FALL RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Women at Work: An Oral History of
in Fall River, Massachusetts
Interview with Mrs. Joseph Tavares Correira, née Mary Vincent Arruda
Interviewer: (JR) Joyce B. Rodrigues, Fall River Historical Society
Interviewee: (MC) Mrs. Joseph Tavares Correira, née Mary Vicente Arruda
Additional Commentary: (JA) Joanne (Correira) Cadieux, Mary’s daughter
Date of Interview: October 17, 2015
Location: Correira residence, Westport, Massachusetts
Transcriber: Deborah Mello
Mary Vincent (Arruda) Correira was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on November 5, 1928. Her narrative tells the story of the Arruda/Correira family and provides unique insights into Portuguese-American religious practices and cultural traditions.
The Arruda family worked as weavers, carders, and spinners in the Davis and Parker Mills. These mills and several others, located in the Quequechan (River) Valley Mills Historic District, represent the last major area of textile development in Fall River from the late 1890s into the early 1900s.
The Davis Mills, 749 Quequechan Street, manufacturers of fine and fancy cotton goods, employed 800 operatives; it was liquidated circa 1930. The Parker Mills, 20 Jefferson Street, produced fine yarns. It was sold in 1931 to Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates, Inc., a company that managed to survive the Great Depression and prosper during and after World War II.
Mary started working at the age of fifteen, and retired at the age of sixty-eight with a pension from both Social Security and the ILGWU-UNITE union. Her career took her to the following manufacturers that were all located within walking distance of her home in the so-called Flint section of the city:
– Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates, Inc.
– Shelburne Shirt Company. Inc. Located at 135 Alden Street in the Flint Mills, Shelburne was founded in 1933 as a family-owned enterprise and was one of Fall River’s largest employers and a leading American manufacturer of men’s shirts. At its peak, the company employed 800 workers and produced three-million shirts annually. Shelburne closed in 1988. The factory reopened as Fall River Shirts soon after and reorganized in 2009 as New England Shirt. Today, it is a niche industry as a high-end shirtmaker, and employs sixty workers.
– Klear-Vu Corporation. Klear-Vu, located at 420 Quequechan Street, was established in New York in 1924 and relocated to Fall River in 1965. The company manufactures chair pads, rocking chair cushions, bench pads, decorative pillows, and other products. Today, it is located on Airport Road and employs over 100 workers. In 2015, the company earned the Made in USA CERTIFIED® Seal.
Family and Church
Mary’s parents both immigrated to the United States from the island of St. Michael in the Azores in 1920. They became acquainted in Fall River and were married in 1925 at the Espirito Santo (Holy Ghost) Church located on Alden Street.
Espirito Santo Church was founded in 1904 to minister to the Portuguese-speaking Catholics who lived in the Flint Village. The parish grammar school, established in 1910, was the first Portuguese-Catholic grammar school in the United States. The church and school continue to serve the Portuguese-speaking community today.
There were eight children in the Arruda family, five boys and three girls; Mary was the second oldest. All the Arruda children were born at home, and attended Espirito Santo Parochial School. Mary graduated in 1943 and went directly to work to help support the household.
Mary met and married Joseph Tavares Correira, who grew up in the same neighborhood. The wedding was at the Espirito Santo Church on November 25, 1948; the couple had three children.
During the interview, Mary’s daughter Joanne noted the importance of religion to their family: “… in my growing up years and listening to family stories … religion was a major, major part of your life.”
Mary and her daughter describe in detail the Portuguese religious tradition of the Festas do Espírito Santo (Holy Ghost Festival). The feast plays an integral role in the lives of devout Azoreans and Azorean-Americans, and usually begins on Pentecost Sunday and continues through the spring. The festival was founded in the 13th century by Queen St. Elizabeth (Isabel), Queen Regent of Portugal, who was noted for her religious piety, charity, and devotion to the poor.
The Holy Ghost Feast is celebrated not only in Fall River but also in Portuguese Roman Catholic churches and Holy Ghost clubs throughout the state of Massachusetts, New England, and anywhere you find a large Portuguese or Portuguese-American community.
