Monday, April 20, 2009

Memories of a Small Town

Two friends recently blogged about where they grew up; shared some childhood memories. So I figured, what the heck, why not;
here goes.
I grew up in the small suburban town of Dover, MA. It is located about 30 minutes southwest of Boston. I grew up there because my parents were given the land as a wedding gift by my father's parents; though one of my grandfather's sisters did argue she gave it to them as a gift. My paternal grandfather grew up in Dover. We lived next door to his family's house, where his sisters lived for years. The house is still there, but it is no longer in the family. We went to the same school he attended. It is also still there, but no longer used as a school. When we had a party line, one of his sisters was one of the operators.
Dover has a small quaint center of town. When giving directions to people from out of town, we would tell them not to blink, as they would miss the center of town. To this day, there is only one traffic light, and it is located in the center of town. The only sidewalks are found in the center of town. In the very center is the Town Hall. It used to house the police station, the library, as well as the town offices; a new library, police station, fire station, and post office have since been built. There is a volunteer police and fire department. The Town Hall has a tree they light every Christmas; red and white lights. There is the Drug Store; a few years ago it became a deli when the proprietor passed away. When we were kids, our dentist had an office over the Drug Store. He would give us wooden nickels to get ice cream cones there after our visits; one way to keep us coming back! There is one gas station (owned by a friend’s father when growing up, threw Christmas parties), a private school, a former public school, two churches, and a cemetery - where we would hang out on the stonewall for lack of nothing better to do. There is one small grocery store, Higgins; you really need to want to buy something badly to pay their prices; and attached to it, a package store (liquor store to some of you); that's where even today, you can catch up on the local gossip. The other place to do so is the American Legion. It is the local watering hole and used for
There was not a whole lot to do in Dover; in the winter ice skate at Channing Pond, in the summer play tennis and watch baseball games or attend a little two week half day arts and crafts camp. Even though Dover didn't offer a lot to do, we stayed busy. We rode our bikes or walked everywhere. We knew everybody, and everybody knew us; which was not always a good thing if you were doing something you didn't want your parents to know about. Dover is still this way today. The per capita income is higher, the houses bigger and more expensive, but the population has not grown
a lot.
When I was growing up, Dover had a population of about 4,000; the census was done door to door; I know firsthand because my mother had my older sister and myself doing it one year to make extra money. Not worth it. Babysitting was a lot more lucrative! The population has not grown in leaps and bounds. It is still very
Though Dover itself does not have a lot to offer, the areas around it do. Most people go north to ski in the winter; I did not learn to ski till I was in college. In the summer, most people head to the ocean; along the North Shore or down to Cape Cod. We spent my father's three week summer vacation (he was a sales rep for Raytheon) in Mattapoisett; not quite on the Cape, we didn't go over the bridge. My grandfather's sister Julia; we called Juju; had a house there. It was shared by three families, all related; we all got 3 weeks. Each summer a different one of the families would get the week of the 4th. It was a great place to spend the three weeks. We took swimming lessons and sailing lessons. We bowled at the local bowling alley. We hung out at the beach and at friends' houses. We went exploring to Cradle Rock. We got ice cream from the ice cream truck - we would listen with anticipation for the bell every afternoon. We went quahoging and scalloping. I hated this part. We had to bring enough quahogs home for my mother to make quahog chowder. I hated walking in the dark murky mud at low tide where these were found. We had to wear sneakers, so we would not cut the bottoms of our feet on the shells. I did like the quahog chowder! We spent hours in the sun. We survived many sunburns. My sister has returned since. I have not been back in years.
When I was old enough, I got "mother's helper" jobs for the summer. I worked on the North Shore and Cape Cod. I preferred Cape Cod. When I was in college, I got a job as a cook for a couple on the Cape. My summer jobs paid for my college education. When I was a senior in college, my parents bought and later built a house on Cape Cod. We spent a number of fun summers there. We no longer have the house, but I still enjoy going to the Cape.
Dover is close enough to Boston, we could take the train or the MTA into the city; to go shopping or to Red Sox games. We would go to Filene's Basement right before Easter to get our new Easter clothes! We could visit the many museums Boston has to offer. We are an hour from Salem, Marblehead, and Gloucester and about 30 minutes from Plimoth Plantation. We are also about an hour from
Newport, RI.
Dover has gone through many changes, though the center of town has remained the same. There are new subdivisions and bigger houses, but many of the people I grew up with have remained either in Dover or in the area. It is still a nice place to raise a family as my sister decided to do when she bought the family house. I enjoy returning to Dover every chance I get.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Never Judge a Book by Its Cover

