Carolyn Jane Camara Montgomery
I was born during the years known as the “Depression Years”. There was no honor to be a product of this era, but it was a classroom that taught us to be independent and innovative. I was born on April 2, 1930 at Union Hospital in Fall River, MA (now known as Charlton Memorial Hospital) to my parents Manuel Peters and Jennie Barker (Durfee) Camara.
My parents were energetic and eager to provide us with more than they had growing up. My father was a farm worker and manager of Red Top Farm and mother took several domestic positions so that we could have a few extras that would not have been possible if she had not. As the years went by friends and family gave me several nicknames – Linapitch, Healthy Lil, Carrot, Lina, and Tonnie.
My sister Barbara Elaine was born July 1, 1931 and we were so alike as the years went by, that we could have been a clone. My sister Jane Lee was born on December 16, 1936. I don’t remember much about her as a baby as I was already in second grade at J. F. Wilbur School. My first grade teacher was Miss Westgate and second grade teacher was Miss Sunderland.
We lived at Red Top Farm until 1946 in the 2-bedroom apartment over the garage. It was a wonderful place to grow up with fields to run through, walls to run on, and trees to climb. We could walk down the lane to the river for a swim, watch milking the dairy cows, had the run of the farm to play ball and other games, and having all the fresh vegetables, apples and raw milk to enjoy. Dad came in each noon to have lunch and he and Mom would listen to the radio programs of “Helen Trent” and “Our Gal Sunday”. You didn’t need a watch to know it was noon. The whistle would blow at noon from the L.C. Volunteer Fire Department fire station at the Commons.
When friends came or when the Emery twins, who were renting a camp for the summer, came we had lots of fun playing Kick the Can, softball on the front lawn, and Sardines, swinging from the big apple trees and an attempt to play marbles, jacks, or even play hopscotch and jump the rope. There was always something we could watch when it was haying time or threshing grains and baling the straw. Mr. Joseph Sherer owned Red Top Farm and sometimes he would hire us to thin rows of carrots for five cents a row; after Mrs. Sherer died in 1937, he would have us for breakfast once in a while and usually made corn mush which I really didn’t like. When my sister Barbie and I were about 8 or 9 years old, he took us to Carr’s Restaurant in Providence for lunch. This was my first trip over Mt. Hope Bridge and when we got to the top, he wanted us to get out of the car and feel the vibration as cars went over. I was never so scared, but we survived; every time I go over this bridge, I often think of that experience. There was a fee of 25 cents each way, but if you bought twenty, the price was reduced to 10 cents. Now there is no fee to use the bridge.
When we were in high school, he hired young boys and girls to top carrots for market. There would be a huge pile in the middle of the barn and after school we would all sit there and top carrots. I don’t recall how much we were paid for this. A lot of the produce from the farm was taken to Worcester to a store that Mr. Sherer owned.
When were we were in lower grades we would try to get ready for school a little early and pick whatever spring flowers were in bloom to take to our teacher. It was a tradition in the month of May to “hang” a May basket on someone. We would “hang” a May basket on our teacher. Each would bring something to put in the box and decorate it with crepe paper. Then we would put it at her desk and run outside and she would have to come find us. It was lots of fun and after we would enjoy some of the goodies that had been put in the basket.
We learned to drive on a red pickup truck which had a stick shift. Furneaux Sisson let us drive on the road when we took friends home who had been topping carrots. With Sherer grandchildren and the Emery boys, it was a challenge to get to drive it. Everyone wanted to be the driver.
World War II was declared on December 7, 1941. We were in school when President Roosevelt declared war. We all were in the auditorium to listen to his speech from a large floor radio. I shall never forget that moment. We didn’t realize the impact on our lives at that time.
The war years came and gas, fuel, and foods were rationed. Every household was given food stamps and stamps for gasoline according to your circumstances. It was not monetary stamps, but was according to the size of your family or the distance of your travel to work, farm work, etc. Sugar and butter were rationed. Oleo margarine was the substitute for butter. It came white in the package with a tube of yellow “dye”. You had to squeeze the dye into it until it looked like butter. Mother had to improvise but we never went without some kind of dessert. No extra trips were made because of the gasoline shortage.
My mother and Lillian Rosa spent hours canning vegetables and fruit from the gardens. They would even put sausage in lard to keep all winter in the cold cupboard in the garage. We were fortunate to have a coal furnace to keep our home warm.
Sheep were kept in the large front lawn of the farm so that it would not need to be mowed. We had beef cattle in the basement of the barn; celery, apples and potatoes were kept in the cold cellar.
Until we had a Fordson tractor, we had two work horses named “Tom” and “Jerry”. When I was not more than 4 or 5, my Uncle George Higgins was working on the farm then and we were down the lane with one of the horses at the field called “the battlefield”. I was on the horse and Uncle George turned to close the gate, and the horse took off up the lane; he didn’t stop until we got to the barn! Needless to say, I was frightened but never let go of my grip on the harness.
