In my last blog post, I focused on my mom’s background in recognition of 100 years since her birth. Today, I continue her story presented mostly from my own memories.
While preparing these memories, I have found the one thing that really stands out to me is just how much EFFORT my mom put into everything she did. Hopefully, we did not take this effort too much for granted; however, I am sure there could have been greater appreciation shown along the way.
You may read the first piece that I wrote about my mom via the following link: Born 100 Years Ago: Mom.
In that piece, I mentioned that it now seems that she was adopted–something I learned about only two years ago. My research still has a long way to go and there have been no easy answers, to this point, even with studying my DNA matches. My featured postcard may provide just a little clue about that adoption. So, I am starting this writing with a focus on the postcard followed by a few details “before my time”. My own early memories will follow and will be separated into two segments: School Months (and General Memories) and then Summer Months.
Beacon Oyster Co. Postcard
My featured postcard was sent by Gra Gra (Bertha James Watts) to her brother Howard James, in Riverpoint (West Warwick), Rhode Island. The “clue” with this card is the postmark (shown below), it is dated Aug. 9, 1920 from Wickford, (North Kingstown), RI. Well, my mom was born Aug. 28, 1920 which would have been just a couple of weeks later. Gra Gra was not very adventurous, she was away from home very rarely. Even though Wickford is not far from where she lived, her written message indicates that she had been staying down that way. It does not appear to be just a day trip. I cannot imagine that she would have been staying there, over the course of multiple days, if she was that close to giving birth.
The message on the card reads: “I am having a wonderful time. I won’t want to settle down to housework when I get home. No more meals. Sister Bert”.
The image on the postcard is of the Beacon Oyster Co., Wickford, RI, which was located at the end of Pleasant Street. In the current day, there is still a boat yard and marina located there. In the past, there was Oyster farming in Wickford, between 1886 and 1939. At that point, Narragansett Bay was dredged for the installation of the Quonset Naval Base.
This postcard was published by Blanchard, Young & Co., Providence, RI; Made in Germany; there is a number on the front, C 1510.
As noted in my previous writing, my parents, Earl F. Lindall (1921-1997) and Marian L. Watts (1920-1999) were married on June 24, 1948.
They lived for a short time on Clyde Street, in West Warwick, then moved to an apartment in Warwick.
My oldest brother, Mark is shown in the pictures above. He was born on Nov. 28, 1949–many years his birthday actually fell on the Thanksgiving holiday. He passed away in 2000, much too early in life–from cancer.
Mark was the only child for five years until my brother Keith was born.
I Come Along
I would follow Keith, three years later–the baby of the family.
In 1953, my parents bought their first parcel of land in Charlestown, RI–two 25’x100′ lots. This parcel was about a mile from the beach, as they were hoping to keep it safe from any hurricane damage. Soon after purchasing the land, they began to hand-build the front section of the cottage, with help from my paternal grandparents. They purchased two more lots in 1959, making the site a total of 100’x100′.
One side of that original one-room cottage was used for sleeping and the other side was used as the kitchen and dining area. The interior walls were unfinished and had no insulation at that time. The cottage was supported by handmade cement piers, built the old-fashioned way with sifting of sand and gravel, etc.
As you will see, this cottage was the centerpiece of our lives. We spent every single summer there and my memories are really separated between the summer memories, in Charlestown, and the school year memories, in Warwick.
School Months and General Memories
During the school months, we resided in a two-family home, in the Greenwood section of Warwick, on Route 5. My paternal grandparents lived in the apartment above us. My parents resided there almost 25 years, until the owner sold the property in 1974. My grandparents had lived there a bit longer than that but they had moved into elderly housing a couple of years prior to the owner selling.
