Olivia Raposo (Terceira) Abdow Edited Transcript


Women at Work: An Oral History of
Working-Class Women
in Fall River, Massachusetts

Interview with Olivia Raposo Abdow, née Terceira

Interview with Mrs. Dolor “Duke” Bernard Abdow, née Olivia Raposo Terceira

Interviewer: (JC) Joseph J. Conforti, Jr.

Interviewee: (OA) Olivia Raposo (Terceira) Abdow

Additional Commentary: (JR) Joyce B. Rodrigues, Fall River Historical Society
                                     (GK) George D. Kelly

Date of Interview: December 10, 2014

Location: Catholic Memorial Home, Fall River, Massachusetts


Olivia “Olive” Raposo (Terceira) Abdow was born in Fall River on October 26, 1928.

Olive’s parents were married in Fall River in 1919. Her father was born in Fall River in 1898. His parents immigrated to the United States from the island of St. Michael in the Azores. They arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they met and were married, and later moved to Fall River. Olive’s mother immigrated to the United States from St. Michael in 1915.

The Terceiras lived on Choate Street in a six-family triple-decker tenement house surrounded by an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. The neighborhood was primarily populated by first-generation Azorean-Portuguese.

There were four children in the family. Olive had two older and one younger brother. Both parents worked as weavers in a cotton mill.

Olive characterizes herself as a “Depression baby” and a “working girl.” As a “Depression baby,” she vividly describes everyday life during the Great Depression years of the 1930s: the food, movies, dating, favorite radio programs, the presidency of FDR, the March of Dimes Foundation, and later leaving school to care for her mother who had suffered a stroke.

Olive married Dolor “Duke” Bernard Abdow in 1948 and began a successful Fall River “mixed” marriage of a second-generation Portuguese-American and a second-generation Lebanese-American.

As a “working girl,” Olive explains how she managed to work and care for her two sons with the help of her Lebanese in-laws. Her career took her to factories in Fall River: the Kerr Thread Mill (American Thread Company), Rondo Knit Sportswear, Nancy Dress Company, where she worked for twenty-eight years expertly manufacturing better dresses.1

She concludes this interview looking back on a life well-lived, with no regrets, but wishing she had been able to have more education.

1The apparel industry classifies garment manufacturing in terms of price points.
Budget or mass market garments are at the low end of the apparel spectrum with clothes that retail at a relatively low cost.
Moderate dresses are medium-priced merchandise, a step above budget. This is the price classification of the majority of clothing.
Better dresses are medium-to-higher-priced merchandise. The fabrics, styling, and craftsmanship are of better quality than lower-priced items.
Designer products cater to the high-priced prestige or luxury market.
Haute Couture and Made-to-Measure apparel is cut and sewn specifically for individual customers and costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Source: http://www.apparelsearch.com/

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.

OA: The only thing I can start off with right now is that I am a Depression baby.

JC: What year were you born?

OA: I was born [on September 1] 1928…. Okay, like I first started at, I was a Depression Baby, but I did go to work.

JC: Were you born in Fall River?

OA: Oh, yes. I was born [at 200] Choate Street…. See, my grandmother [Mrs. Antonio Raposo Terceiro, Sr., née Maria De Jesus Ferriera Andrade] had a little grocery store [at 198 Choate Street, Fall River] and, of course, during the [Great] Depression, she lost everything. But we had a wonderful bringing up, my cousins and I; we had a lot of fun together … we played games together. Today, children do not play games. That is terrible. They don’t know what hide-and-seek is, you know, or jump rope. Forget it. Forget it. I don’t know why the children don’t play games like we used to play games. And we, um, my grandmother sat on the stoop while we played games, and, of course, when the [street] light went on, you know what happened – we had to go home. We didn’t stay outside, we had to go home. Once in a while, maybe, if she stayed a little later, or we’d beg her, she would stay a little later…. But we had to go home when that light went on; home everybody went. And a lot of us, our street was about the size, and, ah, I am trying to think, I’m trying to visualize it now because it was so small. It was so small, but we played a lot there.

JC: Can you describe the house you were brought up in?

OA: Sure. It was a six-tenement house. It was my … aunts, and myself, me, I was brought up there. Well, my, ah, aunt [Mrs. Manuel Arruda, née Alexandrina Raposo Terceira] lived on the bottom floor. We lived on the middle floor. And my Aunt Mary [Mrs. Antonio Raposo Terceira, Jr.] lived on the top floor. And that is where we were brought up…. My grandmother lived right across the yard in her little apartment….

