FALL RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Women at Work: An Oral History of
in Fall River, Massachusetts
Interview with Mrs. James Francis Almeida, Jr., née Delores Silvia
Interviewer: (JR) Joyce Rodrigues
Interviewee: (DA) Delores (Silvia) Almeida
Date of Interview: June 10, 2015
Location: Somerset Ridge Center, Somerset, Massachusetts
Delores (Silvia) Almeida was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on October 18, 1937. She came of age at the height of her native city’s garment manufacturing period. She graduated in 1953 from eighth grade at the Susan B. Wixon Elementary School, and like her sister and brothers before her, immediately went to work to contribute to the household.
Fall River factory work was plentiful and jobs were readily available in the 1950s and 1960s. As an example, there were 101 factories listed in the 1951 edition of the Directory of Massachusetts Manufacturers’, which lists companies employing fifty or more production workers. These jobs were diverse and included the manufacturing of curtains, ladies dresses, men’s shirts, children’s wear, luggage, loose-leaf binders, and lighting fixtures.
Delores’ career took her to:
– Pleasant Curtain Company, 237 Pleasant Street
– Atlas Manufacturing (curtain) Company, 288 Plymouth Avenue
– K & G Manufacturing Company, Inc. (ladies dresses), 187 Pleasant Street.
By the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, American factory and garment workers were facing growing overseas competition. Commenting on this period, Delores notes the impact of this development on the local economy:
“… There [were] so many factories in Fall River…They are all gone. All [the] shops are gone.”
Like the textile decline in the 1920s, Fall River in the last quarter of the twentieth century would once again face economic instability and the prospect of an uncertain future.
Delores is a second-generation Portuguese-American. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from the island of St. Michael in the Azores; her father and mother were born in the United States in 1896 and 1909 respectively.
Delores was brought up on a farm. Her father worked as a farm manager for a family in Swansea, Massachusetts, and for the George Magan family in Tiverton, Rhode Island. She was brought up “old-fashioned.” Her father’s job on the Magan farm came with a rent-free house and fresh milk every day.
The family eventually moved to Fall River. “My father always worked on the farm, and then, when the farms started fading away, he went to work at the Truesdale Hospital [1820 Highland Avenue] helping out in the kitchen.”
Delores started working at the age of sixteen, and retired at age sixty-two with a pension from Social Security and with no pension from the ILGWU-UNITE union because she did not have enough years.
Delores met and married James Francis Almeida, Jr., “… the boy across the street”; Their wedding was at the Santo Christo Church (Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres) on Columbia Street, on May 30, 1956. The couple had three children.
After retirement, Delores took care of her grandchildren and today is active as the president of a senior residents’ council.
Note: This interview has been slightly edited for continuity and readability; in order to preserve the integrity of the conversation, the phraseology remains that of the interviewer and interviewee. Italicized information in square brackets has been added for the purposes of clarification and context.
JR: This is June 10, 2015. We’re at Somerset Ridge and this is Delores Almeida who we are interviewing today, and the interviewer is Joyce Rodrigues. So we are going to get started. Let’s get started.
JR: Okay, Delores, I heard a lot about you…. Tell me about your family; tell me about your parents and grandparents.
DA: My … grandparents were born in the Old Country in [Saõ Miguel, Azores] Portugal. [The interviewee’s paternal grandparents, José “Joseph” Peter Silvia, and his wife, née Rita de Jesus immigrated from Capelas, São Miguel, Azores; her maternal grandparents, Louiz ‘Luis’ Rapoza Salgado and his wife, née Margarida ‘Margaret’ Soares, immigrated from Relva, a civic parish in the municipality of Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores].
JR: You mean the Azores?
DA: The Azores – and my mother [née Virginia Rapoza Salgado] and father [Seraphine Peter Silvia] were born here in the United States. [The interviewee’s mother was born in Fall River 1909; her father, was born in Somerset, Massachusetts, in 1896]. And I learned Portuguese through my grandparents, who couldn’t speak a word of English, so that’s how come I can now speak both languages. My mother and father spoke English; they spoke the two languages.
JR: And when did the grandparents come to the United States?
DA: I don’t know, it was way before I was born – way before that. [The interviewee’s paternal grandparents, the Silvias, immigrated to the United States before 1896; her maternal grandparents, the Salgados, before 1909.]
JR: Did they work in Fall River when they came here?
DA: My grandfather [Louiz ‘Luis’ Rapoza Salgado] did. He worked at the – at the cotton mill in Fall River, the mill that was … on Rodman Street [Richard Borden Manufacturing Company, 440 Rodman Street]. He worked in that cotton mill. I remember taking the cotton off of his whiskers in the morning. My grandmother [Mrs. Louiz ‘Luis’ Rapoza Salgado, née Margarida ‘Margaret’ Soares] was a stay-at-home wife; she stood home taking care of us.
