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.

Friday, February 27, 2015


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

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte: Syrie James.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, February 13, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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