Interviewed May, 1994
I remember being four year old and my parents had a Saint Bernard. My father had made a saddle for him. My brother George used to take me down to meet my Dad getting off the trolley car. I would ride in the saddle and Bob would hold the harness. I remember that, I was a young boy. I was about four years old at that time. I remember my feet would not even touch the ground. When Rover got to be about eleven years old he got in a dog fight in back of the Athens school in North Weymouth, he got chewed up so bad they brought him home on a storm door.
The cop next door had to shoot him, and they buried him in back of the barn. I remember that very well. I had that dog a long time.
I had three sisters and three brothers. I was the next to the youngest. I was born December 13, 1916. It was a hell of a snow storm that day, I remember it well. We lived in a little old cape codder on Pearl Street. It had no electricity at the time. It had a well out by the back door. No central heat, I remember we had a wood stove in the kitchen and I used to have to bring in the wood in the morning and empty the ashes after school. Going to school, we used to have to walk to school in them days. I remember I was left handed and the teacher kept trying to force me to write with my right hand. I couldn’t do it, and to this day I still can’t do it. Tough days back then in school, I had a hard time, I used to get shook up quite a bit in school. I got left behind. It was old and dingy; we used to hang our coats out in the hall. We were always staying after school or getting locked in a closet. All my brothers and sister were in the same school, different classrooms though. There were probably six or seven grades in the same school. It wasn’t a one room school house, but it was a portable school house. They could only use it in the summer because the ink wells would freeze up in the wintertime. They used to have to take the ink out of the ink wells that’s what we wrote with in them days, you had an ink well. Everyday one of the bigger kids would have to come around at the end of the day and dump the ink back in the can and the teacher would put it in a warm place at night so it would not freeze. Sometimes she would wrap it up and put it in the closet for the night. In the morning the oldest boy would come in a half an hour early and get the stove going so he would warm up the room. He would get the big pot belly stove going. The ten or eleven year old boys would bring in the wood. If you were bad you would. When I was bad, I would be bad, I would go down stairs and help old Fred Stoddard sift the ashes to get more coal. We had a coal furnace, didn’t have an oil furnace in them days. We had a boiler for part of the school. The old janitor used to feed the coal to the furnace and when we did something bad in school the principal would send us down there for punishment, and we would have to shake the shaker, shake the ashes out and save the coal and put it in trash cans to help heat the school. We had to do that for punishment if we did something we shouldn’t have done, we got sent down there. I remember my teachers, and I don’t remember a good one in the bunch. Mrs. Dingwall was third grade, she was a teacher who had all her toes off. I don’t know why. I remember that . I remember my brother and I hauling my sister, Sis, to school on a sled in the winter because she was crippled. We helped her up the stairs. I don’t remember if she had a cane or not, but I remember mostly Bob and I got that job. It had to be a mile to school. In the summer time we had a cart with wheels on it. ‘When she got bigger I don’t remember how she got there. There were no cars to speak of in those days. She must have got a ride, I don’t remember what happened. I can remember going with my brothers to Weymouth Heights in the winter with the sled and getting coal that rolled off the trains going to Boston. We brought it home in burlap bags to put in our stove. It was a flexible flyer that my father had built a box on, we’d put four or five burlap bags in there, us kids, George and Bug and Bob and Me. I’d always get tired and I’d hop on the coal and all the more weight for them. They’d have to haul me home. They didn’t care for that a heck of alot. My father would get wood somewhere, here and there, and that’s how we heated our house. There was a pot belly stove in the dinning room and a kitchen stove. It was my job to bring in wood for the kitchen stove and empty the ashes before I went to school. There were two bedrooms up stairs and one down. Sis used to sleep in a crib in the hall between the two rooms upstairs. George and Bug and Bob slept in the back room in a big full size bed, and I slept on a coach in the corner. Waynie slept in the front room upstairs and I don’t know where the hell Pearl slept. My mother and father slept down stairs in the bedroom. The girls must have ended up sharing a room I don’t remember.
I can remember when my father got his model A how Mitch Cote and I were just kids. One rainy day we were up in my back bedroom and we had a BB gun, we decided we were going to shoot at the lock on my father’s garage door there, and would have it the door was kind of tattered and one of the bb’s went through it and hit the back of .my father flibber. He didn’t like that when he found that out. We would sit in my bedroom window and we would pick off the blue jays in the bird bath at the next door neighbors, Mrs Baker. We thought that was a hell of alot of fun, we were about eight years old. We all lived on a street; Pearl Street, Cat Alley. You knew everybody and everybody knew you, you couldn’t do nothing. It used to get real cold and it was like living in the inside of a refrigerator and I had my fathers sheep skin coat, it would come clean down to my ankles. I’d put the collar up and put a stocking hat on and my father would cover me over with a piece of canvas. After that I couldn’t move to the next day. When you wake up in the morning you go to the window and it would be so covered with frost that you would cup your hands and blow on it and then rub your hands on the pane of glass so you could get a little opening so you could look out. Everything would be frosty and white. My first job in the morning was to bring down the thunder jug with me, that was a potty. Everybody that slept up stairs used it at night. That was my job when I got to be about nine years old. You would take it down stairs and dump it into a bucket and take it to the out house. On my way back in I’d bring in an arm full of wood. You would rinse the jug out and put it back at the head of the stairs. There was a little lamp at the head of the stairs that would stay on all night. Instead of going to the bathroom you went to the pot.
Mother was a good cook we used to eat alot of quaker oats for breakfast and I can remember on Saturdays my mother used to always cook beans for breakfast. She made raised dough and my cousins; Teddy, Bunny and Frainy Oleary would come over and have a good feed of beans every Saturday morning. Aunt Mae that’s my mom helped them out. They lived right across the street. Frannie was about my age and Teddy Oleary was a little younger than me and went off to Germany and fought in a battle over there . That was my mother’s youngest sister. Her husband was Bob Oleary. My father liked him alright, but he was kind of a sport guy, and didn’t stay to home much. My mother did alot of looking out for her little sister that my father didn’t even know about. My father was a hard working man and he felt like every one should be able to take care of their own.
We moved out of there for a while and moved to Concord Mass. My father’s sister, Gerdy, had a farm up there. We lived at a little camp she had on the farm, all seven kids. My father used to work on the farm. That’s the time at Thanksgiving my aunt Pearl was there, and my father had asked Gerdy for a turkey and she wouldn’t give it to him. She was tight. Her husband was a music guy and played the flute. He had money and would teach music through the mail. My brother Bob worked for them too, he would put stamps on envelopes for him. I used to pick string beans for two cents a bushel. Well we didn’t have a turkey so my father went up and stole a turkey from the farm. We cooked it up and then Gerdy and her husband came down the lane for a visit, well Bob and I had to go under the bed with the turkey. My aunt was coming down the lane and my mother had just took the turkey from the oven. We dove under the bed with it and we were having a hell of a feed. My aunt stayed about an hour and a half, we had just a kitchen, and little dinning room. She must have smelled it but she didn’t say anything. When she went, we had a turkey dinner. It was a big bugger. Aunt Pearl was up visiting and she was a good woman.
My father got a chance to go back to the shipyard so we moved back to Athen Street up where the school was. We rented a house there for a while, maybe a couple of years, up over the old grocery store. Old Fred Mewgies store. I got caught stealing candy off the guy me and Mitch Cote. We stayed there a few years, then my mother and father got a chance to buy the Pearl Street house. That was home. It was nice because we were back in the same house but not only that, we were back in the same neighborhood. It wasn’t a neighborhood like you have today, but I mean it was home. They were happy to see you back. They brought you pies and cakes. You had lost all your friends but then you came back to them, that was the interesting part. Back to school with them and into the teenage years with them. In Concord I took a bus to school but I don’t remember that school. I know we used to walk down the lane and catch the bus. Shadey Lane was the name of the place we lived, I remember that. Something like the “Walton’s”, you know. So we moved back into the old neighborhood and my father went back to the shipyard.