Note: This interview is unedited and transcribed verbatim from the original recording.
JR: We are interviewing today, Mrs. Mary Correira. She grew up in Fall River and worked in Fall River and raised a family. Where were you born, Mary – when were you born, and where were you born?
MC: 11-5-28, and I was born in Fall River. Was it Everett Street? I forgot the name of the street.
JR: How about your parents? Were they also born in Fall River?
JR: And, do you have any idea where about?
MC: My mother was in Nordeste, and my father was in St. Michael’s.
JC: St. Michael’s.
MC: They met here.
JR: Oh, they met here. Were they married here then, and do you know the church, by chance?
MC: Espirito Santo.
JR: Very good.
MC: On Alden Street. Yup.
JR: What did they do for a living?
MC: My mother was a spinner in the mill, and my father was a, I forgot what he was. He was also worked in the mill.
JR: And, did your mother tell you what mill she worked in?
MC: As a matter of fact I started, I started in that mill, too. I used to, we used to walk every morning. Then, I got a problem with my legs, so I had to quit the job. And that is when I got into the shops.
JR: When you were working in the mill, what kind of work did you do?
MC: I was, uh, I used to clean like the spinners; I used to clean it. I was, I was a helper. There was already there to help.
JR: The Davis Mills.
MC: Yes, we all worked there; then I had to quit because I couldn’t walk that far. That’s when I started in the shops.
JR: So, before we get to that, let me just work on growing up on Everett Street.
JC: They moved to Cash Street.
MC: We lived on Pitman Street, not too long; then we went to Cash Street.
JR: And what was that neighborhood like?
MC: It was nice; everyone knew everyone.
JR: Was that a single family home, or a three-family?
MC: No, it was, well, by the time my mother had me, and it was two of us, it was like two or three children in each family.
JR: And how many children were in your family?
MC: Eight. I was the second oldest.
JR: And, can you tell us a little bit about all those children.
MC: It was Manny, it was me, and then it was Irene. Then it was David, he died.
JC: She has a sister, Rita, she has a brother, Leo, she has a brother John, and her brother Manny, who died two years ago.
JR: Very interesting; very interesting. Now, how did you manage all these children? How did your mother manage all these children?
MC: We all lived in one house. I will never forget it. Every time a baby was born, my grandmother would come and say, ‘You watch him.’ She would bring him in the room, close the door, then all of us would be, ‘Oh no another one.’ They would come and bring them to me because they had them at home.
JR: That was what I was going to ask you. All these children were born at home?
MC: They were all at home, and then she’d come and bring them to me, and I would say, ‘Another one? Another one for me to take care of?’ Hey, I was the oldest girl. But it was – my grandmother lived with us, so she was a great help, she was. Then she, we moved, Everett Street. Then we moved, she moved to Cash Street. That was where I got married from, Cash Street.
JC: It’s funny how they stayed in the same neighborhood. They moved from one street just to the next street over. And I think a big part of that, in my growing up years and listening to family stories, is it was very important to stay in the parish because religion was a major, major part of your life.
JR: So tell me about the religious background in your family.
MC: Oh, we all went to Espirito Santo church. Sunday, we, everybody had to go to church.
JR: And how about your brothers, were they altar boys?
JC: No, but my grandfather was very involved in Espirito Santo procession; he’d carry the bust of Christ.
MC: He used to collect at the churches; he collected the money at the churches. If there was anything to be done, he would be right there.
JR: I know that the churches had a lot of processions.
MC: We were in that every year.
JR: And Mary, you marched those processions, did you carry anything?
JC: We have the crown. We actually own a sterling silver crown. It’s at her apartment. We actually, so we carry our own crown.
JR: Did that come from Portugal?
MC: My sister-in-law gave me that one because someone gave her one. So she gave me hers.
JC: But it is from Portugal.
JR: So, there are a lot of Portuguese traditions in your family.
