FALL RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Women at Work: An Oral History of
in Fall River, Massachusetts
Interview with Mrs. Manuel Amaral, née Hortencia “Ester” Pacheco Ribeiro
Interviewer: (JR) Joyce B. Rodrigues
Interviewee: (HA) Hortencia “Ester” Pacheco Ribeiro Amaral
Additional Commentary: (PA) Paul J. Amaral, Hortencia’s son
Date of Interview: November 12, 2014
Location: Fall River Historical Society
Hortensia “Ester” (Ribeiro) Amaral was born in Fall River on September 21, 1916.
Her parents immigrated to the United States from the island of St. Michael in the Azores. They met in Fall River and were married at the Santo Christo Church (Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres), Columbia Street, in 1907.
There were five children in the family. Hortensia had an older brother and sister and two younger brothers. The family lived in the south end of the city, close to the Tiverton, Rhode Island, line in mill housing: the Bourne blocks, owned by the Bourne Mills.
The Ribeiro family – grandfather, father, mother, brothers and sisters – all worked in the Bourne Mills. Hortensia started working at the Bourne in 1931 at the age of fifteen. She left in 1932 to seek other employment after a strike that lasted nine months.
Hortensia married in 1942 and had one son. Her brothers and husband all served in World War II. She was also the family caregiver to her parents and a bachelor brother.
Her career took her to factories in Fall River: Bourne Mills, United Rayon Mills, Massasoit Manufacturing Company, Maplewood Yarn Mills, Lyn Sportswear, Firestone Rubber and Latex Products Company, Raytheon Company (Dighton, Massachusetts), Gamma Leather, Inc., and Center Garment Company, Inc.
Hortensia retired in 1978 at the age of sixty-two after forty-seven years of employment. She is active in senior centers.
Hortensia’s century-long work and family life parallels Fall River’s economic history from the decline of the textile industry through the transition to the garment and wartime industries, and finally postwar manufacturing.
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: When were you born?
HA: I was born September , 1916.
JR: And where were you born?
HA: The Bourne Blocks, the lower block that belonged to the Bourne Mill. They owned them blocks. [Bourne Blocks were located north of State Avenue in Fall River; the Ribeiro family resided in a building at 45 Clement Street from circa 1908 to 1924.]
JR: So you were born in the United States.
HA: Yes, Fall River.
JR: How about your parents?
HA: My mother [née Maria Amelia de Paiva Mello] was born in Portugal and my father [José Pacheco Ribeiro] was born in Portugal.
JR: And do you know where they were born, in what village or town?
HA: My mother was born in the city, somewhere in [Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores]…. My father was [born in] Lagoa, [São Miguel, Azores].
JR: And why do you think they immigrated? Did they ever tell you why they immigrated?
HA: All I know is they got married [in Fall River on September 28, 1907] … my father was twenty-one when he came here. My mother was already here with my grandfather [João de Paiva Mello].
JR: Do you remember your grandfather?
HA: Oh yeah, he lived with us.
JR: And your grandmother?
HA: No, I never knew my grandmother [née Francisca Augusta Cunha]. She, uh, they separated. That was strange for them days, you know?
JR: Now, were there other children in your family?
HA: Yeah, five, three brothers and my sister and I. I was the middle one … my brother [John], my sister [Mary], were born first, then it was me, then my two brothers [Joseph, Jr. and Antone].
JR: Now, did your parents work in the mills?
HA: Yes, my father worked in the [Bourne] Mill. My mother worked in [the] small Shove [Mill]. Not sure if you ever heard of that. A mill right before you get to the Bourne Mill, right there on Shove Street.… Until she got her children. And then she never worked again. Then my father worked in the Bourne Mill. As a weaver.
JR: What about your mother, what kind of work did she do?
HA: She worked in the spinning room [as a spinner].
JR: And your grandparents?
HA: My grandfather used to work upstairs, used to put some kind of a cotton in round cans, tall cans. [He was possibly a rover in the carding department of the mill.] I don’t know what kind it was.
JR: In the Bourne Mill?
HA: Yeah, he worked upstairs.
JR: And then you also worked in the Bourne Mill?
HA: We all did. My [older] brother was a weaver. My sister and I and my two brothers were fillin’ carriers. [A filling carrier kept the filling boxes at the looms supplied with full bobbins of filling.] They used to put the bobbins in the can where we used to put it.… I worked there until I was about fifteen. And then they went on strike [circa 1931]. The union was always butting in, you know? So we went on strike…. We were on strike for nine months. Nothing coming in. Nothing. We had nothing for nine months. So, finally, I decided to go and look for a job. And I went and worked in United Rayon [Mills at 460] … Globe Street. I worked there for $6 a week. I used to run forty-eight machines.
JR: Forty-eight machines? What kind of work was it?
HA: Cotton, cotton. Rayon. United Rayon [Mills]. I worked there for quite a while.
JR: So what kind of work was that on these machines?
HA: It was like spinning.
JR: And you had to run forty-eight machines?
HA: Yeah, I used to run them. I was a son-of-a-gun for working. That’s why. All my bosses admired me for my job. They used to hate to lay me off … even today I am still at it. I still like to, but I can’t like I used to, you know?