JR: And how many children did they have?
DA: My grandmother only had my mother and my aunt [Sarah Rapoza Salgado, who later married her first cousin, Manuel Rapoza Salgado]. And they – my aunt [Sarah] came to this country [when] she was twelve years old. But, my grandparents had to leave her behind [when they immigrated] so they could come to this country and try to make a life. So, once they got their lives situated, they sent for her, and then, in the meantime my mother was born here [in Fall River].
JR: Okay, and tell me about your mother and your father.
DA: I had a wonderful mother [née Virginia Rapoza Salgado] and father [Seraphine Peter Silvia]. They were very good, and I was brought up old-fashioned, you know, they took good care of us. My father worked, my mother tried working, but then we were always sick so she stood home to take care of us, you know, always with a cold or something like that. But, uh, other than that, my father was the breadwinner of the house. [The interviewee’s mother was the second wife of Seraphine Peter Silvia; the couple married in 1936. His first wife, née Eliza Martin, whom he married circa 1919, was a native of the Azores, having immigrated to the United States in 1918; she died on December 4, 1935, giving birth to the couple’s third child, a ‘female baby,’ who also died. The cause of death Eliza’s death was ‘pre-partum hemorrhage (acute separation of placenta); shock following Caesarian section.’ The couple’s two surviving children, Alphonse ‘Al’ Peter Silvia, born in 1921, and Lawrence ‘Sonny’ Peter Silvia, born in 1931 were the interviewee’s half-brothers.]
JR: And where did your father work?
DA: My father worked on the farm. He did farm work – milking cows, cultivating the land, and all of that. Back then, when we got a job, the house came with the job. You didn’t pay any rent because that came with the job, and the milk came with the job. So, we had fresh milk every morning, right from the cow to the house. My father would bring the pail and my mother had another kind of a pail to put it in to keep it in the refrigerator.
JR: Now, where was this farm?
DA: The farm was in Tiverton, [Rhode Island, at 405] Nanaquaket Road; George [Sousa] Magan [owned it]. We lived there – it was a nice house, very nice.
JR: This is the first time I’m hearing about that.
DA: Oh yeah, my father worked for him for a long time – for years. In fact, I used to go with Mr. Magan’s cousin [Elizabeth Magan]; we would go collecting the money for the milk every Saturday morning, because people would, they’d have their customers, and at the end of the week … we would go collect the money from the milk they delivered all week.
JR: Now, did you get involved in the farm? Did you work on the farm?
DA: No, no, we didn’t work on the farm. My father did the work.
JR: And the house was there.
DA: The house was there – I don’t know if it’s still there now…. We had like a two-tenement house and we lived on the second floor.…
JR: How many children were there at the time?
DA: There was only myself and my sister [Margaret Silvia, later Mrs. Frank Owsney]. My two brothers [Alphonse ‘Al’ Peter Silvia, and Lawrence ‘Sonny’ Peter Silvia] were married, so they were on their own, doing their own lives. But we would see them on weekends, and we go have a nice get-together on a weekend. My mother would do the cooking and we would all have our lunch together.
JR: Now, were you born in Tiverton, [Rhode Island]?
DA: No, I was born in Fall River.
JR: So, at the time, where were you living in Fall River when you were born?
DA: Well, my father and my mother were living in Swansea, [Massachusetts, on Warren Road]. Before Mr. Magan, there was another farmer that he worked for, and then he took them to be my god-parents; they became good friends. His name was Michael [Miguel S.] Massa – that’s who he worked for.
JR: Ok, I am going to write that down.
DA: The one that I, [it] was Michael [Miguel S.] Massa [and his wife, Mary C. Massa] who became my godparents.
JR: And Mr. Magan.
DA: And … Mr. George [Sousa] Magan was on Nanaquaket Road in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
JR: So, those were the two farms?
DA: Those are the two farms that I can remember. My father always worked on the farm, and then, when the – when the farms started fading away, then he went to work at the Truesdale Hospital [Inc., 1820 Highland Avenue, Fall River], helping out in the kitchen.
JR: So, he was always working.
DA: My father was a good worker; he was a good breadwinner. He never wanted my mother to work.
JR: Did he ever tell you stories about the [Great] Depression?
DA: No, they never did. We never did.
JR: I know times were tough.
DA: Yeah, those times were tough, but they never told us anything about that.
JR: So, you grew up with a sister and two brothers.
JR: And, did you have your own room?