JC: Were your grandparents immigrants?

OA: My grandfather [Antonio] … he was brought up in [Feteiras do Sul, São Miguel,] Azores. My grandmother [Maria] grew up in [Feteiras do Sul, São Miguel,] Azores, but was brought up in Hawaii. She had quite a travel, you know…. [Her father, Manuel Ferreira Andrade, and his three children, went to Hawaii following the death of his wife, née Claudina S. Neto; Manuel was employed as a landscaper by a wealthy islander. He eventually immigrated to the United States after the death of his employer.]

JC: Can you tell us something about that?

OA: Well, I don’t know the name of the island of Hawaii that she was brought up in, but when the hurricane came [on September 21, 1938], my grandmother told us immediately to go home and put the windows, crack the windows [in order to equalize the air pressure inside the house with that outside to prevent storm damage], and stay in the house, and don’t go out. Because she [knew] … we are going to have a bad storm. We all laughed because we never had anything like that, but we did get it and we got it good. Yup, and she lived there … I don’t know how many years. [Mrs. Terceiro resided at 198 Choate Street for approximately seventeen years, circa 1923 – 1940.] But she came from New Bedford, [Massachusetts]… and she married my grandfather who set up a little store.

JC: She met your grandfather in Fall River?

OA: No, New Bedford. He heard there was a young girl from Hawaii in New Bedford, so he went up and checked it out and he married her.

JC: What did your grandfather do for a living?

OA: That’s what he did, he ran the little store.

JC: A variety store.

OA: A little variety store. Yeah. Yeah. [Antonio R. Terceiro Sr. is listed as a grocer in the Fall River City Directories from 1906 to 1924; the business is listed alternately as ‘grocer’ and ‘grocer, fish market.’]

JC: And your parents, where were they brought up?

OA: My father [José ‘Joseph’ Raposo Terceira Sr.] was brought up on Columbia Street [in Fall River]; she [his mother] didn’t have her children yet, but he was born on Columbia Street [in 1898]. My mother [née Rose Souza Farias] was born in [1901 in Bretanha, São Miguel,] Azores. And, uh, that is where she was born, in the Azores. And I went and visited … and I never saw such a beautiful island in all my life.

JR: You are absolutely right. I went to the Azores also and it is very beautiful. And you wonder why anyone immigrated.

OA: From the [Azores], well, they were too poor.

JC: Your parents are interesting pairing. Your father was Lebanese and your mother was Portuguese.

OA: No, no.

JC: Your husband is Lebanese. I’m sorry.

OA: Yes. And my mother-in-law [Mrs. Nahem ‘Nathan’ Eid Abdow, née Mary Doumite] was brought up in the Convent [of the Good Shepherd] in [Cairo] Egypt. [She was sent there from Beirut, Lebanon, by her family to live and be educated under the care of her aunt, Sister Marie de la Nativité, who was a nun in the order of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepard of Angers.] Her parents [David and Affie Doumit] had died, and then she came to this country [to live with her aunt, Mrs. Morad, in New Bedford, and] she got married [in Fall River in 1922]. And my husband [Dolor ‘Duke’ Bernard Abdow] is Lebanese, and they are a really wonderful family. Really. My in-laws … they take care of me like I’m a child. They come over here to visit me, make sure I have everything and I have got no complaints.

JC: Was there any difficulty in marrying someone of another nationality?

OA: Well, at the time, at the beginning, you get that in everything and everyone, I think. Because when my husband said he wanted to get married, and my mother- in-law found out I was Portuguese, she didn’t like the idea too well. But I am going to tell you, she brought up my two sons [Steven Dolor Abdow and Keith Bernard Abdow] while I went to work, because I am a working girl. I worked in the shop, one shop … was twenty-eight years – that’s not counting the others. [One of the ‘others’ was the Kerr Thread Mill (American Thread Company), Martine Street, Fall River.] And my mother-in-law took care of my children while I went to work. So really, they are wonderful people … and as you meet them and get to know them, you realize what wonderful people they are.

JC: Do you want to talk about your working life?

OA: Well, I used to get up in the morning at seven [o’clock], get my baby dressed, put him in the car, and my husband would bring me down to work. We’d leave my baby down with my mother in-law, because at the time, for a while [after I was married], I lived [at 40 North Breault Street] in Westport [Massachusetts] for a few months, so I would leave the baby with her [at the Abdow residence at 182 Quequechan Street, Fall River]. But afterwards, my father worked at the Luther Mill [Luther Manufacturing Company, 240 Hartwell Street, Fall River]. He was a weaver … so he would get out at three [o’clock], so he would pick me up, and the baby, and home we would come. There was always a way that you could have someone help you take care of your child. Really.

