Archive | August 2012

THE HISTORY OF PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND

Old Slater Mill along the Blackstone River

Archaeological evidence places Narragansett peoples in the region that later became the colony and state of Rhode Island more than 30,000 years ago. Native people occupied Rhode Island for thousands of years before explorers and settlers from Europe came to North America. Experts believe that around 7,000 Narragansett Indians lived in the area at the time the first European settlers arrived. Soon after the arrival of European settlers, famine and diseases brought by the new settlers greatly reduced the number of native people in the area.  Most of the Native Americans were killed by French diseases and warfare with the Europeans.

The Narragansett tribe: was the largest and occupied the greatest area of land; were part of loosely organized confederation of tribes called the Algonquin; with settlements up and down the East coast of North America; they divided themselves into eight divisions, each ruled by a territorial chief; these chiefs were then subject to a head chief or sachem; For subsistence, Women were responsible for planting, harvesting, preparing the food, gathering shellfish, and the building of the bark huts the people lived in; they depended on the cultivation of corn (maize), hunting, and fishing; men spent much of their time in recreational activities, assisted the women with fishing and hunting and were known for their prowess as warriors, offering protection to smaller tribes who in turn paid tribute to them. Other groups of Algonquin, included the Wampanoag and Niantic tribes, some allied with the Narragansett, and some enemies, also lived in the area that would become Rhode Island.

In 1636 Roger Williams who was a minister was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for theological disagreements, landed on shore of present day Providence on land granted to him by the Narragansett tribe and declared it a place of religious freedom. Detractors of the idea of liberty of conscience sometimes referred to it as “Rogue’s Island”. Later he negotiates purchase of land extending to the falls at Pawtucket. Roger Williams had won the respect of his colonial neighbors for his skill in keeping the powerful Narragansetts on friendly terms with local white settlers. The Narragansett language died out for many years but was partially preserved in Roger Williams’ the A Key into the Languages of America (1643).In 1638, after conferring with Williams, Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, John Clarke, Philip Sherman, and other religious dissidents settled on Aquidneck Island (then known as Rhode Island), which was purchased from the local natives, who called it Pocasset. By 1670, even the friendly tribes who had greeted Williams and the Pilgrims became estranged from the colonists, and smell of war began to cover the New England countryside.

Pawtucket was founded in 1671 and was called the Center of Industry, because the west side of the river was the growing industrial town. In the1600s they taped into the waterpower and used it for gristmills, sawmills and iron forges. William Jencks set up his forge and did iron work using available supply of timber, nearby bog iron ore and river power. At the time of the Revolutionary War, there was a well established community of iron workers, whose products included farm tools, anchors, and then cast cannons and muskets.

In 1719, Rhode Island imposed civil restrictions on Catholics living there.

Jencks, Brown & Slater were considered the technological people of the age and started the industrial revolution. In 1740s William Jencks built 2 mills. In 1760s James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny, which was a water wheel spinning frame replacing the hand operated spinning wheel, improving quality. This was the first successful mass production. People were excited and getting into mass production- the beginning of consumerism and losing our connection with natural processes.

Prior to industrialization, Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-Revolution era. In 1652 Rhode Island passed the first abolition law in the thirteen colonies, banning African slavery. The law was not enforced. By 1774, the slave population of RI was 6.3%, nearly twice as high as any other New England colony. In the late 18th century, several Rhode Island merchant families (most notably the Browns, for whom Brown University is named) began actively engaging in the triangle slave trade. In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves. The 18th century Rhode Island’s economy depended largely upon the triangle trade, where Rhode Islanders distilled rum from molasses, sent the rum to Africa to trade for slaves, and then traded the slaves in the West Indies for more molasses.

In 1774, a bill was introduced that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony. This became one of the first anti-slavery laws in the new United States. Despite the antislavery laws an active international slave trade continued. In 1789 an Abolition Society was organized to secure enforcement of existing laws against the trade. In February 1784 the Rhode Island Legislature passed a compromise measure for gradual emancipation of slaves within Rhode Island. By 1840, the census reported only five African Americans enslaved in Rhode Island. Using southern cotton cultivated with slave labor, Rhode Island manufactured numerous textiles throughout the early 19th century. By the mid-19th century, many Rhode Islanders were active in the abolitionist movement, particularly Quakers in Newport and Providence such as Moses Brown.

Rhode Island was the first British colony in America to formally declare its independence, doing so on May 4, 1776, two months before the Declaration of Independence.

1789 Moses Brown started his first mill, purchased all the important machines available in RI and brought it to Pawtucket. He and his family were unable to operate the machinery till they hired Samuel Slater.1793 Samuel Slater built a cotton-spinning mill, the first in the US to be water powered. He was the first to know how to build as well as operate textile machines. He hired 9 children, ages 7 to 12 as employees, and in 1796 his 30 employees were mostly preteens.

Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the United States Constitution (May 29, 1790)—doing so after being threatened of having its exports taxed as a foreign nation.

They built housing, churches, and schools for the workers to concentrate the work force within easy walking distance to the mills. They built company stores where the workers got paid with a line of credit. The Pawtucket Falls area quickly became the focus of textile manufacturing in the US. Both sides of the Pawtucket River developed large textile mills due to their need for water as power. As a child the downtown area had empty red brick buildings which had been mills and factories. The dams, required to provide waterpower to the mills, flooded the farmed fields and stopped fish from their annual migration.

There were major lifestyle changes for these mill workers, who were mostly Yankee farmers. Farm life was governed by the seasons, the sun controlled the work day. Once in the mill, the rhythm of nature was replaced by the tolling of the factory bell. Time became a commodity to be strictly measured and sold at a set rate. The Artisan’s skills or farmer’s produce no longer had as much value as the sheer amount of time a worker was able to stand beside their ceaseless machine, while they bought stuff made by machines.

The cost of industrialization, where the industrial revolution started, in Pawtucket RI, created dense populations and polluted the rivers and streams. Dirt roads, trees, and the natural lines of nature were turned into straight lines with bridges, cement and brick. Manmade structures replaced natural forms. Man creates frames and structures to confine nature, to hold nature within. This is man’s battle with nature; where man builds fences, brick walls, cement structures, roads & buildings. The Industrial revolution had consequences for society with Child labor, as children are seen as a commodity and the family structure was affected with increase divorces.

During the 19th century Rhode Island became one of the most industrialized states in the United States with large numbers of textile factories. The state also had significant machine tool, silverware, and costume jewelry industries.

During the American Civil War, Rhode Island furnished fighting men to the Union armies. On the home front, Rhode Island, along with the other northern states, used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials it needed to win the war. Rhode Island’s continued growth and modernization led to the creation of an urban mass transit system, and improved health and sanitation programs. After the war, in 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation throughout the state. Post-war immigration increased the population. From the 1860s to the 1880s, most of the immigrants were from England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Quebec. Towards the end of the century however, most immigrants were from South and Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. At the turn of the century, Rhode Island had a booming economy, which fed the demand for immigration. In the years that lead up to World War I, Rhode Island’s constitution remained reactionary, in contrast to the more progressive reforms that were occurring in the rest of the country. During World War I, Rhode Island furnished troops. After the war, the state was hit hard by the Spanish Influenza.

In the 1920s and 30s, rural Rhode Island saw a surge in Ku Klux Klan membership largely among the native-born white population in reaction to the large waves of immigrants moving to the state.

Pawtucket is north of Providence, the 4th largest city in the state, has an elevation of 76 feet; its size is 9 square miles, making it an easy place to walk around. The city’s boundaries have remained unchanged since 1847 and became the City of Pawtucket in 1886.  . A place of history, considered the home of the Industrial Revolution in America. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.0 square miles (23 km2), of which, 8.7 square miles (23 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it (2.89%) is water. Pawtucket lies within three drainage basins. These include the Blackstone River (including the Seekonk River), the Moshassuck River and the Ten Mile River.

My great grandparents: Exare “Jerry” Breault born 6/12/1866 in Canada was married to Celine Audet on 7/29/1888, born 11/6/1869 in Massachusetts. My great Grandfather died on 7/6/1928 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My Great Grandmother died 2/14/1938 in Massachusetts. Thus you can see that my mother’s side of the family has been here for some time. I do not have much information on what they did or how they lived and would appreciate any info that you may have to share.

My great grandparents had 10 children including my Grandmother Bernadette Rosanna Breault born 10/19/1899 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My Meme married Edmond Gevry 5/11/1919 in St John-Baptist, Pawtucket; I do not find a birth date for him, only a baptism 1/26/1894. My Meme and Pepe had six children, my mother Theresa Gevry was born on 1/13/30. Meme died 10/19/1962 in Pawtucket but I do not know when or where my Pepe died. The story goes that my Pepe built a house in Pawtucket where they lived till his death. My Pepe and his brothers moved from Quebec Montreal to the US looking for work, most of his brothers stayed in Vermont and became farmers whereas he came to Pawtucket. My Pepe was known in town for starting the first all male bar on Main Avenue. If you have any stories about my Meme & Pepe that I can share in my book I would greatly appreciate it.