JR: You like to keep busy.
HA: Yeah, when I see someone doing something it bothers me because I can’t go over and do [it] with them…. I worked hard all my life.
JR: So you decided to go to work to help your family?
HA: Yeah, because there was nothing coming in, no one was thinking of going to look for a job. Everyone was sitting around. So I said I am going to go, I was a go-getter. So I went and … [Manuel Alves Faria, who later married her sister, Mary] was the boss … in the United Rayon [Mills], so through him I got the job. I was lucky for $6 something. And then, when I was working for $6 a week, when [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt came in [in 1933]. Anyway, when he came in, the pay went all the way up to $12 and something. I felt like a rich woman. I ran the first time I got my pay, I ran all the way home. I couldn’t afford to take the bus. I had no money. So I ran from Globe Street all the way to [our home on the state line near] Tiverton [Rhode Island]. Run to show my mother all that money I was making.
JR: So … that would have been around the 1930s.
HA: In the Depression. So, but Roosevelt came as a boost. What a difference from $6. And I used to work forty hours a week. You know? [Pay increases were due to the National Industrial Recovery Act instituted in 1933.]
JR: Do you remember what Fall River was like in those days?
HA: Oh, yeah.
JR: What was it like?
HA: I don’t know, it was just you used to go down to the city with all the beautiful stores: [R.A.] McWhirr’s [department store, 165-193 South Main Street], Cherry and Webb [ladies’ and misses’ fashions, 139-149 South Main Street], [J.J.] Newbury’s [five-and-ten-cent store, 107 South Main Street], and then the market in the corner [Arruda’s Market, 2629 South Main Street, corner Last Street]. That is where all the poor people used to go and buy all their food. Hardly anything. The men used to buy a dozen eggs for twenty-five cents them days. You bought a pound of steak for twenty-five cents. And my mother couldn’t afford to buy all that because we weren’t working. But it just happened that the man who had the grocery store [Antonio Medeiros Arruda, Jr.], he used to say ‘Mary, you buy it for the children … and you pay a little bit by the week.’ So every week my mother would give them whatever she had to give him. We went without. And we ate more, a lot, because my father used to go down to the water and get clams, quahogs, that’s why I love seafood. My father used to bring home lobsters and walk up the hill at Hooper Street [in Tiverton, Rhode Island]. The steep hill with two buckets of clams and what not. That was how we ate because we had no money. We had nothing. I never had anything for Christmas. I never owned a doll because we never had nothing. When we put our stockings up for Santa Claus, we used to, all we got was walnuts and Christmas candy. That was good, that was wonderful. But no gifts. That’s it.
JR: Well, I am going to ask you to describe your home then. Did you live in your own home, or did you rent?
HA: We couldn’t afford nothing. We couldn’t afford a car, couldn’t afford anything. Couldn’t afford to eat, never mind.
JR: Did you pay rent? Or did you have your own home?
HA: We worked in the Bourne Mills, [we rented] in the Bourne Mills block for $4.
JR: $4 a week?
HA: Yeah. That was a lot of money then. We didn’t have it. Somehow my mother must’ve managed. My mother was like me, a go-getter. She hold on to her money. She know what to do.
JR: Did you have your own room in your house or did you have to share a room with your sister?
HA: I had to do with my sister, and [for] my brothers, it was three in a bed. And … my mother happened to have a big room with a little alcove or something and she had like a couch. Then one of my brothers [would] sleep there. And the other … would sleep with my oldest brother. When they used to raise all kinds of cane.
JR: Tell me about going to school.
HA: What do you want to know?
JR: When did you start and what school did you go to?
HA: I started, went to first grade. I must have been seven years old then. I went to Mount Hope Avenue School [655 Mount Hope Avenue, Fall River]. And they used to call me Ester. I don’t know if I should tell you this. They [family and friends] used to call me Ester; the moment I went to school, the teachers were calling everyone’s names, you know. So they were calling my name, which is Hortense. And I never said anything. You know? And then she said again, ‘Hortense Ribeiro.’ I didn’t answer. And then they said, ‘That’s you.’ I said, ‘No, that’s not my name. My name is Ester.’ [She said,] ‘No, your name is, Hortense.’ No one ever told me my name was Hortense. They used to say it in Portuguese [Hortência] but never told me in English that my name was Hortense. I always figured it was Ester. I was crying, I was, ‘No, it’s not, my name is Ester.’ I don’t know where my mother got that name. I told my mother, ‘I will never forgive you for giving me that name.’ I still haven’t forgiven her. I hate that name.
JR: Did you speak Portuguese at home?
HA: Oh, yeah, my father didn’t understand English. So we always had to talk Portuguese. When we used to talk English, my father would say, ‘Hey, speak Portuguese so I know what you are talking about.’ But after, he learned. And then he got to be an American citizen. My mother. My mother was smart, she went to school here. She come here at age nine. And she went to school. She had two brothers. I had two uncles, Manual and Joe [Manuel Paiva Mello and Joseph Paiva Mello].
JR: Did they also work in the mills?
