... the exhilaration of youth
Our first winter (1953-54) in Winthrop, Massachusetts, in the house owned by Uncle Les and Aunty Vi, felt like an extended honeymoon. We knew, though, that this delightful, temporary arrangement would end come spring. We had to find another place to live, as Uncle and Aunty would be returning to their home after wintering in Florida.
In April 1954, we moved into 10 Warren Street in Everett, Massachusetts and I have only a vague memory of why and how we got there. My mother may have seen an Everett Gazette newspaper notice of an available rental or maybe she met Albina Comeau at the ladies Immaculate Conception Church Sodality. Albina probably told Ma that she and her husband also owned the house next to them at 10 Warren St? Who knows? We were just happy we had a place to live.
We packed ourselves up from 76 Triton Ave. on Point Shirley in Winthrop, Massachusetts and moved back to my hometown in Everett, Massachusetts at 10 Warren Street. We were given the first floor as a couple occupied the second floor with a child, expecting a second in a few months.
What do you think about, feel like when you know you are about to have your first child? At 23 years the advent of a child puffs up a young man confirming potency. Having just left the Navy and becoming a freshman at Boston University shortly after our wedding, the thought of how we were going to manage dampened my thoughts and feelings some. These were the mixed feelings stirring around fifty years ago as we moved into our first real home and anticipated expanding our family. In all, the world then looked, bright, so bright!
Warren Street is just above Church Street that leads up from the Center of Everett Square. As you turn right onto Warren Street, 10 Warren Street is the second house on the left. There is a huge elm tree in front of the steps leading in. Al Comeau had bought 10 Warren St., the house next door to his at 12 Warren Street, as an investment/income. The first floor we moved into had a nice large kitchen, bedroom, living room, pantry and bathroom. It was a nice quiet street that would suit us for a while.
That summer, after finishing my freshman year at BU and, thanks to my father, I had gotten a job at O.G. Kellyís in Neponset. I didnít have a car. Part of the deal my father had arranged was that as Jake Falvey picked up the Plant Manager, George King for work, I got included in the trip. Still in the throws of newly wedded trance, Catherine would get up and cook eggs and bacon at 5 AM so I would be ready to be picked up at 6 AM. It was nice while it lasted!
Harry was my boss at Kellyís. Harry was just a tiny bit more pleasant when he got to work drunk. He was in charge of the carpentry needs for a company that made steel tanks. These huge tanks had to be shipped on railroad cars. Our job was to anchor the tanks securely to the bed of the railroad car by a method Harry had invented. This was done with a combination of steel strapping and nailing wedges underneath the tanks.
Harry seldom spoke other than to give orders through his teeth, spit at you. His dour, somber, dark sunburned face never allowed a smile. I was too happily in love with a new baby coming to be much affected by such a sour character. If at all, I might have wondered what awful disappointment Harry must have suffered. At 23, I doubt my thoughts were as keen or as generous. On his better side, sometimes hard to find, Harry was a good skilled carpenter and teacher. I had zero carpentry skills when I arrived at Kellyís. Thanks to the irascible Harry, I could measure boards and bang nails with anyone by summer's end.
It was the first week of June. On June 8, 1954, Ellen Marie Boyd was born. Jake had dropped me off at 10 Warren Street and I was surprised that Catherine was not at home. Shortly, the phone rang to have my mother tell me that Catherine was in labor at Whidden Hospital. I donít have a clear recollection of how I got to the hospital. I probably borrowed my motherís car as she lived only a few streets away. Once at the hospital all I could do back in 1954 was to sit in the lobby and wait. It was about 11 PM when Doctor Frank Golden came out to tell me our daughter had been born.
I have been fortunate to have many happy events in my life. Our wedding and our wedding trip are at the top of the list. The birth of our first child was one of the most indescribably joyous feelings Iíve ever had. Even to this day in my late seventies Iím at a loss to give adequate words to the thoughts and feelings I felt, June 8, 1954. It had something to do with a feeling of completeness, I think. It also felt like I had grown to about seven feet tall, and my chest and shoulders felt to expand beyond belief. Imagine, and me at 5 feet, 10 inches and only 140 pounds. Back to 10 Warren Street, I slept a bit and woke after a few hours. I bounced out of bed feeling invincible.
After about five days, a customary hospital stay for a new baby, we brought Ellen Marie home to 10 Warren Street. Catherine carried her in. I wanted to hold her, but having no experience with babies, I got into the middle of our double bed and reached out to take our baby into my arms for the first time. My God, can it be any better than this! Even after the house settled to sleep, I kept waking to get up and take a peek at our new baby with the wonder of her fast asleep in her crib.
Ellen Marie was named for both grandmothers, though not exactly. Catherineís mother was Nellie. My mother was May. The adjusted composite was Ellen Marie. That didnít become official until a few weeks later at Baptism. Even innocent children are considered to carry original sin, so early baptism is meant to wipe away such grievous stain. As 1953 Catholics, we wanted soonest remedy. We asked my best friend, Joe Driscoll and Catherineís best friend, JoAnn Held to be Ellenís Godparents.
