FALL RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Women at Work: An Oral History of
in Fall River, Massachusetts
Interview with Marie Eva Rochefort, née Gagnon
Interview with Mrs. Rene Joseph Arsene Rochefort, née Marie Eva Gagnon
Interviewer: (AS) Ann Rockett-Sperling
Interviewee: (ER) Marie Eva (Gagnon) Rochefort
Additional Commentary: (JR) Joyce B. Rodrigues, Fall River Historical Society
(DT) Doris Eva (Rochefort) Bernier Thibault, Eva’s daughter
Date of Interview: July 29, 2015
Location: Rochefort residence, Fall River, Massachusetts
Marie Eva (Gagnon) Rochefort was born in Fall River on March 25, 1916.
Her parents, of French-Canadian descent, were born in Fall River and met and married in 1915 at the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church. Eva’s paternal and maternal grandparents, the Gagnons and Turgeons, immigrated to the United States from Quebec, Canada in the 1880s, met in Fall River, and were also married at the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church.
Notre Dame was established in 1874 to serve the growing French-Canadian population located in the city’s east end — “the Flint Village.” At its peak, the parish served a population of over 10,000. In 1900, 40 percent of Fall River’s population of over 100,000 claimed French-Canadian ancestry.
Throughout the New England states, French-Canadian immigrants developed their own churches, schools, newspapers, cultural and political organizations, and social clubs. In Fall River, entire sections of the city were French-speaking. The Flint neighborhood, in particular, was a stronghold of French culture.
There were four children in the Gagnon family. Eva was the oldest, followed by a younger brother and two sisters.
Eva started working in 1931 at the age of fifteen at the Charlton Mill, a historic textile mill, built in 1911 with Earl P. Charlton as president. Charlton was a successful businessman who had established a chain of 53 five-and-dime stores and in 1912 became a co-founder of the F.W. Woolworth Company.
The Charlton Mill was the last granite mill constructed in Fall River.
Eva met her husband at the Charlton Mill. They married in 1936 and lived in the south end of Fall River in former mill housing originally owned by the King Philip Mills. They had one daughter.
Eva’s career took her to factories in Fall River: Charlton Mill, Shelburne Shirt Company, Made Rite Potato Chip Company, Bonnie Products Corporation, Elbe File and Binder Company, Inc., and Gorin’s, Inc (department store).
Eva’s story begins during the French-Canadian cultural ascendancy in Fall River and continues through the boom and bust years of the textile industry, the Great Depression, the rise and fall of Fall River’s garment, manufacturing, and wartime industries, and the striking social and technological changes that followed.
In this interview, Eva said the best thing about her life is her family. Her family was close and even as it grew, remained close. In March 2016, Eva celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family, friends, grandchildren, step-grand-children, great- and great-great grandchildren, and received well wishes from the City of Fall River, the State of Massachusetts, and the White House.
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: So, could you tell us, Eva, when and where you were born?
ER: Well, I was born [at 130] Barnes Street, [Fall River, Massachusetts, on March 25, 1916]….
AS: Were you born in the house?
ER: Oh, yeah, I was born in the house. I had [my daughter, Doris Eva Rochefort] in the house, too. In those days that is what, no hospitals. And in my days I had her [at] home [at 431] Kilburn Street.
AS: So what did your parents do for a living?
ER: My father [Joseph Arthur Gagnon] … he done a couple … he was selling insurance [circa 1927], but he had a wagon and a horse, and he delivered some milk, you know, bottles of milk [for the Fall River Dairy Company, 840 Bedford Street, circa 1922-1924 and 1928-1933; and Guimond’s Dairy, 359 Robeson Street, Fall River, circa 1935-1941]. I used to live around there. And my uncle [Jean Baptiste Couture] had a little store there, too [Central Ice Cream, 781 Eastern Avenue, Fall River, managed by his wife, née Marie Berthe Turgeon, circa 1939-1940]. We lived on Eastern Avenue. [The Gagnon family relocated to 774 Eastern Avenue circa 1926.]
AS: So, what school did you go to?
ER: I don’t remember; it was on Eastern Avenue.
AS: Oh, the Watson maybe.
ER: Okay, well, the [Samuel] Watson [Grammar School, 935 Eastern Avenue, Fall River] is further up, I think. That was when I was older….
JR: I’m thinking that maybe that school isn’t there anymore.