Pawtucket is Algonquin for river falls, the “great falls”, which is known as the Pawtucket Falls. At the falls is a short wide stretch of shallow whitewater and then it roars over the substantial falls creating a natural crossing point that was used by Indians and early settlers, to get to the other side. It is part of the Blackstone River that originates from Worcester, Massachusetts and was the natural transportation route in the area. This is one of my favorite spots along the river, standing on the bridge near the Old Slater Mill. It is polluted, we can’t swim in it and there were no sights of life in those dank waters and there is a putrid smell that is carried on any breeze, it is considered “dead” due to a century of industrial abuse. They claim you can still cross on foot, but not me because it crepes me out. I can hear the water roar over the large boulders and dam downstream over the substantial falls. This is considered the home of the Industrial Revolution in America, the place where industrialization began resulting in dense populations and polluted rivers and streams. The element of water that turned the valley into an industrial powerhouse is still present; the river, the canal, the mill villages, and the agricultural landscape.

During the 1960s I was living a block away from the Blackstone River, there is run off from all the textile mills, along its banks, which is the home of the first cotton gin, creating so much pollution that there is nothing living in it. Lollygagging along its banks, peering into its filthy frothing moving waters is like looking into the murky waters of my own misery and pain, identifying with it, it is a mirror reflecting back my experiences. Going into Slater Mill, enjoying the beautiful wood weavers, that make up the gigantic looms still standing and functional, with the waterwheel as the source of energy, it must have been bustling in its day, with all the child labor, it is well maintained and admired by all visitors who have had the privilege of obtaining entrance to its inner chambers. There is lots of segregation in the neighborhood mostly based on languages: Jewish, French, Portuguese, and Greeks live in separated areas and one is expected to stick with their own kind.

Downtown the red brick buildings that once were mills and factories, have more modern business in them especially the jewelry manufacturers with many more structures being empty. My curiosity and love of walking lead to me to the beautiful Pawtucket library that was the original Post Office, making reading my major activity, a great skill that eventually turns into a great coping mechanism. It transformed my life by increasing awareness of alternate realities and the ability to explored and envision a different life, a life of one’s’ own choosing. What a freeing concept that is. Being a seeker I enjoy the Process of Exploration, seeking mystery, learning investigational techniques with the love of analysis, always asking “WHY”, and yearning to follow through with courageous action.

Efforts are underway to transform the Blackstone, into a fish-able and swim able river by 2015. Man realizes his effect and tried to clean it up, is it too late? Does man’s progress always have to include destruction of the environment and social degradation?

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1964 to 1967 PAWTUCKET WEST HIGH SCHOOL

 

I look forward to the mornings and being away from the house all day. School is a haven where I can go and take refuge, using my mind and finding ways to get me out of the position I am in, to dream and set goals about a new life for myself. I dress up in my new stylish wardrobe ma bought: cute blouses, navy blue wool sweater, grey wool sweater, below the knee red/grey plaid pencil skirt, and navy blue kilt wool skirt with matching knee socks. My hair covers my ears and is parted down the middle; it’s a new cut for me and is easy to care for. No one can guess what is going on at home by the way I look; everything is perfectly in place, a way of binding my anxiety and hiding my secret hell. At school when I am told to knell down the hem touches the floor, and then I roll it up above my knees after passing the test, all the girls do it. I do not wear makeup and dress collegian style. The boys get in trouble if they don’t have socks on, even with their sandals.

 

 

I walk a few blocks up a slight hill to Pawtucket West High School, built in 1938, a 3 story concrete building with large windows made out of small window panes. There are students hanging out; on the streets, the concrete walls lining the school block along East Avenue, under the trees and up the many stairs that lead to the front doors. Opening the front doors there are the long halls lined with tall skinny lockers on both sides, the high ceilings intensify the sound of footsteps and voices echoing loudly, the linoleum floors are highly polished and smell of wax. My locker is in the middle of a few of the boys I went to junior high with so I feel somewhat protected. My friends and I have parted ways due to different goals. Their focus is on boyfriend concerns and marriage plans, going the “secretarial or homemaker” route, taking the lower division classes, the path to their dreams… a temporary job, until a husband can provide for a family. I am in the college preparatory classes which have the A and B division and taking the pre-requisites required to get into nursing school.

 

 

In my sophomore year I find myself in the A division, I do not know anyone, with the majority of the students being Jewish, who are the most educationally motivated kids I have ever known. I feel a strong sense of competition when grades are handed out, so I turn my paper over so no one can read it, there is a discussion of who got what, and embarrassment descends down on me when the teacher announces mine is the top grade, I get anxious and feel everyone looking at me while I focus on the teacher. My shyness has returned in this new environment, I am self-conscious, not wanting to stand out and be noticed. I do well in science, biology and math and very poorly in English. I develop a relationship with Abbey who becomes my lab partner. She shares a lot: knowing all about the music scene and what is going on in the state; seeing Bob Dylan on the streets of Newport sitting and playing his guitar with a hat on the ground for money; about Marijuana being grown along the banks of the river, not wanting to appear dumb I refrain from asking her what it is; and talking about her religious beliefs and answering any questions I put to her.