JC: We have the last, what they call them, the Dominga, and the church picks seven families. Probably four years ago was the last time we had put our name in because it’s, it’s a lot of work. But the last time we put our name in was four years ago. We had the Dominga here; I set up an altar in my living room with the candles and we had prayers, and we had open house for seven days.
JR: That’s right, open house for seven days. That was a lot of entertaining.
MC: Oh, yeah.
JC: A lot of food.
MC: I enjoyed everything.
JR: A lot of food, and the days you are talking about, it was a lot of people in the neighborhood, the same people in the neighborhood.
MC: And people that had the Dominga would come, too. They would come – like let’s say they had the second and third Dominga – they would come to mine, and I’d go to theirs. But it was, it was all right.
JR: It was kind of like a fundraiser for the church? Was that how it was?
JC: It’s not really a fundraiser, because when they come to your house, the concept is they light a candle, and you collect a dollar for the candle, and that does get donated to the church. And then, in the end, there is a procession to the church. In honor of the story of the Holy Ghost, which is an interesting story. It’s the story of Queen Isabella, who sold her crown to feed the poor. And that is why, when we have the feast, it’s the Portuguese soup; you don’t pay, everybody who goes to the feast eats for free.
MC: I looked forward to that. Oh …
JR: That is a lot of, I know, a lot of dinners. My mother went to a lot of those events in Espirito Santo. And, actually, she met my father in a church. So I think this was a good place to meet boyfriends, too.
MC: I was already, I was already married.
JR: Okay. I don’t know if your parents let you go to these things unchaperoned.
MC: When I was little, I had to march in all of them.
JC: But what about when you were dating? How did that happen? What was that like, if you wanted to go out? Did you have to take your sisters with you, or your brothers?
MC: No, that was when I was working at the shop. That is where I met your father. I was, what, seventeen? I started going out with my husband.
JR: You started going out at seventeen? Not before that?
MC: No. If I went out on a date, I had to be home by ten because my father got home from work at ten, and I had to be home before him. That went on for a long time. And after, I went out with my husband, what, five or six years, ‘cause I told my father, I says, ‘You know, Joe is going to give me a ring, and, you know, want to talk about getting married.’ He said, ‘Oh no, we have to go to Portugal first.’ I says, ‘I don’t want to go to Portugal. You are not going to marry me off out there.’
JR: Oh, was that the idea?
MC: Oh yeah. So finally, we started going out. I had to be home by ten. Then, when he finally gave me the ring, the only one I could talk to was my mother, so I told her, ‘You know, Ma, Joe is going to give me a ring.’ I says, ‘I am not going to keep going out with him. We are going to get married.’ ‘Oh yeah? Okay.’ My mother-in-law had it all planned.
MC: Oh, yeah, I had to move in with her.
JR: Oh? So did she have daughters?
MC: Oh, yeah.
JR: But you had to move into her house?
MC: I had to move in there.
JC: She didn’t want to let go of my father.
MC: So we went, got married; I was there for what, nine years.
JR: Nine years in your mother-in-law’s house?
MC: And let me tell you, I went through hell.
JR: Was that in the same neighborhood? Was it in the east end as well?
MC: Pitman Street.
JR: And you went through hell? I am not making light of that – I can imagine. How did you, how did you work through all those problems?
MC: I put one kid to bed, and then it was about maybe nine. And I would say. ‘I got to work tomorrow.’ You know? Here comes Emily with her two kids. She was right in my bedroom, and she takes a kid out of the crib. I says, ‘Emily I got to work tomorrow.’ ‘Oh, you will be fine.’ Oh I didn’t go for that.
JR: So, you had your children in your mother-in-law’s house?
JC: She had just me; I was an infant. But the problem with my grandmother was that her house was Grand Central Station. All of her daughters, nieces, nephews …
MC: They lived downstairs, so it was like open house. I didn’t have, the first five years I didn’t have any kids. I had a problem, I didn’t have any. Yeah, then, after, I told my husband, ‘I can’t keep up with this.’ I says, ‘We have to get a place.’ Because he was so tied up with his mother, you know?