HA: Yeah, we all worked, everybody worked in the Bourne Mill. And did you know that people used to walk, I don’t know if you know where Columbia Street is? And you know where the Bourne Mills is? You know those people used to walk from there, five o’clock in the morning all the way to the Bourne Mill [a distance of approximately 2.5 miles] because they couldn’t afford to take the bus.
JR: The bus or a trolley? Was it a trolley?
HA: Yes, there was a trolley…. And with us too. All kinds of storm[s] and mud, we all used to go to school the same way, they didn’t cancel…. You had to walk. Because we had no money to take the bus or trolley at the time.
JR: Let’s get back to the Mount Hope School. How many grades were in that school?
HA: Four. [The Mount Hope Avenue School housed grades one through three.] And then I went to Hicks School [Harriet T. Healy School at 726 Hicks Street, Fall River]. And Hicks School I think it was until sixth [grade].
JR: Did you quit from the Hicks School?
HA: No, I quit school from Slade [School, South Main, corner Slade Street, Fall River] when I was fifteen.
JR: So this is the Hicks School on Hicks Street?
HA: Yeah, I worked, I went right through there, then I went to Slade Street [School]. But I never got around to the graduate. I never graduated from the eighth grade. Because as soon as my father, when we were old enough, my father would pull us out … to work. [Ester left school to go to work at the age of fifteen.] So I never had the chance to graduate. They wouldn’t. My father said, ‘You know you weren’t born to go to school. Just to have children.’ And then they had old fashioned ideas.
JR: So he was thinking that you were going to get married and have children.
HA: Yeah, I didn’t get married until I was twenty-five years old.
JR: Did you have a lot of friends in school? A lot of girl friends?
HA: Oh yeah, the boys used to pick on me all the time. You know, I used to get up, the teacher used to tell me to come to the desk. And this guy, I could kill him ,even today. Every time I go by, he would put his foot out and I would go flying.
JR: He tripped [you]?
HA: All the time. He always did that to me.
JR: Maybe he liked you.
HA: Yeah, he was trying. But I didn’t like him. And when I saw my husband [Manuel Amaral], I met my husband when I was thirteen years old.
JR: Where did you meet him?
HA: Down at South Park. And I said to myself, ‘That is the guy I am going to marry.’
JR: How did you know that?
HA: I don’t know, I just liked him…. I used to be with him and his friends. And he never said anything to me. He would just wave. And I’d think that guy is not going to ask me for a date. I will have to go ask him.
JR: That is kind of shocking, isn’t it? I mean to ask a guy?
HA: I told you, when I make up my mind I want something, I used to go and get it. So finally I went looking for him.
JR: Did you know his family? Did you know who he was?
HA: No, I didn’t know. I just knew him, I liked him. That was it. And I told him, ‘Hey why don’t you ask me for a date? Why don’t you go out with me?’ He says, ‘I can’t afford you.’ The Depression. Nobody worked. He didn’t. When he went out with me, he didn’t even have a nickel to put me in the bus. But he was a poor thing. He had no mother or father. [His mother, née Evangelina Mendonca, died in 1926 at the age of thirty-three, having given birth to eleven children, four of whom survived her; his father, Manuel Amaral, aka Manuel Amaral Malaco, died in 1929 at the age of forty-six.] I said, ‘Look. You go out for me, your luck is going to change.’
JR: How was he living?
HA: He lived with his grandmother [the widowed Mrs. Antonio Mendonca, née Antonia de Jesus; his uncle, Joseph Mendonca, and his family; and his sister, Josephine]. He used to go for handouts. Welfare. That is how everybody lived. But in my time, they didn’t have that. So my father used to go hunting down the water for clams, quahogs, peeniewinkles [periwinkles]. My mother used to make me sit down and do the peeniewinkles to keep me out of trouble. I was always in trouble.
JR: I am going to ask you about dating your husband. Where did you go if he had no money?
HA: We would go for walks. We would go down to South Park. All the girlfriends and boyfriends went down the South Park. Where else could we go? And walk. We used to walk from my house all the way down [a distance of approximately 1.8 miles], and he lived [at 954] Langley Street [a distance of approximately 3.7 miles from the park].
JR: That is a long way.
HA: He used to walk.
JR: Did he meet your father and mother?
HA: Finally, I brought him home one time. He had never had much to eat at home so my mother used to feed him. My mother was … nice, she would feed anybody that came to her house.
JR: What are your memories of going out with him? Was he able to take you to the movies or anything like that?
HA: Well, yeah, no, I used to pay my own. You know, you go to Park Show [Park Theatre, 1425 South Main Street, Fall River], you pay ten cents to go in…. That was a lot of money. So I let him pay sometimes, other times I pay for him. And I felt sorry for him. Then … he went in the service…. He was a National Guard. [National Guard, Coast Artillery Corps, Private First Class, enlisted September 16, 1940.] He was one of the first ones to go in. I was just going out with him then. Oh, then, before him … I got a few boyfriends, you know? I was going to get married. I had all my bridesmaids all picked out and I decided I didn’t want to get married.
JR: Now could you save your money for the wedding?
HA: What money?
JR: Well, from your job at the mill.
HA: No one used to give me money. My mother, never…. We never got spending money in those days. We couldn’t afford it. Then if I needed something, she would buy it for me, you know?