When my father went back to the shipyard there was a period when he would work one week and loaf a couple of weeks, that was considered good back in those days. Things were tough. I was about thirteen when the depression hit. I can remember father not working much and I can remember that it was tough making both ends meet. Everybody was in the same boat, we were no different than people a quarter of mile away or three miles away. You couldn’t buy a job. My brothers started working at the end of the depression. My father was making about fourteen dollars a week. I can remember I used to bag potatoes down at Ted Macs store. It used to be called the Economy. I remember I used to make about two cents a peck. I was about thirteen and I was in the back of the storeroom with this mountain of potatoes, it was on a Saturday and I’m bagging potatoes, and this god darn rat about eighteen inches long came over the mountain of potatoes. It went for me and then it went in the hopper. I put the cover down and sat on it and pulled the chain and I’d take a peak and it would still be there. I’d pull on the chain again and sneak a peak again. Finally it went down the shoot. It was the only flush toilet in this end of town. A few of the rich people had flush toilets. I remember on Friday nights when the store would close I’d be down there and cover over the oranges and apples, we used to cover them over with sheets for the weekend. You could go by the window and put your hands up like that
and you could see rats running all over the store. They would run along the shelves and counters and over the sheets. When they’d open the shops they’d run off. I remember stealing some watermelon off this guy, me and Mitch Cote, and we’d go on our hands and knees and we’d roll a couple of the watermelons around to the back of the store and have a feed of watermelons. We’d get caught and there would be hell to pay for that.
I can remember the trolley cars. We used to ride them to the movies in Quincey Point. When the trolley car used to come by the corner where we hung out we’d jump on the back steps. We’d ride a good two miles then when we wanted to get off we’d reach around and pull the trolley off the wire and he’d loose his power. He’d have to come around and put it back on. He didn’t like that at all. As kids we had our fun. I can remember my father had a radio there, the first one was a battery one. That first radio we had a set of ear phones. Two people would share the ear phones. One would have one ear phone and the other would have the other. ‘We would each take fifteen minutes. We would lie on the floor on a mattress in the dinning room. We would listen to the “Lone Ranger”. We got electricity right around that time. I can’t remember how old I was when we got electricity. I was young. We had the outhouse for a long time. We had a refrigerator and the guy used to come bring us a block of ice once a week. You would put a card in the window so he would know if you wanted a fifteen cent piece or a quarter piece of ice. You would look to see how much ice you had left in the fridge so you would know what you needed. He would come in with the ice chipper and put it in the top of the chest. It was like a bureau with doors on it and the top opened up for ice to go in. There was a tray down underneath it for the ice to melt into. My father took and drilled a hole in the floor and stuck a funnel in it so he didn’t have to bother dumping the tray. There was no cellar. There was no need for a cellar. There was no furnace, no water, no nothing down there until my father and older brothers dug out the cellar. I helped when I got a little older. We dug the cellar out literally by pick and shovel. We did it to have a cellar and put a furnace in.
You had no money and you couldn’t go no where and you had a shovel. There were no trash pickup in those days, so you dug a hole and when you had trash for the day you threw it in the hole with a few shovel fulls of dirt. You would get your hole filled up in a year or too, then you would dig another one. Every back yard had a hole and every back yard had a pile. You could always see someone come out and dump it and shovel.
We used to drive the model A or model T, I can’t remember which up to the, what they called the Poor Farm in Weymouth Heights, we’d put eight or ten big boulders in the back of his car behind the front seat. We would haul them home off the old field stone walls, car load by car load. It took three years; we would build part of a wall this year and part of a wall the next year. He’d put up a section and get so he had a room inside, then he would work inside tunneling it out in the winter. You would have a door you could open up and wheel it out. God, in our back yard in Pearl Street, we had two or three cars buried. You’d have an old car and it would be gone and it could not run no more, my father would dig a big hole and you’d roll it into it. It used to be at Pearl Street once you got to the back door the yard would slope right off, probably seventy-five feet or so. It was all filled up with what we took out of the cellar. It used to be like an A in a roof with a hill in the front and back yard. We had cars, trash and if they ever dug that yard out, Man Alive. It was a good little cellar, it had a couple of nice work benches, he had an oil tank and a coal bin and a furnace. He had an old still where he used to make his booze. I remember his still. I used to bottle it. Brother Bob used to do it first and then I told him I could do it just as good as him.
It was good, it was damn good. He used to share it with the friends. Sometimes us kids used to steal it and take it down into the apple orchard down back. I’d tell my mother I wanted Rootbeer cause we used to make that too. We’d sneak out a couple of home brews, it was in dark bottles and she didn’t know any different. My father would know later on there was some missing. He used to count, but he didn’t know where it would have gone. A brew used to be 32 or 28 bottles he’d end up with maybe 25 bottles or so. He’d want to know where the other 4 or 5 bottles went. Of course, Bob and George didn’t do it, but I did. Me and Mitch Cote would do it. They wouldn’t do it because they would not steal. I was a little punker. He made it during the depression and he made it for quite a while.
I remember having alot of Pea Soup for supper. Beans for breakfast and raised dough. I used to get the rind from Ted Macs store to make the Pea Soup with. That was so we would get the flavor of the meat. Never got much meat. Mostly the ones that were working got the meat. We’d get food, good food, just not the meat. The meat went for the boys. I was never hungry.
I went in the C.C.’s for that reason. George and Bob and Bug had jobs. They were helping out. They were making fourteen dollars a week and turning in about twelve. I quit school because I just wouldn’t go any further because I was fifteen and I was embarrassed to be sitting in a room with kids that were two or three years younger than I was. I said the hell with it. There was no such things in those days of tutoring or, if you just get behind one little bit you just lost it. I don’t know why nobody ever helped me but they didn’t. My mother couldn’t, she had only a third grade education. I think all my brothers went to the third grade of high school, except Bob I don’t think he made it to high school. Waynie and Pearlie were the only ones that graduated. I got out in the fourth grade and I was fourteen years old. I was fifteen when they let me stay out. So, I did damn near two years for every grade of school. I couldn’t get help. It was partly my fault. The teacher would ask me if I wanted to stay after school or go play ball, I’d always go play ball. I didn’t know any better. When I got my report cards they were lousy. Nothing happened though. I’d show it to my mother and father and they couldn’t do anything about it. My mother only had a third grade education and my father only had a seventh grade. He was self taught. He was a smart man, but he couldn’t help. My brothers and sisters were not much more help either. It ain’t like it is today. In them days if you just didn’t get it, you were passed by. The teacher wasn’t proud of bringing somebody along that was having it hard. She was proud of ones that did well. And they could have done well without her. It was like being a little kid on a raft out to sea.
A couple of my friends quit, and a couple went on to be real smart and be teachers. I felt that I got the shot end of the stick. I felt that I had it, but that with the right kind of teachers, and the right kind of care I could have done better. I remember the principal telling me I would have made a hell of an artist. Cause I used to draw alot for the school. I couldn’t do nothing else. They
didn’t want me for nothing else. They didn’t even bother about me. But when it came time for Thanksgiving, I was to go around to all the grades up to the seventh grade. I’d draw posters on a wall or a safety poster or a Thanksgiving turkey or whatever the teacher wanted.
Even the principal told me it was a damn shame I couldn’t go into art, because I had it. That’s all I had was Art. That’s why even as I got to be a man I thanked God for being a strong man; strong of mind and body because, I knew that’s how I had to get along in life. It was what I can do. I always had the smarts enough to know, I would never get myself in a corner and embarrass myself. I never tackled something I knew I couldn’t do. I gave up plenty of good positions because I knew I couldn’t do it. Your Mom tried in the worst way to teach me. I was too embarrassed and stubborn.
I joined the C.C.’s instead. I liked it but I was too homesick for little Bobby. George’s wife died right after childbirth so his son Bobby moved in with us. I was about fifteen years old. When I went into the C. C.’s I missed him so much that I finally quit after just a couple of months. He was like a little brother to me.