It turned out, coincidentally, that the date we had chosen for Ellenís baptism fell on the same day as Albina and Alfred Comeauís 25th wedding anniversary. The combined events celebrated between the two adjacent houses at 10 and 12 Warren Street turned out to be a huge bash. Most of the people who came to either function knew many of the folks from both. There was a general mixing; folks from the Comeauís anniversary coming over to 10 Warren Street to see newly christened Ellen Marie and some of our guests went to Comeau to meet or re-acquaint with their guests. Father OíNeil from the Immaculate Conception Church came and had Albina and Alfred kneel in their living room to receive a special blessing. It felt somewhat magical then to have witnessed simultaneously two such marvelous religious events. One gives birth to a new communicant and the other celebrates an enduring marriage. (In the picture above, Ten Warren St. is on the left and Comeau's house is on the right.)
Later in the summer of í54, we had a powerful hurricane. We had arrived for work at Kellyís and were told to head back home as we were in the midst of a hurricane. The ride back to Everett felt adventurous; as in my youth, I rarely if ever felt harm could befall me. The wind was howling, sheets of debris flying through the air. It never occurred to me that I might fall victim to such a powerful storm. Arriving back at 10 Warren Street, the wind and rain were relentless. The large elm in front of our steps suffered a split in its trunk. Next we knew here came Al Comeau from his driveway with a length of chain slung over his shoulder, carrying a ladder. Catherine and I helped to steady Al on the ladder as he wrapped the chain around the split tree trunk. Al had some kind of winch that he used to tighten the chain around the tree. The tree and chain lasted through the wind and rain. Months later, Al removed the chain from the elmís trunk as the split had healed. The elm with attached branch is still there today, a measure of persistent endurance.
Came September, I was back at BU for my sophomore year. For a while I worked nights at a Shell gas station on Stuart Street in Boston and later at State Street Bank. Two of my friends, Joe and Jack, were going to BU and also worked at the bank. Always short of money, we often scrounged our supper from The Bell In Hand Tavern. Just in front of the bar was a long table with boiled eggs, cold cuts, chips, breads, salads and the like. These were free for drinking patrons. We would spend a dime for a beer and then eat supper from the hors díoeuvres table. Ten cents a meal sustained us for many nights, probably until graduation.
Christmas was and still is Catherineís favorite time of the year. We had a small Christmas tree our first winter together in Winthrop. The front room at 10 Warren Street had a much higher ceiling making it possible to consider a larger, fuller Christmas tree. So I thought just before Christmas Eve as I headed out into the snow to Everett Square in search of a tree. Outside of a market on Second Street, I spotted the tree I wanted. It was about 7 feet tall with lush full branches. It was probably still there because the tag price was $8. I didnít have eight dollars. When I argued that it was close to Christmas Eve and it might not sell at all and I wanted to bring it home to my wife and new baby, I got it for $6. I packed the tree onto my back and as large white snowflakes swirled around I made my way up Church Street with my conquest. Trouble was I couldnít afford six dollars either, so I fibbed and told Catherine I got it for $4. She was delighted as it truly was a magnificent tree standing up hanging unfurled.
After it was up and after we had gone to bed one night, we were startled by a swoosh as our great tree fell over onto our living room floor. The lesson learned was that ever after, Christmas trees are anchored to baseboards.
On April 21, 1955, another baby girl was born and baptized Elizabeth Ann. We were probably not too thrilled with the idea of having another child quite so soon, but accepted our blessing with thanks. If I had been a little more aware then than I am now, I might have been terrified by the burden in front of us. I have since learned that denial can be preservative. It never occurred to me that we would not be able to make ends meet.
Liz, as she came to be called, did not get off to a great start. Not long after being brought home from the hospital, Liz expressed her discomfort through long crying spells. We tried everything. We took turns during the night trying to comfort her, carrying her on our shoulders. Walking back and forth was of no avail. We had a car seat that we put Liz into on the kitchen floor and took turns rocking her, as nothing seemed to help. Finally, we took Liz to the hospital to find that a tear duct had become blocked and infected, the cause of her pain. Antibiotics solved the problem in due course.
Before long we unhappily came to realize that we would have to find another place to live. One bedroom for four of us would not do. We were fond of the Comeauís and they us. There was a small pantry off the kitchen that Al considering fixing so that we might not have to move. This generous prospect was a measure of their affection for us rather than any real possibility.
In late summer, 1954, we packed and moved to Woodlawn, a two-bedroom apartment in a Veteranís project in East Everett. My fatherís influence in Everett politics and my eligibility as a Korean Navy veteran made this possible. As is often the case with such a move, there were mixed feelings. We were glad to be able to get an apartment more suitable for our growing family. With the sadness we felt, we would be missing the warmth and affection we were leaving behind. My most vivid memory from the day of that move was Ellie standing in the kitchen in her playpen, arms folded with her thumb in her mouth, an eloquent expression of our loss.
June 5, 2009