ER: No, it’s not there. That was when I was like a young kid…. I went to Notre Dame [Parochial School, 34 St. Joseph Street and 226 Mason Street, Fall River, circa 1921-1925]. I lived around there. Notre Dame [de Lourdes Catholic] Church and school.
AS: Did your parents, did they work in the mills?
ER: My mother [née Marie Eva Turgeon] did, just for a little while, not that much, you know? Because she had two kids. I was the oldest one. But, she had some time off, and then she knew … someone to take care of us. And she went to work. But not that long.
AS: What did you have for brothers and sisters? You were the oldest, who else did you have?
ER: I had another sister [Marie Helene Yvette Gagnon]. She was eight years younger than me. I had a brother [Joseph Arthur Armand Gagnon], so I was the first one. Then I had another sister [Marie Rita Gagnon]…. So we were four.
JR: Were your parents from Canada, maybe?
ER: Yes, some of the [grand]parents were. But [my parents] were [born] here.
AS: So your grandparents were from Canada [and] your parents were from Fall River?
AS: Canada. That was said, it was ‘Cana-daw.’
JR: But your mother and father were from Fall River?
ER: Yeah, [both were born in Fall River].
AS: Now, how about the house where you grew up, what was that like? Do you remember? What the house was like?
ER: On Eastern Avenue … the house is still there.
AS: So, what floor did you live on?
ER: The second floor. [The house was a three-family tenement.]
AS: Do you remember anything about it? Did you have like a stove?
ER: We had a big belly stove, you know? We must have burned some wood. And coal.
AS: When you were young, did you have to do anything in the house?
AS: Your parents did everything?
ER: That’s why I’m okay. I didn’t do no work.
JR: You mean you didn’t cook with your mother? You didn’t try to cook?
ER: No, in our days, they didn’t do that. But later on, I made up for it.
AS: How about your family, did you do things together, like on a weekend when your parents weren’t working?
ER: Not much … you know, yeah. We stick around the house.
AS: Did you play outside?
ER: Yeah, and I used to play baseball with … Loretta [Marie Lorette Lilianne Turgeon]. Is that my cousin, my niece? [In fact, ‘Loretta’ was Eva’s aunt, born to her maternal Turgeon grandparents on August 7, 1916. Thus, Loretta was slightly less than five months younger than her niece, Eva.] And we used to play ball in the yard. And this was my bat. You see? They throw the ball, that is all they had. Back then, they had nothing.
AS: Right, you didn’t play marbles or any of that?
ER: Oh yeah, I would win sometimes … I would lose. I go home with a bag full, the next day it was empty, you know?
JR: How about hopscotch?
ER: I done all that. I jumped rope.
AS: Now how about on the holidays, like Thanksgiving. Was it just your family? Or did other people…
ER: In our days, it was just the family, and then as we got older, we went to the in-laws and all that. I was still young, but good enough to go to them.
AS: You went to visit relatives?
ER: That was what it was like.
AS: So, on Christmas, did you hang up stockings, or did you not do that?
ER: We had nothing.
AS: Not like the other kids?
ER: No, we had nothing.
AS: But you must have gotten some little presents for Christmas.
AS: You were happy with what you got, I’m sure.
JR: Did you speak French in your house?
ER: All the time. And when we went to Notre Dame [Parish], they went English. You know? But, I was better at French than English, but it didn’t take me long to get back at it.
AS: But you still speak French, I’m sure. Can you read French also? Can you read it? Or just speak it?
ER: I can read better than speak it. I still know my French, I look at that and ‘di-di-di-di-di.’ I’m slow though. But I am better … yes.
JR: The nuns? [Roman Catholic religious congregation, Religieuses de Jésus-Marie.] You had the nuns at Notre Dame? Your grandparents, were they in Fall River?
ER: They were around. Yeah.
AS: And so … your family, what did you do for fun? Did you do anything? Did you go anywhere?
ER: Not that much … I am going to bring my uncle [Joseph Alfred Gagnon] in…. I am in a [buggy]; he had the buggy. What do you call the horse and buggy, and I [will] get the picture of that. I am sitting next to my uncle [circa 1920, he was a clerk for Lussier Brothers, meats & groceries, Elzear and Gaudiose Lussier, proprietors, 1395 and 1572 Pleasant Street, Fall River]. See, that’s all. And then … we played in the yard, and there was, um, a hill, two or three houses from us, and then we go down there when there was snow, we go down there. Very simple. Very simple.
