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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013


               A happy Fourth of July to all !!

This post is harkening back to the Fourths we celebrated when I was a kid in the Village.  Here is a photo from 1947, just as a reminder.  I call it the Watermelon Brigade.  
Sure looks like we were enjoying it!

Cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents- everyone in extended families gathered in the ritual of the Fourth.  One or another backyard was the venue.
No need for fancy; simple and tasty did just fine.

Every yard had a backyard fireplace with grills cemented in place.  It cooked hot dogs and hamburgers perfectly.  This was way before you needed a degree in grilling to handle a souped up stainless steel gas grille with surgical cooking tools.

 The photo below is of one of our family Fourths in 1950, before we
moved to School St.  Note the car in the background if you doubt the year. A Packard, maybe?  All the Moms cooked beforehand: special potato salad, deserts like home made apple pie and cookies, corn on the cob .  All washed down with punch for the kids and beer for the parents. Later, over the waning fire, we kids would toast marshmellows.

                          Kids all at one table, for the most part, which was fine with us.

Later, at dusk, we would have the fun of running in the dimming light with sparklers.  I do not recall many firework excursions.
The Dads may have stockpiled a few to make the night more exciting.
After all, we had the walk later down to the Corner when it was dark for the bonfire, which was all the excitement we needed to cap off the night. An annual event not to be missed. It did not last long, as the police were always called and made sure of that.

But, before that.... 

Nightfall. Kids chased each other around the yard.  Storytelling by the parents began accompanied by one-up-man-ships by this or that relative.  We did not realize it then, but the history of our parents were spinning around us like the fireflies we tried to catch. There was laughter by the grownups which warmed the hearts of the children, like me.

All of it was warm and good.  
It felt so at the time and it still does today.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Village In the Good Old Summertime....Part I

Memories of the Village abound, of course.  But, perhaps sweetest of all, were summer ones. Those summers seemed endless to us kids.  I  believe that  less hectic activity and planning made that so.  Amusements were self-made and inexpensive.  There were no Disney vacations back then.  Our own imaginations were what we used.  There was no need for socialization books or those on relationships.  I never met a bully in the Village, either.  We looked out for each other.  Older children looked out for younger.  This photo is an example...myself watching out for my little brother way  back in 1947.

                       This photo was likely taken at Swift's Beach, in Wareham, Massachusetts.

Remembering those summers as a child, I recall how Swift's Beach was a favorite family destination for us.  It was not "over the bridge" onto the deep Cape, it was closer and less apt to be traffic bound.  Nevertheless, there was only route 28 in those days, winding along to the bridges and long lines of traffic- no matter what.  So you opened all the car windows, put the baseball game on the radio and settled in to wait it out.  Kids wrapped in beach towels with sandy feet fell asleep in the back seat.

This is the first post of The Village in the Good Old Summertime series.  There are so many aspects I want to cover. Will you share your memories of those days, too?  It is so much better
when there are more folks participating.  I know you all remember Swift's Beach.

Swift's Beach was where Village families went to cool off during hot summer days.  Small and intimate it was closer, its beach was sheltered and safer for children. 
There was a sea wall in the water, too,
Here is yours truly in the water there.  No Esther Williams, though.

What a find to discover these photos on flickr of old 40's and 50's postcards from there.
Boom- it took me right back!!!


When I saw this first photo...immediately I remembered that concrete sea wall: vividly.

Below: wow!  Voss Variety Store, the open air theatre where they showed movies at night. Hood's Ice Cream.  Just walking along languidly enjoying family and friends.  I would take this over Disney and its crowds and expensive rides any time..... So much sweeter and simpler.  A time to "take time" and savor its goodness. Everyone knew everyone, kids included. 
It was an extension of the Village
in many ways.  How could you not feel at home?

Your Mom made a picnic lunch for the beach: in the big cooler were 
sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and, of course, the ever present picnic drink: 
in one of those drink coolers with the spigot. There
were plastic cups you brought home to wash and reuse.
Recycling was something we did not need
to be reminded about.

There were also homemade brownies or cookies.
Sorry, Twinkies, but Mom made our deserts...

Here is a teeny, tiny bit of nostalgic history with
thanks to for the memory.