DA: No, I shared a bed with my sister. We shared our room, we both slept in the same bed – no separate beds back then. It was a little house, it was only a little apartment [at 308 Ferry Street], you know, when we came to the city [circa 1939]. But even on the farm … we both slept in the same bed.
JR: So, how did you get along?
DA: We got along good. She was cranky sometimes but, you know, just like siblings do, but we loved one another.
JR: Now did you go to school in Tiverton, [Rhode Island] or was it in Swansea, [Massachusetts]?
DA: I went to school in Tiverton … I went to school in, umm, oh, Fort Barton [Elementary] School [99 Lawton Avenue] in Tiverton, when we lived on Mr. Magan’s house….
JR: You were born in nineteen …
DA: I was born in 1937, October 18, 1937. Yeah.
JR: Now, were there any duties, any particular duties that you had to do in the house?
DA: Oh, yes, we had to clean, you know, I’d help clean the house on the weekend. And, you know, girls weren’t – in my house was like that – the outside is for the boys, the girls stay indoors, doing your homework when you get out of school, and whatever she [the interviewees mother] had planned for us to do, we did it. And on the weekends, I remember beating the carpets with the wire thing with a handle … put it out on the line, and beat the carpets. And we cleaned the house, and my mother did the cooking.
JR: Did you also learn how to cook?
DA: Yes, I did.
JR: What were the favorite recipes?
DA: Well, no recipes. We – back then, they don’t have recipes. Even myself, I never had a recipe, I did it the way I saw them do it. We’d marinate the meat when it was roast meat, roast chicken, turkey, we’d marinate it. Make beans, we made the baked beans. In fact, I handed down the recipe, well, I made up the recipe, because it wasn’t – my mother made the baked beans, and I did it like her. So, then, when I came into this nursing home [Somerset Ridge Center, 455 Brayton Avenue, Somerset, Massachusetts], I handed down to my daughter [Mrs. Antonio Pereira, née Lori Ann Almeida] and my son [Kevin James Almeida], how to make the baked beans, and they make it. Very simple, so.
JR: I remember growing up with my grandmother, and we used to do a lot of house cleaning, and we used to put curtains on a stretcher.
DA: On the stretcher with the pins that stuck up, and we’d stretch that good, and those curtains were beautiful after they got dried up and put them on the window. I remember having the organdy curtains; those were tough, but put them on the stretcher – you didn’t have to press them. They take two people … we took it out, and I remember my sister on one end and I’m on the other end folding in half, make the crease, fold again, make another crease, so by the time they hung on the window, they were nice. The creases were beautiful, yes.
JR: Did you have a washing machine?
DA: Well, my mother, we didn’t get a washing machine until later on, and the first washing machine we had was a Maytag [Washing Machine Company, later Maytag, Inc. Newton, Iowa] with the rolling pin [Maytag Wringer Washer]. We put the [wet] clothes through the roller – how many times they got stuck going around the roller – release it. But those were good days.
JR: So, before that, you probably had to wash [laundry] by hand.
DA: We would boil the clothes before that, we would boil the clothes. I remember my mother and my grandmother [Mrs. Louiz ‘Luis’ Rapoza Salgado, née Margarida ‘Margaret’ Soares] putting the clothes – they save a special pan just to put the clothes, dirty clothes in there – and then they boil the clothes, and then wash it on the scrubbing board. The clothes come out nice and white, and [they used] Octagon [Laundry] soap, [manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, New York, New York] and bluing during laundering for the white clothes. [Bluing was a product habitually used to improve the appearance of white textiles; added to the water during rinsing, it added a hint of blue dye to the fabric, enhancing its brilliance].
JR: You are bringing back a lot of memories for me, also, because my grandmother had a washing machine with a ringer, and then she would turn the ringer around, so that the clothes could go into the rinse.
DA: Right, the water would go back into the – yes, that’s how we did it.
JR: And the bluing was in that water.
DA: Right, to make the clothes white-white. And the clothes did come out nice and white.
JR: The dryers. We hung things outside.
DA: No dryers. We hung things outside on the line, yes, and then, when the laundry came, then we would send the jeans and the clothes to the laundry, but never to wash and dry. We always dried it on the line … always on the line. [So-called ‘wet wash’ laundry was returned to the customer wet to be home-dried.]
JR: So, how did you heat the house in those days?
DA: In those days, we helped warm the house with kerosene heaters, kerosene stoves, and also came along the combination stoves, half gas, and the other half kerosene.
JR: I haven’t heard about that.
DA: Oh, yeah, my [maternal] grandmother had one, and we had one. It was half kerosene and the other half was the gas stove. A big long stove, and then the top we polished it on the Saturday, we polished that with a black polish [called ‘stove black’], and boy, that would shine beautiful.
