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CHAPTER SIX

Buying A House

We bought a house, Cape Cod style, at 16 Sylvan Avenue. It was more in the country part of Leominster. Horace finished off the attic, into 2 bedrooms. Later he added a porch onto the side of the house. We had to sleep in the bedrooms, of course; but didn't use the porch, because it was always too hot in there (he didn't insulate either one of them correctly.

We had chickens out back for one season, but there wasn't any profit from it, so didn't anymore. We tried a vegetable garden, but the soil was so rocky and dry that nothing grew. Horace didn't believe in watering a garden or in fertilizer. He planted a mixture of bluegrass and clover in the front yard; his books on agriculture said that was the best combination - so, our front yard was always a mess, but would have been a good pasture, I think.

Mom always liked quince bushes, after her friend Peggy Woods had two in her yard. She finally got two and planted them on both sides of the sidewalk Horace had poured, going up to the front door. I planted a lilac bush near the side of the house. I had dug it up from an old farmyard, when I was out in the country, riding on my bicycle.

Across the street from us, a family moved in by the name of Tessier. Veronica and Tess - Sonny, Gerry and Richard. We were friends with Richard for many years. We had front yard sales, were always trying to sell our old toys, usually just to each other.

By now I was in M.A. Gallagher Junior High School. I started out in the College Course and with Latin and all, it turned out to be more than I could do. At the time I was considering becoming either a Nun or a nurse, and for both you needed Latin.

I enjoyed literature and all my book reports were on dog stories - "Ladd a Dog", "Lassie", "Son of Ladd", etc. It got to the point where my teacher told me to read about something else. Now that we owned our own home, I was able to get a puppy. The first few dogs were mongrels, and then I got an American Cocker Spaniel, it was a small variety of dog - from then on, I was hooked on that breed.

My sister and I had kittens; one of Irene's had a blue eye and a yellow eye; that cat got poisoned by some neighbor. I had a black and white cat named Pepee, he looked like a skunk; was popular around the neighborhood female cat population, had the scars to prove it. He was a beat-up old Tom cat, but still a good pet. He disappeared about the time I got interested in boys, and I didn't miss him too much.

I had a few dogs, never tied them and one got hit by a car. My last dog while I was single, was a tiny, premature, motherless dog named Lucky. I had to feed him baby food (meat), and egg yolks, he did well with milk from a baby bottle, too. I gave him to Bob when I got married and moved away. Lucky wasn't all that 'lucky'...because he began to act up: he would lift his leg and relieve himself on the leg of the dining room table. Needless to say, he was soon gone!

We also had hamsters, they got loose quite often, once they got into the sewer pipes in the basement and we had to coax them out with food. We had a parakeet (budgie), but it didn't do very well. I had rabbits named Pat and Pete, they fought all the time and eventually Pat got killed. Pete got mean and bit a lot.

I spent a lot of time in the nearby woods. Horace and my Mom fought a lot and home life wasn't happy. My sister and I had to get supper ready every night, except for the meat, Mom always cooked that when she got home from work. We did the dishes. We also helped Mom with the wash every Saturday, because she didn't have time during the week. She was tired a lot of the time, from working.

Mom had her tonsils out while we lived there - it took her a long time to feel good again. She had a lot of pills, but after a while on them wouldn't continue to take them. She said she had something wrong with her main gland - didn't know the name of it, and we didn't understand. (It was the pituitary gland, also thyroid gland.)

Irene and I got a small allowance every week. Sometimes we were allowed to go downtown, after helping Mom with the wash; we always had to be home by supper time. We usually looked for bargains; like the day before Mother's Day, we waited around until the stores were about ready to close and everything was marked down (especially for Mother's Day), then we got something that we thought was pretty special for Mom. (About 40 years later, Mom gave me a towel that I had bought her; it had been part of a set.) We always got something for Horace on Father's Day, always tried to please, although we never seemed to be able to.

Horace continued to beat on me, nearly every day. I seemed to provoked him, usually because I did something that rubbed him the wrong way. It seemed like I got hit when I thought I said something that was right, and when I knew I said something I shouldn't have - then I was waiting to get hit, but it didn't happen. One of us was programmed wrong, and I've come to the conclusion that it wasn't me. When I was 15, Horace slapped me across the face so hard that it split my lip and it bled; my Mom said she was going to call the police and he never did hit me that hard, again.

My brother Bob used to sleep with his eyes wide open. We caught him one night; we had gone into his room to talk and thought he was awake, but we talked and talked and he didn't talk back - thought maybe he was dead, but he was breathing. We told him about it the next day, and on many occasions we woke him up to tell him that he was again sleeping with his eyes open...I don't think he ever believed us.

I had been beat many times when I tried lighting a match, when I was very young and was told that Horace would burn my fingers next time - so, I got to the point where I was scared to light a match. Then, when Mom was working and we had a gas stove, I was supposed to light it and make a meal, but was so scared that I couldn't. Then, I was getting beat because I wouldn't light the match.