I was away with strangers and I was away with big colored guys, I was timid, very timid. It was just like living in the army at fifteen years old. It was tough. I liked it when I was in it; I just didn’t like being away from home. My father got me to go so he didn’t have to feed me. It was one less mouth to feed. He tried to get me to go out on a coal barge, I was only sixteen. My mother put up a hell of a howl. She said there is no way he is going out to sea. They would have thrown me overboard, some of those Greeks. I thought at that time that I was willing to go, I knew I was a hinder to the family. They couldn’t feed me. When your mom was a little girl when she was thirteen she went away to be a maid. They couldn’t feed her, same thing. A couple of friends did the same thing. The poorer of us, the little of us, like Leslie Cote, he had it tough. More so than his brothers because they were just at that age to have a job. We were almost at a bad age, we weren’t old enough to go in the service and we weren’t old enough to get jobs. Then what hurt me alot was my education. I didn’t get mad, because I understood. I went away to a dairy farm. Nobody got mad because in those days everyone understood. If it wasn’t for my mother, God knows where the hell I would have been or what would have happened to me. I thank the Lord about that. I would have gone out on a couple of barges thats for sure. I think mothers are more caring. I think if there’s anything that made an impression on my life, it would have to be my mother. Mom was one of the greatest for making an impression on my life and my sister Sis. With my mother there was love, there and kindness. She was very affectionate to me.
I don’t know if she pitied me, but she loved me, she took me as I was, she accepted me. I’m always for the underdog and my mother was too. Sis was always for me, always for me. Sis was always my right hand. Sis made a big impression on my life. Her and I was as close as a brother and sister could be. It’s true for her too. She feels the same way. Even from when we were little guys. I don’t know why, it was just close.
Father Kennedy made a big impression on my life too. When I worked at the church. Just to think I could work with a priest who was catholic and I come from people who were not catholic. To be able to sit and talk to that man, and have him, to see the broad mindedness of the man he was. He was very upfront and me working around him and getting to know him, I found out I was no different from him. He was a priest and I was just a guy, but he was just a guy. I had always
felt that they were above the law, but they were just teachers that taught religion. He was a teacher just like a school teacher. I couldn’t get over what a broad minded man he was. He thought as much of my mother and father, and they were protestants, as he did his brother that was a catholic. I learned alot there, that just like I learned from Peter, that people with long hair, you don’t judge people by their looks.
Before I went into the C.C.’s my father saw an ad in the paper for a farm hand on a dairy farm in Seaconk Rhode Island. I’ll be dammed if the guy didn’t drive up one Saturday morning to get me. I didn’t know he was even coming. My parents didn’t tell me nothing. My mother and father had my duffle bag all packed. My mother didn’t have anything to say about it. You know there was a limit, so I went. This was his first attempt to put me out to pasture. Well you know to make room. You can only feed so many on so much money. So I went down to this farm and I loved farming as a kid. I was there about a month and I missed the guys I used to hang around with at the corner. I missed my family. I was supposed to go home once a month. Finally after the second month the guy’s wife who was real nice to me decided it wasn’t for me. I slept in the hallway in this big house. They had three other hired hands that were men. The people were real nice to me. I used to have to get up every morning around four o’clock and feed all the calves and throw the sawdust down. My mother and father got thirty dollars a month, I didn’t get anything. I think I stayed two months then the woman called my father and told him to come get me, I was too homesick. All I talked about was my brother, my baby brother Bobby. I knew he wasn’t my brother but I missed my baby brother so much. I didn’t get kicked out they were just making room.
I never held it against my mother or my father. I figured they had to make room for Bobby for one thing. I guess I felt like your Mom must have felt. You weren’t working like you should be, you weren’t in school so I was taking food off the table. It wasn’t like it is today. I was the baby, then I wasn’t. It never hit me. I never got angry. When they sent me home from the farm he wasn’t mad, but he wasn’t glad either. They weren’t getting any money and I was another mouth to feed. That was during the depression, it was tough times.
Then I went into the C.C.’s. I was in there a couple of months and I came home for a leave, I missed him. I came home and I wouldn’t go back. I was supposed to go back or they would kick me out. My father wanted to take me back but I wouldn’t go back. That is when I made my first stand, that’s when I rebelled. I just didn’t go back. I told him I would just run away. I told him I would go to the camp and the first chance I got I would run away. He knew I would do it too. Although I liked the C.C.C.’s I felt like a drifter. I felt like nobody wanted me. They didn’t want me at home, I didn’t want the C.C.C’s, I didn’t want the farm and I didn’t want to go out on the ship. I was too homesick. My mother stood up for me the best she could.
I got a job weeding carrots at White’s Farm. I finally got a job in the shipyard. I paid board and that was nothing different than all kids did in that age. I was happy to be home.
Sis quit school to help take care of Bobby, it was too much for my mom. She was an old woman. She must have been born around 1873. My father was five or six years older than my mother. When Bobby came around my mother had to be about in her fifties. That is why Sis quit to help. When Bob was born, Brother Bob bought a piece of land in New Hampshire and built a camp on it. I remember it cost him like $125.00 for 1000 ft of lumber. The land didn’t cost much either. My mother and my sisters and me used to go up with Aunt Pearl and Uncle Mike for the summer. We used to bring Bobby, he was just a baby at the time. He had to have special milk brought in on a train from Boston to Warner, New Hampshire. We’d have to go down to the railroad depot in Warner to get his milk. I remember that. We didn’t have any electricity at the camp so we had to lower his milk down the well in a pail. Any of the perishables were kept in the well. There was a deep kettle with a cover. We kept a couple of red bricks in the kettle and we’d lower it into the well. You’d lower it enough so the cover was just an inch or two above the water. You had a rope and you’d hang it so it wouldn’t sink. Every time you’d cook you would go to the well. You had one pail for the water and one kettle for food. See at home we had an ice chest, because they would come around and deliver ice. You couldn’t get ice at the camp. So that’s the way you would keep it like that.
My father would come Friday nights after work and stay till Sunday nights, then go back so he could go to work. Brother Bob bought the land cause he had a buck or two. He wasn’t married and was working. He and I built his log cabin when he got laid off from the shipyard. Mostly he built it. That’s the cabin nephew Bob had later on. By the time I was seventeen or so things were good. It was slow but I was working and I could pay for a ride on a bus, or I could go out on a date. I didn’t leave home till I was twenty-five. I had a car and I used to pay my board. The only one that wasn’t home was George. Brother George was eight years older than me, and brother Bug was six years older than me, and Brother Bob was four years older than me. Waynie was next to George. When I got married the only one left home was Waynie and Pearl. George was the first to get married, then Bug, then Bob, and then Sis. Sis got married just a year ahead of me. Waynie was last to get married. She married just a year or so after I did.
I was in the National Guard for about three and a half years. We used to go away to camp and do things. I used to like that. I was more mature and grown up. I had friends of mine that joined like Butch. I think being in the National Guard taught me discipline, to get along with people and perseverance. There was alot of good in it. We used to go every Thursday night we’d go to drill. During the summer we would go to camp for three weeks. Then we’d do one weekend a month the rest of the time. You got called out for floods or hurricanes and stuff like that. When you would go to camp you would go on maneuvers. During this time I was working at the shipyard.
I started as a pipe fitter’s helper. I worked down in the bilge, then I became a journeyman. Here I wasn’t a helper and I didn’t need anyone’s help. I did plumbing for years on the boats. Then I did welding for a long time on the boats. I learned alot of trades in the shipyard. When I wasn’t working in the shipyard I worked for a contractor for a few years, Ted Classman, I learned alot about carpentry. This is when I lived on Colby Street, between layoff at the shipyard. When I’d get laid off for two or three years I’d go do construction work.
I don’t think in my life time I dated over a half a dozen girls. I wasn’t the type. I went with Janet Stewart that was the first serious girl I thought of. I was twenty two or so. I went with a couple of rough necks in my days, but nothing serious. I got jilted once and thought the world had come to an end. I thought there was nothing to live for. I thought she was a nice girl till I learned about her. Then I realized what a lucky man I was, you know. I jilted myself, because I knew where she was, so I went there to prove to myself. That was the end of it right there. I said frig you sister and that was the end of it.
