Our 3rd 3 month rotation is at Howard State Hospital.

On a hill that rolls gradually up from the Pawtuxet River across Pontiac Avenue stands the Howard Reservation, a campus like setting that includes Victorian stone structures, numerous early twentieth century Colonial Revival brick buildings, and assorted new facilities. Its story is part of the social history of all of Rhode Island, not just Cranston. The development of Howard was Rhode Island’s first attempt to provide social services statewide through publicly supported and publicly administered institutions. As such, the Howard reservation signaled both a significant change in the role of the state and a major alteration in the treatment of the poor, the mentally ill, and the criminal.

Here is what, we student nurses experienced in 1969. Still in our junior year we leave our campus and move to what we call Howard State Hospital for our Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing experience, where we lived on the premises for 3 months. The first night is creepy and scary. The patients that have ground privileges come around the building making weird sounds to frighten us. One of the students prize herself as a psychic, who can read us, through something that belonged to us, like jewelry, creating more anxiety around the unknown.

Sounds echo in the dorms, down the halls, and my laugh carried far. Before I know it I am called back to RIHSN to the Nursing School Director and told “You needed to keep it down”. I approached the topic of the Howard’s DON’s abuse of the patients and am told “You are not to get involved, not to report it or make a commotion about it, or you will be kicked out of nursing school”.

We investigate our surroundings, going into the basement; we come across cement tubs where they use to put the patients in ice baths and keep them in with canvas tops over the bathtubs. There are huge chains attached to large circular metal rings all up and down the walls, the energy of the place is one of water torture and inhumane practices, very dark and dungy.

The DON of Howard is our instructor and she is mean spirited. In our first class, she has one of the girls; sit in a chair in front of the class, then proceeded to unbutton her uniform almost to her waist before she stops, while the student sits quietly crying. The instructor yells at her for not stopping her. We all sat shocked and in disbelief at the treatment of our peer. Mimi and I would hitch-hike to the city and once we were picked up by the Police, who told us that our instructor had been arrested for stealing, that she was a kleptomaniac, warned us to watch out for her, and then they took us where we were going. Sometimes we go out in Norma’s old Studebaker car.

It is anxiety producing entering the locked ward we are assigned to. There is three levels of care here: 1) the patients with mild symptoms who are on open wards and can come and go to work, 2) our patients with severe mental illness, who are on locked units and are never let out and 3) the criminally insane who are violent and where students aren’t allowed. We walked down a long pathway with a wooden railing separating it from the sleeping quarters on the right that had rows of single beds in a long large dorm room.  On the left side is a large open area which is the bathroom. At the end we come to 2 doors the left door leads to the nurses’ station and the main door leads to the Day room, it is a cold and uninviting space. The large day room is equipped with chairs along the 4 walls, tables and chairs in the center, and a couple of rocking chairs. The nurses’ station is enclosed, with windows looking into the dayroom and a small hole that medications are passed through to the patient, there is staff around making sure the meds are swallowed; using fingers to probe in mouths looking for pills, with those who have a history of cheeking them.

In the morning they are herded into the bathrooms made out of white tile with many drain holes for the water to pass into the sewers, white porcelain toilets and sinks and no place to hide or have any privacy. The staff is constantly yelling out what task to do, the patients act like robots: putting their pointing finger out while we place a strip of toothpaste on it and then they brushed their teeth with their finger. Without any clothes on they are forced to huddle together while taking cold showers with bars of soap, then they are allowed to dress, it is all so very humiliating my heart breaks for these poor souls.

Most of the patients have been here for many years, some have had lobotomies because of unmanageable behavior, they all appear chronically ill. They are not let outdoor and all meals are served in the dayroom with only a spoon for a utensil for no object is allowed that can be used as a weapon.

When it come to hair cut day there is a chair placed in the center of the room, while everyone else sits against the four walls watching, as everyone gets a bowl cut, if they did not go along with it they were sat on by the big charge nurse, straight out of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

The patients learned to love us for we are kind, considerate and interested in learning their story. Our last day on the unit, the staff are all lined up in the day room and the small mute woman patient goes up to the head nurse grabbed her by both nipples and twisted her down to the ground. Silently, I was cheering for the patient who had the courage to do such a thing, knowing full well that the consequences will be severe.

Psychiatric Nursing as a specialty is over 100 years old and has its roots in the Mental Health Reform Movement of the 19th Century which reorganized mental health asylums into hospital settings. Throughout the progress of this specialty, one skill that has created the foundation of psychiatric nursing is the one-to-one therapeutic relationship. It has been influenced by emergent psychotherapies and counseling skills has become an essential component in nursing education.

Hildegard Peplau developed the theoretical base for mental health nursing when she and others created the National League for Nursing in 1952 and suggested that all schools of nursing have a basic theory and practice course in psychiatric nursing. She firmly believed that the psychiatric nurse’s greatest tool was use of the self in the therapeutic relationship.

Psychiatric and mental health nursing concepts are present to us in all practice settings because the development of a one-to-one relationship is important in the creation of the patient’s trust in the caregiver. Assessment skills and communication are essential and taught in all areas of our nursing training in order to gather the information needed to make an accurate nursing diagnosis and subsequently treat the patient holistically.

We received experience and education in psychiatric nursing to provide care to an increasingly complex and seriously ill patient population through our ability to form one-to-one therapeutic relationships with the patients despite the environment we found ourselves in. Throughout history, psychiatric nurses lead the nursing profession in treating the after effects of war, disasters and the rising number of mentally ill individuals in society.

The therapeutic relationship is an abstract concept that can be defined as a planned and goal-directed communication process between a nurse and a patient for the purpose of providing care. We may counsel their patients but have not gone to counseling training. However, individual one-to-one work utilizing counseling skills is intrinsic to mental health nursing. Throughout our training we are developing observational skills, learning supportive approaches and sharing our education with patients. We are learning a non-judgmental attitude, we perceived inability to help our psychiatric patients, we feared  mental illness and when studying our Abnormal Psychology book we identified with many symptoms, we had poor role models at the State Hospital and had a lack of support in clinical settings which were all deterrents to our development.

The history of Psychiatric practice in the first part of the 20th Century did not place much stake in particular diagnostic categories. The first official manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I, 1952) reflected the views of dynamic psychiatrists. Specific diagnostic entities had a limited role in the DSM-I and its successor, the DSM-II in 1968. These manuals conceived of symptoms as reflections of broad underlying dynamic conditions or as reactions to difficult life problems. Dynamic explanations posited that symptoms were symbolic manifestations that only became meaningful through exploring the personal history of each individual. It made little effort to provide elaborate classification schemes, because overt symptoms did not reveal disease entities but disguised underlying conflicts that could not be expressed directly. For example Schizophrenia is thought to be caused by the mother.

