Thanks so much for the great response to this blog!
A special thank you to those who have passed it on to others. We are heading quickly to amazing page visits to this blog! Welcome to folks from all over the country and other countries as well, including Lisbon!!

The "Village", as it was called, is located in the northwest corner of the city of Taunton, Massachusetts U.S.A. It covers about 1 square mile with the center being School Street. A large portion of the Village population was Portuguese when I was growing up.

This blog covers a lot of the history of the Village, much to do with my years as a child there: 1940 through the late 1950's. I do have many wonderful photos and information prior to that that and will share those as well. Always looking for MORE PHOTOS AND MORE STORIES TO TELL.

If you would like to send photos or share a memory of growing up in the Village
e-mail me at
feel free to comment on the posts. Directions are on the right side of the blog posts. Jump in, the water is fine and it is easy!!!

I will be posting photographs but not identifying individuals unless I have permission or they are a matter of public record. It you wish to give me permission, please let me know.

I am looking for any and all photos of the Village...

Please note: the way blogs work is that the latest post is first. It you would like to start from the beginning of the blog, check out the post labels on the right of the blog and go from there. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TOUCHING THE PAST: the Power of Vintage Photography

Man's love affair with photography is epic.  For us memoirists it is a good thing,too.  Seeking, finding and memorializing old photographs gives us a way to document the times of our families, of what they lived and how they lived it.  Who has not felt the wonderful joy of coming upon an old family photograph that illumines a host of unknown corners?  Once you experience that, you never stop looking.  You never again take a photograph for granted.

While writing the previous wedding posts and reading a discussion
about Boutin Studios in Taunton on the Facebook Page I'm From Taunton, i
t occurred to me that in my documents I might have such vintage photos.
That started my journey through my papers
 and research into the subject. 
It has been a quite a ride.

This image is from a fascinating web site called Retronaut where one can walk through the ages with its incredible images.  I just started to play with it.  As in all things vintage, context of the times is the challenge and the reward.

When you begin to look into the history of vintage photography and what it meant to our forebears, the trip takes on a whole new meaning.


                                    "Nostalgia clings to photographs like dust to knick knacks".

 What a great quote from an article on the subject online on Guardian, com.  "It seeps out from sepia tints and poloroid hues alike.  As the medium evolves, yesterday's invention is today's curio.  The paradoxical condition of photography is to be both immediate and dated. … As soon as it is taken, it starts to slip away in time, a perfectly preserved microcosm of a vanished universe."

A perfect example of this thought is the photograph of my Souza grandparents taken in 1927. I may have included it in an earlier post but it demonstrates our discussion.  The moment when this photograph was taken by Boutin studio (note that familiar background) time stopped in more ways than one.  Not long after this photograph was taken my Grandfather, Joseph Souza drowned in a boating accident in Fairhaven, MA.  Who was to know that he would be with them for so short a time?He sits there, a solid pater families, a successful entrepreneur, content with his life.

We can date this photo by the ages of the children: my father stands 
next to his father with his elbow casually on his chair.

The studio photgraph below is that of my maternal grandmother, Isobel Bento Correia Motta.  It also is poignant since it is one of only two we have of her. She posed for this around 1916 when she was pregnant with my mother.  A calm, serene photograph, it belies the tragedies that were to befall her and her little family. This photograph of a lovely young woman starting her life as wife and mother would push me to find out what really happened to her.  That search would results in a family book: Searching for Isobel.  It would take me ten years to answer all the questions.  It would result in finding a long lost Uncle.

                          We take thousands of photos today, but do we cherish them?   Perhaps
                          with our fascination of not losing the past have learned to do just that.
                          Surely, the wonderful sharing of vintage photographs of the people and
                          places on I'm From Taunton has enriched all of us.  Also, the incredible
                          work of Taunton historian: Charley Crowley.

                                               My appreciation to each and all.
                          But, for this blog Arlene Gouveia gets pride of place. What a reception those
                         fine and very special photographs she and her son, John, get when those photos 
                                                     come streaming into my computer,

I come to my love of photographs and photography through my D.N.A.  My mother's photographs
were award-winning.  I inherited them and speaking of cherish.  They grace many of my cards. My own, well, now with the Internet and my little camera and iPad there is no stopping.
Recently one of my mother's photographs was requested for the cover
 of a women's retreat booklet for a Church in New England.  