 

I connect with the Jewish kids in my class asking questions about god and reincarnation, discussing thoughts, feelings and beliefs openly and honestly. These friendships only happen at school; the Jewish mothers allowed their children to communicate with the Catholics, but there is no invitation into their world, contact is forbidden outside in the community. This riff is a form of religious discrimination, “stay with your own kind” and “do not dating someone from another religion”. This affects the female Jewish students who use it as a way to rebel against the norm by finding themselves intrigued by the Catholic boys they are suppose to stay away from. I find my-self with others who valued education and have career plans, individuals from other cultural and religious backgrounds, people who give me a glimpse of a new world that I can create for myself, stimulating my consciousness to a new level of being, and rising above prejudices that I do not understand.

 

As a teenager I am disenchanted with the rhetoric of the Catholic Church and the poor morale fiber of those who are “closer to God” “do as I say not as I do” and the overwhelming guilt that comes with being a Catholic with a constant focus on sin and punishment. Since we moved to Pleasant Street I have returned to going to St. Mary’s Church on Sundays, but that is the extent of my involvement. I continue to pray, especially at night when I go to bed, begging for assistance, wondering if my prays are being heard or that I am bad and being punished. My spiritual path is broadening, I have become curious and hungry to explore what others’ think, practice and believe, I know there is more to religion than just memorized stories, I sense something bigger and better. This is spirit intervening in my life. This experience is a major struggle for me, in addition to the anxiety of a new environment, but the gifts I receive are well worth it, an expanding consciousness through reflection, contemplation and questioning rhetoric. I am using my mind and intelligence to helps develop a better self-esteem, stoking the flames of awareness, and igniting my thirst for knowledge. Using my mind is become my way of life, a coping mechanism, living in my head, not in my body.

 

Kennedy’s legacy of making Physical Exercise mandatory is a real challenge. My only ways of moving are dancing and walking. I struggle with the ropes, rings and the horses in the well maintained gym created out of old forest trees that are made all shiny and new. The changing area has small cubicles with a curtain for privacy I make sure no light comes in; fearful someone will see me changing. There is a rule about no jewelry, so I leave my mother’s black pearl engagement ring my dad gave her, it’s stolen, breaking my heart, these kinds of things did not happen in Catholic School. Hating how I look in the gym clothes, feeling incompetent as an athlete, being laughed at on a regular basis because I am uncoordinated with poor body strength and weighing 78 pounds, this is the worse part of my day.

 

At the end of the school year I go back to the school Counselor; who had told me earlier that my grades had put me in the upper division and that I couldn’t change till 11th grade. I express how anxious and isolated I am in the upper division and request being placed in lower division for the next 2 years of high school, it is done despite being encouraged to stick with it, I am doing well.

 

In 1965 as a Junior I am with some of my old friends while make new ones which aren’t as competitive. I am a math whiz and the boys label me as “the math girl”, and it’s believed that it is something “girls are not good at”. The teacher is constantly trying to talk me into being a math teacher; I am so introverted I can’t visualize myself talking in front of a large group, even if they are children. When I take physics there are only 3 girls in the class including me. When we have an exam the teacher walks out. The jocks are all sitting around me trying to cheat, asking me for the answers. I hunch over my paper to do my work so no one can copy me. I take every math, science, Latin, and physics class as pre-requisites for nursing school; my goal and dream since 4 years old, and I’m following a plan which is all mapped out in a scrapbook I started in the 6th grade.

 

In the school auditorium it is announced that a female student was murdered down along the river where everyone goes to neck, this is a shock to everyone and my fear and anxiety about dating being dangerous is confirmed, males either abandon or cause harm. The boy who lives down the street is accused of the murder, there is no evidence against him, they let him out, looking all beat up by the police, it comes out that our cops are crocked and have set him up. My sister dated his brother so we know he was being discriminated against due to the family living in poverty, and considered “from the wrong side of the tracts”. Even the police can’t be trusted so there is no reason to go to them with my problems.

 

I hang out mostly with Barbara and Eileen in and out of school. We walk all over Pawtucket, going by the boys where ever they hang out, especially the basketball court. We trek up to 10 miles to other high schools to watch basketball games and attend dances. With umbrellas, raincoats and goulashes we rush through a downpour to our first football game, sitting on the covered bleachers and having no idea what it’s all about. Our last football experience is in a snow storm, freezing our behinds off, it wasn’t fun even though I wear a stylish fashionable pea coat; boys are not worth that much torment. I am ambivalent about relationships with the opposite sex; I feel attraction and fearful at the same time mistrusting most people.

