FALL RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Women at Work: An Oral History of
in Fall River, Massachusetts
Interview with Ledora “Doris” Silveria Soitos, née Isidorio
Interviewer: (AS) Ann Rockett-Sperling
Interviewee: (LR) Ledora (Isidorio) Soitos
Additional Commentary: (JR) Joyce B. Rodrigues, Fall River Historical Society
Date of Interview: June 3, 2015
Location: Soitos residence, Taunton, Massachusetts
Ledora “Doris” (Isidorio) Silveria Soitos was born in Fall River on May 3, 1921.
Ledora’s story captures the history of the village of Mechanicsville, located in the north end of Fall River, and the struggles and determination of her family to make it through the Great Depression.
Mechanicsville. The Isidorio family lived and worked for three generations in Mechanicsville. The area was a densely populated, bustling neighborhood that developed after the Civil War during the “era of new mills.”
Mechanicsville was dominated by the Mechanics and Weetamoe Mills. Mill housing, churches, schools, and businesses clustered around the new mills. By the 1960s, Mechanicsville would undergo a dramatic transformation, and Ledora’s neighborhood would disappear due to urban renewal and the expansion of the Interstate Highway System.
The Isidorio family. Ledora’s maternal grandfather, James Emmett, immigrated to the United States from England in 1884. Her maternal grandmother was born in the United States of French-Canadian ancestry. They met and married in Fall River in 1887 and raised their family in Mechanicsville. He was a spinner; she a speeder-tender (i.e., an operative who sets up, operates, and oversees machines that spin fibers into yarn).
Ledora’s father immigrated to the United States from the island of St. Michael in the Azores in 1892, and met and married Ledora’s mother, Anna Emmett, in Fall River in 1909. They both worked at the Sagamore Mills, he as a doffer (i.e., an operative who “doffs” bobbins from a spinning frame and replaces them with empty ones), and she as a speeder-tender.
There were ten children in the Isidorio family, four boys and six girls, all born at home with a midwife in attendance. Ledora was the sixth child. An older brother died as an infant of pneumonia in 1911. An older sister died at the age of seven months in 1918 at the height of the worldwide influenza epidemic.
The Isidorio family lived in the Brick Blocks on Otto and, later, Monte Street, the Brick Blocks, originally built for workers of the Davol Street mills. As mills went into receivership and began to close in the 1920s and 1930s, some of these properties were acquired by banks in Fall River and rented out.
Ledora recounts her childhood: caring for her younger siblings, coal stove heating, family traditions, neighborhood games, swimming in the Taunton River, dish and bank night at the movies, winning the family’s first radio, electric lighting, and bringing lunches to the Sagamore Mill in dinner pails to members of the Isidorio’s extended family.1
Ledora was twelve years old when her father passed away in 1933 at the age of forty-four, leaving his wife to raise eight children. The family struggled to make ends meet. All of the children went to work as soon as possible and brought their pay home to support the family.
Ledora was able to attend high school. She took the commercial course and graduated in 1938 from B.M.C. Durfee High School. With no office jobs available and no work experience, she took a night course at Bradford Durfee Textile School to learn to operate a power-stitching sewing machine.
The Isidorio family moved to Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1938 to live near Ledora’s mother’s sisters. Ledora, her sister and brother, and two neighborhood girls commuted from Taunton to work in Fall River.
Ledora worked from 1938 to 1941 at Cape Cod Dress Company, where her sister was the floor lady, and at Monarch Textile Corporation, Inc. making chenille bedspreads and bathrobes. Her narrative clearly describes the factory work processes and the impact of the union on employees.
Ledora met her husband in Taunton in 1939. They were dating when they heard on the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Francis Silveria Soitos had enlisted in the Army in January 1941. He was immediately called up to active service stateside.
Francis and Ledora married in April 1942. He was sent overseas in 1944, saw action in Europe, and was awarded the Bronze Star. He was discharged in October 1945.
After the war the Soitos made their home in Taunton and raised one son and one daughter.
After marriage, Ledora worked in Taunton at the Glenwood Stove Company, manufacturers of the well-known Glenwood cooking stove; and as a supervisor at the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant.
She retired in 1987 at age sixty-six after forty-nine years of employment. She is active in senior centers.
- See further reading for more information on the Fall River dinner pail in: A River and Its City: The Influence of the Quequechan River on the Development of Fall River, Massachusetts, second edition, 2013.
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.
AS: Ledora, could you tell us when and where you were born, please?
LS: Yes. I was born at 38 Otto Street in Fall River, Mass[achusetts], May 3, 1921.
AS: And how about your parents, where were they from?
LS: My mother [née Anna Emmett] was born in Fall River, 1889. My father [Manuel Isidorio] was born [in 1889]. I think [it] was [in] St. Michaels [Lagoa, São Miguel, Azores]. My father.
AS: In Portugal?
AS: São Miguel.
AS: Oh … what did your parents do for a living?
LS: Worked in the mills.
AS: Do you remember what mills?
LS: Sagamore [Manufacturing Company, 1822 North Main Street, Fall River], was in the Sagamore, down the North End.
AS: Oh, the Sagamore … How many children were in your family?
LS: My mother had ten children. All born in the second floor cold-water flat in Fall River, with a midwife.
AS: Oh my goodness. How many boys? How many girls?
LS: Uh, four boys and six girls. But one, the first boy, died after birth [Hilario Isidorio died on January 13, 1911, at the age of one month and one day, from pneumonia. And I would have to count down. And one of the girls died at six months [Nora Isidorio died October 1, 1918, at the age of seven months and twenty-four days, from bronchial pneumonia]. They were born before me. [In 1910, the death rate in Fall River for births under 1 year of age was 239.5 per 1,000 for cities with populations of 100,000 or over. This rate was the highest in the state of Massachusetts and the highest in the United States. Source: Bureau of the Census, Bulletin 112.]
AS: Where did you fall in the line?
LS: I fell in, let’s see – sixth. I was sixth one down. Fifth one died at six months. [Hilario; Joseph; Mary Lillian; Frank; Nora; Vincent John; Ledora; Irene Alice; Thelma; Maria Dolores.]
AS: Oh, that’s too bad. Could you describe the house that you grew up in?
LS: Yes, I can. I was born at 38 Otto Street, which is off Lindsey Street in Fall River … the North End. And it was the ‘Brick Block’ [Weetamoe Mills Block]. They were called ‘Brick Blocks’ because the [Weetamoe] mills on …  Davol Street, when they were working, people from the mills had to live in these Brick Blocks. But the mills were closed so they rented them. The bank owned them and rented them. So, we lived on the second floor. We had two tenements on the second floor. A dollar-and-a-half a week for each one because we needed the four bedrooms…. They were cold-water flats. And they had indoor plumbing, but no showers or nothing.
AS: Did you have any duties in the house as a child? Did you have anything you had to do? Did you have to help?
LS: Oh, well, really, yes, we had to help my mother all the time. And, of course, I had to wheel the babe – the two youngest ones [her sisters, Thelma and Maria Dolores]. I remember the two youngest ones being born [in 1925 and 1929, respectively], but I don’t remember that much about them. Just that the midwife told us we had a baby sister.
