1903 – 1973
Essay by Barbara Passmore
The summer of 1947 at the age of 16, I worked for Miss Medary as a waitress waitress at her Tea Room in the Old Meeting House at the Commons. My earnings were $10 a week. I don’t remember how many days a week I worked. My co-worker one summer was Florence Rocha. The following summer I was promoted to “Head Waitress,” making $12.00 a week. We only worked for “Tea Time.” I remember most her dessert “Tipsy-Parson” – pound cake, a small amount of sherry over it, topped with whip cream and cherry.
That year the Meeting House rented out rooms. I met my future husband there as he came to stay there for a weekend. It was a blind date. He was a young Navy recruit spending the weekend at the invitation of a local recruit who was dating my best friend. They were stationed at the Charlestown Naval Air Station in Charlestown, RI and had become buddies in boot camp at Great Lakes.
Miss Medary was the daughter of Episcopalian Minister Henry Medary. She was a former officer of the US Coast Guard, serving as a “Spars,” (which means Semper Paratus – always ready) as the women were called, or “Yoemenettes.” This was during WWII and were disbanded after the war. She proudly marched in every Memorial Day Parade, in full uniform.
Sixty-Year-Old Memories of Miss Amie Medary
In late spring of 1958 Superintendent/Principal Katherine B. McMahon walked into our sophomore class during homeroom and announced that a Miss Amie Medary, owner of Old Meeting House Inn, needed two waitresses to work that summer. Fellow classmate, Elizabeth Cory, from Tiverton, and I decided to apply for the jobs. Miss Medary led us into the parlor where a little old man dressed all in black, wearing a clerical collar was seated in a wingback chair. The lady introduced him as her father. Later I learned he was an Episcopal priest, and I never saw him again. The parlor also had a horse hair couch which was the most uncomfortable piece of furniture.
The owner of the restaurant and inn hired us on the spot. Liz took the offer of forty cents an hour plus meals. I chose sixty cents an hour without meals. In seven years there is no memory of a raise.
The restaurant was open six days a week from 12 to 2 pm and 5 to 7 pm; it was closed on Tuesdays. We were called waitresses but we were also dishwashers and chamber maids.
Our training consisted of how to: set a proper table, fold napkins into pretty crow, change pats of butter into little balls and make neat, square corners on the beds. She also said to serve from the left and remove dishes from the right.
There we five bedrooms on the second floor and three on the third floor, but Miss Medary claimed one for herself. There was one bathroom on the first floor off the large, airy dining room, two on the second floor and one on the third. The second floor had a beautiful four poster feather bed which we only rented on special occasions.
Liz left after two years and another classmate, Marjorie Bixby, was hired, she did not stay long, however, because she did not like the long hours. She chose Sakonnet Yacht Club for her employment instead. I worked alone beside Miss Medary until 1962 or 63 when young Fred Bridge became our dishwasher; my workload was much lighter then.
Miss Medary was the very capable cook. Her specialty was very thin johnnycakes served with bacon or sausage. She cooked johnnycakes in bacon fat; they were so thin the edges became lacy, just the way she thought they should look. Everything she served was attractive; she had the artist eye.
She made a dellcious butterscotch sauce and small meringues for her wonderful Meringue Glace dessert. Her advice was to never make meringues on humid days.
This amazing woman had an extensive collection of really cute mini English Toby jugs. These, we used for serving cream and maple syrup to the customers; they loved them.
There are several customers I still remember after sixty years. One in particular came for dinner and ordered here wonderful chicken breast in a rich cream sauce. He really enjoyed the chicken but was so disappointed it did not come with cranberry suace. The next week he was back and ordered the same thing. This time, though, he handed me a can of cranberry sauce asking that we serve some with his meal.
Another nice couple was very chatty and noticed my engagement ring. They started asking about my fiance and when we were to be married. Albert was drafted into the Army; the wedding would not take place for another two years. They said their good-byes and left; ten minutes later they were back. I asked if they had forgotten something. They said they had come back to give me an engagement gift. It was a beauitful, small, cut glass candy dish which was the most expensive item in Miss Medary’s Little Red Coup Gift Shop. The owner had allowed me into her gift shop some months before to show me around. Memory is fuzzy concerning what was in the shop; there were postcards of the town, her homemade , scrumptious butterscotch sauce and a lovely candy dish tHat caught my eye. Amie said the dish had been in her family for many years, but she had no use for it, the price tag on it read five dollars.
Now, it is time to write about Miss Medary, the artist. She had been commisssioned to paint a large sign for a businessman in town. Amie was workig on this sign when I was on an afternoon break and decided to watch her paint. Before my very eyes, an Indian man’s arm became so alive and human with shading and talent.
One afternoon when Albert was visiting me, Miss Medary asked if we would like profile silhouettes of ourselves. Of course we agreed. She took out sharp, narrow blade scissors and black paper. Without sketching anything in just a few minutes she was finished. We were very impressed. It was then that she revealed that every winter when she went to St. Petersburg, Florida she had a job cutting silhouettes for tourists.
Albert and I were married in October of 1965 and she wanted to paint a picture as her gift; we were thrilled. In the summer of 1966 the artist invited my mother and me to her new-to-her home in Tuniper Pond Development to have tea and to view the painting she was still working on for the wedding gift.
By this time, Miss Medary had sold her house at Warren’s Point and had sold Old Meeting House Inn to Paul Smith and Jim Moniz of Fall River, MA and swapped with these two men another piece of land at the Commons for an old house in the Tuniper area which Paul and Jim owned.
Back to the tea—when we entered her Tuniper home, Miss Medary led us right to the easel on which was placed a beautiful painting of Warren’s Point. It looked finished to me, but she said the rocks in the foreground still needed some work. That was the first and last time I saw the painting. Sadly, the artist passed away in St. Petersburg the winter of 1966-67.
Miss Amie Medary was a great cook, an inn keeper, a proud reservist in the Coast Guard and a very talented artist. This waitress, dishwasher, and chambermaid was fortunate to have worked for such an outstanding woman during seven long, hot summers so many years ago.
Editor’s notes: Miss Medary’s mother’s name was also Amie. She and her father lived in Sea Acre in Warren’s Point.