I dated Janet. A bunch of us guys were at a carnival on a Saturday night. She caught my eye. She lived at North Quincy, probably as far as to Westbrook. We followed them home; walking along the sidewalk trying to date them. Finally I did get a date with her. She had leukemia. I went with her for a year and a half. I wanted to get married, but she wouldn’t have no part of it because of the leukemia. I was by her side when she died. She said if she was going to have a good healthy life she would have married me.
I was devastated after she died. I ended up dating her younger sister, but it wasn’t the same. It didn’t work out. It just wasn’t the same girl. Then I met Mom. That was June 8th 1941 at 2:30 in the afternoon. She was waiting for a bus and I said, come on with me.
She had just quit her job; she was a waitress at Howard Johnson’s. She was having trouble with her back or something. She was going to go home and get straightened out and join the Marine Corps.
I was in the store playing checkers. It was a store that we’d all hang out; Gerard Gerant, Kenny Mac, and us guys. We were eighteen, twenty and the guy, Farry Jones was his name, Christ I
never forget his name, he sold soda’s and had soda jerkers and stuff. We hung out there every night, there had to be a dozen of us. We hung out there for years. I’d say from the time I was eighteen till I was twenty-five. Even after I met mom I’d go up there. Till I got married. I told mom I still needed one night to go hang out with the boys. Then I told myself if I needed one night to hang out with the boys then I’m not ready to get married. I had to make a break. I was playing checkers with a guy named Freddy Kafitch. He was the guy that used to bring the ice around on the ice wagon. He was a big heavy burly guy. He was a batch about ten years older than us. I was more outgoing and sharp dresser than Gerard and Kenny and my other buddies. They used to like to go to Nantasket and go roller skating or go see the fights, but they never dated much. Gerard and Kenny Mac never got married. Freddy said,” hey Joe you aught to see the chick out front”, I said Nah I can’t be bothered because I had a good game of checkers going. He said “you don’t want to miss this one.” So I went up to the ice-cream part of the store and looked out the front windows. I remember saying she’s o.k. He dared me to give her a ride home. They knew I was a dare devil. I said how much? They bet me $10.00 I couldn’t get her in my car. I had a little 1932 Chevy. I went out and tipped my hat and said, do you happen to be waiting for the bus. She said, “Yes I am.” I told her I had heard over the radio that the bus coming from Quincy had broke down. It was starting to rain, I told her I was going to East Weymouth and I’d be happy to give her a ride. She hesitated but then she did. I had kept on walking, in case she said no I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I looked up and gave the guys the eye brows. I took her and went my way and she questioned me. She thought I was taking her for a ride. I had to drop her off a ways from her house, because she didn’t want her mother to know I had driven her home. I asked her for a date and then from then on she was my girl. I collected my ten bucks, and a few months later Gerard Gerant bet me I’d be married before I turned twenty-five. He bet me twenty-five bucks. I gave twenty five bucks to Forrey to hold and so did Gerard. So I told mom that if we waited till after my birthday I could get fifty bucks. Mom thought I was twenty-four. I lied about a year, I was afraid she wouldn’t marry me if she thought I was too old.
Then my life turned around. Before I was just going out with the guys playing cards, getting tatoos, getting drunk. I didn’t get drunk too much though.
She was a beautiful woman, a beautiful girl. In those days we didn’t have a hell of alot to spend so we lived in the movies. We used to go to all the local shows. We’d go out for a ride on a Sunday afternoon and get a chocolate chip ice cream. That was her favorite. I brought her home and introduced her to my mother and father and Sis and Bud. She loved Sis and Bud. They were always like sisters. We dated for only six months. I figured, hey, if she was with me too long she wouldn’t want me. I asked her to marry me in two or three months. I still don’t think she would have married me if I hadn’t converted to being a Catholic.
That’s how strict she was in her faith. I didn’t have any faith. My father had said to me, and he is a Protestant, don’t let her get away. My father was just as bigoted in the Protestant faith as Mom’s folks were in the Catholic sense, because he was a mason. My father used to teach Sunday School years ago. One day he asked a preacher a question and couldn’t get an answer, so that day he quit, never to go back again. That is when I was a little kid. I used to go to church, I used to get a bar for every year us kids would go to religion. My mother used to go once in a while. But my religion stopped just like that! When I was about ten, Ians age, my father quit. Then my father couldn’t get a direct answer so he said the hell with it and gave it up. He never really explained but we all knew the reason he quit. When Mom said that I figured she had alot of faith, and I can either have her or loose her. My father had said, don’t let her get away before he knew she was a Catholic. The minute he found out she was a Catholic it was a horse of a different color. As a matter of a fact he wouldn’t even go to my wedding. He wasn’t mad but, he wouldn’t go to my wedding. He made it his business to have to work on that Sunday and I knew it. My mother said,” It’s your life, Joe”. She knew my father liked Mom it was just that she was Catholic.
My father went to one of my cousins wedding a week later in the same church. But that wasn’t me. Same wedding, same church the next Saturday. He didn’t give a damn, cause it was my cousin. He just didn’t want me marrying a “damn Catholic”. He thought there was nobody in the world like mom. The funny thing was his best friend Martin Cote was a Catholic. He just didn’t want me marrying a Catholic. I looked at it in this sense; I have no religion to give up. I had already given it up years ago. The kids would just wonder why I didn’t go to church. I figured she was right, it was better having both of us going. I’m not sorry. I had to learn alot about the Catholic religion. A young priest by the name of Sullivan, reminds me alot of Mike. He laid the cards right out on the table. It wasn’t hard to learn at all. It was one of Mom’s priests in her parish. We went a couple nights a week for a couple of months, she went with me. That’s the way it went. He gave me a test to make sure I knew what he had been talking about. I got my confirmation with her brother Joe, the guy that got killed in the service. I got all my sacraments at
the same time. Just me and Mom, and her brother and parents went to it. My mother didn’t see any harm in it. Rose had said to me, you’ll never be able to do it. She had married my brother Bob, and when she found out I was going to convert she said I couldn’t do it. Bob hadn’t done it for her when they married. See, I didn’t have to do it, the church didn’t make you do it. I just knew Mom would never marry me. I did it on my own free will. Rose didn’t care. Mom had such a strong faith that I could have lost the woman of my life over it. I don’t know if there isn’t a God or there is a God, there is one there ain’t one. All I hear is this one fighting that one, that one fighting this one. I said, “Who the hell is right, who cares”, all I cared about was getting that woman. I don’t give a shit, I would have signed any paper I want to sign. You know, she was worth every nickel of it. I got the sacraments two or three weeks before we got married. I went through hell. I went through the third degree. We knew we were going to get married but it wasn’t going to be till after I got the sacraments. I said, It’s okay with me I can be a turn coat. No problem what so ever.
Then we got married. Joe Durant was my best man, Gerard and Kenny were there, Sis and Bud, George and Betty, Bob and Rose and Bug and Pricilla all were there. Bug took the pictures that you have. My whole family except for my father. Mom’s family went too. We got married at a church in Witman. Mom said that was the first time she kissed her mother. When she came out of the church she kissed my mother and her mother was standing right beside her, so she kissed her mother for the first time. Her mother was a very funny woman.
When mom went home and showed her mother her engagement ring, her mother gave her a black eye. It was a beauty. The next day when I went to pick her up she had dark glasses on. It was a real black eye. Her mother said, “Just when you get to the age when you can help the family, you go off and get married”. She had really been helping her family since she was first sent away at thirteen. Her mother let mom keep her last pay check, fourteen dollars to buy her wedding outfit. Mom told me about her upbringing gradually. I got to dislike her mother, because she would do anything she could possibly do to break us up. She had let me court Mom, but after I married her she tried to break us up. She was an icy woman. You couldn’t put your arm around her and hug her or anything. She used to tell us not to hug and kiss our babies because we would spoil them. She favored certain kids like George and Betty. I remember Mom telling her one day at Colby Street that she was going to do exactly the opposite as she was raised, then she figured she’d have a great family.
When I think back to my grandparents they were old. They would talk about times and they were old in their ways. I remember when I was about eight, Tara’s age, my grandfather used to come down on Thanksgiving time, my father would go to Arlington and pick him up and bring him back.