My parents never owned a brand-new car. For many years, we were a one-car family. Unlike some families, however, my mom was able to drive. The farthest back I can remember, we had a 1950s Oldsmobile 88 (not sure of the exact year)–it was gray. My oldest “life” memory really is when I used to ride in my car seat in that car. My little seat was the vintage variety that had metal pieces that looped over the seat and I had a little steering wheel with the little round beep horn in the middle. This car was replaced in 1968 with a blue station wagon; it was a 1964 Olds Dynamic 88, with the extra seat that opened up in the back section.
The picture below is of the first Oldsmobile that I remember, with my mom and I standing beside it.
When I was real young I can remember we had an old wringer washer. We had a very small and narrow kitchen in the apartment and I can still envision my mom having to pull the washer over to the sink to hook it up to the water. I can remember seeing the clothes running through the wringer as it pressed the water out of the clothes. We did not have a dryer–my mom never had one. She used to hang the clothes outside on the line, even in the real cold weather–it was funny when they froze, but I am not sure my mom was laughing. Sometimes she used wooden racks for some things to dry.
Until I was about five years old, my dad worked as a mechanic at the garage next door. He did not make much money in those days. Once he began working at Leesona he was earning better and he was able to help make my mom’s life a bit easier by buying her a newer style washing machine and dishwasher. I believe he bought them on installment payments.
My mom was a dog fan. From looking at old pictures, she seemed to have a dog during most of her younger years. She used to mention different ones from time to time.
During our family years, I remember three different dogs. During my youngest years we had Domino, I think she was a border collie mix of some kind. She is in the picture below with my parents and brothers. I guess Domino had one set of puppies, as shown below, and my grandparents upstairs took one of the puppies, they named her Lindy. I can still remember Lindy, she is shown in the puppy photo, as well as, one by herself. She was mostly all white with a couple of black patches. I was about 5 or 6 when Domino died, which I can still remember. We had a little funeral for her.
Some time later, we got another dog, named Shadow–shown in the picture below. My mom brought her home from the Providence Animal Rescue. I still remember that day. Shadow was all black with long fur, thought to be an English Setter mix. She was a good watch dog, was very protective and did not like seeing people in any kind of uniform.
My parents last dog was Dixie, I think that I was in high school by the time we got her. My middle brother and I brought her home after calling my mom for permission. There was a man outside of the Grant’s Dept. store in Westerly that was giving away free puppies. That was back in the day when it was a common thing to do. Dixie was the greatest dog, she was a border collie/springer spaniel mix–so she was medium sized.
My mom and Dixie are in the picture above in at Perry’s cabins, in New Hampshire, taken about 1979 or so. After Dixie passed away at a very old age, my dad said no more dogs. I think it was too hard for him to see them go.
In my family, food was a big deal. My mom was a very good homestyle cook making sure to prepare well-balanced meals. How I miss so many of things she made, they just don’t seem to taste the same when I make them. We were expected to eat what was prepared and put in front of us, all of it. I was usually the last one left at the table–a real slow poke. There was usually some kind of dessert for a bit later, but not if you did not finish your meal.
We mainly ate seafood during the summer but the rest of the year my mom prepared a wide range of meat items. My parents were very particular about the quality of meat we ate and they purchased from small local markets.
When I was very young, there was a small market in Riverpoint (West Warwick) where we purchased meat. It was on the corner of the side street in back of the now Horgan Elementary School. Further down that side street was a grain feed place where we used to buy cracked corn for our ducks and the green pellets for the rabbits–we had several. In the current time, that grain store building serves as the public works garage for the town. The small building where the market was is still there and last I knew it was a real estate office.
I can remember going to that corner market on Friday mornings when I was about five; my dad was working second shift by about that time at Leesona. The nice man that worked at the market used to give me treats sometimes from the penny candy section and one time he gave me some Starburst candy. I started choking on one of those candies. I never forgot that experience and to this day I prefer to go out of my way not to have any Starbursts.
After the Riverpoint market closed, I remember there was a place in the Crompton section of town (West Warwick) where my parents would buy meat from, it was on the eastern side of the road. Eventually, that market also closed, the building remains standing and has been occupied off and on over the years. Just recently, it re-opened as a seafood market.