JR: I think before that, too, my [maternal] grandparents had wood; they had wood and they also had coal.
DA: I don’t remember the coal and the wood. When I was growing up, it was kerosene. And the heaters and the stoves would have two, uh, tanks. You’d fill one and then you would have to fill the other one, so during the night you wouldn’t – the house wouldn’t get cold – in the morning, we would get up, the house was cold. Run down the cellar, go fill it up with kerosene, and then get the stove going again and warm it up.
JR: So, you went to … Fort Barton Elementary School. Did you go to another school after elementary school?
DA: No, then we came – my father, by then, the farm gave up – and then we went to Fall River [circa 1948], and then I went to the Susan H. Wixon Elementary School [263 Hamlet Street] and I graduated from there [in 1953]. [The interviewee resided with her parents in Fall River at: 308 Ferry Street, circa 1939-40; 76 Hunter Street, circa 1942-44; 22 Danforth Street, circa 1948-49; and 616 Third Street, circa 1950 – until her marriage in 1956. During the years for which there are gaps, her father was employed as a laborer on farms outside the city.]
JR: From the Susan Wixon School.
DA: From the eighth grade, and then from there I went to work.
JR: That was very typical. That happened to my mother as well, from grade eight, and she would have been older than you, but it was in the ‘30s and you know it was the [Great] Depression and times were tough.
DA: I remember during the war, World War II, we all had [coupon] books – we had the ration then, and we’d get them once a month – we’d wait in line to go get sugar and flour and meat, and it was very scarce. And back then I remember that there wasn’t even nylons for the women to wear. That’s when they would start coloring their legs [so-called ‘paint-on-hosiery’] with a spray to make it look as though they had stockings on – nylons on. That was during World War II ….
JR: Tell me about holidays and birthdays.
DA: Holidays was very nice; we’d all be together. Birthdays, we didn’t make too much of birthdays – my mother never made too much of birthdays. But, holidays we were always together. And every night, all family oriented, always. So, we had, I had good memories.
JR: And were you brought up with the Catholic Church or…?
DA: Yes, the [Roman] Catholic Church. I went to Santo Cristo Church [240 Columbia Street, Fall River], and … when I got married [in 1956], I also went to Sts. Peter and Paul Church [Snell Street, corner Dover Street, Fall River]. But, I took [First Holy] Communion in Santo Cristo Church, [the sacrament of] confirmation, [and] I got married in Santo Cristo Church.
JR: I think it’s the oldest Portuguese church [in Fall River.]
DA: Yes, it is, I think so … they are all gone now, most of them. [The parish history can be traced back to the founding of the first mission in Fall River established to serve the Portuguese community in 1876.]
JR: Okay, I am going to ask you a little bit more about the community of, well, actually, Swansea, [Massachusetts,] and Tiverton, [Rhode Island,] and Fall River. Tell me about the community that you grew up in. What was that like? Your neighbors?
DA: Neighbors were very – well, in Tiverton and Swansea neighbors were far apart. I don’t know too much about Swansea, like I said, when I was born, we were living there, but I remember mostly Tiverton, and Fall River – where we lived, you know, everybody was very, uh, looking after one another. They would not – if you were sick, and [they] knew you were sick, they’d make you some chicken soup, and take it over to the neighbor because that neighbor was sick, and sit with that neighbor for a little while to see how they, you know, if they needed any help, they would help them. There were more, it was more get-togethers with neighbors. Not all the time, but most of the time.
JR: What neighborhood was that in Fall River? Where was that?
DA: That was around, uh, Hunter Street and Columbia [Street]. Hunter, Hope [Street], that was where we lived ….
JR: So, you must have seen a lot of the Portuguese [religious] feasts and processions.
DA: Oh, yes, we went to those processions. I remember taking some sweetbread [massa sovada] when they have the Holy Ghost Feast [Festas do Espirito Santo] at Santo Cristo Church, and my grandmother [Mrs. Louiz ‘Luis’ Rapoza Salgado, née Margarida ‘Margaret’ Soares] would make the home-made sweetbread, and wrap it up … and tie it with red ribbon, the red ribbon, so I could take it to the church, and I would take it, my sister and I would take it. [The Festas do Espírito Santo, or Holy Ghost Festival, plays an integral role in the lives of devout Azoreans, and Azorean-Americans, and usually begins on Pentecost Sunday, running through the spring. The festival was founded by the 13th century Queen Saint Elizabeth (Isabel), formerly a princess of Aragon, who was Queen Regent of Portugal, the consort of King Denis; a devout model of Christian charity, she was noted for her religious piety, charity, and devotion to her work for the poor.]
JR: Did you march in the processions?
DA: Yes, yes, and also I handed that down to my daughter, too; she went in the processions a lot.