JC: Now you worked in the same shop for twenty-eight years?

OA: That’s right.

JC: Which shop was that?

OA: Nancy Dress [Company, 473-475 Pleasant Street, Fall River].

JC: And which mill was that in?

OA: That’s, oh, it was [the old Durfee Mills] at the corner, way down the bottom of the Avenue, way down the bottom…. Plymouth [Avenue], right down where the statue is. [‘The Hiker,’ Spanish-American War Veteran Memorial by Theodora Ruggles Kitson, dedicated in 1938.] We got the hurricane there one time, too … Hurricane Carol [August 31, 1954] blew the windows all right into, into the shop.

JC: What was your job?

OA: My job was making dresses.

JC: So you were on …

OA: The better dress.

JC: So, you were on a sewing machine?

OA: Yes, and it was the better dress. It wasn’t the, the cheap quality. We worked on the better dresses and made more money. We got more money by working on the better dress.

JC: Can you describe what the mill was like?

OA: The mill was like? Sometimes, one time my girlfriend said, ‘We have a nice carpet down the bottom there.’ We go down the bottom, and it was the … it was a cardboard … they didn’t take care of the, they should have taken better care of the quality of the …

JC: The work place?

OA: Yes, they should have taken care. We never had hot or cold water. When I went to another shop after years, I went to another shop and it had hot water! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe it had hot water.

JC: Did you need permission to go to the bathroom?

OA: No, we had a very good boss. His name was [Abraham] Ira Tepper; it was Jewish. He came from New York to begin himself, and he was a very good boss. That, I will say that for him. But, uh, the mill’s run down, that’s the way it stood.

JC: You didn’t feel as though you were being overworked?

OA: Well, we were overworked because we wanted to make money.

JC: The more you did, the more you made.

OA: That’s it.

JC: Okay.

OA: That’s … what they called piecework. And we worked hard, and we wanted to make the money, and we made, we made quite a bit of money at the time. [Mrs. Abdow told her son, Steven, that, when the piecework Standard Rates were being set, the women purposely went slower so that it would be easier to beat the standard allowable time in order to make more money on piecework.]

JC: You were working forty hours a week?

OA: Ah, no, thirty-seven hours.

JC: Thirty-seven hours?

OA: Yes, it was something like that. I can’t even think of it now.

JC: Was there a union then?

OA: Oh, yes, the ILG [International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Local No. 178 (ILGWU)] and you had the medical coverage; if you needed anything, you’d stop by there. I know I had trouble with some kind of a – I don’t know how to explain it – some kind of a bug, and they gave me shots for it, and I got rid of it. But they would take care of you. They were very good at the ILG[WU]. It’s too bad that it’s closed now. I said that just this week, when we went by it. I says, ‘Too bad that place closed down.’ [ILGWU Union Health Center, 304 South Main Street, Room 1, opened in Fall River in 1944. The center moved to Garment Workers Square, 38 Third Street, Fall River, in 1951.]

JR: Yes, that was down in back of the City Hall.

OA: That’s right.

JR: I remember, I think I remember the doctor there was Mrs. Radovsky [Dr. Anna C. Radovsky, née Anna Pearl Cort, the wife of Dr. Everett Simon Radovsky].

OA: Yes, yes.

JR: Do you remember her?

OA: Yes, I had her for my examination, and I’d go to her again. They were pleasant, and they were very thoughtful, you know, and if you needed – I was allergic to something – I don’t know what it was, they made me go every week. I got sick of it at the end, I stopped going, but …

JC: They provided a lot of services.

OA: Yes, but the ILG[WU] was very good. I mean, I enjoyed working for them, and I … I even had my tonsils removed from them. And I was a big girl by then.

JR: So did you get a pension from the ILG[WU]?

OA: Yes, but what happened was, that I, uh, left the ILG[WU]. When I left … the other shop closed down, so I got less money. So, by the time I went to get my, uh, pension, there was a loss there, there was a loss on my pension.

JR: Quite a bit?

OA: Yes, yes, quite a bit. And I don’t think it was a fair deal, but who am I? I am just, just a worker like anyone else. Some people got more, some people got less. Well, I was one of them, I got less…. There was a shop there that opened up for a while [Rondo Knit Sportswear, 240 Hartwell Street, Fall River]. I worked there for a while over there, and it brought down my pension right down. Right down, it went right down. [Mrs. Abdow’s pension was $90 – $96 monthly, just enough to initially prevent her from qualifying for MassHealth Insurance; according to her son, Steven, it took her family several years to acquire that benefit for her.]