My mom was fairly well known, at church (Riverpoint Cong’l), for cooking the johnnycakes at the May Breakfast and for serving as “head chef” and planner for the annual roast pork dinners. Both of my parents served at these events for many years and did most of the food ordering, which was primarily done via the local original Jerry’s Market operation.
When I was a little older, my mom was also the church secretary for many years, earning just a small monthly stipend. I can remember helping with the monthly newsletter getting them ready for the mail, sorting them by zip code and putting elastic bands around the bundles.
Another talent my mom had was sewing. Up until about junior high, she made all my school clothes–many dresses and one pair of slacks that I can remember. One dress my mom made had a large square bib-type piece, she had taken the time to embroider on that piece. Although not totally certain, my memory thinks it was bluebirds that she embroidered.
Back in my early school years, we had a dress code and girls were required to wear dresses or skirts to school. In the winter we were allowed to wear knit leggings underneath to help keep warm. I was in 7th grade by the time they relaxed the dress code and I was able to wear pants to school for the first time–my mom had made those, too.
My mom’s good cooking extended into making great dessert items. When I was a little older but I think before junior high, my mom would give me baking lessons after school. She picked a certain day per week and for quite a while on that day every week we would work on a baking project. She taught me how to follow recipes and how to measure, etc.
As I mentioned in my previous piece, my mom was not one to sit idle. She often had some type of creative project going. Sometimes it would be something she would work on alone, like a paint-by-number set and other times it was she and I making something together. One of the projects we worked on several times was making firestarters to give as gifts. We would save scallop shells and use them as molds, melt down broken up crayons and put the wax in the shell until it set. After the wax piece set, they were removed from the shell and wrapped inside wax paper with ends twisted. When used as a firestarter it burns slowly and in colors.
Another project we would make was pincushions. We would use scallop shells secured with plaster of paris and have some some kind of cloth (maybe felt?) holding something inside that would allow for the pins–I think maybe sand. I cannot remember the exact details but I can still picture them.
My mom taught me things like crocheting, knitting, embroidery, etc. It seems we always had projects of some kind going on. I have not kept up those talents but I know if I put my mind to it that I could regain that ability with some tutorials.
In later years, she enjoyed painting on fabric and making sequin ornaments that pinned to Styrofoam shapes.
A memory came back to me recently about when my mom used to take orders for Christmas cards for several years. I guess since we are in that season it made me think about it. This was during my early years, I can remember she had these big sample books each year from whatever the company was she was representing. People would give her orders for their personalized cards as they would come with their names pre-printed. I would assume this was my mom’s way of making some money to use toward Christmas gifts.
Speaking of Christmas, my mom had a special “clock” ornament that she held very dear. I really don’t know the story behind it or at least I do not remember it. I have kept that ornament all these years and still make sure it gets on the tree each year even though it is rather fragile.
Most years, my mom just could not wait for the summer close of school. If we had an extra school day that fell on a Monday, we never went that last day. The only year it really made me feel bad was the year I missed my 6th grade last-day-of-school party. My mom would pack us up and pack the ducks and rabbits in a trailer and drive us down to the cottage, reversing the process the day after Labor Day; which was the day before school would start again.
During the summer months, my mom and us three kids would spend the entire summer at the cottage, in Charlestown. She just loved it there, it was her place of solace. My dad would stay up at our apartment in Warwick during the week so he could be closer to work and then he would come down to the cottage on weekends. In addition, he always had the last week of July and the first week in August off for vacation time. I think his plant was shut-down during that time every year. So, we only had access to the vehicle on weekends.
