MEMOIRS OF SCHOOL STREET VILLAGE

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 spinoart@comcast.net
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.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

A HIDDEN CACHE OF MEMORY THAT WILL WIND AROUND YOUR HEART


The last post about Blinn's Court engendered much dialogue.
It found a family that shared a house with my family. It found people who knew of old departed family friends. It tickled the past that lives in my mind and brought forth new memories. In short it was pure delight.  It also gave forth a whole new story as I learned
about the grapevine at 20 Blinn's Court.



A grapevine is a metaphor: a metaphor for family, for life, for reaching out to whatever is around it clasping it to itself. To me it is a metaphor for the School Street Village, for my childhood home.How fitting that it is still reaching out today to remind us of what we had, and what still lives in our hearts. Nurturing, year after year, strong after storms and loss keeping us connectedto all those who were a part of our lives all through our growing up.




When you work in historic research you discover that each find is a thread to something else. That is the joy of all of this digging and discovering.  I often feel like a verbal and pictorial archeologist. All of us who engage in this memory- mining are Keepers of the Village Flame.


Everywhere we lived, there was a grapevine. It wound around its posts and beams, its tendrils promising a good harvest every year. By the photo below you know it is perhaps early Fall. One could tell the seasons by watching the vines.  Next time I visit Taunton I will include a drive-around to see how many of these venerable vines still exist. Stay tuned for that one. 

Remember this photo from the last post - the 'giving post' as I call it?

Do not look at the little boy, as cute as he is, look at what is behind him.  The grapevine in this photo was taken in the early 50's.  I have been told by the current family in the house at Blinn's Court that this grapevine is still living today and giving fruit! I do believe that that grapevine was there when we moved there. This is an aged and honorable vine, indeed.  The owner's son  has taken a branch and is now growing a descendent in his own yard.




Leafing through files and papers I found very old photos of grapevines in my family. These were very much hidden and met me with all new stories.

This next photo is a beloved one, indeed.  This is my Mother, Angi, probably early 1930's. She is a young woman standing next to her beloved Tia Annie.  Her maternal Tia Annie lived right next door to another loved landmark: Jigger's Variety. Her home sat nearly at the front of its lot while the long back yard boasted a burgeoning garden and this venerable grapevine. My mother was at the cusp of a better life. My Aunt Annie was somewhere in her middle years, always a gentle and loving lady with her own story of hardship.

The grapevine in the back is at the fullness of its life. It is so heavy it strains the cross posts. At the prime of its life, it is so healthy that its huge leaves and branches tumble pulling tself down to the earth. It must have been deep summer and the bees are no doubt all over it.  The pungent sweet smell of the ripe purple grapes would have filled the yard with its signature scent, a promise of good eating,  grape juice and jam.

But, the grapevine was more. It was shady shelter from the heat in the days before air conditioning  and a place where children could play hide and seek.

It was a place to dream. My mother must have dreamed as she left behind a difficult childhood and found her own shelter with her Aunt Annie. This photo and the similarities to that venerable vine are deep in my heart.  The end of summer was harvest time for the grapes.

As well as the ubiquitous grapevine you can see these women standing in the lower garden, probably among squash plants, perhaps kale and so on. The shed is a little shabby, who of them knew that shabby chic would one day be all the rage. At that time it demonstrated 
much use and a limited budget.






Later on, after my parents married here we are in  1943. My father holds my sister Kathy, less than a year old, while I stand next to them, three years old.  Note the grapevine.  Kathy and I were born when we lived in this three decker way down at the end of School St. at the end of the Village.  We lived on the third floor of a house owned by a dear couple. We are growing and so is their grapevine. You can see the swinging branches and early leafing. It is early summer or even late spring.





Here I am at 9 years of age with my Ti Tia Annie. You can just about see me at her left.  The photo is very old as can be attested by the wrinkles it has earned.  There behind us is that dear grapevine. It has been pruned way back but is leafing out so this is probably Spring. The rest of the garden, as you can see, has a lot of plantings either coming or going.  Only until I started researching this theme and rooting out this photo, did I know I was in it. There is what looks like a doghouse under the arbor and perhaps a birdhouse which could help with mosquitos. Other houses in the Village cuddle at the edge of the garden probably with grape arbors of their own counting the seasons,






When I came back to Taunton in my middle age and moved into the little red house on Ashland St., didn't I find a welcoming mature grapevine in the back yard!  It's harvest were deep purple Muscadine. When they were full and ready for picking they about burst their skins. When that happened you could find them on the ground under the vine.  I remember my mother harvesting the grapes for jam when I was a child . The kitchen was waiting with chairs upside down and bearing corners of cheesecloth over a big panella to strain the grapes ( and then bottle for grape juice) so that only the mush of the grapes was left for cooking and "putting up" as it was called.  The heady deep perfume of the grapes sought every corner of the house. I am sure some made their own wine, but for us, it was cooking and boiling down for more simple delights.






Remember how big and full the grapes were as they hung heavy on their vines?  Grapevines werelike another room added to the house.  When we moved to the School Street  Souza homestead in the 50's , of course there was a big grapevine right in back of the house hugging the fence between our house and the one next door.  Underneath the arbor was a rabbit hutch, or perhaps children's toys scattered around on the ground. your dog could be found napping there, too. The arbors were so heavy with leaf and grape that little sun could get in making it a good place for a baby carriage, a sleeping child beneath the mosquito netting.







A little vine of a memory, it bore a lot of fruit for me and, I hope, for those of you reading this. Perhaps, you have photos of those days.  Days when the grapes grew big and juicy while the sun sang to them.  Days before boom boxes and traffic where a dreaming child could think of far away lands.


Thanks, as always to Pinterest for two of the photos in this post.
 The rest is from my own archives.
 See you next post!
Remember it is wonderful to get your photos and memories
to enlarge on these memories! 