Karl Menninger, a leading dynamic psychiatrist, viewed all mental disorders “as reducible to one basic psychosocial process: the failure of the suffering individual to adapt to his or her environment…Adaptive failure can range from minor (neurotic) to major (psychotic) severity”. Rather than treating the systems of mental disorder, he urged psychiatrist to explain how the individual’s failure to adapt came about and it’s meaning to the patient thus almost everyone has some degree of mental illness at some point in their life. The focus of dynamic psychiatry broadened from the treatment of neuroses to more generalized maladaptive patterns of behavior, character and personal problems. Mental health patients came to be people who were dissatisfied with their relationships, careers, and their lives in general. Psychiatry had been transformed from a discipline that was concerned with insanity to one concerned with normality. This focus made the profession vulnerable to criticism that it was too subjective, medically unscientific, and overly ambitious in terms of its ability to explain and cure mental illness.

The following is taken from “1970 RI Historical Preservation Report for Cranston, Rhode Island”.

In summary for the first 150 years of American history, poverty, crime, and insanity were regarded as natural components of human society; the local approach to providing social services reflected the seventeenth and eighteenth century view of the town as the basic social organization. With the coming of the American Revolution and the nineteenth century, a new philosophy evolved. It held that deviance and poverty were not inevitable but simply the result of a poor environment. The solution was believed to be isolation of the poor, the mentally ill, and the criminal in an environment that eliminated the tensions and chaos engendering deviant behavior.

Poor farms and asylums sprang up around the country. In Providence, the Dexter Asylum opened in 1828 to care for the sick and feeble, and in the 1847, Butler Hospital was opened-one of the most progressive institutions for the treatment of the mentally ill in the nation. In 1839, Cranston’s Town Council voted to purchase the Rebecca Jencks estate in what is today Wayland Park at the foot of the present Meschanticut Valley Parkway, and use it as a poor farm.

Although by 1850 fifteen of Rhode Island’s thirty-one towns had established town asylums or poor farms, their operation did not reflect the kind of progressive thinking that was embodied at Dexter and Butler. The situation of the poor and the insane poor was not only scandalous, as revealed in Thomas Hazard’s 1851 “Report on the poor and Insane in Rhode Island”, which graphically delineated the miserable living conditions of most of the state’s poor, it also reflected a continuation of the local approach to social problems. Following Hazard’s report, the legislature abolished the chains and dark rooms that had characterized the treatment of the insane in many towns.

In 1866 a state Board of Charities and Corrections was established similar to that in Massachusetts, to “devise a better system of caring for the unfortunate unlawful classes of the state”. The act provided for the establishment of a state workhouse, a house of corrections, a state asylum for the incurable insane, and a state almshouse. The board moved to consolidate facilities by establishing a “state Farm” that would simultaneously raise standards for the indigent and relieve the localities of their responsibilities. Two adjacent Cranston farms were acquired the old Stukeley Westcott farm and the William A. Howard farm further west.

Plans for a state farm reflected the adoption by the state of Rhode Island of some of the current thinking affecting social services. The selection of a pastoral site far from the city is indicative of the prevailing philosophy that many of the nineteenth-century replaced assignment of the destitute to local families. Almshouses would care for the “worthy” or hard-core poor, the permanently disabled, and others who clearly could not care for themselves. The able-bodied or “unworthy” poor who sought public aid would be institutionalized in workhouses where their behavior could be controlled and where, away from the temptations of society, they would develop new habits of industry to prepare themselves for more productive lives and less dependency.

The creation of a state asylum for the insane signaled a significant change in public policy towards the mentally ill. Unlike the earlier optimistic era in the 1840s when Butler Hospital opened, the newer prevailing philosophy assumed that many of the insane were incurable, and therefore there was little justification for providing expensive hospitals for them. Thus in planning the State Asylum, therapy was the last of the goals listed. The Asylum would offer “every facility for economical, comfortable, and perhaps even to a degree, curative care…”

In 1885, to relieve the cities and towns from the burden of supporting their insane poor, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that the State Asylum for the Insane should serve as a receiving hospital for all types of mental disorder, acute as well as chronic, thereby merging the two. By giving over the Asylum to the “undesirable” elements, the poor, the incurable, and the foreign-born, the upper and middle classes thus restricted their own ability to use it. Therapy was second to custody.

The Board’s explanation for the rise in mental illness, agreed with the views of Dr. Edward Mann, Medical Supervisor of New York City’s Ward’s Island, who was quoted in the annual report for 1877:

“Next to hereditary pre-disposition, which is the first and predisposing cause of insanity, comes the great mental activity and strain upon the nervous system that appertains to the present age and state of civilization. This feverish haste and unrest, which characterize us as a people, and the want of proper recreation and sleep, tend to a rapid decay of the nervous system and to insanity as a necessary consequence.”

In 1888 funds for a new almshouse for the insane was obtained. The older wooden structure was replaced with the installation of a large central administration building with office and residential facilities for the staff and public eating and worship spaces for the inmates who were segregated in men and women wings flanking the central structure and a cottage for the children. It opened in 1890 the three and half story stone building stands as a series of long buildings running north-south and interrupted regularly by octagonal stair towers. Its handsome stone work and the red-brick trim and its site behind copper beach trees on a bluff overlooking Pontiac Avenue make the center Building one of the most visually striking structures in Rhode Island.

The major improvement of the decade before the turn of the century was the appointment of Howard’s first full-time superintendent, which signaled the introduction of professional training, therapy oriented administrators at the State Farm. The new orientation manifested itself in the building plan for the Hospital for the Insane created in 1900, based on the contemporary practice of constructing hospitals for the insane on the cottage or ward plan, “thereby establishing small communities in separate buildings that are more easily taken care of and administered,” the plan was the first at Howard to establish a campus like quadrangle arrangement of buildings in place of one large self-contained structure. A new key part of the new plan was a communal dining room constructed in 1903 with the room measuring 195 feet by 104 feet, which could seat 1,400 people.