JC: Mrs. Abdow, we are talking about your working years. We are talking about 1950s and 1960s. When did you retire?

OA: Well, I retired [in 1990] … and I was glad, because I didn’t have to drive to work anymore. Yes, I worked up until that time.

JC: Now, you said that you’re a child of the Depression.

OA: Yes, I am.

JC: Would you share with us some of your Depression stories? What it was like for you and your family?

OA: See, like my mother went to work right away [after she married]. She got married [in Fall River on January 25, 1920], and she went to work. She eloped. She eloped, so she stood here and she went to work.

JC: Where did she work?

OA: She worked at the Har-Lee [Manufacturing Company, 425 Pleasant Street, Fall River].

JC: Oh, okay.

OA: She worked at the Har-Lee, pressing all day. So, you know that is no easy one there. And my father worked at the Luther Mill [Luther Manufacturing Company] … he had to get up at five [o’clock] to walk to the Luther Mill [a distance of approximately two miles] and she had to get up at seven [o’clock] to go to the Har-Lee, to get the trolley, because, at that time, we still had trolleys. I think we did at that time. [The last trolley run of the Eastern Massachusetts Streetcar Company in Fall River was made on September 20, 1936.]

JC: You sure?

OA: And she would get on the trolley and go to work at the Har-Lee. She would come home at four [o’clock]. My father was already peeling the potatoes for supper. And we had, we never went without. We had a good, good upbringing.

JC: How many children now?

OA: Just four – my three brothers [João ‘John’ Raposo Terceira; George Raposo Terceira; and José ‘Joseph’ Raposo Terceira, Jr.] and myself. And my mother kept on working until my older brother was sixteen [in 1936] and then she says, “Well, I, I give up. I’m not working anymore.”

JC: So they were working throughout the 1930s, during the Depression. So they were lucky in that way.

OA: Yes.

JC: Because Fall River was really suffering in the 1930s.

OA: That’s it, that’s why I say in a way, in the long run, I am a Depression baby because, uh, I got away from that. I played outside with my grandmother watching us. And there was my mother, walking to work, sometimes she would walk, sometimes she’d walk to work so she’d have a dime for a cup of coffee. Yup.

JC: Was a different time.

OA: Yup, it was a different time. For a cup of coffee she would walk. I will take a, I will get a coffee today, [she’d say]. So she’d get a cup of coffee.

JC: Did you feel in any way deprived, because of …

OA: No, we were all happy, we all played together outside. You know there was nothing. Today’s kids don’t play games. They don’t play like we used to play….

JC: Just one question … you mentioned no hot water at the factory, or mill. Was your home a cold water flat?

OA: A cold water flat? It was a cold water flat. And my mother get the tub out from hanging on the door, and bring it out on the, and it was only once a week. She’d bring out the tub and we would all take a bath. And then my brothers got old enough to go to the [Fall River] Boys Club [at 374 Anawan Street]I thanked the Boys Club many times – so they could go swimming, but I had to use the tub. I had to use the tub.

JR: How did you heat the house? I remember my grandmother had coal.

OA: Yes.

JR: Did you have coal?

OA: Yes, my grandmother had coal for … there was coal in the house. There was, uh, let me see, there was a, ah, a closet on the back of the stove and there was a chimney. You had the … you … opened the door and you would get the bale coal and you’d dump it in the stove. And that was what kept the house warm. And then the oil came out. When the oil came out, my father right away changed to oil, because he didn’t want that, said he doesn’t want that [coal] in the house. So, he got the oil.

JR: Did it heat the house better?

OA: The house was always warm. It was warm; it wasn’t cold.

JR: I’m kind of curious because you are making me think about my grandmother now. How about washing clothes? Because washing machines …

OA: My mother had the laundry. She went to work, she couldn’t be doing laundry, so she got the laundry [done]; it was $1 a week to do the laundry.

JR: They picked it up in the house? And they brought?

OA: And she’d hang it out in the clothes line, on the clothes line, that is what she did. [So-called ‘wet wash’ laundry was laundered commercially and returned to the customer wet, to be home dried.] And she would say, ‘Don’t put the heavier clothes, put the lighter clothes, so we can … get it a little more clothes on the clothes line.’ But she always had her clothes line. Everybody in that house has a clothes line. Everybody. Yeah.