JR: Now did he have brothers?
MC: Only sisters.
JR: So just sisters, so she was kind of, didn’t want him to leave. Didn’t want her son to leave. Is that it?
JC: The only son and the youngest.
JR: Well, you had to pay into the house, didn’t you? I mean you had to pay for the food; you had to pay board.
MC: Oh, yeah.
JR: How did you work this out? How about the cooking and the buying groceries?
MC: Well, we used to take me and her shopping, you know? And, uh, she did the cooking. There was only supper time ‘cause they had to work, and he worked. But like I said, I paid for my sins, let me tell you.
JR: How about chores around the house? Did you have to do a lot of housekeeping?
MC: My room.
JR: Just your room.
MC: And her room. And after I got fed up with that, I said, ‘Joe, I can’t keep up with this.’ So, finally, I says, ‘Look, either you go with me or you stay here.’ Then I talked to my insurance man. He says, ‘I got this here apartment for you.’ I says, ‘Where?’ He says, ‘On Harrison Street.’ I says, ‘Oh.’
JR: Not too far away.
MC: Not too far away from her daughter.
JR: Oh, from her daughter, but far enough away from everyone.
MC: Oh, yeah, so I says, ‘Yeah? Where is this?’ He told me, he says, ‘Come and see me tomorrow.’ He was nice, he was real nice.
JR: So your insurance man owned the property.
JC: Mr. Sahady, wasn’t it?
JC: Fred Sahady? Sahady Insurance.
MC: I’m telling you, he was a nice guy; he saw what I went through. I have to set out my laundry; the laundry would come in, I would have to hang it all out, then take it all in. It was a bugger. Finally, when we, when I talked to him, I says, ‘Joe, we have to get a place, this is ridiculous.’ So I told him, we came for a ride, we saw Tilly and she says, ‘All that land is all free. All by one owner.’
I says really? So we bought it. Then after, my friend of mine, she liked it, so she bought the last lot from us. My husband built the house; he did it himself.
JR: He was very talented. But you told me he was a mechanic in the shops.
MC: He fixed machines, he fixed everything.
JR: Sewing machines.
JR: And he was a carpenter, too?
JC: He would work on the house till dark, and I can remember laying in the car.
MC: My father would come and help, too. At the time he was alive, and my mother would come, and she would sit downstairs, and watch my father spread the …
JC: Cement, for the bricks.
MC: Like I said, everything turned out okay.
JR: It’s a beautiful home and your husband, you know, was looking ahead.
MC: Oh, yeah.
JR: He knew that he wanted to provide for his family. I am going to go back to Pitman Street. Because we didn’t cover the school, Espirito Santo School, this was a Catholic school. Tell me a little bit about Espirito Santo; how many grades were in that school, and how were the teachers?
MC: Eight grades.
JR: Eight grades. What about you? How about when you were going?
MC: Oh, I was doing fine. Oh yeah, I loved it. ‘Cause there, when I got to sixth, no, eighth grade, I will never forget her, Mother Anjou. She talked to me, says, ‘Mary, would you like to come and see’ – I don’t know where the hell this place was, where the nuns were.
JC: The convent.
JR: Oh, she was thinking you were going to be a nun?
MC: So, I says, ‘Sure.’ My mother almost flipped out. I went, I saw what they went through and all, and I says, ‘Not for me.’ Now, I graduated from there. I went to high school for two months.
JR: And that was Durfee High School? Very good. What happened there, two months?
MC: I went to work. My mother, my father, they needed the money.
JR: That was a very common thing.
MC: I was the second oldest one, so I had to go to work.
JC: And Uncle Manny was already working, right?
JR: Where was Manny working? Was it a mill, or a factory?
MC: I forget where he was working; then, he had to go in the service.
JR: Okay, when you left Durfee High School, when you went to work to help.
MC: I went to work in the Mills.
JR: Where did you work – what was that job?
MC: It was spinning.
JC: At the Davis Mill. At the Davis.