JR: So your income went to the house? Your salary, the income you made went [to] your father and mother.
HA: My mother, I used to adore my mother. I used to tell my mother, she used to work so hard…. She always had cotton dresses that were smocks. [I used to say], ‘If I ever make money working, my first pay [is] going to be for you to go out and buy yourself a nice dress.’ I always said that since I was a kid…. So finally, when I went to work at Bourne Mills, I got my first pay. See, in them days when my sister and my brother get their pay, they had to go and bring it to my father. The pays had to go to the father, you couldn’t hold it. So, when I got my pay, I didn’t give it to him, I held onto it. But he never said anything. So, on his way home, we walked. My father says, ‘Don’t you have any intention of giving me your money?’ I said, ‘No.’ [He said,] ‘What do you mean, no?’ I says, ‘I promised Mom I was going to give her that for a dress and that is what she is going to get.’ But he didn’t say anything. She bought a beautiful navy blue dress with chiffon sleeves, I was so proud of her. But I kept my promise.
JR: Now, after that, did you have to turn your money in?
HA: Yeah, that I had to do, but that first one was for my mother. I was always buying her things.
JR: Your mother sewed her own clothes? And she made clothes?
HA: And that’s one thing about the teachers, they used to love my Mom … in them days, there were flares and pleated. I used to tell my mother how to make my dress. I used to tell her, ‘I want it this way.’ So one day a teacher said, ‘Hortense, you always look so nice in your clothes.’ She says, ‘How do you do it? Who does your dresses?’ I said, ‘My mother.’ She said, ‘Oh, very nice….’ I says, ‘I tell her how to make it. That’s the way I want it.’ They couldn’t believe it. I was only fifth grade [at Harriet T. Healy School]. Miss [Lillian Louise Kearney] O’Hearn. Fifth grade [teacher] … she was tough. Used to whack us around like nothing. Yup, used to whack us. Can’t do that today.
JR: So you did you learn to sew from your mother? Did she teach you how to sew?
HA: As much as I wanted to learn to sew, I could never learn. But … I learned to crochet … yet I couldn’t learn to sew.
JR: Did you have to do your chores around the house?
HA: Of course. My mother didn’t have to tell me what to do.
JR: What did you do?
HA: I did housework. Sometimes I come home from work, my mother would be ironing, I would say, ‘Mom, give me that iron,’ and I would do all the ironing. I used to do it. You know, washed floors. We used to have stairs. I used to clean all those stairs. I used to do the beds, everything.
JR: Did you have a washing machine?
HA: No. Scrubbed.
JR: How did you heat the house … was there a stove, a wood stove?
HA: It was a wood stove when my mother lived in the Bourne Mill blocks. That was a wood stove. When we were kids. But when I was about fifteen, we moved [to 582] State Avenue to this cottage [in Fall River, on the Tiverton, Rhode Island, Line, circa 1932]; we had a heater. [From circa 1925 to 1931, the Ribeiro family resided at 132 Last Street in Fall River.]
JR: So, they had to chop the wood?
HA: Oh, yeah, [and] buy coal. My mother used to save all year for coal. They used to buy a ton of coal, and a ton was $45 them days. My mother had to save all, put aside every week some money … to buy coal.
JR: And did a ton of coal last the whole winter?
HA: We tried. We used a lot of wood. And that is how mom used to cook on that and all. Although she had a gas stove … she seldom used it when the stove was [burning] during the winter. And she used to cook the roasts…. And my mother was a good cook.
JR: Did you have to learn to cook with her?
HA: Oh, yeah, but we didn’t fit in the kitchen with her because the kitchen was small and she was a little chubby…. Remember? She looked nice though, I was proud of her. I loved her so much. She weighed about two hundred pounds. But she was tall. But she looked good. And she had nice arms. One time she tore her arm and I cried because her arms were so nice, and I couldn’t see it. I was a softy when it was for my mother.
JR: What were some of her favorite recipes?
HA: Chourico [a highly seasoned Portuguese pork sausage]. We loved chourico. And no matter what we cooked, there was chourico in it. I don’t know. But chourico had to be in it. I used to love chourico. That is what used to give it the taste.
JR: And did she make her own bread?
HA: Yes, her own … bread. She used to knead it in a big pan and cover it and put it back on the stove and it used to rise up from the heat…. She made biscuits. She used to make a sweet bread [massa sovada]. She would make five [small ones]. We each had a sweet bread. The five of us. And she would make the big ones. She had the big ones with the egg. They used to put [whole] eggs [in them].
JR: You made those sweetbreads for Easter?
HA: Yeah. [Folar de Páscoa is an Azorean Easter tradition. Whole raw eggs, symbolizing Christ’s resurrection, are set into the surface of the dough before baking.]
JR: Did you cook like that for your family?
HA: Yeah, not like my mother but I cooked. I did pretty good. My husband didn’t starve. He’d eat anything because he never had anything so, no matter what I gave him, he ate.
JR: I am going to ask you if you had a radio in those days.