JC: Did your parents talk about politics very much?

OA: Ah, my father would say to my mother, ‘Rose, you know, maybe we should vote for this guy.’ And they’d be talking about it. And she looked at it and she would say, ‘No, I don’t like that guy. I want the other guy.’ My grandmother voted, you know. She went to, she voted with the shawl over her shoulders. And she went to vote. And my aunts [Maria Raposo Terceira; Mrs. George W. Desmarais, née Regina Raposo Terceira; Mrs. Manuel Arruda née Alexandrina Raposo Terceira; Mrs. Antone Mello, née Adelina Raposo Terceira; and Mrs. Joseph Oliveira Silvia, née Herondina Raposo Terceira] would tell her to vote for this guy. And she would say ‘Ah, no, I heard him over the radio, I don’t like him. I want, I’m choosing the one I want.’ She was very independent. Yeah.

JC: How about presidents?

OA: President [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt was our guiding light – really.

JC: Tell us why.

OA: Why? Do you remember sitting around the radio and listening to that radio when he were saying the war [World War II] was broken out? We were all, all of us didn’t know what to do or say. He, he was a wonderful president. And, you know, Mrs. Roosevelt [née Anna Eleanor Roosevelt] was a wonderful woman, too. She was a very brilliant woman, yeah, she was a very brilliant woman. But Roosevelt … started the March of Dimes. Do you remember the March of Dimes? March of Dimes put a dime in the little thing there. My father got us a card each so that we could put – get a dollar in there. Thank God, for the March of Dimes. I think there would be many more crippled people around. [The March of Dimes Foundation was founded by President Roosevelt in 1938 as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to combat polio.]

JC: Did you know he was crippled? [Roosevelt was stricken with poliomyelitis while vacationing at his summer home on Campobello Island, Canada, in August, 1921.]

OA: Yes, we knew that; we knew that right from the beginning.…

JC: Yes.

JR: So I am going to go back a little bit.

OA: Go ahead.

JR: To your house.

OA: It had an aerial, there was no antennas. It was an aerial in the house, right? Because I remember my uncle putting one up for us. The aerial.

JC: For the radio?

OA: Yeah.

JR: When did you get the radio? That was pretty advanced.

OA: Well, that’s when we got it. It was a small one, but we got a good reception from it. And, uh, we always, we always put on the radio at night. We heard “the Shadow knows” [The Shadow, a widely popular radio detective series, aired from 1930 – 1954], Mr. and Mrs. Brent [Mr. & Mrs. North, a popular radio mystery series, aired from 1942 – 1954]. Should I go on?

JR: Yeah, go on.

OA: And of course, Kate Smith, [Kathryn Elizabeth Smith, a beloved American contralto singer, known as ‘The First Lady of Radio’] she was our angel. That we loved. Kate Smith.

JC: Was your family very religious?

OA: My father wanted us to go to church, hear Mass, and we went to Catholic School.

JC: You did?

OA: The Espirito Santo [Parochial School, Alden Street, corner of Everett Street, Fall River]. We went to that school. As a matter of fact there was word that my grandfather helped build that church [Espirito Santo Portuguese Roman Catholic Church, Alden Street, corner of Everett Street.] Not that he helped build it, but he got in with other … how I will say it, other men, together, so they could build the church there [in 1904]. Because way down the end of the road. It is way down the end. So, and we also had two islands down there. And they are gone. They took the two islands away.

JC: You mean in the river?

OA: Yes. We had two islands down there. Because we had, we had the last house, and I used to look out the window and we could see the two islands.

JC: I don’t know, or remember that.

JR: I don’t remember that. That is a surprise.

OA: Yes, two islands where the Bigbury [Stadium, on Front Street at the end of Wordell Street, in Fall River, was], well if you go further down, and there were two islands there.

JR: They must have filled it in.

OA: They did, they did, because someone told me after a while, they said no, they filled them in. I said, ‘That’s not right.’

JR: I’d love to hear you tell me about your mother and her cooking.

OA: Oh, her cooking was delicious. My mother was a good cook, she was a good cook. She made sweet rice [arroz doce, a traditional Azorean dessert], soup [caldine], of course, I didn’t like soup, so she would get after me. And my father said, ‘Rose, leave that girl alone, because if she don’t like it, don’t make her eat it.’ Because I don’t like Portuguese soup [sopa de couvres]. I don’t like Portuguese soup. But she was a very, very, good cook. But she would get a pan like this and make a big pan of soup. But she wasn’t to cook a lot during the week because she had to go to work the next day. But on the Saturday and Sunday she would … sometimes say, “Joe, I think I am going to start some stew.” She would make beautiful stew [ensopedo]. “So I am going to start it tonight so we can have it tomorrow. So I won’t have to make it tomorrow.” She would think ahead of time. Try it.