The baby in the above photograph is my mother at approximately three years old. 
Clearly in a studio photograph as one notes the background.


Early vintage photographs were called cabinet cards.  Popular from around 1869 up until the 1920's, they were paper photographs mounted on thick cardboard. They were often displayed on cabinets, hence their name and were made to be seen across a room.  The photographer's name was usually embossed or printed on the photo or mount, a gift for future genealogists.  The photographs were durable encased in their heavy protector lasting the years even when tossed into corners here and there. The clear name of the photographer can mean the photograph can be moreeasily dated.

 Here are some samples I found on my Internet wanderings….we only know that these photographs were taken in Taunton in Studios long gone.  You never know what you will find on the Internet.


                         Here is a card advertisement for that studio listed above and where
in Taunton it was located.

                 The next was taken by Hunter Bros. Studio in Taunton. Clearly in the 1880's.

A lovely advertisement for Ye Rose Studio in Providence, R.I.
Note the terms from Cabinet to Life Size.

Just for fun, this is a studio photograph of a cat whose owner
obviously cared enough to do this.  It was taken at a studio in New York City
in the 1880's.


For us who grew up in Taunton, this was the most familiar logo seen on old photographs              Boutin was located at 6 E. Brittania St. and we have him to thank for many of our  precious photographs that allow us a peak into the generations before us.


The photograph above was probably taken between 1910 and 1912.  It is a studio photograph by Boutin Studios of three small children.  They are from left to right: my Uncle John "Bunny" Souza,
my Aunt Mary Souza Bernadino and my Uncle Joseph Souza.
 When this cabinet photograph came my way as I researched the Souza Family,
I could not have been more delighted.
It is one of our oldest photographs in such great condition.

Here is another: a cabinet formal photograph, no doubt by H. Boutin of my
Uncle Ed Souza, youngest of the Souza children for his First Communion.
I would date this in the late 20's.

It is hard to date this formal photograph below.  This is my maternal  Great Grandmother
Anne Bento Correira.  I know she immigrated when she was 60 years old so this had to
have beentaken in Taunton and I am guessing….Mr. Boutin once more. I have no memory of her except her snow white hair at her wake.  She died in 1949 at the age of 87. This photograph probably was taken in the early 1940's or late 30's.  I do not know how long Mr. Boutin was in business.

Here is my Uncle John "Bunny" Souza on the
occasion of his graduation from Taunton High School.
This photo is probably dated around the 1920's.
Graduating from high school in those
days was quite an accomplishment.
Sorry if this is a little off balance, it refused to budge.

Now, we are always looking for more vintage photographs of the Village and of Taunton.  Want to jump on board?  Noticing the number of folks who view our blog, many on a regular basis, I am sure that there are some beautiful photographs begging to be found and shared.

 How about it? 

                                                            Sources for this post: 

The story of my Grandmother Isobel may be
 found on this website. Hit enter and then Patient Biographies 
and you will find her.  
Her photo  resists resetting…..


                             The excellent article I quoted regarding vintage photography

Studio cabinet photographs: Taunton, Ma

 Below is the wonderful Retronaut site for vintage photographs

 Source of the other incidental photography

Friday, April 11, 2014


This is the last (we will never say last!) of the vintage wedding series.
In reading on the net I found a great app tool which allowed me 
to do this collage and more.
I have loved doing this story telling with the beautiful photographs
 that grace these pages. 
 Gratitude for all those who carefully preserved them. 
There is a new one added to the collage and that is of my mother 
as a Bridesmaid in the 1930's.  
She is up at the right corner.  In researching my family genealogy 
I found it as part of another wedding photo.

Like pressed flowers, these beautiful photographs allow us to live moments of love 
from days gone by. As time passed, and as we see in these photos, history changed the way weddings took place. We saw it in the last two posts and we shall see it in this one. 
I recognize many of these faces though I knew them when they were much older.  
Of course, those related to me are engraved on my heart.