JR: At the Davis, and that was where you met your husband?
MC: No, I met him, it was out of the shop, right near the mill.
JR: It was after the Davis Mill – yeah.
MC: Yeah, they were making jackets. And I liked these jackets, they were nice; I wanted a black one. So, he was like, a, a mechanic or whatever. He come up and says, ‘What are you looking for?’ I says, ‘I like these jackets, I want to get a jacket.’ He goes and gets me a red one. I says, ‘I don’t want a red one.’ ‘Oh, this is a nice color.’ I says, ‘I want a black one,’ and he’s looking, ‘But the red one is better.’ I says, ‘Look, either I get a black one or I don’t get one at all.’ So, he got me a black one, and he started giving me a ride home, and that is how I met him.
JR: And this was a factory that made jackets?
JR: Ladies Jackets?
MC: Right upstairs, womens’ jackets.
JC: Do you remember what street that one was on?
MC: Quequechan Street.
JR: Quequechan Street. Okay.
JC: Was it upstairs from Star Lorraine?
JC: Because we had Stella-Anne? Because we had Stella-Anne, and we had Shelburne Shirt, then we had Klear-Vu.
MC: I forgot. But, anyway, that was where I worked. Not for too long, ‘cause, hey, I had to walk it, you know? Then, that was when I went into, what was it, Shelburne making cuffs.
MC: Shirt cuffs.
JR: And maybe that was what year?
JC: I was in kindergarten. So that would have been approximately 1957 – 1957.
JR: 1957. Okay. I heard Shelburne was a pretty tough place to work in, it was very demanding. Is that true?
MC: The head floor lady – she was tough. The hell was her name?
JR: You were on cuffs. How does, how do you do cuffs on a shirt? If you want to describe that?
MC: We didn’t put it on the shirt, I made the cuff.
JR: Oh, you did.
MC: You take the one that had the button and I put it on the other one, and stitched it right around. Every time she would get tired she would come and sit, and say, ‘Mary let me see something.’ She would sit at my machine and sew. I would say, ‘This is pretty good.’
JR: So, you made the cuff that would go to another person, and then that …
MC: She would attach it to the shirt. It was nice, I liked working there.
JR: Was that piecework?
MC: Oh, yeah. Then after that I went downstairs.
JC: When I was in middle school, you were still working at Shelburne Shirt, you were working at night.
JR: That was one of the things I was going to ask you. Because we talk about all the years working, there is a lot of technology that pertains to our life, and I will go back a little bit, and I will ask you, in your family, on Pitman Street, did you have a radio? Do you remember when you had a radio?
MC: Oh, yeah.
JR: When was that?
MC: We had a radio in the house.
JR: When you were growing up? Or was it later?
MC: No, when I was brought up.
JR: Just one radio I imagine. And what about the – heating the house? Were there wood stoves or coal stoves? I’m going back to my own grandmother at this time, because she had coal stoves.
MC: I don’t remember.
JR: Or gas heaters.
MC: I don’t know.
JC: I am going to jump in and say it was gas heaters.
JR: Do you remember your refrigerator?
MC: Oh, yeah, we had to put ice in it.
JR: And I bet it was a small one.
MC: A lot of times my father would say, ‘Come on,’ and he would go get the wagon and go down and get ice. Oh …
JC: Thinking back now, on the Cash Street apartment, as a child, the toilet was a pull chain and the tank was above your head, and I can remember as a child, you always worried the water was going to tip over on you, on top of you.
JR: Of course, I don’t think any of those apartments at the time had hot water. You had to …
MC: No, we had to warm the water.
JR: You had to heat your water.
MC: No tubs. We had this big thing like this, and I would say, Saturday was, it was Saturday nights, I would say, ‘Okay.’ The baby was first, the little one was first, wash them, and the second one, and the third. Then, empty that out and get some more warm water for the others. By the time it was my turn, I just laid in there. My mother would say, ‘Hey, you going to sleep there or what?’ I says, ‘Right now I am tired, too tired to sleep.’