In 1912, the reception Hospital (A Building) was opened, intended to permit appropriate diagnosis and classification of patients as they entered the institution. In 1916 psychiatric social workers were assigned to the state hospital. The training School for Nurses was opened in conjunction with the reception building. B Ward was completed in 1916 and C ward in 1918 completing the plan for “simple and dignified” buildings and “plain red brick walls with pitched roofs, without any attempt at ornamentation”. Standing just west of Howard Avenue and opposite the old House of Correction, the quadrangle signaled the beginning of a new mode of construction at Howard-red brick buildings in a simple Colonial Revival style grouped around a quadrangle and containing dormitories, single rooms, and porches as well as treatment facilities.

In 1918 a new building was constructed for the criminally insane and additional dormitories. The old twelve foot high solid fence which shut off patients from the outside world was replaced by a lower lattice one with view of the surrounding countryside. This change alone symbolized the change in attitude which was articulated in 1929 Annual Report:

“The commission tried to save dollars, but it would rather save a man or a woman. It wants to see plants in Cranston, Providence, and Exeter a credit to Rhode Island, standing like so many Temples of Reform, Education, and Philanthropy. But it is even more desirable that its work should be represented in reconstructed Living Temples in the morals, minds and bodies of those who have been ministered to by these public administrators. For it is better to minister than administer.”

These efforts at reform in treatment of the insane were paralleled by a new attitude towards the infirmed with attention focused on the medical, not the social, disabilities of the inmates. Rehab work program was started in 1928. Patients could live with families and work in the community. Most of the patients worked the 225 acres of state farmland, harvesting far in excess of the needs of the reservation. As late as 1941, 750,000 quarts of milk, 400,000 eggs and 14,000 tons of beef were being produced on the farm.

There is a long History of overcrowded and in 1933 the State Hospital, with accommodations for 1,550, housed 2,235 and was labeled the most overcrowded mental hospital in the northeast. In the years 1935-1938 twenty-five buildings were erected for the State Hospital for Mental Disease. The appearance of Howard was dramatically altered by this construction which went up so fast the Providence Journal declared a “new skyline rises at Howard.”

Built in a uniform, red brick, Georgian Revival style, the structures comprising the State Hospital and State Infirmary are grouped in campus fashion on either side of Howard Avenue. Taken in total, the building incorporated a uniformity of style, scale, material, and sitting that is striking. Historically they represent the coming together of national policy and local initiative. Architecturally, they present one of the most lucid statements of the Georgian Revival in Rhode Island. Despite the improvements by 1947 conditions once again deteriorated due to overcrowding. In 1959 an expert from Boston declared the conditions were shameful and yet “relatively good” compared with mental hospitals in the country, due to the inability to raise capital funds to match federal programs. In 1954 there was an active public-relations effort, including pamphlets detailing the overcrowding, articles in the Journal, and radio spots resulted in passage of a bond issue. In 1962 the General Hospital and the State Hospital for Mental Diseases merged to become the Rhode Island Medical Center. The former became the Center General Hospital and the latter the Institute of Mental Health. In so doing, Rhode Island was the first state to create therapy units for its mentally ill. In 1967, the Medical Center was divided. The Center General Hospital was designated to serve as an infirmary for the prison and the Institute of Mental Health.



First a brief history, of Rhode Island Hospital, which was built through the generosity of the community, begins in 1857 with a bequest by Moses Brown Ives, to establish a fund for a hospital in Rhode Island. On October 1, 1868, the founders of Rhode Island Hospital gathered on the hospital grounds to dedicate the new hospital, founded to serve the citizens of the state and to provide care to the region’s most seriously ill and injured with the latest medical technology available.


In 1882 Sarah Gray, the first chief of nurses, is appointed and opens a nursing school.

In 1895 The Department of Orthopedic Surgery for the prevention and cure of deformities in children and adults opens.

In 1915 Rhode Island Hospital becomes the first hospital in the region and the third in the United States to offer an EKG machine.

In 1922 A Tumor Clinic is established by Herman Pitts, MD, and George Waterman, MD.

In 1931 The Joseph Samuels Dental Center opens at Rhode Island Hospital to provide comprehensive dental care services to Rhode Island’s underprivileged children and individuals with special needs.

In 1934 Dr. Minot, Dr. George and Dr. William Murphy of Rhode Island Hospital, win the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology for their work on pernicious anemia.

In 1941 The Potter Building opens to care for children.

In 1945 Modern research begins when the Rhode Island Medical Society approves the creation of an institute of pathology within the hospital to make laboratory services more available.

In 1948 The Trustees approve “dedicated to the care of the sick, education and research” to Rhode Island Hospital’s statement of purpose.


Collectively, the community supported many special campaigns, including drives to fund the $8.75 million, which is one of the first 10-story patient care buildings in the country, the hospital opened in 1955. This is the building that I was trained in.


In the 1800s the first uniform at Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing was a long black dress, heavy black stockings with garter-belts, white starched pinafores, and they carried a kerosene lamp that they had to dray around where ever they went. The style changed to what our big sisters’ wore: white starched uniform with the pinafores and their caps were white starched winged things, which most schools had adopted since the beginning of training.


Our class is the first to have a more modern uniform that is easier to care for: made of polyester; the pattern is small pink pinstripes, which you really can’t see; there are buttonholes down the front center on both sides where 2 sided plastic white buttons go in, holding it all together. Our caps look like a paper cupcake holder upside down on our heads, that I have to hold onto my hair with 2 long pointy white hat pins that are out to get me, never really keeping it in its proper place.


This year we have received a thin burgundy velvet ribbon that is place on the cape to show our accomplishment of completing our first year of nursing, we are so proud of it. We wear heavy white pantyhose with freshly polished white nurses’ shoes, no deviation is allowed. Our nails have to be short, clean and without polish, our hair has to be off our collars and out of our faces.


Now we are big sisters to the new class that enters the school, feeling jazzed that we get to pull pranks on the newbies, and in line with tradition we do the water balloons over the doors, the saran wrap across the toilet bowl and petroleum jelly on the toilet seats. We develop a supportive bond with our little sisters and share with them what we have learned from our big sisters. We really do not get to see our little or big sisters much because we all have such busy schedules but connect when the opportunity presents itself.


Our class numbers is down to 75 students remaining which means 25% flunked out with a small number quitting by the end of the first year. We are in our 2nd year of nursing school and our clinical experience working with patients has increased to 4 days a week with the 5th day for our nursing classes.  It is freaky that after a slow paced year of one day of clinical a week we are now working 4 days a week and my group is thrown into the lion’s den where student nurses are eaten alive and its full steam ahead.