Before we begin: a note.  Carolyn, a reader, has highlighted the fact that many of the photographs in this series have the same backgrounds.  Indeed, they were all taken at Boutin Photography Studio on E. Brittania St. in Taunton.  She and I were commenting online that it would be awesome if some of those files exist.  Lo and behold… they do!  A daughter of the woman who owned the Studio kept them and they are going through them, hoping to post on 
I'm from Taunton Facebook page!!
  Blessed be those who do not throw away such treasures!  Blessed by Herminegild Boutin 
of Boutin Studios. 6 Brittania St., Taunton, premiere photographer!


This first photograph is from my my Aunt Alveda Souza Napieralski's photos,  Thanks to my cousin Shelley for sharing.  It is clearly a Village shot.  I recognize my Aunt Lavina Souza O'Connell on the end at the right, and I think I recognize the Maid of Honor.  It appears the others were friends or bridesmaids.  I would think this was in the late 30's or 40's.

The photo also reminds me of stories I was told of the bridal showers given in the Village.  Apparently they included mock weddings and were for gals only.  The history of bridal showers is that back in the day when weddings were arranged by family members, it is said that a Dutchman fell in love with a girl whose father refused her a dowry.  Their friends "showered" them with enough gifts to start a household.  Later, another bridal party included an upside down parasol full of gifts. It was turned upside down over the bride and she was  "showered" with gifts.
 In the Village in the 30's and 40's young brides to be and their grooms
counted on showers to give their kitchens a head start. 
 Today of course showers are as complicated as weddings themselves.

 Not as much time for simple friendship and laughter.


Speaking of young couples starting out with not much, a good example in 1939 was the wedding of my mother and father: Angelina Motta and Frank Souza. 
 My mother was, to all intents and purposes, an orphan without a mother and father 
to purchase a wedding gown and give her a wedding ceremony,
My father was just starting out himself, his father had died in 1927 and his mother, my grandmother was raising their seven children alone.  So, my parents did their own thing.  One cold January Sunday morning they were married quietly and simply after the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony's.  They always said there were a lot of people at their marriage.  That did not mean however, that they were not a stunning couple,  even without the accoutrements of wedding finery my mother is stylish and chic wearing her corsage with as much joy as a bride with a full bouquet.

                               It was not long before war became a fact of life for young couples
                               who were marrying.  Here is a photo from Pinterest of a family posing after
                               a simple wartime ceremony.  No money, time or much else but love to
                               start them off in life, with prayers that he would come back from battle.

 The war meant that Village couples took much on faith as they exchanged their vows.
             That was true for this couple: we introduce Mr. and Mrs. Alice (Pina) and John Emond.
            Before their wedding he was sent off to WWII.  She prayed and waited faithfully until he returned.  She and my Aunt Alveda were best friends.  They waited together
for their men to come home.

Happily, they did.  Here below is their wedding photograph from 1946.



Also, in 1946  the Village wedding of my Aunt Alveda and her husband, Zigmond took place..
You were treated to their wartime romance and wedding earlier
in this blog when we spoke of the Army Base at Camp Miles Standish in Taunton.


                       Below is the 1948 wedding photo of Alice Pina's sister, Virginia Pina, to
                       Manuel Nascimento.  Manuel is related to my nephew's Peter and Roger.
                            The Best Man is Charlie Nascimento also related to my nephews.
                              The Maid of Honor is Mary Pina, twin sister to the Bride.


Finally, I feel we have come full circle with this wedding below in 1946.  Here are Bride: Deloinda "Linda" Rezendes and her husband Antone Carreiro. Her Maid of Honor is her sister, Mary Rezendes, the Best Man is their brother, Tony Rezendes.

Why do I say full circle?  Well, Linda and Mary and Tony were siblings of my dear friend, Theresa.
Theresa and I grew up together in the Village.  Through me, Terry met her husband, Gil. She and I double dated on their first date.  I was Maid of Honor at their wedding at St. Anthony's in 1960.
                                                It is to Theresa that I dedicated this blog.
Now, let me tell you a charming story about the Maid of Honor, Mary, one of the bride's 
sisters. Mary and Linda and their sister, Theresa were from a family that was strict as to 
the activities of the daughters.  Theresa could spend time at my house only if her mother talked to my mother first.  Anyway, Mary's  friends told her if she did not get out and about, she would never marry.  She responded that if God wanted her to find a husband, He would send one to knock at the door.