AS: She came to the home?
LS: Yeah…. My younger sister [Maria Dolores] was born … November 1, 1929, and the stock market crashed the night before [two days before, the Wall Street Crash occurred on October 29, 1929, aka ‘Black Tuesday’]. So my father wouldn’t let us go out for Halloween. We didn’t know my mother was having a baby in the next room. We didn’t know until the morning, when they told us that my mother had something to show us. And it was my baby sister. She is still living; she is eighty-six.
AS: Now did you go trick-or-treating in those days? Did children go from house to house like the children do now?
LS: No, we never did that. We dressed up in old clothes. Grabbed a rag bag and something made ourselves. We would go down the streets singing, yelling, and maybe ring a few doorbells. No candy, not in those days.
AS: But it was still fun, I’m sure.
LS: We had a good time. And we were out. We had a good time in the neighborhood.
JJR: How did you heat that home?
LS: Coal stove in the kitchen, the tenement we lived in. And my brothers had to live in the … had to sleep in the other tenement, which was, there was a hallway. These Brick Blocks were built with a stairway going up two first floors, two second floors, and two third floors. But they were mostly all empty. In fact, our corner house was empty. I remember a man living downstairs when I was small, but he was gone. So, the second floor, my mother rented, a dollar-and-a-half for each side. We had a coal stove. Cold bedrooms. There was no coal stove in the other apartment where my brothers slept. And so, my mother had a little cloth store in the kitchen of the other apartment. She went to the mills, my father brought her to the mills and she bought remnants. And people would come and buy. It was cheap. But I’ll tell you, she had a legend that a lot of people owed her. So, that was only until we moved. We had to move in … 1932. We had to move. The bank was after us. We were the only tenants left in two long blocks. We couldn’t find a place with eight children. But we did on  Monte Street [in Fall River].
AS: Is that in the North End, also?
LS: Yes, not too far from where we were. Bank-owned. That was a house that had two [three] tenements. So, we had the first floor; we rented the first floor. And it had four bedrooms. Till my father died.
JJR: Was that also coal stoves?
LS: Yes, always a coal stove. I remember my father standing on the thing, when we’d get up to get ready to go to school, with our clothes in front of the oven door. But, anyway, I can remember him, because he’d build a fire that died during the night, he built it. But then he got sick and died. He died on January 30, 1933. He died in Truesdale [Hospital, Inc., 1820 Highland Avenue, Fall River].
JJR: How old was he? He must have been a younger man.
LS: And my mother is forty-four, a widow with eight children. My oldest brother [Joseph] was twenty, I think. So, you know, there was, when you think of it – I was twelve. And the youngest [Maria Dolores] was three.
AS: Had he been sick? Your father, had he been sick?
LS: Yeah, he had been sick off and on, and when he went to the hospital, they wanted to operate. See, they didn’t know what it was, his stomach. It probably was cancer. [His cause of death was chronic interstitial nephritis, a kidney disorder.] But, anyway, uh, that is when he died. Of course, my mother never married again. We got by, I don’t know how.
JJR: How did she get by?
LS: Well, my oldest brother [Joseph] worked. Not in an office or anything, he worked in the mill first. He graduated 1930 from [B.M.C.] Durfee [High School] and he went to work in the mills, Sagamore mill [Manufacturing Company]. I don’t know what he did. Something to do with the yarn [he was a spinner], it goes up in the things. I think it was about $12 a week then. My sister [Mary Lillian] graduated 1931 … from Durfee and she went to work in the sewing shop right away, down Steep Brook [section of Fall River] … it was the Paroma Draperies [Inc., Weaver Street, Fall River]. And it was up on the third floor, I think, and they had to make these bedspreads and draperies. And they were all very heavy work; $9 a week for forty hours.
AS: Was that because she was a woman, or was that because that was the pay for that particular job? She made less than your brother made.
LS: Yeah, and he worked in the mill nights … I think, he probably made $10 a week, maybe twelve, but they had to bring the pay home, you know, to help?
AS: Help the family.
LS: Yes, and then my other two brothers [Frank and Vincent John] went down. They didn’t want to go to school. They went to [James Madison Morton] Morton [Junior High School] and graduated. My father said, ‘You have to go to school or you have to go to work.’ Frank, he looked all over. Went to all the mills. Wanted to sweep the floors. So my uncle [Antone D. Medeiros] in Taunton [Massachusetts], that is how we got involved in Taunton; my uncle in Taunton worked in Presbry Factories [Presbry Refactory Corporation, 600 Somerset Avenue]. He said to my mother – his wife [née Elizabeth Emmett] was my mother’s sister – he said, ‘If you want to let him come here and stay with us [at 893 Somerset Avenue], and we won’t [charge] anything, and he can bring his pay home … we will take him in.’ Because my aunt [Elizabeth Medeiros] ran a restaurant [at 260 West Water Street, Taunton] for the workers at Glenwood Range [Company, 300 West Water Street]. So, it was no problem.
AS: So he could work for her?
LS: He got the job, so he moved to Taunton. Then my brother, Vincent … is [a] year-and-a-half older than me; we was eighteen months apart. So, he came along. He don’t want to go to school. He graduated from Morton. So, he had to look for a job. Well, my uncle took him in and got him a job. So there were two out of the family.
AS: But they were bringing their paycheck home to your mother.
LS: Yes, because they didn’t charge them anything for food or anything.
AS: So, they must have been young, about fourteen, maybe?
LS: Well, yeah, because …
LS: Yeah, it was Morton freshmen. We went to the ninth grade in Morton.
AS: So the ninth grade, they would have been fourteen.
LS: So I had caught up to my brother and we both graduated at the same time. But I wanted to go to school. They wouldn’t let me. I wouldn’t stay out of school for anything.
AS: You liked school? Where did you go to elementary school? Before Morton.
LS: Before Morton was Borden [Grammar School, 501 Brownell Street, Fall River], I think. Borden school. And before that was Fulton Street School [160 Fulton Street, corner Wellington Street, Fall River], which was the North End. And that was first grade and second grade.
AS: How about Christmas and the holidays? Thanksgiving. Do you have any memories of the family with those?
LS: Yeah, well, first, the first Christmas I can remember now, it was in 38 Otto Street. Um. We never had a tree. Never had a tree. But, when I remember that, my father going downtown. We had the trollies then. He came home with two Christmas wreaths. This is my favorite. For a quarter. My mother said, ‘Why did you spend twenty-five cents on two Christmas wreaths? You know we need the money.’ He said, ‘No, we have to have something green in the house.’ So they went up in the window, on the second floor. And we strung a string behind the coal stove and we had a stocking with the orange, apple, nuts, and candy. And no toys. No games. We might have had a book or something. But it wasn’t much.
AS: Not like today, of course.