My father always bought my grandfather a pair of red fireman’s suspenders and a pair of cop shoes. They used to call them cop shoes. Gramma would always bake those gingerbread cookies you make at school. I saw them the other day up there and it reminded me of my grandmother. He had a big square white beard, glasses, snow white hair and he was a big tall man. Gramma was tall and wiry. They were nice. She was a strict old woman though. I remember going up to my grandfather’s farm in Sandown. I remember being told that when my big brother George was about three or four years old, he shimmied up my grandfathers flag pole to the top. They had to take a canvas they had there and put it around the flag pole and shake him down. He was too scared to come down. There was a party there, so the whole gang of people held the canvas and they shook him down, like an apple out of a tree.
My father used to make kites and fly them up at my grandfather’s farm because it was on a hill. I’d love to find my grandparents farm. It was in the fork of a dirt road, but you’d never find it. From what I gather, I don’t know how much truth there is to it, my grandfather came over from England and landed up in Savannah, Georgia. He was on the side of the Rebels in the civil war. After the civil war he came north to Boston to find work. He came up and worked in a molasses place. He settled up there in Arlington. I had heard he was a drummer boy in the war. The way the MacAllister name is spelled, some spell it Mc and some spell it Mac, the difference there is that my father always goes by Mac which is Scotch. My uncle married a girl, my Aunt Sadie she was an Irishman, a catholic. She made my uncle Jimmie change his name to McAllister so it would be Irish. Just Jimmie changed his name. My grandfather had a big green civil war book; it had to be three feet square. It was full of pictures. He showed me the Fort MacAllister in Oklahoma. I know he had two fingers missing his name was John Randolf MacAllister. My
Grandmother’s name was Dunn, and she had come from Black Rock, Nova Scotia.
My mother’s father was a barber in West Quincy. You have a picture of my mother standing in front of his shop,
My father’s father used to have me sit up on his lap to read the civil war book. My father ended up with his father’s civil war book. My nephew Bob, I think ended up with it. He was a great story teller. He would have made a great Santa Clause. I always liked history and had a fascination of the Civil War. I remember during Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, they would have a parade up in the square near my house. We’d hear the trumpets sound and we’d run like dear so we could see the parade. I can remember the Civil War veterans, real old generals with their beards and their hats. I can remember about a dozen that were too old to march. Some would sit on the old, old cars. We’d run along beside them hooting and hollering. Then we would have the regular army, National Guard and navy. But the Civil War veterans were the king pins. There is something that I have witnessed that kids today will never get to see. I’ve got something going with me to my grave that they will never happen. Those memories and how often does that happen to a country. It will never happen again, but imagine living through that. My grandfather is like your brother George about the war, he never talked about it.
He always carried a bible around with him. He believed in the Bible, he might have been Episcopalian or Protestant but he always had his bible with him. He read a page in the bible everyday. He would just read it to himself. My grandmother would work her butt off on
the farm. If she wanted a window in, she’d put a window in, if she wanted a door in here, she’d put a door in here. She would bring the cow up out of the pasture and milk it, feed the turkeys. He would sit there and tell her “the Lord will provide”. I remember him, he was a big tall guy. He was in his eighties. I remember the other day one of the kids brought in his picture. I got a kick out of it.
After I married Mom I was still working in the shipyard. Then Sue was born. I remember that night very well. I ran around in the middle of the night to my brothers houses banging on the doors. I was telling them I was a father. They told me to go home to bed. I drove her into the hospital, I remember that. We were renting an apartment up behind the school I used to go to, up at Thomas’s corner in North Weymouth. It wasn’t too long after Sue was born, she couldn’t have been much more that six months old, that I was working in the shipyard and I got called up for the draft in World War 2.
I didn’t go. I had got out of Company K in the National Guard and six months later the war broke out. I tried to get back in and my company was in camp Ellis down at the Cape. I wanted to rejoin the company but I couldn’t rejoin the same company. They wouldn’t let me go from the shipyard. I no sooner got married that they put me on twelve hour days, seven day week at the shipyard. I worked around the clock making seventy-five cents an hour. If you took a day off and didn’t get a letter from the doctor, you reported to the draft board the next day. They took some guys literally and put them in the draft for skipping work. There were no excuses. When they drafted me I was living in North Weymouth at the time, I thought for sure they’d take me. I went in to Boston for my physical. I thought I’d be going. We had made arrangements to live over Mom’s folks. We gave up our apartment so she wouldn’t be alone. I was that sure of going. They found I had uncontrollable blood pressure and wouldn’t take me. They would tell me I was in and then walk me across the street and my pressure would jump so they sent me home. There I was living back over her mother and father’s again. Mom was tickled pink but I wasn’t. I was mad as a wet hornet. I tried to get service distar. It was driving a truck at the West Coast or anything. I wanted to go in the worst way. I wanted to go because all the guys were gone, it was the thing to do.
We stayed in the apartment up above her folks and I kept working in the shipyard. Then I moved to a house over in Hingham for $3600. It was a little bungalow, cute as a button. It was on Derby Street. When I was working in the shipyard Papa Parmenter, mom’s father was working in Mantasket at a Greek restaurant. We used to waitress and waiter. We saved alot of money. We served whiskey, beer and wine and sub sandwiches that’s all. We put our money aside, enough for our first down payment. That was our first house. We lived there quite a while, we were living there when the war ended. I was painting the house and I jumped off the staging and danced around. We were hollering and shouting. We heard it on the radio. We danced all over the yard. People were blowing horns. It was like the end of the world. I remember that day. That was 1943 or 44 somewhere around there. I got laid off at the shipyard so we sold that house and Bud was laid off, so I said, “Let’s go to Maine”. That is when we bought the farm in Monmouth. Bud wanted to go, he had no choice. He didn’t have a job either. He was like a fish out of water though. They had Linda and Eddie and we had Sue. We moved up there in May and George was born in June. We lived there a couple of years. Sis lived upstairs and I lived downstairs. We worked on Woolworths Farm, Bud and I did. It was a big beautiful farm with apple orchards and things. Then later we worked for a factory down in Sabattus making ninety three cents an hour. Sis liked it up there but she was awful homesick for Mom. Eventually they moved back, a year before we did. Finally, things got so tough that I sold the farm for $3400 and I had bought it for $2700. Imagine that, a 125 acre farm. I lived in the camp that my father had built for a while. I had given him an acre of land on the farm. He had built a camp on it. When Sis came back they lost interest in it coming up, so we moved into it. I bought the camp off my father. Then I finally threw in the towel when things got too tough. It was a little dinky camp; Mom, Sue, Betty, George, and I lived in it. That is where Betty was born. It wasn’t much bigger than my room now, I was heartbroken to sell the farm. Then I had to sell the camp too.
I remember that was the year Mom made a mistake in her income tax. They paid us $250 more than they should have. I came home from work one night and two big guys were going to haul me off for jail. I had to get my mother and father on the phone, and they had to wire me some money so they wouldn’t take me away. They gave me twenty-four hours to get the money together or they’d haul me off to jail. They came back the next day and I had the money. Then I had to pay my dad back.
We were up there for two winters, one in the farm and one in the camp. Sis and Bud were only there for the first winter. When we came back George was about a year old. Mom got sick, she came down and went in the hospital for three weeks. Then she went and stayed with her mother, her and George and Sue. I was working in a leather factory in Winthrop at the time. I remember Mom going to the hospital up there. They didn’t have an ambulance so they took her in the
hearse. Mom remembered it till the day she died. I followed the hearse down to the hospital, all I had was an old Jeep. Then Betty and Bud came up and took George and Sue and took them down to Mom’s mothers. They went down to Witman and stayed at her mother’s for three weeks while I kept working at the Linoleum place. Mom was in the hospital In Weymouth. I was all alone. I wasn’t making enough to go down there and the kids couldn’t get up here. I was lonely. Finally,
after about three weeks she got feeling better and I brought her back to the cabin. We moved back shortly after Betty was born. Betty was a stubborn baby when she was being born. Mom was in the hospital for about ten days with her. Going to go today, no problem, probably tonight, next day she hung on for ten days of false labor. I remember when George was born we had Dr. Pottle. When Betty was born one of my neighbors took George. She looked after George during the day and every night I slept at her house. Her husband and I worked together. They didn’t have a car, so I used to take him to work and I’d take her to church on Sundays. She used to make me a big plate of beans every Saturday morning. She helped us out. Her name was Mrs. Fish.