JR: I am going to jump ahead a little bit and you mentioned World War II, and you said you had two older brothers. Were they drafted?
DA: My oldest brother [Alphonse ‘Al’ Peter Silvia], he volunteered because they were going to be drafted, but he volunteered to go into the service [United States Army, enlisted January 5, 1944].
JR: Did [he] come home?
DA: [He] came home.
JR: That’s wonderful. Your mother must have been very worried.
DA: Oh, yeah, she was worried. We wouldn’t have Christmas. My mother would say, ‘No Christmas, your brother is in a war. We’re not having a Christmas. We will have a Christmas when he comes home.’ And we waited and waited, and I remember they would have the lights go off, the, oh, what was that? You know, like, air raids. I remember the air raids we had, and have to shut your curtains, and the shades – back then were [black out] shades – and no lights on because you’d have the police [Air Raid Wardens] knocking at your door; they patrolled to see who had lights on. For [when] the air raid came you had to have everything in darkness, ‘til they put out another … a different kind of a sound that it was over, and then you can put the lights on again. It was always at night that would happen; I remember that.
JR: Do you remember where your brother served in the war?
DA: My brother was [a Private First Class] in the infantry.
JR: Was he overseas … ?
DA: Yes, he was over there, and it was a very nice – a very happy day when [he] came home.
JR: That’s wonderful; many families lost brothers.
DA: I know. I had a friend of mine [Teresa L. Pacheco], she lost her brother [Fernando Pacheco], missing in action, and her mother [Mrs. João “John” Pacheco née Hortencia Domingos], from that day on, her mother never walked, never talked, stayed bedridden until she died. Yeah, a lot of things back then. [Fernando Pacheco, United States Army, Private First Class, was killed in action on September 17, 1944; he had enlisted on March 11, 1943. His remains were interred in Notre Dame Cemetery, Fall River, on August 20, 1948.]
JR: Let’s go back to the Wixon School. After you graduated and you said you went to work, how did that transition take place?
DA: I went to work, we used to walk to work.
JR: Where did you work?
DA: I worked, I started working at the Pleasant Curtain [Company, 237 Pleasant Street, Fall River] first. Folding curtains, upstairs from, uh, it used to be Rogers’ Restaurant [Rogers Cafeteria, 261 Pleasant Street, Fall River], you know, [Francis] Rogers [and his wife Theresa C. Rogers] from Somerset, [Massachusetts]? They used to have a little restaurant.
JR: I know where that is, and over that restaurant was Pleasant Curtain [Company]?
DA: Pleasant Curtain [Company], and I worked there for a long time. Then I went …
JR: What did you do there?
DA: I folded curtains.
DA: I folded curtains.
JR: After they’ve already been sewn?
DA: After they were sewed, and they would go through a press, where the man – the fellow – would feed it through this machine, and we would be on the other end, and it will come out all pressed, and you fold it in half, and then put it on a box. Then we go to the table and fold it, and then put it in packages for the different sizes.
JR: Was that piecework?
DA: No, it wasn’t piecework. We had to put out a certain amount – a quota – we had a quota to put out, but it was not piecework.
JR: But they, probably – the sewers?
DA: The sewing machines, the sewers were all on piecework. The rod and hemmers, and the people who did the drapes – because they also did drapes – and they were all on piecework, but we weren’t, we were on time work.
JR: How did you get that job?
DA: A friend of mine [Teresa Sousa, the wife of the interviewee’s cousin, David Sousa] knew my mother, and … ‘My daughter is looking for a job, she needs to get a job,’ so she spoke to me and I got the job. Making seventy-five-cents an hour back then [and] that was working forty hours a week. Coming home, don’t touch your pay, they put it in the envelope, they staple it, and I give it to my mother.
JR: They gave you cash?
DA: It was cash, back then they gave you cash; no checks, it was all cash.
JR: Then, you brought that home.
DA: Brought it home to my mother the way they gave it to us, then my mother would give me two dollars a week.
JR: I saw my family do something with the – the cash – that was brought home; they used to call it in Portuguese, ‘countar’ [pronounced coon.tar].
DA: ‘Countar,’ yeah. Well, that means they would figure out the money, count the money. They make the countar about this for rent, this for food, this for this, this for that. Pay this bill, got your furniture bill, or a store. Back then a lot of people would buy groceries and pay it at the end of the week. Some grocery store who knew you, the grocery man, yeah.
JR: And then you put some money into the envelope for insurance.
DA: Insurance, yes, like $2 a week, $2.50 in for the insurance man; by the time he came, we had our money. And money for church, we had to put money for church – you’d better put seventy-five cents – we put it in the envelope for church, and we’d have to go to church every Sunday. You don’t go to church, you don’t go out; we couldn’t go to a movie because you didn’t go to church. And when you get home, the clothes you used for church, we take them, put them away, and use other clothes. That Sunday clothes, they were special.