LS: No, too much today. But we were happy. We had family. We played games on the kitchen table, a big round kitchen table. And we turned the table cloth over and we had a Parcheesi game. Every night. It was always a baseball game going or softball game going. The kids jumping rope. And summer was swimming down at Weetamoe Yacht Club, down the end of Monte Street. That is gone now.
LS: That was a big club there. People used to drive down Monte Street; it was a dead end at Monte Street. Gold Medal Bakery [506 Lindsey Street, Fall River] was at the other end of Monte Street. And we lived, when we finally moved a second time [in 1935], we moved in the six-tenement house [at 1 Monte Street, Fall River], which was on the banks of the Taunton River, and down below was Weetamoe Yacht Club [2 Monte Street]. Only they, the guys that had money or something, belonged to that. Because they had a raft [dock]. They had a big meeting room. They had a place where you could swim. It was the Taunton River, but we didn’t care, that was where we did our swimming. That’s true, everything that was in that beach, we brought down there from our house.
JJR: Now they had rides down there? They had rides on Bliffin’s beach [at Steep Brook]?
LS: I don’t remember rides, but I remember going down [to Bliffin’s Beach] and you had to have a nickel to get a basket. Because they wouldn’t let you in to swim unless you had a basket to go in the bath house. And you couldn’t sneak in, because they had a shower going. So, if you had your clothes on, you had to go through the shower. Or if you did get in, you couldn’t undress on the beach, because there were all signs and guards. But it was nice, Sunday, it seemed more like the beach.
AS: So you put your clothes in a basket?
LS: Your shoes and everything. They had a boy attendant with a key. And a number, you got that, but that would cost you a nickel. But we walked down there, too, from where we lived.
AS: Now how about your neighborhood? Did you have a lot of friends in the neighborhood?
LS: Yeah, every family had children. So, we always had some games going on. In fact, Charlie [Charles M.] Braga [Jr.] from Charlie Braga Bridge [Charles M. Braga, Jr. Memorial Bridge, dedicated April 15, 1966] was our neighbor [at 37 Otto Street] with his three sisters [Adriene, Agnes, and Delia], and we were friends. But he was [two years] older than me. He graduated from Durfee [High School], [in fact, he left during his sophomore year,] and then joined the [United States] Navy right away [enlisted September, 1939]…. Of course, he was the first one killed [in World War II from Fall River] at [the Japanese attack on] Pearl Harbor [on December 7, 1941]…. And they lived on the, not the ‘Brick Block,’ but they lived on the tenements on top of the stores … on  Brightman Street [in Fall River. The stores] had tenements up there. And that was where the Braga family lived. But … it’s funny I don’t remember his mother [née Maria Figuerido] and father [Charles Braga, Sr.]. I remember his sisters, ‘cause Delia and Adriene were friendly, more my age … but I remember him very well because he sometimes, he would come play baseball or something. But we always had games going. Of course, times were different.
AS: Is that where you shopped? Mostly on Brightman Street at that time? Is that where most of the shops were?
LS: Yeah, they all were there and the Royal Theatre [277 Brightman Street, Fall River] was down the road.
AS: You have a good memory. A wonderful memory.
JJR: Now you went down to the movies a lot?
LS: At five cents to go to the movies and we would try to save if we had pennies. Well, like, I used to help my brother with newspapers. Deliver newspapers. And he would give me some money on payday. And I, we would go to the movies Sunday afternoon, a nickel.
AS: Do you remember any of the names of the movies?
LS: Of the movies?
AS: Any of them?
LS: I remember the first talking picture [The Jazz Singer, 1927], was that Al Jolson? I’m not sure. The first talking one, was that. And a lot of times my mother would let us, she would go with us … Saturday night was ‘Bank Night.’ And if you went Saturday night, of course you had two movies [and] news; you were in there a long time.
LS: ‘Bank Night,’ they would put your name in a box and draw a name in the middle. And my sister Irene’s name came out and she won $35.
AS: That must have been amazing.
LS: I don’t remember what year it was, because she is younger than me. But that closed [circa 1956], I don’t know why, but it was still open when I moved away.
JJR: It’s been closed for quite some time now. There is a business there now.
LS: So, the one who ran it [Antone Tavares Moniz, Sr.], I don’t think owned it, [he was the manager]. Well, he might have owned it. I don’t know. It’s right near where the cemetery [North Burial Ground to the east, and St. John’s Cemetery to the north] comes down. See, our entertainment. A friend of mine, in the summer time, spring and summer, at night, she would come to get me and she would say, ‘Let’s take a walk over the [Brightman Street] bridge.’ And we would go walk over … to Somerset [Massachusetts, across the Taunton River to the west]. Because all the guys were on the bridge trying to get the breezes. There may have been men fishing then. And so that was … the entertainment in the summertime. But we all went to the movies on the weekend. We always managed to find a nickel somewhere and go.
JJR: I remember my mother telling me about dishes at the movies.
LS: Yeah, we did, we got dishes, and the Durfee Theatre [28 North Main Street, Fall River], I think, first started it. And then the Empire [Theatre, 166 South Main Street], and I remember going way up to, I told you I couldn’t remember that name, up to…
JJR: The Plaza [Theatre, 381 South Main Street, Fall River]?
LS: The Globe [Theatre, 226 East Main Street, Fall River]. Yeah, and I was telling her that my neighbor in the six-tenement house [Roland Rapoza], we lived on the first floor, one tenement. And he had a girlfriend in Somerset. So, he asked me if I would go to the movies. He gave me his pass to go on the trolley. He gave me the money to go in the movies so I could get the dish for him. So he saved a set of dishes to give to his girlfriend. That was fine. Then my sister had somebody who would pay for hers. So the two of us would go out to the movies for free.
JJR: And is that how you got to the movies? On the trolley?
LS: Yeah, the trolley. I loved those trolleys. We moved to Taunton [in 1938]. They had already done away with them.
AS: Now, how about a television. Do you remember when you got a television?
LS: My first, can I tell you about my first radio? We didn’t have any radio. In 1932, that was before, when we moved to Monte Street. A store opened up on Brightman Street. A grocery store [Hormisdas Heroux & Son, 177 Brightman Street, Fall River]. And for opening night, they were giving away a radio. A little table-top radio. And you put your name in. So, all kids and we went in, and we put our name in, put it in the box. They are going to draw it on Saturday night, who could win the radio. And, of course, we had just moved to Monte Street and it had electric. We had gas in the Otto Street [tenement] … gas bulbs [mantles]. So anyway, we all went down, the kids. All went down to the store to see who was going to win the radio. Well, my friend, one of my friends, went up and they asked her to pull the name. Ledora Isidorio.
AS: Oh my goodness.
JJR: Oh my gosh!
LS: I couldn’t believe it. So the man says, ‘Oh, no, you have to have a grownup. We can’t give you the radio. You have to have a grownup.’ I said, ‘I’ll go home and get my father or my mother.’ So he said, ‘Alright, we will hold it for you.’ So, the neighborhood was Brightman Street, and we lived on Monte Street, which was around the corner. Well, my father was out on Brightman Street further down near one of the stores. Just outside. And, I says to him, ‘I just won a radio at the store, but I need a grownup with me to get it.’ He says, ‘They don’t give away radios free in this time…. I am not going to that store.’ Oh, I started crying, I ran home to my mother. My mother said, ‘I’ll go with you.’ We had that radio and were they glad in my house…. We had electric in that tenement.