When Mom came home with George, that morning I had a calf born out in the pasture. I named her Sunshine. Sis and I went into the hospital together. Bud stayed home and watched Sue. Sis waited in the car, I parked right in front of the hospital cause Sis was crippled. I told Sis if I have a boy I’ll come out doing cartwheels. About three o’clock I came down doing flips and everything else. She will remember that.
The next spring Bud had a chance to go back to the shipyard making a $100. a week. He was only making $39 a week. It wasn’t much choice. It did make it hard on us though cause they were splitting the rent. My favorite years and Moms too were in Monmouth and on Colby Street. The earlier years were the best. When we moved back we went to Sis and Buds, they took us in. We only lived there a short time, then I got a house down on Colby Street. I went to work in a leatheret place; Weymouth Art Leatheret. Bud was working there at the time and he helped me get a job there.
I eventually got back in the shipyard and moved to Colby Street. We lived there about ten or twelve years. All of the rest of the kids were born there. Colby Street was a crowded house. We had a chicken yard and rabbits. Old Mr. Pratt used to live across the street from us. Mom used to have to pick his feet up and dry mop around him. She was very good to him, she’d cook him this and that.
I remember Bonnie being born, George was mad as hell. He wanted a baby brother real bad. That’s the time he took his pack and went out to the end of the street. He was trying to run away from home. The mailman asked him what he was doing, he said he got a baby sister and wanted to run away, He got over it until Darlene came home and he got mad all over again. So when we had Jackie we gave her that for a name. All in all I enjoyed Pleasant Street and Colby Street the best. All the kids were still home and we had all kinds of fun. Christmas was always a mess of toys, push carts. The yard was always full of toys and bikes. Mom didn’t work till you were two years old.
The thirteenth year was a tough year. That was the year Bonnie or Darlene was born and I only made $2400. That was a cold winter and we had five kids. I was out of work alot. We had kids in the hospital; George and Betty. Betty had a mess of teeth out, George had gland problems. When Jackie was born she wasn’t home long before she had to go into the hospital. Something was wrong with her bowels.
We moved from Colby Street to New Hampshire and we decided things were rough so we’d go live on our piece of land in New Hampshire. We put a trailer on the land. Then we built a little place. I had got laid off from the shipyard. I would have stayed except the taxes were too high up their and I couldn’t find work. When we came back from New Hampshire we came back to Sis’s. We stayed there for a short time. At that time Sis and Bud had three kids and we had seven. All of us stayed in there little house. Dickie MacAllister came over to see how we arranged it for sleeping. We have alot of good memories of that, that’s for sure. Then I borrowed ten dollars off my mother for the down payment. The house had three acres and cost $5100. Pleasant Street was big and roomy. It was a foreclosure. It had four or five big bedrooms upstairs. Mom and I had our room downstairs, it had a big dinning room and kitchen. It was the biggest house we lived in. That is when Sue got married and moved away.
Then we moved to Doris Avenue and built a room downstairs for George, when he came home from Vietnam. I liked Pleasant Street. Mom went to work while we were living at Pleasant Street. She worked at Sigma Instruments. Then I got a job there. We used to pass on the express way because we worked opposite shifts. That was the only way we could both work. I’d stay home with you and Jackie during the day. Those were good years. You were no trouble to take care of. Mom used to work 7:00 to 3:00. Bonnie and Betty used to take care of you for a little while before Mom got home. Mom wanted to go out and try her hand at working and I thought it would be good for her.
After George and Betty got married and Sue left we moved back to New Hampshire. We stayed up in Milton for a couple of years. It seemed like a little family all of a sudden. I came home one time and the town assessor was there assessing the property. The taxes he put on my place made me mad as hell. I went down town and bought a sign and put it on the place. The taxes were $500 and we weren’t even done. Then, George was living in Manomet, so we moved down near him.
I went to work for him. After living there for a couple of years, we didn’t like it. The family was getting smaller and smaller. The house kept getting quieter and quieter, but we were ready for it.
Less problems, not so many kids to worry about feeding or clothing.
Then I found myself living in Dennysville, Maine with only two kids. Two kids that hated my guts for moving up there. You didn’t hate me long cause you met your love, Mike up there. If I had to do it again I’d do it all again. I would have married mom like I did.
I might have stayed put if mom wasn’t so agreeable. She was a great believer in,” Wherever you go I will follow”. If she had put her foot down and said “I won’t go”. I would have stayed put. I think the reason she went along with me was due to her faith. She believed it was right to do. I probably would have been mad for a mouth, but I would have got over it just like you did when I moved to Eastport.
I remember one time I wanted to buy a duplex in Bridgewater, Mass but she put her foot down that time. She didn’t want any part of that. I could see how it would help pay the rent, but she didn’t want anybody living on the other side of us. If she had said yes to that, I might have liked it well enough to stay put. It was out in the country with five acres and still close enough to commute to the shipyard. I might of stayed there and in the shipyard. I would have had a beautiful home and stayed for years and years. She put her foot down there, she put her foot down a couple of places. Mom didn’t really care if we lived in Maine or where ever. I’m not sorry I went to Dennysville, I’m not going to say “Uncle”. I moved up there because I wanted to go some place where I could get cheap taxes and retire. I bought the place up there for $18,000. 1 was about sixty years old. A few years after I was up there I retired. I was up there from 1975 till 1983. That was the longest we stayed at a home in a long time. Mom liked it up there, and everything would have been fine if she hadn’t got sick.
She was lonely, I was lonely, but not in the same way she was. I used to get out and get to work, she didn’t. That was lousy for her. She missed her kids and grandkids alot. I figured that you and Jackie would stay up there. I thought you’d get a job in a bank or something. Mom thought you would stay too. That made it even worse for mom. I figured we could come down and see the kids a couple times a year, and the kids could come up and see us a few times a year. This didn’t work out though. It just wasn’t enough, and mom kept getting sicker.
The doctor once told me on the Q.T. that Mom needed to be closer to Bangor because she would need to be nearer a good hospital and not to far from now, he said. I went out and sat an my bench by the barn, and kept saying to myself,” I have to get out of here.” Mom asked why and she kept blaming it on herself. I told it was that I didn’t want to be that close to Bug and he had just moved up there. The real reason was because I knew if she had some life left in her I wanted
her to have it. But I could see the way she was going. The way she was breathing when we would walk down the hill. I knew it was coming along, even then. She was sick from the day I hit Monmouth. She had an ulcer when I got there. I went where I wanted to go and she went with me and she got sicker than I thought she would. It would have happened wherever she was, it was just harder being there. I couldn’t see being a hundred miles away from a decent hospital. So that’s why we moved to Monmouth. She knew she had a heart condition, but she didn’t have any idea neither did I under the sun, that she had kidney trouble. Even when we got to Monmouth, she didn’t know she had kidney problems till one day she was in the hospital and Dr. Morriset told us she better see a kidney specialist. That was the reason she had been so short of breath. Then we found out she had to go on kidney machine. We didn’t even know what it meant. She went downhill in the last few years. I could see everything change for the worse when we first moved in there and she got ulcers, from that time on. It kept on getting worse, and worse and worse. She couldn’t even make a pie. About a year before she went on Dialysis we were going to the fairs and going out to eat. She could still crochet, grocery shopping and help me out around with little things. Then she went to hell. I guess it was three and a half or four years of being real sick. She really didn’t have many good years in Monmouth.
The memories do fade, I don’t know if it gets easier though. it always amazes me how someone could be married for forty seven years, and two years later be married to someone else. There is something that isn’t right there. I hate being alone, but I never would marry another woman Just for companionship. When I say I don’t like being alone, I mean I’m afraid of dying alone and being alone when I’m sick.