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

LISTENING TO THE SECRETS OF AN OLD HOUSE

Old houses tell secrets.They tell those secrets in all kinds of ways:  photographs, old records, in scratches on the wall where children told their growth spurts. Sometimes, if you are lucky, someone comes along and opens the treasure box of secrets.  You get to peel away layers of stories and countless dramas played out between the walls.  I got lucky, someone came along.




A few months ago, a reader commented on one of my posts.  Thus began a dialogue. As we chatted online we discovered that she and I had grown up ( myself, at least for part of my childhood) in the same house.  She is much younger so it made even more interesting. We grew up in a house on Blinns' Ct in the Village in Taunton, MA.






 Here is the house on Blinn's Court as it looks today.   Her parents bought it in 1971 and proceeded to lovingly renovate it.  It bears little resemblance, as you shall see, to the house where I and my family spent part of our history.,




It appears, with exceptions,  that many of the houses in the Village were built in the early 1900's as was the particular house we are discussing on  Blinn's Court .  Our reader remembers an elderly lady of about 90 years of age, telling her (she was ten at the time) that she had been born in that house. Another link.   Given time, city records would give us a whole lot more. 

In the 1940's my parents bought the three decker, which was almost at the end of the dead -end street just off School Street.  Blinn's Court and Lane's Avenue just next to it are hills awesome for sledding, especially then when there was little traffic.

The two additions on the right of the house in the above photo were not there in our time and the front entrance stairs were different. They were wooden stairs and landing. When I was 7 or so I would slip through the slats and hide away from the wind. There were no big windows either. I do not have one single full photo of this house as it was in the forties and fifties. I do have quite a few of my childhood time with which to try to build a picture of it.

The three decker on Blinn's Court housed three Souza families. We were on the first floor, our Aunt Eleanor and her family on the second, and our Aunt Alveda and her family were on the third.  This appears below to be an earlier photo of the house and more like my memories.  We did not have a fence and there was an old wooden  garage where you see cars parked.  On the front right grass near the street was a huge tree. It had a big filled cavity in the trunk just child-height. We would throw snowballs at it and make believe it was Stalin.


Here is where the fun begins as we seek out the house history we made.  Since our years there it has made a whole new batch of histories, to be sure.

Looking straight back to where the cars are in the above photo, the wooden two car garage had old fashioned garage doors that you had to manually open to the sides.  In the picture below you can see those doors and that they are a little askew, There was no pavement on the driveway, just packed  dirt, a lot easier on little knees that tended to get skinned. Here are a bunch of us kids just hanging out on our little red wagon.

1949

These are ancient (yet loved)  photos and they get a little blurred when enlarged. Enlarging it one can see the wooden door going into the basement behind us cowkids  with a little window in back of my brother. To the right are the stairs going up into the sunroom off the kitchen in the first floor apartment where we lived. The basement had a dirt floor, like many did in those days.


1948

Here is a  better look of those back steps, and another of my little brother in the garb of the times. Note the ubiquitous grapevine.  If you could peer around the other side of the steps you would see the old kerosene barrel sitting on its tripod.  As you can see the wooden fence had seen better days. That was OK, we were all friends and real neighbors then and fences did not mean much. The house on the right is on Lane's Avenue. Our driveway started on Blinn's Court and opened up on Lane's Avenue, the next street over, We knew everyone on both streets, in the Village way.




Now you can see the side interior and exterior steps to the second and third floors. The window is on our first floor. I love this photo.  I am sitting with my brother and Mom, the rest of the photo melting from age yet still perfect for a memory.  I am pretty sure that those are asbestos shingles on the house...back then, who knew?





In back of little me waiting to walk up the hill to Fuller School are the front steps of the house.  Pretty sure this is a joke about a school bus.... You can just make out the wooden side of the front steps with the slats where I used to hide and daydream. The front door was formal and not much used except for storing baby carriages and the like. Everyone used the back stairs for us and the side stairs for going to the 2nd and 3rd floors.

You can just about see the other houses on the street.  I am told that my Grandfather Souza once owned a three decker on Blinn's Ct.,  I do not know which one.





Very old photo below of my sister and I on our bikes out in front of the house on Blinn's Court. The fence behind us went around the empty lot next door to us.  This street was so safe, hardly any cars went up and down that we children played with security.




In 1949, my Mom and Aunt Eleanor hosted a Halloween Party for us "older" kids in the basement. Residing there was a big old coal furnace in the back of which I got my very first kiss.  Brick walls and the musty smell of those cellars linger in my memory.  Looks like all my classmates were invited and the decorations were great.  I distinctly remember bobbing for apples in a big white enamel panella (as it was called in Portuguese) filled with cold water and bright red apples. I was growing up, after all here I am dressed as Carmen Miranda, a favorite movie star of the day.




1948

The distinct advantage for an adventurous toddler like my brother (here above with our Aunt Eleanor of the Second Floor) is that he could tell his Mom he was going to see Titi (diminutive for aunt in Portuguese) on the second floor, then say he was going to see Titi on the third floor and then announce he was going home.  This he did not do.  Instead .with our little black cocker spaniel shadowing him. he peddled his little tractor up the hill and along School St.  Someone from the Village would eventually call my Mom or just bring him home.

Gives new meaning to "it takes a Village." 

The memories come cascading through my mind.  I remember walking (shakily) in an old pair of high heels outside on the dirt driveway and the sound and feel of it as I played at being a sophisticated lady.  The sense of walking up the stairs to one of the Aunt's apartments and the slight tilt of those stairs. The well-used white refrigerators and stoves that cooked up the most wonderful meals and desserts,  the birthday parties with a big dose of loving. The enameled kitchen tables and chairs.

A big old three decker laced with family and caring.  Way back then it was not very updated but it was as comfortable as an old shoe.  It saw my growing up and it seems many other growings up, too.

Imagine if this house could talk. Laughter, tears, small feet running here and there. We had one of the first TV's in the neighborhood, a little round 10" screen and into the small living room crowded as many as could fit to watch Uncle Milty.