Our 1st 3 month rotation is surgery in the OR at Rhode Island Hospital. We are assigned a locker, given 2 sets of the basic green scrubs that were the only color at the time, which includes hat, booties for over our shoes, top and pants. We change into our scrubs, put on the covers for the shoes, and tie back our hair before putting on the caps. Then we enter the scrub area and are instructed how to scrub down our hands and forearms after which we keep bent at the elbows, before gowning up and putting on our gloves, now we are “sterile” enough to enter the OR.


Our first day starts with us above a large OR room in the Gallery watching an open heart surgery, the surgeon tried to have us believe that he is the famous Dr. Christiaan Barnard who performed the First Heart Transplant, he has us all go down into the OR room and look into the open chest of the patient, to the amazing visual of the heart beating loudly in our ears as we peek in. It was a rare thing to behold and all I could wonder about was how much outside contaminants’ the patient was being exposed to while 20+ students peered into the man’s chest, and the subsequent discomfort he will experience from the amount of time he was being held open by those large retractors pulling on his ribcage.


The doctors are always teasing the student nurses or trying to freak us out. The hardest thing for me is when a woman had a mastectomy and large breast is handed to me in a sterile steel bowl with the large nipple in the center like a target which jiggles like Jell-o as I carry it to the pathologist. I feel that in Surgery there is no person, there are sterile drapes placed all over the body, except where the surgery takes place, that somehow it is seen as a heart, a breast, or just some body part, in order for a human being to be able to do such a thing to another person. I wonder if some type of dissociation may take place, but I am not a surgeon, so I do not know what they experience, they are excellent at what they do, their hands are sacred, and help many people live a better life. Each surgeon has their own way of relieving the tension and stress while in the OR room some of them joke, some listen to music while others focus on the student nurses.


The most embarrassing moment is, when I am assigned to prepare an OR room with all sterile equipment, fully gowned and gloved, I covered all the surfaces with sterile drapes, when I get to the instrument tray and push the sleeve over the table top, both of my gloves rip, I am humiliated for I have contaminated the whole room and have to start all over. I have poor body awareness boundaries, some type of hand eye coordination problem, besides having been mostly into brain/mind focus while not been into my physical/body development. So I perceive myself as a klutz.


I dread the training of being the surgeon’s assistant, responsible for giving him the right instrument that he calls out for, while putting his hand out to receive it, we have learned the proper way to smack it in his waiting paw. I memorize all the instruments that are used for each surgery I assist with and do OK. We learn all the jobs that are involved with surgery such as: circulating nurse, setting up the sterile field of the whole room, autoclave the instruments to be used, assisting the Anesthesiologist and the surgeon. We have the privilege of observing brain surgery which is a long tedious process and awe inspiring to see what the gray matter looks like through the square window that has been drilled out of the back of the patient’s head.


We complete our OR training having matured in more ways than we could of imagined, nursing is proving to be a form of culture shock by being exposed to things the average person has no awareness of, which brings us together as a group, connecting us on a deep level, knowing we are not alone and being able to process by sharing what is going on around us.


Our next 3 month rotation is ICU. It has been a whole year and now we are allowed to be the medication nurse for the ward, after a great deal of pharmacology classes and experience on the floors. I find myself being the death nurse for whenever I walk into a room when someone is near death, they start flat lining and seeing I am the first person to arrive I start CPR and within a few minutes there is a group of people around the bed working to save a life. I am teased by the staff that will send me into a room to initiate the process, this is very anxiety producing, and I do lots of wondering about what is going on that I am not seeing and why are they encouraging it. I do all the right things and am relieved when this rotation is over while looking forward to our Psychiatric/Mental Health rotation next.



I am 18 years old going on 19. My mother is driving me from Pawtucket to Providence on the 95 freeway; in the car she makes a statement “My experience has been you will not enjoy sex till you are 50”. I guess this is her way of talking about sex, I am silent, not knowing how to respond, and taken by surprise. I am still dating Joe and remain a virgin. I have read medical books and novels about sex. I am not comfortable discussing the subject with my mother. Are you able to talk about sex with your mom?


We arrive at Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing off of Eddy Street in Providence. We make our way to the beautiful old fashion assembly hall made out of wood: the stage, walls, floor and chairs. We are attending orientation when one of the instructors talks about “some girls will quit, and I encourage the parents to be supportive of the decision, when it is expressed, and not pressure your daughter to stick with it”. My mother turns to me and says “you will not quite, you will finish and become a nurse”. We are told that 25 % will flunk out, and we have 100 students in our class. My anxiety is compounded with this statement.


We go to my private room which already has a single bed, bureau and a small desk, she helps me decorate: putting up curtains, placing a rug in the center of room and a few mementos from my Dad; a foam pillow that has decomposed over the years and an old fashion favorite radio that does not get good reception; these items are hard for me to let go of, besides being beyond useful they are still comforting. She leaves and I begin by exploring my surrounding and meeting my classmates.


The student nurses quarters consist of 2 building for sophomores and juniors; my room is in Aldrich house and the other one is called Middle house, they are situated behind the hospital and made out of red brick probably built in the late 1800s. The elevator has a large heavy outer door that you can only open when the elevator is there and has stopped; there is a manual metal latticed door that you squish together before and after getting in and out of the claustrophobic contraption, which has you wondering if it will work. As you come off the elevator, turning right into the long corridor, you will find the communal bathroom on the right side furnished with wooden stalls separating a few toilets that are equipped with old fashion locks for privacy, there are many sinks with mirrors in a row, and a huge bath tub area.


The old beautiful wooden interior, of the long hallway, has high ceilings, so sound travels amazingly well. The door to each room is solid wood, with a window above that can be opened for circulating air on those hot muggy nights. My room is humongous with a large walk in closet and  a window looks out back into the trees and neighborhood. I feel right in the center of things, and can see everything going on down the long passageway, which is the main thoroughfare, that has many rooms on both sides; I am at the crossroads of two halls, the other hall leads to a corner room and in the opposite direction it leads to the lounge: where there is a TV set, a small kitchen, lounging chairs, couches, and a kitchen table with chairs, which is where many congregate to share stories and socialize.


I live on a floor with many other newbies, and we meet our big sisters, who initiate us by wrapping saran wrap on the toilet seats so we wet ourselves peeing, and placing water balloons to break when we opened our doors getting me drenched. A few of us get together looking for their pranks before going to bed. They told us that our life will change drastically and the boyfriend we have now will not be around at the end of the year because we will have changed. They end up being right because I end my relationship with Joe within a few months.