AS: Life was simpler then, wasn’t it? So much simpler.
ER: Yeah, it was. I feel as though I’m rich now. You know?
AS: Because you have a beautiful home, with relatives. How about school? You said you went to …
ER: Notre Dame [Parochial School].
AS: And you remember anything about it?
ER: Notre Dame? Um … let me see. No, Notre Dame was all right. Then I went to, and I had to change when I moved, to [Samuel] Watson [Grammar] School.
AS: Oh, you went to the Watson school?
ER: Yeah, and I went, um, what is the name of that one … it was like a high school. Which one was it, I don’t know? It was a high school, and I didn’t like the gang that was there. They used to hang in the corner…. But, so I didn’t like the place, so, I stayed home.
AS: So you didn’t go to [B.M.C.] Durfee [High School]?
AS: No. You stayed home?
ER: No, I left Durfee and came home. And I didn’t go back. So the truant officer in those days come and get me. One man comes over and says, ‘Why you aren’t in school?’ He was nice though, you know? I told him, ‘Well, my mother is sick,’ you know. ‘She is super sick,’ and I says, ‘that is why I stayed home for her.’
AS: Was that true?
ER: Yeah, I mean, you know, that was … for him. That was for him.
AS: Oh, for him?
ER: So, he must have seen my mother, and she looked okay. He looks at me and says, ‘I think you should go back to school.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ So my uncle [Jean Baptiste Couture, the husband of her mother’s sister, née Marie Berthe Turgeon] had, he was a first [hand, a section hand in the] … Charlton Mill[s, 109 Howe Street, Fall River]. And he was working there, my uncle. He says, ‘You want a job?’ I says, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Go get your school card.’ So I went to get my school card and I started to work.
AS: How old were you?
ER: I was fifteen or sixteen. So he gave me a job. And then I met my boyfriend [Rene Joseph Arsene Rochefort]. After so many years of working there.
AS: And is that who you married? Was that your husband?
AS: Oh, so you met him when you were young.
ER: Yeah, well, see in those days, you know … you either worked or you don’t work, or you just hang around or you go work in a store. But today, they all go to college.
AS: It’s different.
ER: So, it’s a different age.
AS: Right, and times are different. But I’m sure in those days, all your friends worked.
ER: And they had no money. They couldn’t, you know.
JR: How about your clothes in those days. Did you make your own clothes?
ER: No, my mother bought that. And a man would come around the house. $1.00 each time he come. And we bought some of that. But, no, I just had enough.
ER: A cotton dress, and this and that.
AS: And how about in the mill. Did you bring your own lunch … when you worked there?
ER: No, because I was working from six in the morning to noontime. So I go and come back home. And the week after, I was working at noontime to six. Six to twelve, and the other one was noontime to six.
JR: So you had different shifts.
ER: Two shifts.
AS: So you didn’t have to take a lunch, because you would be home for lunch. Now how about your friends? Do you remember any of your friends when you were young?
ER: Well, we didn’t go out, we didn’t do anything, but we had neighbors.
AS: In the neighborhood.
ER: Across the street, so we made friends there. And so I, I was there until I got married and moved away from there.
JR: How did you get to the mill … did you walk to the mill?
ER: No, we started with the [trolley, Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway Company], on Eastern Avenue, downtown, get out downtown. Get one going to the south end. Because that was pretty far. Yeah. And then the next week we would be twelve to six. See, six in the morning. So I used to get up early in the morning. And now, when I see them do that, I say, ‘Oh my God, you get up early!’ Then I think, you did the same thing! You know?
DT: That is what has kept you the way you are.
ER: I don’t know.
AS: Now your husband worked in the same mill eventually?
ER: Yeah, that’s where he met me. He was lucky.
AS: Now what did you do on dates?
ER: We went to the movies. Capitol [Theatre, 390 South Main Street, Fall River] show downtown. Yeah. I went there. And then we would go and eat. And I was so bashful; you wouldn’t think so today. I was so bashful, and he looks at me and says, ‘Aren’t you going to eat?’ So I am bashful. I think we had ordered pie and ice-cream. So I say, he says you know, ‘Look at me.’ He said, ‘All you do is take a bite.’ And that’s all you have to do, you know? After I was married, I woke up.
AS: Before you married, you don’t want them to think you eat too much.
ER: Everybody is so surprised. ‘You were bashful?’ And then they see me now, they say, ‘YOU?’ I says, ‘Yes!’