The grass outside was soft and cushiony where in the summers we ran barefoot screaming with glee when a grown-up held a hose with sprinkling water to cool us off. We were always spending summer days sitting out on blankets for a nap or just lazy mind-meandering. Our grass was a thick cushion because we had a cess pool.  When it rained a lot, it would bubble up and fertilize the grass. 
A kind of night soil.


Here is my Dad cutting my brother's hair,  my Uncle Bunny/John looking on. My Dad learned to be a barber when he served with the Civilian Conservation Core. My brother knew better then move around or a knock from the scissors handle would straighten him out. Again you see another rickety fence between us and the house on the other side.




The same Uncle Bunny bought the house from my parents around the early 1950's when it was decided we would go to live with my Grandmother Souza up at 184 School St. That School St. house story is for another time...but what a metamorphosis it has had!

The current owners of Blinn's Court  graciously shared the photo of the Blinn's Court house as it is today and this excerpt from the deed as it passed from my uncle to them in 1971 when a new history page began.



The stories of houses paired with photographs are fascinating.  I did a little internet research on this subject finding some charming anecdotes.  One home owner bought her old home along with a big empty yard.  She spent most of her time working on the house, neglecting the yard.  Then, the first Spring the whole yard blossomed into a rainbow garden as its legacy gift to her. Not only was it a rainbow- they were arranged by color!  Sometimes houses reach out to connect you to those who loved and lived in that house before you.

This was true for me when in the 80's I bought the little red house on Ashland St. built by Manny Silva (of the Top Hatters band back in the day) and his wife Kay.  Manny was my Dad's partner and it felt strange to be there at first.  Both of them had passed away. The color was its legacy.

 They loved the color red. The house was red shingles, the wall to wall carpet everywhere was deep wine red and the kitchen had a wonderful red linoleum floor I loved to polish.  The house did give up a few secrets: a printing plate of the Top Hatters discovered in a little nook. Like the house above,  the first Spring brought forth a legacy garden of bright red tulips! When it was time to repaint the house,  I had all the shingles removed and side board put on. Everyone waited to see what color it would be...well, of course, RED !

As a side note: I  found this Christmas card photo of that little home on Ashland St.
I had written it to my future husband. It was very early in our courtship, very early.  I had written...Keep in Touch!  The rest is our own history started in this little house in Taunton with our wedding day. W e moved from there right after the wedding
(the house had found itself a new owner) and started our combined history
in many other houses right up to where we are today.



....................................


I am grateful to the current Blinn's Court keepers of the house and their
 daughter, our reader, for sharing some of their history of that house
 with me, and with all those who follow this blog.

It is very true that when we return to visit a place where we have lived we go to
where those memory-keeper houses still reside always seeking the echoes of our lives.
We do not see the present there, our minds and hearts are full the the past.
....................

Keep in touch, all,  and perhaps you can share some of your house stories....



Monday, March 16, 2015

MAKING YOUR WORDS LINGER



Still reading Pat McNees online and her "story catching",  I found another phrase I love: "between rattles and rattling bones."  McKnees , Stallings and Bragg have a book titled: My Words are Going to Linger, which is top of my list to read in the near future.


"There was never yet an uninteresting life. 
Such a a things is an impossibility.  Inside the
dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy,
and a tragedy."

                                                                                          Mark Twain


All lives contain those elements, one has only to scratch the surface of family members to see that.Those of us digging into the past for treasured facts and memories devour such books and websites. The search, in reality, is never ending.  People go at their research and their presentations in all kinds of ways.  Our own Eileen Gouveia painstakingly wrote out in long hand the memories she had as well as those told to her by her parents and others. She, as we know, has shared them with us. Many people do just that, writing out their thoughts and remembrances. It is always a possibility that in the future a curious descendant will enter all onto a computer and complete with photos.  Arlene and her mother had saved many wonderful photos, which again, we have shared in this Blog.


Above a Page from Arlene Gouveia's
Memories of the Village


Below is a newer, sort of hybrid manner of safeguarding and presenting memories, Scrapbooking. Not like the scrapbooking you and I grew up doing, but rather a craftier method of preservation. A whole new industry has grown around this hobby and Pinterest as well as the Net in general abounds in help for this endeavor. One of my sisters is doing scrapbooks for each of her grandchildren, a grand endeavor involving all types of tools and embellishments. Two of them, twins, cannot get enough of their scrapbooks.  What a treasure to keep, to hold, and to look back on when they are adults and can share with their own children and grandchildren.

I am doing scrapbooks(below) now which will utilize marvelous collage tools on my computer such as Canva and Pic Monkey as well as many others.  This is a work in progress as are all things that relate to memory-keeping. My dining room table has been pressed into use, as my computer 
area is not sufficient


"The greatest gift we can give our families is the story that charts our history."
McKnee
.............

ANOTHER WAY

Stan Pierce, however, chose a totally different way in recording the charting of his history. He began by sharing his story in posts on an on-line community publishing program that willfully blurs the lines between blogging and social networking (like Facebook and Twitter and formal blogs like this one) . Below is the  Live Journal site is below for you to check out.
                                                    http://www.livejournal.com

Stan started with his project around 1999-2003 and as all Storycatching it was an exciting journey.
He indicates that Live Journal's time, as he knew it, has come and gone. However, it provided him a venue, a beginning, a template within which to frame his story. Stan interacted with others posting on the site.He began to post his own history stories and the response was amazing. As he was probably the oldest person posting, his online friends began to ask for more . First he made 100 friends and it went on from there,  Stan entered into a whole new and interesting community.

He decided to review his posts culling them into his biography.  After merging the posts, he found an online site that published them for him.  This is a great option and one which eliminates the need to type and enter, cut and paste photos (not an easy task either by hand or on a computer, I assure you). Cut and paste gets old quickly.

Stan set his biography in a historical context, then goes on to lace his posts together in an easy, conversational manner. If you keep a journal and calendars, that might work for you for a foundation as Stan's posts did.  Reading Stan's bio it is no wonder his readers enjoyed him so much.

He begins with:
            "I am curious if you can remember the first toy that you had (and maybe the second). It has to be a toy you actually remember and one that your parents told you about."

