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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


In the past I have written of School Street Village gardens and how they held memory roots of forgotten days.  It must have been some sort of prescience because along came the experience for this post.

When we researched a place to stay this past June, the web photos of the garden at 49 Oliver St. in Bristol  attracted us.  When we arrived there it was even more than we had imagined! Soft immersion into the Portuguese culture of Bristol.  In the way of a Portuguese garden it held a lovely story that soon was uncovered.  This post is about that story.

Someone wrote me that it confused him that I was not writing about the School Street Village in Taunton.  Ah, but this is a sister Village still vibrant in its Portuguese culture and heritage - it charmed and delighted this old Portuguese soul.  It will do that for you, too.  It enlarges our heritage as every new story does.

When I was growing up in my own Village, there were elderly grandfather gentleman tending the back gardens of School Street. I never knew my grandfathers, so these gentle people struck my imagination and carved out a niche there.

The Portuguese immigrants who came to America carried the planting gene in their DNA. They added new information and plantings and succeeded in accomplishing lush and fertile gardens where they grew most of their own food.  The title of Master Gardener was not invented then, but I believe those gardeners, and their progeny were and are way ahead of that title.

 In their bib overalls and soft crunched hats they tended their crops of corn, cabbage, kale and more . There was such a Grandfather Gardener right next door to us at my childhood home in the Village in Taunton in the early 1950's : Mr Costa.  Quietly with gnarled hands the earth is tilled into the soil and the soil returns the favor worked by touch and remembrance.  Portuguese gardens have pride of place, they always did. They anchor the home, softens its trials and sorrows. The garden has seen it all.  He tended the green acreage that was for him a reminder of the Portuguese home he had left behind, the Mother Garden as it were.  He also had a flock of chickens.  Their little shed nestled up to our grapevine and the chain link fence between our house and his.

   The photo above is of the back of 184 School Street before we moved there in 1952.  My cousin Beverly and my Aunt Alveda refresh themselves on a sunny day probably in the late 40's . Directly in back of the fence is their field of corn and other vegetables, the higher corn next door is the Costa planting area.  These parallel gardens of crops lined the back yards of many School Street Village homes. It felt good to see those same kind of back gardens
along the Portuguese Village area of Bristol.

The soft clucking of Mr. Costa's hens in their little house next door formed a musical theme to the backdrop of my childhood.  Remember the fences on either side of our house had gates in them and were the right height for neighbors to lean on and chat. We were linked: by heritage, by green gardens, and friendship.

This Bristol story now takes my heritage memory to a whole new level.  For at 49 Oliver St., I came upon something so close to those memories that it awakened all the others.

Introducing Luis Oliveira.   I almost need not say more, this painting of Mr. Oliveira speaks volumes.  In the painting, he is holding the corn stalks he grew to make brooms, still grown in his garden today.  He is the picture of a Portuguese Grandfather gardener.  The painting hangs in the kitchen of the apartment where he and his family once lived.  That is now a rental apartment but it is unchanged since the days he raised his family there.
 It is utterly charming. 

We came home with stalks like this, a perfect souvenir.

Mr. Oliveira was more than just a gardener, he was a beloved mentor. A native of the Azores, he brought with him the traditions and  knowledge he had grown up learning.  Mr. Oliveira became the father-in-law of Mr. Ed Castro and the garden became their classroom. Eventually, it passed to the Castro couple and it has been lovingly tended over the past 50 years with love for this mentor and for the heritage that the garden still is today.

                                            Mr. Oliveira and Mr. Castro in the Garden
                                                         taken some years ago.

 In time, with his knowledge and experience, Ed and his father-in-law opened the heritage garden, now a place of magic greenery, to groups of school children.  Hosting 60 first and second graders from where his wife was a teacher's aide he added to their own memories.  Each child was given a small kale plant to plant in the garden before they left, their own tiny heritage plant. Adult visitors would often take home one of Mr. Oliveira's small brooms. Those brooms, by the way, apparently lasted years and years.