I connect with a group of 5 girls: Debbie, Donna, Marlene, Meme and I. Together we: studied, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the cafeteria, and created our own study group. Whoever is good at a  subject helps those who aren’t; it works out pretty fairly, seeing we are all bright women with great minds. We figured out our nicknames, by taking the last name and using its opposite meaning; for example mine is “Weakie”. We developed a strong bond that gets us through difficult times. There is a tiny powerful housemother who goes around before 10 pm when we are to be in our own rooms, instructing us on being quite and within a short period of time, she is taking our names down because we are noisy and I am hiding my friends in my closet. We are very amused by her and imitate her when she turns her back to us to write our names down.


Most of the walking around campus and the hospital grounds is all done in the tunnels underground. We tend to stick together due to the dark dank atmosphere and explore every nook and cranny in order to get familiar with our surroundings, we know where the morgue is but it’s locked and that means mystery and curiosity. The entrance to and from the hospital is locked so we push the button and the housemother at the main desk buzzes us through.


Our first year of clinical started out slow. We spent 2 weeks on how to make a bed on an empty ward, by the tallest woman nurse I have ever known, we have a great giggle when she pulled the sheet so tight that it ripped apart, our hospital corners were assessed and the tightness of the bottom sheet is evaluated by the ability of a penny to jump up when made right. This was before we were ever allowed on a hospital unit and able to touch a patient.


Our first year is learning the foundations of nursing; we have clinical sessions one day a week. The night before we go to the hospital floor to look up our patient assignments, going through the chart writing down all information presented and making sure nothing gets missed. Then we go to the library and our rooms to research what it all means, which takes a great deal of our evening time. We prepare by gathering information on: any possible questions the instructor may ask about the patient; the meaning of lab results; understanding of the disease process; surgeries performed, preparation for tests and surgeries that will be happening, with the nursing care required and why; the medications being given and reasons; and to develop a nursing care plan which includes physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.


We arrived on the assigned floor at 7 am and received report on our patients from the nurse in charge. The most anxiety producing part of the day is the interaction with the instructor questioning us on what our nursing care plans are for the day shift and answering any questions we have for her. We literally staff the hospital, except for the medication nurses on each wing and the Senior Student Nurses who are learning on the job as charge nurses. We assist the medication nurse by administering medications to our own patients. We set up the patients for breakfast; sitting them up with the over-bed table in place; delivering the hot food trays and removing the lids, placing everything within reach, with straws in the liquids; constantly assessing and anticipating the patient’s needs; and feeding those who need help.


We do full bed baths, always being aware of the importance of privacy by keeping the person covered with a large bath-blanket, except for the body part we are working on, we used a basin, wash cloth and large towel, changing the water frequently before it cools off. We begin with the person brushing their teeth then handing them the facecloth to do their face, if unable we do it for them, before we proceeded to their body. We work on each arm, then the chest and belly, then each leg, and if they are able we hand the person the facecloth to do their private area, otherwise we do it. At this point we changed the water and assist with turning them onto their side or by using the pull sheet. We wash the whole back and buttocks followed by a full back massage from the neck all the way down to the end of their buttocks. If they are bed-bound we change the linen at this time. Then we turned them onto their backs again and assist them into a Johnny gown. If not bed-bound we get them up into a chair, making sure they had a water pitcher, call button and anything else they required and soak their feet while we make the bed.


When it is lunch time we go through a similar ritual we used for the morning meal and assisting as needed. After meals we eat our lunch, which are staggered so there is always a few sophomore students around to cover the floor while a few are eating. We are very supportive and learned to work well with each other, helping to care for the more difficult patients together like when it takes more than one person to move someone. We walk with those who have orders to do so, helping those to the restroom who had bathroom privileges, and responding to call buttons for use of a bedpan. We help those back to bed that have sat up all day and give another great back massage before we chart, give report to the charge nurse and leave around 3:30pm, so the patients are basically ready for the evening shift. Our care is compassionate, sensitive and excellent and within that first year we function as a well greased machine with a strong team approach. The more we learn the more difficult our patient assignments get, we do 3 month rotations in different wards in the hospital: learning all aspects of medical, surgical, orthopedic, and neurology nursing care.


Four days a week we attended classes: which include nursing theory with our own nursing instructors; and non nursing classes from the University Of Rhode Island instructors who come to our campus to teach us. Almost all our classes have a lab class attached to it. In our nursing classes we use holistic nursing care plans on whatever area of nursing we are learning about covering mind/body/spirit.


When it comes to anatomy and physiology we all take a system, using my room’s wall as a chalk board to draw on, and explain it to the group. In anatomy lab we work hard studying for 2 weeks, memorizing the bones of the body, using the skeletons in the lab. We study so hard all the way up to the day we take the test. Later we realize we have over studied creating anxiety and confusion. So before our next test we decide to go out and party, feeling that we needed to relax and see if that worked better, which it does so before a test ritual. Our muscles test is just one essay question to describe the muscles used and how used when doing a pushup, which is every muscle in the body extending and contracting. In lab Meme and I: dissect a cat we call dog; we pith a fog much to our disdain; and waste many clams doing chemical tests on their hearts while we had them hooked up to a small graph machine that records the heart rate.


On the first day of Chemistry lab the teacher instructs us on the 3 rules: keeping the water in the sink, no breaking anything, and no laughing. Well Mimi and I work together, she knocks the rubber hose attached to the faucet out of the sink, while rinsing out our supplies, causing the water to spray out wetting me, I drop and break the beaker, and we both burst out laughing. This puts a stress on our relationship with the lab instructor: when she would ask questions like “I don’t get that, can you explain it?” he’d response with “you’ll never get it”; and when she got her test papers back we could always find a right answer marked wrong and she’d have to point it out to him. Thank God high school gave me a great foundation in chemistry and since I excel at it I pass. In microbiology lab I contaminate everyone’s Petri-dish with my organism; luckily I did well in those lectures and pass. In the college classes the lectures and lab scores are always combined and as you can imagine the lab scores brought down the excellent scores I get in the lectures.


We go out at night walking arm in arm, singing and dancing down the street to the tune “we’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of oz”. We walked through downtown Providence on the way to the Eastside which is called College Hill and hang out. We get involved in the International Student Union where we meet people from all over the world. We have Hot Fudge Sundays or bagels and cream cheese at the little Bob’s Big Boy. We have a 10 pm curfew on weekdays and midnight if we stayed in the dorm on the weekend, which I preferred and do frequently. We only get 2 weeks of holiday vacation and two weeks in the summer off from our training schedule, so we make the best with whatever free time we have. Can you identify with any of my experiences, how are yours different?