 

 

Every Saturday night we walk to Saint Ray’s, an all boys school, otherwise known as Saint Raphael Academy on Walcott Street. The gym has beautifully polished wooden flooring covered with sawdust so it doesn’t get marked up. One humiliating moment is when I am speed walking to the door and before I know it I’m flat on my butt, facing a bunch of kids sitting on chairs up against the wall, worried they might have seen my underwear. As a group we would walk along the edge of the dance floor to check out the guys, never standing in any position for too long. Being shy introverted, and not wanting to be noticed I blend into the background like a true wallflower, always on the edge of the excitement. I am not popular, and my anxiety interferes with communication with boys, so I am not asked to dance a lot. The girls dance together on the fast songs for the boys are just not interested, on the slow dances if the kids get to close, the priest taps the boy on the shoulder and announces to the couple “make room for the holy spirit.” We always know when the night is over because they play “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” by Paul Anka, followed by “Good Night My Love” by Jesse Belvin, such intense love songs. This is where I meet guys from other schools who ask me out on dates. My younger sisters always come up with nicknames to tease me, like “ears”, “lips” even “nose” based on whatever feature stands out. My mother has a rule that the boy has to come and knock on the door when he picks me because she will not let me go out if he beeps for me. I do not maintain a relationship with a boy because I get uptight and freeze around any type of sexual contact, even kissing.

 

 

In 1966, my senior year, I turn 18 and start dating a boy from the same school which I have not done before; he is younger and a junior. One day my friend Barbara pulls me aside informing me that “I do not like being the one to tell you this, but I think you would rather hear it from me. Joey is cheating on you with the local slut, Pat”. Somehow it was his choice of her that was more upsetting than the act itself, I know her from Junior high and we never really got along. I give him his ring back and refuse to be committed to him and continue to date him going to our proms together and taking him with me on all my graduation activities. He is an Italian Mama’s boy who taught me to play tennis, miniature golf and go cart track driving on our dates which included other couples in our group. We were together that year and I let my guard down a little, we get caught in heavy petty by his brother which resulted in him no longer inviting me to his house for Sunday meals. I am a virgin, telling myself that I am saving myself for my husband, marriage is not part of my plans at this time in my life, for my fear of intimacy is overwhelming and my body is always uptight and rigid, a protective armoring, against pain and abandonment.

 

1967 I graduate with the skills and education that has gotten me into Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing, bathing in feelings of accomplishment at having successfully danced through my teenage years. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I will be leaving home, for it is required that I live at the hospital during my training. My dreams, goals, hard work, and perseverance are finally paying off. A new life is just around the corner.

 

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1964-1967 PLEASANT STREET

 

We move to Pleasant Street parallel to the Blackstone River. My Aunt, Uncle, and cousins live 2 houses down from us, on the first floor of a white triple decker with black shutters and a large yard with a swing set. I spend a lot of time hanging out there. I idolize my aunt and bask in her motherly skills helping her bath my baby cousin in a galvanized steel tub on the kitchen table. My uncle is a hard worker and when home is always sleeping in his chair even when my aunt’s high pitched voice is yelling at the girls. My mother has that same tone of voice frequently, its normal background sounds that I am use to and comfortable with, I find myself using my own high screechy voice when I baby sit or fight with my sisters.

 

My uncle belongs to the Portuguese Social Club and he rents it for my sweet 16th birthday party, it’s a big hall for the small group that show up. Being introverted and new to the neighborhood, I have a few close friends and do not run with the popular crowd. My poor self esteem and anxiety does a number on my head with lots of negative thoughts; during the process of getting ready, during the activity and long after the celebration is over. I get extremely anxious at social gathering with my peers; I do not remember ever being comfortable in a crowd of kids; making all kinds of judgments about myself, being concerned about what others think about me, and always wanting to please them.

 

We live in a very small three bedroom, two story white Cape Cod styled cottage, 600 x 450, set way back from the street, a chain linked fence surrounds the property, a concrete pad for parking, with a humongous front yard and right down the middle is a concrete walkway. The grass requires mowing every week, using the hand mower I run while pushing it the large distance it must go, back and forth at least 6 times on each side. I love the smell of freshly mowed grass. The back yard has just enough room to walk and space for the metal garbage cans. The snow always pile up there, as it falls from the roof, so ma make taffy, throwing it on the snow and we pull it with all our might till it is done.