AS: How old were you when you got married?
ER: Almost nineteen.
AS: So you were young.
ER: I was in those days.
AS: And so were you married at the church or at the house?
ER: Notre Dame [de Lourdes Catholic Church, February 22, 1936].
JR: In the old Notre Dame? The one that burned down [on May 11, 1982]?
ER: Yeah, I was at the Stop and Shop [Supermarket Company, 933 Pleasant Street, Fall River] … and I could see a lot of smoke. Someone come in and I says, ‘Wow, there must be a big fire over there.’ She says, ‘Notre Dame is all on fire.’ I looked at her and I says, ‘Not the church?’ I was angry. It was the church. It was the church.
AS: After you got married, did you go on a honeymoon?
ER: Yes, we went on a big trip; we went to Boston [Massachusetts].
AS: In those days that was a big trip.
ER: And then he used to get some money, the work he was doing. And he says, ‘You want to call up?’ And he says, um, ‘We can stay maybe a week longer, you know?’ I says ‘No, we can go home. We will be okay.’ So we didn’t stay there. We come home and the money, he bought a chair with it. A rocker.
JR: What did you do in Boston? What kind of fun did you have in Boston?
ER: We had some, um, it’s not the movies … it was the real people.
AS: A play?
ER: Yes, we see quite a few of those. We went shopping at [F.W] Woolworth’s. And I bought some earrings. And a little boy, when we come home, he says to his mother, he says, ‘What she got there?’ They didn’t even know I had the earrings. You know? So he looks at me, so I says, ‘Hey, that’s it. I bought some earrings.’
AS: So did you stay there a few days?
ER: Yeah, I think maybe a week.
JR: Now, how did you get there? How did you get to Boston?
ER: His brother [Joseph Roland Victor Rochefort] had a car and brought us to downtown [to the bus station].
JR: And you had to stay in a hotel?
ER: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: Was that the first time you were in a hotel?
ER: The first time for everything, yeah.
AS: We are not going to go there, Eva.
ER: No, but what I, I knew. I knew way up not that long ago, where it [the hotel] was. And uh, I think it was $11 or something like that. Anyways, I forgot that one.
DT: You had your reception at the Eagle [Restaurant, 33 North Main Street, Fall River] downtown.
AS: Oh, you had the reception at the Eagle? Your wedding reception was at the Eagle?
AS: That must have been nice.
ER: It was nice.
JR: I think that was the place to go in those days.
ER: That’s it, yeah, yeah.
JR: That was pretty classy.
ER: They did that. [In 1936, the restaurant advertised ‘A special banquet hall, apart from the main dining room … reserved for Parties, Bridge, Teas or Socials.’]
AS: So after you were married did you go back to work in the mill while you were waiting before [your daughter] was born?
ER: Yeah, I worked on [South] Main Street. [Later on,] I was working with the chip man … potato chip [Made Rite Potato Chip Company, Inc., 1853 South Main Street, Fall River]. I was filling those [containers] up. I [had] worked downtown at Gorin’s [Inc. Department Store, 281 South Main Street, Fall River]. And there was a knick-knack [department], and I wanted more hours and they couldn’t give me that, so I let go. And … people come in and they wanted certain things. That was me. I says, ‘I will go check in the back, see if there is something there.’ Some people [other clerks] said, ‘That’s all I’ve got because I’ve been there.’ So I went in the back, and I would tell them, ‘I am sorry,’ you know, I couldn’t give it to them. So I had that, a knick-knack [department]. Yeah. I was busy.
[Eva was also employed as an assembler at Elbe File and Binder Company, Inc., 649 Alden Street, Fall River]
AS: You didn’t work in one of the fabric mills?
JR: Jump back a little bit, Eva. When you were at the Charlton Mill, what kind of work did you do in the Charlton Mill?
ER: That’s a funny one. They bring me a little container, they had a bobbin, wooden bobbin, and you put it in that machine, press a button, and you turn it. And it fills it up. When it’s full, they take it off. Put it in that container. When that is full, someone picks it up. So that is what I was doing. [She worked as a ‘filler.’]
AS: So you filled bobbins all day. All different colored threads like black and brown.
ER: Yeah, and my husband was working in the other room. He was making, putting the thread on a big roll, you know? And that went on another machine. [The position was known as a ‘drawing-in operator.’] So that is how he knew me. Yeah. He was lucky he met me.