JR: Just for Sunday.
DA: Just for Sunday. Shoes, dress, no matter what it was, it was just for Sundays.
JR: I think on Sunday, too, you had a family dinner.
DA: We had the family dinner and then we would sit around and talk. Yup, very nice.
JR: Now, your brothers, I guess …
DA: They’re both passed. [Alphonse “Al” Peter Silvia, died in 1983, and Lawrence “Sonny” Peter Silvia, who chose to cease contact with his family for decades, may have died in 1997.]
JR: They contributed to the house, too, and your sister?
DA: Yes, they did. My sister [Margaret Silvia, later Mrs. Frank Owsney] did, but already the times were different, because I was two years older than her … things were different. My brothers and all, they come in, they give the money to my mother.
JR: Did she work after school? Did she go right to work right after school or did your sister go on to high school?
DA: No, my sister didn’t go to high school, she went to work.
JR: How about your brothers, did they go to high school?
DA: No, they didn’t. They all went to work. Back then you had to go to work because you had to help contribute money to the house because, when my father worked on the farm, they were only getting $35 a week, and was working from sun up to sun down. But we didn’t have to pay rent, we only had to buy food, and pay no electric because everything came together.
JR: But that was a total of six people to support, and that is quite a responsibility.
DA: But we managed. A lot of soup and different things, you know?
JR: How could you save any money on your allowance?
DA: Well, I tried putting it away. We would save a little bit just at Christmas so we could buy something for one another, for our parents and our brothers. A little bit of something, like an ashtray or something – just a little memento, that we would do, so.
JR: What did you do for, I should say, recreation? Movies? Or going out?
DA: I remember going to the Plaza [Theatre, 381 South Main Street, Fall River] for fifteen cents.
JR: Oh, my.
DA: And we would get a chapter, we’d get the world news [newsreels], we’d get two movies [double-feature]; I could spend a whole day in the show, in the movies at the Plaza Theatre. Fifteen cents we paid, and then the other movies were like fifty-five cents, and then they went up to seventy-five cents. We’d get two movies, two coming attractions – and two movies, at other theatres.
JR: This would be when you were a teenager?
DA: When I was working. When I was a teenager I couldn’t go to the movies, my mother wouldn’t allow us to go to the movies. But when we worked, you know, it was different, they let us go. But we had to be home by a certain time. ‘Movies should be done by four o’clock; you should be in this house by five o’clock,’ and we would have to be.
JR: How did you get home? Were you walking?
DA: We walked. We walked home. We were in walking distance, so we’d walk home. [The Silvia family residence at 616 Third Street, Fall River, was approximately three city blocks from the Plaza Theatre.]
JR: Very good. Now how did, you started with Pleasant Curtain [Company] and what was the next job?
DA: The next job – I worked there a long time – then after I went and worked at the Atlas Curtain [Atlas Manufacturing Company 288 Plymouth Avenue, Fall River] … I worked there. I worked until I got married [in 1956], and I worked there a good five, six years.
JR: And when did you get married?
DA: Then when I got married? I got married [on May 30,] 1956, and I had my oldest boy [Louis William Almeida] in ‘58.
JR: How did you meet your husband?
DA: He [James Francis Almeida, Jr.] was the boy across the street. He lived across the street from me [at 621 Third Street, Fall River]. Yeah, so we got to talking, him on the outside of the fence, me on the inside of the fence; we weren’t allowed to go out with any boys.
JR: And how many in his family?
DA: My husband had two sisters [Patricia Ann Almeida, later Mrs. Joseph George Andre Cormier, and Natalie Almeida]; that was it.
JR: This was on Hope Street?
DA: No, no, this was on, by then we were living [at 616] Third Street [in Fall River]. We, my mother had moved. My father was then working at the Truesdale Hospital [Inc., as a ‘kitchen helper’] and … my aunt [Mrs. Manuel Rapoza Salgado née Catherine R. Medeiros] bought a house on Third Street, and that’s where we lived – and my husband lived across the street from me.
JR: How did you get to know your husband? I mean, he lived across the street but did you go out on dates?
DA: No dates. Not until I was about a good seventeen years old, almost eighteen. No, we didn’t date too much back then. It was at the fence, our dating was at the fence. I said to my mother, ‘He wants to go get a chow mein sandwich.’ ‘You better take your sister with you’ – we always had to have a sister with us, couldn’t go alone.
JR: Always had a chaperone.
DA: All the time.
JR: So, someone would squeal on you if something went wrong.