 

Since I am 16 years old my mother sends me to driving school, saying “I wouldn’t be able to teach you”. It seems like forever, I have been waiting for the day I would get my drivers’ license. The first time I take the new 1964 yellow Impala out I drive Downtown. I find my-self freaking out, the driver in front of me stops suddenly, I react by swerving up onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting the car, heading straight for a shop window with the owner holding her hands up to stop me, I put my foot on the gas rather than the break, and get stopped by the large light pole, protecting all from injury, which the city bills my family for. The right fender is completely demolished but drivable. I am extremely scared to go home, fearful of the consequences, which are nonexistent. I do not understand the rational that adults live by, I find it confusing.

 

Opening the front screen door, then the wooden door, which has just enough room to swing half way, and stand at the base of the stairs directly in front of me. Going to the left is a small room, which is the entry way for all the traffic to pass through, which has a chair and end tables, two windows let in the setting sun and the cool breezes. I can see straight into the alcove that is the living room where the TV and a sofa sit with windows facing west and north.  I turn left into the kitchen /dining area which the largest room leading to all the areas in the back part of the house: pantry, bathroom, a bedroom used as the kids’ room and the stairs to the cellar.

 

The dining room contains a large kitchen table with six chairs in the middle; the refrigerator is up against the left wall, the four burner gas stove is up against the right wall. Off the north side is a small pantry with a double sink and long counter space, there are cabinets above and below for dishes and storage with a small window, there is only room for one adult to move around in. There is a steel cabinet for food storage in the main room that divides the pantry from the tiny bathroom. The back door has a window on each side, to let in the rising sun at breakfast time, which usually is cereal that I put together my-self, we are all expected to do our own meal and ask for help if needed. Messes are not tolerated and I am a clean freak as a result.

 

Ma is a great baker: latticed covered cherry pie, lemon meringue that comes to an amazing peak, cakes to die for with luscious frosting, holiday fruit and nut breads, and her special cherries jubilee in a chafing dish with the blue flames she would ignite for all to see. She has many Damascus table clothes so there is always one on the table. She is sensitive about her cooking, once my sister complained about the meal and my mom picked the beautiful cloth up by the corners, dishes, food and all, carrying it out back and dumping it in the garbage; that was the last time anyone said anything negative about the food.

 

She has me making the dinners during the week which consisted of meat, potatoes and a vegetable that is bland and basic. We eat dinner in silence, now that the shadow is living with us, and it’s very common to be wacked with a utensil if you reached across the table or speak. Supper is now a very anxiety producing experience for me and I have started to develop severe stomach aches after meals. I would be in the pantry leaning over in pain while she says “You just don’t want to do the dishes”. My sister and I alternate between washing and drying, when we were together in the pantry we would get into arguments. When I was drying and find some crude I would put the item back in the water to be washed again. This has resulted in mother separating us, so now the washer is alone and when finished leaves, and then the dryer go in and does that chore, cutting down on our fighting.

 

The bathroom is the only place I can have complete privacy with a hook and latch on the door. I love my weekly soaking on Saturdays in the porcelain tub with the strong fancy feet; there is a matching toilet and sink, with a northern window to let in light and air. There is a mirror I look into when brushing my teeth and doing my hair. The first time I shave my legs I cut myself all the way up my shin and it sure does sting when I do it.

 

There is another room on the south side, which is the kids’ room for all the toys, and ends up as the junk or storage area, its purpose always changing; it has an east and south facing windows. This is where our dog Lady has her puppies, she becomes very mean and protective, and so she is given away. I often wonder who was abusing her.

 

The house is spotless; my mother is the task master and has given us all assigned chores to do, saying “Why do you think I had all girls… to do housework!” Once a week He goes around with white gloves trying to find dirt. We hold our breath because if dirt is found we can’t go out. Once he found dust high up on the door jams so we are punished by having to clean all over again and not let out. I develop a frenzied approach to cleaning, constantly going over again and again areas that are already clean, trying to think like Him and not miss anything, but it never seems to be right, there is always something wrong.

 

Going down the open staircase to the dark dank basement is creepy and being the size of all the rooms on the first floor without dividers it’s the largest room in the house. In the southeast corner are the washer, dryer, and an ironing board always set up and ready to use, with clotheslines all over the place. The older girls each have a day to do our own laundry in addition to washing and drying other items we are responsible for. There are 2 old couches in the southwest corner where we can hang out, when friends come over, lots of necking has gone on in that area, which has the most lighting. In the northwest corner is a cement structure that is the only remnants left of the Still that once produced 200% white lighting. This is also where the metal shut carries the coal down into the basement leaving black dust in the air.