JR: You are spunky Mary. You are pretty spunky.
MC: So I had to take my bath; it was rough. But it was, the people were nice on Cash Street.
JC: And the beer making and wine making. Do we want to get into that?
JR: Shopping in that area, where did you go for your groceries?
MC: My father did the shopping. Where the hell did he go?
JR: I know there weren’t any supermarkets like today.
MC: No, there wasn’t. There was a big place where they sold like fruit and vegetables; forgot the name of the bloody place. And I used to laugh at the end of the summer, my father would say, I says, ‘Oh, boy, here we go.’ We should go to the places where they just sold fruit so we could make the wine.
JR: Okay, so, he made that from purchased fruit, because I know a lot of people in that area of Fall River had grape vines.
MC: We used to buy the pigs; kill them, and then bring them home.
JR: That also was very popular. I think it was done during certain times of the year, especially maybe, tied into feasts, where a family would butcher a pig and make their chouriço and morcela.
MC: My father used to do that, and I was right in the middle of it.
JR: And also, peppers, too, I think; very popular at the end of the summer.
MC: We used to go to all these stores on Pleasant Street.
JC: I still remember their hands being swollen – she and my grandmother, as a child I used to watch – they had the grinders, and they would grind the pepper and onion and they would make these sauces and can them, and I can remember their hands being like blistered from that.
JR: So, canning, you did canning in the house at the end of the summer? I know that was a popular thing to do as well.
MC: Yeah, well, a lot of the grinder, pepper, cut up onions and stuff like that. We used to put it in the big jars, oh, yeah.
JR: Now, you were born in 1928. So you were kind of coming in just before the Depression and then you were growing up during the Depression. What was that like?
MC: A lot of people knew my father.
JR: Was he working during those years?
MC: He worked at the mill.
JR: He was working?
MC: He used to go in – what – twelve o’clock, and come home at ten.
JR: That was unusual, because a lot of people weren’t working, you know?
MC: He was, he was, and my mother too.
JR: So, the Depression, you would have been a small girl at the time, growing up during the Depression, and you had older brothers, and older family members.
MC: I only had one older brother; the others were all younger.
JR: And they were working?
MC: No, only my …
JR: They weren’t working during that time?
JR: What did they end up doing? What kind of work did they end up doing? I know this was a time when a lot of people were on welfare, too.
MC: No, not us.
JC: My grandparents were too proud to ask for any help, and they all went to school. I mean you were working, Uncle Manny was working, but all the others were in school.
JR: In school at the Espirito Santo. Now, you had to pay tuition I think. Did you have to pay tuition in the Catholic school? I know they do today, but I am not sure in those days.
JC: I don’t think they paid tuition, because my grandfather worked at the church on Sunday – he would pass the collection boxes. But he also did a lot of the work on the Church grounds, so if there were some kind of a barter program – because he worked at the church and volunteered so much – then the children were probably allowed to go at a greatly reduced rate, is what I am guessing. Because there was no money; it was almost a bartering system.
JR: Yeah, interesting. Very interesting. You mention one favorite teacher at the Espirito Santo, and I didn’t catch her name.
MC: Mother Anjou.
JR: Anjou. That’s angel, isn’t it? I am trying to …
MC: She was great; she was the one that was trying to talk me into being a nun.
JR: I think that was probably what a lot of the nuns did, you know, try to do a little recruiting.
MC: They even took me to some place in Providence.
JC: That was the convent.
MC: To go look at the place.
JC: They only had one lay teacher at the Espirito Santo School, and that was their kindergarten teacher, who was Miss Cabral, and what is amazing is that my Mom had her for kindergarten and so did I, so, she was there for a very long time.
JR: I think you went on a little bit already about your marriage. You know, when living with your mother-in-law. When you set up your own home, you had your landlord, you were with your mother-in-law, then set up your own home. Then, you had another child?
JC: My brother Joey; he was born in 1957. I was born in ‘53.
JR: And you were working at the Shelburne then, and that was in the ‘50s.