He then skillfully goes in in paragraph bursts leading one back in time, awakening memories in many of us.  One paragraph reads simply:

         "It was a good life."

and much later: " and that's a sample of life in a small city in Massachusetts 
in the 1934-1942 era".

Those years preceded my remembrances - just.  I very much enjoy reading of those times. Things like "gas jets in every room",  awaken one's imagination.  Also, of course Stan writes as a boy and then a man, a different perspective from my own feminine voice, so his work is refreshing for this writer.

              When you are a child you make mudpies.  then on day you realize 
you were really making memories.  
        Sandra Pineault



Focused, his memories sharp and honed with telling, Stan gives his family a forever gift, movie-ready as the new saying goes.  I really enjoyed hearing about the big bands and how he loved dancing to them in such places as Rosalind Ballroom in Taunton. This is a photo from Pinterest, your imagination supplies the music, right?




Wit, description of the smallest detail, a large dose of love for one's life, a sense of history - all those ingredients make for a fully-formed memoir.  Watching the child, the boy, the teen and then the man you walk with him all the way. That is the way to tell a story.

Stan's memoir is 51 pages in length. When I wrote my Grandmother Isobel's story it was 100 pages but I included many photographs and it was a complicated story..  I have yet to tell my own story....hmmmm. Perhaps, Stan, you are the one to inspire me on.  Right now, I write the stories of others which in reality ring around my own.  The way you write a bio, your story or memoir depends on many things.   In many ways our stories write themselves.

Stan finished his story, published it  and then did a marvelous thing. He distributed a book to each of his children and grandchildren.  Someday a future grandchild will start to ask about him and the information will be there for him or her.  A forever gift, as I said.

Thank you, Stan, for your generous sharing and willingness for me to write about you. I hope I have done it some justice, and that it will inspire others.


RESOURCES 


There are many  e-book publishing sites on the net. Here is one to help you begin. 
They vary in price and page limits.

                               http://www.your-life-your-story.com/autobiography.html


Other sites to help: If you do Pinterest, look for the Board: Ancestry and enjoy. 
This is a site from one of the pins to be found there...

                              http://www.atticlightstudios.com/page-layout---design.html

Some notions about photography in telling your story. 
This is from my blog.








Saturday, March 7, 2015

GOOD-BY TO A DAUGHTER OF THE VILLAGE




Marie Vincent Costa 
August 13, 1927-March 3, 2015


I was in the process of writing a follow- up on ""  when I received this news. I could not pass up the opportunity to share it.  

My thanks to Arlene Gouveia whose photograph below is even more precious now that it graces this page. She alerted me to this passing.  Marie Vincent is the head majorette in front of the Village Drill Team in this photo taken in the late 30's or early 40's.  Moreover, the house behind them is her family home, the home ofJoseph and Hilda Vincent on School Street in the Village.

It is not often that we are afforded this type of remembrance linking the story of a Village native through to the point of her passing.  I am honored to be able to do this. Whoever wrote the obituary did so with such love that it profiles this woman perfectly.
I knew this family so it means much to me.




Here is an expert from her this Obituary
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theday/obituary.aspx?n=marie-costa&pid=174327482



Niantic, CT.- Just as she marched as a majorette down School Street and carried the statue of Blessed Mary ahead of the parade bound for St. Anthony's Church, Marie Vincent Costa passed away on March 3, 2015 and smiled her distinctly beautiful smile at what now lay ahead.

Born on August 13, 1927, Marie grew up in Taunton, MA, eldest child of Joseph and Hilda Vincent, and sister to Joseph T. Vincent and Richard Vincent and sister in-law Dolores Vincent of Taunton.

She will be remembered with love and admiration by her family and the many close friends she made throughout her lifetime, including Mary Minerva Tinto of St. Augustine, Florida, her lifelong dearest friend and confidant, and the "daily Mass ladies", of St. John's Parish in Old Saybrook, CT.

She will also be remembered for her amazing pies at family gatherings and for that steadfast commitment to "straightening up" the Church after Mass at St. John's.

After earning her Master's in Education from Bridgewater State Teacher's College, she married Antone Robert Costa of Dighton. and headed across the country for the next 25 years, making sure that her Air Force family always experienced the comforts and security of home, even when home meant growing up in 9 different states.

She is fondly remembered as teacher, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-grandmother. For her grandchildren she lovingly filled a large green cookie tin with endless batches of cookies, which surely shall never be matched in taste.

She was always the last to sit down to eat at the table as she tirelessly prepared the meals of many family get-togethers.

Her grandchildren say they will never forget the many fun outings, the m&m's, the times she would warm their cold noses with fuzzy 1970's door knob covers, and " we would never have known the impact of a red sweater on the rest of our lives.  Thank you for being the perfect Grandmother."



Photo from past processions to and from St. Anthony's on School Street.


Marie grew up to be a true Village wife, mother and grandmother and friend.  Her description fits those loving avos from the Village in those days.


                                                                                 
What touches me the most is that in spite of living all over the country and finally ending up in Connecticut her wish was to lie at rest in St. Joseph's Cemetery at the foot of the Village.


                                     Rest in peace, Marie, daughter of the Village
                                                                    ............






Friday, February 27, 2015

"STORY CATCHING"



"Every experience I have ever had, everything I have
ever thought, said or done, and every person I have
ever loved has contributed in some essential way to the
human being I am today. Had one stroke of the brush touched
the canvas in an altered manner, or splashed upon it
a darker or a lighter color, I should be a very 
different person now"

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte: Syrie James.


           Why tell a story?  Why go to all that trouble in a project that will take you over?



   




Telling a story makes your mark, that of your family, and of your time. No one will ever make that mark again...ever.  Your times are disappearing and are full of lessons and love as well as  hardship and tears.  The crux of the story is in how that hardship was overcome.