JJR: Okay, so when did that happen? When did electricity come in?
LS: See, I don’t remember when, because … up until 1932, we lived in the ‘Brick Block,’ which was gas. All gas. You had … a flame [gas light] that come out of the stairway [wall], because we lived on the second floor – at night, so we could see. And up top … we bought a globe. They called them a gas globe [mantle]. In the drugstore for a nickel. When that globe [mantle] would burn out, my mother would send us to the store to get a globe [mantle]. But, otherwise, it was a lit flame that came out in the hallway, and you had to light it at night. That was [in] the ‘Brick Block.’ But this one, we moved to, I don’t know when they got electric, but it must have been … just before that or something. But not like we have electric now. It was one or two plugs.
AS: Enough for the radio?
LS: But we got the radio. Philco [Radio Corporation]. I can see copies. I don’t know what happened to that radio.
AS: You see pictures of the radio?
LS: Yes. So that was then, and the television wasn’t until [after] I was married, 1947, when I got my first TV.
AS: Oh, when you were married. Now, when you were in school, did you have any plans for when you finished? Were you thinking of doing anything?
LS: Well, I took a commercial course because one course was home economics, which is cooking and sewing, and we had that at [James Madison] Morton [Junior High School], which was nice. I liked that. But, I couldn’t see any job in that, you know? And … so, I said to my mother – she didn’t care what we did – so I says, ‘Well, I am going to take commercial course because I want to work in an office.’ I couldn’t take a college course, because I knew I wasn’t going to college. So, I had short hand, typewriting, everything to do with commercial.
JJR: That’s what my mother took.
LS: Yeah, in classes [they] used to show us how to answer the phone, and talk. So, when I graduated [in June, 1938, from B.M.C. Durfee High School], I wanted an office job. There weren’t the office jobs. I think they were paying $12 a week for office. And but, there weren’t, you had to go to Thibodeau [Business] College [Inc., 130 South Main Street, Fall River]…. Thibodeau College, you had classes. You had to go one year and they would find you a job. Well, I couldn’t afford that. So, my brother went a couple of months, with his newspaper money, but he wanted a car, so he quit, which was the worst thing. He ended up in the mill. So, um, I start looking for a job in a sewing shop. My sister [Mary Lillian] had transferred from Paroma Draperies [Inc.] up to [the] Globe [section of Fall River]. She was working in a better dress shop [Cape Cod Dress Company, women’s silk dress manufacturer, 987 Broadway, Fall River]. She was very good at sewing; I don’t know if I remember her taking any lessons, maybe just what she had in school. So, um, [when] she was working up there in the Paroma Draperies, she made $9 a week. I don’t know what she made up at the Globe, because she made the fronts of the dresses, which was the hardest part. And then, she graduated to the [position] floor lady, so she taught the ones coming in.
AS: So, she was the supervisor?
LS: Yes, she was a supervisor, but there was more than one. But when you were working you had to holler; my voice is loud because of that. You had to holler over the power machines, row after row of power machines. And you had [to holler when you] needed a needle or needed thread, and they would have bins on the side where they bring you the dresses partly put together, or parts that you were going to assemble. So, she wasn’t my boss; I called her ‘Boss.’ She worked with the better, the front, and the girls who made the fronts, to teach them how to do it. So, I started there. She got me a job in there. I started making shoulder pads, the flat ones, and belts. And then I went to put ribbon on the bottom of the hems, all the hems had ribbons that went to a seam binding, and went to another girl on a machine, where she made the hems. And I also did, finally, they would teach me – not my sister, though, I had another floor lady – the sides, closing the sides of the dresses. So, I worked there from September, 1938, or maybe it was August, to when I went to [Santa Maria] California, when my husband [Francis Silveria Soitos] was in the service [United States Army, enlisted January 16, 1941, discharged October 8, 1945]. That was 1943. So I never went back. [Later, when] I went back [to visit], the floor lady was still there. She said, ‘Why ain’t you come back?’ Because everyone had gone to the war [World War II]. I said I was going to look for office work in Taunton.
AS: Do you remember your first day when you went into the mills? Do you remember what that was like? Were you nervous?
LS: Well, my first job, when [my sister] got me a job, wasn’t sewing, it was on a table. They had … the whole floor was Cape Cod Dress. They didn’t do any cutting or anything [because] that all came from New York [City] by truck, [and] if the truck didn’t get there in the morning, we didn’t have any work. We would have to sit around. Or, if you lived in Fall River, you could go home, and then they would call you. But, you didn’t get paid if you went home. I already lived in Taunton. So, anyway, um, I worked, um, they had loops … belt loops, they used to make them with a seam. So they had a hook, a long hook. You put the hook in, catch the end, and pull it through. Gosh, did I have it tough. What the girl next to me, she had done that. She was like a whiz. Finally, I guess, I don’t know how long I stayed on that, but that was twenty-five cents an hour. For $10 a week. And that is what I got for sewing. I don’t know how long.
AS: What time did you go to work in the morning?
LS: Well, I was already living in Taunton, see, when I got the job in September. See, I graduated in June, , from [B.M.C.] Durfee [High School], so, all summer, I had been looking for work. So, we went in the morning. My brother, Joe … he worked in Fall River, and my sister, of course, worked in Fall River. And then, we brought two girls that lived down the road and they worked in the same shop, on the table. And so, that is how I got my …
AS: So, you left early? You must have.
LS: Oh yes, I came at eight [o’clock a.m.] to work – to start working. And we got through, it was at four, I think. Four o’clock, and we had an hour for lunch.
AS: And could you wear anything? Did you have to wear anything special? You would wear whatever you wanted?
LS: Wear whatever you wanted with no problem. You never had any breaks, the only time was when you could get to go, and you could go to the toilet and back. And that was it. We had a lunch time.
AS: Did you bring your lunch? A lunch bin?
LS: Oh yeah, we would bring our lunch.
JJR: How long did you have for lunch?
LS: I don’t know if it was a half hour. I think it was an hour we had for lunch. But then if the work stopped, and say they didn’t have any more work to give you, you punched out. You didn’t get paid. So then, you had to stay there until, like my sister might have had work and I wouldn’t. Well, she had to work. She always worked a full week. I don’t know what she made for a pay, but it was more than she made at Paroma Draperies, which in 1932 was $9 a week. I remember my mother saying that she depended on her, you know? And my brother, he wasn’t married either. So, that is what happened there. I know I went to Har-Lee’s [Har-Lee Manufacturing Company, dress manufacturers, 425] … Pleasant Street, [Fall River]; they were hiring. So, I went there in the summer [of 1938], and went in the morning when they went to work. I went with them, and up Pleasant Street. Stood in line, from 7:30 [a.m.], I think it was, and I didn’t get through that line and get into the office to get an interview until 12:00 [noon]. And I don’t know, I can picture her there, but I don’t know her name. She says, ‘Where you worked? What is your experience?’ I said, ‘I don’t have any, but I went to [Bradford] Durfee Textile School [64 Durfee Street, Fall River] at night to learn how to run the power machines.’ Because you had to learn how to thread them. And my mother’s was a treadle [sewing machine], you know, that you pull back and forth, at home…. Anyway, she says, ‘You don’t have any experience?’ I said, ‘None.’ She says, ‘Oh, we are only hiring girls with experience.’ I said, ‘How can you get experience if no one will give you a chance? I know how to run the machine.’ She said, ‘I’m sorry.’ That was it. So, after that, my sister got me a job, because she could see I wasn’t going to get a job.
