At the age of eighty-eight, my adoptive grandmother, Bertha L. Watts (Gra Gra) wrote a poem about her dear friend Helen L. (Sykes) Woolsey (1907-1998). I have mentioned in previous blog postings that Gra Gra was a poet. Her mind was sharp as a tack right up to the end. To be able to write such a poem at an advanced age shows how clear her mind was. However, she was legally blind well before that point; so, it meant that she would have had to dictate the poem to someone else and then someone typed it up for her.
Bertha was born on September 12th, 1891 so I thought it would be a fitting tribute to display her poem on this day. My featured postcard was one given to Bertha for her birthday in 1908. The card was blank on the message side but I think it may be from her cousin Martin James as he commonly sent postcards with the glitter writing. The postcard is embossed and was copyrighted in 1907 by R. Sander, in N.Y.
I remember Helen very well. She was a kind and gentle soul and always seemed to have a calm demeanor. I have spent some time researching a little bit of her genealogy and had originally intended to incorporate that into this writing. But, I was able to find out some interesting things particularly about her father and have decided to break that information into one or more additional postings.
One of the church groups that both Helen and Bertha belonged to was the Congregational Church Club at Riverpoint Congregational Church, in West Warwick, RI. I have included a photo of that group taken between 1970-80, shown at the end of this blog following the poem. I possess two separate written histories of Riverpoint Cong’l Church. One of them was written by Wilton Hudson who was the editor for many years at the Pawtuxet Valley Times–his wife is also in the photo. There is information in that history that includes Helen and her mother, as they were both involved with the church at various points. I want to include some of that information in my future stories.
Here is the poem, shown below in image form taken from a scanning of the original sheets. I worked on typing the poem into the body of the blog but I was having issues with the technical end of things and I could not get it to present correctly in the form of a poem and I was getting too tired to figure it out. That said, I hope the words in the images are large enough to read or can be zoomed in to make large enough to read.
Below is the photo of the CC Club. Helen Woolsey is the second from the right, in blue.
The information I have on the reserve side of the above photo says that the lady on the far right is Elizabeth James. Aunt Elizabeth was sister-in-law to Bertha–wife of Uncle Lionel but she died in 1971 and I don’t think this photo is quite that old. And it is very difficult to tell in this picture if it is her for sure, I think it is possibly someone else but I am not sure. The reverse of the photo is stamped as developed in May 1980 but that was back in the day of film which was not always developed right after a picture was taken. Or, it could have been a copy made from a negative. That is why in the early part of the blog above I said the photo was some time between 1970-80.
This tribute piece has been a long time in the making — 21 years to be exact.
Today is the day!
My eldest brother, Mark Wm. Lindall, was eight years older than myself. Born in the fall of ’49, he was a born “talker”.
His life’s work depended on his gift of gab and his quality of diction. It was quite devastating when he needed surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his tongue. It was a while before he was able to speak after the surgery and he had to go through speech therapy which helped a lot. In the meantime, he used to write out his messages on a large yellow tablet, I still have most of them. His life was cut way too short on August 12, 2000, at the age of 50, the chemo treatments were not successful in his case.
Like most siblings, during our growing years, his teasing could be relentless at times. Mark was always a kid at heart but with our age difference, we had more association with each other as adults than we did as children. There were a few exceptions, like animals and family vacations, to name a couple.
My brother was in 4-H Club and he raised rabbits and ducks as part of that. In addition, he raised pollywogs as they grew into bull frogs. At one time, I can remember there being 14 rabbits and 4 ducks. One of the ducks was a male Mallard, named Perry that was unable to live in the wild.
Even though the rabbits and ducks “belonged” to Mark, I was their keeper for as far back as I can remember. It was my responsibility to feed them, every day, and keep the cages clean. I wrote some background about the animals in previous blog pieces, I will list those links at the end of this piece. The picture on the left below is Gra Gra with Mark.
I found a few pictures from some of the real old family vacations. I had remembered, just barely, that we had visited Niagara Falls and I remember we saw some buffalo in that area.
We commonly went camping and it was an old Army tent in our younger years. I think the picture here below was taken in the Lake George area.
I can remember visiting the old Catskill Game Farm in New York state a few times over the years and I think that is the location of these below pictures with the animals. If not, they are from northern New England somewhere.
In the Summer of ’67, we took a two-week family vacation traveling throughout Pennsylvania. At that time, my dad was working at Leesona and he typically had the last week in July and first week in August off for vacation. He had bought a nice blue 1964 Olds ’88 station wagon, not long before the trip. He also bought a new, much larger, tent and storage container that would sit on the roof racks.
Along for the Pa. trip were my paternal grandparents, so that meant there were seven people total in that car for two weeks. I had to ride in the back-end, cushioned with plenty of “stuff” around me. At some point, I will do a story on this trip–as it is worthy–and I have Grammy’s journal notes from the trip, as well.
In preparing for writing this piece, strangely enough, I actually located a postcard that my brother Mark sent to Gra Gra while we were on the Pennsylvania trip. I have featured the back side of the postcard, this time, because it is the written message that is most important to this posting. The front side of the card shows a picture of IKE, the 34th President.
The postcard was distributed by L.E. Smith Wholesale Distributors, Gettysburg, Pa. and was a published “Plastichrome” by Colourpicture Publishers, Inc., Boston 30, Mass., U.S.A. It has typed: “Greetings from historic Gettysburg” Home of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
This card was postmarked, August 9,1967, from Wellsboro, Pa., while we were on that family vacation and at that time, Mark was 17 years old, going on 18.