So. one day she was sitting at the kitchen table in the family's third floor small apartment on Floral St.  There was a knock on the door. Mary answered it and there was Antone.  He had been sent by a cousin to see if they needed dry cleaning.  He owned his own small company and made house calls.  The rest as you can guess is that they eventually married.  I am sure there was a very chaperoned courtship before this wedding took place. Mary did not have to go any further than answering the door!

                       "We bring our years to an end, as it it were a tale to be told." Psalm 90


This series of posts has resulted in over 1,000 page views, it is clear that we all love
 wedding history.
I am glad that this has been enjoyed.  I urge you to share your family photos, the older the better, and stories attached are even more welcome!!


Sources for this series:

There are many web sites relating to the history of weddings, here are some I used :

*Photographs from Arlene Gouveia with Village lore for many of them.
*Photographs from Motta-Souza Genealogy collection.
*Photographs from Shelley Napieralski Au, her Mother'sand my Aunt Alveda Souza  Napieralski's collection:

*Pinterest for floral photo, shower momento and other photographs.

 The photo above was shared by a vintage collecting friend.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Thank you to all who responded so favorably to our first Vintage Wedding Post.  It was a delight to write.  Here now is the second part.

In researching the history of weddings, I came upon this photo on Pinterest.  Notice the clergyman in this photo?  Did you know that clergy were not present at weddings until after the 15th Century when it was degreed at the Council of Trent?  Prior to that a simple." will you marry me? and "yes" was enough.  If a priest was there, it was only for a blessing.

Also in this photo: shoes tied to the bumper was thought of as a symbol of authority and possession. Taking the bride's shoes meant that she would not run away.

                          This photo was probably taken in the 20's from the look of the cars.

But, back to our Village history.

Below are Mr. and Mrs. Morien Costa (Mary Rose) for their wedding which took
place in 1927.  Note the "Merry Widow" hat which we will see in many wedding photos.
Also, her neckline is a departure from earlier gowns.  After 1910, wedding gowns took on a more silhouette streamlined look.  Changes could be seen as the Sufrogette movement started, too.
We could certainly say that this is a more "modern" bride.

She has a huge bouquet: earlier in history what she might have carried, as we said early on,  might have highlighted these symbols:

*dill- lusty
*orange blossoms- happiness and fertility

Now, a very special photo.  Here are Aelene Gouveia's parents: Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Rose (Mary Perry). This is special for me because I knew these two people and remember them.  The marriage took place at St. Anthony's Church in 1929.   

Here again, we see on the Maid of Honor that Merry widow hat and the fluffy neckline.
The bride's veil is more voluminous and is like a train.  The groom and best man are
wearing tuxedos.  It is said that before Teddy Roosevelt wore one at at his wedding
grooms simply wore their best suit.

Here are Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Amaral (Ida Silvia) in 1931. Ida was the sister of
Manny Silvia of the band: The Top Hatters.
This is noteworthy for me as Manny was my father's partner in Souza Electric on School St.
Also, years and years later, after Manny and his wife had passed on, I purchased their
little red house on 12 Ashland St.  I found a printing plate of the Top Hatters in a closet.
I wonder if Manny and the boys played at this wedding.

This lovely bride we see wearing satin, a change once again.  Her headpiece is a tight fitting
cloche, of the '20's style.  Here the gown is getting longer again. She has gloves, too. Her veil is flowing around her feet.

From an ad in the Anchor newspaper.  Sorry for the blur.

Here a lovely bride with the cloche hat once more.  Mr. and Mrs. John Veida,
relatives of Arlene.  Wedding took place in Providence in 1931.
Sadly, pneumonia took the groom shortly thereafter, 

Another couple I recognize a bit.  This is Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sylvia (Anna Brazil).
Wedding at St. Anthony's in 1932.  Anna, if I recall, was always called Anna Brazil 
even after her wedding.  They were the parents of friends Joanne and Pat Sylvia 
and lived just beyond Braga Square.
The Village folk loved nicknames.  One of my aunt's was Joe's Mary
to differentiate her from a sister-in-law also named Mary and so forth.  