HA: When we were in the Bourne Mills Block, we didn’t even have electricity. There was no electricity. It was … kerosene. And my mother used to have a mirror in back of it [a lamp] and it gave a big light. You know…. So one time, I was in the Bourne Mill block, I was about six years old or seven. I tell my mother, ‘I’m hungry. I’m going to have bread and butter.’ That was all we could eat, bread and butter. We had nothing else. My mother said she was busy in the kitchen. So Momma says, ‘Wait a minute, when I get through with this I will give it to you.’ … at the time there was an old fashion ice box … and my mother had a big … bowl with fish in it. A big one, not a small one, a big one, on top of the ice box. So I opened the door of the ice box and I put myself over it and [was] swinging … back and forth. My mother said, ‘Get away from there. Don’t do that.’ [I said,] ‘No, I want bread, give me bread, Ma.’ And I’m swinging back and forth. All of a sudden, the ice box tips over, I escaped in time, or I would have been killed. There goes the fish slapping down on the floor. There we go all over the place. And I ran out. Oh, when I saw that, I ran out. My poor mother, she had to clean that up. So after she got rid of it, she says, ‘Hey Ester, come on, I will give you the bread now.’ I said, ‘No, never mind, Ma, I’m not hungry.’ And I didn’t go ‘cause she would have killed me.
JR: Now, when you were growing up with your family, did you have any illnesses,
any sicknesses or health care problems?
JR: Everyone was healthy?
HA: The normal, um, the only thing we got was the measles. My mother had the three of us with the measles. My two younger brothers, [Joseph, Jr. and Antone,] and I at the same time. My mother worked so hard. That’s why I would have done anything for her. She had to take care of the three of us. That’s the only sickness we had. Even now I haven’t, thank God at my age I have no cuts in my stomach, nothing. Thank God, no operations. Maybe I will get it after, but my body is like it always was.
JR: There was a lot of [sickness] during the Depression, it was hard to pay for doctors. And your brothers and sisters, were they born at home?
HA: They were all born at home. A lot of them, well, we had Dr. [Joseph Jacome Travassos] Lima…. He was our doctor; he never charged. My father used to work for him in his garden [at his home at 107 State Avenue in North Tiverton, Rhode Island]. But … we were lucky and we were never charged, you know?
JR: So … now to the mills. You started working at the Bourne?
HA: When I was fifteen.
JR: And then how long did that last?
HA: That didn’t last too long, because right after that the union butt in, wanted more money, and … the place wouldn’t give it to them. So they closed down the place, it was nine months. I’ll never forget that. That was when I went to get the job, I worked in about seven or six different places.
JR: Can you remember all of those places for us?
HA: I got the names here … Bourne Mills [844 State Avenue] United Rayon [Mills, 460 Globe Street ], The Rag Mill [Massasoit Manufacturing Company, 136 Pocasset Street], Maplewood Yarn Mill, [Maplewood Products Company, 1290 Stafford Road], Firestone [Rubber & Latex Products Company, 172 Ferry Street], Pocket Book Place [Gamma Leather Company, Inc., 288 Plymouth Avenue], Lyn Sportswear [Company, Inc., 129 Martine Street], [Frito-Lay, Inc., 638 Quequechan Street], Raytheon [Company, 600 Spring Street, North Dighton, Massachusetts], and Center Garment [Company, Inc., 62 County Street]. [I retired from] Center Garment. That’s a Jewish [owned company]. That was the better place….
JR: Tell me more about that.
HA: I used to be an examiner [in the finishing department], I used to examine the garments … I know his name was Abe. He was so good…. Trieff, Abe [Abraham] Trieff…. And his son, what was his name?
JR: Harvey, I think his son is Harvey.
HA: Harvey is one of them. Yeah, Harvey was the older one, the two brothers, Harvey and Nate…. [The ‘two brothers’ she is referring to are Harvey Ian Trieff and Richard Paul Trieff. “Nate” was Nathan Trieff, who founded Center Garment Company, Inc. in 1946. He was Abraham’s father, and Harvey and Richard’s grandfather.] And … I used to examine the material. They were very good to me. They were very, very good to me.
JR: Now, how about Firestone. That was a huge plant.
HA: Yeah, I worked all over Firestone. I did pillows [in Department 5], I did everything. Well, there is a picture of me over there doing pillows.
JR: I didn’t know they did pillows.
HA: They had pillows, mattresses, my husband used to work there, too. Mattresses, everything. I started working upstairs in the spinning, I was spinning the threads for Firestone.
JR: I thought they were always involved in the war, doing gas masks.
HA: During the war they did gas masks. They had a department upstairs for gas masks. I wasn’t working there then. This was after the war, I didn’t have a job so I used to get my check, they used to give us money then, you know? And they got me that job. That was the best thing they did.
JR: When you got there, to Firestone, did you have to get training to do this work? Did someone show you?
HA: Yeah, they had to show you what to do, naturally. All my jobs were trained, even at the shops, the old shops. That is how I worked in all these places. Every time Firestone laid me off, through the union – the union again – I had to go to get another job. That was how I found all these jobs.
JR: You paid into the union? Did you have to pay into the union?
HA: I think I had to pay twenty-five [cents] a week.
JR: What union was that? What was the name of that union?