The message is in my brother’s own handwriting and says:
Dear Indian Grandma, At the present time I am located in Wellsboro, PA. This evening I just walked into the local radio establishment and made friends “emediately”. They asked if I had a reservation, (not really) I said I skipped the reservation. –Mark
As you can tell from my brother’s message, he was not a very good speller. But, he was very much into radio. His experience began by reporting his high school sports on the local Country & Western station WYNG, in Warwick. Under the watchful eyes of Dave Stackhouse, my brother soaked in the technical side of radio, learning the engineering it took to actually make the broadcast happen.
It was not long before my brother and a close friend began a local station in Charlestown, operating during the summer months for a few years. Mark also worked, on Sundays, for a few years at WSUB, in Groton and later worked for them selling commercial spots.
The other part of my brother’s message on the postcard refers to Gra Gra as our “Indian Grandma”, something Mark was extremely proud of. He intertwined his life with the Native culture and traditions of the Narragansett Tribe.
He and I used to walk the mile in, along the gravel road, to attend the church on the grounds over the course of several summers.
Mark was a big believer in education. He attended and graduated from Rhode Island Junior College (now CCRI) back in the days when they only had the Providence Campus. He went by bus every day. Luckily, we lived on a bus line. He continued his education, earning a Bachelor degree from Roger Williams University, in Bristol. A few years later, he earned a Master’s of Education from URI.
He has helped many young people along the way, whether it be advising on their schooling options or working with groups like the Boy Scouts. My dad had been a scout leader for several years and Mark did a lot of work with the troop, as well.
My brother never married. I think his heart was completely broken once and he never quite filled that hole. He had a couple of girl friends later on but I remember he had a serious girl friend when I was still pretty young. I believe her name was Faith and I remember she came down to the cottage and went swimming with us at the beach. Her family was leaving for Panama, so she had no choice but to leave with them.
In his younger days, Mark used to walk for miles and he had a very distinctive walk, with wide swinging arms. I had a rather strange feeling, just recently, when I spotted a young man with almost an exact duplicate of my brother’s walk.
My brother loved to fish, mostly in fresh water. He also went ice fishing in the winter months.
If I could express anything from the lessons of the final months of my brother’s life it would be these two things:
First, keep up with your dental visits, I had not been aware before my brother’s illness that it is actually your dentist that will discover issues with your mouth, such as a tumor, and you want to catch any issues as soon as possible. My brother had not been to the dentist for a long time due to no insurance so when his tumor was discovered the cancer had already progressed too far.
Second, this one comes from my brother’s final days when he expressed such regret for not getting to visit the places on his so-called “bucket list”. Don’t put off seeing places or doing things you really want to do.
On a closing note: Over these past twenty-one years, since my brother Mark has been gone, I have done my best to experience a few adventures, both big and small.
A pleasant ring is brought to my ears whenever I hear the mention of Old Orchard Beach, located on the southern coast of Maine. An abundance of fond memories come forth in my mind–from vacation stopovers of childhood days to a penny-pinching camping trip with my own children.
This blog posting will be a short focus on the Hotel Velvet as displayed in my featured postcard with the addition of some background history on Old Orchard Beach (OOB).
The Hotel Velvet was destroyed in a fire on August 15th, 1907. According to the handwritten message on the postcard, this hotel was the largest of 77 buildings that were burned to the sand on that Thursday evening. “We saw the ruins still burning Fri. afternoon” said the message on the card.
The Hotel Velvet was originally known as Hotel Emerson. The hotel opened on July 1, 1899 and was located at the corner of East Grand Avenue and Old Orchard Street.
The hotel was owned by H. Hildreth, who was a candy maker known for making Molasses “velvet” kisses. The candy was wrapped in red and yellow paper and packaged into yellow boxes; the hotel had been painted yellow and red to match.
The area of Old Orchard Beach, is located at the mouth of the Saco and Goosefare rivers and this region was inhabited by some of the Abenaki tribe prior to the settlement of European occupants. Thomas Rogers officially settled this area in 1657.
The postcard was postmarked August 17, 1907. The card contains a handwritten message but is not addressed to anyone, nor is it signed. This card was published by The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers, Portland, ME (1904-1909), U.S.A.; printed in Frankfort, Germany; card number 4854.
The Old Orchard Beach area has long been known as a tourist destination. The rail service began in 1842 running from Boston to Portland.
The well-known pier opened in July of 1898, it included a casino at the very end, a structure of 1825 feet, built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company. It was partially damaged by a storm in late fall of 1898. The Casino was rebuilt in 1899 but the entrance was destroyed during the same fire that destroyed the Hotel Velvet in 1907. Again, rebuilding repairs were made in 1908 but much was lost to the great storm of March 1909. Afterward, the casino was reduced down to 1000 feet in length
During the 1940s, this area was very popular with my parents. I think it was my mom’s very favorite place and she spoke fondly of it, very often, over the years. The Casino Ballroom, on that pier, was known to hold as many as 5,000 people. It hosted moving picture shows and live entertainment.
There have been several storms over the years to affect the Pier. The casino was razed in 1970 and the blizzard of 1978 destroyed the remaining portion of that pier.
The current-day pier re-opened in 1980, containing shops and restaurants. It is 500 feet in length over the ocean.
As mentioned above, my mom spoke often of the enjoyment she experienced at OOB during its “heyday”. If all goes well, I will have some new blog posts very soon beginning with an introductory posting that will include some pictures of my mom and her friends when they visited OOB during the mid-1940s. My dad was in the military at the time and I have one of those fold-out souvenir cards from OOB that my mom had addressed to my dad in the service.