"Zarex would be considered a 'water-enhancer' today. 
 Back in the day, it was called 'flavored drink
concentrate'.  For those who grew up in New England Zarex syrup 
was one of those odd-ball-local-food-and-beverage stuffs (think Moxie) 
that, unlike the estimable Marshmallow Fluff, never made it nationally.  
Zarex was mixed with water to make a sweet, 
vaguely fruit flavored summer drink.
It was cheaper than soda or Kool-Aid and went a whole lot further."

I remember when you got to the bottom of the cooler 
where the most syrup settled 
and that sweet taste.....

Believe it or not, Zarex is still going, since 1923, and here is their
way-back-when website video.  
Just to tickle your taste bud memories.

We stayed sometimes in one of these tiny cottages, although I remember one on the main 
beach street.  Your Mom putting on your little sweaters in the evening to go 
for an ice cream cone at Voss
and the night movie out in the open air.

I am going to take my time wandering through this series of posts.  They deserve meandering.
What happens is that one thing sets off another and the memories pile up.  Then they need
to tack on to others, and to be housecleaned and organized. You may find in these
that I may go back and forth.

That is the nature of the good old summertime.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Village Club

It has been a struggle to get a handle on information regarding the Portuguese American Civic Club but I am assured that help is on the way.
I hope to have more photos and such as we go along.

The P.A.C.C. is important for these memoirs, as it played a pivotal part in our lives growing up, especially when most of that growing up was done right across the street as mine was!  It and we sat smack in the middle of the Village.  The Souza homestead where members of my family lived from around 1906 on to 1980 must have meant they were just as familiar with it . I suspect that my Grandfather Souza may have had a hand in founding the P.A.C.C. himself.  That location meant, as I have mentioned before, that  most of the Villagers, at one time or another, 
walked right past the Souza front porch.  
Very often that traffic included Village men stopping at the Club for a quick one, to catch up with the local news, or for a polka game.  My Dad was in all those categories.  Often he would come in the back door after finishing work and go out the front and cross the street to the Club to catch up
on Village happenings with his buddies.

The P.A.C.C. was officially founded in 1929.  A reader told us that it was, for a time, housed in the front house on the Rose property on School Street.  Later, after it  moved
to its current location at 175 School Street, the Taunton Band Club took its place.

When I see photos of the Club today it is hard to recognize it as the one from my childhood. Back in my day the Club was still that one story building whose front door was accessed by descending a lot of cement stairs.  The top of the stairs was at street level.  The building sloped back down alongside the driveways on either side ending in a big parking lot and the festa area which included the meat pits for Carne no Espetada. This is the Portuguese name for meat-on-a stick, our version of Shish Kabob. The meat would have been marinated in garlic, salt, Portuguese wine and perhaps other herbs.  You brought your own meat or purchased it there.  Fresh Portuguese bread topped it all off.

The cooking pits consisted of approx. 4 foot high cement surrounds.  You took long metal poles, threaded your pieces of beef and then let the poles rest over the open fires.  Now and then you basted the meat (Carne no Espetada) with your beer. The meat would have been marinated in salt, garlic, Portuguese wine, and perhaps more herbs and seasonings.  This was our version of Shish Kabob.  You either brought your own meat or bought it there.

 Sizzle, smoke, yeasty smell of beer....aroma therapy for the mind. Add to that the sound of laughter and greetings, and you have it.  Oh, and then little ones running around.  What is a Portuguese event where little ones are not running around?

This photo is from the current P.A.C. C. web site
                       Big enough for a large Festa, the area could also house a small carnival                         at other times.

            This is a recent photo but just change the clothing styles and it could be from 
 anytime from the early 1900s on.

John Gage sent me a great email of his memories of the P.A.C.C. building and gave me
permission to share it.  My words are added in parentheses.  
 John lived with his family right next door to The Club.

   " For fun we boys (of the Village) would climb up on the roof of the P.A.C.C. and run to the far
     end and back.  Then we would hide so as not to get caught. 
 Like someone was going to get up from
 their card game to chase us down.  We weren't very bright, it must be a boy thing.  Maybe that's why everyone says that girls are smarter. 
My guess is that this is not entirely true.  I suspect that the 
girls didn't climb onto the roof because the guys would be looking up their dress.  Like we knew what we were looking at anyway. Yeh, we were pretty dumb, but what boy wasn't in those days.  
     I fondly remember the toughest kid in the Village. (It was a girl.)  That's right!!  I'm serious!  When we saw her, we crossed the street in order to keep from getting...whipped....
      Yes times were simpler in the Village.  Those times  seem so very long ago yet seem so close. Perhaps we keep the closeness in our hearts because the times were so special.  Its a shame that we didn't realize how special at the time.  If we had that realization, we would have shown more appreciation for all those characters who played their part so wonderfully in making the School Street Village the wonderful place that it was.  
Not sure if you can see a tear on your screen,
 but there is one on mine."