HA: Oh, I don’t know. [United Rubberworkers of America Local No. 261] Oh, that was Firestone.
JR: The dress shops had a different union.
HA: Yeah. [International Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 178]
JR: Were you able to get a pension from those unions?
HA: Yes, I get very little. I only get thirty-some dollars from the union. Because worked only ten years. You have to work there ten years. But see, I neverworked there long enough, because as soon as Firestone called me, I used to go back. And they used to tell me I was crazy to go back. The boss didn’t want to let me go. They said, ‘No, don’t go.’ I would say, ‘Hey, that’s money in the bank. I am going to go back there.’
JR: How long did you work at Firestone?
HA: Oh, over ten years. [She was employed at Firestone on and off over a span of seventeen years.]
JR: So, was there any pension from the Rubberworkers?
HA: I got not much…. But uh, I got the insurance. It would have been through my husband, too.
JR: Now … about President Roosevelt. He brought in the Social Security [in 1935].
HA: He brought in a lot of things, God bless him. But that raise, that was beautiful, I still can’t get over it. I had hardly any money…. I would make three or four dollars a week. And the shop, Lyn Sportswear [Company, Inc.], that’s one of the first shops I worked in. Lyn Sportswear. But they were all nice, they were all good bosses. But Firestone … I had to clock and I had a certain amount. I always went in.
JR: Was that piecework?
HA: Yeah, I would always go over. And my boss would come and take it away. And [at] the end he would say, ‘God bless you.’ ‘Cause I always used to make more than I was supposed to. I was always a good worker. One time the big boss was watching me.
JR: I was going to ask you … about all these jobs. Some of them were dangerous. Some of them may have been dangerous. Like at Firestone.
HA: That was a men’s job. The [dangerous] jobs was mostly for men. Not for women…. I know I did the pillows. I did the pillows, that’s all I can remember. And … upstairs, I did the thread. And then I worked for Mr. [Clarence J.] Boyer [a foreman at Firestone], on something else…. I worked almost every department.
JR: Do you remember the salary there? What you were earning? And your husband?
HA: Thirty-two dollars.
JR: Thirty-two dollars a week. That was pretty good, wasn’t it?
HA: We were rich. Um, what you call it, I can’t think of it now. We had better times then, the Depression was over. So Roosevelt was there, it [wages] kept going up. That was the best paying place in the city.
JR: Now, was your husband drafted? Did he go into World War II?
HA: Oh, yeah, I wasn’t married to him then. He was in the National Guard and he joined the National Guard so he could have a little bit of money for himself. He had no money…. His grandparents didn’t have any money either. So he joined the National Guard so he could get some money. He would only get enough to buy things…. I think it was thirty a month. He didn’t make much. It was enough to keep him, you know, so naturally when the war started in ’42 … is when I got married.
PA: He was due to be discharged from the National Guard in January, 1942. Of course, [the Japanese attack on] Pearl Harbor was a month before that. So he was interned for the duration.
JR: He had to stay in the National Guard because war broke out?
HA: Yeah, he had to go. He was one of the first ones to go. He went to New York, he stood there for a while. Some place in New York, then from there they went overseas.
JR: Do you remember where he went overseas?
HA: Germany, England, and France.
JR: That must have been very difficult for you.
HA: Well yeah, I missed him. There was nothing I could do. Then my two brothers went, and my three brothers went. [John, Private, U.S. Army, enlisted February 23, 1942; Antone, Private, U.S. Army, enlisted August 15, 1942; Joseph, Private, U.S. Army, enlisted June 14, 1943.]
JR: Were they single at the time? [John and Antone were unmarried when they enlisted; Joseph was married.]
HA: My oldest brother never married.
JR: So you had three brothers in the war and your boyfriend at the time.
HA: Until 1945, the war was over.
JR: And did they all come back? They all made it back to Fall River?
HA: My husband wasn’t the same when he came back [Discharged November 8, 1945]. He was a sick man. They got the best of him. But he got over it. He was alright. My brother John was never the same [Discharged November 8, 1945]. They never were the same when they came back [Her brother, Antone was discharged December 10, 1945; and Joseph was also discharged sometime late in 1945].
JR: So during that time, you were always working at Firestone, or did you try the dress shops?
HA: I was working at the dress shops. Firestone was after the war.
JR: Okay. Now you went to Lyn Sportswear.
HA: That’s the first one.
JR: What kind of work did you do there?
JR: On the sewing machine?
HA: No, I didn’t sew. I was an inspector…. I tried, I tried to sew … and I couldn’t learn it. I learned everything. No matter where I went. Even one time I was at Firestone. I was doing something and this big boss come and was standing behind me, watching me. And after a while I never paid attention to him, I did my work. He says, ‘You seem like you like your job.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ He said, ‘You seem like you are enjoying it.’ I said, ‘Well, I have to do it. So I am doing it. It isn’t because I like it.’
JR: What did you really want to do? Did you ever have an idea on what you wanted to do?
HA: No, just happened some jobs I didn’t care for. But I would do it the best I could. Some people used to mess everything up, not me. That is why they always liked me.
JR: How about Gamma Leather. What kind of work was done in Gamma Leather, a factory with pocketbooks?
HA: Well, they made pocketbooks.