My plan is to feature that fold-out card in a blog piece. That first story shall lead into a short series of postings focused on my dad’s military service group and some details about their reunions held during the 1980s and 1990s. To date, I have already put in a good deal of time working on that project but I am not sure when I will be completely ready to roll it all out.
In the meantime, I may try to churn out a couple of shorter writings, such as these “One Postcard Saturdays”.
Until next time…
gotravelmaine.com/history-of-old-orchard-beach-pier/; accessed 29 May 2021.
mainememory.net/artifact/51263 and 51278; accessed 29 May 2021.
metropostcard.com/publishers.html; accessed 03 July 2021.
Over a morning cup of tea–which I was only allowed during my weekend visits with my grandmother (Gra Gra)–the stories were learned of the “old” days when they had dishware give-aways at the movie theaters. She had quite the dish collection from these weekly movie shows, including many from the days of silent films.
Gra Gra was quite theatrical at heart. She directed Minstrel shows prior to the second World War. They ended those show productions because so many of the young men had to go off to war. A large trunk in the basement contained costume items which she would go through with me from time-to-time, reminiscing all the while of which costume belonged to which show. Although I no longer have the costumes, somewhere within all the old stuff that I do have are some posters from a few of those shows. My mom had appeared in some of those productions and I remember seeing her listed on the posters as a singer. When I eventually uncover those posters, again, they would be something nice to share within this blog.
Over the years, there have been three old theaters in the West Warwick area of Rhode Island, that I know of anyway. I am not certain which movie theater Gra Gra attended most often during that time she collected all the “free” dishware. Nor, do I know which theater held those minstrel shows she directed (at least until I find those posters again). However, the oldest theater in town was called Thornton’s and was located in the Riverpoint section of town. This theater opened in 1895 and was destroyed by fire in 1910. The original building was replaced by a new theater but then was demolished in 1968.
In the Arctic section of town, the Majestic Theatre opened in 1901. It replaced a previous theater which was destroyed by fire. The theater was part of the Majestic Building, which is pictured on the postcard shown below and I remember as a hardware store. The theater portion of the building closed in the late-1920s and the entire building was demolished in the late 1990s.
The third old theater in West Warwick was also in the Arctic section of town, it was called the Palace Theater and was located at 85 Washington Street. This 1000-seat theater opened in 1921 and had been demolished by the end of the 1980’s.
MOTION PICTURE CAMERA AND SILENT FILM
The motion picture camera was invented by Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931). He made a patent application in 1891 for what was called a Kinetograph and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture peephole viewer. He went on to adopt a projector developed by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins and called it the Vitascope, which premiered on April 23, 1896.
Although the Silent film era is usually noted as occurring from 1910 to 1929, the first silent film was actually made in 1903 (with multiple-reel films appearing in the US as early as 1907). This first silent film was titled: The Great Train Robbery and was produced by Edwin Porter and published by the Edison Manufacturing Co.
By 1916, in the US, there were more than 21,000 movie theaters.
My featured postcard today is a real photo style card showing Silent film star, Mary Pickford. By 1914, Mary became “the world’s highest-paid actress” and was soon afterward referred to as “The Queen of the Movies”.
Mary Pickford, was named Gladys Louise Smith at birth. She was born in Toronto, Canada, on April 8, 1892 and died on May 29, 1979, in California. Gladys was the daughter of John Charles and Charlotte (Hennessey) Smith.
Her middle name was changed to Marie in 1896 by a Catholic priest when Gladys became sick with diphtheria. She had two siblings: a sister Charlotte Smith, also known as, Lottie Pickford and a brother John Charles Smith, Jr., also known as, Jack Pickford.
Their father, John Charles Smith died in 1898 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
In 1900, Gladys made her stage debut at the Princess Theatre, in Toronto.
It was in 1907 that theatrical producer David Belasco suggested Gladys change her name to Mary Pickford. The last name being inspired from her maternal grandfather’s name, John Pickford Hennessey. Her mother and siblings took the last name of Pickford, as well.
In 1909, Mary performed in her first film, Her First Biscuits. It was during this time that she met her future husband, actor Owen Moore (1911-1920). They married on January 7th, 1911 in a secret ceremony, in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In 1912, the Famous Players Company was started by Adolph Zukor and in 1913, Mary played the role of Julia in her first feature-length film, A Good Little Devil for this new company. The film was actually released in 1914.
Notice along the bottom section of the front side of the postcard shown above, (as well as on the postcard shown below) the words printed: “MARY PICKFORD Appearing Exclusively in Famous Players Film Co. Productions”. The Famous Players Company formed a merger, in July 1916, with Jesse L. Lasky’s Feature Play Company, becoming Famous Players-Lasky. So, that would lead me to assume that both of these postcards would date prior to 1916, most likely sometime between 1913 to 1916. Both postcards were “unused”–no postmarks and no writing.
The back side of my featured postcard (shown first above) has the publisher printed as Kraus Manufacturing Co. (1912-1930), New York, NY. The second card (shown just above) does not show a publisher on the back. Kraus was known to publish halftone lithographic view-cards and cards related to the theater.
Both postcards have some fine print on the front indicating that each photo had been taken by the Otto Sarony Co and each are numbered. My featured card is numbered 10 and the second card is numbered 20.
Otto Sarony (1850-1903) was a photographer during the timeframe of 1875 to 1903. Although his name appears on the postcards they were most likely taken by a different photographer. In 1902, Otto sold the right to his name to Theodore C. Marceau. Otto died in September of 1903 and afterward the Otto Sarony label issued photographs taken by other photographers. In 1906, the Marceau Studio merged with the Otto Sarony Studio.