Anna's veil is even grander and her cloche hat simpler.  

And here below is that sister-in-law: Mary Bernandino, my paternal Aunt with her husband 
 John Bernadino in 1933. Both were of the School Street Village. My Uncle Joe (his wife was Joe's Mary), her brother, as Best Man.  Maid of Honor is Mary Costa.  Mary later owned and operated the Taunton Flower Studio.

In the 19020's and 30's weddings turned into big business,  Mary Costa benefited as weddings would have been a large part of her business. When I married in 1985, I had them do my flowers, and School St. Bakery, my cake.

Did you know that once the wedding cake was thrown in pieces at the bride, until a baker in Roman days complained of the waste of his confections?

Mary's gown here is long and more elaborate.  It appears both she and her Maid of Honor
wore satin. Mary Costa has only a little pill box of a headpiece. The bride's neckline as well as her Maid of Honors are heading south a little more.

Our last photograph for this post will catapult us into a new wedding style era.
Here are my Aunt Eleanor Costa, her new husband, John (Bunny)Souza, my 
paternal Uncle, and her sister, Alvera Costa and new husband, Arthur Marshall.
Of all of our photos, this is the only one of a double wedding.

Full on, the entire wedding party is in smiles. The women have simple headdresses with enormous veils and trains for their gowns.  Short sleeves, smaller bouquets and demure necklines.

Remember the practice, at least in the Village, of putting a rosary on the clothesline the might before the wedding to assure good weather?  Judging by these beautiful smiles, it worked.

My Aunt Eleanor loved this song and I share it with you
until our next Post of Village Wedding Bells: Part III

Stay Tuned….

Friday, March 28, 2014


"Something old, something new, 
something borrowed and something blue."

                    That tradition goes way back and links the bride to family and faithfulness.

Well, here is something definitely borrowed.  This post, Part I of three,  traces the history of weddings in the Village.  The photographs come to us courtesy of Arlene Gouveia whose mother kept many, many precious photographs that are enriching our memories in this blog.  
Lesson to be learned for all of us.

 Through the help of Arlene's son, John, these have become part of a lovely history of weddings in the School Street Village.  When I first received them via e-mail, I sorted them along with others from my own Souza-Bento Correia  genealogical  files. Along with many of the photographs are stories that often charm, sometimes sadden, and always bring the pictures to life. To add even more, one can extrapolate these stories and their photos to a history of weddings in America through the years.  For the most part this is a chronology with some departures here and there.

 Researching the history of weddings in general I was amazed to find how the photos correlated.  Come along for this ride and do not be surprised if you hear wedding bells from the past.

The first weddings took place in 2,800 BCE with the first recorded use of the wedding finger band.  In 1659, the most expensive wedding gift ever was bestowed by King Charles II to Queen Luisa of Portugal.  It consisted of the two cities of Tangiers and Bombay!

The word matrimony comes from the Latin: matrimonial is derived from mater or mother.
Weddings changed over the years from "catch and capture"
to more romantic and religious events.

Our first couple dates all the way back to 1891. Predating the establishment of St. Anthony's Church in the Village in 1906, Jose Rosa and Flizbeta (Flora) Rose were married at St. Mary's Church in Taunton in 1891.  It was only in the 1870's that the use of diamond rings was started, and also the use of photo albums as in those years Kodak came on the scene. Everything about the photograph bespeaks simplicity and few "bells and whistles" Both man and wife are austere and unsmiling. The times were difficult for many newlyweds and strength would be needed.

                    The honeymoon destination Niagara Falls become popular around 1860.