JR: But you have to sew those too.
HA: I put them together, they used to sew them, I put them together from what I can think of now. It’s been so long.
PA: I think you did the framing … once it was together you put the frame on, the metal frame.
JR: Let’s move ahead to your family because you got married after the war.
HA: I can tell you this about getting married. My husband was in the service … so the war come out with something that every month our family would get a check. Every month, you used to get a check. So it would be sent to wherever they [the enlisted men] wanted it to. So he told his grandmother, ‘Grandma, I am going to send a check to you, but you have to help me and save some of that money so I can get married.’ She is like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that.’ So he said, ‘Then I can’t send you that check. ‘Cause I am going to need it to get married when I come out.’ So anyway, so he started to get on my back, you know, we should get married. I said, ‘My mother doesn’t want me to get married. My mother says I shouldn’t get married while you’re in the service because you might die.’ Anyway, I got married without anyone knowing [on March 7, 1942; Manuel was on a twenty-four hour leave].
JR: Oh? In Fall River?
HA: Yeah, at [Our] Lady of the Angels church, my church. So I got married. Nobody knew. Just his sister [Josephine Amaral]. She stood up for my wedding and one of his friends from the service. So, finally, my mother … says, ‘Alright, you can get married…. My husband says, ‘We are already married.’ Do you know that she went to church and tried to have it annulled?
HA: The priest said, ‘Hey, go home, they are married. Go home, forget about it.’
JR: But you were already of age.
HA: I was twenty-five. My father never said a thing. But my mother never forgave my husband. But after, my husband was very good to her. You know? But it was a shock to her when she found out. So I said, ‘You didn’t want me to get married. So that was for the check to come to me.’ And I used to get it, I used to put it in the bank.
JR: So then he went off to the war?
HA: Then he went to [Fort Hood in Killeen,] Texas. He come back. Before he went to the war, overseas, he went to Texas. So I went and stayed there with him. What can I say about Texas? It was beautiful. I loved it. What did they say, a two-horse town? It used to have the sheriffs on horseback with their guns. Just like in the movies. Just like it. It was beautiful. They had mostly Protestant churches. But they finally made one [Catholic] church for us. So that was very good. I wanted to go to the regular church.
JR: That’s quite an adventure. Not a lot of girls went to Texas.
HA: Oh my husband wanted to be with me, although I couldn’t be with him. ‘Cause he was in the camp and I was living [in Gatesville, Texas] with a couple [Herschel C. Britain and his wife, née Alta O’Neal]. I still write to them. The couple I lived with.
JR: Now, when did he come back from the war?
HA: 1945. I lived with my mother for a while.
JR: You lived in Fall River when he came back?
HA: Yeah. And did you know, when we got married, you know my [mother] wouldn’t let him sleep with me? ‘Home. You’re not staying here. Get out, go home,’ [she said]. The poor guy used to have to leave.
JR: I guess he was trying to get along. He was trying to get along with your mother.
HA: He was soft. He was soft. I had a wonderful life.
JR: When he came back from the war, you set up your home in Fall River.
HA: I lived with my mother.
JR: And then when your husband came back, you had your home in Fall River?
HA: I lived with my mother in Fall River in a cottage. We lived right on the state line. Here is Fall River right on this side, and the other sidewalk was Tiverton [Rhode Island]. I lived there until I was put in an apartment up in the Common Fence Point [Rhode Island, circa 1946 – 1947]. And then after I lived [at 594] Bradford Avenue [in Fall River, from circa 1947- 1952]. We moved. My mother cried so much because I was always with her, I took care of them, my mother and father. I took care of them.
JR: So tell me about your family … when did you start your family? Do you have children?
HA: God, yeah. Got him.
JR: That’s it?
HA: Little rascal. He is one. I have a wonderful son, a beautiful son [Paul Joseph Amaral]. He was born in ‘48. My husband come back in ‘45, and he was born in ‘48 because I didn’t want kids. But my husband loved kids. Loved children, so I said, ‘Okay.’ So he says, ‘I would love to have five,’ and my husband, I loved him, I said I’d do anything for him. So I said, ‘Okay. We will have five, we will have this one first.’ After we got this one, my husband said, ‘Never mind, we don’t want five. He’s a rascal. Drives us nuts.’ Well, all kids are. He would say, ‘Ma, I wanna do this.’ ‘Ma, I wanna.’ ‘Mom, wait, I only go two hands.’ ‘Okay, do that with one hand do that with the other hand,’ I said. ‘I will fix you, you talk to me like that.’
JR: So you were a disciplinarian? You were tough?
HA: I had to be tough. But he’s good.
JR: I am thinking about after the war, and then some of the years you spent before the war. Some of the big events that happened in Fall River … the hurricane of [September 21,] 1938
HA: Oh, what a year, about that hurricane. Let me tell you?
JR: Yeah, I want to hear about that hurricane.