Many times we forget lessons we were taught as children. We get arrogant and judgemental before ever really getting to know someone. There's a saying we were taught when we were younger, "Never judge a book by its cover." How often do we hear this? Not necessarily on a regular basis, but often enough. If you haven't heard of Susan Boyle or seen her video (she has been on a number of the talk shows this week), you need to do so. This is the best example I have ever seen or heard of that supports this saying. Susan Boyle is a 47 year old Scottish woman with a big dream. The facial expressions of the audience and the judges before and after the performance are priceless. Talk about "you've got talent", this woman has it. Lots of luck to her. I hope her dreams come true, and she becomes a success.
I tried to download the video from youtube, but my computer skills are lacking in this area. If this link does not work, go to youtube and look for Susan Boyle. I highly recommend the video. She will amaze you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I heard on the radio, on the ride to school this morning, Facebook is causing problems with teenagers as far as it is taking away from studying. It is hurting their grades. I can understand that. I have tried for a week to get some school work done but end up on Facebook instead.
I was talking to a teacher after school, telling her I liked the wedding pictures she had posted on Facebook. She said she really enjoyed Facebook. I shared with her what I had heard on the radio, and she responded with, "Never mind the kids, what about the adults?"
I have to agree with her. We talked about how we have to limit our time on Facebook, or we would be on there all the time. I come home and make sure I get everything I need to get done before I get on Facebook or nothing would be accomplished. Then I try to get off by 8:00; 9:00 at the latest. I need some down time before I turn in for the night.
I, finally today, got back to exercising. Facebook is not what interfered with exercise (though I would like to blame it on that) - when I get off my schedule, it is real hard for me to get back on it; not disciplined enough. So, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, get the exercise I need and take time away from the computer and Facebook. Now I have to have work and exercising done before I get on Facebook, and still get off by 9:00.
Maybe I can start cutting down my time on Facebook a little at a time, slow withdrawal! Worth a try anyway. Exercise done; not a lot of work, it can wait, off to Facebook!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What Nationality Would You Like to be Other Than Your Own?