In August 1916, Mary formed the Mary Pickford Film Corporation and produced only Pickford films.
On March 28, 1920 Mary married Douglas Fairbanks (1920-1936), in California. They were the first stars to get their hands and feet imprinted in cement at the Grauman’s Theater, in 1927, in Hollywood. They were among the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Doug being the first elected president.
Mary’s mother Charlotte died on March 21, 1928 of breast cancer.
Mary’s first “talking picture” feature Coquette premiered on April 12, 1929, which would earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress the following year.
Her brother, Jack, died on January 3, 1933, at age 36, in Paris and her sister, Lottie, died on December 9, 1936, of a heart attack.
On June 24, 1937, Mary married Charles “Buddy” Rogers (1937-1979). They adopted a son in May of 1943, Ronald Charles Pickford Rogers and a daughter, Roxanne Pickford Rogers, in 1944.
Her autobiography Sunshine and Shadow was published in 1955.
In 1956, the Mary Pickford Charitable Trust began and was later renamed the Mary Pickford Foundation.
Her films are housed at the Library of Congress, she hoped they would be of interest for future generations. In January of 1979, Mary placed her memorabilia collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library to establish “The Mary Pickford Collection”, allowing for use by students and scholars.
Mary Pickford passed away on May 29, 1979 after having suffered a stroke.
During my research, I did find where there have been several years of an event called the “Annual Mary Pickford Celebration of Silent Film” with some years in collaboration with other entertainment-related organizations. Due to all the restrictions of this past year, I don’t think that it took place this time around. The event may be something to watch for in the future if that is of your interest.
If you would like to learn more about Mary or the Mary Pickford Foundation, see their website at: marypickford.org
Britannica; History of Film; britannica.com/art/history-of-the-motion-picture/The-silent-years-1910-27; Accessed 21 March 2021.
Cinema Treasures; cinematreasures.org/theaters/united-states/rhode-island/west-warwick; Accessed 21 March 2021.
Library of Congress; Film, Video; Barnes, J. D. , Cast, et al. The Great Train Robbery. prod by Porter, Edwin S. Uction, Camera United States: Edison Manufacturing Co, 1903. Video; loc.gov/item/00694220/; Accessed 20 March 2021.
Library of Congress. Life of Thomas Alva Edison; Biography; Articles and Essays; loc.gov/collections/edison-company-motion-pictures-and-sound-recordings/articles-and-essays/biography/life-of-thomas-alva-edison/; Accessed 21 March 2021.
Mary Pickford Foundation; marypickford.org/mary-pickford-chronology/; Accessed 19 and 20 March 2021.
The MetroPostcard; Metropostcard.com/publishersk.html; Accessed 20 March 2021.
Photography & The American Stage; broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/otto-sarony; Accessed 20 March 2021.
As this new year begins, I feel a large dimension of hope for both myself and our community at-large. It is my sincere hope that better times are in store for us all, that these current pandemic days will soon be in the rearview mirror.
Early on in this unfolding new year, I have a good deal of hope for making progress in my family research, especially in determining ties to my mother’s biological family. In addition, I hope to further my research on my paternal side, adding to my genealogical tree.
As for my blog writings, I hope to complete posts more often than I have in the past. The content focus of each writing may vary and probably will not go in a sequential order; however, I will put links to previous posts that are related in nature, as needed.
There are many stories I have yet to tell. There are so many things I have yet to learn.
Last time, I spoke of Grammy Alice (link posted below) and her travel journals. My plan is to cover some of these travel stories in upcoming posts. Also, I need to complete further research on her family tree and would like to share some of that on this blog.
If I should be so fortunate as to make a definite determination on my mother’s biological parents and family, I will be sharing that, as well.
There are many stories still harboring in the ancestral tree of my adoptive grandmother (Gra Gra). Recently, I read a statement from someone online that indicated the importance of telling the family stories on behalf of those like Gra Gra that have no blood offspring. After many years of research, I have uncovered a few untold stories and some of the passed-down stories I have yet to prove.
For today’s posting, I have chosen two different New Year greeting postcards. I believe both were given or sent to Aunt Etta (Henrietta James Hooper). The sender’s of these cards are not members of her family, but after a little research I have been able to correctly identify them and provide a limited amount of their family background.
My featured postcard is repeated below, it contains a verse on the front as follows:
Happy New Year.
This year, next year, every year
I wish you all of life’s good cheer.
This postcard was published by the Owen Card Publishing Co. (1915-1927), of Elmira, NY. They published greeting and holiday postcards. On the front of the card is series number 534B.
The card is signed as sent by Mr. and Mrs. Orestes T. Doe. There is no postmark on the card.
In 1897, Orestes T. Doe, of Franklin, Mass., was named as Trial Justice for Norfolk County. Born in Parsonfield, Maine, Orestes died on January 5th, 1930 at the age of 65. He had presided on the District Court level for 31 years. At the time of death, his residence was listed as 29 School St., in Franklin. He had been a graduate of Boston Law School and belonged to fraternities including the Masons and Odd Fellows. At one time he had served as a town clerk.
Orestes T. Doe was married to Mabel P. Dow and they had three sons: Kenneth, Robert and D.B. Doe.
Their son, Kenneth married Lila Winchester, of Rutland, Vermont, on August 12th, 1930. Lila was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Winchester. Lila had a sister named Ada. Kenneth died at age 81, on March 20, 1983, in Portland, Maine. At that time he was living at Gooserocks Beach, Kennebunkport but was listed as formerly living in Franklin, Mass. Kenneth and Lila had one daughter and two grandchildren.
