If you were to ride by it today, the building shown in my featured postcard of the (old) City Hall, Central Falls, RI, would be very hard to recognize. Located at 26 Summit Street, this previous City Hall building has undergone “unsympathetic modifications and additions” since the picture taken as shown on the postcard.
After doing a street-view search, I compared the present day online picture to the one on the postcard. The only remaining feature, that I could notice, are the old-style posts located at the front entrance. The building shown next to it, in the postcard, seems no longer standing and in its place is a garage attached to this former City Hall.
At only one-square-mile, Central Falls, Rhode Island, is known for being the smallest and most densely populated City in the country and resides within the smallest state. In the early days of this City, extensive roots were planted from which their textile industry grew.
The Village of Central Falls was named in 1824 during a celebration being held at that time to dedicate a mill and a bridge. This village area is located along the Blackstone River which provided power for those early industries which included the first chocolate mill in the US. Central Falls saw great growth in the textile industry drawing immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and Canada.
Central Falls Village was governed as part of Smithfield until the town was divided in 1871, then the village became part of Lincoln. On March 18, 1895, the government of the City of Central Falls was finally organized.
My featured “One Postcard Saturdays” image is of what began as the Lincoln Town Hall, it was built in 1873 with expansion in 1890. The decision to locate Lincoln’s Town Hall on Summit Street in Central Falls was a reflection of the village’s civic and economic prominence. The town hall was built by Lincoln to house the offices of the newly founded town in 1873. Once Central Falls became established with its own government in 1895, the Summit Street building served as the Central Falls City Hall until 1928. During the years that followed, the building served as a city trade school and later as a furniture store.
According to a report filed by the RI Historical Preservation Commission, in 1978, the structure of this building has historical significance. The report explained, “it is a wooden structure, two-and-a-half-story, gable-end, with classical details including quoined corners (projected wood blocks defining the building corners), a modillion (ornate bracket) cornice and paired, pedimented windows over the entrance”.
After viewing such a drastic change as seen in the present day image of this building, online, and then comparing it to some of those structural details from the report above, I find myself realizing the significance of actually having this particular postcard image.
Postcard Sender, Message and Receiver
The postcard itself was postmarked in 1909, from Providence, RI and was sent to Miss Bertha James (Gra Gra), in Riverpoint, RI. It was written in pencil and is a little hard to read.
I have not been able to quite make out the name of the sender, but it looks like the first two letters are Ga.. The sender appears to likely be a boyfriend to Gra Gra, she would have been 18 yrs old at the time. I think it would have been another year, or so, later before she met Pop Pop.
The handwritten message on the postcard reads:
Dear Bertha, I found a few minutes during working hours to write you a few lines. Hope you are well and got home all right Sunday evening. Answer don’t forget. Yours with love, Ga…
This postcard was printed in Germany and was published by the A. C. Bosselman & Co., of New York, NY.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the Central Falls Village, you might read further by accessing the resources, I used, as listed below.
Until next time…
City of Central Falls; centralfallsri.gov; Accessed 15 January 2022.
Statewide Historical Preservation Report by the RI Historical Preservation Commission, January 1978; preservation.ri.gov; Accessed 15 January 2022.
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.
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.
Welcome! Let me begin by introducing you to myself and my brand new blog.
My blog title of Darpity Jean’s Blog is based on my nickname that I had acquired from my best childhood friend, Debbie, to whom I dedicate this first post in dearest memory. Today, being September 8th, would have been her birthday and it just seems to be fitting to finally get this blog off the ground on this day.
With the exception of about six months, I have resided in Rhode Island for all of my life. Though it is the smallest state in the USA, it certainly is the greatest in many ways. Most of my life has been spent within the communities of Warwick, West Warwick and Charlestown (in South County).
My extended family would be considered to be what is called Swamp Yankees, they never threw anything away–so true, it is. Fortunate for the sake of this blog as I will have plenty of material to work with.
This blog has been on my “back burner” for quite a while now. Even in these recent days, when I finally decided to take the plunge, it seemed like I was never going to get to the actual writing due to the sifting through all the technical page settings. Please bear with me, on the technical end of this page, as I may still need to make fine tuning adjustments. By the way, I do have a saying that goes something like “learn something new every day” and this sure has been a learning process.
The intention of this blog is meant to be an exploration, on several levels. My plan is to explore some postal history, from my ancestors, in the form of postcard correspondence as many of these postcards reveal stories about their lives. There will be some family genealogy information shared, primarily from my James branch of the family tree. The actual postcard images that I share on this blog will also be explored, with any notes of a historical nature that I might be able to provide.
To begin unfolding my family stories, the first few blogs will focus on my three “leading ladies”. It is from them that I have inherited quite the postcard collection, many with great images from around the New England area. Each of the three ladies, my great great grandmother (Grandma Julia), her daughter Henrietta (Aunt Etta), and my grandmother (Gra Gra) will each have their own Intro posting, helping to provide some background information for each of them.
My goal is to continue my blog posts at least once per week. If time is short on my end there may be posts that simply show an uncirculated postcard image, or gallery of images with some brief background information.
There will be times when I may post something other than postcard images, like old photos or some vintage memorabilia.
The postcard image leading my blog today is of The Majestic Hotel, Arctic Center, in West Warwick, Rhode Island. The following information was taken from the RI Historical Preservation Commission Survey Report of 1987. The Majestic Block, was located at the corner of Washington and Main Streets, built in 1901 by Joseph Archambault (after the block previously burned down Nov. 3, 1900). In addition to rooms along the exterior, the Hotel contained a movie theatre, bowling alley in the basement, a bar and a drug store at street level. The postcard itself was from prior to 1920. In my younger years, I remember this building being Majestic Hardware, it has been gone now for several years–torn down–it was replaced by a park with gazebo.
My Logo, shown below, is an original drawing by my mom, from 1940. Thank you for viewing my first blog entry. Until we meet again…