I write Memoirs of School Street because the Village on School Street is gone and I am old. Encapsulated in my head and heart are all the STORIES. What I do not know, I  find out.  As I and my friends went our separate ways traveling across the borders of the Village, the Village wrapped us in threads of gossamer.  I and others have been attempting to rewind those threads again, uncovering the treasures collected in the strands of those years.  When we speak, it is always the same mantra...who will understand?  Who remembers even now? How blessed I am to be able to collect, along with such wonderful Keepers as Arlene Gouveia and Charles Crowley, so many of those times recording them for posterity. If for nothing else, the ride has been spectacular!

The Village lives in us, still.  The values we shared, the honor of being part of it hopefully will inspire our readers, other writers.  I wish I had started much earlier, for I am sure that much has been lost  never to be found. That is why I wrote this blog post.

I,  and those who share with me, are the Keepers, they are present in each generation.  Pat McNee who has the great web site you will find below calls it: "story catching"...  I like that.  Do not underestimate your task of being such a Keeper, such a story catcher.  Charlie Crowley was a magnificent in that role.



Memory is a marvelous and precious gift. It is a running movie in our heads and hearts.  Sooner or later in each life there is a yearning to know where one comes from, to know your parent's story, your grandparents and so on. It must be a DNA gene that get activated for the motherland, even if it be right here in America.

Sometimes, the need to know THE STORY comes sooner, sometimes later. It is good when our young are taught to appreciate this in their school years while primary sources, like parents and grandparents, are still around to share. True, now and then such documentation goes into a box in the attic (heaven forbid it should be thrown out!).  At another future time, however, the hands and minds of our children, grandchildren and beyond will go searching for THE STORY.




Writing the story of my own families was full of unanticipated and satisfying dividends. It took years to compile since it was complicated- but it was accomplished.  Some read it, some did not.  Still, it is there awaiting more discovery. When re-reading it the emotion still packs a powerful punch.

The tools to write your story, a gift for yourself and your family are close at hand.

 The first: your imagination, the second your curiosity, the third your willingness to not quit.  That last will not be a problem as this task soon becomes an itch to learn more and more.  You are led on and on with each discovery. You follow the thread.

The other thing that happens is that you find family or reconnect with them. Do not underestimate this for it is the strength that keeps one going and a source of joy.

Other tools: a computer, a pen and pencil, a good strong notebook you will take everywhere with you.  Your own memory will need mining and the gold that comes forth will come up anytime it wants, prodded by who knows what.





 You will know and learn all of that.  To help you are two incredible sites 
for you to watch at your leisure. They are listed at the end of this post.
Bookmark them for you will go back to them often.

You need not record tediously on your old typewriter.
 If you are not versed in using a computer, learn.
If you are a senior, seniors are encouraged to learn new skills, this is one you will
find opens up the past for you!





The first site could be the only site you need. It is chock full of sources, direction and information.
           I am even now learning from it. I wish it had been around back when I started.
                         


This site below is the story of a town that no longer exists. You can see why it resonated with me.



......................................


After all of the discussion above, I would like to now get to a personal example of telling a story which has been shared with us by Tauntonian reader Stanley Pierce.   See the next blog post
for the Biography of Stanley Pierce and His story, a perfect example of story catching at its best.
Get ready for a dose of the past full of remembrances, a story to inspire and get you going.    








Friday, February 13, 2015

THE FIRE THAT ONCE ATE DOWNTOWN TAUNTON

While working on the Star and New York Lace Store histories with the last few posts,  I found mention of the fire that long ago almost ate downtown Taunton.  Of course we do not remember it!  It took place in 1859!

The late Charles Crowley speaks of it in one of his Old Tyme Taunton You Tube videos which I include here. He permitted me to use his work and I am honored to do so.

Amazingly, an article still exists in the Taunton Public Library archives telling posterity as well as the people of the time exactly what happened. We now combine new digital technology and the paper microfiche to describe that fire. Plus- add the voice of Charles Crowley, too.


In the 1880's this is what some of the downtown looked like. The tip of School Street as it comes into Main St. is shown in this photo.  No problem finding a parking space then!!  Horse and buggies were transport of the day.  Imagine the quiet!



In the 1880's here is what fire fighting apparatus looked like  at the Weir Fire Station (courtesy C. Crowley).  This is undated but is likely from the time of the fire.




Fire has been a primal fear since the history of man began. It could start and consume in moments. But, it could also warm on a cold night and cook food while lighting a dark night.  It was the taming and the timing that took learning through the ages.  The Great Fire of London was a huge disaster but it put an end to the Bubonic Plague ravaging the City by burning the rats and mice and all of the wooden beds harboring them that would be replaced by metal.

In 1838  there was a fire in Taunton, Ma that destroyed all the original town records.  When I had done research in Plymouth, MA I found out that the same had been true for them at one time.  Fire does not discern , it just does its thing.

Nearly every major city in the world has been burnt to the ground at least once in its history, some repeatedly and with all kinds of causes.

BOSTON 1872- The most expensive fire in terms of property damage of any U.S. fire burned downtown Boston's business and financial district. It burned 65 acres of businesses and jobs as well as 20 people. 706 buildings were destroyed.  The amount of lost jobs and businesses was what puts it at the top as the most expensive.

CHICAGO 1906- 17, 000 structures burned and 300 people died. It is a myth that Mrs. O'Leary's cow started it, rather most likely a transient smoking in a barn. The result was the emergence of a brand new downtown Chicago and one of the finest fire departments in the country.

PRESHTIGA, WISCONSIN 1871- same time as Chicago but rarely mentioned though it caused more deaths than any other fire in U.S  history.  It lay waste to 12 communities in an area the size of Rhode Island. The little town of Peshtigo lost their entire population: 1,700 souls. Firestorm even created a tornado during this horrific event.

Fire can destroy and cause incalculable pain and death. It is not to be trifled with, our Fire Departments today know that.

Now we come to our post's main event: our own Historic Taunton Fire




           
On November 27th, 1859 this great fire occurred  in downtown Taunton.
Here is a photo taken the day after the 1859 fire. It was an aerial taken from the corner of the Green and Weir St.  The large building the left (where Woolworth's would once be) was a Veteran's Home.
In order to construct a fire break and halt the fire dynamite was used to destroy the building that would house Goodnow's in the future.