With my limited research time spent, the only additional information I uncovered regarding the other sons of Orestes and Mabel were that they had all been residents of Franklin at one time and were all lawyers.
The second New Year greeting postcard for this blog posting is shown below. It has a verse on the front as follows:
I wish you all good fortune,
Which twelve long months may give;
With loyal friends to cheer you,–
And a long, long life to live!
A Happy New Year
This postcard was published by Stecher Litho Co. (1887-1936), it has a series number 1605A. It was postmarked December 29, 1916, from Milford, Mass. The card was sent to Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Hooper (Aunt Etta and her husband) and the sender was Mrs. L. L. Milliken.
After a little research, I have uncovered the sender as Mrs. Lloyd L. Milliken. Her maiden name was Mary Evelyn Cahoon and she married Lloyd on April 14th, 1904, in Taunton, Mass. She was the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George P. Cahoon. Her father was the former superintendent of the Taunton Wire Nail Co.
Mary Milliken was prominent in social circles and had been a stenographer and had an office in the Crocker Building. Lloyd Milliken, at the time of marriage, was in charge of the Hartshorn Farm, on Dean Street, in Taunton.
My research found that there was a historic house located at 68 Dean St., in Taunton, originally built in 1798 for Abiezar Dean. In 1905, the house was purchased by George Hartshorn. It was placed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1984, known as the Dean-Hartshorn House. In the current day, the home exists as a senior nursing facility.
So, my curiosity is somewhat cured to have learned a little bit about the senders of each of these two postcards. It also speaks to genealogy clues that might be found on old postal items such as postcards or letters.
My paternal grandmother, Alice (Holden) Lindall “Grammy” was born on this day, December 28th, in 1901. She died on December 6th, 1985–just shy of her 84th birthday. She was married to James B. Lindall (1898-1972), also known as “Grampy”.
The picture of Grammy below was taken in 1975.
Below is a picture of Jim and Alice in 1919.
As I remember it, Grammy was never very idle. In the evenings, while sitting in her chair, her hands were always in motion with knitting or crocheting. She made all kinds of things with yarn: afghans by making squares and then lacing them together; covers for throw pillows, slipper socks, baby booties and blankets. One time she made me a beautiful purple poncho shawl, as seen in the (slightly blurry) picture below, my dad standing in back of me–I still have that shawl.
Grammy was also quite the seamstress, she made most all of her own clothes. She also took in mending, I remember people dropping off and picking up items she would repair or hem. Back in the early days, I can remember her using a vintage treadle sewing machine for quite some time before upgrading to a newer cabinet electric model. Also, I remember the day she sold it–must have been bittersweet for her.
When I was young, I can remember Grammy working full time which was not very common for women at that time. She worked for Leviton Mfg. in Warwick and retired in 1962. She was active in the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and I can remember she worked at the polls on Election Day.
When Christmas came around, we looked forward to Grammy’s individual homemade pork pies on Christmas Eve and her traditional plum pudding after dinner on Christmas (and usually on Thanksgiving, too). The plum pudding was made the year before and left to age for a year, served warm with “hard” sauce which was usually made by Auntie (sister to T. Wm. Watts). There was a recurring family joke for many years after Auntie fumbled with the brandy bottle one year, adding a bit too much to the sauce she made that time–she never lived that one down and it made for yearly laughs.
Every year on Christmas, Grammy would make an array of homemade candy, fudge, individual fruit cakes and cookies, everyone would get their own little parcel of goodies. Other times of year she would make special things like daffodil or angel food cake. So much work goes into things like that and how I miss them so.
Our Christmas gifts from Grammy and Grampy were always wrapped in the thin-style curling ribbon around both sides, usually soft-sided, no boxes. She would typically give each one a new sweatshirt or other items of need. I always had a red sweatshirt because I like wearing red coats–still do. My dad’s was usually the gray sweatshirt.
My family was big on fishing and the sweatshirts came in handy down by the water. During these fishing outings, I can remember that Grammy usually had her portable transistor radio tuned in to the Boston Red Sox game, she was a huge fan.
There was always a special candy dish upstairs at my grandparents with nice hard candies. My middle brother and I used to go back and forth with each other trying to figure out who was going to be the one to ask if we could have a piece of that candy. It seems that we always had to muster up the courage to ask–not sure why.
My grandparents had a dog named Lindy, shown below, I still remember her pretty well. She was a puppy of our dog Domino, the first dog that I remember in my family.
When traveling, Grammy liked to keep a journal as a record memory of the trip. Recently, I have found several of them. My plan would be to focus on some of these travel adventures in future writings. In addition, Grammy loved to take photos so I have a ton of them. She was very good about labeling the backs so most are easy to identify. The picture below is of my grandparents, taken in 1964, in New Hampshire.
Grammy was a daughter of John Holden (1865-1942) and Elizabeth (Wilde) Holden (1864-1938), shown in the photo below. Both of her parents were born in England. Alice had several siblings. Since I wanted to limit my focus today to this birthday introduction to Grammy Alice, I will explore more of her family tree in future writings.
John and Elizabeth Holden are buried in the Apponaug section of Warwick, RI. They were living in the Pontiac section prior to death. A partial photo of their headstone is shown here below.
Grammy grew up in Providence and at some point moved to Warwick where she remained the rest of her days, in various sections of the city. She and my grandfather never owned a home of their own. Although I am unsure of the exact timeframe, my grandparents and my dad lived in the Oakland Beach section of Warwick; it would have been during the 1920s and 1930s, prior to the 1938 Hurricane. Over the years, I have found items related to my dad’s school days that indicate he was living in Oakland Beach during part of his school years, at least. They moved from there to the Pontiac section.