AS: He was lucky he met you.
JR: So what did the Charlton Mill make?
ER: It was all cotton stuff [cotton goods manufacturers]. And when I was living [at 431 Kilburn Street, Fall River] across the street [from Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates, Inc., 372 Kilburn Street] after I was married … you hear those machines make a lot of noise, you know?
AS: So they didn’t make dresses or coats. They made the cloth.
AS: So when did you stop working there? When [your daughter] was born?
ER: No, before that. Because that is when I wasn’t going to school, remember? My uncle says, ‘You want a job?’ I says, ‘Yeah,’ so he gave me a job. I went to work. Yeah. That was my job. Now I got a better job.
AS: So when you married … you cooked every night. I’m sure different things for dinner.
ER: Oh, everything.
JR: And did your mother and father like your husband?
ER: I guess so, but in those days, they didn’t talk like that, you know? They don’t make such big things.
JR: Did they know each other? They know the families?
ER: No, they met them when we, you know. I had a nice beautiful mother-in-law [Mrs. Arthur Rochefort, née Alphonsine Dufresne.]
AS: Oh, that’s nice.
ER: A lot of people, you hear them, ‘Oh my god, my mother-in-law, blah, blah, blah,’ and I listen to that and I couldn’t [relate to] that because I didn’t have that.
AS: Where did he live when he was younger?
ER: On Kilburn Street [circa 1936]. And they were living in the house near the water. [Prior to the move to Kilburn Street, the Rochefort family resided on Tripp, Dwelley, Benjamin, Penn, and Kay Streets in Fall River.] My husband then, he was a carpenter [beginning circa 1943], so he was all over. He had a truck … you know, that was his work.
JR: I think, on Kilburn Street … the houses were owned by the mill.
JR: The Berkshire Mill?
ER: Yeah, yeah.
JR: So you were living in Berkshire property?
ER: My husband’s father [Arthur Rochefort] lived there. [He purchased the former Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates, Inc. property.]
AS: Did you have a radio when you were younger? When you were first married?
ER: That’s all we had.
AS: No TV.
AS: But you were happy?
ER: Yeah, hey, that’s all we had.
AS: So how about in the mill, do you remember like, did it smell of anything? Or was it just … noisy?
ER: We went to work, it was fine.
AS: Was it noisy?
ER: Yeah, well further up, you hear ‘boom, boom, boom.’
AS: How about the men that were in charge? Were they all nice?
ER: It was just my uncle [Jean Baptiste Couture] for that part of the place.
AS: So you worked for a relative?
ER: He was good.
AS: He was good to you, because you …
ER: He married my mother’s sister [née Marie Berthe Turgeon].
AS: Right, so you were lucky that you worked with someone you knew.
ER: I was lucky all the way.
AS: How about safety? They were careful about making sure you weren’t hurt?
ER: No, it was an easy thing. You just put the [bobbin] over there. And turned it. Nothing hard. No. Oh, then I worked with the powder puffs [Bonnie Products Corporation, 126 Shove Street, Fall River]. I worked [as a powder puff stuffer] in those [mills] there, [the former Shove Mills]. You take the puff … because one girl makes that. She sews. We have to turn the puff to put [it] on the right side. And we … we have a pick … it’s not pointed. You put that in there and there is a lining in there. You know, the powder puff?
[Between the years 1949 and 1964, Fall River, Massachusetts, was called the ‘Powder Puff Capital of the World’; Bonnie Products Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of powder puffs, produced 350,000 puffs on a weekly basis. An undated contemporary newspaper clipping from the 1950s describes Eva’s occupation: ‘Rows and rows of women take the cover, inside out, and the stuffing, either sponge or cotton, put the stuffing on a tool, put the cover over the stuffing, push and arrange. In one motion, these hurried women turn the cover, fit the stuffing, and reach for another.’]
AS: A powder puff like makeup?
ER: You put that in there. I worked in there.
AS: They had a whole mill that made powder puffs?
ER: And I worked … with the…
DT: [Potato] chips.
ER: Yup, I was trying to forget him [Anthony Salvo, President, Made Rite Potato Chip Company, Inc.]. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I worked there.
AS: They used to come to the houses and bring tins of chips.
ER: That I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t go [do that].
AS: So you worked there.
JR: Where was that chip place?
ER:  South Main Street … before Charles Street.