 

Back to the front entrance and to the right of the stairwell is my mother’s room, which is the only area she cleans, since she works hard and is always exhausted and lying in bed. Standing in the doorway, for her room is off limits, the bulky solid maple bedroom set crowds the space. There is a short long dresser straight ahead, with a large mirror reflecting my image back to me. There is light coming in from the west window and looking out the south facing window is our neighbor’s yard. There is a tall dresser on the left wall with just enough space to get to the heavy double bed with its rounded carved polls for the head board, against the east wall. When she is not around we go through her drawers looking for nylons without wholes or runs in them. Once I found annulment papers showing that she had been married before my father, causing me to wonder if he was my real father, since I was born a little over 9 months after they were married, maybe I was conceived on their honeymoon.

 

 

At the top of the skinny stairs leading to the 2nd floor is a room on each side; again the top floor has a pitched roof. The left room on the north side has the twin beds in addition to a trundle bed that is stored under one of the twins, where the youngest ones sleep. The room on the right is where us older ones sleep together in a full size bed, I am always crowded out and near the edge because my sister likes to sleep across the bed. My sister and I fight a lot and the only things we have in common are working at the shoe lace factory and music. I run the noisy machines that cut the braid and tip the shoe laces, while she packages them. She tells me “That guy who brings the spools is a homo”, naive me asks “what’s that?” learning about homosexuality. We pool our money and join a music club, buying albums: Doors, Dave Clark 5, and the Monkeys.

 

 

The shadow’s behavior continued and progresses to trying to touch, which startles me awake from a sound sleep. I learned to condition my-self; to awake with the sound of heavy breathing and the pungent smell of booze. I use to sleep on my back, now I sleep in the fetal position, using protective and defensive behaviors. so those big groping hands do not make contact with my body. He leaves the room, my mother has heard him either going up the stairs or creeping around the room, she calls to him, and he leaves. I have not slept well for a long time; it started when my father was in a wheel chair when my mother ingrained in me that if there was a fire we’d have to get him out, and it has continued as a way to protect myself, not feeling safe enough to go into a deep sleep. Fear is my major mode of being in this house.

1963/1964 GRADUATE FROM THE 9th GRADE

 

I graduate from the 9th grade at St. Edwards’ Junior High School at the age of 15 in 1964. St. Edward was established in 1904 and is located at 58 Hancock St., Pawtucket, R.I. This is where I was stable for 4 years: attend the same school, living in the same neighborhood, maintaining the same friendships and exploring the same city which has created a sense of continuity in my life. Now things around me seem to be falling apart and going downhill: the church, my country and the world; it is starting to no longer be a safe place for me and I experience it through my body, mind and spirit.

 

I am on the Junior Variety basketball team, we finish 2nd in the state losing to the giant black girls from Providence, one girl just bear hugged me to stop me from moving even though she knew she would foul out. One time we took a short cut across the railroad tracks, all of a sudden I felt a vibration on the metal quickly followed by the roar of the train, I could not see it, I froze as the whistle blew, luckily one of my team members pulled me off, we are plastered up against the brick wall, just as I feel the force of the wind from the locomotive press me like mortar into the brick, holding my breath, heart pounding, vision blurring, it finally passes.

 

My friend Anna and I were reading very risque paperbacks, I just got to read the first page of Lolita before it disappeared from my desk, we found many missing after lunch always thinking the boys were stealing them from us. On the last day of school the nun took us aside into the cloakroom and said “I had confiscated all those unfit books you two have been reading”. Anna responded with “It was you that was stealing our books! Can we have them back, please?” Sister resounded with a firm “NO”. We spend many hours locked in Anna‘s bedroom, which has 2 doors that had flimsy hook and eye latches held on by screws, her brother would pound on the door demanding “Let me in! I am going to tell dad! What are you doing in there?” Her family is very strict and controlling Italians causing her to rebel. We wear white lipstick, black eyeliner, using an eyelash curler, teasing our hair, lots of black clothes, we are called mondos. My friends in school asked me why I hang around such a wild girl; no one can understand because they have healthier, supportive families while we have abuse issues in common that connected us like nothing else can.

 

I am the last of my female friends to get my menses; I am envious at first except when the day finally arrives. I run home and go into the bathroom; mother is on the other side of the door asking, “Are you OK?” I answer “yes”. I was in there for some time and when I come out she hands me a pamphlet about “What every Girl Should Know”. She asks me, “Do you know what a cherry is?” “Yes” surprised by that question. “Do you have any questions?”, “No” is my response because I have spent a great deal of time at the library reading medical books about girls and boys bodies maturing. I was anxious and scared seeing the blood but my friends have shared their experiences which were somewhat comforting and preparatory. On Sunday, on my way to church I faint on the street, I feel my body swoon to the ground, I can’t speak, and darkness descended down on me. I come around to my sister calling my name. She begs me to go to church anyway because it is her way of getting out, not going to church and doing what she wants, I complied with her wishes. At church I pray hard for help.