My featured postcard image, which is also shown below, is of the King’s Daughters Cottage, in Oakland Beach, RI; also known as the Emily L. Chace Memorial Home. This postcard was from about 1910 and was published by the B.Y. & Co., made in Germany. I chose this image because of the Oakland Beach tie in. After a brief search, I was not able to find anything of substance to share regarding this house. Since I did not want to focus too much time and attention on that today, it is possible that I may find something of interest to share in the future; if so, I will make reference back to this postcard at that time.
After the end of World War II, my grandparents moved to the Greenwood section of Warwick, to a second floor apartment. My parents moved in to the first floor apartment soon after they married. So, I grew up with my grandparents living upstairs until I was in about 6th grade when they moved into the brand new senior housing (at that time) West Shore Terrace, over on West Shore Road–they were among the first residents.
Grammy was very active at the Terrace and became president for a while of their association. After Grampy died in 1972, she was able to travel more. She became a coordinator for many senior trips which I believe also earned her a free spot if she could recruit enough to fill the bus or plane. One of her trips was to Hawaii and the picture below was taken on that trip.
In the near future, my hope is to explore some of her trip journals here in my blog posts and also to explore more of her family tree.
In the meantime, I am sending out this birthday remembrance with a few memories. She is greatly missed.
When I think of Christmastime, from years gone by, it surely brings to mind my Aunt May and Uncle Vin.
For several years, that I can remember, my family would visit their house around the holiday. My memories of these visits include watching “home movies” which was a pretty cool thing when I was a kid.
As I got a little older, we no longer made these regular visits; however, they continued to send us each a gift every year. It always made me feel “special” to open their gift and mom would make sure we wrote thank-you notes of appreciation. I saved some of these gifts for many years and thought of them each time I came across one.
Of course, there were times other than holidays that I was fortunate enough to visit their home. One time, I remember being there when a solar eclipse was happening, mid-day, and it got really dark and eerie outside. As time went on, I feel there should have been more effort on my part to visit on a regular basis–I always feel badly about that.
Aunt May was always a very gracious hostess. They had a finished basement area where they commonly held gatherings. I can remember being there with Gra Gra on a few occasions, downstairs, watching Aunt May as she arranged her floral display. It seems that she really enjoyed arranging flowers as that is something that really sticks out in my mind. I remember her as a very kind and gentle person.
May Clare was born in 1903 and married Vincent C. James on Oct. 28, 1926. She died in 1984. I remember that she had been in a nursing facility for quite a while prior to her death.
Vincent C. James was born on Nov. 30, 1901 and was half brother to Gra Gra (Bertha James Watts). He died early March of 1997, at age 95. My dad died in the same month. My dad had been basically housebound for several months, not really able to walk, but he insisted we get him to Uncle Vin’s funeral. That tells the content story of Uncle Vin’s character.
The picture below was taken in 1948, at my parents wedding. Uncle Vin is the one shown between my mom and dad. His brother Lester is shown between my dad and their sister Bertha (Gra Gra).
His parents were George L.P. James (1869-1926) and Susan Mary Henrich (1876-1956). Vincent lived in the Riverpoint area of West Warwick, Rhode Island, for most all of his life. Shown in the picture below with their mother, Vincent is the taller boy on the right and his brother Lester is on the left.
My featured postcard was sent to Vincent in 1915 so he would have been 14 years old at the time. He looks close to that age in the photo above. The sender of the postcard was Cousin Frances. She was the daughter of Helen (Lena) Henrich Strople-Roessler and Leon Strople. Lena and Francis are in the picture below.
Frances was born on Nov. 11, 1911, so she was only four years old when the postcard was sent.
By looking at the handwriting on the postcard, I believe that it was actually completed by the grandmother Frances (Schlosstein) Henrich because it is not Lena’s handwriting. Lena and Leon were married in 1910 and were living in Wrentham. They later divorced. Lena and baby Frances moved back to Plainville and was living with Lena’s mother Frances at Bacon Square. I believe they were living there at the time this postcard was written. To learn more about Lena, please read my previous post: What’s in a Name, Lena Henrich? and for a few more Christmas postcards within the James Family, please read post: James Family Christmas Postcards, Early 1900s.
Shown above is a sample of Lena’s handwriting from a different postcard. It is very different compared to the actual card that was sent to Vincent, shown below. The message reads: “I wish you a very Merry Xmas. Your Loving Cousin Frances.”
This postcard was published by the Stecher Lithographic Co. (1887-1936), of Rochester, NY. Around the turn of the century, they were producing artist-drawn holiday postcards. On the front of my featured postcard are the artists’ initials of M.E.P. which I believe to be that of illustrator and artist Margaret Evans Price (1888-1973). She went on to co-found the Fisher-Price Toys in 1930 with her husband, Irving Price and partner Herman Fisher.
Often, Uncle Vin would share a piece of his wisdom with us. One time, I can remember he was sitting in a chair in Gra Gra’s living room–maybe, after a family funeral, not sure–he made a remark to me that I would never have to worry about going hungry, that my parents would make sure of it.
Throughout his years, Uncle Vin would often write a “Letter to the Editor” piece that would appear in the local paper, including during the WWII era. On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was attacked by Japanese forces, at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The day after the attack, the U.S. entered into World War II.
In support of our soldiers, Uncle Vin wrote the following poem, in 1942, for the Remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day.