ER: And one time, I get my check, you know, they had a check then for my pay. And I looked at that, and says, ‘Oh. Something wrong here, there is too much,’ you know? But there was a girl watching me all the time, because I knew later on. She must have said she works hard … she did that, and told the boss. The boss gave me a little bit extra.
AS: That was nice.
ER: So, I went to him, and I said to him … I made on purpose to go. I says, ‘You gave me too much.’ I says, you know, ‘I think it’s about three times.’ I said it, you know? ‘You gave me too much.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Have you got enough?’ Then I woke up, and says to myself, you know he wants me to, I says, ‘Yeah.’ So he looks at me, so I thanked him. Five cents an hour more. Five cents. Big deal.
AS: So, do you remember what you made a week?
AS: $15 every week, and you went every day? Five days?
ER: Yeah, yeah.
JR: Now, how about the rents in those days? … What kind of rents did you pay… did you own your own home or did you pay rent?
ER: No, we paid rent, because [my husband’s] mother and father owned it.
AS: So you paid it to them.
ER: And then they had the … first floor, [and on the] second floor [was] my husband’s … sister [Mrs. Joseph Noel Omer LeBoeuf, née Marie Rosilda Rochefort]. So, it was the mother, the sister, and then upstairs it had rooms where they put different things. So, they cleared that all up. And my husband was a carpenter, too, [as was his father]. So they cleaned it all up on the third floor, that’s where they put me [after I was married]. On the third floor.
AS: So that was nice; it was all family in the house.
AS: So, when you worked at the potato chip factory and the powder puff [factory], did you take your lunch then? Did you take a lunch pail or did you eat at home? Or did you buy it there?
ER: No, we didn’t buy things. We had no money, you know? I don’t remember. I guess it was the hours were different. That is why I started at six to twelve. I go home at twelve, so I didn’t have to bring a lunch.
AS: So, you could eat at home.
ER: And then the other one, the other [shift] started earlier, but I guess I ate before I left.
JR: Did you do a lot of cooking … did you make meals in advance?
ER: Me? I only had [my daughter], so.
AS: You probably made gorton [French-Canadian pork spread]. Did you make gorton?
ER: Oh, yeah. Gorton. Yeah.
AS: Takes a long time to make that.
ER: I had it, though.
AS: And meat pie [French-Canadian tourtiere]. Did you make meat pie?
ER: No, I wasn’t good at pies. But cakes, I was always making cakes. For this one, that one, and then when my husband’s brother [Joseph Albert Rochefort] come out of the army [circa 1945], I made him a cake, and I decorated it with little flags and this and that. But then when I met [Raymond James Thibault, my widowed daughter’s second] husband, he had a bakery [Poirier’s Bakery, 1524 Pleasant Street, Fall River]. I used to take his. I didn’t make no more.
AS: So you stopped working when you were ready to have [your daughter]? Is that when you stopped working at the mills?
AS: And then you didn’t go back?
ER: I went [to Shelburne Shirt Company, 69 Alden Street, Fall River] I was doing, folding … it was the shirts I was folding.
AS: Shelburne Shirts?
ER: Yeah, I was working there I had to fold that, [by] size, you know?
AS: So that is what you did at Shelburne? You folded the shirts to put into the bag?
ER: Yeah, we had to fold that a certain size, you know and all that…. If I had known I was going to have this [interview], I would have wrote it down in a book.
AS: You are doing great.
JR: Do you remember Social Security coming in? 1935, I think. And you had to put your money into the Social Security Fund.
ER: I must have. That I don’t remember. I can’t say, because I don’t remember.
JR: So, then you got a pension when you retired? Did you get a pension?
DT: No. She didn’t work long enough.
AS: So, where was [your daughter] Doris born?
ER: In the house [at 415 Kilburn Street, Fall River]. They didn’t have hospitals for that then. But you know, later on, then they do it at the hospitals. But not in my time.
JR: Did you have a nurse there? Was your mother with you?
ER: Yeah, I had a nurse. When I was having [my daughter], I was on [the] third floor. She [the nurse] done all the work. So, she calls the doctor [Joseph Arthur Archambault], it’s about, you know, she is doing this – blah, blah, blah, blah – so after she gets through with him, he told her, ‘Well, it’s not time yet. A little bit.’ You know? So he waited. She done all the work. Then he gets paid. And she got all the work. You can’t win with them. So, she was on the third floor. It was hot! Someone was there. They opened the window. I had no air-condition there.