I went to the woods a lot, after school, and before we had to start supper. I began lighting a small fire to keep me warm in the woods and got over that problem with matches. I used to sing a lot in the woods and pray and talk with God. It was my only time of peace.

Once, on my way back home from the woods, I was running along, because I was late for getting home to start supper - I looked behind, over my shoulder, and there was a long, black snake chasing me. He didn't go the usual way, like a letter "S" on the ground, but he went up and down like the letter "S"; up in the air and down to the ground, up and down... It really scared me. I didn't care much for snakes after.

I stepped into a nest of bees at one time and got a lot of bites. I remembered that mud on the stings helped to take away the pain, so I made some mud out of spit and dirt - it really helped a lot. It seemed like I ran into a nest of bees just about once a year.

Irene and I had been in the woods one day and were heading home through an open field. This pack of dogs started coming towards us. They had a wild look in their eyes; we started running; being ahead of Irene (probably because I was the oldest), they were closing in on Irene. They caught up with us - I fell down and they whizzed past me, circled around and came back behind Irene; she got bit in the fanny. I took her to a neighbor who was home. The woman (Mrs. Piper) was the wife of a fireman. She cleaned up the wound - I think Irene had a tetanus shot, after my Mom came home from work.

I didn't have many friends, when I was growing up; we moved around a lot and I wasn't allowed out of the yard very much. While in grade school, I had a friend named Marjorie Whitman (who I mentioned earlier), she was my friend again - when we moved back to Massachusetts.

I had another friend, Beverly Miles; her family owned a small factory, that was adjacent to their house. She had an older brother (Richard), and a younger sister (Diane). Her Grandma owned the factory - her Dad ran the factory; her Mom worked for a grocery store, as head cashier. They were very kind to me, through the years. Bev was allowed to do a lot more things than I was, so I saw her most of the time at her house - we played cards a lot. I bought a tennis racket through someone she knew who sold them...then I tried to learn how to play. About the time Joe came into my life, I was so busy with him, that I neglected my friends; they got busy with boyfriends, too. We weren't as close as we had been. She did come to my wedding shower and saw us off when we left, to live in Washington state.

Beverly married a man named Bob Stone (Robert); they moved into the Grandmother's house on Hale Street and had 5 children; all their names began with the letter "B": Brian, Brenda, Bonnie, Becky, Bradford!

My friend Ellen Seuss also lived on Central Street, just a short way from Beverly. They had a lot more in common, the two of them, and they hung around together. Ellen lived with her grandparents and her aunt - their name was Despo. Ellen married a man named Amadon, from Townsend, MA. His parents owned a large farm - they built a house on some of the land; they had 3 boys, the last I heard. Ellen was always taking pictures - she was the first one I ever knew who had a movie camera; she took pictures of us leaving Leominster in a small plane, from the Fitchburg Airport.

I had a friend named Nancy Wood. She and I took a first aid course while we were still in high school; we ended up having to give each other a bath, for practice, in the course. It was the first time there was a nurses' aid course run by the Leominster Hospital and they weren't organized, yet. We were supposed to receive a certificate, but they weren't ready when we graduated from high school - so, we were to go and pick them up later, but I was working and never did.

When I was 15 years old, I began doing housework for two different women (my friend Ellen's Aunt, Mrs. Despo and a Mrs. Fraser). I would stop at their houses on the way home from school. I worked for them for a couple of years - liked the small amount of independence it gave me. I no longer wanted to accept clothes or anything from my Mom, because she always complained about how much my sister and I cost, and how my Dad didn't help her at all.

I never did any baby sitting, was afraid of babies because I had not been allowed to do anything with our brother Bob until he was about 2 years old. I did apply for a baby sitting job at the Loeb house, on Washington Street. They were very well-off, financially. The house was made of brick, and there weren't too many of those in all of Leominster. The wall-to-wall carpet was an off-white color and they didn't want me to take my shoes off at the front door. I had mud on my feet, but they insisted I go in the way I was; I left muddy prints across the living room, it really bothered me. I think it bothered them, too, I was never called for the job.

I was allowed to go to the movies sometimes, on an un-school night. I always had to be home at 9:00. Also, I could go roller skating sometimes. I was learning how to sew in Jr. High School, so made myself a light blue, very short, "twirley" skirt for skating - when I spun around, it went way out, I wore red tights under it. I saved and bought a pair of roller skates with rubber "stops" (breaking device in the front of the skate), I really enjoyed skating. I also ice skated on the pond at Barrett Park - it was a 20 minute walk from our house.

I never had any friends over to our house, because my Mom was at work and I wasn’t allowed: it was my job to watch Irene and my half-brother Robert. When Mom was home, Horace was too and I didn’t want my friends to see how he acted and how he would have ‘looked’ at them.


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