I’d rather be alone than marry somebody just to have someone to live with. I can’t ever marry another woman. What keeps me going now is my grandkids and my kids. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t care if I lived or died. That’s what kept mom going for a long time too. Well I remember one time when she told me she was dying, she said what bothered her the most was how much she was going to be missing. Mom was not a crier, you never saw her cry. You might have caught a glimpse but you never saw her cry really. Time and time again I would go visit her and she would tell me to go home if I loved her. She wanted to be alone so she could cry. She didn’t want to cry in front of any of us. She was a strong woman. I don’t think I saw your mother cry a half a dozen times in her life. She had a tear in her eye but never bawled. Her brother got killed, others died and she was always strong. She felt it, but she never showed her feelings. Right up till the end she felt that all her suffering was for her sins. She didn’t think anything of it. She was a very devoted woman but she was still never a prejudice like her parents.
There are so many things I’d love to say but you really can’t wrap a lifetime up in a few hours. Mom was very understanding of me. She knew me better than anyone else. She took me in and loved me the way I was. I knew that I had a good smart woman. I knew as long as I had her I was all set. I feared the day that I wouldn’t have her. I felt I couldn’t hold all the pieces together without her. I knew I didn’t have the smarts that she had. I always wondered if I could handle my end of what I had to handle, and I proved to myself I could. She was the cement to the family. She was the one that insisted on perseverance, insisted on you kids having confidence, insisted that you stand up for your rights, she was that kind of a woman. She was very outspoken but she told it as she saw it. When she was angry you always knew it. You always knew where you stood
with your mother. I knew the day I asked your mother to marry me, she loved me. When she told me she loved me I knew she loved me dearly. I didn’t care if she had this fault or that fault all I cared was that she loved me. If she didn’t love you she would tell you to take a hike so fast it would make your head spin. Sometimes it would get her in hot water. I never had to guess where I stood with your mother. That’s why I loved her. She would listen to me too. You couldn’t tell her she was wrong, but she would listen to me. She was bull headed and I was stubborn too. Another thing I admired about your mother was; whenever I got laid off from work or things got
rough, I mean rough, never did she get down. She never said look at so and so, look at the car they have, never, never. She wasn’t envious one little bit. She was so happy with her unemployed husband pounding the pavement looking for work. She was a woman that was happy with having a man she could love and trust, and her family. That was all she ever needed and her God. As long as she had faith in God and she loved me and I loved her, she could lick the world. The
way it worked was we both had to learn to give ground or we wouldn’t have been together. We learned to do that at a young age. It only took us a few years to learn how far we could push each other before we would go off the deep end. She could get after me for my drinking or this or that, then I’d blow my lid. Mom hardly ever lost her temper. But she could look at you and she didn’t have to say anything. I had to say my piece. Your mother always stood behind all her kids. I stood behind you too. Remember down in Eastport, when you fought for that flag, we stood right behind you. Mom was always that way. She never belittled me one bit. She would get on me a little on little things I wouldn’t do, but never anything big. What I miss most is being with her, her company. I often wonder what we would be doing if she had been healthy. I know if she would have been healthy we would have still come back this way. It would have been nice if we could have come back this way and her have good health. We could have built a house on that piece of land in Hollis and we could have had a good life. It just wasn’t meant to be. I think if she would have been left alone she would have ended up in a senior citizen home. I think she would have wanted to be near you, Mike and the kids. She might have gone to Weymouth and been near Sis and Bud. I think she could have handled it cause she was a strong woman.
I still believe in God, but I should go to church more often than I do. But I don’t consider myself over religious. I do think God plays a part in my life. I believe there is a God and a hereafter,
but mostly I believe that someday I will be with Mom. I don’t think physically but spiritually, there is something to it. I’m not afraid of dying because I think that is the beginning to getting back with her. I really do and I don’t have to go to church to know that. I would love to know now what’s after this. I’d love to know. It’s like George says there is no bringing her back. Even if I could I wouldn’t the way she was. I do the best I can.
My strongest quality is that I get down and I pull myself right up again. I don’t wallow over it and I won’t let myself stay down. I know I can’t bring her back and all the talking or whatever I do can’t change anything. Time helps you accept it though. Whenever I think of her now I try to think of the good times from Dennysville backwards.
I hope in five or ten years I’m still with you and Mike and the kids, and you have a nice home. I’d like a little layout. I don’t think I’ll be driving. I’d like to have it so I can go see Bob a few
times a year. I’d like to watch the beach go down and walk the mallonce in awhile. I’d like to have some little hobby in my room, models or painting. I hope you have a little spot where I can have a little garden if I want to.
I hate to think of what the world will be like in five to ten years. I’m just glad I’m getting ready to get off. I’m not ready now but I will be. I’m a very fortunate man. I don’t think there will be any major changes in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Russia be real screwed up. I don’t think Yeltsen will be there. I think the economy will pick up. I predict that Bill Clinton will be re‑elected. He will have made some improvements that not everyone will like but somebody’s going to like them. I hope that healthcare is for everyone and it doesn’t wreck it.
My advice for the younger people is, “Don’t just worry about how smart you can get see how good morals you can have”. I’d rather see someone with alot more morals and alot less upstairs. Worry about your kin. That is why the world is in the shape it’s in. That’s why we have all these murders and teenage rapes all this stuff is because of morals. I don’t blame it on mothers or fathers but on the economy. Because mothers have to go out and go to work. They don’t have a spouse that carries his end. So she gets persuaded by a nice young gentleman where she works. That is where it starts. There go the kids, and I feel sorry for the kids. I don’t feel sorry for the break up of the marriages, but I feel sorry for the kids. I think if it didn’t cost so much to buy a house and a car and to live then one parent could stay home. I think you would have more morals and better kids. Some couples can go out like you and Mike and I can name others and can handle it. But there are other couples that maybe don’t get along so good and this leads to divorces. I think a woman should have a right to work, but I think if a man could make enough money so that a woman didn’t have to work, there would be less divorces. I think a woman is more likely to find out when she has a bad apple because she is out there working. Where before she might have had a bad apple and not even know it. You’re mother might have had a bad apple but didn’t know it cause she wasn’t out there working. After a while you learn to like that apple and realize he might not be so bad. Marriages today don’t try hard enough. They break up so
easy. I don’t believe two people should stay together for the kids. But I think that part of it is that the woman had to go out to work. Mom didn’t want to work. But now some woman do and that’s o.k. Now your sister Betty would like nothing better than to stay home. Bonnie and you wouldn’t want to stay home. Now I think Darlene would be willing to stay home. I might be wrong, but that is how I see it. When that little kid comes home and has to let himself into the house after school. I feel bad for him, sitting there with the tube. If I could do anything over I would have listened to your mother when I was a young man and let her teach me so I could have gone on and got a high school diploma. I’m too old now; my mind just wants to rest now. I just have to go on playing the defensive role I’ve been playing all my life. I just have to keep myself under control like I have all my life. When I get with people that are so much smarter than me, I just watch what I say so they can’t tell. Alot of people judge people by that, whether you went to college or not. If you ain’t got it you ain’t got it. But if I had listened to your mother I would have studied. My problem is when I wanted a good job I couldn’t handle the math or the paperwork to it. I was smart enough to know I didn’t want to get embarrassed. Your mother didn’t force the issue.
I feel as though I have lived a full life. I sure as hell don’t feel like a failure. I can be thankful to God for my good health and I’ve been around for a long time. I look forward to continued good health for a while. I’d like to see the kids grow up a little more. I’d like to see Jackie’s little
guy grow up some more. I’d like to go on to Gettysburg with Mike and George and Ian. I’d like to go out to Indiana again and see my other little great grandson.
I would say I have had a good life. When you figure you start out as such a little guy. You start out with dirt roads and a horse and buggy, and no running water, no electricity and you come up to big jets and television you have seen something. I have had a better life that these other kids will never have. I don’t know what can happen to Ian and Tara by the time they are seventy seven except they will each have their own private plane. Look at how much I have seen in my
lifetime. To come from nothing and look what there is today. I remember when I was a kid there were more horse and buggies than cars, and today I jump on a jet for Disney World.