Part 2
"Céad míle fáilte"
(pronounced: kayud meela failte')
"A Hundred Thousand Welcomes"!
The question "What nationality would you like to be other than your own?" got me thinking about my grandparents. As previously mentioned in Part 1, my maternal grandparents were straight off the boat from Ireland. These are their passport pictures.
My grandmother, Ellen "Nellie" Ahern, arrived in Boston on June 11, 1920, at the age of 23. She was from Killorglin, outside of Killarney, in County Kerry. My grandfather, Timothy Sullivan, arrived in Boston on November 20, 1920, at the age of 21. He was from Skibbereen, in County Cork. They came to escape the oppression and poverty in Ireland. In my grandmother's case, her father insisted she emigrate despite leaving a boyfriend in Ireland. The myth perpetuated in "the old country" was that America's streets were paved in gold.
They met by accident. My grandfather's sister Bridie and my grandmother worked as domestics in Brookline, MA. Grandpa knocked on the door to visit Bridie one day, but instead the door was opened by my grandmother. He had the wrong house. Love at first sight!!!! And the rest, as they say, is history. (Many thanks to my Aunt Helen for the background information.)
My grandmother had a sister in Boston. She also worked as a domestic throughout her life. Her name was Katherine; friends and employers called her "Kate" or "Katie". We, her great nieces and nephews, called her "Gogo". I don't remember how that came about. She lived above my grandparents when we were kids, so we visited with her often when we visited my grandparents.
My grandparents settled in an area of Boston known as "Mission Hill". It was an Irish community. The focal point of the community was the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mission Church. They raised four daughters there. Over the years I remember my mother mentioning people she would run into from "Mission Hill".
I have many fond memories of my grandmother, called Nana by her grandchildren. My older sister and I spent many nights with her. She would get up every morning, rain or shine, and walk to the 7:00 Mass. She would tell us to stay in bed until she returned. She would then get us up for breakfast. I remember the hot sweet tea and her Irish bread. I still drink hot tea, but now without the sugar. She made wonderful Irish bread, which I didn't know till years later was also called Irish Soda Bread. She would make it in any pan or can she had available; bread pans, coffee tins. We asked her for the recipe, but she didn't have one. It was a pinch of this, a handful of that. We couldn't write down the amounts because she didn't know the measurements. Her bread is long gone; just a memory of toasted with lots of melting butter and maybe jelly or sometimes with peanut butter spread over the slices lingers. Yum!
On her street, Calumet Street, in one direction, on a corner was a candy store. In another direction, down the street, on another corner, was a neighborhood grocery store. It carried everything from groceries to more. I remember a doll I especially liked in that grocery store. We would walked to both often. It is a wonder we didn't have more cavities from the candy store. Remember penny candy!?
We would play with some of the neighborhood kids. We were the novelty in her neighborhood. We were from the suburbs.
We used to kid my grandmother about her accent. She would just laugh and tell us we had the funny accent. We would ask her to say words in Gaelic. She would. I remember asking her to say a "cuss" word in Gaelic, figuring if I used it, no one would know what I was saying. She wouldn't do it. :(
Over the years, members of my family, including myself, have looked up members of my grandmother's and my grandfather's families back in Ireland. I was fortunate enough to look up cousins in Skibbereen back in 2006.
I miss my grandparents and the stories of the "old country" they would tell with their Irish brogues. We would ask my grandmother if it was a British soldier boyfriend she had left behind, as that was something not done in her day; dating an Englishman. We would ask my grandfather about the IRA, and I know I grew up thinking he had been a runner for them. What imaginations we had when we would think about what they had left behind, not knowing the half of it, the politics and the poverty.
I remember being asked as an adult if I was Lace Curtain Irish or Shanty Irish. I had to admit I was Shanty Irish but was not the least bit embarrassed about it. My grandparents came to America to make a new life for themselves and would be very proud of their surviving daughters and what they and their families and the third generation kids have accomplished.
I was named after my grandmother. My middle name is Ellen. So no, there is no other nationality I would like to be.
"Éirinn go brách"
(pronounced: Erin go braugh)
"Ireland Forever"!

What Nationality Would You Like to be Other Than Your Own?

Part 1
Not too long ago I did a 50 question survey on Facebook. The last question was: What nationality would you like to be other than your own? I didn't have to think twice about my answer: None. I was raised Irish Catholic. We, my 5 siblings and I, were brought up to be very proud of our Irish heritage. My mother's parents were straight off the boat from Ireland and settled in the Boston area. My father was 3rd generation Irish, and his family settled just outside of Boston. When John F. Kennedy became President, what more could we ask for!? I was only 5 at the time and still remember the excitement of his election. Ok, I am showing my age!
I was raised in a suburb of Boston, but still remember all the Irish influences inside and outside of the city.
One was the music. Irish music was very popular with my parents, not so with their children. We did not gain an appreciation of the music till many years later. Even though as kids, we would complain about the Boston radio station that played Irish music every Saturday all day long, when I was in Ireland a couple of years ago, I bought a CD of Irish music my father had listened to and loved. When the radio station wasn't playing Irish music, my father had the music on the reel to reel tape player he was so proud of; no 8 tracks, cassettes, or CDs existed at that time! When my brothers and sisters got married, the bands had to be able to play at least one Irish song. If not, my father and two uncles would get up; to the embarrassment of us all, cousins included; and sing a song or two or three ..... depending on the hour of the day and how much they had imbibed!
St. Patrick's Day was always a treat for us. We would go into Boston and watch the parade and here again, be serenaded by Irish music, both by the bands in the parade and my parents (neither were singers by any means). And yes, we would eat corned beef and cabbage for dinner!
I did try to learn the Irish Jig for International Night in high school, but my two left feet came into play, and I was never able to get the foot work right!
I enjoy what the Irish culture brings with it; the songs, the tales, the language, the land, the history. One of the biggest thrills of my travels was to be able to visit Ireland, and I hope to return there one day.
So no, there is no other nationality I would rather be other than my own.