JC: Late ‘50s. My brother, Joey, who was born in ‘57 was born while we were living in Westport.
JR: That would have been a big change for you to leave the city to come to the country.
MC: I couldn’t wait.
JR: I can imagine, and Gifford Road probably was very, very rural.
JC: As a child, we could walk and not see a house, and we could be free to roam.
JR: So, what were some of your traditions? How did you celebrate holidays?
MC: We did them like everyone else.
JR: And all the relatives come here? This is the central point?
MC: The downstairs was all finished. There was a bathroom down there, a bar, everything down there. A kitchen, everything was down there. So, if they wanted to come upstairs, they go downstairs. But it was always open house. And especially when it was the Holy Ghost. It was open house. Oh, God, it was really something.
JR: I remember the Flint a little bit too, and I remember the movies you could go to in the Flint, and the restaurants.
MC: Yes, that was on Pleasant Street, the Strand.
JR: And a lot of good restaurants.
MC: Oh yeah, Farinha’s was right at the corner there.
JC: Farinha’s was at the corner of Alden – it’s just at the bend, it’s almost diagonally across from Shelburne Shirt, and as a kindergartner, I would walk from Espirito Santo to this Farinha’s Restaurant to meet my mother for lunch. And then she would leave Shelburne, have lunch with me, I would walk back unescorted, unattended, at four and one-half years old.
MC: She didn’t have to cross no street.
JC: She would cross me and then I would walk three blocks to Espirito Santo at four and one-half years old, and you didn’t have to worry.
JR: You wouldn’t, you wouldn’t do it. That’s amazing.
MC: Mrs. Farinha hired me.
JC: The lady in the restaurant?
MC: ‘Maria,’ she says, ‘go to work for me.’ I said, ‘I have got to work.’ She says, ‘No, just at noontime,’ she says, ‘you work for me, you get free meal.’
JR: So, you were working at noontime when you were supposed to be having your lunch.
MC: So after, everybody’s all fed, she would say, ‘Okay, sit down, what do you want to eat?’ Then she would go get my plate.
JR: Was this while you were still working in the Shelburne? You didn’t miss a minute.
JC: A working lunch hour.
MC: She was good.
JR: That is something in a good Portuguese.
MC: It was, it was.
JR: There was another restaurant up on Pleasant Street which was very popular, and it really speaks to the fact that that was a neighborhood of Portuguese and Lebanese, certainly the French.
MC: Oh, yeah, there was a mixture there.
JR: It was very diverse, and people talk about diversity, but it was a good mix of various immigrant groups.
MC: It was good.
JR: So, looking back at all of this work in Fall River, if you want to pick up on some of these factories, think of any of the factories that you were working in.
MC: Yeah, I worked from Shelburne, I went to Clearmark.
JC: You made pillows. Klear-Vu.
MC: Then I went to the other one. I forgot.
JC: Bomark Manufacturing is where she went after Shelburne, and that was right next door.
JR: And that was what kind of work in Bomark?
JC: You were making pillows; they made pillows and cushions. Actually, that was her last place of employment.
JR: So, you retired from Bomark.
MC: That was the one where I told the boss, ‘This is my last week here.’
JC: He is the one who gave you the $100 to stay?
MC: No, he sent me upstairs to the head boss, because when there was a Portuguese people coming in, I would be the one to go teach them, you know? This lady, I says to her, you know, ‘Fars a sin,’ then he’d come and talk to me, and she says, ‘How come he comes to talk to you in English?’ I says, ‘Would you understand him?’ She says, ‘No.’ I says, ‘Well.’
JR: So you were kind of interpreting and kind of training at the same time.
MC: After, when I told them the week was on a Friday. I says, ‘I got to talk to you.’ He says, ‘Come by my office.’ I go in his office. He says, ‘What is the matter?’ I says, I says, ‘This is my last week.’ ‘What do you mean this is your last week?’ I says, ‘My husband is home, I am working,’ I says, ‘I don’t think that’s fair.’ So, he looked at me, says, ‘Alright,’ he sent me back to my chair. I continued finishing the work that day, all of a sudden I see him come up to me. I says, ‘Oh, no,’ he says, ‘Mr. Mintz would like to see you.’ I says, ‘Oh, shoot.’