At that time, at the age of 87, Luis Oliveira still  went out back to his garden at 5:30 each morning until the day became too warm. He returned in the cool of the evening. He had done all the work in the vineyards in his home in the Azores. His favorite shady spot in Bristol was his grapevine arbor.  Today, long after he passed away, his son-in-law keeps up the garden with the help of another grandfatherly gentleman who tends the kale, fava beans and more while dreaming his own bygone dreams of home.  I found him there one morning and he softly bid me good morning, his accent music to my ears.

                                                           The garden at 49 Oliver St.

It was to this apartment and garden that my husband and I came while on a trip to New England,  We stayed for 10 days.  Each day was a gift, a blessing.  The garden was a place where we could sit in the shade, serenaded by the many birds who found shelter and food there, be entertained by the small cat whose garden was his home away from home and listen to the music of the koi fountain.  What is a Portuguese garden without a cat? We could listen to pots and pans being readied for the evening meal and the song of children playing in a nearby playground.

I often sketched there, photographed the flowers, the Azores vegetables and of course, the cat.  There, too, I photographed our family and friends when they visited. The garden gifted us each day with new memories layered on to the new...memories of another Village, not too far away but for the years.

Now for a treat: Rhode Island Public Radio did a web slideshow of the garden which includes a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Castro and photos of the garden,  It was posted Oct. 12, 2013 by Emma Roddick who probably took the wonderful photos. Some of the photos are in this post. You can see more photographs and play the audio to get a full appreciation for this very special place.


The best trips are those that keep dancing in your memory.  Such memories come with feelings of rest, of beauty, of family and friends and in this case, memories of faith. Who would think.. one rents a space and finds a treasure. Many, many thanks to the Castro family, for their friendship and their sharing. We will return!

                                                    Sources for this Post                

- Memories shared by Mr. and Mrs. Castro
-Above cited Slideshow from Rhode Island Public Radio archives.

-Providence Journal, June 22, 1997 "One Square Mile: The Portuguese Gardens of Bristol"

-Bristol Phoenix, Aug. 18, 2005  Home Section: "Mentoring Grows New Gardeners"

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Earlier this summer we spent ten days in lovely, historic Bristol, Rhode Island.  Bristol is located about a 30 minute drive from the School Street Village in Taunton.

 We are partial to historic towns, as you can imagine, as well as to those close to the sea. This small town fit the bill and has long been a favorite of ours.  By a stroke of great good luck we found a perfect apartment in a three story home a block up from the bucolic downtown and two from the water.  That was a blessing, but our stay there contained even more blessings. We found ourselves in another  Portuguese American Village and with new good friends.  This post and perhaps the next two will share that experience so brimming with history and family nostalgia.

It is a grand feeling to come upon another Portuguese Village, and even better to find it flourishing. To be part of it for just awhile and immersed in the welcoming Parish at its heart is a gift.  That grand feeling is still better when the landlord family that rented the apartment to us is a premiere Portuguese family which shares friendship with us.

Bristol is very historic.  It was settled in 1680 by early colonists.  Bristol has the oldest continuing Fourth of July parade in the country.  When I went to the Bristol Historical Society I was not able to find a lot about the significant Portuguese presence in Bristol.
For many years it had been a closed society probably run by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Why was I interested?  Well, apart from  the beauty of Bristol, it means a lot to me since it welcomed my Grandmother Isobel Bento Correia to America in 1915.  It introduced her to her husband and they were married in Bristol in 1916 at St. Elizabeth's Church on Wood St.

In 2013, The Providence Journal published an article describing the historic Portuguese section of Bristol that is Wood St. The area is still carrying on its culture and traditions even today.  Portuguese bakeries, a Portuguese Grocery and a Portuguese Butcher Shop dot the area. There is an independent Portuguese Band Club.  The neighborhood is characterized by small and multifamily homes, similar to my own School Street Village.