The Extra Edition of the Gazette at the time listed the following businesses as perishing.  The names read like a history lesson.


2-clothing stores
Oak Hall clothing store /Samuel Colby
Woolen goods/Hodges Reed
Foster and Barnes: Tailor


2 book and drug stores
Mr. Barker's Book Store
Ezra Davol-publisher
F.S. Monroe- Book and Drug Store
---
2 jewelry stores
H.L. Horr's Jewelry
E. F. Tisdale, Jeweler
----
   Henry Perry's hat, boot and shoe store
-----
2 -hardware and furniture stores
-----
2 printing offices
Christopher Hack: Printer
Telegram Printing Office
-----
4 saloons
Simon wilbur.victualling saloon
Mr. Gideon Congdom- Victualling Saloon
----
2 carpet and dry good stores
C. Bryant and Co dry goods and carpeting.
----
1 milliner shop
-----
2- daguerrotype establishments
Paddock R. Reed: ambratypist
H. B. King- daguerrotype
----
1-harness shop
H. S. Washburn
----
1-coffin warehouse
Philo Washburn: undertaker
-----
1- fish market
William H. Lincoln Fish Market
----
1-insurance office
-----
1-lawyers office
James Brown, Esq.
----
A.S. Sweet hairdressing salon
----
1-dentist office
Dr. Julius Thompson

1 billiard saloon
Peter Chick: Billiards Hall
----
Grocery Store
William R. Reed & Co. Grocer
-----
2 Painters Shops
Cornelius Wyatt
S.L. Hall
----

Hardware Store: 3 1/2 stories
Issac Wahburn
-several small tenements


The fire originated in the confectionary salon of Asa Waterman in Washburn's Block, Main St.  It was discovered by Waterman Potter, watchman, about 3 a.m. and was of "doubtful origin", starting in the basement of the building and spreading to the first floor. . The Gazette noted that the Fire Department rendered as much aide as it was able (read, not much).  It also went on to say that:

"The day generally was noted for an excusable amount of Sabbath breaking by our own good citizens whose necessities prompted them to labor early and late and by an inexcusable amount of thieving and outright robbery (our modern times hold no exclusive on that)."


Interesting that the Fire Station on the corner of Leonard and School Sts. served the City at that time and minus the horses remains pretty much the same...excuse the photos. please.





This was quite an historic event in the history of Taunton. I am sure that there are others that we have yet to discover.  If you read A History of Taunton by Dr. William F. Hanna   this tome will deliver an incredible amount of history well worth reading. It can be purchased from The Bristol County Historical Society in Taunton on Church Green.


To watch an excellent presentation of the 1859 Taunton Fire as well as the history of downtown I urge you to see this Old Tyme Taunton program with Charles Crowley.

                               https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ5bFZPgZ24

                    If you cannot access it, it is OTT #299 Downtown Taunton on You Tube.


This has been a departure from our usual posts, but I thought it so fascinating that you would all enjoy it, too.  Perhaps, some of these shopkeepers and professionals were your relatives....who knows.  No matter, it surely meant starting all over for our once upon a time downtown.


                                                                ............................

Thanks to the archives of Charles Crowley, to Aaron  Cushman of the Taunton Public Library
Research Department and various and sundry Internet Historic data sites.











Saturday, January 24, 2015

PART II: NEW YORK LACE STORE

The first part of our story about New York Lace Store and its founder has received a wonderful response! In all the little towns where people grew up, there must have been a store like this.  A store that mirrored the events in our lives: our first Communion dresses, prom dresses ( or a gown for the Cadet Drill at Taunton High), our wedding dresses, or dark dresses for the sad part of our lives and our families. A reader wrote that each Christmas her Dad would take her to buy a cocktail dress for her mother who would wear it New Year's Eve.

It seems that many Dads took their daughters to NY Lace to pick out a dress for Christmas for their Moms. A gentlemen recollected that his Dad would take him there to pick out clothes for presents for his Mom and that he bought the boy his first leather jacket there.

This is a photo of my Mom, Angi Mota Souza,  probably from the early 50's or late 40's. She is wearing a taffeta dress with a perky little hat to match.  I think they were in emerald green. I am sure she bought this dress at NY Lace Store and that it might have been a Christmas or New Year's party.  Remember the rustle of taffeta and the music of lights that played on the material?






There was always a continuity in the women working at NY Lace. They were, in their own rights, professionals who knew their customers and what would please them.  The elegance I spoke of at New York Lace was like a balm that left the frazzled everyday outside. Another reader recalled that the saleswomen had lovely hands, they would put their hands (knuckles up, of course ) into the sheer nylons so you could see what they would look like on you.

One reader mentioned the back of entrance. Remember that?  You came in from the back parking area, up the quiet stairs and then you were there where everything was carpeted and the big three way mirrors beaconed you in the new dress you were trying on. The dress would start the dreaming and you would be in another world.  My childhood friend and I went there to get her wedding gown and my dress as Maid of Honor, so many years ago. I do not know why I was so serious, except that maybe I could see into the future....

The memory of us back in the Bridal Salon area at N.Y. Lace store is vivid in my mind. Just the two of us as it was a very small wedding.  I had never been in a wedding before. Kneeling on the altar at St. Anthony's I stepped on the dress and tore a hole in the back....    All of this when I was but 18 years old.








In 1984, New York Lace turned 77 years old.  This is a photo of Betty Setchkenbaum Mackowski,  daughter to Pincus holding a treasured photograph of her father.  At the time, the store had been run by three generations of the family.

The Taunton Daily Gazette did a major writeup for the occasion of the anniversary. Mr. Zetchkenbaum died in 1950 and never saw the final form of his store. Mrs Mackowski and her husband, Sidney took over the running of the store in 1930 as 
Mr. Zwetchkenbaum entered retirement.