AS: So, do you remember the Depression?
ER: I was in it.
ER: I used to go to the store.… I had to go and get some butter, but you had to stand in line. It was very rare … the butter and the coffee, and this and that. I stayed in line to get it. You know? I go, I think it was, it starts with an ‘F.’ It was on Main Street.
DT: First National [Stores, Inc., 1788 South Main Street, Fall River]?
ER: Yeah. That is where I went, because it was [near] Kilburn Street. And I went and see. The girl said, ‘Go see the man in the back.’ So when I went in, he says … ‘Are you going to shop?’ I says, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘When you are all done shopping … come over.’ When I came over, he had a pound of butter in a bag. So I went, and I had the cash.
AS: That was nice. So you had to stand in line for all that?
ER: And then I went and I bought, you never know, I bought some horse meat. But I took the best part of the horse. I didn’t know how good everything was, but I did. I had to. You know?
AS: If that was all you had, then …
ER: When my mother had it, oh my God, that was so good. And when I said what it was, oh my God. Yuck. I said, ‘Yeah, but I took the best part of the horse.’ You know? I’ll tell you.
JR: How many times did you do that … buy horse meat?
ER: That was the only time with the horse. I let go of the horse.
AS: Your mother didn’t want you buying horse meat.
ER: I’m lucky I just had one. Oh, what a life, you know? When you talk about all those things from way, way back, you know? And people today, and the kids are so smart today. But, compared to us, we had nothing. We didn’t go nowhere. I never complained, you know.
AS: How about the hurricane? Do you remember the hurricane of 1938? Or do you remember any of the hurricanes from when you were younger?
DT: You were on Kilburn [Street].
ER: Yeah, I would have to be there. 1938. Yeah. And then [my husband] had to …
DT: He had to walk home during that storm. Because they walked.
ER: Everything, yeah. And they had to put something in the window, you know, so it wouldn’t break. Because we were in front of that mill [Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates, Inc., Plant E].
JR: The bricks were flying from the chimneys?
DT: From the roof.
ER: I know it was….
JR: I am going to jump back a little bit to the Twenties, to the Depression. Were, was everyone working in your house … was there a lot of unemployment?
ER: I know my husband was, I don’t know if the others were, too. Yeah. Because that’s a long time ago.
DT: Was your father working in the Twenties? You weren’t married then.
ER: I don’t remember that, that is way back. [Eva’s father was employed throughout the Depression years.]
AS: So, do you remember when you got your first car? Do you remember? After you were married, I’m sure.
ER: I was forty-two. Not like today, they are seventeen and on the road. And then the first thing you know, they are underneath the road. No, but, um, my husband one time. I never asked for anything. So one day he says, ‘If I buy a car … would you learn how to drive?’ I looked at him and I says, ‘Where did that come from?’ I never asked for that. ‘Well,’ I says, ‘okay.’ So I learned how to drive. And I got a car. He got me a car. It was green and beige. I still remember. So I was driving.
AS: Do you remember anything about the war [World War II]? Do you have any memories about that?
ER: No … we didn’t have no this or that.
AS: Just that you had to stand in line.
ER: We had some that went in the war though. There was, uh, not my brother … my brother-in-law [Joseph Albert Rochefort, United States Army, enlisted July 3, 1942], he went.
JR: Do you remember when the day that Pearl Harbor happened [December 7, 1941]? A lot of people remember that day. They listened to it on the radio.
ER: I must have. Because my husband must have put that [on]. So, yeah, I must have.
DT: [At the end of the war,] we went out in the truck. The streets were busy. We went around town. Everyone was celebrating. That was the end of the war.
AS: Oh, the end of the war.
DT: Yes, the end of the war. Everyone was celebrating. Everyone was out [Victory in Europe Day, aka V-E Day, May 11, 1945].
JR: Now, [your daughter] said your husband built this house?
ER: He was smart. He is lucky he got me. He was very smart. He didn’t like school. And his mother [Mrs. Arthur Rochefort, née Alphonsine Dufresne] would go to the fence, and talk to him at recess. Then she would go back home. But he made himself, he went to night school [Bradford Durfee Textile School, 64 Durfee Street, Fall River, graduating June 1, 1928] and this and that. I said she is smart, just like her father. Yeah.
AS: Where did he go to school?
ER: Well … in the South End.
DT: Benjamin Street, there was a school there.
JR: Benjamin Street?