JR: How long did you court? I have to use the word courting.
DA: Two years, two years; then we got married.
JR: At the Santo Cristo Church.
DA: At the Santo Cristo Church, yes.
JR: Tell me about your children.
DA: My children, I had three. My oldest one’s [Louis William Almeida] passed already [in 1993]. Now I have my daughter [Mrs. Antonio Pereira, née Lori Ann Almeida], and my son [Kevin James Almeida] who come to visit me almost every day.
JR: And how were they brought up? I know it was …
DA: They were brought up the same way I was brought up.
JR: Is that right?
DA: Yes, I did. Although, when my daughter was going with her husband I was a little more lenient, I let her go. But I would tell them, ‘You better not do anything, nothing better happen, or else.’ I’d say that, and honest to God, I said that for two years. He [the interviewee’s son-in-law, Antonio Perreira] says to me, ‘I am sick of hearing it.’ ‘You are going to hear it until you walk her down the aisle.’ I did.
JR: What were your activities together as a family, with your children?
DA: We would go on, like, every year we would go on vacation. No more than maybe three [days]; that was enough for me, living out of a suitcase. Yes, we go to New Hampshire – they loved to go to New Hampshire – we would go up towards the White Mountains.
JR: Very nice.
DA: Then, we go out together, go for rides together, and you know, we’d do a lot of things.
JR: Different, you do different things.
DA: We did it, yes.
JR: You had those vacations. But your husband …
DA: My husband worked, I worked, and…
JR: What kind of work did your husband do?
DA: My husband worked at Haskon [Aerospace] in, uh, Taunton, [Massachusetts].
JR: Haskon, I don’t know that place.
DA: They made a little thing, little parts of airplanes, and then when they come in to do going up, with space, about space, he also did some things for the space thing. Whatever. I don’t know if they are still there, but that is where he worked for twenty-three-and-a-half years.
JR: Well, I ask those questions because so many of the companies have gone out of business.
DA: I’m sure they’ve gone. They’ve gone. [Esterline Haskon Aerospace, closed its Taunton, Massachusetts facility in 2010].
JR: For example, curtain manufacturing. There are so many, so many factories in Fall River that were curtain factories. I know I had a cousin that was, uh, I can’t think of the name of the shop now, it’s on Pleasant Street, further up.
DA: Louis Hand [Inc., Division of Aberdeen Manufacturing Corporation, 847 Pleasant Street, Fall River].
JR: Louis Hand – that was one. That is out of business.
DA: Louis hand – that was a big one.
JR: That was very big.
DA: That was big, there was another one down north [Paroma Draperies, Inc. 2 Weaver Street, Fall River], and that’s all gone. They are all gone. All shops are gone.
JR: I think a lot of it was competition from overseas.
DA: It was competition; the union, they didn’t care that the boss didn’t want to go with them, do what they wanted to do. That’s what happened when I worked. I also went back to work after my daughter was born [in 1963], a year-and-a-half later, and I worked at the K & G dress shop [K. & G. Manufacturing Company, Inc., dress manufacturers, 187 Pleasant Street, Fall River] and, uh, the union shut him down. He was a wonderful person to work for.
JR: How did that happen? Why would they shut that place down?
DA: Because they wanted him to do – to join in on the union with certain things, and he didn’t want to. So, the union just come in and they shut him down. You know, they would pay people to come during the night and destroy the material, and he couldn’t work the next day.
JR: Who owned that shop?
DA: Al [Abraham Albert] Leshinsky.
DA: That was at the [former] Union Mills [Union Cotton Manufacturing Company, Pleasant Street, Fall River].
JR: Yeah, I know where that is. Now, when did you join the union? Were you a union member early on, maybe back at Pleasant Curtain [Company]?
DA: Yes, we were in the union. Then, that was Amalgamated Union [Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Locals Nos. 177 and 376, 142 Second Street, Fall River]. The dress shops was the ILG [ILGWU, International Ladies Garments Workers Union, Local No 178, Garment Workers Square, 38 Third Street, Fall River].
JR: So, how did that work out for you, I mean, in terms of getting a pension?
DA: Well, I didn’t …
JR: Two different unions.
DA: Yes, but no, I didn’t, we didn’t bother to claim that other one at the Amalgamated [Clothing Workers of America]; it wasn’t worth it. And then when it came to work to get the money from, when I retired, from Ladies International [ILGWU, International Ladies Garments Workers Union], my husband said, ‘It’s not worth it.’ I had, like twelve years in that union, so my husband said it wasn’t worth it, he said, ‘Let it go, what are you going to get for twelve years?’ So, I just let it go.
JR: So you never got a union pension?
DA: No, I lived on my husband’s pension, my husband’s pension.