JJR: Now those power machines, you had to press them up against your leg? Wasn’t that it?
LS: No, let me see how they worked. Each power machine … I think, must have had a starter, but they were hooked to the wall, with a main power switch. And the floor lady would go up to the power switch for each aisle, so these power machines were [on] both sides, [and] you faced the girl who was working them. I don’t know how many rows. And then, we say eight [o’clock a.m.] we started, and I think it was twelve, we would stop for lunch. She had to go to that box and pull the switches.
JJR: Okay, very good.
LS: That would shut off the power. But, we must have run our individual machines ourselves. Because if you were too slow … you wouldn’t keep the job. So I can’t remember. It wasn’t the foot, it must have been the knee. But, I don’t remember that.
AS: Do you remember anything? Does the mill have a certain smell? Or could you smell oil or anything?
LS: No, that must have been an old textile mill, I would say [Laurel Lake Mills, closed, 1931]. I think we were on the third floor and had to walk up three flights of stairs. No elevators or anything.
JJR: So, were you paid by the dozen?
LS: No, this was not piecework, it was by the hour. And when I started there, I remember it was twenty-five cents an hour, an hour for lunch, I think, and you got $10 for forty hours. $10 a week. So, that’s what you get if you were lucky enough to work the full week; sometimes we wouldn’t. Maybe the job that I was doing, they didn’t have any work ready from the other girls – the ones who did the waist, then the girls who joined the skirts, and then, there would be the collars. The sleeves, all different rows did that. Then, they put them all together by a symbol, with a piece of paper, and it had the size and the style of the dress and everything, so you would match the fold and match them up to give them to the … and then they collected them, the dresses, or whatever part you were doing, and passed them on. And when they were completely assembled, they went to the presses, which were rows of pressers. I think all the women there, they had those big …
AS: That you pull down, the pressers?
LS: Yeah, and they had tables of women also that did handwork. Sew the snaps on, sew the buttons on, whatever needed to be done to complete the dress. Then, they were put on racks after they were pressed, and they would ship to New York [City]. Everything went to New York. They, uh, the cut parts. We had a man in our place, that was his job, on the table. When that work came from New York, he had [to] assemble the parts.
AS: Like the patterns?
LS: Yeah, he didn’t have to do cutting. He assembled the sleeves, and into bundles, because each girl …
JJR: Oh, he tied them.
LS: Yeah, yeah, he used to put them …
AS: Were there many men in the mills? It sounds like mostly women that were there.
LS: There were all women sewing.
AS: No men were sewers?
LS: That man, I remember, and sometimes, when I was waiting for my sister, I would help him. He would say, ‘Do you want to help me?’ Because he would always work over. And I would go over and he would show me where to place these things. And then, he was the one, the mechanic, if the machine broke down. And the boss … he was the boss of everybody [Jack Kolen, manager]. You know?
AS: The top?
LS: Yeah, he was mostly over where the presses were.
JJR: Do you think he was tough? Was he a good boss?
LS: I don’t know, I never had anything to do with him, but he used to watch the girls who had to sew the snaps on, because they had to be fast, you know? And sew the buttons. They didn’t have machines to do that. I can’t think of what his name was.
AS: You never saw the owner or heard anything about the mills? He never came to visit?
LS: I didn’t even know who owned the mills. I imagined that the company must have rented that floor. Because I think down below there was a grocery store [Worlds Super Market, 967 Broadway, Fall River]. Way over. And down below us, on those other floors, I don’t know what was there.
AS: Now, what mill was this? Sagamore [Manufacturing Company], that you are talking about or the one up the Flint [section of Fall River]?
LS: Up the Flint. No, not the Flint, [the] Globe [section of Fall River]. The dress [manufacturer] was Cape Cod [Dress Company]. They were supposed to be better dresses because they were rayon. They [Har-Lee Manufacturing Company] made cheaper dresses, they were cotton.
LS: My son [Stephen Francis Soitos], a couple of years ago, said to me, ‘Ma, let’s go to Fall River; I want to see where you lived.’ I says, ‘Where I lived is gone.’ [He said,] ‘Oh, let’s go.’ So, I said, ‘Okay.’ We got in the car … and [in Fall River] … we had to go down Davol Street and cut over. And I’m telling him how to go, ya’ know. I knew some section where that was all built over. So we got over on, uh, Lindsey Street, and then was Norfolk Street … And then we got on, ah … is that Wellington Street?
AS: Yeah, yeah.
LS: And then we went down Weetamoe Street … and that’s where the mills are [Sagamore Manufacturing Company, 1822 North Main Street, Fall River]. See, my grandmother [Mrs. Manuel Isidorio Sr., née Filomena Souza] lived down there [in the Sagamore Mills Blocks on Sagamore Street]. They used to have, uh, car houses … not long tenements, but I remember going down there to bring something from my mother. Uh … that’s where they were when they came [from the Azores in 1883], I guess. [The family resided on Sagamore Street from circa 1907 to 1932.] That must have been all knocked down [the structures on Sagamore Street were razed circa 1933]. They went on  Langley Street [in 1933].
LS: Ah, see … I was young. I had to be awful young because that’s when [my grandfather] was still [living]; he hadn’t gotten burned [to death] yet. He got burned [on August 22,] 1926, so don’t forget, I was uh, in 1926, I was four years old.
AS: So that would have been your grandfather.
AS: How did the fire start? Did they ever…?
LS: Well, he had a little farm there and a shed for tools and … [Manuel Isidorio Sr. owned six lots of land on Brayton Point Road, Somerset, Massachusetts, and what was described contemporaneously as ‘a tiny house … a garden, and … an orchard.’]
AS: Over in Somerset?
LS: He had a cot to lay on when he was sleeping. He used to walk from Fall River to [Somerset] … planting potatoes. He had a lot of grapevines … his friends used to come and help him … tie the grapevines and everything. And so, uh, it seems that … he worked all day there, and at night he must have laid down on the cot … to sleep and he probably had had beer or wine – wine probably in those days, they made their own wine – and he must’ve fallen asleep smoking.
LS: There was a house next door [Manuel Pimental Valero Sr., 1969 Brayton Point Road] but they didn’t notice [the flames] until [five o’clock] in the morning. So, of course … that was in 1926, and he was only, what, fifty? [He was fifty-five years old.]