JR: Let’s hear that name again?
MC: Mr. Mintz
MC: He was the head one. I went upstairs, I was there for a long time, and he gets up, he comes and locks the door. I say, I got news for this sucker. Then he goes, and goes and locks the other door. I just sat there. So he said, ‘I can’t talk you out of it?’ I says ‘No,’ I says, ‘I got to retire. It’s about time I did.’ ‘So’ he says, ‘Well, are you going to finish the week, the day or what?’ I says, ‘This is my last day.’ He says, ‘Oh,’ then he gets up, so I got up, and he come up to me, and says, ‘Well,’ he says, ‘if you ever change your mind, just call me.’ I says ‘Okay.’
JR: You were a good worker, so he didn’t want to lose good workers.
MC: So he comes, shook my hand, he said, ‘I wish you a lot of luck.’ I says, ‘Thank you.’ I say to myself, if he goes any further than this – no, he just shook hands, and I said to myself, what the hell did he put in my hand? I walk out the door; he put $100 in my hand. I said, I’m not going to change my mind.
JR: How old were you then, and how many years had you been working?
MC: Let me see, I retired …
JC: You were about sixty-eight.
MC: I was almost, it was almost time for me to retire in my sixties.
JR: You were in your sixties.
MC: Yeah, so my husband was home, so, what the hell, what was he doing home? I should be home.
JR: He was already retired.
MC: Oh yeah. So I retired. And that was it.
JC: He was a good boss, Mr. Mintz, though.
MC: Oh, yeah, he was.
JC: You used to talk about how he would deliver ice cream to all the workers on Fridays in the summer.
MC: When he came downstairs, I wouldn’t even look at him.
MC: Hey, I didn’t want to get too chummy with him, he would talk me out of it.
JR: You were one of the favorites. They had favorites in the shops. And there were favorites everywhere – wherever you work, there is always a little bit of favoritism.
MC: When he used to come downstairs, and we see him walking up that hallway, he come straight to my machine.
JR: Now, Mary, when you retired, what were you going to be getting as a retirement? Now all these places that you worked, did they have unions, Did they have union dues?
MC: Oh, yeah.
JR: So, what was the union then? You were retired from?
MC: I don’t know.
JC: The small check – the Garment Workers Union. The check that I get for you every month is from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
JR: International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Okay, because Shelburne was Amalgamated.
MC: That’s right.
JR: Shelburne was Amalgamated, so you kind of had two different unions there. How did that work out, did you get money from both? Or did you get …
MC: I don’t remember.
JC: Don’t worry about it Mom. Let’s finish this.
JR: It’s okay, I’m just going to go back a minute and try to figure out, when you retired, where your benefits were coming from; if they come from the union? You are probably going to get Social Security, too.
JC: She gets a monthly Social Security check, and she gets a monthly union check. Right, Mom, you get two checks every month? You get the one from Social Security, which is your big check, and then you get the small check.
JR: Which is, you said, is from ILGW, and I guess somewhere in there, I’m trying to think, I think you might have not had enough years in the Amalgamated. You probably lost those years. You probably lost those years. I know my mother did. She was right there from the beginning of Amalgamated, and then left there at the age of fifty-five and she was short a few years, even though she was already vested in it. So there was a big disappointment – that’s a big disappointment when you worked that long and you pay in, and you don’t get anything back.
JR: I think we have done about an hour of this. I don’t know if there is anything else you want to add. Anything you want to tell me that I didn’t ask about? Usually, it’s just about family, and your work, and retirements. So, I think we kind of covered that.
JR: I am going to leave it at this point and if you have any other thoughts, you can always tell me about it, or jot them down a little bit, especially if you can add on to any of the career moves that you made in the factories. I want to thank you so much for helping us.