CHRISTMAS — 1942 Written by the late Vincent C. James
The smoke of war is in the air, Our boys are marching everywhere, Old Hirohito sneaked a crack, And shoved a dagger in our back.
Our Coffee, Gas, and Sugar is short We lie like hell, but all for naught Our houses cold at sixty five We watch in dread for Mercury’s dive.
We can’t get tires to save our steps, Our meat is scarce, we’re in the depths, We’ve signed a thousand questionnaires They come in singles, threes, and pairs.
We worry about the money we earn ‘Cause next year’s tax will be tough we learn We can’t drink gin our worries to drown ‘Cause the price is way, way up–not down.
In spite of this long tale of woe And as time flies we know ’twill grow We know we’re still Americans yet With a love for Country that’s real, you bet
And so we find the cash for Bonds, To buy the boats that cross the ponds, We work long hours and slave and sweat, And we’ll lick the damned old Axis yet.
But bigger yet is the job we’ll do When we turn to God when we’re feeling blue And His blessings will shower on all of us here As we look to the start of another New Year.
So let’s build up cheer for this Christmas to come And keep up morale while our factories hum We don’t want to let all our Service men down So turn on the smiles, tho’ bad news bids us frown.
And we’ll find that this year, more than ever before That the Spirit of Christmas to our boys will mean more If we keep our chins up, those of us over here, Bringing true Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
I am grateful for the memories of holidays past and glad that I am able to share my family stories with you, including the one that follows. In today’s blog, I share a Thanksgiving Greetings postcard that was sent by Gra Gra (Bertha) and her brother Lionel to their grandmother (Grandma Julia), in Plainville, Mass.
The publisher of this postcard is not clearly identified, so I am not sure on that but it was postmarked in 1909 from Riverpoint (West Warwick), R.I. At the time this card was sent, Bertha would have been 18 years old and Lionel age 17. To me, it looks like Lionel’s handwriting on the card.
His handwritten message reads:
Love from your two big grandchildren. Lionel & Bertha.
Julia Ann Moore James (1836-1914) was a nurse as shown in the picture below. I have not yet identified who the other lady might be, whether it was a co-worker or a family member, I am not certain at this time.
Bertha Lillian (1891-1983) and Lionel Henry (1892-1969) were two of five children born to George Lang Parkhurst James (1869-1926). In addition to Bertha and Lionel, their sibling Howard Allan James (1894-1963) was the third child born to Martha Ella Carr James Cady (1873-1920). George and Martha were divorced in 1894. Since Martha had limited means, the two older children were placed with George and the baby Howard was allowed to remain with his mother.
The below pictures are identified, as follows: the top larger block is Bertha at 8 years old and is the earliest picture of her that I have found to this point, she is also in the picture just to the right of that at age 16 with the hair bow; the lady with the bangs is Martha and George next to her with Julia on the right which is a tin-type photo. I will show some pictures of Lionel further on in this story as I do not readily have a young picture of him.
George remarried to Susan Mary Henrich (1876-1956) and they had two sons together: Vincent Charles James (1901-1997) and Lester Hill James (1905-1996). Susan and the two younger boys are pictured below.
Bertha and Lionel remained close throughout their lives and he used to come to her house to help with things like shoveling snow or little handy tasks that needed tending to. Below is a picture of him after a winter snowstorm standing next to his car.
In my last blog, I mentioned about the summer cottage we had when I was young and we frequently had visitors including Gra Gra and Uncle Lionel. There is a picture below with myself, my brothers, my parents (my dad is hardly visible standing in back) and Bertha and Lionel. In my last blog, I mentioned about the back addition to the cottage and I thought it was about 1968 but this picture is from 1966 and I can see that the addition is already on the back by this point, so it was at least started by 1966.
In my last blog, I also mentioned a swimming area, in the Charlestown Beach area, called “Danger Deep” located at the shack. Below is a picture of Uncle Lionel swimming with us there. I am the blonde-headed kid in the water on the left side of the picture.
Although I am not able to gather with my children and grandchildren on this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful to spend some time sharing my family memories with you. There are previous blogs that I have written that tie into the family members listed here today and I will make a list of those links below.
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.
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.
Much to my surprise (and shock), just about two years ago, it became clear that it appears my mom was actually adopted. To be honest, I had no clue prior to that point and I really do not think she knew either. There is still much research to do in order to “prove it” but hopefully soon I will get a break in the case.
According to an inquiry I made a while back at the RI State Archives office they will receive the 100-year-old birth records for 1920 in the month of January 2021. Whether there will be a delay due to the current health crisis is unknown–hopefully not.
In my blog today, I begin to tell my mom’s story, highlighting some of her background before my time–up until the time she married my dad. My next blog will include some of my personal memories of her. In the future, I hope to share some concrete research findings leading to a true biological maternal genealogy.
“Maid Marian” was born the 28th of August, one hundred years ago, in Cranston (at least that’s what shows on the birth certificate I have). She resided in Rhode Island for all of her days, living in West Warwick prior to marriage (1948), then in Warwick with summers spent in Charlestown Beach. In 1974, she and my dad became full-time Charlestown residents.
My mom, as a baby, is shown in the pictures below with her only known “parents”: Bertha (James) and Thomas William Watts. My page contains previous blogs about Gra Gra and Pop Pop, including: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital.
Many stories were shared to me, over the years, of my mom’s younger days. She was very intelligent and according to what I was told was allowed to skip ahead during her elementary school years–not once but twice. She was a child (and adult) who could not sit still, always on the move or finding ways to keep busy.