Below my maternal great Aunt Anna Bento Correia and her husband, Jose were married in 1901, probably in Bristol, RI at the Portuguese Church of St. Elizabeth. Note her Victorian hairstyle and the full sleeves which characterized the wedding gowns of the time. 
Times have begun to change, in at least style.
This gentle woman, Tia Annie to us, was my grandmother Isobel's sister.  Her husband Jose and her two oldest children would die prematurely in the Azores leaving her a young widow in her twenties.  Returning to the U.S. with her two remaining daughters, she would marry Mr. Fostin in the Village.  They would settle in a little white house right next to Jigger's Variety just off Braga Square. She lived there until her death in 1958.  Her home which was very familiar to us,  provided us with easy access to Jigger's and a view to the happenings of the Village at that end of School Street including Fourth of July celebrations.

This next photograph is of Mr and Mrs Jose Luiz Perreira (Maria de Camo Moniz Morgada) married in New Bedford in 1908.  For awhile floral headdresses were the rage.  One still sees that Victorian hairstyle, the nipped waistline and the puffed sleeves.  Our groom here is sporting white gloves. The wedding gown color is still high encircling the neck. But, at least the bride is smiling.
Here is something interesting.  Notice that the gown of the bride
and the maid of honor are very similar.
Way back in time, this was done on purpose so that evil spirits would be confused as to who as who, or marauding men would not steal away the bride.

I am putting this next photo in out of chronological order.  The wedding  of Joao Bento Correia and Maria Irena Encarnacao Xavier took place in 1923
in the Village of Villa do Campo 
St. Miguel, Azores.

 Look at the veil.  The history of the wedding veil goes way back in history. It also harkens back to Sephardic Jewish history in the Iberian peninsula.  Keep in mind that there was a strong Jewish presence all the way back to the Romans in Portugal. I do not know if there was such a bloodline in our family, but all is possible.  At the least there was a cultural heritage. To me this veil has Sephardic overtones as it nearly overwhelms the dress and even, the bride herself.  Also, even prior to that tradition, it was thought that the veil protected the bride from evil spirits.  In the case of arranged marriages it hid the bride so the groom would not change his mind.

 This couple are my maternal great cousins and their progeny would settle with many other Portuguese in Bermuda, and with a strong family presence in the Village, starting with my 
Tia Annie seen in an earlier photograph.

When Queen Victoria married in the 1800's, the wedding scene really changed.  Prior to that many brides wore colored dresses.  Many were poor and the dress would need to do for other occasions, even perhaps her funeral.  Musical wedding tradition was set when the Wedding March by Wagner 
was heard at this royal wedding as well as the wedding 
recessional: the Bridal Chorus from Wagner's Lohengrin.

It is 1921 for the photograph below.  Our bride has no gloves at all. The history of courtship and romance with gloves had a long history back to the Middle Ages, 
 Most brides wore them until around 1910 when  a spirit of new freedom seemed to begin.
The style is still demure but the skirt is a lot shorter.
Mr, and Mrs. Joseph Silvia (Mary Rose) were married at St. Anthony's Church.
She was Arlene's  aunt.  Note the floral bouquet.  Centuries before, the bride came down the aisle
carrying a bouquet of dill and garlic to ward off the Plague. Over time the tradition changed to flowers with their own meanings such as roses and baby's breath and forget-me-nots.

Not long after this, in 1924, the bridal registry was born at Marshall Field's in Chicago.

Above, my maternal great Aunt Mary Conceicao and her husband Joseph Belerique Cardoza 
after their wedding at St. Anthony's in 1927..
Uncle Joe was a long time custodian at Fuller School.  Their late son, Joseph, was a great help to me in my genealogical research and we often talked and shared discoveries.  
He provided one of the all time exciting moments for me when one day I was visiting him in Taunton.  He said to me, "I have been waiting for years for someone to ask me for this….."  He then put into my hands my great grandmothers original passport dated 1922.  

Note how the wedding gown has shortened even more.  It is the roaring 20's and ladies are baring their legs. The wedding dress still includes lots of lace and ruffles. Now we see opaque white stockings and the long gloves are back at least for this wedding. Gone are the puffed, long sleeves.  The Victorian hairdo is out, too, and now the headdress gets a whole lot of attention puffing up accordingly.   The style includes a smaller bouquet of flowers.  The tradition of tossing the bouquet began
 because once it was "get a piece of the bride of the bride's gown." 
 This became so rowdy that the more
 sedate practice of throwing the bouquet came into vogue.

