Connie Shurtleff McGee
We didn’t go in Simmons’ Store too much as a kid. Everybody made you afraid of Grace. I guess because they always said she didn’t like kids. But, later on in life when I worked for her—I worked for her for seventeen years. She loved kids, but she had to give that persona, I guess to get respect? She never had any [kids] of her own, but at Halloween, the kids would go in there and she would give them—not her choice—she’d give them their choice of any candy bar they wanted in the place. Of course the kids used to go in there like, “Should we go in?”
It was safe enough for you to walk all the way to the village and that was the spot to be back then. The most popular was Hammett’s house, which is where Mrs. Cory lives now. He gave the best stuff. You had to be willing to do the hike down there, because you have to go down Harbor Road a little bit. He lived in the big red house there across from the river. Every kid got a big assortment of all real nice candy bars. I don’t think he had any kids of his own. It was worth it. The boys, of course, had to do the eggs and the pumpkins. There was always this group that you had to watch. I don’t know who they were, and if I did, I wouldn’t mention their names.
Uncle Bert Shurtleff
He was a very large man. When he used to come to visit, he would give you an airplane ride, he’d call it. You would sit on the palm of his hand, one hand, and you would hold his two fingers. He would bring you way up in the air, down and around and keep going in a circle as he’s doing that. We’d always say, “Uncle Bert’s gonna give us an airplane ride!” I remember he went to Wilbur School once, and I was saying to everybody, “That’s my uncle, that’s my uncle!” And they’re like, “Yeah, right.”
Now, he’s written a book of poems. It says here, “He published an original volume of poetry that was very favorably reviewed and sold 2,000 copies as an undergraduate at Brown.” I read a few of his books. He wrote war dog stories.
He lived, when you go up the hill, where the orchard is now. The Shurtleffs owned from the bottom of the hill all the way up. That whole wedge, they called it “The Pie.” He had kind of a strange house, a California-type house. He had a whole yard full of daffodils. I mean billions of kinds of daffodils and beautiful trees. He had a gazebo in the back. You took a path into the woods, and there was a gazebo with a whole pond and a stream around it. That’s all gone now. I don’t know why we destroyed it, but we did. That’s where he summered. That was his getaway where he used to write.
The Sausage at Sanford’s
I think it was basically the smell of sawdust I remember. There was a wooden counter. He would go out back, and do whatever he’s doing out there, and bring it to the counter wrapped it in the white paper. The biggest thing down there, that everybody liked, was the homemade sausage. There are a few of us left today. I think some of the guys in Little Compton, like [my son] Richard’s age, they have been playing around with this sausage that they heard their parents had, and they had when they was a kid. Probably from the same place. They’re all trying to master that taste from way back. I said to Richard once, when he brought some sausage home from his pig, “You know what? This isn’t far from Sandford’s sausage!”
Bonfires on the Pond
In the winter, you always had a bonfire in the middle of the pond. There was a big rock that you can’t see any more. Brayton’s used to bring over tires. All the boys would set fire to the tires, and there’d be a big huge bonfire. Kids today don’t do those things, but it was fun. We thought it was. Spend the whole night out there, go home frozen. The same on Saturday and Sunday. We’d be out there skating all day into the night and then walk home.
Caroline Wilkie’s father, Chet Wilkie, he did square dancing. Up just from the post office, on the left, there’s a building there. Used to be a restaurant, a little sandwich shop, a little diner. Harmon’s, it was called, and he used to put on square dancing on Saturday nights. All kinds of people came. A lot of village people, because everybody could walk there. Then he moved from there down to Chet’s Barn, which is now Crowther’s. That was a big thing. That was a fun thing, because we’d be at home and we could hear the music. So we’d say, “Can we go down and listen to the square dance?” And off we’d go.
Scooping Ice Cream with Leslie Deschene
Grace asked us to work for her. I was a little apprehensive about it because she had this persona about being such a grump, but it turned out she never really was. We were hired to scoop ice cream. That was like thirty-five to forty pound cans, depending on the flavor of the ice cream. We had to go down back into this freezer, and Jim had the metal cans about two feet, a little higher. You had to go down with a metal clip and you clipped onto the can. But the thing was, Jim didn’t always have the freezer defrosted. It was a big walk-in. When you walked in, something on the side, I don’t know what it was, but it used to leak water, and that water used to freeze. The more it ran, the more it leaked. You would need actually, probably, cleats to stand up in there. It was like climbing Mount Everest to get some of the flavors. And you had to clip the metal thing onto the can, and try to drag it out without falling on your butt. Get out of there, close the door, and lug it back upstairs. That was what it was like to get the ice cream for Jim.
Not Part of Little Compton
Adamsville wasn’t really part of Little Compton back then. We weren’t accepted for some reason. It seemed like Adamsville was always left out of what was going on. Little Compton got their stuff first, and then Adamsville would come along later. I think that’s why they got together and bought their own street lights.
It seemed like Adamsville was stuck in this nice little time warp for a long, long time. Then all of a sudden, once Manchester’s burnt, it seems like things started to disappear.
Based on an oral history interview with Connie Shurtleff McGee.
First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.
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