This photo below in that same issue shows Sidney Makowski with  pieces of the actual lace and other yard goods that Pincus Zwetchkenbaum sold door to door.




But, back to our real story, that of Pincus Zwetchkenbaum (everytime I type this I hope I do it right!)

We know that Mr. Zwietchkenbaum was a good businessman and entrepreneur. How many other stores started in 1906 and endure until this day?  But, what was he like as a person? In the 1984 article he is described as a generous man.  The article quotes his daughter that during the Great Depression he always carried nickles and dimes in his pockets in case he met a man selling apples to feed his family.
...........

   Fact:  During the Great Depression unemployed men,
 often dressed as if go to work to try and maintain their dignity, sold apples on the streets around the country. In 1930 the International Apple Shippers Association had an oversupply of fruit 
and decided to empty their warehouses of apples.  They gave them on credit to the unemployed.  Selling apples on street corners during those dark days became a symbol of the times.

                                                                     Pinterest: Chicago Tribute photo





Pincus often saw to it that a needy family had food, coal, milk to last them through the winter. His back porch was a place where someone could find a good meal and not be turned away.  Mr. Z's generosity seemed of biblical character. When the City Treasury hit a low and doubts were that teacher's salaries could not be paid, Pincus gave them an interest free loan to be sure that they were paid.

New York Lace Store kept that very special character. Interestingly, the Star Theatre building was right next door to New York Lace.  Its fate was not a happy one and it met its demise. Yet, New York Lace store, now expanded and enlarged, continues on its timeline, earning new owners and finding new ways to build upon the long ago selling of yards of lace.

 Once the venerable store came under those new caretakers new stories emerged.  The story of that journey is fascinating as well and waits for another day.



                                             I am appreciative of the following resources:

                         *    Once more, The Taunton Public Library Research Department in the person of  
                             Aaron Cushman who is always willing to speedily help with what is needed.
                                     -        Taunton Daily Gazette  editions

                         *    Pinterest: Chicago Tribute photograph
                       

                         *     1930 and 1940 U.S.A. Census online version.


                         *     The "I'm From Taunton" Facebook page. Thank you to all those who
                                 posted comments and memories to this iconic store.












Friday, January 9, 2015

NEW YORK LACE STORE; HISTORY OF A DOWNTOWN LEGEND : PART I

Remember the photograph on the last post of the Star Theatre building with the sign New York Lace Store on one side?  Well, here is the story of that neighbor to the Star, another formidable downtown lady, The New York Lace Store.


We have just gone through Christmas shopping time.  There are still folks around who prefer to stroll from shop to shop instead of sitting in front of their computer to find what they want.  Nothing wrong with that...but, for our purposes we say kudos to shoppers who prefer to patronize their local businesses.  One place you might shop is New York Lace . Perhaps you would couple that with a stroll around the Christmas Green then lunching at one of the good restaurants downtown.  If there is a bit of snow, so much the better!

Quite accidentally, I stumbled upon historical information about The New York Lace store ( one of the oldest on Main St. ) finding a gold mine of Taunton lore.  Connections bind history with a thread that if followed finds us at more connections... reminding us of the thought, of "nine degrees of separation."

It was a real treat to unravel this particular thread sending us back in history to the early 1900s , specifically 1907.

In 1907, in the United States, woman suffragettes were still fighting for the vote.  In that year, the U.S. Congress raised their own salaries to $7, 500 (and kept on going).  In February of that year the passenger ship Larchment sunk off Block Island, Rhode Island and 322 souls perished.  In April, a Canadian won the 11th Boston Marathon.  The Bubonic Plague broke out in San Francisco in May.  December of that year saw the first ball drop in Times Square and Oklahoma becaming the 46th state of the Union.  Federal spending that year - are you ready for it .... $ 0.58 billion.

That same year Pincus Zwetchkenbaum, an immigrant from Poland (the 1930 census lists him as Polish, his wife Austrian) came onto the Taunton scene. There are those who think he came from Russia but I am going with the Census information.

The well known fabric of the immigrant ingenuity of those days  is exemplified with Mr. Zwetchkenbaum.  It was true also with our grocer below,  John Dimitri from Albania. It was a new country for many in Taunton and they did not hesitate to inject new vitality into the economy of the City.  Current Tauntonian Stephen Kosta's Uncle John Dimitri below started selling bananas from a cart, then worked his way up to this horse and buggy....






                       .... eventually locating his own store (seen below) at 107 Main St. His store was
described as being right next to the  Star Theatre . 
 New York Lace Store would be located nearby at 89 Main St.
 Even though this photo was taken in 1927, 
it still gives us an idea of early downtown Taunton.




Thank you to Stephen Koska for sharing both those incredible photos above.


 Those immigrant entrepreneurs fitted themselves into a new culture
and in Pincus' case, a new couture.



A place for lace
  Pinterest photo                                                  


As John Dimitri with his horse drawn cart above finally opened his own store,   Pincus Zwetchkenbaum traveled the same journey beginning with "strips of lace and yards of  calico ."  By dint of hard work and keeping his goal in mind,  Pincus,  sold from a cart, went door to door and then managed to open his first Taunton shop with his son Joseph in 1906 in  Whittenton selling lace and embroidery.  In 1920 he moved it to the location downtown where Pober's had been.

(In those same years, my own grandfather, Joseph Souza, did as those gentlemen . Selling wood in his case from a horse and buggy and then establishing his own used furniture Store on Weir St.  I like to think that they all knew each other.)

In 1935  Pincus Z. moved to 89 Main St. and opened New York Lace Store.  Pincus and his family had been in business in the City of Taunton since 1906 and that business today is still going strong.

Imagine, our grandmothers would have shopped in the store in Whittenton.
                    Since in 1907 women dressed like this...with lots of material and lots of lace, it
                                                                is highly likely.
                           
                             
Wow, the lace!

Pinterest photo



Here is a photo I use as this blog cover photo.  In 1907, my grandparents had only been in
Taunton a few years.  Their first child, my Uncle Joe (far right) was born in
Taunton in 1906.  In this photo  he is with his brother John and sister, Mary. Look at all the lace!!