My mom grew up in West Warwick, Rhode Island, living mostly in the Fairview Avenue Historic District, known as Phenix, in the northwest corner of the town. There were multiple mill villages in West Warwick and we still refer to the various sections of town by these village names. Phenix was the third smallest of these mill villages.
Specifically, my mom lived in the Carr-LeValley homestead (c. 1722) on Fairview Avenue, from the time she was five years old. She absolutely loved that house, a 1-1/2 story Colonial farmhouse with a gambrel roof. It had a one-story ell at the left side that has since been removed. The house appears in two pictures shown above, one just above this paragraph of my mom on a sled and one further up the page of her riding a tricycle. She spoke of this house often. It is still standing to this day, although the rear attached sections have been removed and the interior is currently gutted. Please see my previous blog for more on this home: LeValley Homestead & Moore’s Motor Service.
There was a portrait painting done of my mom when she was five or six years old, it is shown below. It was painted by a professional artist. From what I was told, it was agony for her to sit still while it was completed. Gra Gra always had the portrait hanging on her dining room wall above an artificial fireplace (there was a real fireplace in the living room).
Since Gra Gra was a 4-H Leader for so many years it would come to pass that my Mom would become involved in 4-H Club activities, as well. She also became a leader at some point and I think she told me the name of her club was the “Sew-and-Sew” Club or should it be “So-and-So”–I am not sure. To the best of my knowledge, it was through 4-H that she met my dad, I think during one of the annual camps they held down at the URI campus. My mom told me often about how she was staying up at the Springfield Fair with the 4-H Club when the 1938 Hurricane hit.
My mom was also a member of the Rainbow Girls during her younger years and she spoke of that experience from time to time.
Both of my parents were members of the 4-H All-Stars and continued to attend some of their events even later in their years. After my dad was retired, they volunteered at the Washington County Fair in the 4-H food booth for many years.
Recently, I came across two of my Mom’s 4-H pins, (shown below). There is also a picture (shown below) of a parade she attended as a youth 4-H member, she is leading the group holding a sign.
She attended the “old” West Warwick High School, in the Westcott “village” section of town, graduating in 1938. Below is shown the cover of her yearbook, which I found to contain many newspaper clippings. She clipped and saved pieces from the paper, over the years, whenever a schoolmate was listed. Tucked inside the yearbook I also found her original Commencement Exercises and Senior Banquet booklets.
According to the yearbook, my mom had a nickname at school, looks like they called her “Wattsie”. Her ambition was listed as Commercial Advertising which was surprising to me but maybe that ties into her artistic abilities then it makes more sense.
For each student, the yearbook listed a “gift”. The class gift to my mom is listed as follows: “We give you these curlers, Marian, to help you preserve your curly hair”.
She participated in the following school activities in the year(s):
Volleyball: 36, 37, 38.
Intramural Basketball: 36, 38.
Glee Club: 36, 37, 38.
Minstrel: 36, 38.
Student Council: 38.
Tennis: 36, 37, 38.
Junior Varsity Basketball: 37, 38.
The original “old” high school was built in 1904-05, located in the Westcott section of town. There was a fire on the third floor several years ago. Below is a newspaper photo from the fire that I found within my mom’s clippings, I am not sure of the exact date (I remember when it happened but not the year). After that time there was an expansion and it was transformed into elderly apartment housing.
My mom was very artistic and during the 1940s she drew the picture, shown below, that I use as my gravatar image, it was drawn on a handmade card she gave to Pop Pop at the time.
My mom used her wonderful artistic talent working in a jewelry factory for a while, hand-painting jewelry pieces, like pins. She was able to keep some of them, I still have a few.
After high school, she worked as a bookkeeper for Universal Winding for six years, prior to marrying my dad.
In the group of four pictures, shown above, the one on the top left was the picture they used for my mom’s yearbook picture. The picture on the top right is her working at Universal Winding. The bottom left was taken during the early 1940s, I think while my dad was in the service. The picture on the bottom right is my mom wearing her high school sweater standing with my dad’s brother Richard.
My mom and dad are shown in the picture above, I think prior to their marriage but not sure of the year. My dad served in Europe during World War II and they had made the decision to wait until he returned before getting married. Previously, I wrote a blog about my dad’s service, please see: My Dad: A Soldier of World War II.
After my dad had returned from his service in the second world war, my parents were married on June 24, 1948. One of their many wedding pictures is shown below.
My mom gave birth to two sons, my older brothers, prior to my arrival.
Next time, I will share some of my own memories of my mom and her unique qualities. The rest of this blog will highlight my featured postcard.
This postcard was published by Arthur Kinsley, Riverpoint, R.I. Made in Germany, about 1915. There is a number on the front of card: A53955
Riverpoint is another mill village area of West Warwick. In this postcard picture, up the hill in back of where it shows the trolley is where a Junior High School was built in 1928. The school is still there but is now John F. Horgan Elementary School.
The mill shown on the right side of the postcard, with the tower, was Royal Mills and was extensively renovated several years ago into apartment units.
The building shown straight back has also been renovated and is used as a medical facility.
As mentioned earlier in this piece, my mom went to the “old” high school in Westcott. The newer high school was built up on Arctic Hill in 1965 from which I graduated in 1975. The middle school is connected next to the high school and was built in 1970.
Below is the back view of the postcard. It was sent or given to Miss Bertha James (Gra Gra), in Riverpoint, RI, from Bertha Berard. Since Gra Gra was married in June of 1915 this card would be dated prior to that, since there is no postmark the exact date is unknown.
Until next time…
Website: westwarwickpublicschools.com; WWPS History; Accessed: 12 Aug 2020.