Born 100 Years Ago: Mom

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.

Baseball: 36.

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…

SOURCE:

Website: westwarwickpublicschools.com; WWPS History; Accessed: 12 Aug 2020.