An excellent article from The New England Historical Society: "How Portuguese Immigrants Came to New England",  tells us that ".. in Rhode Island Portuguese Immigrants make up 9.7 % of the total population making it the densest concentration of Portuguese in the Country..."  Although Massachusetts has the largest number of persons of Portuguese ancestry, that is still quite a statistic.

No wonder we so impressed by the Portuguese culture and its continuing vitality. The presence of Portuguese Americans and new Immigrants is felt strongly in the Wood St. area of Bristol, RI in particular.

The Wood Street neighborhood grew in earnest around the mill complex on the east side of Wood St. built in 1864 to house the National Rubber Company. This is a photo of that complex that hangs today in the Bristol Historical Society.  Many of the buildings are gone, some house smaller businesses while others have been converted to senior housing, condominiums and townhouses.

In 1913, just two years before my grandmother arrived in Bristol, R.I.  St. Elizabeth's Church was built at 577 Wood St. It was built to serve the growing Portuguese community and culture around it.  My Grandmother Isobel met my Grandfather Manuel Motta, probably at that Factory of the National Rubber Co.  Her papers say that it was a shoe factory where they met and they did make shoes there.  My Grandfather's Uncle introduced them. My grandmother is on the right in the photograph below sitting next to her sister, Annie and one of Annie's children. This would have been in 1916 on the front stoop of a tenement where they were all living in Bristol.  Isobel and Annie were part of the tide of immigrants coming from the Azores (for my Grandmother and and  Great Aunt) and Madeira (for my Grandfather).

      The Parish of St. Elizabeth (named after the great Queen St. Elizabeth of Portugal) would grow and nurture all of these Portuguese newcomers to America.  The Parish today is still just as vibrant and as the music of the Portuguese language flew around me making my soul sing as we made our way into the Church for Mass.

This is a video of the parishioners at St. Elizabeth's singing in Portuguese to Our Lady of Fatima . If you grew up in a Village like School Street or that of Bristol's Wood St. area, this will warm your memories . Note that the video was recorded after the renovation.


                               Another Village in my heart.  Another deep link to my past.

St. Elizabeth's was recently renovated to what you see in the above photo. The Parish did a beautiful job of blending old and new.  Below note that the  old original altar has been kept, the altar before which my Grandparents were married in 1916. just three years after the Church had been built. The renovation blends seamlessly into the clean lines of the Church that reminds one of the inside of a ship.  Portuguese were, after all, people of the sea. That is why they settled on either coast, although often ending up working in the skeletal innards of a factory as my people did.

 In their way, where they settled Portuguese families eventually purchased homes and a good amount of land. Their homes are impeccable, back gardens flowering in color in early Spring and Summer.  One evening as we walked this second Village, we came upon an elderly couple sitting on the ground finishing up caring for their the lawn. That finishing meant using a small scissors to be sure the edges of the grass were neat and even. The streets are lined with homes. not just historic, that are obviously as cared for as those of the great Ship Captains of yesteryear

Walking the historic downtown and peeking out at the harbor

The Parish  of St. Elizabeth's has its Festas as did our Village St. Anthony's  in Taunton (and still does), though we were not there at the time when one was happening. In the second photo you can see the Folkloric Portuguese dancers at the St. Elizabeth's Festa at a "time" as they would call it.  Cultural cousins from Taunton visiting and entertaining with the native dances we of Portuguese descent all share. These photos were taken during the Festa of Santa Domingo.

Providence Journal: "Wood Street in Bristol: A Mix of Community and Commerce"
Providence Journal, June 21, 2013 by Alex Kuffner
St. Elizabeth web site.

Ave Maria by the Portuguese in Bristol, Rhode Island
see site posted in blog post: Vimeo.

2015 Photographs by Sandra J. Pineault and  from Family archives
and Unpublished Book: "Searching for Isobel"