So where would one get lace?
Where else....New York Lace Store.


During the 1900s  Downtown Taunton probably looked like this...



                               No date to this postcard, but betting it is very early on downtown Taunton.
                               Once Charles Crowley dated the clocks...we see a white one here. Need to
                                            do more research unless someone out there knows?
                         

New York Lace Store would have sold to our grandmothers, mothers and we ourselves,who grew up in Taunton in the 40's and 50's  Below is a photograph from the Taunton Daily Gazette of a 40th Anniversary sale at the store in 1947.  Check out the kerchiefs we all remember.  Note the prices as well!  The article notes that Pincus would be the gentlemen at the lower far right.  Only his back and part of his head can be seen.  Remember the days when there would be crowds like this in downtown Taunton. One has to stretch the memory for that.
.



I remember the touch of elegance that was so apparent there.  Nylons (well before pantyhose) would have been nestled in tissue paper in their own slender white boxes,  Gloves the same. There were always the same lovely ladies waiting on you, so it was a familiar shopping experience and very personal. They knew their customers and they knew their wares.

Through the years and decades New York Lace Store has anchored one end of downtown.  Through that time it drew our ancestors then ourselves.




                     Stay tuned for Part II of The New York Lace Store Story. There is more!




Sources: 

 *photographs from Stephen Kosta.
   
                                                    *photograph from my own archives.

*Aaron Cushman from the Research Department of the Taunton Public Library
           Taunton Daily Gazette: Dec. 3, 1984

*A History of the Bridal Business in Taunton

      





Sunday, December 28, 2014

DEATH OF A DOWAGER: THE STAR THEATRE


Happy New Year to each and all!







In 2015 this blog will continue to tell our stories. The most exciting thing 
about the storytelling here with the naming of people and places is that we make them
live once again.  Our hearts and minds can know that there is a place to put them, 
to share them, to keep them safe and even to add to them. 

There are some lined up already but I welcome more and more....
...........

Here is another architectural story that we have just
 bid farewell .

This post is dedicated to those incredible historic architectural
structures lost to the Taunton landscape as well as those of so many other towns and cities.


Progress? Parking lots? Short term vision?
So many reasons.  Do you know that the magnificent mansions
in Newport almost met that fate as well?  Only the Newport
Preservation Society saved them....and finances, of course.





                                                 "Final Curtain Call for the Star Theatre"
                                            with permission of Frank C. Grace, photographer.
                                                                    Trig Photography



On April 12, 2014, photographer Frank C. Grace of Trig Photography was invited to have a last look at the Star Theatre on Main St. in downtown Taunton.  He took this magnificent photograph of the dying icon. There are so few photos of the Theatre making this even more precious. Thank you, Frank, for your willingness to share with us.

After years of sparring and neglect the Star Theatre has finally fallen to the wrecking ball.  In spite of those wishing otherwise, it joins other  magnificent edifices who have not found new life. This one is now gone forever, its history buried beneath the ignominious rubble now swept away.

                             History is  a whiff of eternity, delicate and quickly gone.




 Just next to Taunton Lace Store we see the edifice of the Leanard building still bearing an old ad.




Below we see the front of the theatre building.  
                                         The final demolition started on Monday, Dec. 15th.
                   In a photograph offered by David Pimental Jr. of Taunton,
            we see the top two stories that housed the Theatre going first.





The Star Theatre's descendants: the Park, The Strand, the State,  elegant in their architecture and wrapped in our memories met that wrecking ball years ago. Any of these edifices could have meant  a greater renewal for the downtown area. The other day, for no reason, up into the front of my memory came a moment, as fresh as it was then when I was a child.  I was coming out of the seating area into the lobby,  Underfoot was lovely deep red carpet. I remember feeling the elegance, the quiet. The magic as I looked up the carpeted red stairs that led majestically up to the balcony(I was too young to know yet what that magic meant to teenagers!).
                  

True, you and I never saw a performance at the Star. As part of the Taunton Art Association I once exhibited my paintings there as we tried to raise awareness of the historical theatre. What a task for our imaginations.  Our grandparents must have enjoyed performances here, live and on film. Already the structure was delicate and we were not allowed to wander around.  Maybe there were echoes of long ago...but I never researched it until now.


Pinterest:  



The Star Theatre opened in 1911and is listed as having 450 seats.  The Leonard Block building had been built in the late 1870. This photo is taken from a diaganel angle. The building with the sign Goldstein houses the Star Theatre.

 The Star did not survive the talkies, it closed in 1929.  BUT, it probably aired the first full length film ever to be shown in the U.S., Dante's Inferno in 1911. Prior to this movie producers did not think people would sit for an hour through a full feature film. Many films were shown as serials over a month or two.

 The Star was listed as having "shows" daily. Take a look at the film "Dante's Inferno "restored in 2004 and feel like your grandparents may have felt.  My grandparents were already in this country when this film appeared.  Maybe?  Keep in mind, full length then was not full length now.


                                                    YouTube:Dante's Inferno original film


There would have been concerts and vaudeville acts up there on the second and third floors of the building.  Once closed, the Star lingered like a dying ballerina, alone surrounded by memories of her glory days.  Hushed as she listened to echos of laughter, maybe even tears and surely of the tinkling piano that accompanied those silent pictures.


                                                       from dailymail.co.com




       Goodbye, Lady Star.  I do not wish to know what will be built in your place. You
      offered entertainment and escape for Tauntonians in your own era. 
For that we owe you at least our gratitude.

                                                                 ....................

                                                                   Post Sources


                                     Frank C. Grace Photography Facebook page: 
                   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Trig- Photography/349794277317


a great article of early movie history.



                 For my past blog posts about the Star Theatre's offspring see the links below.

                    http://schoolstvillage.blogspot.com/2012/11/movie-theatre-pearls.html


                    http://schoolstvillage.blogspot.com/2012/11/lets-all-go-to-movies.html

                                                                     ..............