Once we made that summer change-over, during the weekdays we had to walk everywhere not having a car. Someone would typically walk the mile, or so, to the post office in the morning. The mail was usually sorted by 10am. We had our mail sent via General Delivery in the old days which meant we had to ask at the window if we had any mail and we had to make it before 12noon or the window would close for lunch. At some point, we finally got a post office box instead of using General Delivery. The old post office building was originally located in the building where Kingston Pizza is now. I cannot remember the year that the new post office was built, further down the road, but I want to say it was the early 1980s.
As kids, most summer afternoons we walked to the beach with mom pulling along a wagon with our gear. At times, someone would give us a ride along the way. Until we were a bit older, my mom would commonly take us swimming in the pond area located just before the bridge going over toward the ocean. There is a newer bridge there now. This pond section was known as the “Shack” to many locals, because of the red shack that served snacks. That building is still there serving food in the summer but it is no longer painted red. I also remember some of us calling that swimming area “Danger Deep” because it had a very sharp drop-off–one step too far and it went over your head. As far as I know, no one actually swims in that pond area anymore. There used to be a small beach section there. However, in the current day the water level is much much higher and has pretty well swallowed up that sandy beach==perhaps from Global Warming. There is still a marina section with many boats and docks.
When I was a kid, I can remember walking home from those afternoons at the beach and falling asleep as I walked. And, I kept walking–not sure how I could do that but I still remember it–happened every time. I assume, my mom must have guided me along the way so I did not drift out into the road.
At bedtime, after all the walking and taking in all that salt air, I used to fall asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. I can remember when mom would turn out the gas light, its mantle would glow for a bit. I can remember she had a set of plastic drinking cups that used to glow in the dark, I could always see them up on the kitchen shelf from my pillow.
At that pond area by the Shack is where my dad kept his boat in the early days. At first we only had a “skiff”–a row boat. Then we had an old wooden boat with a motor for many years, named the “Mar-Dot”. On the weekends, our family spent alot of time out on the pond. We caught lots of fish–mostly flat fish. We went out to the sandbar areas and my parents raked quahogs. Us kids would mostly play about the sandbar area. I always had an old pair of sneakers to wear for these trips, so if there was a razor clam or horseshoe crab I would have some protection on my feet. In the fall, when the water was cooler my parents would go after scallops and oysters. We used to be able to catch blue crabs down at the old bridge, near the Shack. Throughout those summer months, we ate almost exclusively from the sea.
The one thing I really struggled to eat was my mom’s homemade oyster stew. I am sure it was wonderful to those that actually like oysters. For many years, I was expected to stay at the table until it was gone–I dreaded every spoonful. It seemed to be very well-liked by everyone but me. Finally, at some point in my early teens, my mom gave in and let me have something like peanut butter and jelly, or similar, whenever she made the oyster stew. It was such a relief–not a moment too soon.
Often, my mom would make a huge kettle of “clam” chowder, especially if family visitors were coming down to the cottage. She usually used either large sea clams (from Rathbone’s Fish Market) or the larger quahogs my parents dug for themselves (the smaller, more tender quahogs were steamed and dipped in melted butter). We used to have an old enamel-topped table out in the side yard at the cottage, under the old choke-cherry tree. She would clamp the grinder to the edge of the table and grind up the clams (after having shucked them all by hand, prying them all open with the special knife needed). This grinding process would also create plenty of clam juice to use in the broth of the chowder. You can imagine things got a bit messy which is why mom developed this outdoor system. In addition to the clams, there were plenty of potatoes that needed to be pared and cut for adding to the chowder. If my dad was around at the time the chowder (or dinner) was being made, he would help with prepping the veggies.
My mom would sometimes paint the sea clam shells for gifts or to sell. They were handy to hold rings or a watch while washing dishes, etc. One of the shells she painted is pictured below.
At times, my mom would get creative with a new variety of seafood. My dad and Uncle Richard used to go night fishing on the beach and often caught sandsharks, also known as dogfish. For a while they used to release them back into the water, but at some point they discovered they were okay eating fish. Unlike many other species, the sandsharks don’t have a ton of tiny bones to worry about, they just have that spine down the back so they were easy to clean and my mom figured out ways to best cook them.