                                                        Yes, John, I can see it.


                                     Next:  more about the P.A.C.C., but that depends
                              on your input and more information coming my way......

Friday, June 7, 2013

ah, our library back in the day....

Now that the past series of research laden posts are behind (for now at least) - time to get into more bits of nostalgia.  Visiting the past is a rich experience, I learn that each time I set out on a new post.  One of the subjects I have had on my bucket list of blog posts is the Taunton Public Library.

As soon as we could ride our bikes out of the Village and beyond, we headed for the Library. I have such dear memories of seeing what seemed like an unlimited amount of books facing me in that Children's library.  The chairs and tables fit me perfectly.  There was a quiet that allowed a child to become lost in each book turning the pages for  something new.  My imagination found fodder there.  Soon also, I began to do posters for the librarian which fostered my art career.  A new Children's Room was dedicated in 1964, but it is the old dear one that holds a special place in my heart and memory. The first Children's library, the one in my memory, was created by Edwin Hills in 1908.  This was a project close to Mr. Hills heart as prior to that only those age 15 or over could enjoy the library,  Mr Hills took on the position of librarian at the new 1904 Library and worked there for the rest of his life

The current Taunton Public Library was opened in 1904 and funded from a Carnegie Foundation grant of $70,000 that had been given to the city for that purpose.  There were libraries all over New England funded by the Carnegies.  This is a early photo of our library which
was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984..

If you notice, there are wrought iron railings on either side of the main steps.  These were steps going down into the rest rooms and also, on the left, to the first children's library, the one I frequented as a child. (Remember the big wooden holder for the rest room key?)
It was cool down there as all was stone. 
It reminded a child with a vivid imagination of a castle keep.
The children's library was below ground but there were windows looking up and out so it was not dark.  Little ones could read at a small table to the left of the librarian's desk.   It was in that library that I learned to love words and so often, the illustrations that went with them.  The librarian knew of my growing interest in art, and often asked me to design posters for some event or another.  That encouragement meant the world to me.

The mother library of the current one was established by an ordinance passed by the Taunton City Council on March 21, 1866 and was located above the the Bristol County Savings Bank.  Three libraries: The Taunton Social Library,the Young Men's Library Association and the Agricultural Library agreed to combine their book holdings which collectively totally 6,000 books.  That first library occupied the top floor of the bank until the present library was built in 1904.

Maydell Murphy was the first head librarian and was appointed in 1932.  She established reading rooms above each fire station in the areas of Taunton: Whittenton, Weir and East Taunton.  During the War and Depression years the Library faithfully served all the citizens of Taunton  providing shelter from  constant fears and worry.

Maydell Murphy

 We all remember the wonderful Ruth Snyder who later succeeded as Head Librarian. 
 Ms. Snyder with her beautiful black braids circling her head. I regret
that I have no photo of her.

      Check out this site for more library history

No high tech in those days - or much tech at all.
 A table held stereoscopes and cards like these
to be viewed in 3 D.  Remember?

This is pretty interesting, I never gave much thought
to how these were done.

To  check a book out?  The sound of that date stamp telling you when it was due back.
The neat thing is that you could see who checked the book out before you.
It was exciting to get to take some books home.

Later, when we were in high school and had research to do, we graduated to the upstairs adult library and learned about the Dewey Filing card system, and the magic of "the stacks".

Thanks to Pinterest for many of these photos

and to the 
Taunton Public Library Research Department
 for their assistance regarding Edwin Hills.

Like so many other things in our memory, the library as we knew it is fading fast.  They are still around but are no longer the magnets they were.  As I am doing now, with my computer and the internet, marvels of information are at my fingertips.  But, it is a solo occupation.  My office does not have that smell of books and newspapers and no one is hushing me.  But, I still love to wander the stacks of libraries when I can, for I do not always know what I am looking for....there is still the excitement of the hunt.  And the wonderful, consoling thing is that children still love books, turning their pages, and listening to a beloved voice read the words.  We just have had an experience no one will have again.

For that  experience I am deeply grateful.

I am hoping that you have more to share about the library in Taunton.
As I am far from there, I am counting on others to fill in the gaps.

Want to share a story?