JR: Did she teach you to cook?

OA: Ah, yes, she did. Because when she took a stroke, I took over the house. So I, I did cook a lot, but I don’t want to cook anymore. I don’t want to cook anymore.

JC: You were the oldest child?

OA: No, my brother Joe.

JR: But, you were the only girl?

OA: Yes. I had to do everything. I had to take over.

JC: You went to Espirito Santo School.

OA: Yes, as far as sixth grade. Because my father bought a little house [at 40 North Breault Street] in Westport, [Massachusetts] so we moved out there [circa 1941]. But somehow or other my mother took sick [She suffered a stroke, then called a ‘shock’]; she didn’t like it. We went [to] Westport but all I went was as far as the sixth grade [in Fall River].

JC: Do you have any memories of the teachers there? What about Espirito Santo School?

OA: Espirito Santo, well … the real memory that I have of Espirito Santo was of Miss [Mary] Cabral. I guess you’ve heard of her? [Miss Cabral taught kindergarten at Espirito Santo School for fifty-three years, from 1925 – 1978.]

JR: I didn’t, to tell you the truth.

OA: Well, Miss Cabral taught us how to receive our First Communion. She really, really, was an angel – really an angel; we all loved her. She was a lay teacher, she wasn’t um, a … nun. [First Holy Communion is a Catholic tradition denoting an individual’s first reception of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.]

JC: Some of them are nuns.

OA: Some of them were nuns [Franciscan Missionaries of Mary], some of them I wish they weren’t nuns, but they were nuns.

JC: Tell us why?

OA: Sometimes, let’s face it, they have favorites. So sometimes when their child doesn’t get the right answer; it doesn’t work out too well. So that was it. But I stood there until the sixth grade. And, like I said, [I was there] until the sixth grade and then we moved, like I said to, uh, Westport. And my mother took sick….

JR: I can see, I can see that your generation wanted to make sure your children went on to school and graduated.

OA: We really did. We really believed in schooling, as much as we could give … they [her sons] did well. They both went to [Bishop] Connolly [High School, 373 Elsbree Street, Fall River], both of them; I made sure they went to Connolly.

JR: Very good.

OA: As a matter of fact, my oldest boy [Steven] was the first one to receive a diploma. [The Class of 1970 was the first graduating class from Bishop Connolly High School; diplomas were awarded alphabetically, hence Steven Dolor Abdow was the first graduate awarded a diploma.]

JR: Very good.

OA: He was the first one to receive a diploma. I said, ‘Good for you, Steve ….’

JC: You left school…. Did you stay home to take care of your mother?

OA: Yes. I stood home. [She terminated her formal education during her Sophomore year in high school.] And then after a while, the doctor says to my father, ‘Well, you know, Joe, your wife … seems to be doing good. Maybe she can stay alone for a while.’ So he says, ‘My daughter is not going to work, she has to take care of her mother.’ I says ‘No, Dad, I’m not taking care of Momma. I am going to show Momma how to do some things that I know she can do, and I will come at night and do it when I come home from work.’ I didn’t want to be without work.

JC: So what was your first job?

OA: My first job was sewing on the machine. That was my first job.

JR: Now were you already married when you started working?

OA: No, I got married afterward [on June 18, 1949]. I got married after.

JR: How did you meet your husband?

OA: If I told you, you won’t believe me.

JR: Oh, yes we will.

OA: I met him [Dolor ‘Duke’ Bernard Abdow] on the telephone.

JC: How did that happen?

OA: Well, I was babysitting my godchild [DorothyDolly’ Ann Terceira] because her grandmother [Mrs. José ‘Joseph’ M. Perreira, née Maria Alfredo] was sick in the hospital, and my sister-in-law [Mrs. George Raposo Terceira, née Alice Perreira] wanted to be with her mother. So I was taking care of her. So the phone rings, I pick up the telephone and I says, ‘Hello?’ He says, “Hi, Hank, how about us seeing each other tonight?’ Hank [Henry Assad] was his cousin. I said ‘I think you have the wrong number.’ And we started, that’s it.

JC: How old were you?

OA: I would say about eighteen or nineteen, about that. ‘Cause I got married at twenty, and he was twenty himself.

JC: Where did he take you on your first date?