JR: That’s disappointing, to put in all those years and not get a union pension.
DA: I know, I know, but – we wouldn’t make much, we didn’t pay that much into the union, so you wouldn’t get much, unless I had my thirty – even having, uh, what, thirty years in the union, it was no more than one hundred something dollars.
JR: And that was in ILG[WU]?
DA: Yes, they didn’t pay much.
JR: I am going to go back a little bit and just ask you things like when you got your first telephone.
DA: Oh, we were living on Nanaquaket Road [in Tiverton, Rhode Island] when we got our first telephone. I was single. And it was – you hold up with one hand and you put the other piece in your ear. ‘Hello?’ Four party line and then they’d take too long. They’d say, ‘Get off the phone! We need to use the phone!’
JR: But that was pretty exciting.
DA: It was exciting back then, yes. Oh, we had our telephone, yes.
JR: Who could you call? You had to have family [members] that had a phone.
DA: I called my brother [Alphonse ‘Al’ Peter Silvia] in Fall River, we would call my brothers. I don’t remember [about] my aunt – my aunt had a phone, but I don’t know when she got her phone. But we would, you know, call people.
JR: Did you always have electric light or gas light?
DA: I remember, we always had electric. When I was growing up it was electric. The electric had come in to…
JR: Now, how about a car? How about a first time your family had a car?
DA: My father bought a car. He had bought a Hudson [Hudson Motor Car Company, Detroit, Michigan] and we’d go out on the Sunday for a drive. During the week, that was for him to go to work.
JR: Any other thoughts about your family and the changes that you went through from the ‘30s to the present?
DA: No, it was okay, we had a good, you know, we had a good relationship all the way through. We were always a very close family all the, all the way – we were always very close.
JR: What do you think of some of the events today? Like the women’s movement in the 1960s and ‘70s and the way, um, we are interacting today. It’s very different from when you were growing up.
DA: Oh yes. But still – I’m so old-fashioned. To me, a woman’s job is a woman’s job, and a man’s job is a man’s job. I can’t see, I don’t like, or don’t care to see, I wouldn’t care to have anyone in my family doing a man’s job. But, if that was what they wanted, you know? It’s different today, but I’m still from the old school. A man’s job is a man’s job, a woman’s job is a woman’s job.
JR: And what do you think of computers and the way with that?
DA: That to me, a computer is the worst thing they come out with – computers. There is Facebook, and everything – the whole world knows your business. I don’t like it. I never did, I never did like computers.
JR: Good point.
DA: The way of the world; it’s become a lazy world.
JR: That was what I was going to ask you. How do you see the world changing since when you were young?
DA: Yeah, it’s, it’s terrible what the way it goes, you know, everything [is] going, so, people killing people. We wouldn’t hear that – never around here, never. But, it’s horrible today. No one can talk to one without using something that they shouldn’t be using.
JR: The world has changed …
DA: Very much so, yes, it has. It’s sad because you are not safe nowhere; today, no one is safe anymore.
JR: So, when you retired, what was some of the interests that you had after retirement. Your grandchildren?
DA: After retirement, I put myself taking care of my grandchildren.
JR: Well, I think … if you want to conclude it at that point. [But] I can ask you a few more things. I asked you about women’s liberation, civil rights, ‘ya know, you’ve seen all of that change.
JR: You’ve seen all of that change.
DA: It’s too bad that – it’s good that people can get out there and vote, but, the way it is today I don’t know – it’s the world is upside-down, the world is upside-down today. It’s not a world like when I was being brought up. Yes, I just, I get that I had a wonderful life, and now I am here [Somerset Ridge Center, 455 Brayton Avenue, Somerset, Massachusetts]. I have another life here, and I am happy here.
JR: And I heard that you’re, um …
DA: I am President of the Residents’ Council.
JR: So, you’re a leader. What is that all about?
DA: Well, it’s those who cannot speak for themselves now. When I say, ‘Those who cannot say, those who cannot speak for themselves,’ are the people with Alzheimer’s; they can’t speak for themselves, so I’m here to speak for them. I feel like if I had a parent who had a sickness like that, I would want someone to speak up for them if something wasn’t going right.
JR: So, you kind of check on them and make sure things are going right?
DA: Well, we talk together and I’m friendly with everyone and I keep my eyes open, and we see everything, and it’s a wonderful place. I fell into a beautiful place here.
JR: Excellent. Very good. So, you are involved in the leadership here.
DA: I never thought in my life I would ever become President of [a] Resident’s Council, but here I am.
JR: Okay, well I am going to stop at this point…. I really enjoyed talking with you.
DA: I enjoyed talking with you.
JR: Thank you.
DA: No, thank you.