AS: So, so he would have been your father’s father?
LS: Yes, and I didn’t even ever see him. I don’t recall, well, I don’t remember him. I think … they said it might have [been] due to alcohol. But I never remember seeing him. But I do remember seeing my grandmother. She used to come up and she’d get mad because we couldn’t understand Portuguese. And, oh, she was … she didn’t learn English. But we were supposed to learn Portuguese, but my father never spoke Portuguese to us; my mother knew a little bit, I don’t know how, from the people coming to the store, I guess.
AS: What nationality was your mother?
LS: Her father [James Emmett] was English because he came from [Mossley,] Lancashire, England, [in 1884] and her mother [née Marie ‘Mary’ Desmarais] was [of] French Canadian [descent, born in Port Henry, Essex County, New York], so she spoke French. Her and her sisters, they get together…
AS: Did you learn any French from her?
LS: French, they all spoke French. She had three sisters [Mrs. Antone D. Medeiros, née Elizabeth Emmett; Mrs. William Irving, née Mary Emmett, later Mrs. William McGovern; and Mrs. Joseph V. Nelson, née Minnie Emmett] and one brother [George Joseph Emmett]. Two sisters [Elizabeth and Minnie] lived here [in Taunton] and the other sister [Mary] lived in Boston … and the boy … after World War I … he married [Eva Grace Vargas] and went to live in Trenton, New Jersey. I never saw him.
JR: You had a lot of relatives.
LS: Oh, my goodness. What about us, with eight children?
AS: Now, how about going back to the mill? Do you remember what you took for lunch? What, what type of things did you take?
LS: Up to, uh … when I worked?
AS: When you worked.
LS: Usually it was cold cuts. My mother would make the sandwiches for us in the morning, ‘ya know, what we would take, my sister [Mary Lillian, and me,] we never went to a restaurant to eat. No.
AS: No. So you took a … sandwich or….
LS: Whatever. But the prices were reasonable. When I look in the paper! Prices are so unreasonable.
AS: Would you take water? Would you take anything to drink … did they sell anything at the mill?
LS: No, no I can’t remember what we had to drink, must have been water. We had soda [but] I don’t remember drinking soda, I’ll tell ‘ya, but … you know, you think of these things and you say, ‘Well, gee, we lived through it.’ Right?
AS: And you did fine.
JR: One time, you were telling me that you brought lunches to the mill.
LS: Yeah, that’s when … ah … my sister, the oldest one [Mary Lillian] and me, I remember that. My [great] aunt, my mother’s aunt [Mrs. George Graves, née Rosalie Desmarais], had [several] children … [Rose; Mary; John; Moise ‘Moses’; George, Jr.; Joseph Francois ‘Francis’; Clara; Caroline; Mary Louisa; Lillian] but they weren’t all working at the same time in the mills, but most [of] the girls were, I think. So, they had to have a hot meal for, for lunch – this is in the summer time – and she lived not too far from us [the Graves family resided in a tenement at 1 Monte Street, Fall River, from circa 1931 to 1962; prior to that, they resided at 192 Leonard Street, Fall River]. Oh, she had a table went from here to here to the kitchen. She baked pies; she did everything. They had this [sectional] lunch pail, the bottom, [an] enamel pail with a handle, and she’d have the name [of] who it was [for] – Louise or Mary, or whoever it was – and she put in the bottom the coffee; I don’t think they had much with tea, I think it was mostly coffee. She put that in the bottom, that was hot, and then a little [tray] – I wish I had one – she’d put it in, that [section] would have the mashed potatoes and the meat or whatever that she had cooked, and then on the top [they] had the dessert … I would think mostly pie. My mother only made pies, my mother wasn’t good at cakes but she was good at pies. And then it had the cover, and my sister and I would each take at least two; they gave us ten cents a week and we’d go down to the mill … luckily, I think they were all in the same mill. And they would meet us; we’d go in and … the noise … that’s why my voice is so loud, ‘ya know. My mother’s was loud, too. My daughter [Mrs. William Joseph Aloisa, née Francine Anne Soitos] says, ‘Ma, you talk too loud’.
AS: Now, was there a union – any type of a union in the mill in those days, or…?
LS: When I went to work there I didn’t know they had a union, um, because they didn’t say you have to join the union or anything. And … but then I found out that after I was working there a while, uh, the union – the girls with the union, I guess – must have complained or something, so they reduced the hours, the forty hours to thirty-five hours, but the same pay.
AS: So they, so they made…
LS: So, they really didn’t gain anything. So then, [a] New York [City] dress shop had a strike – New York, the same union. So, then they wanted us at the Cape Cod Dress [Company] to go on strike – which it had nothing to do with us – for support of them. Well, my mother needed the money. My sister … she says to me, ‘We’re not going to go walk outside on the sidewalk and not get any pay; pay for gas to come here.’ So, she says, ‘We’re not going to go on strike.’ ‘Cause it wasn’t helping us. Well, they might have had fifteen out of the whole shop that did this – morning, noontime, night. Some of them came from Taunton.
AS: Carried the signs?
LS: Just walking back and forth, in support of the … shops in New York. So, ah, we stayed working.
AS: How about when you went it; did they yell anything at you?
LS: Oh, yeah, they were really upset. My sister didn’t care. She was a union member but I wasn’t, ‘cause I hadn’t joined the union yet. I don’t know why, I don’t know if you had to work a certain amount of time, but anyway, first thing you know … it got settled … [and] they came back to work. Well, they were mad, ‘ya know, because they lost maybe three or four weeks of work.
AS: You never get that back.
LS: So, as soon as they got back in I lost my job because I didn’t go out on strike. My sister didn’t, but I did. I lost my job. So I said to my sister, ‘What am I going to do now?’ And, uh, so I went down, um … now, this was Globe Four Corners [section of Fall River] and the mill was here. I don’t know what street that was that goes down to the water or whatever [Globe Street].
LS: Well, way down the end and to the right, I remember, was more mills. So, I went down there, looking for a job and they had a sewing shop there [Monarch Textile Corporation, Inc., 206 Globe Mills Avenue, Fall River] but you know what they made? They made chenille spreads and the [bath]robes. Do you remember the chenille robes, that had the design, ‘ya know?
JR: I sure do.
LS: Of course, I had experience working on power machines, so I got hired right away. I don’t remember the pay there, isn’t that funny, I don’t remember. And my cousin [Mildred Irene Medeiros] that lived here [in Taunton], she’d never worked in a sewing shop, so I got her a job [at Monarch Textile Corporation, Inc.]. So she worked, I don’t know if we worked piece work, I think we worked piece work because we used to race. You know what chenille was? Well, it was different than a sewing job on dresses because the yarn came through from up above, and as you sewed the design you got the sewing stitch on one side, but underneath it cut it. How it did it, don’t ask me. And the girl next to me, she was a whiz; I don’t know how long she worked there, but I remember that. And the robes – I didn’t work on spreads, but robes – had big skirts and you started in the middle with a pinwheel and it went round and round. I don’t remember, I don’t remember how many weeks, or how much money I made there. My cousin stayed; they called me back to the Cape Cod Dress afterwards and I joined the union, I guess they let me join the union. And then I worked there until I went to California; my husband [Francis S. Soitos] wanted me to go to California ‘cause he was in the service.