One of my mom’s unique specialties was “seaweed pudding”. How I wish that I had written down the recipe and kept it in a safe place. It may be among some of her old recipes that I still have but having the time to comb through them is something else again. Sometimes the day after a storm, my mom would have us go beachcombing for her special seaweed. We would go down early, before people would arrive for the beach. This seaweed needs to be gathered while still nice and fluffy before it dries out in the sun. This particular seaweed is the one that is shaped into little fluffy white clumps. When we brought it home for her, it would be placed in a paper bag, lunch sized, and put in the frig to keep it moist. I remember when she made the pudding, she would boil up the seaweed then strain it out, so the flavor is developed but you don’t actually eat the pieces of seaweed. I think she used the unflavored gelatin packets so it would form into the pudding consistency. It really was delicious, tasted just like vanilla pudding but it was a little more special. I have no idea how she even discovered about making this pudding nor have I ever heard of anyone else making it. Again, I do not know the actual recipe which is a real shame.
I mentioned earlier about the choke-cherry tree, those small cherries had pits inside but my mom managed to make jam from those cherries. There were other choke-cherry trees nearby that she picked from, as well. She would cook the cherries down and run them thru a sieve to get the pulp out and discard the pits.
She would also make jams from beach plums and currents that would be picked locally, as well. She also made great tasting watermelon rind pickles.
Speaking of berries, my mom picked tons of blueberries in the summer. We used to sell them up at the top of the street to the people driving home from the beach. We had signs that were painted on old boards saying blueberries (or blackberries at times) and we would stand holding the signs so the people could see us. We always sold out. We would save the money raised toward family activities such as the fair or toward activities on my dad’s vacation time.
Another way we raised a little bit of money, in the summer, was to bring the wagon down to the beach and collect soda bottles that people left behind. Back in those days, the bottles were returnable for money. There was a downside, the only store that would cash in the bottles was Main’s General Store in Cross Mills which was a longer hike than usual for us.
Back in those early days, there were potato fields along the top end of Charlestown Beach Road, right near where the cottage was located. Each year, about the end of August, the big potato picker machines would run across the fields picking the potatoes. Once the pickers had gone through we were allowed to access the fields and collect the “leftovers”. My mom had us collecting loads of them. I think we had enough to last for a long time with her keeping them in cool storage.
During those summer months, when I was young, there was a local store in the Charlestown area called Brownings, run by Perry Browning. I remember walking there often, they had the largest selection of penny candy. After the store closed, that old building remained for many years but has since been demolished. It was located next to the present-day Mini-Super market.
After Brownings closed, there was a former marine boat place just down the road from it that was converted into a store called The Superette. It was run by Joe Tougas.
The Superette became my parents choice of meat market for many years, on a year-round basis, as we would spend most weekends at the cottage into my teen years. Joe would even save us produce scrap items for the ducks and rabbits, like the outer lettuce leaves. The ducks provided us with eggs that were generally twice the size of chicken eggs and sometimes we would get double yoker’s which were really big. My mom had kept a couple of the really big shells as keepsakes.
The Superette has been gone for many years now, we were very sorry to see it close. A local bank built on that particular site location and is still in operation.
In the backyard of the cottage, in the early days, we always had a very large garden. My mom would set up barrels at the outdoor corners of the house to catch rain water. We would fill-up old milk bottles with the water and place them upside down in the dirt next to the plants. The water slowly seeped through to the roots of the plants, helping to irrigate the garden.
Our summer cottage was very simple and for many years it was just the one large room, divided by a row of lumber studs–like an unfinished wall. In the early days, there was a very small bathroom with a chemical-type toilet. Around 1968, or so, there was an addition begun along the back side. The door that went to the old bathroom became the entry point to the hall of the addition. Around this timeframe, electricity was added. Prior to that time, there had been no electric service at the cottage. Instead there was a propane light affixed to the ceiling truss over the dining area and the cooking stove was also propane.