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?



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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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.



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?


1962 St. Edward’s Junior High School

I go from 6th grade to the 7th at St. Edward’s Junior High School and turn 13. In the 7th grade, we no longer stay in one room for all our classes; we change rooms for every period. I have many friendships now and spend most of my free time with Anna listening to the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Ricky Nelson. We have abuse issues in our home  life  while our outside world feels dangerous and unsafe, having this in common bringing us closer than anything else could. I feel safe with her and can tell her anything, she is a great example of how to stand up for yourself.

My youngest sister is born with poker straight blonde hair and when I rub her head it stands up from the static electricity. It seems like I am always babysitting, if it’s not my sisters it is my cousins. When I go to My Aunt Louise’s her boys are hard to handle, I leave them in the bedroom because I get so mad, I am irate, luckily I have control because one of the boys was not so luck with another babysitter who abused him. When I go to my Aunt Lucille’s the girls do not listen to me, they hide in the closet, telling me I am no fun.

My mother sends me to Singer’s for sewing lessons saying “you will always be little and need to know how to sew, you will be glad you learned”. My first project is a 3 piece light green linen suit; jacket, vest and skirt, it came out great and I will wear it for Easter. My meme died recently from Cancer, she was an excellent seamstress and made us great dresses and coats when we were young. My mother is also a great sewer making dresses and coats for us especially for Easter and we always have hats, shoes and purses to match. We are poor but mother always manages to provide for us. It is wonderful coming from a long line of seamstress it has contributed to having a sense of style an ability to make whatever I put my mind to and a great sense of accomplishment.

In my own country the political environment is changing. President Kennedy initiated a 17 billion dollar nuclear missile program, advising Americans to build fallout shelters, increasing aid to Indonesia, invading Cuba at the Bay of Pigs which was a failed mission, so we start underground nuclear testing all of which creates a lot of fear and anxiety in many Americans. When Kennedy announces the creation of the Peace Corps I feel hope for humanity which gets me dreaming about living in far off places helping people in other cultures with feelings of peace and cooperation rather than war and hatred. What are your experiences and feelings around love and hatred?

In the south things are heating up. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) has begun sending student volunteers on bus trips to test the implementation of new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel facilities. One of the first two groups of “freedom riders,” encountered its first problem two weeks later, when a mob in Alabama sets the riders’ bus on fire. The programs continued and by the end of the summer 1,000 volunteers, black and white, have participated. The Freedom Riders force integration of Interstate and Travel facilities in the South. I identify with those who are suppressed and controlled and revel in their successes. Freedom what does that mean to me, and you my reader?

In the world around me Yuri Gagarin of the USSR is the first man in space which seems to irk my American patriots. In East Germany border guards begin construction of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall physically separated Communist East Germany and Democratic West Germany. It seems that fear, anxiety, and separation are going on all over mother earth creating an uneasy feeling from within contributing to my feelings of insecurity and not safe or secure. Have you ever experienced that?

As 1962 rolls around I finish the 7th and go into 8th grade still at St. Edward’s and turn 14. The country continues to experience much conflict. The Supreme Court, in the case of Engel v. Viatle, rules against prayer in public schools focusing on the separation of church and state. I am thankful to go to Catholic School where I can pray openly and that my classmates have the same religion. John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, it is like there is a competition for ownership of space; it seems there is a wild race to be the first. The Cuban Missile Crisis happens: The Soviets establish missile bases in Cuba; Kennedy orders a naval blockade to divert any missiles from arriving in Cuba, pointing to an escalating conflict in my world; the powers that be always seem to want to be in control and have the upper hand, being the top dog. Then there is Timothy Leary who found the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to promote LSD research as well as publish The Psychedelic Review. Internal Freedom is an interesting concept, reinforcing the importance of keeping things to myself that upset others while having a right to think the way I do. Do you have internal freedom or is there some internal voice telling you to think a certain way?

I turn to Music to open my mind, giving me alternative ways of seeing things, putting me into a different space. I really get into the British pop group the Beatles who attain their first number one on the British charts with Love Me Do. I learn all their songs by heart for they are simple, and positive. I find Folk singer Bob Dylan’s words on his first album expressing my inner turmoil, helping me reflect on what I want to believe in. I love dancing to the songs of The Four Seasons who have release three straight number one hits in a row.

Many things are changing and breaking down in my culture, reflecting what is going on internally for me; seeking freedom, peace and harmony through whatever means are available, as time marches on.


We move again creating a lot of anxiety from within, those butterflies in the stomach, a jittery vibration throughout my body, my mind get fussy making it hard to read, constantly having to reread paragraphs over and over again before it makes any sense to me, interfering with my optimum functioning. I have to get use to another neighborhood, school, church and making new friends.

We now live on Lawn Avenue still in Pawtucket, R.I., on the other side of the railroad tracts, parallel to Mineral Spring Avenue. Right on the other side of our back yard is the pizza place where the kids hang out, dancing to the blasting jukebox music. I save many Dentin wrappers to go the Chuck Berry’s concert. Our neighbors who live down stairs are the McCarthy’s and the Mathews’. A few blocks west and south live my mother’s friend Monic, who is my Aunt Sis’s sister (who is married to my Uncle Bert). Next door are the Chin’s who own a Chinese restaurant downtown; my sister teases Frankie calling him Frankie Avalon, I become close friends with his cousin Ginny, and many years later I run into Frankie and we laugh about a Chinese boy being connected to a famous white boy singer.

We live in another triple decker on the 3rd floor, which is covered with fake looking dark colored bricks possible tar paper. I climb the back staircase to enter the flat. As I walk in there is a large dining room with windows facing west, letting in the setting sun in the evenings. This is the central area from which all others rooms are connected, the bedrooms are on the east side so the rising sun beams us awake; Barbara and I shared a room at the south end while mother’s is at the north end and in the middle room is Tina and Joanne. The kitchen is very small, connected by a door to the bathroom which is in the northeast corner of the structure, with another door leading to my mother’s room. The living room takes up the south end with windows on 3 sides, there is a door leading to the patio and the front staircase which we rarely used, mostly it is for storage. The banisters are worn carved wood where many hands had already hung on while going up and down.