I shall always remember my Grandpa Durfee coming to our home at Red Top Farm when I was 3 or 4 years old. I would be on a stool washing dishes with him and if it wasn’t clean enough, he would give it back. I have a wonderful memory of he and I walking down the lane under the big maple trees from the barnyard toward the river. I don’t recall how far we walked but it is my fond memory of him.
Furneaux Sisson was a farm hand on the farm as well as Manuel Lewis. Manuel did all the milking of the cows while my dad finished feeding the chickens and pigs. We would sit watching him milk and the cats would sit there waiting for him to squirt the milk into their mouths. The milk was taken to the milk room where glass bottles were filled and some was put in the separator to make the heavy cream. We were raised on raw milk. The cows were kept in the barn all winter in their stanchions. When they were let out in the spring, they would run around jumping and kicking up; it must have felt good to be free again.
Haying was a busy time in summer. When the hay was ready it was made into rows and cashed to the spot where the stack was to be made. It was a treat to ride the cashes. My Dad was the one that “made” the stack and the others would fork the hay up to him. When finished they would put a netting over it with weights until they needed it later in the winter. Some was transferred into the hay mow by a fork lift pulled by horses and later by a tractor.
Grain for the animals came in printed material. We made many things from these; we learned to sew on a treadle machine at home and later we took cooking and sewing in school. We had to go to the Brownell House for those lessons. We also learned to knit and made square wash cloths for service men.
The government asked us to collect aluminum for the war effort. A large wire fence was put on the east side of the Congregational Church and people brought old pans or anything aluminum; I remember getting some kind of award for this. Also foil from gum wrappers and cigarette packs were squished together in balls for the war effort.
When Fort Church was built off West Main Road, I remember that at dusk one evening we heard that a big 16-inch gun was being transported down West Main Road; we all went down to the road and watched the progress of this huge metal barrel slowly moving down the road on a trailer.
We joined the 4-H and attended many meetings learning how to present food we had made, etc. We went to 4-H camp for a week in the summer; first at URI and then at Camp Seaside in Jamestown. It was our big outing where we learned to do lots of out-door activities. We always had a campfire and sang around the fire, went swimming, and learned other skills. It was a big adventure for us.
I graduated from high school on June 19, 1947. There were sixteen in our class – 8 boys and 8 girls. I had hopes of attending URI to study biology but it was beyond my parents’ income. I enrolled in Thibodeau’s Business College in Fall River and travelled to and from there by the Massey Buses. Upon graduation in August 1948, I was offered a position as a stenographer for the law office of Clarkin and Waldron at $28 a week. That was considered a good wage. By March 1949 I had to have surgery with extended recuperation so they let me go. I spent four weeks in Bermuda visiting family and friends. It was the first of many trips I have made to this island and discovered my father had an uncle living there and a large family. I have to this day kept in touch with relatives and friends on this beautiful island.
When I returned home from Bermuda, I had a position offered to me by the Newport County P & MA Committee, a subsidiary of the Department of Agriculture. The office was on the second floor of the Newport Post Office. I travelled back and forth with a 1931 Chevrolet that Dad had bought for $150 until I ran into a pole on East Man Road in Portsmouth. At that point my uncle Ramie lent me $1500 and I bought a new green four-door Chevrolet.
I worked at that position until 1951. When I heard Civil Service was having exams for positions in the area, I applied and took the exam for Clerk-Stenographer. I took a position for a GS-3 at the U.S. Naval Net Depot in Newport (Melville) R.I. in 1951.
While working there I met my future husband, Kenneth Wayne Montgomery, who was in the Navy. We were married on May 3, 1952 at St. Catherine of Siena Church. Our reception followed at our home. After a honeymoon to New York City, we rented a small apartment in Newport. We wanted to be back in L.C. so we moved to a house on Meeting House Lane which was formerly the minister’s home of the Methodist church. Our first child, Susan Ann was born on May 1, 1953 at the Newport Naval Hospital. We lived there until his orders were changed and he would be going to sea for 6 months. I moved back with my parents; however, his orders were changed again and he would be coming back to Newport to attend a school for training to be a court recorder. From there he was sent to Mayport, Florida, and our son, Wayne Barker was born on September 26, 1954.
Ken was medically discharged from the Navy in March 1955, and we returned back to L.C. and rented the Peckham home on West Main Road until we built our home at 284 West Main Road in 1960. While we were building our home, I took a temporary position at the U.S. Naval Magazine on Prudence Island which meant I had to take a crash boat to and from the mainland each day. When we moved into our new home in January 1961, I resigned from that position.
We all were devastated when we heard the news that Anne Brownell had been murdered in Little Compton. I babysat her and her brother Peter many times for 35 cents an hour; it was a shock to all. While there, I would sit and fold brochures for the famous Brownell Roses who were shipped all over the country. However, the perpetrator was soon arrested. Anne was babysitting when she was murdered.