When I was very young the frig at the cottage was an actual “ice box”. My mom would have a milkman deliver the huge block of ice, along with our dairy products. I can still remember that, seeing those large tongs they used to haul the block of ice. A bit later, prior to the electricity installation, the ice box was replaced with a propane frig.
So, for many years, during the summer we had no television. My friends would ask how we could get through the summer without it, but we really did not miss it. My mom had a transistor radio and we used to listen to the stations from New York City and Long Island. We would also play board games or cards, especially if there was a rainy day.
The addition to the cottage that was started about 1968 was not the typical building addition. There was a place in Warwick Neck near Rocky Point, in Warwick, that had several old cottages that used to be rented out. They were selling off the cottages “to be moved”. My parents bought one, probably got it for a real good price. I can remember that “moving” process quite clearly even though I was only about 10 years old at the time. We had rented a big U-haul truck. The Warwick cottage was dismantled, literally piece by piece and each board was labeled. Then the pieces were shipped down to Charlestown with the U-Haul truck and offloaded.
The addition was “reconstructed” piece by piece. The flooring was new construction as was the roof joists, etc. The addition was three small bedrooms, the bathroom, closet and porch. The additional support piers were hand-constructed, just like the ones under the front room, and the cesspool was hand constructed.
As I mentioned above, it was at this time that we had electric installed for the first time. It started slowly though, with only lights in the kitchen at first and the rest was added over time (very slowly I might add) and then insulation was added to the house.
Beginning in 1974, after the apartment house in Warwick was sold, my parents made the cottage their year-round home from that point onward.
For many years, we had no typical running water at the cottage. In the kitchen was a hand pump to retrieve our well water. The hand pump remained actively used until about 1986, or so. Often, it was necessary to “prime” the pump to bring the flow of water. It was the best tasting water around. For any hot water needed for bathing and dishwashing, it was boiled in the kettle on the stove.
Prior to the “running” water, we had to use buckets of water to flush the toilet. Referring back to the rain barrels used for watering the gardens…after the bathroom was added, the water collection barrels came in handy for filling the flushing buckets, helping to conserve on the well water. Otherwise, we had to fill them using the hand pump.
It was kind of a sad day when that hand pump in the kitchen was replaced with “running water” and the modern-style fixtures and plumbing. A hot water tank was added, as well.
Over time, the walls were finished and part of the wall was opened up, removing a bedroom but expanding the living room area.
After my dad retired, my parents enjoyed a little bit of traveling. They attended many annual reunions of my dad’s military service unit, some of which I have written in my previous blog story about his service. You may read that piece via this link: My Dad: A Soldier of World War II.
In 1986 or 1987, my parents were able to take a trip to England for the first time. My mom was so happy to finally see the area where her “father” was from and get together with family members there. They had a wonderful time. The picture below was taken of my parents on their England trip.
My dad passed away in 1997, my mom had quite the time to care for him during has last couple of years. He had taken a fall about a year and a half earlier and never really walked after that. We do not know if he had suffered a slight stroke or what. He was very stubborn when it came to medical care, refusing to go to the doctor which made it tough on all of us.
In Oct. of 1998, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and had emergency surgery followed by another surgery two months later. During her final year, I was her primary caregiver. The above picture was taken of the both of us during that final year.
My mom had visiting nurses and CNA’s that would come to assist in her care and they all enjoyed their time spent with her. They would indicate how kind my mom was and how much it was appreciated since many of their patients treated them otherwise. Even during her time of illness, she put forth that extra effort. She passed away in Sept. of 1999.
When I think about the current day times, I usually find that people want things done quick and easy–wanting to put in little to no effort. When I think about all the effort my mom put into things it really puts a new perspective in my thoughts. Sometimes that effort is a choice and sometimes it is a necessity. Don’t be afraid to put in that extra effort, it may be time well spent.
Until next time…