AS: Now how did you meet your husband? Where did you meet him?
LS: Right when we moved to [892 Somerset Avenue,] Taunton. I never had a boyfriend, I’ll tell ‘ya, never – not in high school or … he was a neighbor across the street, and they used to come over in the neighborhood. We played croquet, of course, that was a big thing … when we moved onto the street. Five girls, they used to say ‘the house with five beautiful girls,’ and we’d laugh. Then … one of the neighbors had a croquet set in the yard, so that was a popular place every night, so we’d go there, and I used to talk to him, but it was nothing. They had a general store at the end of the street where we lived. He lived on the other street and I lived on this street. And my mother always had to get something at the store for next day’s meal. It wasn’t a supermarket, it was … a little meat market/grocery store. So we’d go in, my sister and I, go every night, we’d walk down. There was this fella, gang of fellows there from the neighborhood and he was one of them, but I never paid attention to the fella and now, first thing you know, he asked me if I wanted to go take a walk with him at night. So that started it off.
AS: And how old were you at that time?
LS: Ah, well, I was graduated from [B.M.C. Durfee] high school, so … I would say it was at the end of ’39, so I was just eighteen. And he was, too, because he graduated Taunton High [Class of 1938]. So anyway, it was just a normal thing, walking – nowhere else. And then, the first real date was, um, I was over to my [Medeiros] cousins’ across the street [at 883 Somerset Avenue], she [her cousin Mildred] and I trying to decide what we were going to do for the night – no carnivals around or anything. I heard a horn blowing at my house across the street – my mother had gone out to a bingo game with her sisters – and I looked out. I went over, I says ‘What do you want? What are you looking for?’ He says, ‘I’m looking for you. Do you want to go over to the Raynham Auto Drive Theatre [Route 138, Boston-Taunton Turnpike] tonight? It’s opening up tonight [Gala opening Thursday, October 5, 1939].’ And I had just finished telling my cousin, ‘Oh, would I love to go to that Raynham Auto Drive Theatre…. It’s opening up tonight,’ and she says, ‘You can wish again ‘cause you’ll never go.’ I come back and told her … And so I said [‘Yes’] so we went; he took me [in] his father’s old Chevrolet and then we went across the street – the big milk bottle that’s still up on Route 138 [Frates Dairy Milk Bottle, 785 Broadway, Raynham, Massachusetts]. We had a cone of ice cream; that was my first date.
JR: Oh … thirty-five cents a person, no charge for your car. So he could take you to the movies for seventy cents.
LS: Yeah, and then he took me for ice cream; he must have spent his … spending money because he didn’t have money. His mother [née Mary R. Silva] and father [Antone Silveria Soitos Sr.], too, were poor.
JR: And it was October, 1939.
AS: And look at this, it says: ‘Dress as you like! Smoke and relax as you please in the privacy of your own car.’
LS: Now, do I save things, or not?
AS: You certainly do.
AS: Now you were saying something about your name. We were saying how unusual Ledora is. Who did you say you were named after?
LS: My mother was a spinner. She went to work … in the mills [I] … when she was, uh, twelve [circa 1901]; she had to leave school, she only went as far as fourth grade, I think, she told me. [Based on the location of the Emmett residence, she likely attended Lindsey Street Primary School, grades one through three, and Borden Grammar School, Brownell Street, corner High Street, Fall River, grade four]. And she went to learn to be a spinner … that’s what she did, all the time she worked in the mills. And she had a young girl that started there; she was a doffer [an operative who removed full bobbins, spools, or caps from the machines and replaced them with empty ones]. She … cleaned the spindle for my mother, and all the others, not only my mother.
AS: Now how old were you when you married?
LS: When I got married [in Taunton on April 18, 1942], I was twenty and my husband was twenty-one, but he was in the Army over a year. See, he wanted to get married; he was afraid he was going overseas.
AS: Now how many children did you have, Ledora? How many children did you have?
LS: Two [Stephen, born 1947, and Francine, born 1951].
JR: Soitos? What’s the background of your husband, the Soitos? We were trying to figure that out.
LS: Background? His father [Antone Silveria Soitos Sr.] came from Faial [Ilha do Faial, Azores], Portugal [in 1916]; sixteen years old. [His parents, Joseph Silveria Soitos and his wife, née Enacia Andrade] … had thirteen children…. They couldn’t afford it, so, [at] sixteen, they sent him over here to his aunt in Dighton [Massachusetts] to work on a farm. But my mother-in-law [née Mary R. Silva] lived here [in Taunton].
JR: I want to get that background. You say he’s from Faial? How does that name come up, because that’s an interesting name.
LS: The name got spelled wrong here [when he arrived in the United States]. It [his papers] said S-O-I-T-O-S – but his brother, Souto. His brother came after him and it’s S-O-U-T-O. But they never had any birth certificates.
AS: No, they didn’t.
LS: So, it ended up when they said it, I guess. He [my father-in-law] didn’t know any English or anything, he just had his name on his thing. He was sixteen, he can’t speak a word of English…. His aunt and uncle were sponsoring him, so, uh, that’s, that’s how he got here.
JR: We want to jump back a little bit to, um, your, uh, date night … at the movies.
AS: You must have gotten home late?
LS: Yeah, my mother was not home. My mother was not strict, believe me. I was stricter with my kids than what she was with us.
AS: And your father had already died.
LS: Yeah, and she had her two sisters here [in Taunton] and there was somebody they knew with a car that could take them to Rhode Island somewhere … to a bingo game.
JR: So you met your husband … and after that first date, what happened?
LS: Well, then I didn’t see him, he didn’t make any overtures for over a month, so I said, ‘Oh, God, that’s it, no more.’ Then, he met me – he only lived on the other street, see – so if you went to the store … but, evidently, he must have been staying away from me. But then, all of a sudden, he came over and we started dating. That was it, that was it, so then he had to go in the service. He had joined the National Guard ‘cause there were no jobs. He was trying to get a job after high school; he graduated the commercial course … from Taunton High. So, he joined the National Guards; that was before I …was going with him. Wanted to join the Navy, but they said he was too heavy for the Navy, they wouldn’t take him. The war [World War II] wasn’t on yet. So, uh, he joined National Guards just to get the extra money. Well, [President] Franklin [Delano] Roosevelt put the National Guards to go to camp for a year and he went to Camp Edwards [Barnstable County, Massachusetts]. His outfit [was] all Taunton boys. They stayed altogether, all through the war, and not one got killed. [Francis S. Soitos saw action in the battles of Normandy, Ardennes, and Central Europe; he was awarded the Bronze Star.]
AS: That’s amazing.
LS: Wasn’t that? One got hurt – the cook – with his eye, but he came home. That’s amazing. They never got bombed; it would have been terrible.
AS: So you remember, living through that, the war?