In the 1920's, the Jazz Age, the wedding business was started in earnest,

Ah, the whole bridal party here.  Our bridal cap is quite ornate and the neckline a bit more daring.
Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Gonsalves (Mary Gallego) were married at St. Anthony's Church also in 1927. They are Arlene Gouveia's husband's paternal grandparents.  The flower girl is Mary Tremblay and the ring  bearer, Sam Sousa.  Now we see a lovely smile on our bride's face which was "frowned" upon in former years. Our small flower girl's headpiece is definitely the 20's look. 
Also, see her sleeker wedding dress.

The history of flower girls goes back to Roman times, then they carried sheaves of wheat and herbs to ensure blessings of prosperity and fertility for the couple.  Ring bearers go back to ancient Egypt when it was the custom to carry treasured jewels on ornamental pillows during wedding ceremonies.

Our Next Post:       

 More Village weddings 
as we stroll through the years.

       Meanwhile: wouldn't you like to share some of your wedding photo heirlooms with us?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A VOZ DE PORTUGAL….The Voice of Portugal

Recently, while planning another series of posts, an audio memory reached down through time to me.  It was the voice of the one and only Ferreira Mendes (pronounced in Portuguese with softened consonants).  Do you remember?  This is a photo of Senhor Ferreira Mendes.

Sunday mornings the sounds of the Taunton Band Club rehearsing sweetened the air.  
Later that morning, came the well- known voice of Ferreira Mendes,
 his strong Portuguese addingto the sounds of drifting through open windows up and down the streets of the Village.  With his distinctive voice, he pronounced the language beautifully. 
 You knew it was Sunday when your ear caught his voice.

As with much of the research for this blog, the story began to tell itself.  It did that with the help of Otilia Mendes Ferreira, Sr. Ferreira Mendes' daughter who has gracefully given us all of the information.  In case you are wondering, somehow in the early days of his career,
 Mendes Ferreira was transposed to Ferreira Mendes. 
 It stayed Ferreira Mendes and it is how everyone knew him.

Affonso Gil Mendes Ferreira was a pioneer of Portuguese language radio in the United States.  He was born January 23, 1899 in the village of Barroca do Zezere on mainland Portugal.  The last of nine siblings, his mother died in childbirth.  Poignantly, and as a measure of his generous spirit, he supported his wet nurse, Ana Marcelina throughout her life.

Immigrating on August 6, 1920 to the U.S., he would be the only one of his family to do so,  Sr. Ferreira Mendes worked briefly at the Whittenton Mills in Taunton.  He and his family would always live in Taunton and be members of St. Anthony's Church in the School Street Village.

After working in the mill he one day (an early sign of his ambition),  bought himself a raccoon coat, bought a car and hired a driver until he was able to get his license. 
 Marriage came in 1929 after he met M. Rosa Santos.  He was embarked on a new life. 
 Establishing a Portuguese club located above where Hanson's Drug Store would be on Broadway, he went on to launch a Portuguese language newspaper in 
1923 or 1924, O Heraldo Portugues which was published until 1976. 
 Above is a copy of the 1929 Easter cover and below a photo of himself 
and two of his newsboys, the Fonseca boys from the Village.

Sr. Ferreira Mendes was a colorful, gregarious and generous person becoming known to one and all as simply Ferreira Mendes.  His impact began in earnest in 1933, when he became a fixture on local airways broadcasting his Portuguese language radio program, A Voz De Portugal.  He would broadcast that program for nearly sixty years!  This is a great photo as it really shows the emotion and integrity with which he approached his life's work.

There were no Portuguese radio stations in 1933.  The growing population of Portuguese people living especially on the East coast of the U.S. at that time were thirsty for news in their own language.  He began on WNBH in New Bedford, then on to WPRO in Providence, then WSAR in Fall River for 9 years until during WW II when they felt they did not wish to broadcast foreign language programs.  At that point WOCB on Cape Cod welcomed him.  Then on to WRIB, Providence, where his daily Portuguese program would be the only daily Portuguese program in the country for 15 years.  At that same time he was on WPEP, Taunton for his Sunday program.  
This is the program listened to in the Village.