OA: On my first date, my first date, of course, where else? Mark You’s [Chinese Restaurant, 1236 Pleasant Street, Fall River]. Where do you think?

JC: Did he make a good impression?

OA: Well, I thought he was rich.

JR: And did you walk to Mark You?

OA: Yeah, because, first of all we took, we took the bus to, uh, the Durfee [Theatre, 28 North Main Street, Fall River]. We saw a nice movie.

JR: Oh, you went to the movies?

OA: That was something. I got all dressed up for that, and I went. I wasn’t even dressed up for that – my sister-in-law [Alice PerreiraTerceira] called me up and she says ‘Olive are you keeping that date or not?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I don’t even know the guy.’ So … so she says, ‘Go out and see if he’s there.’ So, I looked out the window – and I lived [at 1433] Pleasant Street, [Fall River] for a while – and I looked out the window, and there he is at the corner. I come back to the phone; I says, ‘The poor guy is at the corner waiting for me.’ And that is how I met my husband.

JR: Did he come to the house and meet your parents?

OA: No, not in those days you didn’t do that. No, he came, I say about a month or so after. I says, ‘Hey Ma, I am meeting this guy I went to school with.’ I lied. I says, ‘I went to school with. So I am going to go to the movie with him.’ Well, she says, ‘You be careful and be home by ten o’clock.’ You imagine? We had to be home by ten o’clock? We still had curfews and yup, especially with girls. Sometimes I hated being a girl. My brothers go swimming to the sandbars. Did you ever hear of the sandbars? I couldn’t go, I was a girl. The boys would go. The boys could go swimming to sandbars. I, I couldn’t go. [The sand bar, on the north shore at the outlet of South Watuppa Pond in Fall River, was considered the best place for fresh water bathing on the lake.]

JR: How about girlfriends, hanging out with girlfriends?

OA: Um, I had my cousins. We were all like friends. Yeah. Yeah.

JR: You went to the movies?

OA: Yes, yes, that’s what we spent our… and then the Strand [Theatre, 1363 Pleasant Street, Fall River] is close to where I lived. So I would say, ‘I am going to a movie today.’ So that was alright, she would take it, you know? But to say it about go out with different fellas on dates just wasn’t called for. You couldn’t go.

JC: Your husband had a good job?

OA: He worked as a repairman for, uh, how can I say it…. He did, he did have a good job … he did washers and dryers. But commercial ones, not the regular ones, it had to be the commercial ones. And he had a lot of little jobs on the side. They’d call him up and say, ‘Duke, my machine is out,’ and he would go up.

JC: So he was working for someone else?

OA: He worked at Hoyt [Dryer Corporation, Westport, Massachusetts]. That was his regular job. But he worked for himself, really, towards the end. He was working for himself.

JC: So, when you were bringing up your children, things were much better than when you were being brought up.

OA: Of course, [my son, Keith,] had to walk to school. [Bishop] Connolly [High School] was right up the street. We lived [at 886] New Boston Road, [Fall River] … so all [he] had to do is walk up the street to get to Connolly.

JC: Why did you send them to Connolly?

OA: Because I, I wanted them to have a good education.

JC: Ok.

OA: I wanted them to have, uh, and they did. They were taught at first by the Jesuits [Society of Jesuits, Brothers of Christian Instruction]. And you couldn’t ask for any better than the Jesuits for a teacher.

JR: I’m going to just jump back a little bit. Because you mentioned [President] Franklin Roosevelt and you mentioned listening to the radio when the war broke out. Can you tell us about the war years? And who went into the war in your family?

OA: Well, see, in my family [two of] my brothers went; both of them were discharged. My oldest brother [John, United States Navy, enlisted May 11, 1942] got discharged honorably [on September 18, 1942] because … he had something let go in his stomach and they had to send him home. And they told him if you sign this paper – that’s why when I see this about the veterans getting short-changed, I say my brother got short-changed – if he signed the paper, we will give you a discharge now and you can go home. So he was so sick, he couldn’t even walk. I was the one that took care of him; I took care of him and my mother.

JR: That’s a lot of responsibility.

OA: You know, but gradually he got on his feet. Then my other brother [George] went in [United States Army, enlisted March 12, 1943] and my mother is sitting on the porch and sees the Red Cross coming up and says, ‘Oh no, something else happened. It has to be George because John is already discharged.’ So the woman got out, they knew each other. My brother George was in the Army and she says, ‘Don’t get nervous, Mrs. Teixeira. There’s nothing wrong with your son; he’s all right.’ You know why he got discharged? He was a sleep walker. [Discharged June 10, 1943.]