ER: Yeah. It was on a side street [Blessed Sacrament Parochial School, South Main Street and Benjamin, corner of Tuttle Street, Fall River].
ER: So, at noon time, he didn’t like school. So, at noon time, his mother used to go to the fence, you know? And talk to him a little bit, and then she would go home. But later on, he made himself, you know?
DT: Look at how well he did.
JR: So, he worked in the mill, and then he changed jobs. He went into carpentry. And then, after the war, he built this house?
DT: He built a lot of houses.
AS: Did he work for a contractor?
DT: No, he was Rochefort Brothers [Carpenters and Contractor, 431 Kilburn Street, Fall River].
ER: He was the boss.
JR: He was the contractor.
ER: He and his brother [Roland Rochefort].
AS: So [he] built a lot of houses?
ER: Oh, yeah. He built a lot.
JR: So he was a well-known business man. That’s wonderful.
ER: I know because … you tell somebody about a certain thing. Word of mouth, okay? And a lot of people [said] they done a job. So the people said … ‘Who does it? Who does it?’ So, they get that job. And they get that job. Word of mouth. Yeah. He done alright.
JR: I am going to go back a little bit … to things that came about during all of these years. The radio. When did you get your first radio?
ER: We were on Kilburn Street. That’s a long time ago.
JR: So you were married already? You didn’t have a radio growing up?
ER: We had one of these, you know, these…
ER: Yeah, phonographs. We had one of those.
JR: And you had to crank it?
ER: That is what we had. And then after that, TV came. [My husband] bought one [at] Mason’s [Mason Furniture Company, Inc. 146 Second Street, Fall River]. And it was black-and-white, and it was only about this big. That little picture … that wasn’t big. And then, when the other come out, we still went to Mason’s, and he got a colored one.
JR: How about the telephone? When did the telephone come in?
ER: I don’t know, but we were four on it.
AS: Four families on it?
ER: At least three or four.
AS: That’s a real party line.
ER: My husband, they had his business, and then, in the morning, he wanted to call for some material. That woman [Mrs. Jean Baptiste Gallante, née Marie Alexina Rosanna Bourque] was always on the phone. He says, ‘Every time I take it, I can never get it. She is always there.’ She wasn’t going to work, so she should have been in bed. But, anyways. So, that’s a long time [ago], huh?
JR: So you had to, you were already married, to get a telephone. And then you were married when you got the car.
JR: You grew up near Eastern Ave. You went to Kilburn Street. And then back to the East End [of Fall River].
JR: And back to the parish, back to Notre Dame [de Lourdes].
JR: Now, when you were in the Kilburn Street area. Did you go to … St. Anne’s Church [South Main Street, Fall River]?
DT: When you were on Kilburn Street … do you remember where you went? Blessed Sacrament?
ER: Yes, Blessed Sacrament [Catholic Church].
JR: And [then] came back to the East end and back to …
ER: Notre Dame.
AS: So you sang in the choir?
ER: Is that what they call it?
DT: It’s not what you call it.
ER: No, I used to sing in the ‘chaw-riss.’
AS: The ‘chaw-riss?’
ER: Yeah. I did a lot of things [at church]. I modeled a coat one time. And it was pink. And after the program was done, I bought it. It was something. I bought that pink thing. Then, what we had, we walked down the aisle…. I was Lydia [Saint Lydia of Philippisia, aka The Woman of Purple] and [my daughter] was the Blessed Mother.
ER: So we went down the aisle. So I says, when they told me, ‘You are going to be in it?’ I says, ‘Can I smile?’ They says, ‘Yeah,’ I can smile. I used to have that purple material. I had it and I smiled there. He said, ‘Yeah, otherwise we wouldn’t give you the job.’ You see, it’s just a little thing. I could never make it as the Blessed Mother. I was, would laugh too much. [My daughter] is more serious than I am. I am cuckoo. So, they gave me the other one.
AS: Seems like you had a lot of fun.
ER: All the time.
JR: Do you have any advice for us, Eva, that you can give us that is going to keep us as beautiful when we are ninety-nine years old?
AS: As happy as you, as pleasant as you?
ER: I wish you all of that.
AS: Thank you. Thank you very much.
JR: Thank you so much.
ER: I like your company.
AS: This has been wonderful. You have got a wonderful memory.
ER: Not all of it. But some of it.
JR: Okay, I am just going to close. I thank you again.
ER: Thank you, that wasn’t bad.