Because of failing health, in 1975, his daughter Otilia did the program while he opened and closed it.  He continued to direct it, however.  He died in 1992 at 93 years of age.

As was noted earlier, Ferreira Mendes was a celebrity all on his own.  But, he was more that that, he was a tirelessly generous man.  He was an ardent fundraiser raising funds for Portuguese orphanages, supporting handicapped children or refugees and wounded veterans from the Angolan war as well as many other causes dear to his heart. There were times when requests would show up at the Taunton Post Office with no address other than his name and U.S.A.

 It is said that often when Ferreira Mendes would travel to Fox Point in Providence, to New Bedford or to the Weir or School Street villages in Taunton, people would shout out to him 
in welcome their chant: " a comissao  agradece" or "the committee thanks you." 
 He would often say this after his speeches or presentations.  
The humor was that he was the sole committee member.

Sr. Ferreira Mendes was awarded the Portuguese highest medal of honor : The Commander of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator for his work.  That work was highlighted by what he accomplished for victims of the earthquakes in the Azorean Island of Faial in the early 1960's.  His influence helped to open the quotas for Portuguese immigrants coming to the United States.

A poignant story tells of how he helped a disabled young girl such that she went on to become a teacher.  She would write to him throughout her life.

An advocate for the Portuguese community when they were an unsung group he presented his radio programs sharing local events as well as events in mainland Portugal, Madeira and the Azores keeping people connected to their homeland as well as to each other.  He arranged for showings of Portuguese films renting the Park or Strand theaters in Taunton as well as others in Rhode Island.  If even a few people showed up, he would show the film.  In those days there were shifts of workers at the mills, he made early morning showings available for them.

He put on Portuguese musicals at Taunton High School.  Fascinating is the fact that he introduced the great Portuguese Fado singer Amalia Rodrigues to America in her premiere performance at Hope High School in Providence, R.I.   Fado is the traditional and haunting folk music of Portugal and the soul of that music was Amalia Rodrigues.

It was important for me to try and find an audio of Ferreira Mendes, but that seemed impossible.  However, when I spoke with his daughter Otilia I discovered something marvelous.  During WWII the U.S. government was suspicious of foreign language radio programming.  They either prohibited them or watched them closely.  It was feared that such programs would send secrets to the enemy.  In 1943, Ferreira Mendes, as we mentioned, could not present his program at WSAR as the station was leary of presenting any foreign language programs.  However, WOCB on Cape Cod welcomed him enthusiastically not being intimidated by the government.

Unknown to Ferreira Mendes, during the war years the U.S. government recorded many of his radio programs.  Thus, they were preserved for posterity.  In those days  since there were no digital or tape recordings, they were recorded on large vinyl records with a circumference of around 17 inches which can only be listened to on special equipment.  Some of them have been put on CD's and are at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, MA.  More on that later.

Which brings us to the final part of this story.  In loving memory of their father, Otilia and and her sister Justina Ferreira are the lead benefactors of the Portuguese- American Archives located at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  A third sister, Esther, had passed away in 1953.  That was the only time that her father ever missed presenting his program.

The Archives were dedicated to their father in 2009.  The Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese -American Archives is the largest repository of materials documenting the Portuguese people and their experience in the United States in the country.  Ferreira Mendes recordings are only one part of their extensive and ever-growing collection, including early Portuguese newspapers available online.  When I browsed through the online newspaper collection I found a photograph of one of my uncles in an early 40's ad.

Affonso Gil Ferreira Mendes is a treasure still for the people he so loved. I am one of those people and have researched at this marvelous library.  Full of genealogical information and other records of the Portuguese experience it is not that far for many of us 
who grew up in the Village: grandchildren and children of Portuguese forebears.
As we said, also, much of it is now available online.

I hope that I have been able to do justice to the memory of this extraordinary man.  You can find more information about the Archives and what can be found there at this link.

"A comissao agradece"

The Committee thanks you.


I am grateful to Otilia and Justina Ferreira for their willingness to share
and for their patience.   They have made this post
 a very special post indeed.


Photo of vintage radio from Pinterest.