JR: Oh, jeez.

OA: He was a sleep walker.

JR: Oh, no!

OA: Oh, yes, and he was since he was small, and my father had the lock on the top of the door so he wouldn’t leave the house.

JR: Well, that’s interesting.

OA: And the lady said, ‘Don’t get discouraged because there is a lot of them that we had to discharge for being a sleep walker. We can’t have them in the army. They can take a gun and shoot someone. Shoot a friend.’ So my mother, you know what she told her? ‘You know something? You don’t want them, I want them, send him home.’

JR: How about your husband? Did he get called up?

OA: Ah, no, he was just too, he just, uh, my mother in-law wouldn’t sign the paper for him to go because he used to work [as a spinner] in the mills, all kind of hours. He loved it, he loved working in the mills. All kind of hours because she wanted, she’d use his money to live on.

JR: Sure, you had to support your family.

OA: Yeah. So.

JR: They always ask you if you have someone dependent on you before they send you through the service … I heard you drove a car? You were driving?

OA: Well, I drove, but not for too long. I hated driving a car. I didn’t like driving a car. I don’t know why, I just didn’t like it.

JR: Who taught you?

OA: Uh, I think my husband taught me. Yeah, if anything, it was on the street in Westport up and down the road. And that was it. And I drove for a while. Then of course when he died I got sick and all, so that was it.

JC: How long ago did he die?

OA: My husband, he [died in 2000].

JC: How did that change your life?

OA: It didn’t change my life, because what I did was, I started to think what is going to happen to me now that Duke is gone. I didn’t want to lose him but I lost him like anybody else loses their loved ones. And then I said, I know what I am going to do … and then I went to live at, um…

JR: In the apartments.

OA: The [Academy Building] Apartments, [102 South Main Street, Fall River] that’s where I went to live, and that’s where I have been living until I came here [Catholic Memorial Home, 2446 Highland Avenue, Fall River]. I woke up one morning and here I am. I don’t know what happened to me … they said I was very fresh. Can you imagine that? I can’t imagine it. Yeah. So life is strange.

JC: Do you have any grandchildren?

OA: I have … [Four grandchildren: Nathan Steven Abdow; Tamara (Abdow) Carpernter; Timothy Abdow; Stacia Abdow; and four great-grandchildren: Aisha Abdow; Devon Abdow; Dakota Morgan Abdow, and Riley Abdow.]

JC: Do they visit you?

OA: Oh yeah. They all come and see Vo [a diminutive of Vovó, which is the familiar form of Avó, or grandmother in Azorean Portuguese.] They call me Vo. We always called my grandmother Vo and I stood with Vo.

JR: What do you think of the changes in Fall River from … your time of growing up and now?

OA: Like my father used to say, ‘I don’t know why they are building all these banks, who has money to put in all these banks?’ But, the trouble, the thing is, it needs to be straightened out a little bit. I don’t like to go too much into politics, but we should have a good mayor and a good politician in there. Someone that’s good that will teach, not teach – show the people that he is willing and able to run Fall River, because Fall River was a great big city at one time. It was a great big city, because I read the book one time. I couldn’t get over it. We had a parade one time, over a hundred people in the parade and it was all from people that worked in mills – that worked in the mills.

JC: The Cotton Centennial? [The Fall River Cotton Centennial celebration was held from June 19 – 26, 1911 to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the construction of the first cotton mill in Fall River, by Colonel Joseph Durfee, in 1811.]

OA: Yes, that’s it – the [Fall River] Cotton Centennial. Yes, now, isn’t that enough to be proud of? And then I read a book about this woman that came [from] New York … to live here with her husband. He was a, ah, lawyer. She said, ‘I never saw such a beautiful city in all my life, because … there’s trees.’ It’s unbelievable how pretty Fall River is.

GK: President [William Howard] Taft came down for that Centennial. [President Taft visited Fall River on ‘President’s Day,’ June 23, 1911].

OA: Did he? See? We had a lot to be proud of. I am telling you we have to do something; please, do something, there is so much to be done. You know?

JC: When you look back on your life, do you have any regrets?

OA: I don’t have any regrets, marrying my husband, having my children, I just wish … that I probably could have had a little more education. That is what I think I would have liked, a little education.

JC: You were born too soon.

OA: That’s what you get when you’re a baby.

JC: Mrs. Abdow, we thank you for sharing your memories with us.

OA: Oh my goodness, I went on, and on, and on, and on. I wish I had more to tell you.