When Susan was Girl Scout age, I re-organized Girl Scouting in L.C. and became a Girl Scout leader for Brownie troop 1036 then Junior troop 2089. We met at the Brownell house after school. We had a good group of girls who were eager to learn outdoor skills. Elinor Gavin was my co-leader and we even arranged a weekend trip to Martha’s Vineyard one year. Eventually scouting became popular in L.C. and we had two Brownie troops, two Junior troops and a Cadette troop. The Cadette troop planned a bus trip to Washington, D.C. for four days by raising funds. I accompanied the trip as a chaperone; we walked all over the city to see the sights. While we were at the National Geographic headquarters, they allowed the girls to take down their flag and fold it.
My mother and I opened a small gift shop in the front yard of her home. We called it the “Knit and Purl Shop”. We had a lot of fun doing it; she had the knitting and yarn part of the business and I had the gifts and greeting cards. We operated it from 1963 to 1966.
My husband, Ken, passed away on February 27, l967. At that time, I was doing bookkeeping for Frank Cordeiro Garage, L.C. Nursing Association, and Audrey Parsons Designs. I took the exam for postal work and started my work at the L.C. Post Office in 1968 and retired on my 60th birthday with 25 years of total government service in 1990.
In January 1991 I participated in the “Walk for Life” in Washington, D.C. with Rita Quinn and a friend of hers. Mass was celebrated with hundreds of priests co-celebrating and we slept in the Cathedral on the pews overnight. The next morning we marched in the cold with thousands of others, flying back home that afternoon.
In 2009 the R. I. Federation of Garden Clubs awarded me a “Member Award of Honor, Service and Recognition” for my work with the Sogkonate Garden Club. In 2018 the L. C. Grange presented me the “Citizen of the Year” award.
Upon retirement I enjoy gardening, handwork and sewing, am a founding member of the Sogkonate Garden Club, serving as President for two terms, on the board of the L.C. Historical Society, served on the board of the L. C. Nursing Association, was a member of the L. C. Tricentennial and Bicentennial Steering Committees, organized the committee for the building and rebuilding of the Memorial Wall at Veterans’ Field, served on the flower committee at St. Catherine’s church for over 25 years, and continue to volunteer for the Circle of Friends.
I have competed in flower design and horticulture shows in the Newport , the R.I. Federation, the LIttle Compton and the Sogkonate Shows. I chaired the three Sogkonate Garden Club’s flower shows that we presented.
I have always enjoyed learning new things. I always wanted to learn to play tennis and downhill skiing. I took lessons from “Duck” Gavin and enjoyed playing a game of tennis with Tony and Agatha Marion and Abe Quick. After I retired, I played indoors in Dartmouth. When my children were in high school, we took down-hill ski lessons and spent a few weekends with Rusty and Jane Cabot travelling to New Hampshire to ski. After I retired, I took golf lessons, went to a golf school in Florida with Connie Buben, and enjoyed the game playing with friends until my late eighties.
I learned to play bridge with a group of friends and played for over 40 years going to each of our homes every other Tuesday evening. I have enjoyed sewing, embroidering, and knitting as a pastime in the winter months.
In my sixties my sister Bobbie, Anne Ransom, Barbara Lopes and I decided to take tap dance lessons. We joined a group and went faithfully every week until spring. Barbara Lopes and I danced in the recital held at Bristol Community College in Fall River.
I have travelled many times over the past years. It is such a learning experience to learn the cultures of other people who share our world. Among some places I have travelled are: Egypt, Kenya, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Peru, Chile, Hawaii, French Polynesia, Iceland, Scandinavia countries, Russia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Azores, Mexico, Czech Republic, Greece, and Hawaii. We were fortunate to sail aboard a 42-sail Clipper ship through Caribbean islands and along the coast from Venice to Rome.
My legacy to those who come after me is to work hard and to aspire to the seemly unobtainable.
Remain true to your God and leave your vacancy to inspire your progeny.
Carolyn J. Montgomery
March 2, 2020
3 thoughts on “Carolyn Jane Camara Montgomery”
Happy Birthday Carolyn! Thank you for your decades of service as a Board Members and especially for you leadership i the 1970s when the Portuguese Room was installed at the museum.
This is a wonderful recollection by a great lady and someone who has known my mother’s family all her life. Carolyn’s stories about Red Top Farm are evocative of growing up there in summers, often watching her father hard at work, riding the tractor with him, and I knew most of the places that she mentions first hand. Aside from my step grandmother Susan Shethar Whitin, who spent all but one of her 94 years in Little Compton, no one I know has seen, shared, and given as much of the town as Carolyn. Wonderful autobiography!
Wonderful story Carolyn, you brought back memories of my own life as a small child living on a farm. They were very happy memories. A Happy Birthday to you
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