LS: So, then, we weren’t married yet … we were going out together. His father had this old Chevrolet. I never knew there was a Cape Cod. We went to Camp Edwards; his father drove, mother and the two sisters [Anna M. Soitos and Eileen Soitos, later Mrs. Ennsencio Coelho]. He had two sisters and a brother, but the brother [Antone Silveria Soitos Jr.] didn’t come with us. And … so we went to Camp Edwards to see him. So we went there and then [again on] December 7, 1941, we went there all day with him – went out to eat and everything – and then left, came home about seven o’clock at night. Got into [his] mother’s house and [his] brother was listening to the radio – they had a radio – and he says, ‘Ma … the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.’ ‘Where [is] Pearl Harbor?’ ‘Hawaii’. ‘Where’s Hawaii?’ I says. He … starts saying Roosevelt was on [the radio] then, so we listened, and about maybe an hour or two later, in comes Francis, my [future] husband; they’d just heard it. All that time we were on Camp Edwards, they never heard it. They let them all come home if they could get a ride, so … home he came. And he stayed the night and then went back the next day. So, uh … he stayed there, of course, then…
AS: Then they got sent…
LS: Roosevelt says [enlisted men] can’t get out. He was supposed to get out in January, already had one year. They said nope, you have to stay in; there’s going to be war. So he did. His outfit came to Plymouth, [Massachusetts,] which was nice; they built bunkers and … guarded the coast. So, while he was in Plymouth – I don’t know how long he was there – he came home one night [and] said ‘Uh, let’s get married.’ I says, ‘I can’t get married.’ He says, “What do you mean?’ ‘I don’t have any money. I have twenty five dollars in the bank.’ He says, ‘Well, I’ve got money; my mother saved my money that I sent home to her to use.’ Instead, she saved it for him. I says, ‘Oh, no. I can’t. My mother will be upset.’
AS: You said you were how old? You were only twenty?
LS: Twenty. My mother will be upset because five already inside of three years got married. Five in my family. I would’ve been the sixth. I said, ‘Oh, no. My mother would be upset.’
AS: She’d lose your pay?
LS: No, no, but I was going to live there, ‘cause I wasn’t going to follow him around, or do anything … he was in Plymouth. So I said, ‘You’ll have to tell her that you want to get married. I’m not telling her.’
AS: Did he give you a ring?
LS: Yeah … I had the ring the year before.
AS: Did he get sent away?
LS: In three weeks we got married.
AS: So did you have a traditional [wedding], did you have a dress like your sister had?
LS: We went to church [Sacred Heart Church, 29 First Street, Taunton], of course. Bought my dress and then I had my veil, and I bought an outfit with the money I had; my mother had let me kept those three weeks’ pay. We got married and then we had breakfast at my house. And then we … went to Fall River; I wanted the pictures at [Mrs. Anna E.] Jette’s [Studio, 225 South Main Street, Fall River] ‘cause that’s where my sister had her pictures, and we went to the Chinese Restaurant down on Main Street there [Eagle Restaurant, 33 North Main Street, Fall River] … all of us, the wedding party…. You know how much the meal was? A dollar a meal. Full meal – a dollar a meal. He paid for everything, he was so anxious to get married. Well, my mother couldn’t pay for it, I couldn’t pay for it.
AS: And then he got sent to California, did you say?
LS: Oh, no, not right away. We went to New York [City] for our honeymoon, for three days. Then, I went to Plymouth for the rest of the week that I took off from work. A year I worked, and he stayed there in Plymouth for awhile … he was armored, field artillery. That’s a big tank. He start going first down south, then he ended up in the desert in California, then he ended up right on the coast. I figured he was going to go to the Pacific … that was in 1943. So, uh, he says, ‘I’m probably going to be here about three weeks. I want you to come out by train to visit.’ I says, ‘I can’t. I can’t go out there to visit by train.’ He’s on the phone, and he says, “Yeah, because there’s two other fellows, and their wives, they’re talking their wives into coming, so the three of you can come.’ Four days to go across to California from [Taunton]; four days it took us. We changed trains in Chicago [Illinois] and got a Pullman [car]. Went from here, twenty-one years old.
AS: Did you have the money for that? He sent you, you had enough money to pay for the ticket?
LS: Well, for that year, see, I was getting an allotment for being married, which was the best. So, I could still pay my mother room and board, the same as she was getting [before I married]. She didn’t lose anything, and I had that whole extra that I was saving. But we went there April 1 … 1943. We had a nice depot here, to get our train tickets and our reservations. The conductor says, ‘Where are you three girls going? You’re going to California?’ We said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to go visit our husbands.’ He says, ‘You might know, it’s April Fool’s Day.’ We start laughing. We thought it was a big joke, and we went. It was quite an adventure. We didn’t have any trouble. I think what impressed me the most [was] when the conductor came through and said, ‘Los Angeles, next stop.’ So, uh, we were getting our suitcases; we slept in a Pullman. You remember Pullmans?
JR: Yes, I do.
LS: Well we had one. I slept on the top because I was the smallest. And that was … women and men that was staying in that Pullman.
JR: All women?
LS: No, it was soldiers, sailors. So, that’s how safe it was. We had a main washing room here, and then we had the ladies’ room to change, and they had the men’s room, and then you had a dining room to go eat. And our Pullman would turn into two coach seats to sit in during the day. And … when the Pullman porter says, ‘Next stop is Los Angeles,’ but he didn’t say how long, we jumped up, start getting [ready] and we’re standing there, and he says, ‘It’ll be a while yet.’ What impressed me was the orange groves. Oh, they were so beautiful … beautiful orange groves, all the way, and everybody was remarking about them, all these soldiers, sailors. I don’t think you saw one civilian person on that train. We got off in Los Angeles. Then, we had to take a train – an old rickety train – to Lompoc [California], which was the closest to where they had found rooms for us, and we got on that train at night and we got to Lompoc and then from Lompoc we had to take a bus into Santa Maria [California], which was a little town, [a] farmer’s town, but they had a Greyhound bus terminal. And that’s where they were waiting for us. Well, he [my husband] sent one fellow – he couldn’t come to Los Angeles – he sent this other fellow [whose] wife was with us … to Los Angeles to meet us at the trains to tell us what to do…. We had rooms that a woman [Mrs. Jamieson] rented out [at 609 West Mill Street] … to the servicemen. She had a … Cape Cod house, so there was three bedrooms upstairs plus the hallway was a sitting room, and a bar, and she let us have kitchen privileges for breakfast, but the rest [of our meals] we had to eat out. But, they went back to their camp which was twenty-two miles [away]. [Ledora remained in California for ten months, and arrived back in Taunton on February 2, 1943.]
AS: Do you remember the name of the camp? What camp it was?
LS: Yup, Camp Cooke [United States Army Armored Training Camp, Santa Barbara County, California]. It was about twenty-two miles from Santa Maria.
AS: This has been wonderful. You have so many amazing memories.
LS: Well, my mother had a lot of stories. We used to ask her about Fall River. Well, I’m so glad you came.
AS: We thank you so much.