I am in the 6th grade and attending Saint Edwards School. I walk east on Lawn then turned left going north on Lonsdale Avenue, then turned left going west on Baldwin Street then right going north to Hancock Street. At first I struggle with making friends because everyone has been here since the first grade and are a tight nit group of kids, besides I wear these popular cat’s eye style glasses which I get teased about so I stop wearing them. The nuns are very strict and mean without compassion or caring for our welfare, they are more concerned with rules and orderly conduct. They have a tendency to pick on the boys grabbing them by their ears and pulling them down the aisles when they are the least bit disruptive. I excel in most of my studies, especially math, while my weakest subject is English. My mother’s original language is French Canadian and she did not finish high school, so our sentence structure is a little off kilter.

I turn 12 years old and am developing new friendships. Barbara and I go to the Leroy Theater on Saturdays; mom drops us off, paying 25 cents to get in, seeing all of Elvis’ movies. Barbara is 10 and has made friends with the kids down stairs who are her age. Tina will turn 6 after Christmas, and is always on her tricycle wanting to follow me around so I pay her a quarter to leave me alone and not tell on me. Joanne is a cute little baby with curly dark hair spending many hours in her playpen.

This is when the horror begins; my mother’s boyfriend is starting to pay attention to me, I am uncomfortable and freaked out. I wake in the middle of the night from the sound of heavy breathing, the stench of alcohol invading the air and there is a dark shadow in the corner of the room. I become very still and quiet, frozen in panic. I decide to tell my mom about the night visits. She is at the stove preparing dinner, I approach her and tell her what is going on- her response is “well, he hasn’t touched you, so nothing is happening”. I can’t believe that she is not coming to my rescue, I am speechless and angry. I am also afraid of her so I usually do the right thing so I do not get into trouble. I decide that I have to look after myself and I will never bring it up with her again. She does intervene after that, some nights she calls out to him, while he stands over us, and he leaves. I no longer feel safe or secure and I am suppressing my feelings deep inside of me. Mother feels safe and secure with this man around the house. He had come into our life taking her away from us leaving me vulnerable and frightened.

American culture is changing all around me: at Harvard University, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert begin experimenting with psychedelic drugs while the Food and Drug Administration approves the first birth control pill for sale. More permissive attitude is developing in our country.

The American government is turning to the left. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act. John F. Kennedy: a staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms such as civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and poor, narrowly wins the Presidential election over Vice-President Richard Nixon, he is the first Catholic  President, pledging to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. Lyndon Baines Johnson is elected Vice-President.

In music Elvis Presley gets out of the army and resumes his musical career by recording “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”
Motown Records is created: with it’s first top 10 hit “Shop Around” by the miracles and peaks at number2 on the Billboard Hot 100 which is their first million-selling record. Folk Singer and activist Joan Baez releases her debut album on Vanguard records in December.

I love reading about nurses. Sue Barton is the central character in a series of seven novels for adolescent girls written between 1936 and 1952. The series follows Sue Barton through her nurse’s training and her work life. In Sue Barton: Student Nurse, Sue begins training as a student nurse. She meets her friends Kit and Connie in this book and also her husband-to-be, Dr Bill Barry. Sue manages to have a number of adventures as she trains, including falling down a laundry shaft and saving a feverish patient from jumping out of a window while recovering from appendix surgery. In Sue Barton: Senior Nurse, Sue finishes her training, which includes psychiatric nursing and obstetrics. She also becomes engaged to Bill at the end of this book. Sue Barton: Visiting Nurse follows Sue and her friend Kit as they venture to New York City to join the Settlement Nurses. Connie gets married in this book and Bill pressures Sue to marry him. Sue refuses, wanting a chance to repay the training she received from the Settlement Houses. At one point, Sue helps an elderly patient fulfill her dream of travel by using the money for her wedding clothes. Sue Barton: Rural Nurse follows Sue as she ultimately leaves the Visiting Nurses and returns home, only to find that a tragic accident has left Bill with the care of a disabled brother. He cannot marry Sue until things are settled. Sue sets herself up as a visiting rural nurse in the town of Springfield, New Hampshire and winds up in the middle of a typhoid outbreak. Sue finally marries Bill at the start of Sue Barton: Superintendent Nurse and then works as the head of the nursing school at the new hospital in Springfield. However, her marriage to Bill is not plain sailing and Sue questions her ability to provide a proper nursing training for her students. In Sue Barton: Neighborhood Nurse Sue suffers regrets about leaving her nursing career while she cares for her three children, each of whom has particular needs. She also helps a young teenager, Cal, to be more sociable and Cal’s mother, the artist Mona Stuart, to be kinder. Sue realizes that her role in her family and the wider neighborhood is also important. In Sue Barton: Staff Nurse (the final installment in the series), Sue returns to work to support her four children while her husband is in a sanatorium suffering from TB. He eventually recovers and the family is reunited once more, with the implication that Sue will return to her position as wife and mother.

I also read the Cherry Ames series stars a job-hopping, mystery-solving nurse. Cherry (short for Charity) hails from Hilton, Illinois was steered into nursing by Dr. Joseph Fortune, an old family friend. Cherry’s training at the Spencer Hospital School of Nursing is chronicled in the first two books. There, she meets the classmates who become lifelong friends. With the third book in the series Army Nurse, Cherry joins the Army Nurse Corps, and, after the war, she moves to Greenwich Village. Whenever Cherry isn’t working with the Visiting Nurse Service, Dr. Joe sends her on assignments in various parts of the country. Unlike Sue Barton, Cherry remains single throughout her career with an occasional boyfriend here and there. Cherry’s early adventures are set during World War II. In these early adventures, Cherry solves problems and captures criminals when men in authority have failed to do so, “demonstrating that women can succeed in the public, working world.”

As you can see there are many things in my environment such as current events on television, music, and books that influence me; creating visions and dreams for my future, while giving me a peek of a larger world view. What has contributed to your development?

These postings are being written in the present time. I have never written about this time period before so it doesn’t appear as polished to me as previous ones that is my perfectionist part of me speaking. I have verbally shared these painful memories; I have spent lots of time in these past experiences, feeling like I was in a deep dark bottomless pit that I could not get out of. I was stuck in this time, constantly wallowing in my grief, disbelief and anger about the loss followed by the abuse I had experienced.

I find myself procrastinating about posting it due to concern how I am coming across, how it will be interpreted resulting how others will see me. Since starting to write about it in context with what others things were happening helps me see myself differently, putting things in perspective.