 

I spend a lot of time in the beautiful Old Pawtucket Library going up and down the aisles reading whatever calls out to me. On the first floor in a back room is an ornate book stand holding the largest dictionary I have ever set eyes on, I spend lots of time in this spot as I lovingly turn its pages with great care and respect looking up whatever word is on my mind. I love to climb up the circular winding staircase holding tightly to the iron banister to the top floor, I pause half way up and look out the fancy dome windows to the wondrous sky outside, before proceeding to the second floor. This area is like an open loft overlooking the lower floor, the iron banister goes the whole length and the one time I stood against it the librarian yelled “Please do not hang out along the banister or run in the library”. There are rows upon rows of highly polished, floor to ceiling, wood bookcases protecting the millions of books on the shelves, I usually grab a book and sit on the floor reading, this is my sanctuary.

 

My sister and I continue our Saturdays at the movies, the ticket guy has put a stop to me getting in for 25 cents saying “You can’t still be 12 years old for all these years, and putting your hair in braids does not work anymore.” It is at the Leroy Theater that I start meeting boys and get my first kiss. We continued to walk all around Pawtucket, having fun shopping in the Downtown area, going to the factories to buy trinkets, fabric, thread and sewing supplies. In the summers we spent our days at the swimming pool where everyone hung out trying to stay cool and watching the smoke stacks billowing out all the garbage being burned, you can even smell it’s stench .

 

I go to the Hamlet bowling alley with my girlfriends to meet boys, we always make sure we are in a lane close to some cute boys, so that we can flirt and be noticed. I am really bad at bowling and my balls always seem to gravitate into the gutter, I am lucky if I get a score of 90, usually in the 70s. This is where I and 3 of my friends try cigarettes in the girls’ bathroom. We smoke the whole pack in a short period of time; I feel dizzy, queasy, coughing and chocking, which is a blessing for I never want to smoke again.

 

For many years I am very involved with the Catholic Church. It had its positive influence; for it gives me strength through difficult times and spiritual tools for coping. I am involved with the Catholic Junior Council at St. Mary’s Church where I go to learn square dancing and join others my age in group activities. I accidentally came upon the brothers involved in sexual activity in the basement of the church. The brothers push an unwilling girl into a small closet with another brother, while they are laughing at the situation. I was lucky it never happens to me, it affects me in many ways, I am fearful because they have threatened me if I tell. I am experiencing great confusion around sexual issues due to this and the sexual abuse. No place is safe not even the church.

 

It seems that in the United States many are still divided on issues of equality. In Alabama Governor Wallace’s “Segregation Forever” speech is given at his inauguration. President Kennedy proposes the Civil Rights Bill. The March for Jobs and Freedom, or more commonly known as the March on Washington, attracts over 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. With the people concentrated around the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. gives his I Have a Dream speech. I am fascinated by this cultural issue which I watch on TV, listen on the radio and even find a written copy to read, it’s so inspiring. I am saddened when Four Black girls are murdered attending Sunday school in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A target because it was where there was regular civil rights meetings. As a result Riots erupt in Birmingham, and two more black youths are killed in the violence. I identify with those who are being suppressed, somehow it’s comforting knowing I am not the only, and feeling guilty because my situation is not as bad as theirs.

 

In the world around me it seems the major powers are jockeying for top positions. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. sign a treaty banning any atmospheric nuclear tests and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty takes effect. The worst thing that happens is that President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald and we are sent home from school early. I am in a state of shock and disbelief that such a great man is no longer with us that his family has to endure such brutality, I am glued to the television, and my grief is overwhelming. All hope is lost for peace. Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as President on Air Force One then he escalates American’s military involvement in the Vietnam War. Hatred seems to be the going theme.

 

I find refuge in music and the words found in the songs, I memories. In Rhode Island the Newport Folk Festival is going strong with popular folk singers Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger singing about what is going on, sharing thoughts and feelings about the way the world can be. The Beatles release “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which becomes a huge hit and a success in America. In a widely anticipated and publicized event, The Beatles arrive in America in February 1964, spearheading the British Invasion. Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and other Harvard alumni LSD researchers move to the Hitchcock’s estate in Millbrook, New York to continue their research into psychedelics. I search for understanding and a way out of the conflict.

 

I feel unsafe; in my home, surroundings, environment, church, my country and my world. My fears and anxieties are compounded and everywhere I go I am on the defense looking for the danger always lurking in the shadows putting me in a hyper-vigilant state; anxious and fearful, heart racing, poor concentration, fuzzy vision, weakness and shakiness. There is no place or no one to turn to, I am on my own. What am I to do? What do you do? What do you suggest?