HA: Well, I used to work in United Rayon then, on Globe Street. And I used to work with my girlfriend [Mary Arruda], so we come out of work, and I don’t know if you ever heard of Shove Street. So we were walking and then it started to get windy, you know? So, in them days, our dresses were flared. So I told my girlfriend, ‘Gee, it’s kind of windy.’ My flare started to go up over my head and started rolling it in, and then it go up from the back, you know? So I started holding the front and the back, and the damn thing would still float, so I said, ‘The hell with this,’ and let it go. So the flare is going over my head. I had no slip on. I never wore slips them days. So up it goes. My girlfriend and I.
JR: That was during the storm? The hurricane was on its way?
HA: I didn’t know it was a hurricane then, I just thought it was windy until I got home.
JR: There were no weathermen to tell you about the storm coming – there was a big fire in [Fall River on February 2,] 1928.
HA: Oh, yeah, it burned the whole down[town].
JR: Down in the Granite Block area [on South Main Street]. Do you remember that? Describe that.
HA: You could see it from my house. All that smoke and all that.
JR: So you retired from the Center Garment. What year did you retire?
HA: I retired from Firestone.
PA: No, Center Garment. That was the last job you had, Center Garment. You were a floor lady.
HA: Oh, yeah.
PA: You were a floor lady at Center Garment. 1978.
HA: Good thing you came. I thought it was Firestone.
JR: And that was a supervisory position if you were a floor lady. You were like a supervisor.
HA: Yeah, I was smart.
JR: What kind of work did you do as a floor lady?
HA: I used to help with examining. I used to tell some of them what to do and not to do, you know?
JR: You had to distribute the work?
HA: Yeah. And I used to, it was nice. That [Abraham] … Trieff. When I retired … from there … he gave me a check of $100. Let me see. [He said,] ‘I hate to see you go, Ester.’ I said, ‘It’s time for me to go.’ ‘Cause I used to work hard. You know, I used to take care of my father. And my brother, my oldest brother never married. He lived with my father. And he had arthritis in his hands. And his fingers were all twisted…. Someone would have to come wash him and take care of him. He used to love me…. I used to take care of them. So my father used to say, ‘You know I took care of you, now you take care of me.’ I said, ‘That’s right, Dad.’ And I used to take care of them. My mother. I worked hard.
JR: So you retired in 1978, and what have you been doing ever since?
HA: Raising hell.
JR: I hear you are pretty active. I heard you have a schedule. You have a lot of things that you do?
HA: I worked at [a] Senior Center.
JR: Which one? Which center is that?
HA: In Tiverton [Rhode Island].
JR: When did you learn to drive?
HA: Oh, [in 1961] I was living [in Tiverton]. So I never had a car. I never drove. My husband drove. He never had car in his life, either. The first time when we got married, we bought a car, [a used Dodge described by their son as ‘tired’]. One time I was looking for him and I didn’t see him. I said, ‘Where in the heck is he?’ I go in the garage, he is in the car. Just he had never had anything in his life. He was sitting there admiring the car. Never had anything. That’s why I gave him anything he wanted. I used to let him have it.
JR: What kind of work did he do after the war?
HA: He went to Firestone. No, he worked in the King Phillip Mill for a while [as a bobbin filler]. And then after … Firestone was hiring all the veterans, so I said, ‘Why you don’t go try working there?’ because he wasn’t happy in that other job. And that’s how he got a job there. Me, I got a job by accident…. I got laid off, and so they found me this job, at Firestone.
JR: So did your husband teach you to drive?
HA: Yeah. I was ready to divorce him. But I went. It took a while, but I did it. It’s a good thing, I needed it. Because I was asking other people, I would depend on other people to take me. Sometimes they would forget to pick me up. I would be waiting at the bottom of the hill and they would forget me. So he says, ‘Honey,’ he used to call me honey all the time, ‘I’ll get you a car.’
JR: So I am thinking about all the other things that came in after the war. Like television. Do you remember getting your first television?
HA: Ah, yeah, my mother … got one, too. [And the telephone] … oh, when we get the telephone, we didn’t know what to do. We never had a telephone in our lives. And finally we had a telephone. We were living with my mother and was still single. We didn’t know what to do with the telephone, then we got a radio. We had a radio when we were young…. Because my brother and I used to get Out of bed without my mother knowing, we would go in the parlor and listen to the radio without her knowing.
JR: And when did you get your television?
HA: It was on Bradford Avenue [1947-1952].
JR: What do you think about computers today?
HA: I think it’s wonderful. And not only that, computers, kids six years old doing that. I can’t get over it. I don’t even know one button from another. And they know it. I feel like a jerk. The way they are so smart.
JR: So what do you think is different today than years ago? If you were going to tell me about Fall River then and life today, what’s different from those two periods of time?
HA: Oh, I don’t know. It’s much nicer now than it was before.
JR: That’s right. I really appreciate your time today.
HA: I hope I was a help.
JR: I think it was very insightful.
HA: Was it helpful?
JR: I know how important it was for you to help your family. And then you had a very interesting life.
HA: I had a beautiful life. I was a rascal. I used to drive my mother crazy. I was always climbing in trees…. She would be looking up, calling, ‘Ester! Ester! Hortenzia!’
JR: We are going to end this now….
HA: Yeah, Okay.
JR: Thank you so much. Ester, I am going to call you Ester.
HA: Yes, I rather you did!
HA: I’m tired, I never talk so much in my life.