I am anxious about sharing this for I know it will bring a lot of memories back that I have blocked causing pain and suffering and at the same time knowing I need to push through and share it in story form in order to move on.  I am fearful of the consequences of putting this down in written form for I will never be able to remove it from my history; it becomes a permanent record of my abuse. I pray that it does not contribute to future losses of family, like so many others have experienced when they have shared their stories of abuse. Spirit is pushing me to record it in order to see it in a new light, to not be attached to it, to no longer be concerned about how others see me, to let go and move on, to be an example of healing. As I write this emotions flood my being in all its aspects and I listen to the inner voice encouraging me on saying “It’s Time”, “It’s Now or Never”.

My Childhood Happens in the 1950s

This is a hard period to write about 1958 through 1959, my memory is poor around school, where I went and how old I was. When we moved from Columbus I was in the 3rd grade and when we arrived in RI I was kept back and did the 3rd grade again. It seems RI felt they were more advanced than Ohio. I probably took some type of test but not sure. So in order to jar my memory: I wrote out dates, connected my age to them, starting with graduating from 9th grade and working my way backwards. Pictures did not help because there are no class pictures to look at till I go to St. Edward’s School.

We moved from Central Falls to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, last year, after the death of my father. Before the funeral mother told me not to cry, so I never cry in front of anyone, keeping my tears to myself. I cry alone at night in bed, quietly so no one hears me. Praying and talking to my father in the quiet of the night helps me get through feeling alone.  I am following my mother’s example who I hear cry at night while talking to my father. My mother is uncomfortable talking about feelings and has unsaid rules about what can be spoken about. The loss of my father is difficult; he always talked to me about what was going on and encourage me to express my feelings, teaching me to communicate openly and honestly. One time I approach my mother to talk about feelings and her response is “you sound just like your father”. I do not want to cause her pain, so I have decided to keep things to myself, asking God why am I still alive, why didn’t I die instead, and when I am angry with my mother I wish she had been the one to die instead of him.

Living in a yellow triple-decker with green trim, the top floor is framed by a slanted roof making the inside like cathedral ceilings where along the walls only children can stand. My sister and I share a bedroom again. Now we live closer to Aunt Lucille and Uncle Ave. My family now consists of all females. My mother started dating 2 different men before we got sent away to the convent and when we returned she had made her choice which one she would be with. My sister Joanne is born 11/12/1959, so cute with her dark brown curly locks, bringing great joy and love into our home, feeling special because I am now a godmother.

As I enter St Mary’s Catholic Church on 103 Pine Street my spirit is lifted up into the light. The church is very ornate, as I proceed down the main aisle towards the front, taking center stage is an alcove where the Alter is raised up on a platform, framed by 5 stain glass windows high above, shining rainbow light on me. The pastels hues of yellow and gold paint everywhere reflect the light high up into the ceiling.

I am awed by the 14 Stations of the Cross, seven on each side, separated by 5 stain glass windows that line the left and right walls, bringing in more light to show the way. There are side aisles within these ornate rectangular alcoves, having 6 columns along the length of the building, calling attention to the windows.

As I turn around I see a second story where the old brass organ extends the width of another alcove in the back, in front of the most amazing circular stain glass area I have ever laid eyes on. The center window has eight scalloped edges, with Jesus kneeling in prayer, which is surrounded by eight smaller windows each with 4 scalloped edges. This is the darkest area of the structure, encouraging me to go within and pray. The pews are of solid wood with no padding to comfort the knees or behinds of the parishioners.

The outside is made of red brick; the windows are framed in white smooth rock and the roof in dark, with a great steeple to help you find your way. I enjoy mass every Sunday and attend all the holy days celebrations, singing all the Latin hymns, belting them out loudly for I know them by heart. I spend many hours here in contemplation and prayer.

Sometimes I walk along the ‘under construction’ I-95 south and go to mass at St. Jean the Baptiste Church, where they sing in French, which sounds so romantic and inspiring, even though I do not understand the language. I am really involved in the Catholic religion; reading the bible and especially enjoy the illustrated book about the history of the church, one of the few books we have besides the World Book Encyclopedia.

Walking to school we have to cross where I-95 is being built through Pawtucket. My sister the adventurer walks boldly across the girders. I hesitate; she encourages me to take this short cut rather than taking the longer way around. It is scary so I sit down on the steel beams and shimmy across to the other side, not wanting to look down at the ground, so far down that if I fall I will get really hurt. I am relieved when my feet feel solid ground again, dreading the return trip home.

We go to St. Mary School on 167 George Street where I attend the 4th an 5th grades. I enjoy school especially recess with the sound of kids all around me having fun. Even though the nuns are in control and maintain discipline they are calm, gentle and caring. I am really into learning and feel very safe in this environment while making friends. There is consistency now; I am less fearful and have some stability. I remember my first crush on a boy, how I admired his fearlessness, his abilities to do what he wanted to do, a lot like my sister’s courage and initiative.

Television is very influential in my life. During the 1950s, it is the dominant mass media as more people can buy them and the number of hours we watch steadily increases. What is portrayed seemed to be the ideal; family, schools, neighborhoods, the world, but my father had ingrained in me it was not reality and they were only acting. I enjoyed many shows with my family: Lassie, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ,I Love Lucy, Disneyland and The Ed Sullivan Show. TV also brings the real world to me: I feel like an “eyewitness” to historical events, because the newsmen have gone from simply reading the news to showing videotapes and  pictures of the events which are occurred all over the world, and there are live broadcasts happening at the time I am watching. I am fascinated by Reality vs. Fantasy being played out right before my eyes.

American Bandstand is my favorite show hosted by Dick Clark. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music; there is at least one popular musical act that appears in person to lip-sync one of their latest singles. Weekday afternoons for one hour, after school, I am allowed to go to a friend’s house, there are at least 3 of us watching and imitating all the dance steps: the Slop, the Hand Jive, the Bop, the Stroll, the Circle and the Chalypso. Dancing starts to become part of my physical activities and a great coping mechanism.

My strongest memory is of course around death! The death of my favorite singers, in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed in plane crashes in Iowa. Holly and his band, the Crickets, had just scored a No. 1 hit with “That ‘ll Be the Day.” Holly, just 22 when he died, had hits like “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy,” “Maybe Baby” and “Early in the Morning.” Another crash victim, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, most famous recording was the rockabilly “Chantilly Lace,” which made the Top 10. The third crash victim was Ritchie Valens, only 17 had already scored hits with “Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba”. I knew their songs by heart and the dances that went with them.

My Childhood happened in the 50s, focusing on issues of security. My child’s self-archetypes are; an observer, dancer, explorer, bookworm, traveler, trekker, seeking and searching for the truth.