totallope. No one was ever able to tell me what it meant.
I asked the geezers, who used to frequent Don’s Drug Store back in the days when it was the local coffee shop. Kenny Windsor, Jesse Stucky, and Art Stallwitz were in charge of dispensing the nickel coffee and selecting the topic of conversation for the day. I asked Muriel Wolfersperger, a woman who spent her whole life here and remembers more Peabody facts than anyone else I know. Andy Shank didn’t know, Lera Crawford didn’t know, and Arlene Seigfried said she didn’t know. No one knew. They had just always called it Totallope.
I finally decided that someone must have made up a word and said it often enough that it stuck. That guess is fairly close to what really happened.
Those on the “Old Highway 50” tour Monday afternoon cruised through Totallope because that short stretch of South Olive Street was once part of the state highway that cut through the community, bringing trade and commerce to the local businesses.
The tour participants learned how Totallope got its name. It had a fairly plain beginning.
Apparently, when the farmers were coming into Peabody from the south, none of the bridges we use today at that end of town had yet been constructed. The road had a steep pitch as it approached the railroad tracks in the South Olive area and a wagon or buckboard filled with whatever the farmer was bringing to town had to be going full speed ahead to get enough “oomph” to get up the hill and over the railroad tracks.
In other words, the mules or horses had to be moving at a total lope. Apparently this was a big enough issue that total lope came to be synonymous with the area.
Eventually when wagons and mules were no longer the means to get crops, produce, or lumber to town, people no longer used the term in conjunction with transportation. However, the hill up to and across the tracks kept the name and eventually so did the entire neighborhood at the south end of Olive Street.
If you were one of the 50 or so people on the Old Highway 50 tour on Monday, you already have been enlightened. If not, now you know.
It is always fun and somewhat rewarding to find answers to questions like these. Sometimes our history is profound — like the impact of having a prisoner of war camp in our community or the first free library in the state; sometimes it is just fun information, like how did the Memorial Day dinner tradition start or why is part of the community known as Totallope?
There was a great deal of information and history shared this past weekend along with a Memorial Day tribute to our veterans, class reunions, family gatherings, and community events worth attending. Thanks for being a part of it!
— SUSAN MARSHALL