The world is a better place than when I came into it. This generation is alot smarter. I won’t be missed like a big wig, I’ll be like a hole in the wall and life will go on. My children and
grandchildren will miss me but everybody can be replaced. I would like to see the government not be so much in gobbling up little farms and an individual’s freedom to making a living. I think
now if you aren’t a big milk company or a big grain company or a big this or a big that you aint nothing. There was a day when I was a kid, when a guy could have ten or twelve cows and have a small farm and sell their milk. Progress is the way it goes but that’s not always good for the little guy.
I figure when I leave, I will leave the world with seven children and at least fifteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I will leave the world alot better than when I cam into the world just
because of the ones I leave behind. That’s alot of legacy. The best part is that it is a good legacy. How many fathers and grandfathers can be as proud as I am of what I am leaving behind. I’ll bet you more than fifty percent can’t. I have a damn good track record. You’re going to pass on this. My kids are great kids and that’s an honor. My sisters and brothers have good families too. You have a family, you and Mike that you can be real proud of and if you are proud how do you think I feel. I’m really proud to have raised seven kids that all have good families of their own now. If you can go to your grave saying that, then that is something. Mom and I always patted each other on the shoulder for that. My brothers and sisters always complemented our family. We figured that was worth more than all the material things you could ever have. I remember my brother
Bug, saying if you didn’t have so many kids you could have my boat or my car. I’d tell him I’d rather have my kids and you have your boat and car. You can put your boat in the garage and cover it with a canvas for the winter. I get to tuck my kids in bed and cover them over and give them a big hug and kiss goodnight. He was for material things, he figured he had two kids and could give them alot that I couldn’t have. I saw it the other way around. I told him if you
think your kids Vickie and Nancy were worth a million a piece, than you’re worth two million. Then I guess I’m worth seven million. So I told him I’m alot richer than he was. We had it out good one day. He was trying to tell me if I hadn’t had so many children I could enjoy
life more. I remember saying, “like what”, he said ” like my plane, my boat and my car”. I told him all he was thinking of was what was sitting in his yard. That was just material. Mom never was one that cared about material things. Like Sis would say to us when we would sell a house, “Don’t you miss your house”, mom would say, “I don’t love my house, my house is just a piece of material, it is just boards and lumber and I can go move into another one tomorrow. My kids are what count to me” Mom’s kids are what was important to her. You were her whole life. Mom never told you just how much she missed all of you when you left. Mom was too strong. We had a good relationship, kind of like George and Betty; we were so wrapped up in our family and each other that we didn’t have time for friends. I had mom and that was all, I didn’t want anyone else. Mom had me and that was enough for her. We didn’t have time for a social life. That also makes it harder to go on after you lose someone.
I don’t think mom would have had her life any different than she did, not her married life anyway. We both came from different background but somewhat alike. She had to go out and go to work at an early age and, I had to keep myself from going out on ships going off to the C.C.C.’s which I didn’t want and going on a dairy farm that I didn’t want. But she had to go. I had a loving mother that fought like hell to keep me from going. Her mother used to make her go and then would give her a nickel from her five dollars for the collection basket at church. My father was strict, he ruled the roost. My father asked you to do something, you just did it, you never answered my father back. Mom’s father would take his girls out to the woodshed to watch while he beat his sons. They were made to watch. That was pretty damned rotten. I had a tough life in that I wasn’t lucky enough to get a good education like I would have like to have had. I had nobody to help me and I felt left out, the little brother that got dragged along by the necktie. Where mom was a smart little girl, poorer than a church mouse and abused by her father, as far as putting her out for child labor. Then again, if my father had his way I would have been put out on several occasions. We both came from the same side of the track. I, a little bit better up than her. Mom knew me, she knew how to handle me and I knew I had a good smart, bright girl.
In all those years my greatest accomplishment was raising the family with mom. We got more praise when you kids were growing up than anyone. Everywhere we go, people remarked on how good our kids were. I can remember George when he was like Jackie’s bay dragging a box around at Christmas. For Christmas he took the truck out and dragged the box around. He had me put a string in the box and he dragged it around all day. I remember all those good times. I remember going to church every Sunday with you kids. The greatest accomplishment for Mom and I was the family we raised. Mom raised a good family because she came from a rotten one. She was determined she wasn’t going to have that kind of family. I think I come out of my family; my mother was a loving woman and I always knew I would not disgrace my parent. I would be out to the bar rooms, but I would only go so far and then I would remember my parents. He always said to me go out and have fun but don’t disgrace your mother and father.
Getting old is not so bad if you have good health. When that starts to deteriorate it’s a different ship. I don’t mind taking high blood pressure pills or sugar pills. I figure I still have control over myself. When I start falling apart that won’t be so good. Seventy seven is pretty old, you ought to try it sometime. I might have four or five left in me. I don’t think I have anymore than that. I’d like to have more. I’m looking at the odds with my father and my brothers. I’d have to live to be eighty one to out live everyone. If I have five years I’m lucky. I don’t mind it when you count it in years, but when you start counting it in months, holy shit. So five Christmas’s would be great. Then it is a long time that you are gone, holy shit. Forever, that’s the hard part. It’s a book and there is a beginning, a middle and an end. I’ve been up one side, down the other and now I’m sniffing around the back looking for a den; a place to cuddle up for the winter. It will get scary when I see Sis and Bud go or brother Bob. When it gets down to only one or two of you. I’d like to be able to go more. Just get to see Sis and Bud more. Its hard, that’s the way it is. I talk to them alot, but I miss them.
My happiest time of my whole life was from the time I met your mother till she died. I wouldn’t say the last five years have been the happiest part because it couldn’t be without her. It was as happy as it could be. It could never be as happy as it was when I had her, but I was pretty sad those last few years with her. You kids too. It was so final, but you learn to accept it. I think it is easier now than it was at the beginning. I think I can have a good life for the next few years that I have left. It is much better here with you than it was in the trailer alone. I have no worries here. I used to worry alot and I don’t know. You and Mike are not domineering people and I still have a life of my own. You keep an eye on me which is good at my age but you’re not bossy. I don’t mind being checked out because I feel worse when no one checks me out. I still feel independent. I’m the grandfather here and I like it. I like having my little room and being able to watch T.V. up here if I want. I like being able to drive still. I hate to give that up. Ian and Tara are my pride and joy. I like being here because I can help out with kids. It is a good feeling to be here for the kids when they are sick or you need me. I think if anything ever happened to me, Ian would be old enough and smart enough to call for help. They are both getting older everyday and more mature. As time goes on it will be even easier for them. I love them to death. I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else. There is no one else I would have gone with. Somehow I always knew I would end up with you and Mike and the kids. This is my home now and it feels good. Mike and I get along great, or I would never have done it. I could be in a senior citizen housing and have a new truck but I would still be alone. Here, there is somebody on the other side of the wall that cares about me. I didn’t know if it would be too much for you, Mike and the kids. I didn’t know it would work so good. It feels like I had hoped I would feel. It came quick and sudden but we made the most of it. I’m happy. This suits me fine, I don’t need much.
I can’t even describe how it feels to have walked this road with my father. I shared an experience with him that no other person has, one of reflecting over his seventy seven years. I have watched him describe happy and sad childhood memories, and putting in perspective, situations beyond his control. Throughout this experience I have been astonished at his remarkable courage and dedication to his family. I hope that I can, at seventy seven, look back with so little regret and resentment. My father is an honorable man with a great love for my mother. This love is just as strong today as it was the day he met her on that sidewalk in 1941. She was his savior and he was hers. It is a remarkable story, one that I am proud to have been a part of.
I have learned a great deal about my father, as well as my mother, and family, but most of all I have a learned a great deal about myself. I have learned where my values come from and where my perseverance comes from. My father has given me, and all of his family a great gift by telling his story. He has also given me the opportunity to share many hours of his time, listening and sharing the most important events of his life. I look forward to hearing many more of my father’s memories and stories in the future. He has shared a great deal with me, however, he has only touched on the highlights of his life. I have discovered that there is so much more to this man that I want to know.